You're currently finishing up the second leg of Emery's 10th Anniversary tour for The Weak's End - how's that been going for you?
It's been fun! It's been a little bit different [on this leg] – last time, we spent a lot of time in Emery's van. Yeah, those guys like to “rough it”, and their van on the east coast has benches facing each other, they took them all out and arranged it that way, so you can just hang out. They weren't bolted into the ground or anything, so every time the brakes would hit, we would just roll with the bench and it was kind of sketchy, and probably WAY illegal.
So now we're on their bus...
Yeah! I was just in there, it's a school bus, right?
It's actually an old Greyhound bus – they modified it, putting bunks in the back that are really comfortable to sleep on, so it's good!
So what made you want to jump on this specific tour? You're 30 now, and you have a wife and a kid, and you have to be a bit more specific as to what tours you go on...
Yeah, they're sort of in the same boat, the same period of life as I am – a lot of them have kids, a lot of them are a little bit concerned about the same things. Thus, they don't tour for extended periods of time – we used to be able to do 6-8 week tours, and that's just too long for me to be out, away from family and my responsibilities.
So they're doing these things they're going out for two weeks, coming home for a bit, going out for two weeks again – same tours, different locations, and that was really conducive as to what I needed to do touring wise.
Yeah, it's really interesting, you've been out for about 10 years now and so has Emery. A lot of bands that started around the time time as both of you are calling it quits – Mae is done, Anberlin is calling it quits after this year, etc. How does it feel to be around and active after 10 years?
I was just remarking with some friends earlier today, it's actually incredible. We're starting to get to a point in our lives where we're starting to feel old, we're starting to feel like there's this new generation coming up that is behind us. And for so many years, we were the young ones, I was 22 and seeing the world for the first time – I was green, I didn't understand a lot about it, and now I do, so it's weird being on the other spectrum of things.
How do I feel about it? I'm still happy to make music. I think a lot of bands get into a rut or get into it too deep, or they don't handle their personal business or relationships well, and it just comes to an end, and sometimes it's just MEANT to come to an end. For us, maybe that will come...and it WILL come at some point...if I can make music under the name The Classic Crime, I will, because people want it. It's almost like...if people don't want it anymore, I'll stop doing it.
You mentioned all these young bands coming up – what younger bands do you see coming up that you really believe in?
I don't know...that's the thing, I'm so disconnected - I see them as a part of culture that I'm not a part of. The music I listen to when I do listen to it is made by dudes in their 30's and 40's...
So stuff like Dustin Kensrue then...
Yeah, and Arcade Fire and The National, music you can sleep to – I'm done being angry, haha!
So it's funny being on this tour then, because it gets really loud sometimes...
Well, the funny thing is that it's acoustic until the very end, when Emery comes out and plays The Weak's End from front to back – they're doing the Matt and Toby thing, and they're getting Devin Shelton to do some old Emery songs in between. I'm acoustic as well. It's kind of nice to leave with your hearing intact.
How did the set develop into a “storytellers” set?
Well, they billed it as a “storytellers” set, but I think that was maybe the booking agents idea. I don't tell many stories – I figure if I tell many stories, I'll have to cut songs, and I think people are here to hear songs, and not listen to stories. If I cut a song, there's always that person that says “Why didn't you play [blank]”, and I'm like “well, I have 40 minutes, and I had to tell a bunch of stories”...so that's not a very good excuse.
So what I've done is put some songs in the set there are kind-of narratives or fictional stories, so I try to weave that in.
Is that something you'll try to re-approach later on, where you'll have more time to do a proper “storytellers” set? Maybe at the Showbox at the Market in Seattle?
Yeah, that would be cool. If I had an hour and a half, I could touch on all the songs that people want to hear and tell some stories, but I'm just a support act here, so I have a limited time, so I feel like I should be cramming in songs.
How hard was it to pick a setlist? I know about half of them are Albatross songs...
Yeah, it's hard because now like I said...”Wow, I'm old...”, we've put out 75-80 songs, and when you consider that everybody has a different favorite, and you're always going to miss someone's favorite song, even if you have an hour and a half. So it's a contentious place to live, because you always feel like you're letting someone down – someone wants to hear this, and someone wants to hear that, so I try to pick a happy middle where I like how I perform it, and people like it, and hopefully there's a balance. Sometimes people really like particular songs, but I hate how I perform them, so I don't do them...I don't ruin it for them. Some songs just don't translate well acoustically.
What is your personal favorite song to play every night?
That's a tough one, that really depends on the crowd response...right now I really like to play “When The Time Comes” off of our Seattle Sessions EP, because it's one of the rare songs where I finger pick and I like the rhythm of it and the rhythmic rhyming of it, and the words really roll off the tongue. Even though it's seven years old, it still feels relevant and it's a narrative for my life, and it's still true. I like singing it, because I think “wow, I tapped into something when I was younger that was actually really timeless and true”.
If you could pick one more song to play, which one would you pick and why?
Other than the songs I'm playing? Well, I have six different options in my setlist, so I can always one of those in the moment. All of the personality tests I've taken say that I score high in change, being able to pick something in the moment. In the moment, I have on that list: Salt In The Snow, Headlights, The Test, Beginning, to name a few.
Looking back at Albatross and the songs you wrote, which songs remain at the forefront of your mind as the years go by?
From that album, I think I'm the most proud of the song that broke a lot of boundaries that our producer was putting on us, which is good – he was teaching us how to write pop songs, and to structure a song. The one song that didn't exactly follow that was “We Look Elsewhere”, which I didn't want to follow to a T, because the subject matter, it was an album track. I like the subject matter, I like the struggle, the rhythm and the feel of it.
Was the one thing you learned while writing and recording that album?
I learned that I didn't know everything. When you start out and you're a young musician, your friends tend to go “you're great, you're amazing, you should be huge...”, and you start to believe that. Anyone who writes songs or is creative in any respect knows that the best stuff you create actually just happens – it's not from you, it's not because you're good, it's just because you channel it and it works. I feel the best songs I've written were written in five minutes – I didn't really do a lot of work to earn it, and I think that when you're younger you start to think that you are special and that you did this, and when you get older you start to realize that it was a stroke of something that did not come from me, so I'm going to stay humble so it comes back again, haha.
So I guess I learned from that record working with Micheal Elvis Baskette is that I didn't know everything, and not everything that came to the top of my head was good, and it really helped me respect another person's ideas. He brought some stuff in, and I really thought “wow, he really has our best interests in mind”.
Now, what is the possibility of bringing back Justin for a 10th anniversary show for the album?
That's be awesome! Watching Emery bringing Devin back and doing the five piece, it sort of brings back memories for me, and I kind of miss freeing myself up and getting rid of the guitar and singing again.
And there's certain songs you haven't been able to do for awhile...
Yeah, there's certain songs that I haven't been able to do for awhile because it just doesn't work. It doesn't work in general because Justin plays them in a certain way as far as musical part goes, and we really don't like doing “The Fight” without him, that was a song he basically put together, there's a few songs like that in which I didn't have anything to do with musically in the beginning – I just wrote the lyrics and sang.
Can you see The Classic Crime retiring “The Fight” from the setlist at some point?
Well, not now, because we're doing a different version of it for this What Was Done: Volume I album we're coming out with, so we're probably going to be doing it acoustic.
What specifically inspired the re-imagining of these songs? I know these songs were the soundtrack to your last 10 years...
Everybody always talks about how they love our acoustic EP, the Seattle Sessions. We recorded that album in a week, and it was just songs were were kicking around, and we never really had a chance to come back and do something acoustic - so we wanted our next album to be acoustic, because people seemed to be asking for that. But it also happened to be our 10th anniversary, so we thought “Well, why don't we do songs that people already love, and do them in a new way and see if they can re-discover them and fall in love with them again”.
Prior to this decision, had you heard of what bands like Yellowcard and Story of the Year had been doing like what you're doing here? Yellowcard just re-did Ocean Avenue, and Story of The Year re-did Page Avenue...
Both “avenue” records, haha! Honest to God, I had never realized they had done that. But I was a huge fan of those records back in the day, so I think I should go back and check those out.
This is album is labeled as a “Part One” - that insinuates that you guys might come back again and re-visit the idea down the road, right? Or is this just a way of keeping the door open?
Yeah, that's what we want. We have a lot of songs, and we want to leave the door open to do a Volume II down the road.
Now, can you share some of the tracks that are going to be on this record, or has the tracklisting not been developed all the way yet?
Well, I previously mentioned “The Fight” is going to be on there. So we're going to do “The Coldest Heart” and “The Fight” from Albatross, and we might also do “We All Look Elsewhere”, those are sort of the singles from that album. We're going to do that with every album, where we get the single tracks, and then an album track on there. I think it'll be fun.
Was there a unanimous favorite among all of you guys, one that you guys were all really itching to do?
“All The Memories” was one that came together really quick – Robbie was playing this gigantic kick drum like a tom with mallets, and we came up with a new rhythm for it, and we put it together really quickly, and it really seemed to come together acoustically.
Will we get a brand new song at the end of the album?
There's two bonus acoustic songs that are brand new, they're more b-sides. They may become full band songs if there's enough of a response from it.
You guys asked for $15,000 dollars to make this album happen, and you got $50,000 instead. Now after fees come out to Amazon and everything, you'll end up with around $46,000, which is more than triple of what you asked. How does it feel to get that sort of response, especially with no label
It feels great, there's no other way to put it. I'd be lying if I said that it's dumb. When you have a demand like that, it's hard not to supply it, it's just common sense. I don't need a sign to tell me what I'm doing is worth it, people will pay money for this and they'll pay money without even hearing it, which is ridiculous – I wouldn't do that, there's maybe three bands in the world I do that for.
It's very encouraging, especially in a world where there's so much competition for people's ears. There's so many other bands people can choose to listen to, and they choose to listen to us; not only that, but they choose to support us, and it's very humbling and we're so grateful that it's the case, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
What does 2014 look like for the band? Are you guys doing more touring here and there? Or is there something else you guys are up to...
Well, I've got a one track mind, so I can only really focus on what's in front of me, which is this record. We've tracked the drums, and we're working on acoustics, and we'll go from there and see where it takes us. Once that's done we'll probably do a tour in support of it, full band acoustic – and when I say acoustic, I mean it in a way in that it's not really acoustic at all, it's just different layers. There's no distorted guitars and drums are acoustic instruments, so there's drums on there as well. It's not slathered in reverb, gain and distortion.
What type of lyrics have you been writing lately?
I'm not the most prolific person, I sometimes come up with a line or two and put it into my phone. It just hits me, and if I have a melody, I'll sing that into my phone. I don't really have any vein, things just come to me and they pop in and pop out - I'll save it later and when I need inspiration, I'll come back to it and if takes it somewhere, then we'll go from there.
I think a lot of casual fans of the band may not know about your other project that you do with your wife, Vocal Few. What's going on with that?
That's something that we want to continue to do, we put out two EP's so far, and it's gotten an incredible response, people really seem to respond well to it. I'd like to get even more folky, real, and raw, and even right now it's still fairly polished, because I produce it and I'm a perfectionist. I'd like to work with someone else or find a new process for that, so I can try and flesh out those songs in a different way.
You've been doing Stage It shows under this project – how's that experience been for you?
Great! We had a little bit of technical difficulty with the last one, because we switched to an HD camera and some people don't have the capabilities to view it very well, so we had to switch to standard mid-show, which caused some disruption. Overall, they've been really good – I had never thought that there would be so much energy for an internet show, but it feels live. People are talking while we're playing and in between songs I'm asking questions and people are responding, and it's way more dynamic than a real show, where they'll in the crowd and I'm on stage. It's almost like we're in a chat room together, and I'm playing for them, and Kristie and I are able to interact with them. So it's really cool, I'd say to anyone who hasn't done it to try and do it – it's about 10 cents to watch a Stage-It show, I think it's something I would do if I was into a band.
I pretty much begged him to play headlights before his set in Philly a few months back. promised i would donate for the new album on kickstarter and totally forgot. Feel like a jerk, but glad to see he's adopted it into his set!