Which Flatliners songs get the best response when played live?
That’s a tough question… it’s just fun playing anything. But I’d say these days the opening track to our last record [The Great Awake] “July.” It’s a blast to play. It’s fast and it’s just fun to hammer the shit out my guitar while I play it and sing it. In that song we have a lot of different vocal stuff going on with me and Scott [guitar] and Jon [bass]. They both have incredible voices, too. One of my favorite parts of our band is that we have two other guys beside myself who are very capable singers.
I can’t really think of a favorite song [to play live] though, that’s a tough question. They all kind of become your little children in a sense, so it’s tough to choose one…
What’s cool about your band is that you guys play a variety of styles, which makes it different than, say, a Pennywise-type band. No offense to those guys…
That’s what we tried to with [The Great Awake]. Our first record [Destroyed to Created] varied in the sense that’d there’d be some ska-punk songs and some faster punk rocks songs. We were happy with it but we wrote most of that record when we were 14 years old, and then we toured for a while and we had never toured before we recorded that record, so when we hit the road it became a beast on its own. It kind of made us grown up a bit more, and we were 17-18 touring the States and Canada, but a lot of time had passed since we wrote and performed those songs. There was about two or three years in between releases, so there was four years of time to write new songs. We knew things would change, and that’s what we were going for. We don’t want to do the same things twice. Some people find that we write things for ourselves cocky, but we’re just really into our own band.
On the record we’re writing now, there are some surprises -- it’s not going to be a disco record or anything, but it’s going to be a fresh experience. But it’s not going to be like a Pennywise record. And I like that band, but I liked them more when I didn’t know a lot of other music in the realms of punk rock. And we kind of found our groove writing songs and there’s a good comfort zone with the four of us, and now we can write what the fuck we want and just see how it turns out and hopefully people like it.
How many tracks you gunning for on the new record?
We never really plan things too specifically ahead of time. We just go with the flow. Right now we have about ten songs written on the new record. We’re being more conscious in what we write this time. Not in terms of, “Will people like this? Do you think they’ll like this?” But in terms of making it interesting for ourselves. Instead of playing standard chords like C-G-F, and I’ll probably eat my words because I know we have C-G-F in there somewhere, we wanted to make it as interesting as possible. Just taking more time in writing the songs than we have before, and we’re having a blast and it’s good to spend a few weeks practicing a song instead of banging out as many songs as we can in a week. We’re not gonna put out a double record or an EP, but I’ll guess about 12 songs will make the record. We’re probably going to record it in late spring or early summer, then we’ll just see what we have at that point and we’ll record the ones we got and see which ones make it.
But you’re not getting any pressure to pump that record out at this point?
Everyone at Fat Wreck Chords has been amazing. There is no pressure from them. They told us to send us the songs when we’re done, but weren’t like “Send this many songs by this date.” Within the band, nobody feels any pressure to crank out a bunch of stuff. We want to release a record this year and I know that’s everyone’s feeling, so we want to do the best we can and release it later this year.
We’re gonna tour a bunch this year, like last year, and we’re hoping people like the new record. But as far as we’re at right now, we’ve been writing songs and we love them. We don’t want to release songs that we’re not 100 percent on.
We’re just lucky. We’re the luckiest pricks on earth, especially with this Fat thing. We’re kids, you know? We grew up listening to Fat bands: NOFX, Strung Out, No Use for a Name… and we’re lucky dudes to have toured with those guys and we’ve become friends and we’re grateful to be part of the Fat family and do the things we’ve been able to do and see the things we’ve been able to see.
I recently read a biography on Kurt Cobain and he hated when Nirvana played “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” He couldn’t stand it. Is there a song that you despite playing?
You play the same songs every damn tour. I mean, last year alone we spent nine months of the year on tour. You play the same songs over and over and it does get repetitive, but it’s still fun to play them. I’m speaking for me here and nobody else, but I have a blast playing all our songs.
I guess it depends on the show, too. We’ll play some radio-type crowd shows in Toronto. The Toronto radio station, alternative rock Toronto 102, we have an old friend who works there and they’ve been great to us. He’s a DJ and he is really the reason our stuff got picked up and once in a while we play these radio shows and they’re lame but fun at the same time. The shows are ridiculous because they’ll feed you as much booze and food as you want, so on that tip it’s awesome. But then you play the whole set and the crowd explodes for the one single they know; it’s a little strange. You can see a contrast between the different crowds, but other than that there isn’t any real songs I hate playing. Well, there’s the real old stuff that we think sucks. The stuff on splits or demos or whatever we came up with before [Destroyed to Create]. Kids will ask us to play it and we’re like, “Ahhhhh!” One thing is that we haven’t played the songs in so long that if we tried to we might completely ruin it. Another reason is that we write songs for ourselves, and if we write something we think it’s just OK, we’re not going to dwell on it. We’ll just kick it to the curb. You kind of look back sometimes, like every band does, and goes, “Nooooo!” Then we just won’t play it.
Have you noticed that the older you get the more your musical taste expands?
Absolutely. The four of us have been friends since we were kids, and that helps with the songwriting part of it, but we have eclectic tastes in music. And as I get older -- not that I’m old -- I find myself listening to more stuff that I would have condemned when I was a kid that was drinking 40’s and listening to the Casualties.
Why do you think that is?
If you have a love for music, your appreciation for music just grows. I’ll be driving in my girlfriend’s car with her, and she listens to the radio, which I never do, and she’ll switch to a rock or a pop or a hip hop station and sometimes I’ll catch myself knowing a song I just heard. It’s not that I like it, but it’s catchy. Look, there is a lot of crap on the radio, but you think about it and dissect the song , it’s not that great, but it’s got a catchy hook. I just think you appreciate things… it’s like the older I get the more I can find appreciation in music.
Typically lead vocalists get all the publicity and get stuck doing all the interviews. Do you get tired of that?
It’s cool getting asked current questions; it’s part of the whole deal. We’re the kind of band that’s grateful for any publicity we can get. We’re excited people are excited about us. And we do get stock questions and every so often you get an interior thought where you’re like, “Fuck, really?”
I remember when our last record came out and [Fat Wreck Chords] was sending us tons of interviews and stuff, and usually I do them just because the other guys don’t like doing them, I suppose. After a while, after a week or two on tour, I’d say we’re doing 10-12 interviews per week. Sometimes it gets kind of crazy, but it’s usually only around when your record comes out, so you know it won’t last forever.
You ever put your foot in your mouth in an interview?
Actually, I have a funny story about that. It dates way back. We started this band when we were 14 years old, we’re 21 now so we’re still young dudes, but the band has been in existence for a while now and I remember, it must have been in high school, and Scott, our guitarist, and I went down to this college radio station in Toronto to do an interview and a friend of ours ran the thing called Ska Party and talking about the scene, stock stuff, and I was asked if I preferred a skanking pit or a circle pit at our shows. I believe I said a skanking pit and the next day our bass player, John, was like really pissed off and told me, “I don’t like skank pits! I like circle pits!” It was an overreaction, but ever since that day I always make sure to say that any opinions I say are my personal opinions.
When I tell you Emily Wynne-Hughes from Go Betty Go tried out for “American Idol,” what reaction comes to mind?
Nobody’s selling records anymore, I guess. If you have to try out on that show to make a living, it’s pretty strange.
You won’t be watching her trying to impress Simon Cowell I take it?
No, definitely not. I don’t watch much reality television. I think it’s useless. Rather than watching other people on TV, go hang out with your own friends, man. Live your own life. That’s what I think.
I saw on your MySpace page about the Footclan. How’s that been going? What’s some of the free shit you’re giving away?
Well, we actually haven’t implemented the free shit thing yet because I don’t know if people are actually doing it. I always thought a street team is a cool thing to do -- and every band says they have the best fans in the world , if they don’t, they’re doing something wrong and you have a bad attitude towards it, but the fans are rad anyway for just attending the show.
But there are reasons as to why I don’t know if our Footclan is working: Sometimes we forget it exists. Not gonna lie. We’re busy dudes, especially when we’re touring and there’s not much action to be taken. When we’re on tour or we’re going to go on tour I send out the dates that’s a poster GIF you can print out, and we urge kids to do stuff that’s very cheap or free. We don’t want people spending money and making these glossy, thick posters, and putting them up with the most expensive materials they can find. We want kids doing DIY stuff like sneaking into a print shop and printing some stuff off the corner printer and then walk off with everything. That’s what we used to do for our own shows. We’d walk into the corner and print out a bunch and then pay for ten.
I can’t say I’ve never rolled into a town and seen poster I’ve sent kids online, but that doesn’t mean they’re not doing it. But we appreciate all the help and I think the four of us, I think the problem is that we need a better system of how to get the word out.
When we start touring in March and when we decide to put out the new record, hopefully we can have a better system to get the word out to people.