Your new album, In The Unlikely Event, is an interesting progression from your last effort. You have the heavy, spastic, kick you in the face songs, (“Straight-Jacket,” “Panic Attack”) with a combination of the more streamlined pop sound of Manipulator. Was there a specific direction you were trying to go in with this album?
Thomas Erak: Go big or go home man. That was the idea really. The idea was to expand upon things we had successfully experimented with, and experiment with things that we had not experimented with and kind of tried to blend them together into fine crafted songs, pieces of art.
Frank Ene: The writing process was very organic, the way we’d just get in a room and jam stuff out.
Erak: It felt very natural as opposed to Manipulator. That record felt very forced.
The whole writing process or…?
Erak: The whole way the band was working at the time. I look back it at like it was kind of controlling.
Frank, you joined the band in late 2007, early 2008. How has the band grown since your inception? Were you very influential when it came to the recording process for this album?
Ene: Immediately when we started playing I felt it was weird because we were so tight right away. Usually people will play together and it will take a while…
Erak: That just comes from us knowing each other for so long and playing together.
Ene: But now I feel like how tight we are is kinda cool. We’re so tight now it’s just weird. It’s really natural.
I know this might be a sore subject, but a lot of fans seem to want to know if you’re still on good terms with former bassist Tim Ward?
Erak: It’s not really a sore subject, it’s just not like… I mean he left the band and moved on. I don’t think there’s any bad blood there, but it’s not like we’re best friends. I personally don’t talk to him as much as Andrew does. We’re still alright with each other, he’s just kind of a different person than he originally was.
The new album was produced by Terry Date, who also produced one of my favorite album’s of all time, S.C.I.E.N.C.E. by Incubus. How did his presence behind the boards influence the sound on this album?
Ene: He’s a very humble dude. Very easy to get along with.
Erak: Sonically he can make anything happen, he’s full of magic. He’s a super producer, in my opinion. That Incubus record is unreal, the Deftones stuff is unreal, he’s a master of his craft, he really knows how to get performances out of you that nobody has really been able to get out of us yet. The energy is on full blast on this album.
Ene: He pretty much lets you do your thing, he just wants to get that performance out of you.
There are a lot of clean vocals on the album, more than any of your previous work….
Erak: I wouldn’t really say that, I wouldn’t even think of it that way, I think of it is more mature. All the scene screaming is still there, I just feel like it’s where it’s called for. I’m screaming where I should be screaming. I listen to some of our older records and I’m like, “Why am I screaming these lyrics?”
Ene: Not only that, I also feel like he’s being emotive in a way that does have grittiness, that does have balls behind it.
Erak: I really believe what I’m saying on this record a lot more than I believed anything I was saying before and not only that, I feel like I’ve become a way more capable singer over the past few years.
Tom, I remember hearing somewhere that you’ve taken a bunch of singing lessons. Has that built up your confidence to belt out more?
Erak: Nah, I was giving guitar lessons at home when I was off from this tour. I’ve never taken any vocal lessons ever. My dad’s a musician, music runs in my family. They’re all capable singers so I just practiced more. I would never sing before when I was home or with the band, and now I do and I just changed up my practice regiment and pushed myself to become better at something and it worked.
In some of our past interviews together you mentioned your dad is a big influence on your career. Do you still keep in touch with him?
Erak: Absolutely, he comes out with me and my friends and plays pool all the time. He’s super close to Frank and Andrew. It’s a family kind of thing around here.
You guys have Brody Walker from Protest the Hero on this album. How’d that come together?
Erak: Just kind of randomly. I was driving past the club they were playing on 4/20 and I totally forgot them and The Number Twelve [Looks Like You] were going to be in town so I just flipped a u-turn in the van and was on the street and I was just like, “get in,” and he got in and he was like, “Where are we going?” And I said, “We’re going to the studio, you’re coming to sing” and he was like, “Awesome.” So yeah we brought him in for 2 hours, laid down the track and that was it. Rian from Schoolyard Heroes is all over the record too. She’s on “Panic Attack,” she’s on the song with Brody and also the song “Nature vs. Nurture.” She does all the female vocals on there.
In 2007 “F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.” from Doppelganger was released on Guitar Hero III and seemed to become one of the game’s hottest songs. Did that help you guys as a band in terms of notoriety?
Erak: It helped out a lot. We didn’t get paid for it or anything because it was a bonus track, but at that point it helped with record sales and getting our name out there. It was like having a hit record. Not only that but it also built a relationship with Activision, so I think we’re going to be doing some stuff with them for the next Guitar Hero.
I know you’re an avid fan of Nirvana. What do you think of the recent controversy with Kurt Cobain’s avatar being featured in the new Guitar Hero?
Erak: I think Courtney Love is a lying, money hungry, greedy whore. Dude… she killed him, she killed his soul, she killed his heart.
Do you think he committed suicide?
Erak: I don’t know, but even if he didn’t, she still would have killed him. He was dead inside a long time before he killed himself.
You guys have been with Equal Vision now for almost 5 years now. How is your current relationship with the label? Do you continue to plan on releasing future material through them?
Erak: I don’t know yet, our contract is up with this record, but I definitely think we’ll be up with renegotiations with Equal Vision. We’ve had a good relationship thus far. I think we just want to get to a place where, that…we’ve established a really good fanbase and a good following and we really need to take that to the next level. I want to get to the point where we’re playing Madison Square Garden. Let’s face it; we’re not going to do that with screamy metal rock. I think it’s just our progression as a band, as people, and truly do with our lives. I want to play music. And I want to do it on the big level, the biggest podium I possibly can. It’s not about selling out, it’s about change. I want to keep going further with that. I want to be a huge rock band, more than anything in the whole world. I want to be in a huge important band, so that people see that big huge important rock bands are just normal people. Rock ‘n roll is in a fucked up state, it’s fucked up and shitty. Sellouts, after sellouts, after sellouts. But it’s not even sellouts anymore, these bands are horrible and they are literally sellouts because their first show they’re selling out the show. They’re on somebody’s lame record or touring with some other lame band that are popular.
I think a lot of major record labels aren’t taking as many risks as they used to. It seems whatever can hit the radio they’ll just go ahead with that and push rather than taking a chance.
Erak: Warped Tour records - that’s what it’s becoming.
You’re currently on tour with Thursday, who has actively spoken out against bands such as Brokencyde, and that whole ilk. What are your feelings about that new wave of acts and other bands speaking out against them?
Erak: I think I did just speak out against those type of bands. I’m not going to give them the time of day to give those dudes a name drop in my fucking interview about my band. I believe in my band, I don’t believe in theirs. So I don’t want to waste time in this interview talking about that band or any other band like that, because I just don’t care. I don’t listen to them. That’s why a lot of it has gotten to where it’s gotten. I think there’s just so much shock and awe of real musicians and a lot of people are all going home and going, “Oh my god, have you heard this band doing this horrible thing,” and then word gets around, but any press is good press. That’s why the media killed Michael Jackson man. Everybody’s like, “He’s dead now, it’s so sad.” Well people turned him into a monster, he never had a fighting change. That’s almost how it feels for bands like us right now. It feels like we’re barely hanging on by a thread and these kids want to talk about fucking crunkcore or whatever…
The press can certainly be a pretty ugly beast sometimes and recently your close friends in Portugal. The Man had the unfortunate event of their album leaking months early. As a music journalist this might be a conflict of interest for me, but do you think labels should continue to send out early advances anymore in this new age of the music biz? Do you have any suggestions on how to stop this from occurring?
Erak: I think they’re going to have to create some sort of thing where labels just have big listening parties or something like that. If people are interested enough they’re going to buy the record whether or not the press is writing about it. If the press cares enough about the band then they should still write about them. People are going to have to start trusting each other a little bit more in this industry and helping each other instead of seeing people go down in flames. I think everybody is going to have to come together a little bit. John Lennon’s words really resonate through a lot of my conversation. We’re preaching a lot of revolution and change kind of shit, but me and you can only do so much, as a journalist and a songwriter, to make a record happen. If there was no fans, there would be no you, there would be no me. So, like we really have to reach out to them. Everybody needs the press though, the bands, the actors. We just need to reach out to the regular people and being like, “This has to stop, things need to change.” There needs to be more trust between journalists and musicians, as well as more trust between the people reading the publications and writing the publications. There needs to be more trust there. “This rules, we’ve got to make it happen,” [or] “This sucks, just let it go.” Even if it’s just something that’s at the moment and it’s hot. People know it’s just going to be a flash in the pan. Sure, go ahead and talk about it, but also talk about the shit that really matters, talk about The Beatles, and Hendrix and Nirvana and the shit that’s still around now.
What have you been listening to lately while on the road? Any notable releases from this year you think deserve some more attention?
Erak: TV On The Radio. They have a lot of attention, but um, bands that deserve a lot of attention are the bands we are playing with tonight – Moving Mountains, Young Widows, Kiss Kiss are all awesome and Thursday is awesome, always has been. It’s great to be playing this. When it comes to smaller bands, Maps and Atlases are awesome.
Ene: I know they’re not small, but Yo La Tengo fucking rules and are amazing.
Erak: We like a lot of hip-hop too. Aesop Rock and El-P and kind of free form, experimental hip hop with social awareness elements to it.
Switching major gears for a second, what are your plans for the vinyl version of the new album? Any deluxe edition in the works?
Erak: I know we’re doing a deluxe edition CD with extra content and stuff like that. All we’re really focused on right now is getting the CD out, then doing deluxe edition and then doing the vinyl. I think we’re going to be re-pressing some of our older records on vinyl too.
Any dates, [or] specifics on that yet?
Erak: Nope not yet.
A buddy of mine wants to know why you ditched the Rickenbacker? What type of guitar are you using now?
Erak: It just never got played, and I got a Gibson deal and I really like the guitars I’m using now. It’s not the sound I want anymore, it’s a sound I was experimenting with for a while, and I’ll probably go back to it eventually.
Would you ever consider doing the whole Phantom on the Horizon album in it’s entirety on the East Coast?
Erak: We’d do it on the East Coast and maybe the UK too, maybe on a short tour. It’s intense doing it every night, it doesn’t stop, we do the whole thing and it takes about 45-50 minutes every night. It’s even longer than the record because we kind of just stay in it and jam and breathe.
Any upcoming plans you can talk about after this tour?
Erak: We’re going to Europe on November 8th to kick off a tour. We’re not sure with who yet, we’re getting support next week though. It’s a headlining tour. Europe fans are great. We need people to come out in France though. That’s the only place we don’t absolutely kill it. It’s small, but we have a fun time nonetheless.
Any last comments?
Erak: Come out to the show and buy a new record, buy a t-shirt. Get out there and change something. All you need is love.