Punknews staff interviewer G'Ra Asim checked in via email with guitarist Jack Barakat for the low down on major label boogiemen, skeletons in Cuomo's closet and reckless abandon.
You guys are known as a band that's had the same lineup for as long as they've been in the public eye, and a little before that as well. However, being from Maryland, I can definitely recall the earlier days of the band when you had a couple of other members who are no longer with you. What are your old guitarist and bassist up to now? Do you have any contact with them, and have they reported any Pete Best-like regret for leaving the band before stardom took hold?
We don't have any contact with ex members. So I'm not really sure what they are up to. We've had the same members since 2003 so it's hard to remember much before then. Haha.
What was the most memorable thing about co-writing with Rivers Cuomo? What kind of adjustments has Alex had to make in his writing process going from a high school kid writing songs on his own to a professional recording artist who collaborates with established stars?
One of the coolest things I remember about the Rivers session was what he had in his house. He had a bunch of books from Harvard and a couple of those skeletons you see in science class. Luckily we had spent a couple years writing with producers like Matt Squire. So by the time Alex was in the room with Rivers, he was prepared.
What has been the biggest surprise about the lifestyle that comes with being a professional musician? You've mentioned that the band had collectively dreamed of being where they are now for a long time prior. In what ways has the experience clashed (whether positively or negatively) with your expectations?
A lot of it is what we had hoped for and expected. There a few things that turned out different than we thought. There is definitely a lot more downtime on tour. Kind of always expected it to be a little more fast paced. Don't mind that though.
What ever happened to Alex's imprint, The Party Scene? Have there been any subsequent signings following The Friday Night Boys?
Not sure, to be honest.
Since you guys are all around 23, you're probably about due for your five-year reunions with your graduating high school classes. Any amusing insights or stories from that ritual?
Oh shit, didn't even think of that. Should I be getting an email? Maybe they forgot about me.
You've said that your experiences with Interscope have thus far hardly resembled the stereotypical major label horror stories. What in particular has Interscope done well for your band?
Interscope is has put us in the Universal family. Universal has people all around the world working their groups. This has given us mass appeal in countries all over. As a whole, we are selling more records and making big splashes in more countries than ever.
Why do you think the band has broken onto radio in Europe but not yet in the States?
Radio in Europe is way different than the US. England, for instance, has one main radio station (BBC radio 1). Instead of the thousands of stations across the us, they have one station that plays all different genres of today's popular music. Also for whatever reason, rock music hasn't dipped over there like it has here. We gotta bring rock back to radio in the States!
Is there a thematic link between the lyrics to "Guts" and some of the angst communicated in "Therapy" and "Sick Little Games" from 2009's Nothing Personal? The struggle to stay grounded in the face of mounting attention and pressure to excel seems to be a commonly revisited topic for your lyrics.
I think it's all connected. As you know Alex writes all the lyrics. There's pressure on him not only to please the fans but to please himself (no masturbation pun intended). Every songwriter wants to get better. I think his lyrics improve significantly every record.
Despite the fact that you guys were thrust into the national spotlight from the spring of your senior years in high school, you seem to have managed to avoid a lot of the internal drama that tends to derail young bands. Ellicott City, MD's the Dangerous Summer, for instance, took a similarly streamlined path to national prominence at an early age, but have since developed as much a reputation for their interpersonal woes as for their music. What's been the key to remaining a cohesive unit and continuing to be able to stand each other over the 8 years you've been a band?
I think the fact that we have all known each other for at least 10 years help. We spent a lot of time together, even in the beginning. You kind of learn how to deal with people when you are hanging out with them every day for years on end. Of course there is some luck in the fact that we all get along so well. When it comes down to it, we are all similar people who want the same thing. Makes for an awesome scenario.
Given that former Underscore frontman Matt Flyzik is your tour manager, when do you think we'll see an Underscore reunion show in Maryland?
Haha. Not sure. I do know that we probably wouldn't survive without Flyzik. He's one of the glues that keeps us together and makes the large amount of touring possible.
And finally, since you're known as Blink-182 superfans, what is your all time favorite Blink song?