I had a chance to have a conversation with The Draft's Jason Black. The Draft includes three quarters of the prolific and influential Hot Water Music who split up after the departure of co-vocalist Chuck Ragan.
Jason and I spoke about the split, mascara and some of what we can expect from the new band.
You guys regrouped pretty quickly after Hot Water Music split up.
We had been talking about taking a break with Hot Water for a while and we toured very little on Caution, where we would have done more tours and kind of finishing up the cycle. And so that didnât really happen. We only really did two and a half tours.
So we kind of felt it coming but we knew that we're going to want to get back on the road anyway we should really start working on this stuff. Cause Chris and George and I were already working on the songs, not really sure what we were going to do with it, but just kind of feeling like Chuckâs not going to be wanting to do this the way we want to do it for much longer.
So weâll kind of cross all the bridges as we come to them, granted, like I said we werenât really planning on having it happen as soon as it happened, but we had already - before the last tour that Hot Water did - we already had put three or four songs together.
It's like the fact that Thursday has a lot of the same fan base as say, From First to Last, which is odd because theyâre not alike at all.
We had kind of started jamming and it was because we didnât feel like giving up. We still really like doing what we do. I still felt like we had a lot more in us and a lot more to say but, in retrospect, Iâm glad weâre not doing it as Hot Water music, because its one of those things where nobody ever really wants to end a band when thereâs nothing wrong.
It was definitely not an ideal situation to have to deal with on any level
You just kind of get uprooted from your whole life the way youâre used to it, but, change is never easy, I think weâre all much much happier, including Chuck for having things end up the way they did.
Now obviously you canât speak for Chuck, but, a lot of people kind of throw rumours around when something like that happens, like are you still friends, or is this a purelyâ¦
I donât talk to him nearly as much as I did before, but there's not any ill will or anything like that, I actually just emailed him today. It wasnât a bad break up, besides the fact that three of us wanted to keep playing, not that he didnât want to keep playing, he just didnât want to keep touring and doing things the way we were doing it.
You guys went to South America for one of your first ever tours. How did that happen?
We were trying to think of a kind of tour to do a few shows in a row instead of like one every weekend or whatever so we could concentrate on writing. So we thought "Letâs do it someplace weird, if we can and just sort of like not go there with all the crazy expectations that come from Hot Water Music.
So, luckily enough for us, the people down there were totally into it and set up an awesome tour, it was a really good time. And I'm definitely really glad we did it. It definitely helped and we wanted to do a tour before we recorded a record so we could get a little bit more comfortable in our shoes too. Even though it's only one person different, Chris is singing the whole time, and stuff like that is definitely a different kind of different chemistry and changes the interplay off each other. But I think weâre finally kind of starting to hit our stride with that now which is good.
You guys are working with Epitaph again.
I donât know how long it is, but we kind of tried to, we spent some time looking around and talking to different people just to to do something different. To set ourselves a little bit, even more apart from Hot Water, but at the same time, we had a really good time with Epitaph, theyâre good people.
It will be easy for us to work with them again I think.
Thereâs going to be a lot of expectations and questions that until you have that album out
Which is good and bad, weâre totally willing to take it because I mean it does give us a leg up but sometimes itâs in the wrong direction.
There will definitely be a lot of people who say: "This sucks, itâs not likeâ¦" Of course it's not, because we donât have one of the singers. Thatâs one thing thatâs kind of blowing my mind a little bit, like I definitely - weâre not dumb, we know what to expect and weâre going to be hearing that a lot, but at the same time, if people could just kind of like - if all of sudden we didnât have Matt in the band, or Dan in the band, it wouldnât sound the same. Weâre writing differently because itâs a different band and the songs are different. I think if anything weâve kind of gotten ourselves into a more melodic area than we would have been with Hot Water. I mean thereâs still definitely some faster, heavier stuff…
But just the actual, the character of Chrisâs voice versus Chuck's voice is kind of like that way anyway, and so we latched on to being able to go kind of straight melodic the whole time, which has been fun.
I feel like weâre getting to do a lot of things that we would have been or were trying to do with Hot Water but never really had a way to get the whole machine around to that or something. Thereâs definitely a weight lifted off our shoulders as far as like that. We can write whatever the fuck we want because it's not Hot Water Music, which was cool, so I think thereâs a lot of, well weâre still living with a lot of that expectation and a lot of that weight on our shoulders but at the same time itâs a totally different band so we are just free to do whatever we want. But I donât think, I donât feel like itâs gonna, like, I donât feel like anyone is gonna pick up the record and be shocked. Itâs got a lot of the same characteristics because itâs the three of us.
But weâre definitely kind of trying to push ourselves to make our own kind of stamp as much as we possibly can without it being something forced.
We've always said that we don't want to be one of those bands where nobody gives a shit, including you.
The interesting thing is that if you listen to Hot Water Music albums separated by two years even - like I remember when I first heard No Division - I couldnt help but think how completely different it was.
Weâve always liked doing that. You throw on a NOFX Record and youâve got a ball park for what youâre going to get. Weâve never really been comfortable doing that - its just more fun to try to find as many things as we can, see what sticks.
I think most people have trouble putting HWM in a genre too; Iâve seen hard core, punk, emo, rock, all this stuff thrown around and not just recently, even old reviews from 10 years ago say that.
I think that is a blessing and a curse for us. It was awesome because we could kind of do whatever we wanted, we could play with whoever we wanted, but at the same time there wasnât that one thing where like, a bunch of people could latch on to it, be like "its this kind of band and thatâs the kind of band I like" So, kind of a double edged sword.
You could buy some mascara.
Thatâs, yâknow Iâve actually thought about making a get up for the shows, like a wig and all this shit, for fun, I donât know if anyone would get it. I donât think it would be good.
I donât know, you should do at least one promo photo like that.
That part of the scene is really weird, and one of the things I think is weird to me, thereâs a lot of them that are, is the other bands that kind of fall into this, not into the ditch but have the same fan base. It's like the fact that Thursday has a lot of the same fan base as say, From First to Last, which is odd because theyâre not alike at all. It's all cool, but theyâll just be this like three or four kind of normal bands that are getting mixed in with all the mascara rock or whatever, Iâm just like "how the hell did the kids decide that?"
Thereâs kind of no rhyme or reason to it, and I keep waiting for it to end, and it keeps going, and Iâm like what is this uncontrollable monster yâknow.
How long did it take for every band to stop sounding like NOFX?
Definitely a while. The other thing thatâs really funny about it is a lot of these kids that are starting bands now are guys, people, women, however old they are, with the mindset of "Iâm going to make a lot of money starting a band."
Instead of like - thereâs this whole other element that never was involved in it at all.The whole huge image factor which was like, I donât want to say that nobody ever thought about it back in the day but it wasnât this - you just didnât want to look like a frat boy. But its definitely interesting and spend a lot more time thinking about it than I'd prefer. Its kind of hard not to because its in your face all the time, but its an interesting thing, and I mean I said the one thing that kills me is I can tell you the difference between these bands from ten blocks.
Over the years we've seen a lot of little subgenres rise up and come down; because we get a fair number of user submissions, you can start to see this overlap between what people are interested in. The same kid who posts about an obscure street-punk band, might also like Atreyu.
I think its good as long as, I definitely think its kind of an age old question: "so punkâs popular now?" and I say: "punkâs been popular for fifteen fucking years now" so its good and bad. Good, because it gives everyone a much larger ceiling, but at the same time it allows almost everyone in, which is good and bad, I donât think it should be an exclusionary thing but at the same time the more youâre dealing with some stuff thatâs not quality. Or thatâs repetitive or something like that. Like you said, after NOFX and Bad Religion, everyone sounded like that for ten years.
Is it hard at all to get back on the road? Hot Water toured so much, and you could book a show even the third time through a city.
Um it hasnât been, so far, I definitely feel like weâre completely getting the hook up from all of our friends (laughs) at this point thatâs whatâs happening. Which is awesome and weâre super grateful for it. I couldnât ask for anything more from anyone else. So far itâs been easy to get some cool stuff together; all the headline shows weâve done have been good.
But every time we play a show we donât know if itâs going to be any good or not, which, you never really lose. I mean Hot Water never got to the point in popularity where we didnât think about that, weâre always thought "I hope tonightâs show is good". But it hasnât really been that hard and I donât think weâve really let ourselves think about it that much because thereâs not really a Plan B
So weâre putting out a record and going on the road as much as we can. So weâll see if that becomes difficult to make happen, once the recordâs finished weâll really start going for it but hopefully it will be.
I hope I'm not asking too many questions about Hot Water, when I'm sure there is plenty to talk about in the Draft.
We havenât actually talked about it with anybody so it's actually good to talk about it.
I think it was such a shock because Hot Water Music was always kind of one of those bands you could count on to come through and be a lot of fun, youâd always be on tour with a good band so youâd see the Bouncing Souls or something. Thereâd be a CD every year or two and a B sides collection every three years. There was a certain rhythm to it. Then the always-reliable band splits up and it's a shock. I canât imagine how weird it must have been for you guys.
Its basically like getting fired from a job youâve been working at for ten years. It was a major major life adjustment for all us, it definitely, yâknow I would say probably more so for Chris and George and myself because Chuck sort of already had his game plan of like "I donât want to tour anymore because I want to do this." So weâre scrambling to get jobs and asking ourselves how we pay our bills and still practice five days a week?
When we went on that tour in Brazil, I wasn't used to being on tour because Iâd been home for a year and Iâd find myself mentally complaining about it saying "Dude donât get soft" to myself. But like I said at the same time, change is always hard, and Iâm personally glad it happened. It was definitely not the easiest year of my life on this planet but Iâm already much happier than I was in the last year of Hot Water.
We've always said that we don't want to be one of those bands where nobody gives a shit, including you. Iâve seen enough bands do that and gone to see them and wondered "Why the fuck are these people on tour, they donât even like their songs anymore. Weâd rather bow out gracefully than sort of drag a dead horse around the country on tour.
I've started to see Hot Water Music used as a reference point in a lot more album reviews; bands like Latterman and the Blackout Pact seem to have strong connections to what you guys had been doing and I was wondering what you thought of that.
It's really cool actually. It's one of those things that's always a bit weird, because you have to kind of watch yourself on that stuff because itâs definitely flattering and then you canât become a bitter man if they sell twenty times as many records as you do. Its definitely is a really high form of flattery to influence somebody, weâre just kind of doing, there was never anything we intended, I mean from the get-go we were so happy that we put out our first 7" and we were like "oh my god I canât believe we just put out a record, this is cool. If nothing else ever happens, this will be the raddest thing thatâs ever happened. So its sort of one of those things where you look back on it and you think. We went to Australia three times, did this shit, that shit, whatever" Its really easy to take it for granted when youâre doing it. But thatâs cool, like I said, if we can leave something behind in a positive light, then itâs awesome.