To celebrate (not really), co-frontman Jordan Brown was glad to sit down and chat just prior to their first night on the tour at New York City's Irving Plaza. Interested in discussions surrounding that recent accident, reissues, and CIV?
Can you describe the whole van accident ordeal, from when it happened to dealing with the rental and the auto shop? It was your first accident, right?
This was our second van accident, if you don't count the multiple times we broke down last year. We broke down in Florida in April for a week, then we broke down in St. Louis for a week on that same tour in May, and then we hit a deer last year in November. But this most recent accident was the most intense. We were coming down a mountain pass in Idaho after our Vancouver, Washington show; we hit a patch of black ice and spun a quarter-turn and rolled 75 miles per hour straight into the center-divide guard rail; the trailer jack-knifed, so we basically spun like the Disney [Land] teacups, [then] came to a slow halt. Dave regained control of the vehicle, we slowed down, and it was cool from there. But we got stuck in Kellogg, Idaho, and I could go on about that place…
…Middle of nowhere?
[It] was in the middle of nowhere… Have you seen "Invasion of the Body-Snatchers?" That alien movie?
I think [so]…
You own it?
I'm sure it's in my house somewhere.
Okay, dude, that was Kellogg, Idaho. There's this guy there named Dave Smith, and he runs the world's largest semi retail. Like, people fly out from Japan to buy semis, and all kinds of crazy stuff. You go to his lot, and it's just rows of every car/truck imaginable. Everywhere you go in that town -- the population's only 150 people -- they have a "Dave Smith discount." They're like, "Hey, go visit Dave Smith," and we're like, "Dude, Dave Smith is some alien and he took over all these people and he sends [them] out to ice the highways at night." Our singer Matt came up with that theory, so I thought that was kind of funny. We rented a mini-van, ditched all our stuff there and we're pickin' it up in two weeks. So we're on tour for two weeks with Anti-Flag in a soccer mom mini-van.
Was the 2004 demo [later reissued in 2006 as the Reset EP] your first official recording? It has to be one of the cleanest-sounding demos I've ever heard, and I think that's part of the reason you guys exploded nearly right out the gate.
Thank you. It was our first recording, as this band. We engineered with Zach Ohren at Castle Ultimate in Oakland; he's a local dude [that] does stuff for all the metal/hardcore/punk bands around there, and other bands I've been in have recorded with him. We've all played in multiple bands before this one, [so] you sort of start to learn a lot about how to build a band; when we started Set Your Goals, the idea was to start a band that was actually gonna get out and record, and tour, and put songs out. It was our very first recording; that was done in April/May of 2004, and I was so stoked during those sessions. Those were some of the most fun times of my life, putting those songs down.
You've done a couple tours with some rather high-profile, veteran punk acts all the while obviously gaining a larger and larger fanbase. Have you found yourself signing any autographs yet?
We do. We always try and make a note to get back by the merch table after we play just so kids can come up and say 'what's up' and stuff. At shows like this, typically, there's the separation… Well, I shouldn't say that exactly because tours that we've done-- We did a Senses Fail / Saosin / Alexisonfire tour -- that was four days, and then we did the Less Than Jake tour with Catch 22 and the Loved Ones, and in spite of those bands being huge, all those bands would come out and say 'what's up' to kids every night and make it relatable, really personable. But yeah, we've definitely done the autographs, we've done lots of pictures…
Did you find the whole autograph thing weird?
I would think it would be weird, but, not at all. Like, these kids are really sincere -- it's something that they're gonna take home and maybe frame, or maybe just hold onto it. And they're gonna look back--
Yeah, that's exactly how my 15-year-old sister is.
Yeah, it's all about that. I mean, I look at it like, I would still get my Lifetime 7 inches signed; I would still go get my New Found Glory LP signed. It just depends how I feel about the artist. It's fun; it's a way of getting to know the kids more; they're not [always] intimidated.
I already know of Jawbreaker and Gorilla Biscuits -- have you covered anyone else live? [Ed.'s Note: I saw them cover Lifetime a year and a half ago; apparently this totally slipped my mind when asking them this question.] Do you think doing CIV would be overly cheesy?
I would love to do CIV. We haven't done a CIV song yet, and I wanted to do one on this tour in New York City because I had a feeling that maybe on the Anti-Flag tour, kids would know what's up a little bit more. When we did those Gorilla Biscuits shows, they were playing "Do Something" on the west coast.
Yeah, I fucking freaked out when they played it here.
Yeah, dude, I was [stumbling over words in agreeance]--
I was surprised -- not many people knew it, it was weird.
Yeah, [it] didn't go off as [well] as Gorilla Biscuits' [songs]. But I wanted to do "United Kids"; I think that would be the jam. That was the one we were learning, and I wanted to do it on [the GB] tour; I was trying to talk my band into it and they were like "I don't know, dude." I couldn't talk my band into it for those shows, but I'm hoping some time we come through New York again, we can get him to come out, kinda sing with us, do a song… I would love to do that, or "Soundtrack for Violence"; that would be awesome. I would kill.
Did you get to meet him during those shows at all?
They were awesome. Same thing with the Less Than Jake tour, I get nervous meeting bands I grew up listening to, and it's like I have an image of their music being so great. I'm hoping these people are just awesome and they are. Like, Gorilla Biscuits -- that whole tour was Murphy's Law, Gorilla Biscuits, and Comeback Kid. A few of the guys in Comeback Kid we'd met but other than that we hadn't met anyone on the tour, or any of the crew, and… I'm gonna go on a limb and say it was the best tour we did last year. It sucks because we did the tours with No Trigger, and Crime in Stereo, and those bands were amazing too, but it's a different kind of experience, because it's nostalgic. It's like -- I never got to see this, I was in kindergarten when Gorilla Biscuits were breaking up. It was super cool, those were the best dudes. Walter actually used Dave [Yoha's] guitar the first night, and [Dave] took the strings off and wrapped them up and was like "I'm never throwing these away."
Did Civ say anything to you…?
About the band name?
Yeah, he was like, "Dude, I think that's an awesome band name, it's really positive--"
I didn't ask him, I wasn't like, [fanboy voice] "so we named our band after you, dude, what do you think?" Matt Pike, our booking agent, just basically introduced us the first night [of the tour]. It was like, "What's up, this is my band, Set Your Goals"; "This is Gorilla Biscuits, this is Civ," and I was like… It was kind of a trip… "He has your CDs…" I actually talked to him more about tattooing than anything.
Civ was like, 'Dude, I think Set Your Goals is an awesome band name, it's really positive.'
I think he actually owns a tattoo shop literally down the block from where I work.
He does, it's in Long Island--
He's actually coming tonight, with our agent who got tattooed by him yesterday. I saw his portfolio on the tour, but I haven't seen his shop.
Yeah, [and meanwhile] I'm right near there every day and haven't even been in there.
Yeah, go check it out, for sure.
On that note, it seemed that even just like, the flow of that CIV album from track to track inspired Mutiny!.
Right, that's what we also did with the EP, and I like when bands do that. It gives it…
It gives it a continuity and keeps the energy going, as we want to do live. I think about it like, if we were to play Mutiny!, or even the Reset EP / demo in full, this is how would we play it. I want that to be on the recording. I want kids to put this on and be able to play it straight through, listening all the way through, like a fluid track listing. CIV definitely inspired that. Set Your Goals, that album, you had your hardcore songs, you had your pop-punk songs… What we wanted to do with this band was not blend necessarily-- blend the styles, but I wanted to write a hardcore song, then I wanted to write a pop-punk song. I wanted to write "This Song Is Definitely Not About a Girl," then I wanted to write "To Be Continued…," and put them on the same record…[but still] have them be different songs. [CIV] definitely mastered that whole side of it.
So you guys have two DVDs in the works. Is that a contractual thing or do you just really like that format?
One is under contract. Basically what happened is, we signed a contract with Eulogy, we agreed to edit a DVD for them, however there was miscommunication. We weren't aware we couldn't use copyrighted material, which makes sense now but, you know, [as a] younger band you don't think. There are some songs in there that are copyrighted, [so] by law they can't put the DVD out; they'd be sued. We have to obtain clearance to use them. That's the Work in Progress DVD; I worked with everyone helping brainstorm ideas for it. We edited that all ourselves, [and it] should hopefully come out by the end of the year. It's a look back at 2006, a 'making of' the music video, the recording sessions for Mutiny!, all the touring we did, a ton of joke shit… There's so much goof-off stuff in that video, and that's what I loved about it most: [Fans] will see how we are as people. The other one is a live DVD. What happens is, Eulogy is not really willing to put out the copyrighted material, [but] we have to fulfill that contract, so we decided to do a live DVD. The focus on this is kind of where it was lacking in Work in Progress; we want it to show how we are live, and [have it be] a really fan/band interactive thing -- there's a barrier, but there is no barrier [jokingly taps temple, chortling]. Like, Beastie Boys did this video [called] I Filmed It--
Yeah, it was called I Fucking Filmed That! or something-- [Ed.'s Note: It's called Awesome: I Fuckin' Shot That!.]
Yeah, something like that; they passed out cameras [to audience members]. From now until the March 27th date on this tour, we're asking kids to film their day, and what they do…
Yeah, I read about that [online].
Cool, yeah, that's what's goin' on: behind the scenes. It gives it more of a real thing, because it's like, obviously we live those lives when we're not touring. We go to shows, we hold up 9-to-5 jobs, we go to school… Plus, it's just cool to incorporate kids who are into our band. So yeah, two DVDs, and hopefully that one should come out this summer in time for Warped Tour.
What specifically disgusted you most when you were negotiating with labels between the demo and Mutiny!?
"Mutiny!" was about the music industry in general. The biggest misconception with that is people think that it's about a major record label when in fact it's about an independent record label. Basically, we had a lot of buzz from the beginning, and we got a push from a lot of people at the beginning, and all of them turned out to be… We still see it. We see it all the time, and we see it happening within people… It's hard to make friends from the business because it is a business, and that's what was killing us. We were going to record this album, and we wrote the lyrics kind of when we were up there in Seattle, and we came up with the whole "Mutiny!" idea while we were in Seattle. We were like, what are we doing? We want[ed] to get the idea out that you don't have to cheat--
[clattering of glass, barmaid announces "Positions!" as doors are officially opened]
Basically what disgusted us was that we had experiences [where] people were basically like, "You need me to do this." That was the vibe we were getting from everyone. It was like, "Well, we don't want to work with your band because you guys have two singers and we need you to write more choruses." Everyone loved the "Goonies" song. People were like, "We love 'Goonies,' we think 'Goonies Never Say Die' is a great track, but it needs more chorus; you need to write more songs like this." We demoed five songs out to shop to labels and [said] "This is what we're doing." And so with Mutiny!, there's choruses on that album, [but] it's not like a Blink[-182] song. God bless Blink-182, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for them, but it's not verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus. That was kind of what led us to write "Mutiny!." It was in overall disgust. It kills it for young bands. It's like, "Just make music. Fuck it." Have you gotten a rider yet?
When we went to Europe we got a rider, and we fuckin' went crazy with it. We didn't get anything that we asked for. We asked for like, multiple changes… We did ridiculous, totally sarcastic [stuff]; we knew we weren't gonna get this [stuff]. "I want a bowl of all-green M&Ms"; we stole that from a Christina Aguilera rider we read online. Tour riders are pretty typical. Actually a rider is -- people think it's sort of like, a band's way of being dominant, [when] actually what a rider is it's got all the tech specs, what your gear is, what you need for backline, and then it's like what can we do to make your stay comfortable, do you like Pepsi or Diet Pepsi, cheese and crackers… It's really basic stuff. Obviously you have artists like Britney Spears who can get whatever they want but we haven't done anything crazy like that.
What do you find yourself doing differently in venues of this size, in terms of performing, etc.?
I try and focus more on singing. Like, actually getting the songs to sound like they do on the album. When we play VFW shows, all 'hey how do we sound' goes out the window; it's just like, "Take this fucking mic" and I'm moshing half the set. I don't even pay attention to what's going on behind us with the music. I just care about people having fun and the energy. Here what we do with big shows with barriers and monitors and all that is, we take advantage to better ourselves as musicians and working as a band on stage. But at the same time, you don't want to lose that crowd energy, because if you're sitting up there the whole time and you've got your monitors or you've got your ear plug and you're thinking 'how do I sound,' 'is this harmony working out,' you're not gonna have fun; you're gonna kill it. When you're on stage you need to drop all that, forget everything and just have fun. I'll get in the barrier… Eye contact is the biggest thing; I'll find people in the balcony having fun, call them out like "you need to stand up right now, put your hands up, do something." That's the advantage of playing a bigger venue [though]; you have the sound.
Was there leftover material from the Mutiny! sessions?
There was no leftover material. I don't believe in not releasing a song you write. I put so much focus into every piece of music that we write that I want it to be heard, and there's been material I've written out of scraps that my band doesn't know about it because I just haven't told them. But if I'm not feeling the way a song's going, it goes [out the window]. When you're that passionate about a track you want it to be heard. The only song that wasn't officially released was just an intro we did on the demos -- it's been dubbed "The Last Straw." Those five songs leaked on Soulseek so hard, we didn't even need to release that on Mutiny!.
I remember when those came out, everyone was all "Set Your Goals demos!! Set Your Goals demos!!"
That actually helped us a lot. At first I was like, "Oh, dude, they leaked! We're not ready to play those songs live yet!" because we hadn't learned them as a band. Then we were like, "Let's just learn them and start playing them" and kids were freaking out, man; it was awesome.
Would you be opposed to the idea of a "deluxe reissue" of Mutiny!?
A deluxe reissue…? Like how the Warriors did the redux of War Is Hell.
Right, because you're one of Eulogy's bigger bands now, so it's definitely a possibility. And what are your thoughts on that trend in general, of reissuing year-old, still-in-print albums?
Yeah…I guess I'm not into it. I think what happens is, labels will talk you into stuff like that for promotional reasons. Like, I'm sure they went to the Warriors and said this will help boost sales, let's do this -- we'll add two new tracks to it… There's a time to do a reissue, and a time to just wait [it] out. We actually got a Q&A from [Alternative Press], the reader's poll, and [for that] I was really trying to think of what reissues I had bought and there weren't too many in my discography. But I do get stoked when bands put out reissues years later with all this brand new artwork and tracks you never knew existed, because it's the music that you've never heard, so that's cool.
[The] Dear You [reissue] I loved.
See, there you go.
All the B-sides from that are great.
See, I'm trying to think of like…if I… [struggles to remember purchased reissues]
Yeah, it's rare. So you had Dear You and…what else?
Well, there's Dear You and… I was sent the At the Drive-In reissues for review, but…
I didn't even know they did reissues.
Yeah but, there wasn't even any bonus tracks on [most of] them.
You can pretty much sense when it's a sincere thing, and a label is doing it because 'this is an item we're proud of,' and when they're doing it from a promotional standpoint. Obviously Eulogy does a lot of promotion, so they're gonna do that from a more promotional standpoint. Like Unearth -- they did so many reissues, and it was…unnecessary [laughs]. It's like, come on. So that's my feeling. I don't want to make that seem like it's a total negative thing; it depends on the situation.
Anti-Flag said in a fairly recent interview with us that they, or at least #2, has "no problem with Anti Flag being classified as the gateway drug to activism," while you said in a recent interview with Pastepunk that "one of the main reasons [you] started SYG was to get people in the know about the bands that had influenced [you] to start [the] band" in the first place. Do you see yourself sort of becoming one of those larger gateway bands like Anti-Flag, or even kind of fulfilling their role if and when they call it a day?
I would love to do that. It's funny you said "gateway drug" because that's always been my terminology as well. That's how I think about this band. It's like, we are here and we aren't necessarily doing [something different]. People will say, "You guys are doin' something new," and it's like, "We aren't -- listen to these bands." There's so much to learn out there and we're so stoked that kids dig what we're doing because in return they're gonna get stoked on all these bands, because all these bands combined, are Set Your Goals. You listen to your Lifetime, you listen to your CIV, you listen to your New Found Glory, you listen to your Gorilla Biscuits…
I'll be honest, I didn't even listen to that CIV album--
--until you heard us?
That's awesome, see? And now you're stoked.
I kinda knew it was floating around, but it was like, ah, I didn't really know he "started" a band six years later that sounds exactly like…the followup…
Yeah, right? And there are songs on the CIV record that have the Gorilla Biscuits feel, and so it's like, how can you not become accepting… It's opening you up to so much music. So I would hope to do that, as those bands have done for me.
Do you think this type of touring regiment will become a pattern? Like, support a huge tour like this one, then do a smaller headlining tour, then back again? Or do you see one or the other kind of taking over for a while?
We'll always go back and forth. We always fill off-days with small VFW shows. It depends where the market is. Some markets we do big so we'll do bigger venues, some markets we don't so we do smaller venues, and I can never just not be on tour playing a show, so you'll always be able to see us on all kinds of shows. [Whether it's] supporting big bands, [or] headlining smaller venues, it's a constant… You look at bands like -- I keep comparing to New Found Glory but it's like, they're doin' it. They're selling out arenas, they're selling out 2000-cap rooms now, they still do secret shows at Chain Reaction in Anaheim which is like a 200-cap room, so it's all over the place, for sure.
Have any ideas been floating around for the next album yet?
Not yet. We really want to expose Mutiny! as much as possible, and we haven't even really sat down to write anything because it's like all our energy is still in Mutiny!. We're gonna live this as long as we can because we just believe so much [in it]. It took us two years to write [it], so it's like, why not make the most out of this. If we pull a No Doubt and don't put out a record for five years I'm cool with that. We just [want to] make sure the time is right.