I recently spoke with Jeph Howard of The Used about their new album, Lies for the Liars. We actually talked in May, but due to a variety of problems that would probably make for a wacky British sitcom, the interview has been delayed until today.
Jeph and I talked about the recent defection of drummer Brandon Steineckert, who joined Rancid, their successes and the record itself.
What have you been up to in the past few weeks?
We went on a little press tour around the U.S., actually before that we went to Taste of Chaos, which was incredible. Did that all over the whole U.S. Itâs kind of our first time back since weâve stopped touring. And actually when we ended our last tour, it was Taste of Chaos too, which was kind of cool, ending on the same kind of tour.
After that we went to Europe for "Give It a Name" which was pretty fun, it was us and HIM, it was really really cool actually. Did about 5 shows on that , came back home for a little bit and did this little signing thing where we flew around and did some in store signings for a bunch of different places meeting some kids and now were home for a couple more days.
This is your first record without drummer Branden Steineckert right? Howâs the dynamic been?
Yes, and itâs awesome I canât even tell you the chemistry we got going on right now, more explosive then weâve ever had it. I definitely think were stronger then weâve ever been as a band. We actually feel really really good about it now.
Is there any ill will between you guys and Branden?
Not that I really know of. Things are as they are, and thatâs all it really what it is. Rancid has been his favorite band of all time and were happiest the way we are too.
The last record seemed to have a lot of themes, it was obviously about a lot of tragedies in Bertâs life. Is there anything in particular in this one?
Well we went through loosing a drummer and it was different and it was a pretty harsh thing. Weâve had a lot of time to just reflect and to realize where he was at in life and realize who his real friends were and who his real friends werenât and sort of gazing on everything. And then he had a bunch of personal things that I think that he went through that were more detailed that is more of his personal stuff that I donât want to get into.
We just donât consider ourselves âemoâ or âscreamoâ and we never have. Weâre a rock band thatâs all weâve ever been.
I think he just realized life and about life a little bit more. And you can definitely tell on this record, itâs definitely just, I want to say the most rock record that weâve ever done. Most in your face rock. We actually wrote 40 songs and recorded 20 and we only put 11 on this record, so weâve got nine more. songs that are kind of just floating around and weâre going to later put it on an E.P.
Your last record sold like 3 million copies so obviously thereâs going to be a huge amount of anticipation for this one?
I didnât even know it sold 3 million, haha. Wow thatâs pretty good. Youâre talking worldwide though, but thatâs still pretty cool.
Do you think about that stuff when youâre in the studio?
No, not at all, I mean like I just said, I donât really have a clue how many weâve sold. But we donât really look at that. For us, it doesnât really matter in the end.
Only thing that matters is that weâre happy with what weâre doing, and we love our songs and thatâs how we feel. This record we feel more strongly about it musically and lyrically and vocally then weâve ever felt about anything. In the end, itâs good for us.
Who are the "liars" you are talking about here?
You know what? Thatâs a pretty open vague statement. I think itâs more about pointing fingers at Bert in a way. He says itâs about LA and about different people, and about the world, but at the same time I think heâs pointing fingers back at himself. Everyone lies and I think itâs such an open statement and Lies for the Liars is like stealing from the thieves, itâs like "you get what you get."
Regardless of what the actual numbers are, you guys have had a lot of success and have managed to stay a big band for a long time, and most bands disappear after one or two big albums, do you have any advice for bands that are coming up right now?
I mean were just writing music for our self weâre not writing music to get big and it doesnât matter if you are the biggest band in the world, we donât care. It matters more youâre happy with what youâre doing and happy with the way you are going about it.
I think thatâs what changed from our first record to this record, is that with first we were doing what we wanted to do and now with this one, we know what we want to do, so weâre doing it that way if that makes sense.
What plans do you have for the rest of the year? You just came off of Taste of Chaos and have been on the road for a while.
Weâre going to tour A LOT. Weâve got a plan to come to the U.S., but not for a little bit, weâre going to take our time coming back here. We want to let people soak in the CD for a bit and let them understand it and then come back. When we finally do our U.S. tour is going to be pretty sweet, Iâm really excited about that.
As far as the record itself, how is the songwriting been for you guys as a band, obviously you guys have had a line up change, and you had had a pretty solid line up before for years so are you guys writing as a group? I guess you had Dean Butterworth on drums in the studio?
Yes and No, with Dean he recorded, the way it was written was with our friend Dan from Utah who was actually there with us and the only reason Dean was there was that John (Feldman) and Dean had a friendship going on and he knows how he works in the studio and John knows how he works in the studio and Dan didnât really want to record in the studio. It was sort of our drummer just left and everything was still a little wavy, so we wanted to make sure that things were right.
So we made sure by using Dean in the studio. There were a couple of changes. I would say that half the songs that we wrote and recorded, they were jammed out, like how we usually do as a full band. Just jam and did it that way. The other half was that Quinn has about a million guitar lines and has an 8 track just filled with guitar lines and just riffs. And he just loops and loops over those, and loops guitar lines over that. And when we sit down and jam we have those to kind of go over first and sit down and can those up and see what we can come up with.
So the other half was him with those guitar lines sitting down with Bert and getting a vocal line before actually coming up the music and Bert would maybe come up with a piano melody and come up with words that way and then from there weâd take it to the studio and jam it out. Then weâd sit in a room and Dean would play drums to it and weâd all four of us including John would say "Now try playing it with a slam here," or "Go into it playing it with a feel here for this fill." Little bit different since we were talking about the drums more.
Youâve been working with John Feldman for a long time.
Since the beginning actually. Right after our demo we started working with him.
Is that a loyalty thing or is it just he knows you guys?
I think itâs sort of a family thing. After the 1st record we said we werenât going to go back to him but we did, because at the end it was sort of like we know John and were not scared to do things around him and we know how he works, so thatâs when we decided, letâs go with John for the second record.
And with the third one, we didnât have a drummer and it was sort of like oh man, whoâs going to let us come into their studio and write songs without a drummer and we know John and how he works and how good of a person he is and we back him up as a producer 100% So we decided letâs try John one more time and this time, letâs push him, we wanted to push him to his ends. And it seems like John definitely pushes us in a way that were not used to being pushed and we definitely push him in a way that heâs not use to.
There was a statement that you guys made that you didnât want to be part of the screamo scene anymore.
We never really were, I think. We never considered ourselves a âscreamoâ or âemoâ band.
But are you more actively distancing yourself (from screamo) this time?
Not as much, we just donât consider ourselves âemoâ or âscreamoâ and we never have. Weâre a rock band thatâs all weâve ever been. It seems like the whole genre even just the name, is just a name for newer bands is all theyâre trying to put it as. And thatâs fine , people try to come up with names for different genres all the time. Rock music, country music, little sub genres like drone music, sludge music, softcore, posthardcore, hardcore, itâs just describing like an era I think , like a place almost.
But weâre just a rock band in the end. It just seems like the emo or screamo genres came out of a certain area, and we came out of Utah. We just wanted to be a rock band thatâs it.
Weâve gotten help through Warped Tour , every band on that tour has gotten help through Warped Tour, itâs an amazing thing just to have around.
Do you read the reviews?
I donât personally, Iâve read a couple. No matter what if itâs a good review or a bad review, either way itâs bad to read, at least for yourself. You really just have to go on as you are and keep yourself level and as straight as you can. And even if your reviews are all good, youâre going to start thinking that you are better then you are and if your reviews are all bad, youâre going to start and get angry and resentful more. At the same time, if youâre happy with it, youâre happy with it.
Thereâs a book and itâs called My So-Called Punk, and in the book Kevin Lyman describes you guys as one of the few rock bands out there with real presence. Howâs it feel to hear something like that from a guy like him?
Thatâs really nice of them actually. Feels pretty good, I mean heâs done a lot for music, he started one of the biggest summer tours that has ever existed. How many bands have [been helped by] Warped Tour? Weâve gotten help through Warped Tour , every band on that tour has gotten help through Warped Tour, itâs an amazing thing just to have around.
You mentioned all this extra material, do you think you will do an EP before the international Taste of Chaos in the fall or winter?
(Fan interrupts Jepha at the mall)
Fan- "I donât mean to be rude or anything, but you arenât by any chance in The Used?
Jepha - "Yeah actually I am, haha, but Iâm doing in interview right now can I talk to you in a sec."
Fan- "Oh man, Iâm so sorry, my manager saw you wanted to see if you wanted to come in, I work at Hot Topic."
Jepha- "Oh no way, yah Iâll come by and say hi, I promise, thanks a lot."
Did you just make some kidâs day?
I guess, I stopped by a mall cause I knew I was going to be doing interviews and Iâm pretty far away from where I was supposed to be going so Iâm just walking around a Borders, and some kid saw me walk by and said that his manager knew me or something.