Mixtapes are an extremely young band, having not even celebrated their one year anniversary, yet they've already come out with a full-length entitled Maps, an EP entitled Thought About Growing Up, a split 7" with Direct Hit and an acoustic EP. Frontpersons Ryan Rockwell and Maura Weaver spoke with Punknews Interviewer Matt back in August over the phone, while sitting on top of a roof in Pontiac, Michigan, about the band, about new material, guns, tattoos, and more guns. The interview was over 50 minutes long, but has been shortened for the sake of time and space.
To hear the entire audio interview, go here.
How was Mixtapes started? Ryan Rockwell: Mixtapes started after my dad passed away and I started writing a bunch of really depressing songs to try to get it off my chest. Then I met Maura at a venue I worked at. I heard she could sing and she ended up being a really talented guitar player and singer so we started writing songs together. It was just the two of us and we were going to do it acoustically. Then after we started doing that, our friend Sam from the band Fireworks came down to stay with me to record all the drums because he thought the songs should have drums, which was a good choice. So we recorded that album and after that we liked it so much we decided to become a real band. So we got some of our friends who are good at instruments and just kept on going and writing and recording and playing shows.
Maura Weaver: Yeah, it was funny because we had never heard any of our songs with a real band until we recorded them. I was shocked how they sounded.
Rockwell: Yeah basically Maura and I would sit around and write with the two guitars. Then Tim came down from Detroit and learned the drum parts the night before, and we‚??ve obviously come a long way since then, but that‚??s basically how the first album went. It was very sporadic.
Rockwell: Yes, which is pretty much the same thing as sporadic.
Rockwell: You want to add anything else that‚??s completely unnecessary?
Maura: [laughing] So awkward.
Who came up with the ungoogle-able name "Mixtapes." Rockwell: Unfortunately, I did.
Weaver: I like the name, even if it is un-google-able.
Rockwell: Yes, it is a hard to google name. I like the name too. We couldn‚??t really think of a name and we struggled for a long time. Originally I ended up saying "The Mixtapes" and then we decided that sounded really stupid. But for some reason if we took out "The" it sounded less stupid. So we just stuck with that.
Weaver: Honestly, I didn‚??t even think about the google thing.
Rockwell: I don‚??t think there‚??s a band on earth that is truly happy with their band name, I‚??ve realized. And I think ours is pretty okay, so I‚??m okay with that.
Weaver: I would say it‚??s better than most band names.
Rockwell: I like it better than most band names too. Except for like Papa Roach and Godsmack.
Weaver: Yeah, and Creed.
Rockwell: And Cold Chamber. Pretty much any two good words together that just sound heavy. Cold Chamber is good. Cold Chamber, GodSmack. It just needs those two words.
Weaver: Maybe if we were like the, "murder mixtapes" or something.
Rockwell: Okay. Can I just say that we are in Pontiac, Michigan now and the only thing we found here besides buildings is the world‚??s largest haunted house. It‚??s really cool. We want to go to it but I don‚??t think it‚??s open.
Weaver: And also apparently this place turns into Halloweentown every October.
Rockwell: Yes there actually was a sign that says right around fall it turns into Halloweentown, so I think we might just stick around here for another month, right until Fest. We‚??re going to go to Halloween for a straight week, then we‚??re going to Florida.
So will the new EP sound like the previous two releases? Rockwell: Well we just recorded a split 7" with a band called Direct Hit. But that is only one new song of ours. Then a Direct Hit cover, and they did vice versa. The new song pretty much sounds like the ep. It‚??s one of the more upbeat ones, it‚??s a faster one.
Weaver: It sounds really pop punk.
Rockwell: It is very pop punk. It‚??s a little more pop punk than our normal stuff, which is probably not how our actual next album will be so it was a very fun song to record. It‚??s just very upbeat, very pop punk. And the new EP actually we started recording two weeks ago. It‚??s just all acoustic songs, but it‚??s not like most bands with our old songs. They‚??re all brand new ones. They sound really good. I think they actually sound like our other stuff, just acoustic, so they‚??re a little more not punk. But yeah, lyrically I think they are still kind of sad slash bittersweet. There are other really cool instrumentations. I think anyone who likes us will like this EP a lot. And if not they will find another band they like better than us. Basically we‚??re just doing that, and then we‚??re going to start to work on a real proper album. Technically I don‚??t think we‚??ve released an actual album. The first thing we did was eight to eighteen minutes long.
Weaver: That just came together out of nowhere. And we didn‚??t even really think it was going to be an album.
Rockwell: The new acoustic EP and the 7" album both are very us. We didn‚??t really try anything completely different. We‚??re not like a ska band or anything now. We‚??re not a hardcore revival band.
Weaver: I think people will like it. I like it a lot.
Rockwell: Now, on the next album however we will be a ska band/hardcore revival band.
What do you think about people calling you orgcore? Rockwell: I actually always found that very odd. I‚??m not sure if the term orgcore is real or not. I know that‚??s a big debate. And if it is real, than my impression is it‚??s bands like Dillinger 4, Hot Water Music, and None More Black. They‚??re all bands we all love. I don‚??t think we sonically or musically relate to those bands at all. But at the same time it doesn‚??t really bother me because if it is a real term and people do consider us that, I really like all those bands so I guess I‚??m okay with it. But I don‚??t see the similarities really whatsoever.
Weaver: Maybe if I smoked cigarettes and my voice got a little more gruff.
Rockwell: Maybe if I got a beard that would help. None of us have a beard in this whole band.
Weaver: You have a beard you liar.
Rockwell: Not really though. It‚??s just because I get lazy. It‚??s not like I have this big ol‚?? Gainsville beard.
Weaver: Well I‚??m working on my beard, so we‚??re getting there. We‚??re getting orgcore.
Rockwell: If orgcore exists than I am okay with being labeled it I guess. Because ya know, why not? They‚??re all good bands, for the most part. Except for Leatherface. That band is really overrated I think.
Weaver: Well we sound exactly like them, so‚?¶
Rockwell: We sound just like Leatherface.
Do you have a release date for that 7"? Weaver: Sometime around Halloween.
Rockwell: We‚??re not supposed to give too many details about it, which seems really weird to me, and I‚??m not used to all that. It makes me feel like we‚??re important when we‚??re not really that important. But usually I‚??ll just give details anyways and then I‚??ll piss somebody off, so I‚??ll try not to do that. But it will be out by the Fest.
What‚??s the songwriting process like in Mixtapes? Rockwell: It usually starts with me and Maura with the acoustic guitars. We don‚??t usually write as a whole band. We try to concentrate on lyrics and melodies a lot.
Weaver: We‚??ll try to write stuff to each other.
Rockwell: We‚??ll work on all the guitar parts, then the harmonies and the vocals and everything ‚??til we‚??re happy about it. Then we‚??ll take it to the rest of the band and they try to be picky about it because we write a lot. We probably write about 3 or 4 songs a week, so then we try to iron them out and decide which ones will be good enough to use.
I just realized I was talking about Leatherface and being sarcastic and being stupid and I don‚??t think people are gonna get it and people are going to make fun of me. And that‚??s okay.
Weaver: They‚??re already making fun of you.
Rockwell: That‚??s okay, I‚??m used to it. I got picked on a lot in school, it makes me tougher.
Are you planning to tour soon? Rockwell: Yes. We were planning on touring in September for a couple weeks, but then we got added to the Fest so we had to work that out. And then we had to record this new EP, and then we had to shoot a music video. So we had to rearrange those dates. So basically from now up until Halloween we will be playing out of town every weekend and getting to every possible place we can hit. Then we‚??ll get down to Fest and do that. Then after that we‚??ll start working on our full album and then after that we plan on doing some real touring and getting everywhere and going out for weeks and months at a time. So that‚??s the plan. I figure it will probably happen that way. Unless 2012 comes early. Then we‚??re all dead.
So how did you put together the video for Sprinkles? Weaver: It was kind of random. We decided we were going to go to New York and play a show with the Tattle Tales. We decided to film it just for fun. Well, Kamal did, and he went to college for video editing. So he was just like "Oh I‚??ll just film a music video!" We didn‚??t really plan on releasing it as a video, but it just sort of happened.
Rockwell: Yeah it was kind of just for fun for us and to show it to people. Obviously if you look at it it‚??s not like we put tons of time into all the details of it. It was just a fun little trip. But somehow it‚??s gotten 16 or 17 thousand views. I have no idea how but that made us very happy and very surprised. That wasn‚??t necessarily the song off the album we were trying to push off the EP, and it ended up being a pleasant surprise.
Weaver: Yeah, we just shot video footage for fun.
Rockwell: As a matter of fact, that song actually, we learned it the day before we went to the studio. It was going to be an acoustic song, and then we decided we better not make it an acoustic song, so Kamal had to learn it a day before recording and we all strapped together and practiced it a bunch and we ended up recording it, and thank god we ended up doing that.
Weaver: Yeah I like it so much better like that.
Do you see yourselves as always putting up records for free and not selling to a traditional label? Rockwell: Well the plan actually that we decided is that every time we go and record something that is going to come out in a format or is going to cost money, we‚??re going to record extra songs and do something different and put that up for free. I think that has helped our band so much, so we‚??d always like to keep stuff out for free. Especially in today‚??s day and age, it‚??s not a time where people just go buy a bunch of records just to check out bands. I don‚??t know any band that wouldn‚??t want to have stuff out there just to get their name out there that people could just listen to.
Weaver: Yeah we figured when we put out the record we didn‚??t even plan on being a band at first, so why should we charge people for this when they‚??ve never even heard us before?
Rockwell: We figured we‚??d feel like idiots charging for a record from a band that has never played a show, so we should put it out for free. So then we decided that was the way to do it anyways so we put out the EP for free. So we‚??d like to continue at least always recording something and having it out for free no matter what. If we gain any form of popularity and put some out for money, there will people out there who make fun of us, but that‚??s okay, because deep down in our hearts we know the spirit of punk rock. But really, we always plan on doing something and recording more than we have to and work hard to put extra stuff out there that people can have.
Weaver: Yeah, even if we do release something that costs money on a label or whatever.
Rockwell: Yeah I guess I should go ahead and say we got signed to Warner Brothers. We‚??re going on tour with Forever the Sickest Kids actually. We‚??re putting out a triple concept album it‚??s going to be out on Warner Brothers/Interscope.
Weaver: And then we‚??re doing a musical.
Rockwell: Yes, we‚??re doing a musical, kind of like Green Day.
How many and what kinds of guns do you have? Weaver: Oh my god!
Rockwell: I dunno, maybe about a dozen, maybe more than that between our bass player and I. I own a couple handguns, I have two Uzis, a TEC-9, and an AK47. Josh has a sniper rifle, a hand gun‚?¶
Is this all legal? Rockwell: We‚??re on the radio, right?
Internet radio. Rockwell: We‚??re on the radio, yeah. It‚??s all legal. I‚??ve noticed this weird trend where in the punk rock community we‚??re if you meet people and they find out you have guns they‚??re put off by that. I think they just picture that we‚??re a bunch of hillbillies out shooting deer or something. I do enjoy shooting them, and that‚??s really where it ends. They‚??re fun to shoot and I like having them. If I got to kill somebody that‚??d be okay, if they deserved it. Only if they‚??re a bad person. Maura doesn‚??t have any guns. I think it would probably knock her over if she shot one.
Weaver: Um, actually, I‚??ve shot guns before so you can die now.
Rockwell: BB guns don‚??t count.
Weaver: No, not BB guns.
Rockwell: Neither do guys‚?? penises. Weaver: Just because I‚??m a female and I weigh 130 pounds doesn‚??t mean that if I would get knocked over if I shot a gun, because I‚??ve shot guns many a time before so you can shut yo‚?? mouth.
Rockwell: So to answer your question we have probably 12 to 13 guns. In the van though when we‚??re out of town we only have a couple.
Weaver: This is actually true.
Rockwell: I figure if anyone ever tries to rob us we‚??re going to have a really cool action movie scene first. We‚??re gonna fight for our stuff, and if we go down in a blaze of glory then that happens, and we die. We have nice equipment, we worked hard for it, and we‚??re proud of it.
Who‚??s feet are on the cover of "Thought About Growing Up?" Rockwell: Those are Maura‚??s. No, just kidding. Those are my feet actually. I felt like kind of a douche bag having my own feet on our CD cover, but that wasn‚??t really the point. It was just a cool cover.
Weaver: It was a cool photo.
Rockwell: It kind of fit with the mood of everything. It was in this nice little lake and we thought it would look cool. That was really about it. It was better than the cover art of our first CD which was terrible which will be different soon.
Weaver: Which Ryan made on Paint.
Rockwell: In like 35 seconds. The reason the artwork is so bad on the first CD is that we were going to put it online and there was no art. So I made it really fast, and I apologize to everyone. But it will be coming back soon, different and better. And not made by me.
So that‚??s all the questions I have. If it‚??s okay with you and you have the time I‚??d like to invite the listeners on my site to send in their questions. Rockwell: Oh, that‚??s fine.
Listener-submitted questions: Why do you have a sniper rifle? Rockwell: Josh says "Because it was made in 1939, it was made by the Russians, and it‚??s pretty tight." And you‚??ve gotta look at it like this: Kumal, our drummer, he‚??s middle-eastern, so he gives us updates on terrorist activities. Like he tells us what‚??s gonna happen before it happens, so we‚??re always ready. Kamal‚??s getting called by the FBI tomorrow for this interview.
Do you ever whistle just for the fun of it? Rockwell: I can‚??t whistle, I‚??m gonna be honest.
Maura: I can whistle. I whistle for the fun of it.
Rockwell: Will you whistle something for us? Whistle Lips Of An Angel by Hinder.
Maura: I don‚??t know if I can do that. [whistles. Listen to the audio interview to hear it.]
Rockwell: I can‚??t whistle. It‚??s really sad but I just can‚??t do it. So no, I guess I don‚??t whistle just for the fun of it.
Weaver: He does pretend to be gay just for the fun of it.
Rockwell: I‚??m not pretending. You don‚??t know me.
Rockwell: That‚??s Maura‚??s way of saying that every time she hits on me I decline her so she thinks I‚??m gay.
Weaver: That‚??s not even true! I think it‚??s the other way around.
Do you have a story for the tattoo on your foot, Ryan? Rockwell: No. It wasn‚??t really inspired by anything. I just wanted a bright colorful city with a lake and a pink flamingo and a palm tree and that‚??s what I got. Some of my other tattoos have stories but not always I guess which is pretty stupid. But they‚??re all colorful so they make me happy. I just sounded like the stupid kid in school like "they‚??re colorful".
Weaver: You really did. "I like pretty colors, te-he-he-he". It‚??s like a 12 year old getting tattooed.
Rockwell: It‚??s not as cool as a girl who has a Kid Dynamite tattoo, I don‚??t get the scene points Maura gets. I do have a Counting Crows tattoo, so I lose like 6 billion scene points for that. There‚??s some guy on the orgsummit board who hates that. He just tore us apart because of that, it was awesome.
IanIsSuperRad wants you to know that if you want to shoot your guns behind his house, he has seven acres of land and you‚??re welcome to. Rockwell: Ian, if you‚??re listening, we‚??re going to do that, and we‚??re gonna bring our guns and we‚??re gonna buy fruits. We‚??re gonna shoot at watermelons and pineapples and Maura and cherries and Maura.
Weaver: I don‚??t think Ian will allow that cuz he‚??s cool. Actually, he probably would.
Shoot apples off his head. Rockwell: Shoot apples off Maura‚??s head AKA shoot Maura in the head.
Weaver: You can‚??t do that, silly, I got a force field!
Rockwell: Wow. Maura‚??s really hard to deal with.
Weaver: I‚??m just really high maintenance. I‚??m always breaking a nail when I play, then I cry on stage.
Would you shoot Blink-182 in the head if you wouldn‚??t get in trouble? Rockwell: No! Well, actually, that depends. I work at a venue in Cincinnati and Angels And Airwaves played a couple years ago and I got to drive Tom Delonge around and he went to the Apple Store and bought 12-13 iPods, and I think this was the time when he was on lots of drugs, and he told me this website, and I don‚??t have it anymore and I wish I did. He said, and I‚??m not exaggerating, "I just think that people today just don‚??t get, like, get their minds. Like you could be across the street on top of that building and you wouldn‚??t even know it because your mind wouldn‚??t allow you to." So just for that reason alone I wouldn‚??t shoot him in the head, because I don‚??t know what any of that means but it‚??s very enjoyable to hear. And that is a true story. I also really like the first couple Blink-182 albums. If I could shoot him in the head now I might. There‚??s probably a lot of bands that I would not mind shooting, but Blink-182 I feel like is such a common target nowadays. There are so many bands that are so much worse than Blink-182 and a lot that are so much more insensitive.
Weaver: I‚??d rather shoot BrokeNcyde or something.
Rockwell: Nah, that‚??s too simple. I‚??d rather shoot bands that deserved it. Bands like Kid Dynamite, Dillinger Four, None More Black, Hot Water Music, Gorilla Biscuits. Bands like that.