In the midst of Set Your Goals latest tour in the UK, Punknews interviewer Faye Turnbull sat down with Mike Ambrose (drummer) and Audelio "Junior" Flores (guitar) in Nottingham, where they discussed the pending release of Burning at Both Ends and provided an insight on the 'gig life' movement.
Howâs it going in the Set Your Goals camp? Audelio "Junior" Flores: Weâve just been gearing up for the summer and the record release. Weâve had a lot of time off before this, so itâs our first tour since the recordâs been done, just getting ready to hit the road again.
Mike Ambrose: Pumped for Slam Dunk, because, last year, it was our favorite festival I think weâve ever done in the UK. It was so fun, so weâre looking forward to that and then weâre out all summer on Warped and hoping everyone likes the new record when it comes out.
Youâre touring with your good friends, A Loss For Words and This Time Next Year, I take it you have a say when it comes to your supports? Junior: Yeah, that was the only reason we did this run, because originally we were just going to do the festival, but when we heard A Loss For Words and This Time Next Year were on it too, so we thought weâd do a tour with them. Itâs always good to come over with friends, it makes it a lot easier.
Mike: I think, on average, the time we all go to bed at night is between 4/5am, itâs always light out, itâs been like two weeks of that, so weâve been spending most of the day recuperating. Last night, we DJâed at Shakedown, like a pop-punk night in Liverpool and everyone wore suits. [laughs] It was a good night.
Before last yearâs Slam Dunk Festival, you toured with Alkaline Trio, I went to the Newcastle date and it felt really awkward for you. Mike: Oh man, yeah. It was so awkward. It was pretty last minute that tour.
Junior: Yeah, I mean, Alkaline Trio said that a lot of the support bands theyâve had on previous tours that itâs been really bad for them. Either the crowd hates you or theyâll just tolerate you.
Mike: And I think we were tolerable - we didnât have shit thrown at us. [laughs] They have a really strong cult following, but we like Alkaline Trio a lot, so it was fun getting to see them play every night.
Like you said, youâre releasing a new record, Burning at Both Ends. I found that your last album, This Will Be the Death of Us, was a bit all over, is this one more consistent? Mike: Very cohesive. The songs stick to a formula, Iâd say. Itâs not all sporadic and random. The last album, we didnât get a whole time to revise and listen to it, we kind of recorded on the fly and hoped it was good. [laughs] This time round, we had four/five versions of the songs before we started tracking.
Junior: We just had a studio where we lived in and recorded anything at any time of the day, and our producer was there all the time to let us know what we could do to make it better.
Mike: He knew what our song needed to sound better because heâs done a million records, but yeah, I think the albumâs a lot more cohesive. Weâre pumped. The songs are kind of varied, thereâs a lot of different sounds, but it makes a lot more sense.
With the last record, it seemed that people didnât really know what to make of it at first, they either loved it or they hated, and then it became a grower. Do you think this one is more instant? Mike: Yeah, everyone whoâs heard it, whoâs fan of the band or friends of ours, have said this is our best stuff and itâs the perfect blend of all things. Itâs got kind of a young sound, but the musicianship is progressive as weâve playing together. Weâre all really stoked.
Junior: Weâre all stoked on the music, but itâs nerve-wracking gearing up for its release, like trying to please everyone, but youâre not going to please everyone. Weâve been releasing a song at a time…
Mike: Yeah, everyone wants to judge the whole thing off of one song.
Junior: A couple of the people weâve done interviews with have advance copies and it feels good when they said they like the record and that itâs better than the last one.
Your last record touched on a few political issues, is this one as heavy as that? Mike: No, there are no political songs, a lot of the lyrics are just personal stories from our experiences and introspective of relationships within the band and other people missing out on relationships. I donât write the lyrics, Matt and Jordan do, but thereâs a varied topic matter.
Junior: Weâve never really been a political band, but with this one, it just touches on topics about stuff weâve gone through as a band.
I donât know if youâll be able to answer this one, but I read the song descriptions on Rock Sound and Matt said the song "Happy New Year" was about how 2010 was his worst year, was that for him personally or for the band in general? Mike: Yeah, his personal life. He had some serious heavy blows, it was just stuff that happened thatâs a part of life, but it was a rough year for him, because weâre on the road away from family and when heavy stuff happens, we have to continue on, but itâs hard to kind of manage that. That songâs about looking up in the grand scheme of things, like dealing with grief and then seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and pushing forward, putting things into perspective and releasing what you have.
Set Your Goals is kind of known for being a âposiâ band, is that something you feel you have to live up to? Mike: No, it just sort of happens, we never go in and go, âOh, we canât write a song that has no happy endingâ or whatever, I guess itâs just our outlook on everything.
Junior: I think, more than anything, itâs just from growing up in the hardcore punk scene, so lyrics mean everything to us and when itâs lyrics with no meaning or just jibberish, itâs pointless to us, so I think thatâs why we fit in the category of being a âposiâ band, because of the lyrics.
You donât seem to go as wild with guest vocals on the new album as you did on the last one. Junior: We just have two, Andrew from Comeback Kid and we needed someone who could scream, so we got our friend who does security for Cobra Starship and Travie McCoy. But on the last record, it was never planned like that.
Mike: Just all our friends said they wanted to do it, so we kept finding parts for them to sing. It was more exciting for us, not just to try get all those names on the CD. It was a dream come true, like Vinnie from The Movielife, Iâm 24 and I remember when I was in high school and listening to The Movielife wishing I could do that one day, and then he sang a part on our record, it was really cool, thatâs kind of how it all was. And Jon Gula from Turmoil, he has the heaviest hardcore voice of all-time.
Junior: Chad from New Found Glory too, whoâs just a friend of ours, it was originally supposed to be Toby Morse [H2O] to do that part, but he couldnât do it, just because stuff happened and Chad was the next person we had in mind.
Are you still happy on Epitaph? Mike: Absolutely, 100%. They back the band so hard.
Junior: We never knew what it was like to be on a label until we got with Epitaph. They back everything we want to do and theyâre there for us. We work hard and they work harder, and vice versa. Itâs just how Brett Gurewitz works it, he built it from scratch because he loves music.
Mike: It really does feel like a family and theyâre so supportive, whenever weâre in the LA area, theyâre always out.
Junior: We can go to the offices and know who everyone is, you can bring your dog, hang out and have coffee.
Iâve noticed that Set Your Goals and a few other bands have started the âgig lifeâ movement, can you tell me about that? Mike: Hell yeah, itâs just a group of friends. It was a term coined by Fireworks. Itâs just kind of a play on people who donât really get it, like youâll meet someone and they ask what you do and you tell them you play in a band and they donât understand, then it sort of manifested into this movement that we joke about with our friends.
Junior: Itâs not a joke, though; we even have tags and tattoos. [laughs] It literally is us, Four Year Strong, Polar Bear Club, Fireworks, A Loss For Words, This Time Next Year and a couple of random friends of ours. Itâs just all friends who know what weâre all doing and enjoy touring. Somehow, some people think itâs a gang. [laughs]
Mike: It really is a big joke, though. We even put the stamp on the back of the album.
Junior: Thereâs a blog coming soon called gig-life.com, itâll just be all our friends posting stuff. I just bought the domain and Iâll give the password to all my friends who can post whatever they do on tour. Itâll be better than AbsolutePunk.net and all those other sites.
Apart from blogging, whatâs next for Set Your Goals? Mike: Weâll be taking a long, hot summer on Warped, which should be fun, and just push the record.
Junior: Do Australia, south east Asia, hopefully, and tour with some good friends in the Fall, then take the holidays off and hit the road again in January.
Mike: Weâre wanting to do an extensive European tour in-between, but yeah, just on the road, hoping the albumâs received well, and just keep doing what we do. Itâs gig life.
Are peopleâs reactions important to you? Just because a lot of bands say they only write records for themselves. Mike: Absolutely, we spent weeks recording it.
Junior: It gets frustrating when everyone just becomes a critic instead of just loving music, when everyone has an opinion, like âOh, the guitar tones arenât as goodâ¦â and stuff like that, but to me, that stuff doesnât bother me. Weâre pumped on it, if we didnât like it, we wouldnât put it out.
Mike: Yeah, like if we got out of the studio and were like, âGod, this sucks, but hopefully it sells…â, we have to live with that with a guilty conscience, but we walked away from it super excited. We sound check with new songs every day and weâre all really giddy after playing them, trying to figure out what songs weâre going to play on Warped Tour. The countdown to it all and trying to keep it under wraps, like yesterday, we kept finding bits and pieces on YouTube trying to flag them, but you canât really fight it. If it comes out, it does. It doesnât really bother us.
Junior: We download stuff all the time, it-leaked.com is a great site. Itâs one of those things, if I like the record, Iâll buy it no matter what. All my friends records, Iâll go support and buy it, but once youâre in the band, youâre like, âDonât leak, please!â Itâs going to happen eventually, it just depends on the people you send it to. On the promo copies of our last record, we did voiceovers, where we talked over it every thirty seconds, so everyone hated it. We did the same thing on this record, but theyâre all registered to the personâs name so we could trace it. I donât care though, as long as it leaks in good quality, itâs good.
Is there anything else you want to say? Junior: Pick up the record when it comes out, I hope you like it and check out sygstore.com for the pre-order.