Set Your Goals

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.

How’s it going in the Set Your Goals camp? Audelio "Junior" Flores: We’ve just been gearing up for the summer and the record release. We’ve had a lot of time off before this, so it’s our first tour since the record’s 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 we’ve ever done in the UK. It was so fun, so we’re looking forward to that and then we’re out all summer on Warped and hoping everyone likes the new record when it comes out.

You’re 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 we’d do a tour with them. It’s 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, it’s always light out, it’s been like two weeks of that, so we’ve been spending most of the day recuperating. Last night, we DJ’ed at Shakedown, like a pop-punk night in Liverpool and everyone wore suits. [laughs] It was a good night.

Before last year’s 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 they’ve had on previous tours that it’s been really bad for them. Either the crowd hates you or they’ll just tolerate you.
Mike: And I think we were tolerable - we didn’t 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, you’re 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, I’d say. It’s not all sporadic and random. The last album, we didn’t 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 he’s done a million records, but yeah, I think the album’s a lot more cohesive. We’re pumped. The songs are kind of varied, there’s a lot of different sounds, but it makes a lot more sense.

With the last record, it seemed that people didn’t 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 who’s heard it, who’s fan of the band or friends of ours, have said this is our best stuff and it’s the perfect blend of all things. It’s got kind of a young sound, but the musicianship is progressive as we’ve playing together. We’re all really stoked.
Junior: We’re all stoked on the music, but it’s nerve-wracking gearing up for its release, like trying to please everyone, but you’re not going to please everyone. We’ve 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 we’ve done interviews with have advance copies and it feels good when they said they like the record and that it’s 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 don’t write the lyrics, Matt and Jordan do, but there’s a varied topic matter.
Junior: We’ve never really been a political band, but with this one, it just touches on topics about stuff we’ve gone through as a band.

I don’t know if you’ll 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 that’s a part of life, but it was a rough year for him, because we’re on the road away from family and when heavy stuff happens, we have to continue on, but it’s hard to kind of manage that. That song’s 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 ‘posi’ 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, ‘Oh, we can’t write a song that has no happy ending’ or whatever, I guess it’s just our outlook on everything.
Junior: I think, more than anything, it’s just from growing up in the hardcore punk scene, so lyrics mean everything to us and when it’s lyrics with no meaning or just jibberish, it’s pointless to us, so I think that’s why we fit in the category of being a ‘posi’ band, because of the lyrics.

You don’t 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, I’m 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, that’s 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, who’s just a friend of ours, it was originally supposed to be Toby Morse [H2O] to do that part, but he couldn’t 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 they’re there for us. We work hard and they work harder, and vice versa. It’s just how Brett Gurewitz works it, he built it from scratch because he loves music.
Mike: It really does feel like a family and they’re so supportive, whenever we’re in the LA area, they’re always out.
Junior: We can go to the offices and know who everyone is, you can bring your dog, hang out and have coffee.

I’ve noticed that Set Your Goals and a few other bands have started the ‘gig life’ movement, can you tell me about that? Mike: Hell yeah, it’s just a group of friends. It was a term coined by Fireworks. It’s just kind of a play on people who don’t really get it, like you’ll meet someone and they ask what you do and you tell them you play in a band and they don’t understand, then it sort of manifested into this movement that we joke about with our friends.
Junior: It’s 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. It’s just all friends who know what we’re all doing and enjoy touring. Somehow, some people think it’s a gang. [laughs]
Mike: It really is a big joke, though. We even put the stamp on the back of the album.
Junior: There’s a blog coming soon called, it’ll just be all our friends posting stuff. I just bought the domain and I’ll give the password to all my friends who can post whatever they do on tour. It’ll be better than and all those other sites.

Apart from blogging, what’s next for Set Your Goals? Mike: We’ll 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: We’re wanting to do an extensive European tour in-between, but yeah, just on the road, hoping the album’s received well, and just keep doing what we do. It’s gig life.

Are people’s 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 ‘Oh, the guitar tones aren’t as good…’ and stuff like that, but to me, that stuff doesn’t bother me. We’re pumped on it, if we didn’t like it, we wouldn’t put it out.
Mike: Yeah, like if we got out of the studio and were like, ‘God, this sucks, but hopefully it sells…’, 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 we’re all really giddy after playing them, trying to figure out what songs we’re 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 can’t really fight it. If it comes out, it does. It doesn’t really bother us.
Junior: We download stuff all the time, is a great site. It’s one of those things, if I like the record, I’ll buy it no matter what. All my friends records, I’ll go support and buy it, but once you’re in the band, you’re like, ‘Don’t leak, please!’ It’s 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 they’re all registered to the person’s name so we could trace it. I don’t care though, as long as it leaks in good quality, it’s 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 for the pre-order.