After three continuous years of touring, Minneapolis, Minnesota's Off with Their Heads is bigger than they've ever been, playing alongside bands like Bad Religion and Dropkick Murphys while headlining their own shows with the likes of Riverboat Gamblers and Dead to Me, who joined the band on a nationwide summer tour. Punknews writer Tyler Barrett caught up with frontman Ryan Young at the Triple Rock Social Club to talk about the tour, what it's like to be on Epitaph Records, and what he really thinks of Against Me!.
Does Minneapolis still feel like home to you and do shows here feel like a homecoming at all?
I moved to Chicago three or four years ago. And then San Diego and now Los Angeles, so Iâm way past this when I come here. Itâs good to see everyone! But I donât know most of the new people, and itâs weird because when we used to play here before no one ever came to see us. Now when we come back thereâs all these new kids. Itâs awesome, I like it. So itâs a good mix of kind of a new town, plus still a lot of my friends.
So itâs kind of like a high school reunion where you can come back and say, "Screw you!" to the people who never came out because now youâre filling the Triple Rock?
Yeahâ¦could, but thereâs no attitude about it [laughs]. âCause we used to do house shows here forever and I met all my friends in touring bands by helping them out here and through that I still have a ton of friends. It was funny, I went and got pizza today at Mesa Pizza in Dinkytown and the guy that served me was like, "Hey manâ¦I used to go to shows at your house seven years ago!" Iâm like, "Whoa, thatâs crazy."
Did you live at the Alamo [House]?
Yeah that was my house. Me and the guys from Rivethead and Dear Landlord.
Youâve been on tour for pretty much the last three years. You and [bassist] Robbie [Swartwood] have been the two constants since then. Do you feel like you two are more made for touring as opposed to a lot of other people who might not really be cut out for it?
Yeah, itâs definitely not for everyone. I think me and Robbie are just so far into it that we donât know what else to do. Weâre so used to it now and it gets better and better every time you go around, and itâs just awesome now. It killed off a lot of people and itâs really hard to get along with people in such a small space all the time. But I donât know, I still like it, and weâre busy the rest of this year too, which is weird. It all just kind of filled up in the last couple days. We were supposed to have like three months off and now thatâs filled up.
How have things changed for Off With Their Heads since signing with Epitaph and releasing In Desolation?
You knowâ¦the only thing that really changed was it just opened it up to a broader audience. We sold less records on Epitaph than we did with No Idea. But, more people have the record. Mr. Brett told me that the music industry is a tenth the size of what it was ten years ago. In terms of labels, people putting out records, people buying recordsâ¦itâs just dwindling down into where you have to have a t-shirt company with your label to get by now. Itâs like the only way to make any money now [laughs]. I dunnoâ¦itâs good, itâs cool. Weâre gonna do our next record with Brett Gurewitz, which is rad because, you know, he did Rancidâs â¦And Out Come the Wolves, thatâs a good sounding record. Heâs done a lot of cool shit. Weâve never had a producer before so I think itâll be kind of fun to have him do that.
Is there any kind of interesting story behind how the deal with Epitaph came about?
[Brett] just called me. It was weird because I didnât believe it was him. I was like, "yeahâ¦whatever." And then he emailed me and was like, "Yeah man, I really like the band, if you wanna talk hereâs my office number." And I looked it up and was actually that office and I was like, "Whoa." We just talked for like six months and eventually went and banged out a record and he said he liked it.
Have you had anything cool happen since signing with Epitaph, like have you gotten to play with Rancid or meet Tim Armstrong or anything? Youâre a pretty big Rancid fan, arenât you?
Yeah [shrugs disinterestedly]. Yeah, totally [laughs]. I actually met Rancid through the Riverboat Gamblers because they were on tour with those guys and Rise Against and I told them about our Epitaph thing. Tim actually talks like that. He said, "Whetâs the name oâ yoâ band? Off Witâ They Heads?" I couldnât even talk after that. But yeah, weâve gotten to do a lot of cool shit like that. Bad Religion, Dropkick Murphys, lots of bands I loved when I started listening to this music. So thatâs pretty awesome.
I know a lot of people were looking forward to the hilariously titled 69 Sound collection, whatever happened with that?
That was never real, I just kind of tricked No Ideaâs publicist in doing that because I thought it was funny. And then someone compiled a bunch of the songs that werenât released and it was just like, "Ehâ¦.letâs just skip it." The Gaslight Anthem did hear about that though. I ran into the drummer in Europe and he was like, "What the fuck, man?" I just said, "You gotta admit, itâs kind of funny." He was like, "Yeah, I know, itâs totally funny." I donât think the singer of that band has much of a sense of humor, which is understandable because he probably catches a lot of shit [laughs].
You guys always put out a ton of stuff every year, but unless I missed something, there hasnât been muchâif anythingâthis year.
No, not at all. When you sign something with a label like Epitaph youâre technically only supposed to put records out on that label and they donât really do seven-inches and stuff like that. Even though Brett told me, "You can do seven-inches and stuff like that, go ahead." But weâve just been busy, you know what I mean? I havenât had time to write anything. But weâre starting to form that now, hopefully weâll have some stuff coming out.
And thatâll probably be a full-length on Epitaph?
Yeah, yeah, we definitely have to do that. Thatâs the next big priority.
You already touched on it a little bit with Bad Religion and Dropkick Murphys, but what are some other bands that have been your favorites or notable in some way, maybe that your fifteen-year-old self wouldnât believe youâd be playing with?
Against Me! Theyâre the first band to ever take us on tour. And then they took us to Australia this year and they were on that Dropkick Murphys tour. Tom [Gabel] was like, "Goddammit, you guys are fucking everywhere!" I fuck with him a lot. He doesnât dislike meâ¦I donât think. But I do kind of get under his skin a little bit. Someoneâs got to! I mean, on a personal level, not just the Internet. But I highly respect that guy and that band and all theyâve done for us. I do really like them. I say their guitarist looks like a giant baby.
Which is true!
But he gets really pissed about it. Heâs like, "Youâre being such a dick to me!" Iâm like, "You look like a giant baby!" [laughs]. Beside that, other notablesâ¦Bouncing Souls are great, Youth Brigade became like, super good pals of mine, so thatâs really cool growing up loving that band. Kinda live in the same town as them. We donât hang out too much but every time I get to see them itâs rad. They do their Punk Rock Bowling thing and always hook us up with that and itâs awesome.
You guys were able to take In Defence out on tour last year. What was the main reason you wanted to bring them out and how did your fans react to a hardcore/thrash band opening for you guys?
Iâve been friends with all those dudes for a long time and I love their band. I like [vocalist] Ben [Crew], heâs crazy, and [guitarist] Tom [Burt]. And we donât like being super predictable with the shows. Thatâs we toured with Municipal Waste, we were just like, "Yeah, weâll do it." I wanna tour with Cancer Bats, just like weird stuff like that. I donât really listen to a lot of pop-punk stuff outside of Dillinger Four, Dear Landlord and stuff like that. So itâs pretty rad to throw a curveball like In Defence. And I thought the same thing, like, "I wonder if anyoneâs even gonna like this." And people loved it. Theyâre such an entertaining band. Even if you donât like the music, thereâs the in-between shit. Benâin Portland, on stageâdrank a whole bottle of ranch dressing and then said for a dollar anyone could come up on stage while they did this song and slap him in the stomach and if he threw up, whoever made him throw up got the pot.
Did he puke?
He did not, but he shit his pants on the way back to where we were staying.
Off With Their Heads doesnât have a ton of overtly political stuff. By default does that mean the bulk of songs are more personal in nature?
Has there been any songs that youâve had to retire because of either painful memories or just kind of being done with that part of your life?
Yeah, thereâs a lot of âem but if people really wanna hear âem Iâll do it. But if it ainât there, it ainât there. Thereâs definitely a handful of those, or ones that weâve never even played because of that reason. Theyâre just on the record.
So itâs more like a release to be writing those and then youâre done with it?
Yeah, totally. We usually make those really difficult to play so itâs an excuse to not play them. But yeah, thatâs totally true, nice observation.
One song that is a little bit political is "Terrorist Attack?" which is about media coverage of the 35W Bridge collapse. Thatâs always been one of my favorite songs, but I could never put my finger on why until I realized the whole song is only one chord. Was that something where you had the idea to do a song like that before, or how did that song come into fruition?
Yeah, we decided that itâs so simple what were going forâ¦itâs so simple not to blow things out of proportion like the news did that day. That songâs about Fox News saying on the caption, "Terrorist Attack?" And I just canât believe they did that, itâs so fucking crazy. So in the simplest form we wanted to have that song and it was like, here, check this out. And we did it and it was pretty funny. That whole record had a lot of that kinda shit, just real simple stuff, but those are always the ones people like.
Have you ever considered doing any side projects or solo stuff? Or will Off With Their Heads the primary vehicle for your creative output?
Well thatâs the thing, it is my thing. Itâs been me and Robbie for a long time and Justin doesnât tour with us anymore but he and I write songs. But I donât knowâ¦if I did solo shit Iâd just label it Off With Their Heads because my name doesnât have that ring to it. But I do want to play in someone elseâs band just to keep busy so I might do that at some point.
Howâs it been playing and touring with Dead to Me and Riverboat Gamblers?
Awesome. This whole thing was kinda my idea where we were like, "Letâs get three bands that are of roughly equal draw, weâll switch who plays last each night and weâll split all the money. And then weâll hook up a band like the Humanoids and they can do a leg of the tour so thereâs like four or five different bands doing that, and then we try and have a local every day so that the local bands can play the show too." Everyone was a little scared how the money was gonna work out but itâs just been awesome. Everyoneâs doing really well, everyoneâs having fun, everyoneâs getting along. With the help of everyone kind of organizing stuff on their own, it was a good idea. Weâre talking about doing a similar thing next summer to kind of keep things going.
I think I read an interview in AMP Magazine where Chicken from Dead to Me referred to the Riverboat Gamblers as "sweethearts." Is that accurate?
I think "giant man-children" might be the best way of describing. But yeah, they totally are, theyâre very cool. You get a little whiskey in those guys [â¦laughs]
You mentioned the full-length coming up and tour at the end of this year, what else is going on for Off With Their Heads?
We are going to Europe with Samiam immediately following this. Thatâs cool. Samiamâs guitarist just called up Robbie and was like, "Our European booking agent wants us to bring some Promise Ring band and we think thatâs stupid. Do you wanna go?" So we were like, "Fuck yeah!" Iâve always loved that band. We donât really like going to Europe because weâve been there five times and itâs really isolated and if something goes wrong or youâre not getting along, youâre stuck there. But with this itâs like, "Man, thisâll be great." The last couple tours have really put a shot in us where weâre like, "Yeah, this is good." And then weâre gonna do the Fest again, and then something else which I would have been able to talk about tomorrow maybe because I donât know if itâs for sure. And then Street Dogs tour in December--that just got finished off today.
Wrapping this up, answer this question with a story, if you can. Who parties harder on stage, [Dillinger Fourâs] Paddy Costello or [the Slow Deathâs] Jesse Thorson?
Whoa [laughs]. Umâ¦Iâve seen both do horrible, awful things. Since Paddyâs older, he has more experience in such things in front of a crowdâ¦Iâm gonna do a two-part answer. Iâm gonna say Paddy. He played here when this place just opened with the Epoxies and hit his bass and then passed out on his feet. And that was it, that was the whole Dillinger Four show. Now Jesse Thorson, on the other hand, is just a maniac. Not so much anymore, but Iâm trying to think of something that heâs done. Apparently on the Fourth of July show, Jesse cleared the room because he was yelling at everyone.
Iâve witnessed that!
Yeah, he just belittles everybody. Itâs kind of funny. You have to know him to know heâs just a grumpy weirdo. I think itâs awesome but if you take it personally, youâre not gonna like Jesse Thorson. I didnât like Jesse Thorson for like the first three years I knew him! Then we became really good friends.