In 2006, No Trigger went from being what one reviewer on this site called "the best melodic hardcore/punk band you're not listening to" to a band many found themselves playing repeatedly when Nitro put out the Massachusetts quintet's debut full length, Canyoneer. And then, despite the band touring on the album for quite some time, a period of relative inactivity over the last few years led to plenty of speculation over the whereabouts of No Trigger. But the band bounced back at the end of 2010 with the EP Be Honest on Mightier Than Sword Records and hit again just last month with a new full-length called Tycoon for No Sleep Records. It seems they've still got a lot to offer the punk music scene, and plenty more to say. Vocalist and lyricist Tom Rheault got on the phone Thursday, March 1, in the midst of a Massachusetts snowstorm, with Punknews writer extraordinaire Bill Jones to chat about the new album and where the hell they've been for so long.
OK. So itâs been about six years between your last full length and Tycoon, and Iâve see a few other interviews about the new album already. Iâve got to ask - are you getting sick at this point of everyone asking where you guys have been or if No Trigger had broken up?
Yeah (laughs). Yeah, I mean, we didnât go, really, too far, and we never broke up. I feel like we just missed a step. Like we missed a marker where youâre supposed to do something; we didnât do it in that time frame. And then everyone was like, âWhoa, thatâs not normal. Theyâre supposed to follow up a debut right away.â And we just didnât do that, but thatâs literally all we didnât do is just write another record in a timely manner. We didnât break up. We didnât even really think of breaking up, for the most part.
So was there any conscious effort to take a bit of a break from writing, or is that just how things have unfolded over the last six years?
Yeah, well, we milked Canyoneer for all it was worth. And then Jon [Strader], our guitarist, moved to California for, I think, a year or two. And then we had Billy [Bean] and Erik [Perkins], who were filling in and doing a great job forever, and then they kept going on tours with Outbreak and Smartbomb. They were always away, so it was really tough to find a time when all of us were in one spot. It would literally be one practice every two or three months, with the goal of eventually putting out a record, but it was getting kind of dire there. And then we reeled it all back in, got the original members back and focused, âcause we were all in the same spot. And then we just put it together.
So, I guess thatâs what I was going to ask next. How did things finally come to a head to get an album out now?
Obviously, we would have done it sooner if we could have, but we couldnât have. So itâs kind of like âbetter late than never.â We found the chance and took it - is really what it comes down to.
So over what period of time was this record written? Is this stuff youâve been working on for the last six years, or is most of it more recent?
I remember we played our song âSkyscrapersâ at Fest VII or VIII, like three or four years ago. It must have been in . We played one of these songs in some form or another; it definitely wasnât the song you hear today. It was very close to it, but that was the first thing we were working on. Everything else was kind of slow. Then in the year leading up to our recording - 18 months ago is really when we started to write, and then we finished the record. We really concentrated more than we ever have so we could make it happen.
Whatâs the process like for you, in terms of songwriting? Do you work on lyrics and then bring them to the band, or do they come up with song ideas and you write lyrics to fit?
Itâs weird. Itâs usually the five of us in a room, coming up with the best underlying structure. Iâm there. Iâm kind of thinking about melodies. Iâm thinking about what kind of lyrics I want to write for the songs, and then I think about choruses and all that stuff. And then Iâm like, âYeah, yeah, I can make this work.â Or we get to a point like, âYeah, this structure works well. Tom, finish it off.â And then Iâll put my lyrics to it at that point. Thatâs mostly how it goes. Itâs usually a five-person collaborative, and then I finish it off after the structure is there.
OK. On to the new album. Where did the album name, Tycoon, come from, and what are some of the issues youâre dealing with in your lyrics this time around?
Well, then name has been in my head for awhile. I kind of have been kicking around the name Tycoon for an album title, honestly, for years. And I guess it just seems to fit on many levels, vaguely, enough so that it works well with the theme of the record, and in our own lives. Thereâs a song, the first song, itâs called âMaple Boy.â Itâs about my grandfather. I always looked up to him as this magnate of humanity. Heâs one of the best guys I ever knew. [Tycoon] kind of works itself in loosely in a lot of different ways. Thatâs why itâs called Tycoon.
How would you describe the sound of the record? Would you say itâs a sound No Trigger fans from six years ago will remember, or has the band evolved quite a bit since then?
I feel like we went in to the writing process (at least I did) wanting to give people who liked us from the start, or liked us on Canyoneer, something that they would like again. We didnât want to deviate too much, where itâs a whole different sound. I think we just emphasized the points we always liked about our own sound. My vocals, in my opinion, are harder, and theyâre a little more diverse. And that comes from playing so much and evolving, just as a musician. Honestly, I havenât been prouder of a record, all encompassing, than this one yet. And I think that goes with any band. Youâre never going to find a band thatâs like, âYeah, this record isnât what I wanted it to be.â
Right! Nobodyâs like, "Yeah, the new album sucks" in interviews.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I honestly believe we came up with a sound thatâs exactly what we were planning on. I donât want to call it âCanyoneer 2,â but almost like âCanyoneer 2.0,â like a step up, but still the same band. I guess in this span of time, it could have gone any which way. We all have very different musical styles, but at the end of the day we all wanted to write a No Trigger record and we did. I think it came out just how we envisioned.
Now, when you look at the label situation - When Canyoneer came out, you released it through Nitro, which was signing a lot of great bands at the time. Iâm sure that seemed like a great opportunity, and then the label just seemed to fall apart. What was it like, as a band, going through that time with the label?
For us, specifically, we didnât really mind. Any band will tell you, when an album first comes out, the first month or first couple months are the most important. In those months when Canyoneer came out, Nitro was pumping it as much as they could, and it really helped. And then after that happened - I know Crime in Stereo put out theirs right around the same time as ours - after that [Nitro] kind of dwindled a year later, two years later, and then they kind of shut their doors, almost. But it didnât matter at that point, because it was already out. It was already pushed. It was already marketed. And we rode it for as long as we could. No Trigger rode it for as long as it could. If we were going to put out another record on Nitro, then it might have been an issue. But we didnât - not because of that, just because of our own, little deal, our own lives and our own scenario. But I bet you if we did put out that second record, it would have suffered. For Canyoneer, it didnât. It worked out OK.
And obviously now you find yourselves with No Sleep Records. How did that come about and why did you feel it was the right fit for Tycoon?
We went to a bunch of labels, and a bunch of them wanted to put it out. And then, Iâll name drop - Jono [Diener] from The Swellers gave me a call. He pushed us in that direction, and Iâm very happy he called. That was just one piece of the pie. We looked at all the labels, but they just made sense. Theyâve got a lot going on for them. Weâre excited to be a part of their family. Honestly, I couldnât be happier. Chris [Hansen, label owner and president] has his shit together more than Iâve ever seen.
For Canyoneer, No Trigger recorded with Bill Stevenson at the Blasting Room. How did you end up with Jay Maas (Defeater) this time and how was the process different?
It was, honestly, out of necessity that we ended up going with Jay. We all live in Massachusetts. One of us is out of Boston, the rest of us are from Worcester, and Jay is right in between us all. And he puts out a great sound. We were familiar with him; we did our 7-inch with him. We couldnât go somewhere where we had to travel and then stay, just based on work and everything. We couldnât take that much time off to do it, so we ended up going to Jay for, I think, three and a half weeks. But we could go home every night, or go to work when we needed. Some of us had to be there at certain times. It was very different, because when we went to the Blasting Room, we slept over. We toured there. But it was still awesome. Jay is so down to earth; he doesnât give a shit. Heâll let us do whatever we want, so it was pretty sweet. We werenât intimidated this time. With Bill, we were very intimidated. We were all like, âYes, sir. OK. Whatever you say.â But with Jay, itâs like having a band member record us, which is awesome.
And from the sound of it, Iâm guessing you guys were still really happy with the sound of this one?
Yeah, itâs so good. I couldnât be happier with it. I think Jay did a great job of making it the punk record that we wanted.
If you had to pick one, what would you say is your favorite song on the new album and why?
I think the one that comes to my mind immediately is âPermanent.â Just lyrically, that one holds a lot of weight for me. But also, âMountaineerâ is a funner song. Itâs a little less dark than âPermanentâ is. I really like how that song turned out. Itâs a little funner than we usually are, and itâs about being assholes. Itâs not even about the band; itâs about me and my other friend. Weâve done a lot of backpacking and traveling together. Itâs just about that. I was pretty pumped to put something like that on the record (laughs).
What else are you listening to and enjoying right now?
Thereâs this band called The Front Bottoms. I just found out about them and I just saw them last night. And they were just the fucking funnest show Iâve been to in a long time. They were playing with Matt Pryor. Iâve been jamming that CD a lot. It sounds very similar to The Motorcycle Industry. I love both those bands. The new TouchÃ© AmorÃ© record is phenomenal.
Any parting words for the readers?
Check out the album, and thanks to Punknews for interviewing us.