Contributed by Xanimal, Posted by Interviews

The Knapsack reunion might not be completely finished, but don't hold your breath.

After 15 years of being broken up, Knapsack reunited for a short stint of shows. The reunion was completely out of the blue. One day in May, a picture of a hummingbird superimposed with Knapsack and 2013 appeared on their Facebook wall. There were no rumors floating around message boards, no "exclusive breaking news form a verified source," just a quiet, "Hi, we're back." It was a fitting re-introduction for the cherished emo band whose aesthetic and sound was always pretty minimal.

After the reunion was announced, the internet was abuzz with rumors and speculations. New music? Full US tour? Vinyl re-presses? Nope, just a handful of shows in major cities and a FEST appearance. It was perplexing to say the least, but in the end, it was a wonderful reunion celebrating the highly influential band and their legacy.

Though the band might not be putting out any new music, or doing anything over the top, Punknews sent interviewer Xan Mandell to get a well-rounded view of why they were reuniting, what it meant, and why Knapsack wasn't going to stick around past the announced dates. When he sat down with Blair Shehan (Guitar, Vocals), Sergie Loobkoff (Guitar), Colby Mancasola (Drums) and Edward Breckenridge (Bass), he got some information he might not have been supposed to get…

So how did the reunion come about? Sergie Loobkoff: This was a trick from The Jealous Sound manager. He tricked us into this.

Blair Shehan: My friend Tom manages my band The Jealous Sound and he got it in his head that he wanted Knapsack to get back together and do some shows. So, he kind of just started reaching out to people unbeknownst to us and making something that was a theory into something that was concrete and he then was like, "We got an offer to do this, do you guys want to do this?"

Loobkoff: He was a little more devious than that amongst the three of us.

Shehan: He would talk to you but not tell me that he was talking to you.

Loobkoff: He emailed me and Colby and said, "Blair’s into it!"

Shehan: And I hadn’t said yes.

Loobkoff: And there was an email chain later on. Me and Colby had seen each other in San Francisco when my other band played and said, "Wouldn’t it be cool if Blair did take it seriously?" and Colby said, "He probably wouldn’t want to do that, The Jealous Sound is doing really well." But, I got an email from Tom on a Sunday that said, "Blair’s totally into it, whadda say? Would you be into it?" As if anyone cares if I’m into it. I’m not the singer, and I was like, "Really? Blair’s into it?" And he told me Blair was. Then I saw a chain email, which was the introduction question to Blair saying, "Sergie and Colby are totally into it. What do you think?" [All Laugh] And I thought, ‘Ohhh, Tom doesn’t know Gmail that well." [Laughs]

Shehan: It was harmless. But, Tom kind of kept pushing and pushing and finally I was like, "I don’t care, lets do it." I’m super glad that I did, because it’s been more fun than I could have ever expected.

When was the actual plan put in place? Like a year ago? Six months ago? Colby Mancasola: I think maybe the Spring of this year? The Fest was the first formal offer for a show that we had to say no to if we weren’t going to do it, and I think that happened in the spring. Then we said, "Well, we waited 15 years, we’re not just going to play one show. Let's figure out what else we’re going to do, what else we want to do." We announced it in May, so probably late Spring.

What were the initial feelings when you realized you were going on a reunion tour? Shehan: Doing things like this, it creates an opportunity to be A. too big for your britches, like to think you’re a big shot and everyone is all "No one really cares." And then there is an opportunity to not be prepared and play really poorly. There is an opportunity for expectation, and that leaves room for disappointment, so that creates a certain amount of anxiety just for me. People are taking a lot of time out of their lives, or buying tickets or making plans, some people are coming from a long way, so it creates an anxiety, which is good, because it makes you want to make sure you’re on point when you do what you do.

Loobkoff: It was kinda cool the first time I came over to your house [to Blair]. We were looking deep into each other’s eyes and getting lost.

Had it been a while since you all had seen each other or been in the same room? Shehan: Um, Colby and I see each other. Sergie and I see each other from time to time. I had never seen Ed. Ed was brand new to my eyeballs.

Mancasola: The first time we practiced was the first time we’d been in a room together, the three of us, since we broke up. When I see Sergie, it is because Samiam is in town, or when I see Blair it’s because we’re home for the holidays. We grew up in the same town. Or it’s because The Jealous Sound wee coming through town.

What was the process of re-learning the songs like? Did you learn on your own, or did it happen when you were in the practice space together? Shehan: 50/50. Sergie and Ed started coming over to my place and we’d be like, "Ok, let’s knock out these three songs tonight and then next time, we’ll do our homework."

Loobkoff: That was a lot of fun. Didn’t we have a lot of fun?

Shehan: We had a great time. It was super fun. The fundamentals were that we’d learn them on our own, and then when we came together if you had a hot spot that you couldn’t figure out or your memory didn’t serve you properly we would work it out and figure it out. It was fun.

Did you have the songs you were going to play live planned out? Mancasola : I sent an email that said, "These are the songs we could play." Back in the day there was a lot of, we would almost play as few songs as we could get through just because things would get axed from the set list, so when I sent out like 16 songs, I expected it to be more of a widdling-down process than it actually was. It ended up just being like, "Oh, ok, we’ll play these."

Loobkoff: We did chop off a couple from the first record though.

Were you planning on doing a whole discography kind of thing or play "hits?" Shehan: We were looking to do the songs that worked the best. It becomes fairly obvious which ones you should do when you start digging. Outside looking in, people think there is a lot more thought that goes into these things than there really is. I guess there is a certain amount of thought, but things kind of unroll the way they unroll.

Did you make any changes to the songs or were you being very true to the record? Loobkoff: I think we’re just playing them better than we’ve ever played them. When we did the last bunch of touring… We weren’t that great.

That was way back in like, ‘99? Mancasola : Yeah, maybe ’98.

Shehan: Way, way, way back.

Mancasola : We feel like we’re playing these songs better than we ever have. Ed is new for these shows and he’s awesome and makes it sound great.

How did you guys and Ed hook up? Loobkoff: We play in the same band together.

[To Breckenridge] You’re in Samiam? Loobkoff: No, we made a record. It’s a Dinosaur Jr. cover record. We spent the first half of 2013 playing together. But we know each other because he’s in a band called Thrice, you know Thrice, right?

Oh, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of Thrice. [Laughs] Loobkoff: Their first tour was playing with Samiam, but afterwards we didn’t really talk for like 10 years, until one night we were backstage at an arena. Hot Water Music opened up for Rise Against, so we were backstage and we hung out and one of the last things we said to each other when we left was, "Hey, we should hang out more." Then he asked if I was going to see Dinosaur Jr. play at The Observatory. Then when I was thinking about who I was going to have work with me on this Dinosaur Jr. thing I thought about Ed, but thought he wouldn’t do it. Then I realized he was going to the Dinosaur Jr. Show… So…

Were you a big Knapsack fan? Ed Breckenridge: Yeah. Well, I don’t know what I was listening to… I think was listening to a lot of heavy music at the time, but I remember there was this record store called Green Records that all of my friends either worked at or hung out at, and we all freaked out about every new record that came out, and Knapsack was one of them. I actually had a lot of friends who when they found out I was doing this were like, "Oh my god!" Somebody put out a tweet that it was happening, and I got bombarded by people and I was like, "I think I’m doing it now. I think it’s official." I’ve been so lucky to do this.

When the reunion was announced, it seemed like there were a lot of people who got excited. Were there any expectations? Shehan: Here’s what I’ll say. It’s difficult to tell in this day and age what’s really happening. There is chatter and this and that, and people on the Internet discussing and being like, "Oh my god! I love Knapsack!" But you don’t know if that’s the tip of the iceberg or there is actually an iceberg underneath it. I know when I was touring with The Jealous Sound people would always be like, "Play Knapsack!" or "Oh my god, I love Knapsack!" If you don’t have expectations, you can’t be let down. This is a humble band. When I say, I mean it serves our purposes well, that are no big expectations. This is for fun and we were never a really popular band to begin with, so coming back, to say, "We’re going to be this big popular thing," that isn’t an appropriate fit for this band. It’s more like, "Oh cool, we’re playing shows, we’ll see what happens, we’ll reconnect as friends and we’ll have a great time." So no real expectations.

Loobkoff: I think with what we’ve done, we’ve basically played in front of 500 people every night, a little more. That exceeded our expectations. We were not thinking that would happen. We were nervous about some of the venues. The place we played in San Francisco, it’s a big venue and I was kind of like, "Oh shit…" Like Blair was saying about being to big for your britches. Are we going to blow it? Are we going to go and there will only be 300 people and it’s going to look half empty?

All of the venues your playing are 600-700 capacity. Was there a conscious decision to book those venues? Loobkoff: For me, I can’t speak for everyone else, but when I saw the venues I thought, "Oh shit, I think this booking agent and our manager think we’re something that we’re not going to be able to deliver. I’m scared." And then it turned out to be great.

Shehan: We had no real idea. The tour hadn’t happened, and we had nothing to reference it against.

But a lot of bands these days reference Knapsack as a big influence on them… Loobkoff: That doesn’t put butts in the seats though.

Shehan: It goes back to the whole thing about chatter.

Loobkoff: The first thing that Colby wrote about Knapsack being back there were like 900 or 1000 likes on Facebook, and I was like, "Holy shit." But you look at that second one and there weren’t that many. There were a few days where I was like, "Knapsack? People really care about this band." And then the next post only had like a couple hundred likes. I’m sure Blair knows, like every time a Jealous Sound record came out you must’ve been like, "Holy shit, this is the one." It is the same with Samiam. If you ever have expectations, you’ll never meet them.

Shehan: "Oh yeah, we’re gonna kill it this time." [Laughs] When I say we’re a humble band, I mean…

Loobkoff: We’ve been humbled. [All Laugh]

Shehan: We are humble because we have been taught to be humble. [Laughs]

Loobkoff: We would love to be arrogant bastards.

Are people getting energetic and excited at the shows? Shehan: Kids are having a good time. They are up, pumped and ready to rock.

Loobkoff: We played a bunch of sold out at the end of Knapsack, but I don’t think anyone did a stage dive at a Knapsack show. At the FEST, there were all these firsts for the band. Like I got unplugged because this dude got on stage and ran behind me and unplugged me before he stage dove. That happens all the time to punk rock bands. But with Knapsack, people would just listen and like it. It’s really awesome to see all these kids having fun though. At one of the shows, some dude did a stage dive during one of the mellowest songs we have.

Have you been seeing a lot of younger kids at these shows? Shehan: Yeah, but you also have to remember there is a general consensus among people that they look backwards right now. So they look back to this era that we were part of and they love the bands that were a part of it, so to them what’s old is new to them. So it’s all good for them.

There’s this whole "emo revival" thing happening right now. I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention. I even saw something on Buzzfeed about it today, which I thought was a little ridiculous… Shehan: You know it when you see it, you know the genre, what the genre is you’re talking about, you know the bands, and whatever. The kids that know it, know what it is, they know it’s this and not that. We were a part of a thing that happened at one point that is looked back on nostalgically, and hasn’t necessarily just been forgotten. New people have come on board. There was a sense of community that kids now and younger bands are trying to replicate in a modern era, in the way that we had to do it. The grassroots level and community and friends and bands, and you needed that to make the whole thing work. So you have these kids with all this new modern stuff they can use, but they are modeling their community and the way they interact on the basis of the way we did it and what we were a part of earlier.

You’re playing with a lot of those young bands, like Have Mercy and Seahaven… Mancasola : I think we wanted to…

Shehan: …Pass the baton if you will…

Mansacola: …Yeah we wanted to play with those younger bands to close that gap.

Shehan: "Sir, hello, you and your band are fine young gentlemen and we are passing this said baton and torch to you to carry on with the emo flame. You are now the lips kind sir." And in return they say, "Fuck you dad!" [Laughs] "I now bequeath to you the emo flame. Go forth."

Mancasola : It was no accident. We wanted to do that.

And were they hand-picked by you guys? Shehan: Ahh, you know, by us, by Tom…

Had you heard of the bands and like them? Shehan: Oh yeah. I’ve played with Have Mercy before.

Loobkoff: Seahaven, yeah, I totally liked Seahaven before and was really stoked they wanted join us.

Shehan: But we’ve got old timers tonight! Maritime is opening tonight. They’re opening/middle slot… Those dudes were a part of what we were a part of.

How’d you find All Eyes West (the other, very small opening band)? Loobkoff: I’ve been friends with them for a long time. Samiam has played with them.

[A comment is made about how he was up and ready and is now tired.]

I can speed this up a little bit… Shehan: Yeah, would you! [ All Laugh]

I’m sorry for being such an asshole. [ All Laugh] Loobkoff: You know what’s not going to be transcribed? The laughter after what you said, Blair. [ All Laugh]

In regards to that kind of, how’s it feel to be doing press again? I know for you Blair, you’re in The Jealous Sound and Sergie you’re in Samiam, but Colby? Mancasola : It’s fun. It’s fun to talk about this stuff. You know, my memory doesn’t serve me as well as it used to, but it’s fun to tell the stories and talk about the good old days.

I saw you couldn’t put the records out again physically. Why is that? Shehan: The record belongs to someone else, you know, a record label and to get a hold of it and get the logistics of that, we had difficulty hammering out a suitable agreement for both parties. So, at a certain point it was like, "Well, fuck it, I don’t know what else to do." And you just throw your hands up.

Loobkoff: But they’re not even out of print are they?

Mancasola : I think the vinyl is.

Vinyl is huge these days… Shehan: Alright, lets keep rolling, lets go!

Loobkoff: Holy shit!

Shehan: I said lets keep rolling! Lets do this. I love it.

So what would you say to a bummed out fan whose is wondering why you’re not doing any more shows or putting out new music? Shehan: Well, I wouldn’t say anything. You know, it’s so funny, when you say the word fan… That’s short for fanatic, and they have an unrealistic expectation of the things that they love. You’re not a person to them, you’re a thing and they want you to do what they want you to do. But they go home and have a life and responsibilities they need to attend to, etc. etc. So do we. So it’s more like, "We can’t!" It’s not possible. We have certain obligations we have to meet. This thing cannot sustain itself forever. It’s a wham bam, that’s it sort of situation. So you know, thanks for coming, this was super fun, and… [Pause]

Cherish the moment? Shehan: Yeah, you know we all do, but it’s not like we’re not going to make new music, this is not some new thing where we’re restarting this chapter in our lives and are going to try and re-live it again. We are celebrating the past, enjoying it and getting to do it communally with people who may not have been around the first time, so it’s been a really nice opportunity to do that, but there is really no point in dragging it out. It diminishes in specialness the longer you stick around.

Loobkoof: But we’ve been open to going to other places… Right? Are we not talking about doing that? I don’t think we should play in Chicago again, but…

Shehan: Let’s put it this way, if the sultan of Brunei or some sheik from Dubai wants us to fly to Dubai for his 16-year-old’s birthday, we would probably do that.

Loobkoff: But we want to try to play in like Europe and here and there. Do we not want to do that?

Mancasola : Sure, I want to…

Loobkoff : [To Blair] Why are you turning away?

Shehan: I think, like, this is our run, if our lives don’t get disrupted in a major way and if other things became available that make sense for us to do, we may do a couple other things here or there.

So it’s not officially dead after this? Shehan: Not necessarily… We might do a couple more things around here or out of the country or something like that. But, we’re not going to get in the van and tour. That’s not going to happen…