Contributed by xanimal, Posted by Interviews

Monstrous choruses are Somos’ MO. The Boston based pop/rock band are hoping to grab the ears and hearts of those who have grown past the nasally groans of pop-punk bands.

The band is aware that fans of the "Pop Punk Isn’t Dead" phase are slowly growing older, which translates into a hunger for richer, deeper and more refined songs that are still calculated and concise. With their debut release Temple of Plenty, they’ve taken pop-punk through puberty and matured it into a sound that is guilt-free and accessible to all. It has clearly worked out for them as they’ve secured an opening slot for an I Am The Avalanche tour and are playing both Chicago and Toronto’s Riot Fest dates.

When they passed through Chicago on their headlining tour, Punknews interviewer Xan Mandell grabbed the chance to talk to the entire band about the history behind their debut full-length, Temple of Plenty , as well as their songwriting process and got to the bottom of why they put nine songs on their debut, Temple of Plenty, instead of 10 or 11.

So it’s three months after the release of Temple of Plenty. Are you where you expected to be?

Phil Haggerty: Yeah… (Laughs). I think it went over a lot better than I expected, but it’s also like, the shows on this tour have been small. We got lucky with the last one, the release show in Boston was huge. There is definitely a disconnect between the cyber-buzz world and what our shows are actually like. It’s both better than we expected and what we expected.

Is it frustrating to be buzzed around the Internet, then go to shows and have a smaller turnout.

Michael Fiorentino: I think for any band, you want every show to be as big as possible, but we’ve talked about how going into a small show or where no one has ever heard of us and playing for 20 people is actually an interesting challenge, and gives me somewhat of an adrenaline rush. There’s the idea that there are no expectations, so if we play really well and meet our potential, that’s almost better than having these huge expectations. It’s almost more fun to come in and try to surprise people with a great show. It’s enjoyable. It gives us more motivation.

Is that one of the reasons you’ve done headliners?

Fiorentino: This tour is kind of a grab bag. It’s half headliners and half not. Five of the shows are with the singer of Citizen, and he’s headlining those, and we also had a show with Pity Sex, so it’s sort of half headlining, half not.

Justin Hahn: A lot of it is about where we’re at right now. We have to pay our dues and build ourselves up to be able to be on support tours.

And in terms of releases for you guys, it was a demo and then full lengths, so it’s very early in the game.

Fiorentino: Every show we’ve played, even the first show we did a month ago, there is always a few people there that know our stuff, which is a cool feeling. When someone knows us or our songs, even on a small scale, that feels awesome.

From what I’ve read, the lyrics are coming from a political standpoint, but their so vague that they can be interpreted many different ways. Was it written that way?

Fiorentino: Politics is very important to me. I come from a place of activism and all those sorts of things, but we never wanted write an album that people instinctively knew had slogans or was preachy. Politics is a large collection of small stories that crystalizes into issues, and then as a political band, you can take it at the political level or you can try to dig down on more of the story level, and that’s something we try to do. I think there are still those themes and values that people can pick up on, but at the end of the day they’re not protest songs.

Hahn: There is a certain level of us trying to take these bigger ideas and trying to bring them down to a more universal experience; something that’s more digestible to the every day.

Fiorentino: It’s more like an existential feeling in our generation, with the economic crash. That’s such a broad feeling I think, and you can almost plug that into a lot of different things.

That despair and confusion towards what’s next?

Fiorentino: Right, and that’s just what I feel personally. I think it’s something that a lot of people feel. I don’t think that’s something we’re always going to write about, but a lot of the songs work through that lens.

Are the lyrics a collaborative effort, or at least infused with every band members input?

Hahn: I don’t think really. It’s mostly all Mike.

Haggerty: Lyrics aren’t something I’m trying to write or change too much.

Fiorentino: When it comes to the vocal melody or delivery, that is very much a group project. The lyrics I pretty much those. Everyone in the band thinks about how to craft the delivery or the melody, so in a lot of ways the vocals are a collective product.

Musically, Temple of Plenty is really hook heavy, as if the verses are build ups for the choruses. Was that the idea or was it your natural songwriting?

Haggerty: While we were writing Temple of Plenty, we were conscious about trying to write traditional song structures, but now that we’ve done that, I think moving forward we’re going to take more risks and try other things. I think we were trying to make them well rounded, but now that we have this whole album to reflect on, we’re conscious that we have a little bit of a formula, so we’re definitely going to change that moving forward.

Would you expand on that a little bit?

Haggerty: The songs are definitely verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge. We weren’t strictly thinking about that when we were writing them, but that’s how they came out. Now that we can look back on it, we’re going to try different things.

Hanh: They’re all very concise too. There isn’t a lot of instrumentation running it’s course.

You’re demo seemed like you were trying out different styles

Evan Deges: When we were writing that, I wasn’t thinking about song structure, or verses or choruses, I was just like ‘part, part, part, part."

Haggerty: One of the huge differences between the LP and the demo, with the LP, we were very much a part of the process of choosing the tones and conscious of the sounds, whereas with the demo, just to be honest, it’s very much a Panda Studios-esque recording, you know with huge drums and crunchy guitar tones. I’m not saying that is a bad thing, I like the demo and think it's sick, but I don’t think you’ll see us doing something or sound like that again.

Fiorentino: The demo is a kind of a weird mix tape. There is a song that's very fast d-beat, and then there are more melodic songs, and I think that does reflect our personal growth out of the hardcore and punk scenes into a more melodic sound. I think that transition of the uneasy sense of what we wanted to do as a band is reflected in those songs.

Is the Panda Studios thing a reason you went with Jesse Cannon?

Haggerty: I really like the sounds he got on some of the stuff he did with Transit and The Menzingers, and I’d seen his name around a lot, and had unknowingly come across Jesse’s music website a few times, just Googling questions and stuff, and his name would come up. Mike and I put it together that he’s the same dude writing about music also recorded some records we really liked, and it seemed like a good fit. He doesn’t do the "huge" thing as much. That seems like a common thing in pop-punk and hardcore, and that was a direction we really didn’t want to go in.

Your choruses are really big though…

Fiorentino: Yeah.

Did you sign to Tiny Engines after the recording of Temple of Plenty or before?

Fiorentino: That’s actually an interesting story. They had hit us up based on the demo, and then we went into the studio with Jesse to record seven songs, which we were thinking would be a couple splits, maybe an EP, then we hit them up and said, "These are our songs," and they said, "Well look, we want to turn this into a full-length if you’re going to work with us." So we added two songs. In some way it was never meant to be a cohesive full length. It’s funny how it worked out, but it’s also really cool because it gave us a change to have a bigger platform, especially on a label like Tiny Engines.

Why 9 songs instead of 10?

Haggerty: We just ran out of money. Before recording we were aware of the rule where you shouldn’t have the same person who recorded it master it, but Jesse offered to do it for free, and we had just run out of money. It took me working at Starbucks for six months to save up my chunk of recording while also playing rent.

Fiorentino: It’d be cool to say it was a Mayan calendar thing or some deep philosophical reason, but we’re just poor.

And Tiny Engines wasn’t going to support anything other than physical stuff?

Fiorentino: They just wanted a full-length, which makes sense.

Hahn: I think that speaks to why the songs are really chorus driven. They’re intended for singles and splits more so then they were supposed to be for a full-length. But, we’re happy with the way it came out.

Fiorentino: On the other hand, we see the pros and cons of it. I think it’s cool that we have a record out that’s song, song, song/hook, hook, hook, because we feel like it just hits you over the head a little bit and makes a bit of a statement.

When Tiny Engines said they want the full-length instead of anything else, was there any hesitation to sign?

Haggerty: It wasn’t hesitation to sign, but there were definitely a few emails back and forth that were like, "Are you sure we can’t just do 7-inches or splits?" Truth be told, it was the only offer we had, and they seemed like super nice guys and a good fit. A lot of the reviews and the criticisms I see say that it’s not totally a cohesive album. I don’t disagree with that, we just weren’t thinking full-length when we were writing these songs. That’s why I’m really stoked on the next full-length, because we’re thinking about a bigger picture.

Have you been thinking about the next full-length, or are you just playing out Temple of Plenty's course?

Hahn: It’s going to be a while.

Fiorentino: The next 6-8 months are going to be pretty tour heavy, but we are always writing stuff. There is always a good back catalog.

Deges: We’ve actually been playing a new one on this tour.

Why throw in an unreleased new one now?

Deges: We’re pumped on it.

Fiorentino: The thing is we’re definitely not sick of Temple of Plenty, in the grand scheme of things, it’s fun to play, it’s so new, and there aren’t a lot of people who’ve heard it, but splicing in one new one is just fun.

Does it sound different enough where you can tell it isn’t off of Temple of Plenty?

Deges: Yeah, yeah definitely.

Do you think getting discovered is just as much about word of mouth as it is getting covered on various websites/zines?

Hahn: That’s the Internet for you. It’s a great thing.

Haggerty: It’s weird, because for LP releases, it’s all about the date and how it’s this big thing, but the reality of how many people heard the record the day it came out I like to think is really, really small compared to how many people will have heard it six months from now. I think that’s our main obstacle, is getting to people to hear our band.

And what’s the course of action to make that happen?

Hahn: Touring.

Haggerty: Also the idea of shorter releases between the next LP. We don’t want to oversaturate with music, but at the same time, I don’t like the idea of making people wait two years for a new song from us.

Hahn: People have short attention spans. I think hip-hop and dance music are a good example of that. Those dudes are just cranking out songs.