Monstrous choruses are Somosâ 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 Isnât 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, theyâve 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 theyâve secured an opening slot for an I Am The Avalanche tour and are playing both Chicago and Torontoâs 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 itâs three months after the release of Temple of Plenty. Are you where you expected to be?
Phil Haggerty: Yeahâ¦ (Laughs). I think it went over a lot better than I expected, but itâs 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. Itâs 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 weâve 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. Thereâs the idea that there are no expectations, so if we play really well and meet our potential, thatâs almost better than having these huge expectations. Itâs almost more fun to come in and try to surprise people with a great show. Itâs enjoyable. It gives us more motivation.
Is that one of the reasons youâve done headliners?
Fiorentino: This tour is kind of a grab bag. Itâs half headliners and half not. Five of the shows are with the singer of Citizen, and heâs headlining those, and we also had a show with Pity Sex, so itâs sort of half headlining, half not.
Justin Hahn: A lot of it is about where weâre 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 itâs very early in the game.
Fiorentino: Every show weâve 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 Iâve 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 thatâs 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 theyâre 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 thatâs more digestible to the every day.
Fiorentino: Itâs more like an existential feeling in our generation, with the economic crash. Thatâs such a broad feeling I think, and you can almost plug that into a lot of different things.
That despair and confusion towards whatâs next?
Fiorentino: Right, and thatâs just what I feel personally. I think itâs something that a lot of people feel. I donât think thatâs something weâre 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 donât think really. Itâs mostly all Mike.
Haggerty: Lyrics arenât something Iâm 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 weâve done that, I think moving forward weâre 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, weâre conscious that we have a little bit of a formula, so weâre 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 werenât strictly thinking about that when we were writing them, but thatâs how they came out. Now that we can look back on it, weâre going to try different things.
Hanh: Theyâre all very concise too. There isnât a lot of instrumentation running itâs course.
Youâre demo seemed like you were trying out different styles
Evan Deges: When we were writing that, I wasnât thinking about song structure, or verses or choruses, I was just like âpart, 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, itâs very much a Panda Studios-esque recording, you know with huge drums and crunchy guitar tones. Iâm not saying that is a bad thing, I like the demo and think it's sick, but I donât think youâll 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 Iâd seen his name around a lot, and had unknowingly come across Jesseâs music website a few times, just Googling questions and stuff, and his name would come up. Mike and I put it together that heâs the same dude writing about music also recorded some records we really liked, and it seemed like a good fit. He doesnât do the "huge" thing as much. That seems like a common thing in pop-punk and hardcore, and that was a direction we really didnât want to go in.
Your choruses are really big thoughâ¦
Did you sign to Tiny Engines after the recording of Temple of Plenty or before?
Fiorentino: Thatâs 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 youâre going to work with us." So we added two songs. In some way it was never meant to be a cohesive full length. Itâs funny how it worked out, but itâs 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 shouldnât 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: Itâd be cool to say it was a Mayan calendar thing or some deep philosophical reason, but weâre just poor.
And Tiny Engines wasnât 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. Theyâre intended for singles and splits more so then they were supposed to be for a full-length. But, weâre happy with the way it came out.
Fiorentino: On the other hand, we see the pros and cons of it. I think itâs cool that we have a record out thatâs 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 wasnât hesitation to sign, but there were definitely a few emails back and forth that were like, "Are you sure we canât 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 itâs not totally a cohesive album. I donât disagree with that, we just werenât thinking full-length when we were writing these songs. Thatâs why Iâm really stoked on the next full-length, because weâre 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: Itâs 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: Weâve actually been playing a new one on this tour.
Why throw in an unreleased new one now?
Deges: Weâre pumped on it.
Fiorentino: The thing is weâre definitely not sick of Temple of Plenty, in the grand scheme of things, itâs fun to play, itâs so new, and there arenât a lot of people whoâve heard it, but splicing in one new one is just fun.
Does it sound different enough where you can tell it isnât 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: Thatâs the Internet for you. Itâs a great thing.
Haggerty: Itâs weird, because for LP releases, itâs all about the date and how itâs 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 thatâs our main obstacle, is getting to people to hear our band.
And whatâs the course of action to make that happen?
Haggerty: Also the idea of shorter releases between the next LP. We donât want to oversaturate with music, but at the same time, I donât 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.