Seattle, Washington's Success is a positive voice in a punk scene often saturated with perpetual negativity and dishonest presentation. They play upbeat, catchy pop-punk with an optimistic message always grounded in reality. They released their Red Scare debut, Radio Recovery, on March 24, 2015, and kicked off a tour with Masked Intruder that culminates in an appearance at Punk Rock Bowling (Yo, did you hear? Punknews is a sponsor!). Punknews interviewer Alex Meylink had a chance to talk with singer/guitarist Aaron Rev about the band's origins, the new album and the road to Red Scare.
First off, I gotta ask. Is your band name a Tim and Eric reference? Whatâ€™s the basis for the name?
(Laughs) We get asked that a lot. Honestly, we used to have a name that no one could spell, so it was really hard for anyone to Google us. Itâ€™s completely ironic, because we changed our name to Success, and now no one can fucking Google that! (Laughs) We wanted something simple, something positive and that name kind of just came out of nowhere.
You guys have spent the last few years building a fan base around your home in Washington. What was your experience getting started in the Pacific Northwest scene?
Well, weâ€™ve been a band since 2006, which is a long timeâ€¦like nine years. We were all friends from high school. Weâ€™re actually from a tiny town here in Washington. Honestly, we all started the band with the same idea in mind. We were watching these bands around us break up -- really great bands -- who would just have inner turmoil and problems, or would be playing great songs that stood for nothing, had no lyrical pulse. So we started a band to be as positive as we could. The main goals from the beginning were to play as many shows with friends' bands as we could and help as many touring bands as we could. That was as simple as it was. There were no aspirations beyond that.
I think any musician would tell you that there are always these little goals, and once you achieve them, you just move to the next one. With those original goals, and over years of doing that, helping these touring bands get to the coast, those bands would introduce us to their friends from towns farther out, friends from Boston, Milwaukee, Minneapolis. They come to town, you help them out and they help you and give you connections. It just kind of moves forward from there.
The only reason we havenâ€™t gone east as much as we shouldâ€™ve in the past ten years is that itâ€™s really hard to tour out of Washington. Thereâ€™s kind of nothing. Itâ€™s not like on the east coast, where all the cities are close together, so your drives are small. Itâ€™s a lot different, especially getting to Seattle. You can only hit Portland on one way, so youâ€™re doing 10-12 hour drives to hit California, where you might have already played shows. But we managed to play around as much as we could.
Well, it must have worked, because you guys have reached that next level of working with Red Scare and Toby Jeg, which is pretty exciting. How has that been, working with Toby? You guys knew him before, from high school, right?
Well, we werenâ€™t super good friends back then, but weâ€™ve been in contact a few times over the years, just because our town is really small. To give you an idea, his brother was my soccer coach when I was in the 8th or 9th grade. Itâ€™s a really tiny town. So he had known of us and we had known of him. The first time we talked was on one of the first Cobra Skulls tours. We had set up one of the shows, and we started talking, and I started helping out some of the Red Scare bands that would come through town, put them up in my house, and book shows. He kind of noticed that our name was starting to be tossed around more. So he eventually asked us to help him book the Lawrence Arms here, and I played an acoustic show with Brendan Kelly the day before, and we played with the Lawrence Arms the next day. Right after, he was like â€œDude, we have to work together.â€ It was really simple. We played really well and Toby finally got the chance to see us.
To answer the other part of the question, itâ€™s been great working with him. Heâ€™s a really great guy and heâ€™s really helpful. Since weâ€™re a new band and this label would put us out to such a broad audience, I had my doubts at first, just because weâ€™re not really established outside of the West Coast. But heâ€™s been on it, and since weâ€™ve sent him demos, heâ€™s been really stoked on the new material and really helpful. I think itâ€™s really helped hearing the new album. Heâ€™s just a really good dude. He tries to act tough, but heâ€™s a really good dude. (Laughs)
Hearing the record, itâ€™s easy to see why heâ€™s stoked on it: it's fantastic. Something I really dig about the songs is that there seems to be a heavy influence in your music of classic Less Than Jake. Are they an influence for you guys or is it more a coincidental comparison?
Itâ€™d be ridiculous for us to try to hide the fact that weâ€™re all huge Less Than Jake fans. Itâ€™s so clear in there. Ever since weâ€™ve started making records, people have made comments about it. You know, weâ€™ve never played ska, I think itâ€™s just the delivery of that Anthem era of Less Than Jake. I love that band and I wonâ€™t deny they absolutely influenced us. Not to sound like too much of a hippie, but thereâ€™s a certain energy that band puts out thatâ€™s really positive and gets you stoked. If Iâ€™m having a crappy day at work, thatâ€™s the kind of music I want to put on. I want to put on the kind of music that reminds me of things that arenâ€™t around me at that moment. We really try to encapsulate that same vibe.
I grew up on that style too and itâ€™s definitely a really positive and engaging sound to get your message across. Listening to the record, that message seems to come through very strongly: positivity through tough jobs and small towns, working through tough situations. Are there any particular shitty job experiences that influenced this or is it just the general idea of positivity that's your guiding songwriting principle?
I think in the music world there has become this disconnect between what actually is in the music and lyrics and what you see on the web page. I feel like itâ€™d almost be kind of shitty of us to pretend to be something weâ€™re not. Weâ€™re all just kids from the suburbs, realistically, who are 30 now. My dadâ€™s a union machinist for Boeing. The song â€œLives that We Deserveâ€ is actually about my grandpa, the hardest working guy Iâ€™ve ever met. For years, he made the mixes you pour water into to make cement. Itâ€™s not a glamorous job, but thatâ€™s what he knew. Being a Boeing machinist is what my dad knew, and a lot people that live around this area and their parents have similar lives. Itâ€™s where we come from. So to pretend that Iâ€™m not just a kid from the suburbs and that Iâ€™m some really cool guy from the city, who doesnâ€™t have a real job and just smokes cigarettes outside of coffee shops all the time would be absolutely bullshit. I just kind of write about what I know. Weâ€™re all from a small town, but we all live in Seattle, collectively now. But that small town never left us. I hate to say it again, but itâ€™s really all that I know. My mom worked multiple jobs, my dad was in the military, then went straight into working for Boeing and my mom still works super hard every day. I try to represent those same feelings and put them in the songs and Iâ€™m sure that tons of people can relate to that, because not all of us are millionaires.
Your song "The Impossible Truth" has the line â€œI watched a mother broken by wage,â€ which isn't necessarily a typical topic for songs nowadays, but it is definitely more realistic than a lot of whatâ€™s coming out now.
Totally. I mean, I always want something I can apply myself to. With music, I want to put myself in that song. I canâ€™t listen to a Billy Bragg song and fight tyranny in politics all the time, but I love to pick the little parts of sincerity out of that and apply it to my own life. I think we definitely kind of captured that vibe with this record. We also knew it was going to be our first record for a broader audience, heard by more people than we normally would, so I specifically wanted to be like "Look, this album is what this band is about and what weâ€™ve always been about." Even though weâ€™re two full-lengths into our career, I want people to be able to pick up Radio Recovery, listen to it, and know that this is what this band is. Iâ€™m actually really proud of that record, and all the guys in the band did an amazing job.
Thatâ€™s kind of continued to be your message over these albums, positivity in life?
Oh, for sure. Thereâ€™s no bullshit. We donâ€™t hide behind anything. Life is tough. I hate to bring it back to social media, but a lot of people are living the good parts of their lives through their profiles, the things they do online and the way they represent themselves online. Weâ€™re trying to remind people to get back out there and experience things, you know? Go to shows, be around other people that need that same sort of inspiration. For half an hour at a show, you can forget about your debt, you can forget about your mom, your shitty teachers, your terrible job. I think as humans, we need those little reminders that things can be ok as long as we have the right things in mind. I feel like Iâ€™m preaching now (Laughs), but this is really what we try to do.
To go along with that, thereâ€™s a particular line in your song â€œRevolution Schmevolutionâ€ that goes "the problem with the world today is that every Batman thinks that heâ€™s a Bruce Wayne." That line strikes me as coming from the same place.
Yeah, that's about me watching people around me just do nothing about the terrible things either they were doing or that were going on in their lives, but constantly complaining about them. People make it a focus for themselves to be so upset about things that were happening to them or have happened to them. Or being afraid of things that could happen to them in the future, rather than just making a goal or working to ensure those things donâ€™t happen. It sounds really clichÃ©, but you can choose to be your own hero. It's like I said about social media, which is really a theme of the record, living behind that keyboard and not getting out. I think in some ways itâ€™s more ok these days to do that kind of thing, itâ€™s more accepted. A lot of people want to be known for being something rather than actually being about it. They'd rather be known for caring about something, but not actually care about it. As long as people think they do, itâ€™s more important. Instead of complaining about something, that line is saying itâ€™s in your power to go change it.
You guys had a great record come out, youâ€™re already booked on a tour with Masked Intruder and youâ€™re doing Punk Rock Bowling. Anything else coming up?
We will be going east, by the end of summer. Weâ€™re trying to play in Canada a lot more, too. The guy who produced the record, Steve Rizun, the mastermind behind the Flatliners and Junior Battlesâ€™ records, heâ€™s from Toronto, so weâ€™re definitely going to be going up there. Weâ€™re so close to Canada here, and we're definitely are going to try to hit it more. We got plans to go to Mexico, and we were just talking about Europe a couple of days ago. Weâ€™ve always been a band that tours and plays shows non-stop, so weâ€™re just going to keep that idea in mind to keep us going.
Itâ€™ll be exciting to see you guys out on the road soon. Anything else youâ€™d like to share with the Punknews readers?
The album is great and weâ€™re super stoked on it, but come see us live. Thatâ€™s where itâ€™s at. Weâ€™re bringing that same basement show setting when we play, and weâ€™re super excited to get out there on the road.