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Friday, 26 August 2011

In conversation with face to face

I'm often struck by the difference between young bands who are full of spunk and display a great deal of 'taking on the world' bravado in interviews as opposed to their older more world weary elders who have normally ditched the ego, and instead adopted a more balanced and thoughtful approach to what they do.
One approach is far more impressive than the other and it only comes with swinging around the block a couple of times in my opinion.
One of the band who have been there and bought the t-shirt more than once is Face to Face.
The Californian punk band who have recently been in the studio and provided a new generation with a template on how to play punk rock with passion and enthusiasm.
I managed to catch up with them as the stopped off in Glasgow to play the legendary King Tuts Wah Wah Hut as part of a week long promotion of punk and rock bands under the umbrella of the RocknRoll Damnation package that DF Concerts have brought to Scotland.

ElD - It's been a very long lay off between 'How to Ruin Everything' and 'Laugh Now, Laugh Later'. Virtually ten years, so does this feel like a fresh start to the band?
Trever Keith – Well it feels like a fresh start in that we broke the band up and started again.
When we reformed after four and half years it was completely due to our own wanting to reform.
No one was pushing us back into doing it, and we don't really feel the same kind of pressure we did when we broke up. The need to achieve whatever sort of success that might have been placed on us by record labels and industry people isn't there.
We reformed strictly because we missed playing and making music together.
So that's really how it started.
A few shows turned into tours and in turn that ended up with the making of the album, but all the way along it was completely driven by our own love, and our own want, for getting back together again.
So in that regard yeah it's like a fresh start.

ElD - Did it always feel like unfinished business? Was there always something more to be said?
Trever - Yeah, I guess so. I don't know if it was unfinished business as much as just we had been together nearly fifteen years when we broke up, and it was one of those things that we didn't really appreciate fully until it didn't exist any more.
ElD - You don't know what you've got until it's gone sort of thing.
Trevor - Yeah, exactly, and once that happened we were like 'I guess we really did have something that was special, and something that really meant a lot to us, and not just individually to people', and it's an experience that none of us were capable of recreating with any other musicians or the bands that we played in.
Scott Shiflett – You know the thing we do we do, but over the longer period of time everyone wants to try other things, and if you know enough about our band then you will know that when we made 'Ignorance is Bliss' for instance we were trying other stuff, and exploring different things, and we discovered that it wasn't actually something that we could get our fans to go along with....

ElD - Were you disappointed that the fans didn't get along with it.
Scott - yes and no.
Trever – At first we were really disappointed.
Scott – Well I could haves said yes, but I'm a fan of bands, and all the time they will come out with something that they will say is a pure and honest record that they love, and I'll go 'no, I was into that' you know, so I respect peoples opinions. They don't have to like what I want to do, and we realized that we wanted to try a few other things.
I did Viva Death and Trevor did his solo record and Legion of Doom and we experimented, trying other stuff out, and once you kinda get a lot of that off your chest, that thing, that core thing, you really loved you miss, and we missed this.
I guess were like mentos and coke. Get us apart and we are fairly benign, put us together and it's...........explosive.
So yes. To get back to it. We did totally missed it, then Trevor said how do you feel about doing three or four shows, and that was like it, and we did them and it felt so good, and so much like fun that we said let's keep doing it.

ElD - When you broke up a lot of people were disappointed. In hindsight do you feel that you were too close to it all and after fifteen years you thought that everything as done, everything had been said?
Trever – In a way, because we wanted to continue to be successful, and continue to operate on an upward plane, and we kinda thought that we had just levelled out, and we were appreciative of the fans we had garnered over the years and all that, but it just felt like we were starting to get into a rut.
From that end of it, and creatively, I think we didn't really recover from the Ignorance is Bliss thing, because there was a part of us that wanted to make that music to.
So like Scott said, breaking the band up was the best way for us to try new projects.
We felt we had to break up Face to Face to take our other projects seriously, which in hindsight was probably a mistake. We should have probably just taken a hiatus.
Scott – I never even took my own project seriously. (Laughs)

ElD - Lets move onto the new album. Are you surprised at the critical success? It seems to be garnering plaudits universally.
Trever – I'm shocked by the critics response because this is the first record that, well I'm not saying that they don't exist, but haven't read a single negative review of it, and I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop whenever we put a record out. For every one good review there is usually two or three guys that have all kinds of criticisms. So it feels great that people like the record so much and it seems to be going over very well with live audiences and people warming up to the songs, they even know the words.

ElD - On first listening I got the feeling that it sounded like a d├ębut album. It doesn't sound like a release from a band that have been together twenty years. It's got the hunger of a band that are just out there trying to grab attention.
Scott - To this day I still feel that we have one foot on the ground and one foot on the first rung of the ladder. So even though we are an older band, and experienced, I feel that we are still hungry for the music, and I don't think that we were ever are a band that reached a certain level and then went on cruise control either.
Trever – We've never thought we could rest on our laurels.
Scott – We all do this in all of our individual musical lives as well as our collective lives. I know we are all incredibly hungry to play and I think that it does come across in our band, and you know the changes in music over the years has left, I think, bands like us in a position where maybe more people are interested because we do keep it relatively simple.
We just drag our gear in, plug in, and.... it's like muscle driven. It's from the body, it's from the heart.
It's not a lot of pedals or the guy behind the mixing board. It's really is the band.

ElD - It's rock and roll?
Trever – Yes. We can what we do tonight in Glasgow and do it again in Leeds tomorrow night with no difference. We have two guys on our road crew and we don't travel with any great fan fare, and that's the way we like it.
I want to plug a guitar cable into my guitar and then plug it into the amp. I don't want to be on a wireless with three hundred pedals and all that kinda stuff. I think the keep it simple ethic seems to work.
It's more immediate.

ElD - In the twenty years that you have been together what have you noticed changing as musicians? It's a long period to be playing for, whether it is with Face to Face or with your own projects, and you must see changes.
Is it easier or harder for younger bands now?

Scott – Both (laughing)
They have it easier in the sense that advances in communications and networking have made it easier for them to reach out to people, and advances in technology has made it maybe easier for people less musically endowed to sound good and to come off as proficient, but at the same time the market is saturated.
Trever – Over all it's probably harder because you can record your demo on a cheap pro tools set up in your house, put it on the internet, and have people listen to it immediately. So you have an audience, a world wide audience, but because of that like Scott said it is saturated and we see people starting bands, breaking bands up and all that almost constantly.
One of the most interesting things that I seen on the warped tour that kinda clicked with me was that the whole general attitude that a lot of young people have about being in a band is so foreign to what my idea of it always was, because mine was that I would get through school, get my band really good, and I'm going to go and do this forever and keep playing music.
Most people today are like ' well maybe between high school and college we will get a chance to go on the warp tour and get wasted and party and have some fun and then we will go ahead and grow up and get on with our lives'.

ElD - A gap year holiday with guitars?
Trever - Yeah.
Scott – It's like a rock school summer camp.
Trever - …. and because of that a lot of bands don't take it as seriously and they don't work as hard.

ElD - I can see that. Without naming names there are bands out there with money behind them and you just know that two or three years down the line they will be forgotten about as they wont exist.
Scott – Ultimately we're not the taste police and I like a lot of stupid and disposable music....
Trever – Sure. I'm just talking about a general attitude displayed by a lot of the younger bands who are coming up in this modern climate of the music business.

ElD - Do you feel that the way the mainstream music business, and the way they plunder the underground to repackage it and sell it on, has shifted a gear and works more rapidly now?
Here today and gone tomorrow for the bands?
Scott – The marketing people are very sussed now. There is no middle ground. They go straight to the underground and immediately it goes from there to selling Nike shoes or whatever before I have even noticed it. I'm hearing some hip underground being pumped at me from a beer commercial half the time.

ElD - Can I ask about the promo video for 'It's not all about you' as you (Trever) are down for being involved in the concept of it. How much of a say did you actually have?
Trever – The zombie video was my concept. It's not that original and I'm not trying to claim it's a brilliant idea, but I threw it out there on my twitter feed asking who liked zombies and was good at animation, and I thought I would get all these great responses and I got about three, and of the three only one was from someone that I could actually count on.
That was a year or two ago though, as originally it was to be for my solo record and the guy lagged so long in doing it that by the time we put this record out I got back in touch with him and said 'hey you want to do it for a face to face video' and he was like 'oh yeah' and got all really excited about it while for my solo record he was more half hearted (laughing).
It's a guy from Brazil. He's done a really really good job on it.
Scott – I know Trever is a big fan of comic books and part of his idea was that he wanted the video to exist in a way that people who weren't necessarily looking for us or even punk rock songs would stumble across it in a comic book fan boy sort of way.
Trever – Exactly. If you were looking for cool zombie stuff or the comic book kind of things I was hoping it would work as a way for people to discover us and it does seem to be working.

ElD - As a band do you try to keep a degree of control over everything, album artwork, how you are promoted and such?
Trever – Absolutely. We control every aspect. We would never even let a music video out without our approval. I mean we were so hardcore to a fault that back in the day when we were on A&M in the mid nineties they would pitch us movie things constantly like 'do you want to be in this one or that one' and we would be like (adopts dumb voice) no that movie aint punk rock enough for us to be in.
Looking back on it now I'm like what a fuckin' idiot.
We were offered a placement in the movie 'Kingpin' which was a brilliant movie. It was hilarious.

ElD - You had a song in Tank Girl.
Scott - Tank Girl is cool.
Well it's got Ice T as a kangaroo so what's not to like, but you didn't get the song on the soundtrack release. Why was that?
Trever - We were offered it for the movie and not the album. That's it. That was the deal.
I still wouldn't want our songs on just anything, but now I would be a lot more open to lots of stuff. It's funny, in the nineties we had almost all these punk rock police.
ElD - Who fly in the face of the whole punk rock ethos.
Trever – Absolutely.
Scott – Yeah. Punk rock was supposed to be outside all that stuff and it had the strictest morals and codes of social conduct, even more than the ridiculous hard rock and heavy metal people and such.
Trevor. ...and we were accused of being sell outs all through that whole period and we became hyper sensitive to it, and then we would see our peers charge fifteen dollars for tickets for shows, and sell their shirts for x amount and we were like 'fuck' we've been sticking to the rules and everyone is doing what they had been accusing us of doing.

ElD - The Clash weren't slow in accepting a major deal. The idea is to get the music out to as many people as possible. Maybe not a message, but at the very least to entertain as many as you can.
Scott – That's it, but maybe I just missed the point or something, but when I was a young guy I frankly didn't give a fuck what label a band was on. That didn't mean anything to me. What age they were, where they came from. If I heard music and I liked it then I bought the fuckin' record and that was it. Whether it was on this, that, or the other label didn't matter.
I think I was already a little old for that shit when it started to crop up. It was alien to my way of thinking and still is.
Trever – ...thankfully that attitude seem to have been over for about a decade.

ElD - How is the deal going with 'People like you'?
Trever – Well we took it to 'People like you' initially just for licensing for the EU, and Toby over there liked it enough that he called his parent company Sanctuary Media and he got them to pick up the record for the world.
So strictly speaking we are on Sanctuary Media, but over here and the rest of Europe it is 'People Like You and it has been working out great.
I don't know what the sales numbers are like and I don't want to. All I know is that I can see that when we launch into the new songs the European crowd are singing along so it's getting out there.
ElD - It is. I've seen bands pushing a new album, signed to a major to, and it is only available at the shows, but 'Laugh now. Laugh Later' is in the stores.
Trever – Yeah, When we were on other labels some of our albums would only appear as imports. It doesn't seem to be a positive move to promote an album that people find hard to get. People have a short attention span.
Scott – They might not remember you in five minutes. If they go to buy the album and it isn't there then they will move onto something else.

ElD - With the critical success of the album and the tour have you started to write new material to follow on from all this?
Trever – Not yet, but it's not unlikely that we could be back in the studio for next summer. I've been talking about it with the guys and personally to keep everything on a time I would love to try for a release by mid to late 2012, but I don't want to take two or three years between records. Especially at our advanced years we are probably nearing the end of our career and I want to crank out a bunch more records before we get to old.
Even if I have to drag their sorry corpses to the finish line.

1 comment:

  1. Bit of a blast from the past. Going to have to check out the new album.