Below is an e-mail interview conducted with Johnny Hunter of The Prize Fight. As vocalist and guitarist for the band, Johnny gave some insight on the band's recent changes and their new EP, The Process EP. Check it out; the EP is in stores now!
AP: What is your name, age, and what do you do in the band?
Johnny: My name is Johnny, Iím 23 and I sing and play guitar for The Prize Fight.
AP: First, the question thatís on everyoneís minds. Why did you drop the horns?
Johnny: When we started The Prize Fight there were two people that played trombone in our band. I was one of them and our friend Dave Hagenbuch was the other. I think in March of 2003, Dave decided that he wanted to spend his time focusing on other aspects of his life and just didnít have time for our band anymore. After that we were kind of left with a pretty tough decision. Should we try and find someone else to replace Dave, or just go on the five of us? It just turned out that Dave was pretty irreplaceable. It wasnít necessarily that he was the best trombone player ever, he is just the kind of person that you donít just replace. A new member just wouldnít have felt natural.
AP: Did you want to move away from the horns and more energetic style before the member change, or was that a reaction?
Johnny: There wasnít any point when we were like, ďyou know what, we really arenít getting anywhere with this whole horn thing. We really should be playing a different style of music.Ē Everything just kinda came naturally. Honestly, I think we were moving away from our original sound when Dave was still in the band. As we were writing songs it was becoming harder and harder to find horn parts that fit the songs. It almost felt like we were forcing them at times.
AP: What do you want to say to the fans who were thrown for a loop by your sound change?
Johnny: I think of it like this. No one should really be too surprised that this cd doesnít sound like our last one. I mean our last cd came out in early 2003. That was soooo long ago. Think of all the things that have happened to you in the past three years. Think of all of the music that you listened to back then. I almost guarantee youíre not rocking the same cds on a daily basis that you were rocking three years ago. And to tell you the truth we are no different from anyone else. Since then, so much has happened to us. We have all grown up a bit. Weíve lost a couple members. And our influences have expanded to include other styles of music that I feel we should represent in our own music.
AP: When writing your songs, how do you go about writing? Is it the music first? The lyrics?
Johnny: Yeah, we pretty much write an entire song musically before I start solidifying the lyrics. I have ideas that I kick around before the song is done, but I donít expand on them until I know where the music is going. I feel like it flows better when I can see the whole picture in my head before I start to put it on canvas. Also, I think itís pretty cool that we work pretty independently from each other. I mean nobody really writes another persons parts. I donít tell any of the guys what they should be playing and they donít tell me what I should be playing. We may try and lead each other so weíre all heading down the same path, but thereís no one person that writes our songs. I write the lyrics, but the songs are written by The Prize Fight. That makes it really cool for me when we record because I can listen to it and be still be surprised by what Iím hearing. I can look at the other guys and think ďdamn guys, you really play some hot shit in these songs.Ē
AP: What made you sign with TDR Records, and how has that relationship been working so far?
Johnny: A little while back, TDR got in contact with our guitarist, Nick, about being on a comp they were putting out called First Taste of Morning. Nick eventually explained our situation, telling them that we really didnít want to use an old song, and that we had a bunch of songs that we wanted to record but really didnít have the money to do so. Things just progressed from there. TDR talked it over and decided that they would put out our record. And even though we knew we would be working with a really small budget, we were still really excited to finally have a cd to promote, as opposed to demos. And TDR was really cool about expediting the whole process. One month after the day they told us they wanted to sign us, we were recording our cd. I really donít think that they knew too much about us beforehand either. So it was really cool of them to put so much blind faith into this band that they probably had never heard before and these dudes that they had never met before. We actually met them in person for the first time after we had finished tracking The Process EP.
AP: Are you completely done with your old songs, or will we see them given new life without horns?
Johnny: Iím gonna go ahead and say weíre pretty much done with the old songs. A lot of them were written with our old guitar player Bob Jones (who now sings for a band called Sincerely Monroe). Weíre not really into playing music that wasnít written by the current members in our band. But Iíd be lying if I said that that was the only reason. That type of music just isnít what weíre passionate about playing anymore. But Iím not gonna completely commit them to their final resting places right here. You never know. If enough people really want to hear some old tunes at a show, we might rock an old jam for them.
AP: Which part of being in a band do you like most and why? Writing, preproduction/recording, or performing? Or something completely different?
Johnny: I can speak for everyone in my band when I answer this question. Every different aspect of music has itís own rewards, and we all absolutely love every single one off them. Writing and recording is amazing because you can see something that you created come to life. And when theyíre on tape you can actually sit back and say, ďWow, I had a hand in making that. This song is mine.Ē And no one else can say that except for the other people in your band. Performing is great because you can see firsthand how people are responding to the music that you worked so hard on. Right now weíre on a tour and not too many people have heard of us. So thereís this whole mystery of whether or not theyíre gonna get into it. So when they do bob their heads, or smile at you, or even just listen attentively, the feeling is really rewarding.
AP: How has the ďScreaming Is For BabiesĒ Tour been for you guys?
Johnny: So far it has been unbelievable! The other bands are so nice to us and are really going out of their way to make us, the opening band, feel welcome on the tour. And because every band on the tour is incredible, people are showing up at the beginning of the show to see every band. Like, there are hundreds of kids at these shows when the doors open. We are playing to hundreds and hundreds of people every single night! And itís really cool because a lot of the kids who are coming out to the shows are coming up to us afterwards and telling us that they had never heard of us before but really enjoyed our set.
AP: How did you end up on that tour?
Johnny: Iím not exactly positive how it went down, but I think that every member of The Starting Line got to pick a band to open the show. Either that, or they collectively decided on 4 bands to share the opening dates. Either way, HUGE THANK YOUíS to Ken and the rest of the band for taking us out. It really has been incredible.
AP: What are your touring plans for 2006?
Johnny: Our touring plans for 2006 are to tour like crazy in 2006. I know after the Screaming is For Babies tour is over, we are going to be hitting the same route again mostly by ourselves: road warrior style. And when thatís over weíre gonna do our best to open for some bigger package tours.
AP: What do you feel is the strongest song off The Process EP? Whatís your favorite to play?
Johnny: I think the strongest songs off our EP are either ďThis ApartmentĒ or ďThe Red Light District,Ē but others might disagree. As far as my favorite song to play, I really donít know. It changes every night. And I really do love playing every one of the songs off of this EP. So I guess youíre gonna have to catch me at a show and ask me what was my favorite song that we played that night.
AP: Can we expect a full-length album at some time in the future?
Johnny: You can absolutely expect a full length some time in the near future. Weíve already started working on new material and Iím really happy with most of it so far, so I promise it wonít be another 3 years before we release something again, hahaha. But I know that we are going to tour for a while to promote this EP, so I donít exactly know when the full length is gonna happen. But one thing is for sure: it is definitely going to happen.
AP: Where do you want to be in the next couple of years?
Johnny: I want to be doing exactly what Iím doing right now: sitting in a van, on our way to get to a bad ass show so we can play music that we love.
AP: What keeps you focused as a musician creatively?
Johnny: Music is really the only thing that I have ever been good at. Iíve been playing music in one form or another since middle school. Itís what I spent all of my time in high school doing. Itís what I went to college to study. So Iím gonna say my absolute love of everything music is what keeps me focused.
AP: Who had the best album of 2005 in your opinion?
Johnny: Iíve got three records for you that absolutely blew me away. Number one is Jimmy Eat Worldís Futures. That is probably my favorite band, so anything they put out is pretty much gold to me. Number two is Death Cab For Cutieís Plans. This band never letís me down either. I donít think Ben Gibbard knows how to turn out a bad song. In terms of smaller bands with great releases, Iím gonna have to say Days Awayís Mapping An Invisible World. These guys just have such a good grasp of crafting beautifully written songs that itís kind of ridiculous. I heard a bunch of different demos of a lot of songs on that CD before the album came out, and to see the way that they have progressed over the years is really inspiring.
AP: Who should we look for to make waves in 2006?
Johnny: The Prize Fight, baby! Haha, seriously though, thereís this band from close to home called Valencia that is starting to get a really devout following. Iím expecting them to make some pretty big waves in 2006.
AP: Hereís your opportunity to sell the EP. Why should we buy it?
People should buy The Process EP because they havenít heard anything like it before. I donít feel like we sound like anybody else out there right now. Iím sure there are parts of songs that may remind people of other artists, but I feel like our band and this EP are pretty original. A lot of artists try to reproduce a sound that they have heard already, they try to emulate other bands. We are trying to do our own thing. Iím not saying that we play music thatís really out there, or on some other level or anything like that. Our songs still have that certain pop-sensibility to them. Itís just not like anything else that I know of. Itís just good music.
AP: Any last comments?
Johnny: Thank you to you and the rest of absolutepunk.net for supporting our band. We really, really appreciate it.
I miss the horns as well, but I also like the songs I've heard on this E.P. Im so pumped that they are opening on a big tour like this. I hope they get as much love as they deserve, which is a ton. Nice interview.
these guys are some of the most amazing guys i have ever met. they are so down to earth, and put on an amazing show. the process is an awesome album that everyone should pick up. when they played here in morgantown, wv (where i go to WVU, though i know them from back home) they played their set and we had a blast singing kareoke, you should see johnny sing rap, and nick sing country, its great. keep it up guys. we all love you.
----Johnny: Iím gonna go ahead and say weíre pretty much done with the old songs. A lot of them were written with our old guitar player Bob Jones (who now sings for a band called Sincerely Monroe). Weíre not really into playing music that wasnít written by the current members in our band. -----
Shit man that sucks. I gotta say The Prize Fight is one of the few bands whose older material I prefer over the new. I'm not really
nuts about what I have heard from the Process EP. In my opinion, their first self-titled EP and Words don't mean anything EP were
excellent albums. They used to have electrifying chord progressions and sick vocal harmonies split between three members...those
were the days. Ah Oh well, can't win them all.