Currently in the midst of extensive touring, which includes sending the oft-maligned pop-punk group to Russia, Man Overboard recently wrapped up their Pop Punk the Vote Tour. I retreated to the basement of Mac's Bar, a venue which I was unaware even had a basement, with Man O guitarist Justin Collier to check-in with the band and talk about their self-titled record, touring to Russia and why kids in Terror shirts (including myself) seem to enjoy his band's music.
You guys are headlining your Pop Punk the Vote Tour right now, the last time you guys were in Michigan you were on the Pop Punkís Not Dead Tour. How are you guys seeing the result of the seeds you sowed on that tour on the shows on this tour?
Doing a tour like that obviously has the advantage of youíre either playing for kids that have heard you or have heard of you but just never seen you or listened to you. With that it was a bigger show and maybe their parents wonít let them come to Macís Bar on a Friday night but they might let them go to the Royal Oak Music Theater. Then obviously youíre playing for new people who have never heard of you before, but yeah we have been seeing the trickle down effect on this tour. This tourís doing really well.
You had this thing going where you had people pick some of the songs they wanted you playing on this tour. How did the outcome of that compare to what you guys thought they would pick?
You know, we had a set number of songs that we said, no matter what, we were going to play. And then, we had some songs where we said weíre not playing that no matter what (laughs). The rest, we put up for vote. I think we were surprised that the winning song was ďI Like YouĒ off of Real Talk. People would say that we should play that, and we were always like ĎI donít really anyone likes that. I donít think that would be a really good one to do.í But it has gone over really well live. It is always surprising to see other songs we thought would rank really high and didnít rank very high at all. Itís interesting and cool to let people pick to a degree.
I think as a band of your stature, with a couple full lengths under your belt, it helps when you have a lot of songs to choose from when you guys are trying to put a setlist together with trying to please everybody.
You guys put out a new record in the fall. Tell us a little bit about how you guys progressed from Real Talk and how the path you guys took from recording that album helped form Man Overboard.
Weíve done two collection records with like EPs and b-sides and stuff put together. Real Talk was our first proper full-length. Obviously none of those were released before but some of those songs were really old, some were kind of old, some of them were brand new. So in a sense, Real Talk is a little bit of a collection as well. The new record, all the songs were written for the record. None of them were older than Real Talk, where with that record some of the songs were two or three years old. Thatís definitely the big difference.
Did trying to write for the entire full-length ever have some sort of effect on what you guys were writing?
I donít think it effected what we were writing, but itís definitely a little nerve-wracking going into the studio to do a record and doing pre-production for a record. Your producer or somebody outside the band says ĎI think this song sucks,.í Like you know what, that part does fucking suck, we need to re-write that. So youíre like ĎShit, we have this amount of time to re-write this part of the song.í I think for us, working under pressure is always a good thing. It came out... (laughs) we like it.
You guys decided to do this record with Steve Klein from New Found Glory, why did you guys decide to go with him against anyone else you guys had on the table, and how do you think he affected the overall sound of this record?
Obviously we respect New Found Glory and Steve is a big part of the music in that band. Heís good buds with Zac [Eisenstein, Man Overboard guitarist] and I think he really understands how Zac writes songs and for better or worse, they can communicate on a songwriter level a little bit different than anybody else can. Itís kind of hard to explain, but I think that lends a lot [to why]. He would be like, ďNo, I know you wrote it like this, but that sucks, so I want to try and think of it like this,Ē and Zac would say ďTrue, but I also have this idea and weíll do this.Ē In terms of cliches of working on the same wavelength, we definitely were.
As far as this being a new collection of songs, Man Overboard seems to be a very polarizing band in the pop-punk scene, whether it be for the music or the whole ĎDefend Pop Punkí mantra. What do you think are some of the things youíve done on this record to kind of improve upon some of the things you guys have gotten dogged on in the past, like cheesy songwriting and what not?
You know, pop-punk songs come from just being honest, whether that is writing corny lyrics because thatís what you feel or writing something thatís a little too personal, like thatís fucking creepy. Or something thatís kind of light-hearted and fun, thatís not serious at all. But itís not like one person has to have one set of emotions, so itís kind of an eclectic thing. So yes, these songs are about real shit and some of it is fucking lame, because Iím lame [laughs].
How would you say these songs reflect against those songs on Real Talk as a progression of your musicianship?
We have three guitar players now. I mean there were always a lot of layers on the record, but thereís definitely a lot of guitar parts. I think the drums are a little more intricate. [A loud humming noise is heard in the background] I think the vocals... I think thereís a cooler back there [laughs]. With Steve there, he pushed them to do vocals a lot harder, so we have a lot of cooler stuff. That was one of the last things that we finished up in the studio was the vocals. I think all-around, thereís more stuff and attention to detail and a lot more effort put into it.
Did you have to go back as you were doing those vocal parts to touch up guitar parts as you were figuring out vocal melodies?
Pretty much, Steve did the rhythm guitars and then said he didnít want to do lead guitars until after we did vocals. So we wouldnít have conflicts or anything. But all the songs were demoed, so we pretty much knew where everything was going to go. We also had it set up with two rooms, so we could do guitars in one room and vocals in another. It was pretty easy, but there wasnít a ton of things [we had to change].
There are a number of bands in the underground that have three guitars, like Balance and Composure, how would you say this benefits the sound of the songs you guys are writing and how does putting three heads together work for you with having conflicts and coming to a central conclusion?
Itís pretty easy to do it with three guitars and do it in a way that doesnít make sense where two people are always playing the same thing. It kind of defeats the purpose. But if you can have three guitars that each play different things, or the right thing, it can make the song sound a little thicker and have a little more depth and layers to it. Itís something you kind of have to do the right way. But having extra heads is always nice.
What are hoping people take away from this chapter in Man Overboardís career?
I donít think weíre trying to reinvent anything or do something crazy. I think weíre just trying to make another record that people can relate to. Iím sure thereís going to be some people who are going to say, ĎIím not 19 anymore, Iím 21 and I am not into that shit anymore.í And thereís going to be people that say, ĎAll their records speak to how my life is.í I didnít really set out to please everybody like that. You just gotta do what you do and hope there are people that listen.
Speaking of the diversity in people that listen to Man Overboard, when I saw you play at Pop Punkís Not Dead, I saw a lot of people wearing shirts from hardcore bands that were into your music. How do you think your music reaches out to the people that listen to bands like Terror or Bane or any of these other hardcore bands and are drawn to what you guys are doing?
Thereís different types of people that listen to different types of music, but you usually listen to hardcore music because youíre trying to express some sort of aggression but itís not like youíre angry all the time. Thereís different types of music for different moods and different situations, so different types of people can connect with them.
You guys are doing some European touring after this, going all the way to Russia. Does the thought of going into that area to tour seem surreal or scare you at all?
I have some friends who have done it. Strike Anywhere did it, The Wonder Years have done it, Fireworks, A Loss For Words. You have to do it in the right way because it can be sort of dangerous, but I think weíre doing it in an okay way. Itís a lot of stuff to do because you have to get visas and go to the Russian embassy. Itís kind of a pain in the butt, but at the same time, how many people do you know that have gone to Russia? I get a kick out of that stuff. Some of the other dudes in the band are definitely a little scared, but I think itís just cool.
Definitely a weird territory for bands to be going, it isnít very often that bands tour that far into Europe.
There arenít a lot of bands that go there, but there are a lot of kids that listen to pop-punk and hardcore music there.
What else do you guys have on your plate right now as that tour wraps up?
That tour finishes April 25th or something, and Wayne [Wildrick, Man Overboard guitarist] and I are staying in Europe for another month just to hang out with our girlfriends, and then we start the Vans Warped Tour on June 15th. Thatís gonna take us through the end of summer.
Looking forward to doing that?
Oh yeah. Itís gonna be hot, itís gonna be long. But it will be cool. The stages arenít announced yet, but I can assure everyone our stage is pretty cool.