Thanks to Jack from Steel Train for answering these questions for me and to Betsy from Drive Thru for setting all of this up!
Was the new direction in sound on Trampoline more of a result from the new band line-up, or was the newer sound part of the cause of Matthew and Matthias leaving the band?
It's really neither. If anything it's the opposite. The reasons for the band changing were a result of the new sound. I started writing the record in 2006, and it was somewhat of a struggle to fully change the sound until we put the new band together. The funny thing is that although the records sound incredibly different, it's not so different to us because Trampoline is the record we have been trying to make since we started. We never had the guts to do it before.
I’ve heard that Scott doesn't have any lead vocal parts on the whole record... why?
I think the main reason for that has to do with the lyrics. On Twilight Tales, the lyrics were way more abstract and didn't have to come from the writer. The stories could be told in different voices etc. On this record, every song is telling a very literal story. The lyrics are so personal, and when I wrote the songs, I just recorded them and sang them. It wasn't a conscious decision... More that the songs just were what they were from the beginning.
Did Daniel and Jon record on the new album?
Jon recorded all the drums.
Are there any special guest appearances on the new album?
Yeah, my sister Rachel sings on Dakota, and Nate of the format sings on Dakota as well, and he does the lead vocal in the 3rd verse of Kill Monsters in the Rain. Oh and Mark Trombino played a couple of synth parts, and our engineer Carlos clapped over a few parts. And Hannah Montana is on School is for Losers. She does the scream. What a sweetheart.
What were you listening to when you were writing the album?
The Mountain Goats and Hedwig and The Angry Inch!! John Darnielle and Jon Cameron Mitchell are my idols. What both of those guys do is amazing. It's exactly the theme we wanted to create on Trampoline. Incredibly morbid and to the point lyrics, but then having the music behind it all sound bouncy and quirky... the whole thing creates this creepy vibe that we wanted over the entire record. John Darnielle and Jon Cameron Mitchell are masters of that. I always want to be a creep. And The Format. That's not a shout out. It really is very inspiring for us to watch our friends create something as wonderful as Dog Problems. In a way, it's more inspiring than any other music we listen to, because we saw it happen.
What are some of the stories behind the new songs on Trampoline?
Well the whole record goes through some things I went through 4 years ago. It's the same stories I was telling on twilight tales, just a much different outlook on them. When I was eighteen 9/11 happened. There is a lot of talk about that on the record. It was a major moment in my life because it was when everything started to change for me. After 9/11, I lost my younger sister to cancer, and then a few months later my cousin was killed in Iraq. In the midst of all of this I broke up with my girlfriend of many years. All of that happened in a 6 month period. Maybe if it didn't all happen at once I would have done better with it, but the ridiculousness of all of these events happening so quickly really fucked me up. We were working on Twilight Tales a year after that, and you can really hear the hopelessness in the record. Twilight Tales is un-listenable for me now. It's so depressing and it brings me back to a really painful time. While I was working on that record and touring behind it I truly believed I was going to die any second. I had seen so much death around me that it seemed more likely I would get struck by lightning or hit by a car than not. I remember we played a festival called Vegoose in 2006. We toured home from there, and when we got home (it was November) I completely fell apart. That's when I decided I had had enough, and finally went to therapy and tried to get it together. It was that whole time when I wrote most of the songs on Trampoline. I was so tired of feeling like shit, and for the first time that winter I started to see things differently. I think a big part of it was meeting my girlfriend Alia. We met that spring, and I had written a lot of the songs already, but then I started to change the lyrics after being with her. Falling in love gave me a completely new outlook on everything. I started believing in things I never did before, and was disgusted with how much time I had wasted feeling paranoid about everything. The concept of depression is so enraging. You spend all this time feeling awful, and then you spend even more time dwelling on the fact that you feel awful, and then you beat yourself up about it more and more to the point were you don't even know if you are even depressed anymore. And when it's all over and you look it in the face.... You have nothing to show for it.
Anyway... It was that time that the record really took shape. I wanted so badly for this record to be more than the songs. I want it to be something that if I heard in my worst moments, it would have given me some kind of hope. That's really what Trampoline is all about. For me, the whole point of putting out this record is to make some good out of it all. To make some good out of the years I spent worried about everything.
How did the writing process for Trampoline differ from the writing process on Twilight Tales and For You My Dear?
Trampoline was the first time I had my home studio set up, so each song was recorded and re recorded 5 or 6 times. The first recordings of Kill Monsters in the Rain are hilarious. Sounds nothing like the record. Hopefully we will release all that stuff one day.
Any significance behind the title of the new album?
There are many meanings there. We tried to keep everything besides the music open to many interpretations. The lyrics and music are so literal, that we wanted to surround it with something a bit looser. What do you think it means?
Your CD is coming out among a lot of highly anticipated releases (Thrice, Say Anything, Jimmy Eat World...etc.) Are you afraid that people are going to overlook Trampoline?
Haven't really thought about that until now. I guess a little. It would be nice if I didn't care what people thought or if people noticed. But I do. A lot. This record is so personal, and it was written to reach people and to be understood. If it gets overlooked...well I guess that would be somewhat devastating. This is such a massive moment for us. We have never released anything that we were proud of until now. That truly complicates things for us, because we have no excuses anymore. With Twilight Tales we always fell back on the whole "shitty record" thing. If we didn't get any good tours, or we didn't draw big, it was all because we hadn't yet put out a good record. There is no excuse now, because Trampoline is 100% for us.
Since it seems like the new cd is in an entirely new direction musically from "Twilight Tales", which do you prefer out of the two?
What is your favorite one song from each album? Including the 1969 EP.
For you my dear - Angelica
1969 -Space Oddity
Twilight Tales - Dig
Trampoline - Dakota (and the secret track "say no to the devil")
Any chance of putting out another covers EP?
Maybe... We haven't spoken about that since the 1969 record. When we had the idea to do 1969 with Richard and Stefanie, the original concept was to release a cover CD every year...1970, 1971 etc. Don't know how I feel about that idea now, but I would love to cover our friends. It would be awesome to remake records like "Bull, balloon and the family" (Reuben’s Accomplice) or maybe record our version of The Decline by NOFX. I actually really want to do that one. The Decline is genius. And I think it would translate if we made it sound weird.
How do you feel about all the new fans that are now turned onto you guys from the recent Format tour?
Feel good about it. We have always grown slowly. And that's nice because I don't think any of our fans have ever felt alienated by new fans. But the Format tour was the first experience we had were people responded in a big way. On support tours, we always did well, but on the Format tour for some reason it was the next level.
Will you ever play songs from For You My Dear again?
We do. We played For You My Dear last night in Chicago. Don't think we will ever play Night Falls again.
Did Matt (ex-guitar) and Matthias (ex-drums) leave on good terms? If so, why?
It was good terms. It was something coming for a very long time.
Did Daniel and Jon fit in easily?
Yeah, that was amazing how fast it worked with them. I thought it would take us months to get to the level the old band was playing at, but within a few shows, the new band started playing better than the old band ever had. I think the personal relationships in the new band are what make it work so well. We are all real friends. When we get home from tour...these are the people I hang out with. I mean hell, I lost my virginity to Daniel, and he was at my bar mitzvah.
How did you guys sign to Drive Thru and does being on a label that is known for a different kind of music is a good thing or a bad thing?
We signed to drive thru because Richard and Stefanie are awesome. As for the other bands they sign....I still don't see what that has to do with us. For a long time Radiohead and Yellowcard were on the same label... See what I mean. Tom Waits and Thursday both put out records on the same label etc, etc, etc. If Drive Thru has a built in fan base of emo kids...fine. If they like us, that's great, and if they don't... Who cares? There are billions of people out there who are more concerned with the music than the label. And anyway, I think that whole label cult thing is over. I don't know if anyone has noticed, but
Drive thru has really diversified in the past few years. House of Fools, Ace, Socratic!
How would you describe Steel Train to someone who has never heard it?
I have never found a way to answer that question. We always say rave music or Jewish, just come to the show and tell me then.
What band has been your favorite to tour with? If you could pick any band to tour with that you haven't yet, what band would it be?
Our favorite band to tour with is the Format. They are a great band, and even better people. We also love being out with Limbeck, Reubens accomplice, ace enders, rose hill drive. We like touring with bands that know how to play, and put the emphasis on the song writing and live show, and not on all the bullshit. If we could your with anyone??????? Dr. Dog
What are some of your favorite things to do while you guys are home on tour?
At home, Evan golfs and visits his grandma, Jon teaches drums and enjoys Teaneck life, Scott is a bike messenger and he sees a lot of films, Daniel does karate and buys Mac products, I eat and go to musicals..
On tour,Evan sleeps a lot, Jon re writes our bio a lot, Scott rides his bike around, Daniel buys Mac products, and I gain weight.
Any last words?
Thanks for probably the best interview I've ever done.
"but I would love to cover our friends. It would be awesome to remake records like "Bull, balloon and the family" (Reuben’s Accomplice) or maybe record our version of The Decline by NOFX. I actually really want to do that one. The Decline is genius. And I think it would translate if we made it sound weird."
would be such a great idea, i really would love this to happen