Russ Rankin (Good Riddance) discusses covering Tony Sly’s “Via Munich”

The Tony Sly tribute website (tonysly.org) has been compiling little stories about Tony, written by contributors to the “The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute” album.

The Flatliners, Strung Out, Yellowcard, Pennywise, and more have all contributed short stories about Tony’s influence in their life, and what the covers meant to them.

The newest installation comes from Good Riddance frontman Russ Rankin, who covered Sly’s “Via Munich” for the tribute album. Here’s what he had to say,

When my band was just getting our feet wet as part of the FAT Wreck Chords family, Tony took us under his wing and had us play several shows around California with his band. Later that year, when our first album was released, Tony invited us to tour Europe supporting his band. We had never been overseas and we were really stoked to get the chance. Our first album was a collection of songs cobbled together by various riffs brought in by various members over a period of 3-4 years, with me writing lyrics and melodies over them. As we were writing our first album, I began picking up my guitar (which I could barely play) and tried to write more complete songs. I didn’t consider this “songwriting” per se, it was more for expediency’s sake. While in Europe, Tony and I had several conversations about music and songwriting. He gave me tons of insight and advice, although I don’t know if he realized at the time how helpful he was. He asked me about our songs, which he knew surprisingly well, and who had written them. It turned out that he particularly liked some of the songs I had written start to finish, as opposed to the collection of separate riffs strapped together. He told me something I will never forget: he told me that I was the songwriter of the band, and that I needed to take the reins and assume that responsibility. He told me to start thinking of the process in terms of writing complete songs, rather then just bringing a riff or two to practice. It was completely new information for me, but it helped shape the way I have approached songwriting ever since. He believed in me as a songwriter, and he believed in our band at a time when we were still unsure if we’d be able to make a real go of it. 

I will always remember his calm demeanor and his understated humor. He always had a way of making the endless monotony of tour seem fun and adventurous. He found the wonder in everyday things and helped everyone around him enjoy them that much more.

The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute, featuring covers of songs by No Use for a Name and Mr. Sly from NOFX, Bad Religion, Strung Out, Rise Against, Pennywise, The Gaslight Anthem and many others, was released on October 29th through Fat Wreck Chords.


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