If you came to me a year and a half ago and told me that a decent handful of Americana/country artists would occupy some of the top spots on my Spotify “most played”, I’d point you to the nearest mental institution. But here we are, thanks almost solely to an equal combination of Jason Isbell […]
If you came to me a year and a half ago and told me that a decent handful of Americana/country artists would occupy some of the top spots on my Spotify “most played”, I’d point you to the nearest mental institution. But here we are, thanks almost solely to an equal combination of Jason Isbell and Roger Harvey.
I’m pretty close-minded when it comes to my music choice; I know what I like and I rarely deviate. Guys like Isbell and Harvey, and others like Austin Lucas and Northcote have scratched a musical itch of mine that completely blindsided me. Harvey’s one of those artists whose songwriting I was totally enamored by, and after randomly seeing him open for Gregor Barnett of the Menzingers one night, I bordered on obsession and found all the music I could from the guy. So I was thrilled, to say the least, when I started seeing posts around the New Year hinting at new music.
I’ve pretty well exhausted Harvey’s catalog up to this point, so I was anxious to get my hands on more of the honest, hopeful, simplistic, yet captivating music that drew me in in the first place. Well Roger Harvey’s new EP Cowtown lived up to, and succeeded, the anticipation I had for it. I think the man himself described this new release best in one of his monthly newsletters titled Rog Sez: “On March 17th, I’m releasing new music. Cowtown, 3-songs about where I come from and the possibility of a better world. I’ve been writing a lot about this lately.”
Getting to do this interview was extremely fulfilling. I had been eager to pick the mind of Harvey, whose lyrics are poetic in nature, and are able to convey powerful stances on current issues, but in a simplistic way that embodies hope and positivity. After exchanging a handful of emails, I’ve concluded that Harvey is wise beyond his years. I envy the hell out of both his hopeful outlook on the world, as well as his ability to embody that through word and song.
We talk about all kinds of great stuff, and on more than one occasion I had to stop and process his responses because of how wise and well-versed my questions were answered. Although this one was done over email rather than Zoom, I can still confirm that I had a blast doing this. Below you’ll find links to the new release, links to a couple other notable songs mentioned in our interview, as well as tour dates and whatever else can help get you acquainted with one of my current favorite artists. As always, thanks so much for reading this far. Cheers!
Featured image credit: @Cowtownchad
(Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity’s sakebecause a good chunk of this interview was just two guys shooting the shit.)
Dying Scene (Nathan Kernell NastyNate): Tell me a little about the three songs you’re releasing Friday. I know with “Two Coyotes,” one of my personal favorites of yours, featured Rozwell kid guitarist Adam Meisterhans, of whom I’m a huge fan of. Are there any guests featured on these new ones?
Roger Harvey: I recorded these 3 songs outside of Philly at a studio called Gradwell House and then passed them down to Justin Francis in Nashville for finalizing. My friend Mike ‘Slo-Mo’ Brenner pushed me towards and led this session. We had been playing these songs live on the road at shows last year and he wanted to get them down together. Mike is best known for his work with Jason Molina but has been a part of so much great music. I admire his attitude and work ethic and love collaborating with him. Working as a solo artist can be trying and having good people in your corner to push you in the right direction is essential. I’m lucky to have so many good people in mine. I asked Mike once on a long drive what kept him going in music through all the years and he responded: “Striving towards excellence. It’s the one thing that never goes out of style.” I think of that often.
In our emails you mentioned these being a part of a couple records hopefully coming out later this year. Any details on those that you’re ready to reveal? Possible release dates? Are those going to include what’s on your most recent release, Last Prisoner, as well as this upcoming one?
I recently finished a 14-song record in Fort Worth, Texas with my friend Simon Flory of traditional folk songs. We rewrote many of them to modernize & convey the lasting meaning of the songs in our current context. We’re finalizing the masters and other conceptual pieces and working to release it later this year. Additionally, I have a record of songs about where I grew up in Pennsylvania that I’ll be recording this spring. Many of the singles I’ve released fit in with that narrative and I’ve been on the fence of wanting to re-introduce singles I’ve released on that record or if I just want to move forward with new songs. I’m sitting on so many songs after the past few years of slowness and have been reckoning with a lot of big change in my personal life that has kept me writing. I’d like to get them all down regardless just need to conclude what tells the story I’m after the most effectively.
Starting with the opening track Cowtown, the message you’re conveying seems pretty clear, and I find my understanding of the song to be pretty relatable to the 5 years I spent living in a small East Tennessee town. Coming from your end, what message are you conveying or what story are you telling with this one? Is there one particular town or experience you’re referring to when you sing “nothing to do here but drink and fight”?
Like most things I write, it is about a specific place to me but I also recognize that it could be relatable to really anywhere. To me, it’s about where I was raised but I’ve been incredibly lucky in my life, through music, to have gotten out and seen a lot of the world and with that comes the understanding that our struggles and experiences as people are often more similar than different. I hope people can relate to the feeling in the song no matter where they came from. You’re only trapped here, if you choose to be.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but “Talkin’ Hard Line” seems less like a story you’re telling and more like ideal circumstances where love brings us together, and the song seems hopeful in that this can be achieved. In a time when people seem so divided and harboring so much hatred, whether it be politically or otherwise, is that the direction you had in mind for listeners to perceive this?
That’s exactly what I’m talking about in this song. It’s a hard subject in today’s world, specifically in today’s America, because of how polarized everything has become. Hate doesn’t deserve a pass, but empathy is important and love is the only way out. Figuring out what that looks like in practice when our own families & friends get so divided and people’s ideas get coopted by grifters who play on their deepest fears is something else completely, but if we can learn to lead with love I think that that’s a start.
Walk me through how you arrived at choosing to cover Susanna Clark’s “Come From the Heart.” Even though I’ve been in Nashville a while, I’m still not super familiar with country music, so I didn’t immediately realize this was a cover. I think that’s interesting though because you made the song your own and the song couldn’t be more fitting for you based on your prior releases. Although the original sounds in no way like punk, I think the lyrical content and its focus upon honesty makes it very similar. Reminds me a lot of Tim Barry’s “40 Miler” when he sings “music should sound like escape not rent”.
There are so many songs that say what “Come From The Heart” says. I love the simplicity of it. I struggle with that as a songwriter and often have to remind myself that simple songs are often the best ones. Conveying a message like people talk and feel is what gives music power. Things don’t have to be complex to be deep and to resonate. I love this song & specifically fell in love with Guy Clark’s version on Old Friends. Susanna Clark was an incredible artist and had such a unique impact on the world around her through living the way she did. From writing songs like this to painting the cover of Willie Nelson’s “Stardust.” I admire her creativity.
Although it’s not on this upcoming EP, I did want to talk about “Weird Hill to Die On” because it seems more applicable than ever in today’s climate. I saw you in Nashville when you played with Gregor Barnett and you explained it specifically referencing the incident at the Capitol, but could you kind of reiterate its connection to that event, as well as its overall meaning? It seemed like you changed it up a bit with this one and sang from the point of view of somebody who’s bought into that nonsense, was there reasoning behind that?
I wrote “Weird Hill To Die On” in the aftermath of January 6th as a way of processing what was and is going on in our country. It strange to have conspiratorial thinking move from the fringes to the mainstream and it seems that we haven’t really figured out a way to reckon with it as a society. It can be tiring to navigate a divided world, but our fatigue of that doesn’t change the fact that this is our world. I’m often at odds with how to move through it all. “Talkin’ Hard Line” is about that too but “Weird Hill” attempts to bend the perspective from the other side.
I wanna talk some about influences because at times, I feel like I can pick out a few key ones that I think heavily influence your sound, and other times I feel like I have no idea. Such storytellers as Woody Guthrie and John Prine, and even Springsteen seem to be some obvious ones. Feel free to correct me on those if I’m wrong, but who else would you cite as strongly influencing you? One of the things I love about listening to your music is your lyrics develop in a way that a writer’s or poet’s might. Are there any non-musician writers that influenced you in terms of storytelling?
I have a lot of heroes. I love music & words. The things I’ve always been most drawn to are ideas and actions. People I can look to as I attempt to draw my roadmap to get to how I’m trying to grow. I like people that write like people talk. Woody Guthrie was my first songwriting hero. I’m a huge Willie Nelson fan too. I love Carl Sandberg’s writing. [Sandberg’s Poem] The People, Yes.
I know you’ve done some work with Tim Barry, I kind of put you two in the same category of elite storytellers through song. Musicians of that nature seem to be a dying breed, did the lyrical storytelling come naturally for you from the beginning or did you strive towards writing in that way? Do you think there are any similarities in either influences or upbringing between you and a guy like Tim Barry that fostered that type of songwriting?
Thank you! I’ve always been drawn towards the kind of music that reflects the way I think and process the world around me. I’m a deep dude and the circumstances of my upbringing are likely responsible for that way of thinking from an early age. I think that’s what drew me towards folk music when I was younger. Tim has played a big role in my life as a friend and songwriting mentor. Tim and I have spent a lot of time together on and off the road and I do think there are similarities and reasons why we connected and continue to relate to one another the way we do. We share a similar mindset on a lot of things. I love storytelling through song and think the most important thing is that it’s told truthfully from its perspective, no matter where it comes from. There are so many important stories being told all the time and it’s important to listen to as many as you can.
How did you get connected with the punk rock audience? Your sound is more country and Americana than punk, while your lyrics fit right in. Were you a punk fan growing up and made the shift to this genre later on, or was it your lyrics that drew in a punk-leaning fan base, or was it something else? I always find the answer to this question interesting, Cory Branan and Ben Nichols are two that I think fall into the same realm.
I grew up as an outsider in a small town and fell in with a small group of punk rockers. At that time punk rock was the most tangible way to express what I was feeling and experiencing. It empowered me. I started touring selling t-shirts for a punk band before I was a teenager and that connected me with life on the road and to so many good people that I still keep close today. I learned a lot from punk rock that I’ll always carry with me, but always felt more drawn to folk songs. I discovered folk singers like Woody Guthrie through punk rock. I connect with the ideals of punk rock and the expression of folk music. I think they have a lot in common.
Country and punk seem on the surface to be two very different genres. And by country I mean traditional country, not that mainstream pop bullshit that’s popular now. What would you say are some similarities between the two? For me, honest lyrics seems to be the biggest one.
Struggle and progress. There is a struggle in it all. That’s what I wrote about in “Cowtown.” Being somewhere, going nowhere and keeping the faith that progress can be made. Punk rock to me has always embodied hope. There is a longing to it for something better. My favorite country music is about people’s struggle. Acknowledging hardship and moving through it. A lot of songs I love are just an acknowledgment of the struggles we experience as people. The power of music is when we share in the acknowledgment of the hardship. Recognizing that we aren’t alone through sharing stories is where we find hope. Finding hope is where we get a chance to try.
May 06 in Cambridge, MA at The Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub (Dying Scene will be there – come say hi!)
May 19 in Atlanta, GA at 529 w/ Tim Barry, Lee Bains and the Glory Fires
May 20 in Carrboro, NC at Cat’s Cradle w/ Tim Barry, Lee Bains and the Glory Fires
Florida pop-punk veterans New Found Glory have announced a new acoustic album. Make the Most of It is due out January 20th, 2023 on Revelation Records. Check out the first single “Dream Born Again” below, and pre-order the record here. Make the Most of It is a 14 song LP, with half the tracklist consisting […]
Check out the first single “Dream Born Again” below, and pre-order the record here.
Make the Most of It is a 14 song LP, with half the tracklist consisting of brand new acoustic tracks, and the other half being stripped down takes of classic NFG songs.
New Found Glory describes the album as their “answer to a very challenging and emotional time in our band’s career and the songs are about what it means to grieve, to live, and to approach every day with appreciation and a sense of fulfillment.”
Greetings, fellow degenerates! Welcome to the latest installment of the Dying Scene Record Radar. If it’s your first time here, thank you for joining us! This is a weekly column where we cover all things punk rock vinyl; new releases, reissues… you name it, we got it. So kick off your shoes, pull up a […]
Greetings, fellow degenerates! Welcome to the latest installment of the Dying Scene Record Radar. If it’s your first time here, thank you for joining us! This is a weekly column where we cover all things punk rock vinyl; new releases, reissues… you name it, we got it. So kick off your shoes, pull up a chair, crack open a cold one, and break out those wallets, because it’s go time. Let’s get into it!
Let’s start this week of with a banger ? Propagandhi‘s Supporting Caste is being reissued on pink colored vinyl thanks to an extremely successful crowdfunding campaign. Back in print for the first time in seven years! Head over to their Bandcamp page to get in on the action.
Another huge drop we let you know about earlier this week is Fat Wreck reissuing four 2000’s era Strung Out records on colored vinyl. The Element of Sonic Defiance, An American Paradox, and Exile in Oblivion are back in print for the first time in a long time. Blackhawks Over Los Angeles finds itself on wax for the first time ever. These are very limited, and most of the colored LPs have already sold out. Head over to the label’s webstore for the leftover scraps and black vinyl.
Those who read last week’s Record Radar know that NOFX has finally launched colored vinyl pre-orders for their upcoming LP Double Album. Well, much to the dismay of you collector nerds, a new “golden green” variant (it just looks green to me ?) has popped up on some European retailers’ sites. This is the EU indie exclusive color variant – here is one of the many places you can get it.
Newbury Comics has some new exclusive color variants of the self-titled debut albums from both The Interrupters and PUP (coincidence? most likely, yes). Each of these pressings are limited to 500 copies. Visit their store to get your hands on them.
Florida pop-punk veterans New Found Glory have a new acoustic record on the way. The 14-track LP titled Make the Most of It features seven new songs, and stripped-down versions of seven NFG classics. Check out the first single “Dream Born Again” below and get the wax here (green vinyl) or here (yellow vinyl). Or get both! I don’t give a shit, to be perfectly honest with you.
Bad Brains live album The Youth Are Getting Restless is back in print for the first time since its original release in 1990. This LP was recorded in the Netherlands in ’87. Zia Records and Brooklyn Vegan each have their own exclusive variant of this one. If you get it from Brooklyn Vegan, don’t forget to use their 10% off code – don’t be a sucker who pays 30 fuckin’ dollars for a record.
The Flatliners‘ latest album New Ruin makes its third(?) Record Radar appearance! The band has announced test pressings of the LP (limited to 15 copies! and it has some cool alternate cover art) will be on sale at Dine Alone Records‘ storefront in Toronto on Record Store Day Black Friday. More info here on how you can acquire one of these in exchange for Canadian dollars.
Speaking of Record Store Day Black Friday… have you heard Red Scare is reissuing Masked Intruder‘s debut album? Well, they are! And the only place you (maybe) can get a copy is your local record store on Black Friday (November 25th). The label usually throws a handful of copies of their RSD releases up on their webstore, too, but you didn’t hear that from me ?
As I’m writing this, the Old Wives just announced a new record! Mega Low Maniac, the Edmonton punk band’s first album in five years, is due out in early December on Rad Girlfriend Records. Check out the first single “Me & Jack” below and go here to grab the LP.
Bringing up the rear on this week’s Record Radar is Neck Deep, with a reissue of 2014’s Wishful Thinking. Brooklyn Vegan, Newbury Comics, and Zia Records all have their own exclusive color variants of this one and they’re all ultra-limited and pretty and yada yada yada blah blah blah.
RECORD OF THE WEEK!
We here at Dying Scene are all about trying new things, so this week I’m challenging you, loyal reader, to listen to something new! This week’s Record of the Week comes from our friends at Punk Rock Radar (no affiliation with the Record Radar ?) and Cat’s Claw Records. It’s a fucking awesome Split LP from Lookit, Martians! and The Cheap Pops. If you enjoy 90’s pop-punk even half as much as I do, this shit’s right up your alley. Check it out below, and pre-order the LP here (US) or here (EU).
And that’s all, folks! Another Record Radar in the books. As always, thank you for tuning in. If there’s anything we missed (highly likely), or if you want to let everyone know about a new/upcoming vinyl release you’re excited about, send us a message on Facebook or Instagram, and we’ll look into it. Enjoy your weekend, and don’t blow too much money on spinny discs. See ya next week!
*Wanna catch up on all of our Record Radar posts? Type “Record Radar” in the search bar at the top of the page!
Welcome to the first installment of the Dying Scene Record Radar! This is a weekly round up of all things punk rock vinyl. We’ll be highlighting new releases to look out for, as well as all those ultra limited reissues that get the collector nerds’ hearts racing. So, let’s get into it… Kicking things off, […]
Welcome to the first installment of the Dying Scene Record Radar! This is a weekly round up of all things punk rock vinyl. We’ll be highlighting new releases to look out for, as well as all those ultra limited reissues that get the collector nerds’ hearts racing. So, let’s get into it…
Kicking things off, New Found Glory! Back in April they released a 20th anniversary reissue of Sticks and Stones. Well, that shit sold out really quick, so they’re doing a second pressing of the reissue, limited to 2,000 copies. Go here this Friday, July 1st at Noon Eastern time to get your hands on it. Or wait ’til they sell out again and pay some clown $100 for it on Discogs.
Bad Religion is also reissuing two of their classic albums. Up first is Generator getting a 30th anniversary reissue. There are different variants for the US, UK, and Australia. Links to order all of those can be found here.
2002’s The Process of Belief is also getting the same reissue treatment for its 20th birthday. This one was announced a few weeks ago but there’s still plenty available. Links to order those are here.
Up next on the reissue train is the best band to name themselves after a Frenzal Rhomb song, Local Resident Failure, with the 10th anniversary reissue of their debut album A Breath of Stale Air. The variants are quite pretty! Americans and Canadians can get it here, Europeans here, and Aussies right here. And you can listen to it, right here! ∨∨∨
Now, here’s something that’s sure to ruffle some feathers: Walmart’s Exclusive pressings of Green Day‘s Dookie, American Idiot, and International Superhits. “Green Day? Walmart? That’s not punk!” No fucking shit, but who really cares? Sure the Waltons are one of the most despised families in America and they don’t need any more of your money, but look at the pretty colors! Help fund Billie Joe’s move to the UK, I’m sure he could really use the money.
The Bouncing Souls‘ self-titled record turns 25 this year, so they’re celebrating with four colorful polyvinyl chloride discs. Links to get all the different variants can be found here. East coast! Fuck you!
More reissues! Keith Morris’ OFF! is offering up new pressings of their back catalog, including the stellar First Four EPs, which is now available as a 12″ LP for the first time. These records kick ass. Buy, buy, buy.
Hey, here’s some new music! Screeching Weasel has a new record coming out on July 15th. It’s called The Awful Disclosures of Screeching Weasel. The LP is pricey at $30, but the two songs Mr. Weasel has put up for streaming have been good (stream below), and I enjoyed their last album a lot. Americans can pre-order here, and Europeans can get it here.
Skate punk veterans Cigar have stepped out of a time machine from 1999 to release their sophomore album. The Visitor is due out on September 9th through Fat Wreck Chords. Colored variants are long sold out, but I urge all self respecting skate punk fans to grab it on black wax here in America, here in Europe, and here in Australia. Listen to the debut single while you order!
1-2-3-4 Go! Records has spent the last year reissuing the entire Pinhead Gunpowder discography. The latest installment includes the Shoot the Moon LP (my personal favorite) and 8 Chords, 328 Words 7″. Everything in this series has been Grade A quality, and these reissues are a lot more affordable than original pressings of these records. You can get your hands on these here.
Pop-punk tastemakers Eccentric Pop Records have a bunch of new stuff up on their webstore. For the ridiculously low price of $16 (seriously Travis, how can you sell shit this cheap?!), you can get your hands on Dan Vapid and the Cheats‘ new LP Escape Velocity (listen below), and a new prepress of Horror Section’s long out of print self-titled record. Support a great label and add some awesome records to your collection!
Here’s a highly recommended pickup for those who worship at the altar of Joey Ramone. The Budweisers are a fantastic pop-punk band from Spain, and their new record Look Out Below is great! Plenty of fan service here for everyone who longs for the days when Lookout! Records ruled the pop-punk universe. Monster Zero has it up for pre-order now.
Target joins the “big box store reissuing classic punk albums” party with an exclusive 40th anniversary pressing of The Clash‘s Combat Rock on red vinyl. I grabbed this from my local Target a few weeks ago, and it sounds fantastic. I even signed up for the Red Card and saved 5% – what a deal! I love this record. “Rock the Casbah” is one of mankind’s greatest achievements. There’s a UK pressing on green vinyl as well – you can get that one here.
And I think that oughta do it! There’s undoubtedly a lot of stuff I missed, but hey, shit happens. The world keeps spinning, and we live to see another day. Like I said earlier, these recaps of new colorful plastic discs to waste your money on should be a weekly thing, but I could use a little help. Is there a new record you think should be highlighted in next week’s Record Radar? Suggestions are welcome – send us a message on Facebook or Instagram and we’ll look into it!
Good day, fellow humanoid beings! Welcome to another installment in the Dying Scene Record Radar. If you’re new here, thank you for joining us! This column provides a weekly round up of all things punk rock vinyl. We highlight new releases, as well as all the ultra limited reissues that get the collector nerds’ palms […]
Good day, fellow humanoid beings! Welcome to another installment in the Dying Scene Record Radar. If you’re new here, thank you for joining us! This column provides a weekly round up of all things punk rock vinyl. We highlight new releases, as well as all the ultra limited reissues that get the collector nerds’ palms sweaty. Open up your wallets, fire up your Paypal account, and let’s get into it…
Fat Wreck Chords gets us started with an awesome full discography box set for the almighty No Use For A Name. Black Box includes 13 LPs and a bonus 7″, and for $275 this beast can be yours. Lots of pretty colors, lots of great tunes. Grab it here.
Hot Water Music has repressed their latest record Feel the Void. Three new splatter variants (each limited to 250 copies) are now available here. The yellow and red one is my favorite ?
SBÄM Records will be releasing California hardcore punksDead Fucking Last‘s 1997 album Grateful on vinyl for the first time. There are two variants, limited to 200 copies each. Grab it here.
Gogol Bordello has announced a new record! Solidaritine is due out on September 16th. You can listen to two songs from the album below, and pre-order the vinyl here (split blue/yellow), here (solid yellow), or here (yellow w/ blue splatter).
Sound Speed Records has a new release up pre-order. It’s the debut LP from Los Angeles melodic punk band Failing Up. Check the record out below, and buy it on vinyl here.
Hardcore punk supergroupDead Cross have announced their sophomore album II. For those who are unfamiliar, this band features Mike Patton (Mr. Bungle, Faith No More, etc.) and Slayer’s Dave Lombardo, among others. The record’s first single can be heard below. Links to pre-order all the different vinyl variants can be found here.
The good people at Pirates Press Records are having a summer sale! Tons of great records for very, very cheap. I’m talkin’ dirt cheap. Seriously, head over to their webstore and just look at how cheap this shit is!
Melodic hardcore vets Stretch Arm Strong are reissuing their 1999 LP Rituals of Life. There are a bunch of variants for this one, but Revelation Records seems to be the only place that still has any in stock. Hit up their store to get it on yellow vinyl.
Independent record store chain Zia Records has announced a new exclusive pressing of Millencolin‘s classic Pennybridge Pioneers. It’s limited to 300 copies, so act fast and grab it here.
Modern Baseball‘s 2016 LP Holy Ghost has been repressed. This one’s also limited to 300 copies on “olive green smoke” vinyl. It’s also a Zia Records exclusive, so if you want it, that’s the only place you’re gonna get it!
Now, for the segment where I show you what records I got this week! I’m putting my collection’s expansion on hold for a bit. Rent’s going up fucking 18% and having shelter is slightly more important than collecting colorful music discs. But I did get some stuff I ordered a while ago in the mail, including 1-2-3-4 Go! Records‘ reissue of my favorite Pinhead Gunpowder record Shoot the Moon, and an awesome repress of Satanic Surfers‘ skate punk classic Hero Of Our Time from Chase the Glory Records. Both of these look and sound fantastic, and will be in my regular rotation for a bit.
Time for me to get outta here! I’ve got places to go and people to meet (not really, but you get the point). Anyway, I’m sure there’s some stuff I missed, but hey, nobody’s perfect. As always, I need your help to make these weekly recaps of new colorful plastic discs to waste your money on. So if there’s a new record you think should be highlighted in the column’s next installment, send us a message on Facebook or Instagram, and we’ll look into it. Thanks again for tuning in to the Dying Scene Record Radar. See ya next week!
Howdy comrades! As you know, we’re fired up to have turned the lights back on at Dying Scene Headquarters earlier this year. It’s been fun cleaning out the cobwebs and dusting off the bookshelves and trying to restore the place to its former glory. As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of the old content is […]
Howdy comrades! As you know, we’re fired up to have turned the lights back on at Dying Scene Headquarters earlier this year. It’s been fun cleaning out the cobwebs and dusting off the bookshelves and trying to restore the place to its former glory. As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of the old content is still in the Archive, but it doesn’t look right. Missing photos, outdated hyperlinks, etc. So, when we’re so inclined, we’re going to freshen up some of the old content that seems good enough to share. And with that, here’s the second installment of the From The Dying Scene Vault. It’s a story that originally ran 2/5/18, which was the tenth anniversary of the release date of The Loved Ones’ sophomore album, Build & Burn. The band did a pretty great 10th-anniversary tour for their debut album, Keep Your Heart, but this was about the extent of the coverage of the anniversary of Build & Burn, my personal favorite Loved Ones record. I’m really proud of how this came out, and I’m still super grateful I had the opportunity to do it.
When The Loved Ones released their debut full-length album, Keep Your Heart, in early 2006, it seemed at the time to be a welcome bit of fresh air in the punk scene. Here was a new band that, though its members were known entities in the punk rock scene, seemed to transcend any specific label; a bouncy, East Coast sound run through a West Coast, Fat Wreck Chords filter. The album was an opening salvo from a band that seemed destined for a lengthy and blindingly bright future. Inspired (for lack of a better word, because that honestly feels like the wrong word to use) by the death of frontman Dave Hause’s mother a few years prior, the baker’s dozen tracks on Keep Your Heart found the Philadelphia-based trio (Mike Sneeringer on drums, Michael “Spider” Cotterman on bass) nearly perfecting a high-octane, melodic punk rock sound that was all their own right out of the gate. The album was nearly universally well-received by critics, fans and fellow bands alike, and set a trajectory for the band that seemed, on paper, to trend infinitely upward.
On the surface, things seemed to be heading in a positive direction in the Loved Ones camp, but there was tension in the ranks. By the time they were ready to record a follow-up to Keep Your Heart, Spider had left the band and the relationship between Hause and Sneeringer was tenuous at best. Touring guitar player David Walsh was brought in as a permanent member, as was Chris Gonzalez, Walsh’s former bandmate in Boston-area punk band The Explosion after that band itself went belly up. The situation was unsteady, but the new lineup had displayed a great deal of chemistry on the road. With that and the momentum from Keep Your Heart still providing wind in their sails, the band teamed up with Bouncing Souls’ Pete Steinkopf and Bryan Kienlen to get to work on a new album that would find the band branching in different directions while trying to not abandon their punk rock roots.
The end product, Build & Burn, was released ten years ago today (February 5, 2008). Backed by a rock-solid rhythm section, the album maintained many of the melody-rich, uptempo punk rock sounds that made its predecessor so beloved. But the album also stretched in a variety of musical directions that, at the time, didn’t immediately resonate with fans in the same coherent way that Keep Your Heart had. Layers of added texture and an increased desire to tap into some broader musical influences, from Foo Fighter-esque radio-ready rockers to mid-90s radio alternative Lemonheads grooves to Oasis-style stadium anthems made for an enjoyable and challenging listening experience to the punk rock ear. In retrospect, the album very much finds not only the band and its members – collectively and individually – at a crossroads, but came at a time in which the scene and the music industry and the nation were very much the same place.
The band aimed high, and while opinions may vary as to how successful they were (yours truly thinks it’s the superior, more relatable Loved Ones full-length), it’s undeniable that they built a bridge to what was to come for its members. To mark the album’s tenth birthday, Dying Scene caught up with its main players – Dave Hause, Mike Sneeringer, David Walsh, Chris Gonzalez, Pete Steinkopf and Bryan Kienlen – to dig deep into the closets and talk about the build up, and subsequent burn out, that produced this misunderstood gem. Check out our two-part story (The Build and The Burn) and track-by-track revisit below!
Crafting A Sophomore Album
The Loved Ones initially came together as a band in mid-2003. The three members that comprised the initial lineup – Dave Hause on guitar and vocals, Michael “Spider” Cotterman on bass and Mike Sneeringer on drums – were veterans of noted punk and hardcore bands like Paint It Black, Trial By Fire, The Curse and Kid Dynamite. The newly formed band ascended in relative short order; a self-released demo in 2004 and a self-titled EP released on Jade Tree Records in early 2005 helped bring them shows offering support for high-profile bands including The Bouncing souls and NOFX. This, in turn, led to the trio signing with Fat Wreck Chords for the release of their debut full-length. Entitled Keep Your Heart, the album hit the streets in February 2006 and set the bar high for the band right out of the gate. In large part, the album centered on first-time frontman Hause processing the death of his mother a few years prior. The album’s raw, punchy sound and deeply personal lyrics were instantly accessible to a wide audience, and remain an intensely visceral listening experience.
As is perhaps to be expected in a group of opinionated, headstrong late-20s males touring the world in a van, there was some level of tension within the ranks almost from the start. “Aspects of the band were tumultuous the entire time. It was a weird combination of personalities,” explains Sneeringer. “Dave (Hause) and I are both really stubborn, and that’s not a good trait to have when you’re trying to help operate a band at a level where the expectations are super high,” he elaborates, while acknowledging that it’s a story shared by countless other bands throughout the annals of music history. In spite of the personality differences, the band’s increase in popularity lead to increased opportunities to keep the show on the road. Though The Loved Ones initially toured as a three-piece, they would eventually recruit David Walsh, founding guitarist of Boston-area punk band The Explosion to play second guitar on the road. The Explosion were still technically a band at that point, but were in a period of inactivity, freeing Walsh up to help The Loved Ones beef up their live sound. This particular lineup would not last, however, as Spider Cotterman would officially relinquish his role as bass player before long.
Coincidentally, The Explosion’s hiatus would become an official parting of the ways around the time that Spider departed The Loved Ones. This led not only to Walsh joining the Loved Ones on a full-time basis, but to his recruiting one of his Explosion bandmates into the fold. “(Hause) told me Spider was leaving the band and we needed a bass player,” says Walsh. “I was telling Chris Gonzalez, who was the second guitar player in The Explosion. He wasn’t doing anything and he still wanted to tour, so I had him call Dave.” Though he had been a guitar player since the age of thirteen, Gonzalez had only recently begun to play the bass, primarily for purposes of recording some of the songwriting ideas that he’d been working on individually. That, coupled with a desire to continue touring as a musician, led to a fairly easy decision.
And so it was that The Loved Ones not only dodged the bullet that comes along anytime a founding member departs, but had reformed as an official four-piece, absorbing two members from a band that they considered family. “Talk about a brother band,” Sneeringer explains. “The Explosion had to be probably the ultimate in a sea of bands that we were really tight with – Strike Anywhere, Dead To Me. A lot of those bands we considered like brother bands, but The Explosion was something much deeper. To have the ability to have some of those guys be immediately available when we needed them was unbelievably exciting.”
The newly-minted foursome took a collaborative approach to songwriting when it came time to woodshed material for what would become Build & Burn. Walsh sheds some light on the process: “We started doing some demos; I was living in New York at the time and Chris (Gonzalez) and I would go down and hang out with Dave and we would bang around some ideas and we started writing that way.” The band had obviously achieved a modicum of success, and were mindful of the ever-present threat of the sophomore slump. “Keep Your Heart did pretty well,” says Sneeringer. “We had ascended, not to super-stardom like maybe we thought we were going to, but we had only climbed at that point. We had a lot of pressure and expectation, but at the same time, it’s very punk to feel that pressure and expectation and to go ‘fuck you guys, we’re going to make this weird record.’”
In addition to working on new music, the band stayed busy on the road. One of the early tours that the Hause-Sneeringer-Walsh-Gonzalez lineup embarked on was an extensive run across the length of the Great White North. “We did one full tour that was The Loved Ones, Strike Anywhere and Bouncing Souls through Canada,” explains Walsh. While on that tour, the foursome would be allowed the opportunity not only bounce ideas around with each other, but with the duo that would be charged with recording the follow up to Keep Your Heart: the Bouncing Souls’ Pete Steinkopf and Bryan Kienlen.
Reading this article in 2018, you’re no-doubt aware of how highly regarded Steinkopf and Kienlen have become not only as musicians but for their parts in crafting great sounding albums. Both have been instrumental to the development of the Bouncing Souls’ sound, and Steinkopf has established a career as a well-respected producer who’s been at the helm of albums for artists like Lenny Lashley, The Menzingers, Plow United, Northcote and Brian Fallon. In 2007, however, the only music Steinkopf or Kienlen had had a part in producing was their own. “Pete and I were super hands-on with How I Spent My Summer Vacation and Anchors Aweigh, those two in particular,” explains Kienlen. “It was me, Pete and John Seymour, every detail, over-the-top anally on those records at that point. (Dave Hause) liked the sound of those records.”
This move would not only be a noteworthy departure from their previous music-making process. Brian McTernan had not only been the producer at the helm of Keep Your Heart, but had worked with various members of the bands at different points in their respective careers, producing material for both Trial By Fire and The Explosion. “It was a tumultuous time,” recalls Sneeringer. “We parted from our so-called normal mode of working with Brian McTernan. That had been our previous bands too, when I was in Trial By Fire, we had recorded with Brian McTernan, and we decided we wanted to do it a different way.”
Though the second full-length Loved Ones album would still technically be the first Loved Ones album for half the band, the two remaining founding members were consciously mindful of the aforementioned sophomore slump. “I remember us talking, jokingly, about a difficult second record before we made it,” explains Sneeringer. “We would study other bands and the trajectory of their careers very closely and pay a lot of attention. We were talking about the juxtaposition between the pressure of your second full-length when your first full-length has done well and how many bands that we could think of that had difficult second records. I think (Hause) and I respected that as part of a process, where you want to push it a little and see what you’re capable of, and then maybe after having gone and explored that new territory, return to what you know best with a different perspective. I think that was somewhat calculated.”
“I think what we were trying to do was something different overall. We were trying to push away from just doing the same thing,” says Sneeringer. “I think a lot of people wanted us to make Keep Your Heart 2, which of course I understand from a fan’s perspective, but from a band perspective, especially with the new blood of Chris Gonzalez and Dave Walsh, the idea of taking the known and seeing if we could push it a little bit farther and make some kind of weird songs and use some of our other influences. As much as we love punk and hardcore and that scene, especially Dave and I listened to a lot of country and folk and indie-rock songwriter kind of stuff.”
Pre-production for the new material largely took place at what is now known as Little Eden Studio in Asbury Park, New Jersey, but was really known at the time as Kate Hiltz’s basement. Hiltz, the Bouncing Souls longtime “manager/promoter/den mother,” owned a Victorian house that had become the Souls’ crash pad/practice spot/etc. As Sneeringer tells it, “we sort of camped in Asbury Park at Kate (Hiltz), the manager of Bouncing Souls’ house, which is now a studio called Little Eden – we basically built that basement into a studio which is still used with the money that we got from the advance. We bought a lot of gear, a computer, monitors. We did basically pre-production there.”
Once pre-production wrapped, the gang moved north to New York City to lay down rhythm tracks at The Wild Arctic Studio in Queens. This marked Gonzalez first time playing his new instrument on record, and he took his task seriously. “It was the first album I had recorded bass for,” he recalls. “I had so much respect for Spider and his playing and I really wanted to honor that. I wanted it to be something where people didn’t necessarily notice that he wasn’t there, but at the same time make it my own. That was an interesting puzzle to fit into.” Helping to ease Gonzalez into this new role was the fact that Sneeringer was a joy to play with. “Being able to play bass with Mike couldn’t get better,” says Gonzalez. “He’s such a good drummer, and to be able to play bass with someone like that was a perfect mix. It was so fun. I do actually miss that; listening to the album got me wishing I could play bass with Mike again. Getting to do that every night was such a great feeling.”
Sneeringer, for his part, made sure that his drum responsibilities were buttoned up heading into the studio. Perhaps too buttoned up. “I practiced SO much before the recording process that I actually hurt my wrist,” he recalls. “I remember the two days before we went into the studio, I became obsessed with being prepared. I played like six or eight hours straight two days in a row at full volume and tempo and basically hurt myself. I was taking four Advil every couple hours.”
Bum wrist aside, the Wild Arctic portion of the recording process went swimmingly by all accounts. “That was a great studio. I felt really positive about my drum tracking” explains Sneeringer. “When we got (to Wild Arctic) it was basically Chris Gonzalez and I and Bob Strakele getting sounds. Maybe Pete and Bryan were there, (but) Dave wasn’t there yet. And there are a couple songs on Build And Burn that I played literally with no accompaniment, and that was the track we used. And this is not meant to be braggadocio or anything, but there are at least three songs that are first take on that record. I had ultra-prepared to where I could play the songs with no help. It was whatever I tackled first, because Dave wasn’t even there, and I said ‘well just run the click and I’ll run through the song so we can hear how the drums sound,’ and that’s the take that we ended up using.”
In addition to rhythm tracks, the band also had a few influential friends stop by the studio to lend their respective talents to the album. Tad Kubler, lead guitar player for Minneapolis-turned-New York City rock band The Hold Steady, popped in and blistered through a breakneck solo that would appear on the song “Louisiana.” “Tad nailed a solo that I could never play live. I’m just not that kind of guitar player,” states Walsh. “I’m more of a rhythmic player, so when it came time for “Louisiana,” I could never play that solo. I kinda had to tell them – and they knew, too – that I wasn’t that kind of guitar player that could play like that, you know what I mean? It’s funny when you have something like that on the album, it’s funny to try to live up to it live.” The multi-instrumental virtuoso Franz Nicolay, himself also of The Hold Steady at the time, also hung out and added layer upon layer of sound to the mix, playing keys and organ and accordion and harmonica and various other percussive devices.
Once things were wrapped up in Queens, the crew moved back to Asbury for what was basically a month-long hanging and recording session at Little Eden. The vibe was pretty laid back, and that was at least partially by design. “(Little Eden) was the Bouncing Souls jam room, and Pete started buying gear to retro-fit a studio there,” says Kienlen. “(Pete and I) fine-tuned our ears and got a lot of experience in there and knew our way around. We had developed a specific aesthetic for guitars and sounds and levels and everything. And we’re family with Dave (Hause). We lived in the truck together for five years, give or take,” a specific nod to Hause’s time spent on the Souls’ road crew. Steinkopf adds: “It wasn’t really any different from being in a band. We were all sitting around playing guitars together and working on songs together. We had been friends with Dave for a long time, we had done a ton of touring with The Loved Ones, and half of that lineup used to be in The Explosion, and we had done a ton of touring with them too. We would have all been hanging out whether or not we were making a record.”
And while the vibe was as laid back as a large group of good buds hanging out and making music together could be, it wasn’t without its own very real undercurrent of potential stress for the artists and producers alike. The Loved Ones had to follow up their successful debut, and Kienlen and Steinkopf had to take seriously the idea of branching out and producing an album for another band in a studio that hadn’t quite come together yet. Steinkopf especially had been toying with the idea of building Kate’s basement out into a working studio; this process helped pull the proverbial Band-Aid off. “I was kind of planning on doing it but there was really no rush. This kind of put a little bit of a fire under my ass to get it set up enough to do something with,” explains Steinkopf. “Dave (Hause) was just like ‘let’s do it in there!’ and I’m like ‘well, we don’t really have any idea what we’re doing at all!’ Luckily our sound man, Bob Strakele, really ran the ship and made the whole thing happen. He was the hero of that record.”
It’s worth noting that the Asbury Park that Build & Burn was recorded in was a tough and gritty place, far different from the Asbury Park that you’ll find circa 2018 thanks in large part to the ongoing gentrification process that’s claimed the life of so many working class neighborhoods and divey music venues. Setting up shop at a venue like Little Eden provided the assembled crew with some of the creature comforts of home, and some rather hair-raising experiences to go along. “Kate’s house is right down the street from the Asbury Lanes – rest in peace,” explains Kienlen. “We would work in the basement all day, then we would walk up to the Lanes. Asbury Park was different back then, and I remember definitely getting fucked with.”
Perhaps chief among the more hair-raising incidents experienced during that month in Asbury was the night that engineer Bob Strakele got held up at gunpoint during one of the group’s nightly three-block walks to the Lanes. “He was only a few paces behind us,” says Kienlen. “Maybe half-a-block. And we got to the Lanes and we’re standing on the back steps and Bob’s getting held up right behind this mini school bus, ten or twenty yards behind us, only we couldn’t see him because he’s behind the bus!” Steinkopf offers his own take on the event: “We would record during the day, drink a bunch of booze at the studio, then slowly make our way to the Lanes. It was fall, so it was still nice out. One night Bob had to stay and I think backup some files. We were all already at the Lanes, carrying on outside in the smoking area, and we heard Bob kinda say “oh no!” and then he showed up and said “I got fucking mugged at gunpoint!” It was right within earshot of us, but he was behind a van. The guys got him at gunpoint and got his phone and his wallet and all his crap.”
Of course, no month-long Asbury Park music experience would be complete without a requisite Bruce Springsteen story. Not only had The Boss recently used Kienlen’s custom-built Harley Davidson for a photo shoot (see above) with legendary Asbury-based photographer Danny Clinch, but he and the E Street Band were in town for the month, rehearsing for an upcoming tour at the Asbury Park Convention Hall. Kienlen ran into Springsteen himself in the VIP area at a Dropkick Murphys, and took the chance to fulfill his producerly duties and try to reel in the biggest of big fish to sing on the album. “I had both a reason to talk to him and an opportunity to talk to him, “he explains. “I’m like “oh, hey, I’m the owner of the bike that you did the photo shoot on!” And he said “oh yeah, that’s great! How you doing, I know the Bouncing Souls!” And I’m like “that’s great!” and I’m having this cool moment. And I could have said anything I wanted, and I took my big opportunity to talk to the fucking Boss and I was like “I’m making a record with this band The Loved Ones and we have this kind of Gospel song and we would love if you would sing on it.” I could have said anything, I could have said something about the Bouncing Souls, and instead I punished the guy by asking him to sing on a record I was making!” (As an aside, here’s a video of various members of the Loved Ones recording crew trying to lay eyes on Springsteen during this time, affectionately known as “Stalking The Boss.”)
By the end of the recording session at Little Eden, there was the sense that the band and the crew who came together for the experience had crafted something different, and something special. “I remember being super excited about (the whole process),” Gonzalez notes. “I remember being super excited to finish it. I remember Pete and Bryan and Bob were all really excited. It felt like we had accomplished something.” “It was a good learning experience for everybody involved,” adds Kienlen. “They’re great songwriters. That record’s got Dave Walsh writing, it’s got everybody’s skill. It’s one of those perfect moments when a bunch of creative minds create something bigger than any one person. That’s how I think of that record. It was a really fun experience to play that role, and to kinda sit back and let those guys run the show.”
The band had set out to explore new musical territory, and unquestionably succeeded. “We had to do it. We had to make that record, or we would have just wondered,” opines Sneeringer. “We would have thought it would have been a Wilco-esque opus if we never made it. The way you think of things and the way they come out is not always the same, and that’s fine, that’s most of life. With the way we were feeling at the time, we had to make a record that was different than Keep Your Heart. That’s unequivocal.” The ten songs that would emerge in the form of Build & Burn were rooted in punk rock and collectively told a compelling story that, in some ways, is uniquely American. It’s a story of creation and destruction, of building things up on one side and burning them down on the other. It’s also a story that would prove to be steeped in foreshadowing.
Build & Burn – The Band Goes Track-by-Track (Editor’s note: The song names double as links to the actual tracks. David Walsh and Mike Sneeringer provided commentary without having listened to the album in recent years. Hause and Gonzalez had both given the album recent spins when we spoke.)
“Pretty Good Year“ David Walsh: “Pretty Good Year” is a great one too. That’s a real “Loved Ones style” song. It’s real fast and dirty.
Mike Sneeringer: “Pretty Good Year” is probably my favorite (song from the album). And that has to do with some of the simplicity. To me, it was an extremely straight-forward song, very much like “Suture Self.” That’s why we started the album off with it, too, to ease people into the second record. The simplicity of it still sits well with me.
Chris Gonzalez: “Pretty Good Year” I think is great. Dave came to us with that song, and we thought “oh, yeah, this is a perfect song to start an album with. It’s got perfect energy. It’s a perfect transition (from Keep Your Heart) – here’s something new, but there’s a little bit of the old still there too.
Dave Hause: “Pretty Good Year” is a good song. I remember crafting it and being super proud of the lyric. I think the lyric is still really sturdy. In keeping with my favorite things that have happened with my writing, it’s up there with “Autism Vaccine Blues” or other songs that I think are successfully written. I don’t know if it’s delivered in a compelling way.
“The Inquirer” Walsh: I love “The Inquirer.” And that song in particular was a real collaborative song between Chris, Dave and I. I feel like the verse riff I wrote, the intro riff Chris wrote and Dave wrote the chorus, you know? I think Dave wrote all of the lyrics, but melody-wise we hashed that out together. That was definitely one of my favorites.
Sneeringer: I thought of it a very rock way, even though it’s a pretty punk song. The simplicity of the drum part, and I love Dave’s scream when he comes back in. It’s so from the depths. I remember him doing that, and I remember being in the studio when he tracked that, and thinking “how long is he going to scream? I can’t believe he’s able to do that!” That one, live, is soooo fun. No matter what was going on with a crowd, even for people that didn’t know it, you play that song and people just start moving around.
Gonzalez: My favorite songwriting process on the album was with “The Inquirer.” It was mostly Dave’s song, but the lyrics weren’t finished, and some of the parts weren’t fully arranged. Him and I really sat with that one and really carved it up. I really like the energy of that song. It’s really complete to me. “The Inquirer” is probably my favorite song from the album.
Hause: That song is a ripper. It’s kind of like our Foo Fighter-ode or something. We kept running into Fat Mike on that Keep Your Heart tour, and he kept saying “you need to experiment with weirder chords and weirder progressions. You guys and the Souls can write a hook, but you need more weird chords.” So with “The Inquirer,” that progression was from an Amy Winehouse chord progression; that descending thing in the verse was borne out of some weird motivation from Fat Mike and Amy Winehouse! That song is pretty cool; that scream in the middle of it is real. I always thought that people were going to assume that that was hacked together in ProTools, but that was weird. Some people hear it as cool, I hear it as a guy fucking melting down. That scream was my life at the time hitting a wall or something. That’s a good scream, but knowing what it was borne of is a little harder to wrap your head around!
“The Bridge” Walsh: “The Bridge” was always a real fun song to play. That one has a vibe of a real bouncy, not cock-rock in particular, but a real almost hip hop beat to it, you know what I mean? That’s a good riff. I believe Dave wrote that. That video was so fun; that was the most fun video ever.
Sneeringer: “The Bridge” is the one we picked as the single, and I remember Dave and I both saying after the fact that maybe we should have done “The Inquirer.” But I like that we did “The Bridge.” It was intentional, for us being like “this is different, this is not what you’re used to.”
Gonzalez: At the time when we were making the album, I think we were all feeling really good about it. It was just a little bit different. We did some shows way after the record came out and we brought the tempo back up, and I think we all kinda wished we had done it that way instead. It’s so easy to look back and cut it up and think what we could have done and should have done differently. I remember that we were in Kate’s basement writing it and arranging it and we were stuck on it. We kinda came up with that sort of Jackson 5 style bass part and shaped it from there. That was really fun. We were all pretty excited; Kienlen and Steinkopf were stoked.
Hause: I still don’t like the arrangement, but I didn’t hate it as much as I thought. I thought it was fine, I just wish it would have been a little straighter. I think that all of that bouncing around makes it a little more distracting than it should be. It could have been better served as a Social Distortion sort of thing. The lyrics are a little on the nose. I guess I hear that ambition thing in that song, where we were kinda putting the cart before the horse. We were like “we’re gonna be huge, so let’s write a song where we can comfortably be huge!” There are some good bits in there. Fat were behind it (as the single) but at one point they were getting feedback from people at radio stations saying that it reminded people of Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” song, and at that point they may have retreated a little.
Kienlen: I think (“The Bridge”) is my favorite song on there.The record version is so fucking good. Those spaces in that rhythm, and then when Gonzalez comes in with the sixteenths under it, it’s just beautiful, man.
“Sarah’s Game“ Walsh: “Sarah’s Game” is a cool song. That’s a song about a friend of ours at the time. (*laughs*)
Gonzalez: At the time, I wasn’t 100% blown away by it, but I didn’t dislike it. I enjoy it more now listening back to it.
Hause: “Sarah’s Game” was sort of an attempt at a “Jane”-esque jam. It was “alright, well, what worked about “Jane”? Like, if we took the formula that we used for “Jane,” and that song was just an honest outpouring, where it was me sitting with just a guitar and coming up with a song. “Sarah’s Game” was trying to recapture that and intellectually going about it. “Jane” was a story song, so this was a story song. “Jane” is in C#, so “Sarah’s Game” is in C#. We have it about the same tempo. The problem with “Jane” is the chorus – it doesn’t have a big enough chorus, so we’ll put this “whoa-oh-oh-oh” Bouncing Souls-esque thing in there that will make the chorus more catchy, then we’ll have “Jane 2.0,” only better. I didn’t really know my head from a whole in the ground at that point, but the magic of whatever happened with the transfer of energy on “Jane” is that it was an honest thing, it wasn’t calculated. If you have an accidental beautiful date with someone, and it all works out, the night is a magical night, chances are a year or two later if you try to do the same thing, go to the same restaurant, order the same food only this time with more red sauce or a bigger steak – chances are the magic of that night had nothing to do with those controllable details. Typically it’s about something else, a certain chemical thing or an intangible, and I think for whatever reason, “Sarah’s Game” lacks that intangible. People liked it, but I wondered at the time why at the end of a show people weren’t asking for that song, they were still asking for “Jane.” I was like “what do you mean? This is a better song!” In reality, it just wasn’t borne of magic.”
“Brittle Heart” Walsh: I wrote that song. That’s a good song. I feel like that song was inspired by The Hold Steady in a way. Maybe it’s the delivery of the vocals, it’s real storytelling like that. That’s about a friend of mine who went to jail. He’s out now, but it was a real hectic time for him and for me and for some people who were close to me. I think I pretty much wrote 90% of that one…I was going through a thing where my friend – he was actually my brother-in-law at the time, my ex-wife’s brother – was going to jail, and I was going through something with that. I came to the guys with it and said “this can be a Loved Ones song for the next album or I could just keep it for myself and do something solo with it.” But I remember them all being super into it, and because it had a different vibe. I think that Dave was looking for sort of cool little left field songs for this one.
Sneeringer: I really like that song. That’s a really cool song.
Gonzalez: I know that David Walsh was going through a lot of family stuff and it came out of that. I thought it was a good song (at the time), but it’s interesting – now I think it’s a great song. I’m really glad we did that. It definitely moves me more now. I can totally remember the lyrics and where he was coming from with it.
Hause: I like that song. David wrote that song about his brother-in-law. That’s a cool song, that sort of Lemonheads jangle. I think that we pulled that off. It sounds Gin Blossomy or something. It worked. It was a pretty fun jam and maybe should have been more of a focus. If we had arranged more of the record, I probably would enjoy it more. We chose to do him singing some and me singing some because it was more his song, so we did that volley as we wrote it. That song is looser and it doesn’t suffer from some of the same problems that I have with other songs.
Gonzalez: I just remember feeling like that was a little cringe-worthy. I don’t remember what we were going for, really. I was always upset about it because I wasn’t honest about it at the time and that drove me crazy.
Hause: “Selfish Masquerade” is such a kooky song. It’s so weird. It’s a little bit of a similar ambition, like “let’s write an Oasis song, what would Oasis do?” And while I can appreciate that ambition, at the same time, who gives a shit what Oasis would do? What would you do? I think there are ways to deliver that but have it be less jarring for our fans. On our own, we were playing punk rock venues – the Church basement (in Philly), or the Middle East (in Cambridge). So to have this sort of Reading Festival style rock ballad in the middle (of the album) is jarring! I like the song, but we didn’t need to do it that way. It could have been much more effective just on a piano. It was maybe too much too soon – and that’s the problem with going backwards, you can mix in what the response was to the record with how you actually feel about it and you don’t know which one starts where. But it’s sturdy. It could use a lyrical rewrite. It seems a little too eager to cash the royalty check…it kinda jumped for Oasis and ended up in like that weird mid-period of Aerosmith, which I really like. The very end has this swirling almost string thing that gave me a shiver – it made me laugh, like, “what the fuck is this? What were these kids thinking?” And I hate to be too critical because there are people who do connect with this record in a way, and maybe that part doesn’t bum them out. For me, the spots where we were trying to jump higher than we could are what stick out. (*editor’s note: The chorus and the bridge of this song absolutely nail the ‘Reading Festival’ analogy, but in an awesome way. I find this song to be a cross of the good parts of the Foo Fighters if they were writing their own version of Springsteen’s “Brilliant Disguise.” The sand castle reference is a perfect build/burn image. This the kookiness and grandiosity are why I dig it.)
“3rd Shift“ Hause:“3rd Shift” – that song came together pretty well. The person who that’s about, that’s chapter one of the person “C’Mon Kid” is about. I wrote that song about a friend who was struggling with addiction for years and years. It was so uncertain as to whether or not he would survive, so when he was doing better a year or two letter, I felt some level of guilt and like I needed to write a positive song. That sort of reminds me of that Against Me! song “Americans Abroad.” It’s got that gallop. I like the writing on that song. That came from an inspired burst and I can hear that still. It’s a cool moment on the record.
“Louisiana“ Walsh: “Louisiana” is a real fun song to play. That was Dave’s song, he wrote that entirely. I think he had seen a documentary about (Hurricane Katrina) and how they were really fucked over, so he got really inspired.
Gonzalez: The concept was so great initially. We talked about going to Louisiana and doing a video for it where we actually helped fix someone’s house. Any money we made off it would have gone to charity. It was this whole elaborate concept that, because of the way things fizzled out, we never got to do. We also wanted to get a choir to sing on it. Bryan and I, I remember, went to this one church right up the street, and they weren’t feeling it. I think we thought it would be easy, but it didn’t work out. They kinda told us to kick rocks. We were naive and excited, and I’m glad we tried.
Hause: The Hold Steady elements were amazing. That guitar solo is fucking awesome. Tad (Kubler) came in and did two, one was better than the next. He was in and out in twenty minutes and just fucking ripped that thing. That’s really a highlight. And all the elements that Franz (Nicolay) brought to that are really exciting and really cool and made for this strange little soup that we were going for. I think we should maybe have made it a stand-alone song, a single, somewhere in that record cycle later. It would have maybe been cool to do that as a standalone release with all of the proceeds going to Hurricane Katrina victims and have it be its own statement. I was watching that Spike Lee “When The Levees Broke” documentary. Build & Burn is a sort of concept record – with one hand you build, with the other hand you burn, and it sort of meets that criteria. It’s a building song in the most obvious sense of the word. But it felt a little out of place on the record. Then again, there’s a lot of stepchildren on that album that in a weird way form this cool little family. It was a really fun song to play live. But there are moments that are super cool. The song builds into quite a crescendo.
Kienlen: That song “Louisiana” – we had all these big ideas. We wanted to have a huge Gospel choir in there, so we walked around Kate’s neighborhood, where there’s four or five churches. At least a few of them are Baptist. So we thought that was what we needed, and that we’d just walk to those churches, and find the first person we saw there and tell them we were looking for a Gospel choir to sing on our record! And we were so sure this was going to work. We spent days doing it, and it was some weird, awkward conversations. We learned that most of the churches don’t have such a choir. It’s not like the movies where there’s this amazing choir with two dozen females with wonderful voices!
“Dear Laura“ Gonzalez: “Dear Laura” doesn’t really fit on there, thematically. I think it’s a cool song, but it doesn’t really fit with the rest of (the record).
Hause: “Dear Laura” sounds like a heavy metal song at this point. It sounds like us trying to do Strike Anywhere. It’s a cool song, the lyrics are interesting – it’s about Laura Bush. “Dear Laura” was a holdover from the Keep Your Heart sessions. It didn’t fit on Keep Your Heart and it probably doesn’t fit on Build & Burn either, but it was topical to the Bush Administration coming to an end that year. We were fed up with wars and family values being touted. You can kind of hear those guitar holdovers from Keep Your Heart, it’s riffier.
“I Swear“ Walsh: I think, I’m almost positive, that Chris Gonzalez wrote most of that song.
Sneeringer: I remember “I Swear” being the most challenging song. I felt like that was the most of us pushing people’s expectations away. I think it was written quickly, but it took a lot of work to get it down. I remember it being kind of confounding, just to get the feel, and I don’t even know if I ever mastered it. That’s a song that I’d love to re-record with my current level of musicianship. I feel like I could do it way better.
Gonzalez: That started with me and then Dave Hause and I bounced it back and forth a little bit. I remember we sat at the picnic table or out on the back porch trying to figure out what the hell we were writing.
Hause: I like that song a lot. I think it’s really cool. You can kinda hear where seeds of “Resolutions” are in there, especially that transition to the final part. “I’ll love you til the end” – I think that lyric is clever and cool. To some degree, all you can offer in any relationship is “I’ll love you til the end.” You hope that that means til the end of time, but really it just means until you can’t anymore. There was so much in there that was going on…almost everyone in that band and in that recording session except for one guy was in a long-term relationship that was about to break or had broken. There were multiple divorces and multiple breakups that were taking place over the course of that record being written and recorded and put out and toured on. I remember us sitting around the picnic table at Kate Hiltz’s and I didn’t have all the lyrics for that song. It was the last thing we had to do, and I had to be at a family function in Philly, so I had let every conceivable amount of time slide away on getting that song done. We were under the gun. If we wanted it on the record, we had to go out in the yard, finish the lyric, and come back in and sing it. I think in about an hour-and-a-half, we did that. We pretty much wrote it all out in an inspired burst and I went into the basement and sang it and it’s surprising how sturdy that one is, and how often I’ve had people ask to play that live in solo situations.
That song was a little bit of a goodbye to someone you love. Sometimes you have to burn shit down. I thought that song was great. That was one of my favorite moments going back. That one seemed compelling and successful, much more so than some of the ones that I thought would be more of that. I thought “Sarah’s Game” was going to hold up better on a repeat listen, and in the end “I Swear” was more of where my heart was. The lesson there, as a songwriter, is to go with your heart over your head. I wish we had put a keyboard part over that, but that’s a minor detail. It’s a similar sort of outro or finale to “Resolutions,” and that occurred to me listening back to it. “Resolutions” was made just a year or two later, and I didn’t realize that I was repeating that, and that was a trip to hear. I said “holy shit, I walked right back through these footsteps a year or two later and nobody called me on it!”
If you look at that lyric and try to imprint that on your relationship with your family, your actual wife or your actual child, to say to someone “if it all burns down, if it all just blows away, I swear I’ll love you til the end” – that’s not what human relationships need! They’re not built on “I’ll have a fondness for you until the end.” You let it burn down and blow away! I knew then that at some degree, the relationship that I was in was not going to stand the test of time. “I’ll always love you” is good in a movie or in a song, but that doesn’t mean that the relationship isn’t over. There’s shit that has to be done in an adult relationship that mostly is where love happens. It’s an action and not just a feeling. I remember finishing up and having this magic session, and it’s only happened a few times – “Meet Me At The Lanes” was like that, there was a song on Keep Your Heart like that, where it’s the last thing you do and it almost doesn’t make the record and it becomes this special moment. I remember racing back to make this family obligation, and I was an hour-and-a-half late, as I was for shit that I shouldn’t have been late for. And I remember arriving and saying “you’ll never believe what happened! We made an amazing love song!” And it was like “yeah, I don’t need a love song, I need you to be on time.” It was wrought with irony and layers. That song is one of my favorite Loved Ones moments. It was really cool being in that backyard and the combined wave that the five or six people at that table were able get that song up on and ride the wave to shore was pretty magical. That doesn’t come along every session.
If you’re not cynical, (the idea of having “I’ll love you ‘til the end” as the last line on any Loved Ones album) is special. Me personally, how I feel about that band, how I feel about that record and those people – we may not play together, but I’ll always love those guys. We went through hell and high water together. Divorces, addiction, tons of fun, tons of screwy (things), living like mid-twenties guys in our early thirties and abandoning tons of responsibilities to keep this rock and roll dream alive. It was fun as hell. It’s a cool bookend if that’s all we get.
A Few Final Thoughts: Hause (Upon listening to the album straight through for the first time in years): Overall, I think that that rhythm section was really good. I think that Mike’s drumming was great. I think that combined with Bryan Kienlen helping to produce and Chris Gonzalez being a guitar player that was playing bass made for a really cool rhythm section element to it that I had forgotten how much work they did and how cool that stuff was. David was really good in the studio; that kind of came back, a lot of the textures that he added and some of his ideas, more from a production standpoint.
The Aftermath Of The Album
The answer to the “what happened to The Loved Ones after Build & Burn?” question is a bit of a nuanced, multi-layered and largely unfair one. A changing fanbase, a changing musical landscape, continued interpersonal conflicts and the onset of medical issues each played a part in the story. Build & Burn officially reached shelves and download folders on February 5, 2008, and the band headed out on tour several days later with The Gaslight Anthem playing as direct support. They’d go on to play a bunch of headline shows throughout the year, in addition to supporting The Hold Steady on another run. They’d also switch roles with The Gaslight Anthem, offering support on a tour after the latter band’s breakthrough album, The ‘59 Sound, slingshotted them up the ranks of the rock and roll world. “With this record,” explains Walsh, “it opened us up to being with and touring with bands that were rock bands. It shed some of the punk thing, even though there are still some really punk songs on it.”
The broader soundscape that The Loved Ones were able to achieve in studio allowed the quartet to continue on an upward trajectory, albeit one that perhaps wasn’t as steep as it had been after Keep Your Heart. Their live show itself also continued to solidify the band as a force. “We had four real performers,” explains Hause. “We were picking the most compelling songs to play live from two records at that point, and we were a much more formidable live band.” They also continued their trend of attracting the admiration of bands that they were lucky enough to share the stage with. “When we started this band, every big band we play with would say things like “hey, remember us when you get huge!” remembers Sneeringer. “It’s great to believe in your band, but I think we started to believe everyone around us that they were right, that we were going to become big. That does a weird thing to your mind, and not a good thing when it comes to keeping your head on straight — especially partying the way we were.”
The Loved Ones would continue to play and continue to draw crowds as they had been after Keep Your Heart. But tension would still exist, and the band would eventually be forced to bail on a high profile direct support slot on a lengthy Dropkick Murphys tour (coincidentally, The Mahones had to bail on the same tour for visa-related reasons). The decision to cancel would be made only a month out from the start of the month-long run, and was prompted by some worsening medical issues that Mike Sneeringer had been experiencing for some time surrounding the use of his right leg. “I was having difficulty playing,” he explains, adding “I could play, but it was with extreme difficulty and drumming is supposed to be completely natural. I was really freaking out, and I decided I physically couldn’t do (the tour).”
Sneeringer would try altering his playing style and purchasing every make and model of kick pedal that he could find, assuming that those were related to his issues. Years later, he was diagnosed with a movement disorder known as focal dystonia, sometimes referred to as musicians dystonia or, in the sports world, the yips. “It’s a neurological pathway disorder where you’ve basically almost overused a neuro-pathway, and you’re starting to zone into neighboring neuro-pathways and your brain is getting confused. It’s like neurological carpal tunnel.” Sneeringer would eventually get back to the point that he was comfortable enough to try playing again, though his focal dystonia would remain a constant issue, even to this day in his post-Loved Ones projects. “We did a couple tours after that,” he recalls. “We did Australia, we did a tour with the Bouncing Souls and one tour with AFI, but after that, I had told them that hey, you should get another drummer.”
Instead of actively pursuing another drummer, the Loved Ones would instead take a hiatus after the album tour ran its course. “I feel like toward the end of the Build & Burn cycle, everyone was kind of like ‘enough already!’” remembers Walsh, adding that making the decision to continue plugging away on the road is difficult “especially if you don’t come back with a whole pile of money, and you can’t really pay your bills. Maybe it’s time to not do it as much as you had been.” Compounding the fact that money wasn’t exactly pouring in in spite of the band performing well and pushing their artistic boundaries was “the fact that we lived in a fucking box truck (on the road),” explains Gonzalez. The concept, reminiscent of the touring arrangements crafted by bands like Descendents and Bouncing Souls “was cute atfirst,” he points out, “but that shit wears out real quick. Dave and Mike built it out in the beginning and it was a cool way to save money and all that, but the tight quarters – and the wheels fell off at one point and we almost died. That didn’t help the situation.”
Perhaps there’s something tragically poetic, or at least eerily foreshadowing, about the wheels falling off the van while a band is on tour in support of what would become their last album, which was itself given a harbinger of a title in Build & Burn. Perhaps that’s the benefit of hindsight, however. “We were on tour with The Hold Steady, and we left Minneapolis to drive to Fargo,” recalls Gonzales. “I had just put Guns ‘N’ Roses on, and I was laying down in the bunk, totally hungover from Minneapolis, and all of a sudden it felt like we were up on top of another car on one side. We all looked out of our bunks and saw the wheels shot out in front of us. Our tour manager and driver at the time was able to pull us over to safety and we didn’t even crash. That was a mind fuck. All the grey hair I have was probably from that drive.”
Sneeringer sums up the period perhaps the most eloquently: Build & Burn was the start of a new era, and it was new territory for us, and it was honestly kinda hard to navigate. When you start a new chapter like that, unless you’re masochists, you’re starting it with hope because you want to believe that the steps you’re making are an improvement, and I feel like they were. Where we ended up was a really, really good place, but I think we didn’t know where to go from there. I think a lot of the external stresses and the external expectations and our own expectations hadn’t been fulfilled yet.
Because of the hiatus that followed Build & Burn tour, the album was never provided a follow-up album that would have given it, and the band, the appropriate context by continuing to flesh out some of those stylistic differences that made them more than your average punk rock band. There was talk of a third album at times over the years, though opinions vary on how that would have looked. “It’s one of those classic second albums for a band, where some people are only going to ever have a mindset of liking a band’s first album and can’t get on board for the second,” opines Walsh, although not without pointing out that those people will many times come back for album number three, once they themselves have matured along with the band. “We weren’t twenty-two year-old kids anymore. I mean, I love punk. I identify myself as a punk, I always will be a punk. But I like that varied taste and I like varied songs, and I think we were kind of all at that state.”
If you want glimpses on what may have been from a third Loved Ones record, listen to Dave Hause’s solo albums that followed the band’s hiatus – 2011’s Resolutions, 2013’s Devour, and last year’s Bury Me In Philly. In fact, go one step further and listen to those albums and then put Build & Burn on next in the rotation. What should become immediately evident was that even though Build & Burn was written collaboratively and triumphs because of it, the album very much sets the listener — and the band — up for a period of moving on. “You can see a lineage,” Sneeringer points out. “There’s a guy that’s at a fork in the road. Build & Burn captures him right after he made that decision at the fork, and his solo career is further down that road. I think if he were to do another Loved Ones record, we would find him back at that fork and seeing what would have happened if he took a right instead. Amped up, burners.”
Hause, for his part, tends to echo some of those sentiments. “It’s a document of something that was in transition,” he explains. “I think that one of the regrets that I have is being able to see that transition through as a band. You do kind of get that transition if you follow the songs that I made after that, but with the band, a third record would have tied a bow on it, and that would have been kind of nice.”
So here we are in 2018, still without that bow which, for all intents and purposes, may never get tied. “When you have this much time that’s gone by,” Sneeringer explains, “the record after a hiatus, in my opinion, has to be so mind-blowing that it justifies the beak. My feeling is that it would have to be the kind of record where everyone that had ever heard us would say ‘have you heard this new Loved Ones record? It’s insane! You HAVE to hear it!’ Anything less than that, I wouldn’t even want to put it out.” Which is not to say, of course, that the five-piece (Spider has rejoined the band on bass, moving Chris Gonzalez back to his natural position and creating a three-headed guitar monster when the band plays live, as they did on their Keep Your Heart tenth anniversary shows a couple years ago) aren’t capable of crafting an album full of mind-blowing moments, especially now that any and all damaged fences appear to have been mended, many of them stronger than ever. “I’m proud that those relationships are all intact and that there’s not animosity; that would drive me crazy,” Hause reflects. “I wouldn’t be able to look back on something like this if there was bad blood. It would be too painful. When you go through those painful things and you almost die together, in many different ways, whether it’s getting into super dangerous situations or doing too many drugs, or a wheel falling off your truck at 75 miles an hour and almost dying – we did a lot together that was death-defying and you’d hate to have an animosity left over that would make all of that not beautiful. That would make it almost not worth it.”
For now, we’re left with Build & Burn as a fitting bookend to The Loved Ones career, at least from a musical output standpoint. It does not contain the same sort of primal, visceral energy that drew – and continues to draw – so many to its predecessor, Keep Your Heart. But it does find four musical companions who were just starting to experiment, to test their limits as craftsmen without being afraid of failing or falling. They built up, and they eventually burned down and they moved forward in that process. And at the end of it all, we the fanbase, loved them ’til the end.
Long Distance is a melodic punk band from Newcastle, Australia. Their influences include No Pressure, Blink-182, Sum 41, New Found Glory, and Lifetime. They aim to capture the raw punk essence of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater era.
Florida pop-punk veterans New Found Glory slow things down with their new acoustic album Make the Most of It. Half of the 14 song LP’s tracklist consists of brand new tracks, and the other half features stripped down takes of classic NFG songs like “Understatement” and “My Friends Over You”.
Listen to the album below and buy it on vinyl, CD, or cassette here.
New Found Glory will be touring the US in support of Make the Most of It. All tour dates and info can be found on the band’s website.
New Found Glory have announced that they will be releasing a new acoustic album. It is called Make The Most of It and will be out January 20 via Revelation Records. The album features seven new tracks along with seven live acoustic versions of previously released songs. A portion of proceeds from sale of the album will be donated to The Pheo Para Alliance, a nonprofit organization that helps cancer patients and their families and works to advance research into treatments and cures for pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma. A video for their new song "Dream Born Again" has also been released. New Found Glory released their holiday album December's Here in 2021 and their album Forever And Ever x Infinity in 2020. Check out the video and tracklist below.
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