DS Exclusive:  Nick Woods (Direct Hit) discusses free downloads, the state of pop-punk and new record

DS Exclusive: Nick Woods (Direct Hit) discusses free downloads, the state of pop-punk and new record

Pop-punk has been a really hit and miss genre in the past 10 years and this is where this sentence leads into a bad pun.  Avoiding that, Direct Hit are a band churning out great quality pop-punks tunes, all for the benefit of the listener.  The four piece from Milwaukee have been operating in one form or another since 2007 and have already released 5 EPs that they made available for free download.  Nick Woods took time out from a busy schedule to talk to Dying Scene about what makes Direct Hit tick.

We talked about how Direct Hit came together, marketing music, the state of pop-punk today, their upcoming full length, the work/band balance and Ryan from Mixtapes.  You can read all about it here.

How did Direct Hit! come together?

I guess that depends what you mean, kinda. Direct Hit started as a band in 2007, but the lineup that most people know has only been together for a little over a year. At first, it was just sort of a thing my friends Jackson and Brian and I threw together because I’d written a few songs that my band then, The Box Social, didn’t want to play. The three of us were into the idea of writing just really easy, fast, brainless, 2-minute punk songs, but Brian and I were touring a lot and didn’t have the time to concentrate on two groups at the same time, so we just played one show, and figured we’d write new stuff and practice when we had the time. In the mean time though, Jackson moved away to Chicago, and so we had to get a new bass player. And after that, The Box Social broke up, so I moved back from Madison to Milwaukee to find a job, and Brian stayed behind.

After that, I think I played with 3 or 4 different drummers who all didn’t work out for one reason or another, so it was awesome when I met Danny at a Liarbirds show, and found out he didn’t really have a full-time band. So he and I started playing music together a couple months after that. Mike joined the following summer, and Jackson came back and played a few shows with us on bass before Danny asked Robbie to join too.

You gave away 5 EPs for free. How has this assisted in getting Direct Hit more widely known?

I don’t know that it really has to tell you the truth – If we were a bad band, I don’t think anybody would care whether we were giving our music out for free or not, because free shit is still shit. Like, if your mom is a bad cook, and gives you leftovers after Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll try a couple bites because she’s your mom, but most of that food isn’t going to get eaten, and you’re going to end up throwing it in the trash a week later. I think the same thing goes for music – Giving tunes away for free obviously makes it so that someone can decide whether they like your songs or not without having to give away any money. But I have yet to meet anyone who ends up liking a band more and telling their friends about it solely because that band gives their music away for free. In the end, that music still has to be good if people are going to care about it.

What lead to the decision to part with your music in this particular way?

Mainly laziness and selfishness to tell you the truth. Pressing records costs a lot of money, and originally, I was more concerned just with having copies of the songs I had written that sounded the way I wanted them to. I’m decidedly un-punk when it comes to recording music – I can’t listen to a record or a CD that sounds bad, production-wise. And while I’d agree that 80% of making a good-sounding recording comes from good musicians playing well-written songs that they’ve practiced a lot, it was and still is important to me that the other 20% – which comes from working with a good recording engineer in a good-sounding room with good equipment – is still there. That 20% is obviously a lot, lot more expensive cash-wise than the other 80%. And so I didn’t really have the money to pay for both recording the way I wanted to, and pressing something that wasn’t on a CDR. Having good recordings, for me at least, took major precedence over having copies of those recordings in a physical format that less and less people pay attention to every year.

In the end though, I still wanted other people to hear the songs, because I’m not one of those bedroom guys who reads Pitchfork for 4 hours every day and only writes music for himself – If people other than me weren’t into the tunes we were playing, I didn’t want to write them anymore. Since I couldn’t afford pressing, putting the songs up on the internet was the only way to go. I didn’t think it would be cool just posting them as streaming audio though, because I wanted people to be able to put the songs on their iPods so they could listen in their cars, and share them with their friends without a computer. I didn’t want to charge people for those downloads, because I didn’t think as many people would pay attention if there was a cost, and I didn’t want to have to worry about convincing people to spend their money. That didn’t seem fun. So offering our stuff for free was really the only way to go.

If you want me to wax philosophical though, I don’t like demanding money for MP3s because I don’t feel like they have any tangible value. Music, in and of itself, is only worth as much as the person listening to it thinks it’s worth, because it’s not an actual thing that someone can touch. If someone puts a value on music, and they’re honest with themselves about it, they’ll pay for it – I’ve seen that firsthand with people donating as much as they have to Direct Hit. We’re really, really grateful for it.

If money and the law weren’t a problem, how would you market Direct Hit?

Eh, I honestly don’t think much about that stuff man. If the tunes are good, I don’t think “marketing” is as big of a factor as people make it out to be – They’ll listen to you if you don’t suck, and if they don’t have to pay too much to do it. Marketing isn’t going to make someone who hates your music like it. If money wasn’t a factor, my entire “marketing strategy” would seriously just involve touring and recording all the time. That’s what I’m good at. I’m not all that awesome at meeting the right people, and I tend to piss most folks off when I meet them for the first time. So all we can do is to keep writing good songs, and making sure as many people as possible get the chance to hear them.

What are your thoughts on the state of pop-punk today?

That there are too many bands focused on “marketing,” and not enough on writing and playing good music that doesn’t sound like everyone else. I honestly believe that great songs find their own audience – More groups need to start taking that to heart. Work on your songs first, tour second, and then start thinking up new ideas when you can’t do anything else. If you’re doing it right though, the first two should take up 99% of your time.

What can Direct Hit fans expect from the full-length?

Better-sounding versions of stuff we’ve already released, played by people who are actually still in the band.

Who did you record it with and why?

We did it with Shane Olivo, who’s had a hand in every one of our releases so far. Shane’s totally awesome – He doesn’t bullshit any of us, and gives honest opinions on how stuff sounds. With every release we’ve done, he’s had new ideas for how to make the next one sound better. He also knows how Direct Hit works probably better than anyone else that’s not in the band, and we didn’t want to fuck with a good thing and go elsewhere.

How do you achieve balance with the band/work/school/social lives?

I guess that’s another one I don’t really think about… We kinda just do it. None of us holds any illusion that we’re going to be able to make a living playing music, so unfortunately, the band a lot of the time comes second to making sure we can pay the rent and fill the fridge. That’s why I’m in grad school, that’s why Danny works as an EMT, that’s why Robbie works construction, and that’s why Mike runs a pizza shop. Mike’s married, my girlfriend and I have been living together for almost four years – Both of us have responsibilities that take precedence over singing songs about zombies and aliens, and getting wasted every night. So that’s kind of where we start out on the whole “balancing act” thing.

All of that being said, playing in Direct Hit is probably the most fun part of my life. There isn’t much else I’d rather be doing than playing shows, writing new songs, recording music for people, making new friends, and partying every night. I’d go nuts if I didn’t have that kind of outlet. And I’ll gladly take David Geffen’s $1 million advance should he ever offer it to me. I’m not holding my breath though – It’s a lot more fun playing and writing awesome music when you don’t give a shit about that kind of thing.

What are three things that the world should know about Direct Hit?

(1) Danny on regular occasion goes without taking his shoes off for days at a time

(2) Robbie once offered on camera to stick his finger in a cat’s ass for $50

(3) Mike’s dog doesn’t give a shit about menstruating all over his couch once a month

How many punks does it take to change a light bulb?

Three. One to stand up on a chair to screw the new one in, another to pull chair out from under him, and another to go and post on the internet about how punk rock it was.

Any last words?

Ryan from Mixtapes loves ICP.

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