Of all of the bands newly signed to Fat Wreck Chords over the last half-dozen-or-so years, San Francisco’s Get Dead probably come the closest to exemplifying a perfect combination of the sound that launched the label and the direction that the scene is hopefully headed in. Elements of skate punk, ska punk, folk punk, rap punk (is that a thing?) and more combine to create a sound that is fresh, tight, and uniquely Get Dead, like the illegitimately conceived lovechild of Swingin’ Utters and The Falcon. Frontman Sam King has the type of raw, gravelly voice that lends instant credibility to the songs of despair and depravity and the underbelly of society about which he sings.
The Get Dead boys are in the midst of a busy couple of months that will find them on the road throughout the States and Europe pretty much through early-December. The newly-married King was kind enough to take a few minutes out of the band’s recent drive East from Nebraska to Missouri to talk about the band’s phenomenal new album, Honesty Lives Elsewhere, among many other topics. Check out our interview below, and head here to see where you can catch Get Dead on the road through the end of the year, including an upcoming three-week run with Guttermouth! While you’re at it, you can read our review of Honesty Lives Elsewhere here.
Dying Scene (Jay Stone): Where are you guys at today? Somewhere near St. Louis trending in this direction (Boston) right?
Sam King (Get Dead): Yeah, we just left Omaha, Nebraska. We stayed in St. Joe’s last night, so we’re about four hours outside of St. Louis and right now we’re on the freeway?
That has gotta get old, doesn’t it?
It’s only day four for us on a seventy-day run for us, so right now it’s pretty bearable. It’s going to get old, but right now it beats sitting at home working and shit.
This is the first time you guys have been out East in a while, isn’t it? I’m trying to remember the last time you guys were here.
Yeah, I think the last time we were out East was three years ago on the Fat Wreck Chords tour with everybody else. We’ve kinda been neglecting our own home country for a while, so we’re trying to make a conscious effort to get out and see some more stuff. Every show that we’ve played so far has been fucking awesome. We’ve gotten a great response and we’re having a good time.
I suppose having three years between shows in a location probably helps bring the kids out to a show, yeah? Because if you’re not around very often, you never know when Get Dead is going to come back.
Yeah, exactly. It might be another three years before we’re back! It’s cool, we’ve definitely had some people that showed up and told us how they’d been waiting for us to come, so it’s all good!
Why is that, though? Why is it that bands that are sort of on your level tend to go to Europe almost regularly or yearly and do pretty well there for a while, but they tour kinda territorially when they are back here?
I think one of the main reasons, especially if you are on the east coast or on the west coast, it’s pretty daunting; there’s a lot of dead areas when you’re driving through the States, and it’s really expensive to go through, whereas for the same price, you can go to Europe and the drives are relatively small. I mean..there’s really no fucking excuse. We should be out here playing these shows every few months, every three or four months at least. Three years is pretty fucking ridiculous. But I don’t know, it’s weird?
Well you figure, how many shows could you pack just in the distance between Omaha and St. Louis if you stayed in California, you know?
Oh yeah. If we were in California, a five-hour drive from where we live is like…LA. We go down to San Diego a lot. We’ve been going to Tijuana, and then from there you can go over to Vegas. You just have a West Coast loop. And I’m sure it’s the same on the East Coast too. I’m sure it’s the same reason that East Coast bands don’t really come west or hit the middle of the country that much. Like Wyoming or Nebraska…you really just can’t quick strike in those places, like “hey, this weekend we’re going to go to Wyoming from California.”
Yeah, right, you could probably pack a dozen shows in that kind of drive if you routed differently.
Exactly. We left San Francisco on Wednesday night at two in the morning and drove twenty-two hours straight to get to Wyoming. It’s daunting. Now, mind you, we could have routed our shit a little better and stopped in Denver or Salt Lake on our way out, but that just wasn’t in the cards this time around.
So, to jump right in, congratulations on the new album.
Honesty Lives Elsewhere from the moment I first put it on…well, I’ll put it this way; I liked Bad News a lot, and I think that this one blows it out of the water. I don’t know if you guys feel that way internally; I know a lot of bands say “this is the best thing we’ve ever done” for every new album, but I think that this is the best thing you’ve ever done.
Yeah, we’re super psyched on it. We took our time and tried to make it a group effort to make the best album that we could. With “Bad News,” if you followed Get Dead before that, we used a lot of tracks from our previous albums that weren’t released on that scale, so some of those songs that were on “Bad News” were four years old. It was kinda thrown together, and we made a few new songs. We were really happy to make a record with Fat Wreck Chords this time that was all new songs and that had a cohesive direction to it and stuff. We’re really psyched on it. It’s one of our favorite albums that any of us have ever made.
With Bad News, you said you threw part of it together from other releases. Was that the point? Like, was that the idea that Fat came to you with, or was there even talk of putting out a new new album back then?
Well back then, Fat Mike had heard some of our stuff and that’s why he got interested to begin with. They basically just took the tracks that they liked from our stuff and wanted to put it out. We had a couple 7-inches and an EP and stuff at the time, so when we got signed to Fat, we kind of just put it together and added a couple demos that they ended up releasing with it. With this one, we were just happy to be able make a full album from scratch with songs that aren’t at this point eight years old.
How long did it take this one to get together? Were you still writing when you went into the studio with Mike, or was this all stuff you had been kicking around for a bit?
We had been writing for like six or eight months, and we came to the table with a lot of songs. We had a lot of the foundations worked out, and like with any Get Dead record, we write a lot when we get into the studio, shifting shit around and coming up with ideas and cutting the fat off of shit. We did a lot of writing in the studio and a lot of writing out of the studio. It’s a process for sure…
If you’re writing or moving things around a lot in the studio, does that change how songs end up lyrically for you? From afar, you seem to put a lot of work into the lyrics, which has always been one of my favorite parts about Get Dead. How much does writing in the studio change that for you?
A lot of the lyrics, to be honest with you, get written in the studio. I don’t really have a journal or write at home or anything.
The boys write the songs when we get to the studio…the demos to the songs will have like the choruses, and then at band practice we’ll do demos where I’m mostly freestyling. Then, when we get into the studio, there’s obviously a topic or a barebones direction that we’re trying to go, and then a lot of it is written there. And it’s not just me. Everyone puts in their ten cents and we try to figure out how things are going to work and placement and all that. Honestly, a lot of the writing happens once we start recording.
Where does the name Honesty Lives Elsewhere come from? Again, one of the things I’ve always liked about the band is how incredibly honest the lyrics and the songs sound. So when that got announced as the album title, my first thought was “well, that’s kinda weird for them.”
Yeah, it’s a pretty funny name. I think the main thing we were going for was not a reflection of what we were writing about, but everything around us; the scene, the bullshit you deal with day to day. It’s getting harder and harder to find honest, real shit basically, you know what I mean. So “Honesty Lives Elsewhere” just means that in the world we’re living in right now, things don’t feel very genuine or honest. So that’s pretty much a semi-breakdown of what it means. Although, who the fuck knows, we might have just been drunk and throwing ideas around, I don’t know. (*both laugh*). But to me, that’s what “Honesty Lives Elsewhere” means. People need to reevaluate all the shit that’s going on around us right now. I mean, fucking take a look at it…Donald Trump is going to be our President…
(*both groan*) Don’t say that… (*both laugh*) Not that I’m a huge fan of the alternative, but my lord…
Yeah, we’re pretty fucked either way.
It’s like choosing between getting diagnosed with Type-II diabetes and getting diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. Like…one of them sucks but you can manage and deal with it; the other one’s going to fucking kill you.
Ha! Yeah, we were talking about that earlier today. Like, the downward spiral that we’re in. Like, the country voted for Obama, and he’s a really articulate, Presidential guy, you know what I mean? He’s well-spoken, no frills, no bullshit, at least on the surface. And then you look at what we’re doing right now and it’s a fucking circus.
How did we get here?!
Yeah, exactly. In eight years, how did this go down sooo far?
There’s a couple of songs that I wanted to ask you about. Like I said, I’ve been a fan for a while, but “She’s A Problem” and “Ordnance” are two of the best songs that I’ve heard this year and that’s by anybody, not just by Get Dead.
Oh thank you man, I appreciate that.
I think that “She’s A Problem” is a song that’s upbeat and catchy enough…like I was singing to myself in the kitchen at work the other day, and I was sorta singing it out loud, and then you get to the line about that she’s “using her mouth like an ATM card…” (*both laugh*) It sorta catches you off guard and you probably shouldn’t sing that out loud. I’m guessing that there’s a lot of honesty and truth and personal experience in the story behind that one.
Yeah, and it’s one of the songs that I get a lot of questions about. It is definitely about…somebody…I’ll just say “our” past. I’m trying not to out anybody, you know what I mean?
Yeah, I get you.
But there is a girl, and she was…it’s probably true that everybody has been in a relationship with that person before or dated that person before in one extreme or another, whether through drug addiction or through somebody being just crazy or whatever, you know what I mean? It’s just about being in to somebody and trying your hardest to stay it through and hopefully they change, but they never do. That’s human nature. Everybody’s done it. I mean, fuck, the relationships I’ve been in, I’ve probably done it four or five times.
You say you get a lot of questions about it…did you know when you wrote it that that was sort of a different level song, or one that was going to resonate differently than the other ones did?
No, no really. It’s weird. Everybody in the band, especially with this album, we all have our own favorite song or whatever, and it constantly morphs and changes and stuff like that. It always surprises me the songs that people gravitate towards. So it wasn’t necessarily like as we were writing it that I thought “oh shit, this is going to be a hit” or “this is what people are going to like.” You know? It just kind of happens. But it’s interesting to see and I like that. I like to see that different people have different ideas about music. That’s why we do it.
Did you have a song that was going to be “the one” that people would dig the most on this album?
Yeah, “Ordnance” and “Dyin’ Is Thirsty Work,” when we were in the studio writing that one, I was like “oh, this is one of my favorites.”
Yeah, “Ordnance,” and the way that song starts out you can first take it one way, and I think that listening to the reference to being literally in a foxhole and whatever…okay, so I grew up listening to Billy Joel as a kid through my parents, and that song “We’ll All Go Down Together” (editor’s note: it’s actually called “Goodnight Saigon,” and I have heard it a trillion times and literally only learned that when I just Googled it), how it’s all about fighting together in Viet Nam, and particularly the piano in that song…I was sort of left with a modern version of the same image. But then “Ordnance” turns and you realize you’re not singing about war at all; that it’s a metaphor for life…
Exactly. And I’ve gotten that before, because on Bad News we had “Look Mom,” which is actually a literal head nod to (life in the Army), where “Ordnance” has nothing to do with war or anything like that. It’s just about your own personal space. When things are going bad, you can either fucking hide or you can fucking get out and take things on the nose and confront life’s problems head on. Or you can be a little bitch and hide in the foxhole.
Well right. And maybe because of the timing and the overlap in real life things that I or other people might be going through, that song resonated in a way that a lot of songs haven’t, particularly the “pain is always needed to sever ties” line…that one hits right in the gut. (*both laugh, though sort of uncomfortably*)
Yeah, that’s a goosebumper.
Part of the reason I was driving when we texted earlier is that I had to travel like an hour to find a record store that actually had Honesty Lives Elsewhere in stock. I’ve been trying to find it since it came out. And the guy behind the counter, who was an obvious metalhead, said “what can you tell me about Get Dead, because I really like that album cover.” And I totally froze in trying to explain Get Dead and your sound. Do you get that a lot? People being confused about where the hell you actually fit into this whole landscape?
Yeah, I mean I could look back at the boys right now and we’ve been together ten years or something, and we’ve been asked that question a million times. Even just going around to family functions and shit, it’s like “oh, this is my grandson, he plays in a band.” And people say “oh, what do you guys sound like?” It’s like, “fuck, I don’t know.” In the quintessential meaning of punk rock, we’re not a punk band…I don’t know. I don’t know what the fuck to call it.
And don’t know either, and I feel like I’m supposed to know, I’ve been doing this shit long enough, so I’m surprised I totally froze. I said “ummm…they’re not really a punk band, but they’re definitely a punk band. They’re not a folk punk band, but I guess they could be at times a folk punk band…I don’t know.”
Yeah, and you know what? In the grand scheme of things, I love that so much. All the boys bring so much different musical shit, that we’ve never been ones to stick with a formula. Whatever comes out and sounds good, that’s what we try to do. If we’re feeling it, we’re gonna fucking play it; ska or punk rock or thrash or whatever.
Yeah, and like the rap-inspired vocals in a song like “Grandiose.” And I love that song, and it totally doesn’t sound like anything else, and not just by you but by anybody. Except maybe The Falcon…there might be a song on the new Falcon album that has a similar kind of vibe, but I don’t know what the hell to call The Falcon as a band either.
Oh man, I haven’t checked that out yet. I know the boys are really into it, everybody’s been saying really good things about that album…we just bought this van and the first CD that we put in was Western Settings. Fucking phenomenal band, that’s one of our favorite bands. Pretty Ricky is a fucking god among men. But that CD’s been stuck in our CD player since we put it in. And that’s an official shoutout to Western Settings…love you Pretty Ricky!
Congratulations on being newly married, by the way.
Oh, thank you very much!
How’s married life treating you so far?
It’s good. I’ve been on tour longer than I’ve been home since I’ve been married, but she’s great. She’s very fucking supportive and understanding. You’ll meet her at the Boston show; she’s from Somerville and her sister Jamie still live’s there, and she’s the girlfriend of Steve (Neary) from Far From Finished.
Where do you guys go from here?I think there was an off day right after, yeah?
No, we had an off-day, but we just actually got a show in Virginia Beach. We thought we were going to have an off day and do a cookout with Jamie and Steve and the whole crew, but now we go Virginia Beach, then North Carolina, then down to Gainesville. The people at the Fest have been cool enough to let us park the van at the offices because we fly in to Amsterdam. We’re in Europe for twenty-odd days. We’re doing Spain, Portugal, the UK for the first time, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria…all the fuck over. Then we fly back in to Fest and play there. Then we’re playing New Orleans for Halloween and we’re still putting our routing home together. Then we’re home for like 48 hours or whatever and we’re going out on a three-and-a-half week support tour for Guttermouth.
Oh shit, I missed that.
Yeah, so that’s fucking happening. I think we don’t really get home until like December 10th or something. I’m sure one of us is going to kill somebody, but that’s alright. (*both laugh*)
You guys have been to Europe a bunch already, huh?
Yeah, we have so many good friends there. There’s amazing people that come out and hook us up when we’re in Europe. There are a couple of places that we go and play that have become like our second homes at this point. Besides the food and the shitty breakfasts and the warm beer, it’s pretty cool!
Do you have a particular market over there that you for particularly well in that might be a little bit weird or random? Like I know some bands from here that are big in like Belgium. Is there a place like that where the kids really come out for you?
Yeah, actually, it’s actually awesome that you brought that up. There’s a place in Austria on this lake called fucking Bart Bar. The last two times we played there, it’s been sold out. Just packed. They said that the next time we can’t even play there; I don’t think we’re making it there this time. They were trying to get a permit so we could play in the street but it was too much. The owners of Bart Bar are a husband and wife; awesome people. It’s an awesome town. . I can’t remember the name of that lake (editor’s note: looks like it’s Attersee, and that Bart Bar is located in Timelkam. God bless Google) but it’s fucking gorgeous. It’s one of those places that you’d never expect, but it’s been one of the funnest places for us to play when we go out, for sure.
How the hell does that happen? How do you get a random down in Austria to be that passionate about you and to sell out shows?
I don’t know. I couldn’t even tell you how that shit happens. We’ve been going out to Europe for five years now, maybe even a little longer, and it’s just one of those random towns that started as a filler as we drove, you know? And the night was just so good and it’s one of those things that just kept building and building and building. We went swimming in the lake that they have there, and we were sitting in the grass playing guitar and stuff, and this punk rock couple were just sitting in the grass, and they were like “oh, you guys are Get Dead? We drove seven hours to come see you!”
And I’m like “what the fuck is wrong with you? That’s crazy!” (*both laugh*) It’s just one of those things that happens organically, I guess. To me, that’s one of the spots that will always hold a place in my heart, just because those people drive so far to get there, and the all just have so much heart!