Texas In July
Texas In July
Spokane, Washington’s music scene is expanding all the time. With clubs opening and re-opening the acts coming through are getting to be more continuous and rewarding for fans to check out. On Sunday, April 10th, myself and DJ Nick Schram of Hardcore Hammer had the opportunity to sit down with touring band and Lancaster, Penn., natives Texas In July. Check it:
August Burns Red’s Sound Guy: You guys seriously smell.
Ben Witkowski: [laughs] Oh shut up man!
Anthony Saia: It’s not THAT bad in here. [laughs] All right, so, how does it feel to work your guy’s tails off and actually be successful?
Alex Good: Well, dude, we’ve pretty much in the past like year have really started to see things come together full circle and we are starting to see all of the hard work that we’ve put in. You know, like pretty much starting out at the bottom of the barrel trying to do everything DIY for the past three years and we’re just now starting to see everything come together and its super rewarding and its really amazing. There’s a lot to be thankful for, especially the fans. Us being on these bigger tours has helped us out a lot. We’re reaching out to a lot of new audiences and playing for kids who have never even heard of us before. I have a lot of kids come up to me every night and say, ‘Hey man, I’d never heard of your band before this show and you guys were great. You’ve got my approval,’ and for me that’s the whole point of it. You know, we’ve gained their respect and now they know who we are.
BW: It’s like tonight was our first time ever playing in Washington and prior when we used to do summer tours we just never got out this way and on the last tour that we did with We Came as Romans it was the first time we’d ever played California as a band. So we keep hitting these states randomly that we’ve never played before which is great.
AS: That’s really awesome to hear guys. So you came down from Canada, yesterday but the bill had an open spot because Born of Osiris wasn’t able to make it into Canada, right?
BW: They had troubles at the border apparently the first day. We never even got to meet them.
Chris Davis: No one really knows why they couldn’t get through but we were just notified at the first show that they weren’t going to be able to make it.
BW: We almost got turned around at the border too and we were at the border for like four and a half hours and it’s the most trouble we’ve ever had. We’ve been to Canada like more times than we’ve been to some of the states. It’s just rough trying to get there sometimes.
AS: Well, it’s like Robin Williams said, “Canada is like a loft apartment above a really great party”. Anyways, you guys have a new album coming out on April 26th called One Reality. How was the recording process versus what you guys have recorded before?
BW: Holy smokes. So much better.
Christian Royer: Way better.
BW: We never had ample time to write or record. We really didn’t have a lot of time to write One Reality but we definitely worked harder on it than the rest of our music. We had a full month in the studio and Salt [of the Earth] was what Christian, like 12 days?
CR: No, that was I Am. Salt was like five.
BW: Yeah, it was something crazy like that. Salt of the Earth was not enough time at all.
AG: Yeah, pretty much a day a song is what we were allotted for Salt.
BW: We were there living at the studio. We had like a little house next to the studio so we were always in studio mode which was good. With I Am and Salt we’d drive thirty minutes to the studio and then go home for the night and then come back so being able to be at the studio all the time was so much better to keep everything flowing instead of having to drive around all day.
CD: It was cool working with Zeuss (Chris Harris) too. He’s a good producer. It’s like you don’t really feel like he’s a producer. You feel like he’s the sixth member of the band. For example, we’d get to a guitar part and he’d say something like, ‘You know, that sounds really cool but what if you did it like this?’ Then we’d try it like that and be like “holy crap” you’re right.
BW: He really knew what he was talking about. He’s old school too which is what we enjoyed about the whole process. Everything was all natural and he’s been doing it for a very long time and he’s worked with a lot of great acts so it was great to get the opportunity to work with him and we want to go again for the next record too. We already decided that so hopefully that can happen.
AS: So it was a bit different working with Zeuss than working with Carson [Slovak]?
BW: Yeah, I think it was just the entire feel of his process in studio was way different than anything that any of us have ever done while recording.
AG: Yeah, for me personally, Zeuss has some really cool ways or recording. His order of operations was different. We did drums first, then all the rhythms followed by me doing vocals for a couple of hours every day. So I wouldn’t just kill myself by doing vocals all in one day or two days in a row doing vocals for a whole album and I feel like it worked out better that way because my voice was able to stay up to par throughout the whole recording process.
AS: How do you take care of your voice being that you essentially get up on stage and scream the heck out of your voice for 40 or so minutes every night?
AG: Usually, every night I watch the opening band from the side of the stage and I just warm up for their entire set. I do Melissa Cross warm ups. She works wonders. All of her warm ups are really helpful to work out all the muscles in your vocal region. All the different exercises are very helpful and I suggest her to anyone who’s trying to be a metal vocalist. She has DVDs and stuff and I personally got the privilege to have a private lesson with her and that was very helpful. She taught me a couple of different breathing techniques since I get winded on stage because I’m out of shape [laughs]. So she helped me out a lot and I give most of the credit to her. She’s pretty much the best in the biz.
AS: Right on man, that’s awesome. So, for us people in radio land, we’ve only had the opportunity to hear “Magnolia” prior to coming to the show tonight. What were some of the songs that we heard tonight off the new record?
AG: We played one called “Dying World”. I like that one since it opens up pretty heavy.
BW: We’ve just been playing that live. It’s not released on anything. You know, you won’t be able to find the actual version or anything.
AS: For sure. Keeping it under wraps! [laughs] So, this is your first album without rhythm guitarist Logan [Maurer]. Chris, you’re new. How did you guys come together to take that spot?
BW: We were touring Europe this past summer in July and Logan, there, decided to have the conversation with us that he wasn’t going to continue after Europe and after that we played as a four piece for like a couple weeks and we had Chris in the back of our mind. We didn’t ask anybody else actually, it was once and done. Ever since, he learned the music and now this is it.
AG: We had our manager give him a call but we were all pretty much in the same room and Chris pretty much dropped his whole life, quit his Hot Topic job and decided that he wanted to tour full time with us. So he’s the man for doing that.
AS: As far as the writing of the songs goes, where does the weight fall so to speak? Do a couple of you guys do all the writing or is it more of a collaborative effort?
BW: It kind of does. I mean, not like 100% everyone but everyone has their hand in the process. The majority is Chris and Adam [Gray, drummer].
CR: Song wise, Good will write a few riffs on the record that we always use and stuff like that but yeah, this record was pretty much me and Adam down in his basement jamming out, twelve hours a day, three weeks straight, y’know? All day, every day – it was pretty much insane.
CD: Through the night some nights. It was a pretty brutal writing process.
AS: So was all of this written at home in Pennsylvania or was some of it written on the road.
CR: Well, most of it was written in Adam’s basement. There were two songs though, “Magnolia” got started on the road and there’s one other song that was pretty much completely written on the road, “No Greater Love” that was pretty much written on the road but other than that, yeah, everything else was pretty much from scratch once we got back to Adam’s house and started killing it.
AS: How is the writing process on the road versus being at home?
BW: It sucks.
CR: Way slower.
CD: Yeah, the first tour that I did with them, when we had an off day we’d be on my computer in our hotel room and I’d set up Logic Pro and DrumKit from Hell and we’d be trying to write but you’re just so worn out on the road and it feels really forced. It just feels like the creative juices just aren’t there when you’re worn out all the time.
BW: Especially when we were on the tours where we were supposed to be writing, I mean, as you can see, this upstairs green room area, if we had to write a record right now it’d be a little easier but if we had to write a record with the space given on our headlining runs was less because we were playing like VFWs and stuff. Not anything at this par so maybe on the next record we’ll be on a tour that grants us with this kind of space and we’ll just be able to sit and bang out stuff for a couple of hours a night.
AS: So, was this tour like a CI Records reunion since ABR started out on CI and then you guys signed a couple years after they left?
BW: We actually talked about that. Jake and I from ABR were saying that we should do a Manheim, well not really Manheim but a Lancaster, PA tour with some other bands one day but the timing would have to be right and everyone would have to be into it. Now, this was pure luck that we got on tour. We submitted. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, we know them, we’ll take them out’. We had to go through the process that whoever else submitted had to do but we got selected so we’re very thankful to be on the tour.
AG: We’ve played with them twice before –
BW: And have seen then a thousand times [laughs]
AS: It’s a lot nicer to play with guys you know?
AG: It’s always nice. It makes touring easier. You know, like first day you have a group of five guys that you already know coming into it and you can be like, ‘Hey man, what’s up’ instead of having to be like ‘I’m so and so and I’m going to forget your name for the next five days’.
BW: It was like the first day of high school on one tour we did. A new tour with someone that you’ve just met is literally like the first day of school if you’re at a new school.
AG: [laughs] It’s like lunch, dude. You’ll get your food and look where to sit and be like ‘I do NOT want to sit with those people. Those people don’t want to sit with me, that’s for sure’.
AS: Now that you guys are all out of high school do you have more plans for touring and all of that?
AG: Yeah man, ever since Adam and I graduated, we’ve just been pretty much been busy, busy, busy and now that we didn’t have to go to school this semester we were able to keep touring and that’s the plan for the next however long.
BW: Yeah, we’re pretty much booked up through, I believe, early to late November. Obviously we’ve got pieces of time off, for us, but the tours are lined up and the time off is lined up all the way up to pretty much 2012.
AS: Wow. [laughs] How does it feel to have your entire life planned out for the next year?
CD: It’s good but it can also be stressful. It’s good.
AG: I’d rather know and have a year booked in advance then just find out.
BW: Like, we have June off and we haven’t had a June in years because when we were all in high school, even Christian and I, it would be like, alright, we leave for tour in two days in June and then we’d go out for like a month. June’s like the prime summer month in our opinion and we’re very excited to have a summer month off.
AS: What are you guys going to do?
AG: Hang out. I’m going to the beach. I’m gonna wear my little lifeguard shorts and hang out with the old men. [laughs]
AS: Excuse me while I try to expunge that visual from my head [laughs]. Alright, anyways, what has been the coolest place to play on this tour and why?
CD: London, Ontario.
AG: London, Ontario is literally like a second home to us. It’s like our home away from home. Our first few times in Canada we only went to London and it’s just awesome for us. We know a lot of people there so they always come out and it’s fun to see them.
BW: You know, some of the drives on this tour were really cool. I think it was yesterday or the day before that was so scenic. That’s always a benefit to touring that I don’t really think fans or people on the outside know that sometimes we get to drive through places like the Rockies and being able to see things on the 22 hour drive that is supposed to suck but sometimes it’s pretty neat seeing some scenery.
AS: Right on. So, now, what’s the worst place?
BW: On this tour? Definitely Vancouver.
CD: Well, yeah, but the show was awesome, the area that we were in though was bad. Y’know, if you didn’t mind getting mugged, robbed, and stabbed with dirty needles.
BW: We honestly saw the craziest things in the alleyway we were loading in. Like things I’ve never seen before.
CD: We were there like no more than ten minutes-
BW: We parked the van. I walked out the block to see if there was a Starbucks then I walked back passed our rig and saw a guy hitting a crack pipe. Like plain as day. It was just a straight up bad area. Honestly, it’s sad but Vancouver apparently has one of the highest homeless rates anywhere. It’s like 15,000 homeless people and it showed. Chinatown was cool though. I liked it. The food wasn’t all that great but I thought it was interesting. It was like we were in a Chinese market. It was insane.
AG: Yeah, I guess the Chinatown area in Vancouver is the roughest and all the rest of Vancouver was beautiful but we didn’t get to see the beautiful part.
AS: Yeah, I was chatting briefly with Jimmy yesterday and told him to make sure someone watches your van so there isn’t another Veil of Maya incident.
BW: We had a guy watching the van and he stole 60 bucks from some kid and we never saw him again.
CD: This is where it gets good though. The kid that he stole the 60 bucks from got his iPhone 4 stolen from him by another bum earlier in the day. So, this guy that was supposed to be watching our van was a bum that was supposed to be working for the venue and the bands.
BW: We thought he was a nice bum –
CD: Yeah, the bands were going to pay him if nothing happened to their vans by the end of the night when we all left. So, he told the kid that lost his iPhone 4 that he would get his phone back for 60 bucks. Took the 60 bucks from him and left. We never saw him again.
BW: Yeah. We played, I saw him and when I came outside he was gone and we never saw his face again. Nice guy but –
AG: I miss him already.
AS: So, what do you guys listen to on the road? I assume you’re cramped in that van together all the time, so who gets to choose the music?
BW: Yep. Driver. Sometimes the person riding shotgun chooses it but it has to meet the approval of the driver. Well, at least when I’m driving.
CR: Lately it’s just been us putting the iPod on shuffle and see what comes up.
CD: I don’t know about you guys but I’ve been radio rocking it out.
BW: We all kind of have our own thing that when we sit and drive that gets played but sometimes it gets wild. Sometimes we have to go out on a limb and listen to stuff like techno.
AG: Yeah, like club stations that just fade into a new song every thirty seconds – it’s just a constant rage for like half an hour and you’re hanging out the window going down the road just mobbin’.
AS: [laughs] Sweet dude. So, what is your favorite song to perform right now? Let’s just go around the room and have everyone say which just because you all probably have different ones.
AG: Um, mine is “Dying World” because at the beginning it just has so much attitude and I just get super into it. I think we all do. That’s my favorite song. It’s cool too because it was the first song that we played off the new album so I was all stoked about it but definitely “Lancaster” is one of my favorites. We haven’t played it much on this tour, only a few nights but its cool.
BW: Mine’s probably a toss-up between “Magnolia” and “It’s Not My First Rodeo” and some other ones. Probably like one or two more but we don’t play them on this tour. “Father Time” I enjoy playing that song too. Those are probably my top three right now.
CD: I’d say before this tour it was “Uncivilized” but since we’ve started playing “Magnolia” it’s definitely my most fun song to play by far.
CR: Yeah, I’m going to say “Magnolia” too. I do a lot of different things I haven’t done on guitar before in that song so that’s pretty fun.
AS: [To Ben] How do you not get dizzy spinning around as much as you do on stage?
BW: [laughs] Sometimes I do. It depends I guess. I just like going crazy. I pay for it after though, dude. I tell them every night that I need at least ten or fifteen minutes after I get off stage. Usually my legs hurt and stuff but yeah. We pay for it with the “bangover” we call it. After the first night of any tour the next like few days you’re seriously cripple. I mean, which tour was it? I couldn’t even bend over and my calves were just on fire.
AS: So what’s next for you guys?
BW: The Take Action tour after a series of one off shows around our home town. We have a CD release show, a show in Jersey, Delaware. Just stuff around our house and then we head out on Take Action-
AG: – with Bayside, Silverstein, Polar Bear Club and The Swellers.
BW: For like a month.
AS: And then where will you guys be going with that?
CR: Full U.S.
BW: Yeah, it kicks off in Boston and ends in New York City. It’s covering everything.
Nick Schram: [To Chris & Christian] This question is mainly for you guys but how do you keep your chops up? Do you have to practice all the time?
CR: Not really, I’d say for the band that’s before us, whenever they’re playing, we’re always just either backstage or side stage just watching them and warming up. But we’re always doing like dexterity exercises when we warm up and we always keep our fingers loose.
CD: I have a whole warm up routine that I do every single night and I always make sure I’m back [at the venue] before the first band starts playing so I have their whole set to warm up before we go on stage. If I don’t do that I always feel like I play like crap. I can play fine but if I don’t do those warm ups I always feel like I really do play like crap. Just habit I guess.
NS: And how do you guys feel your performance went tonight?
BW: I had a great time.
CD: I thought it was pretty sweet. I had a lot of fun.
AG: The stage was kind of narrow because we had Matt’s huge kit on stage with us. Most of the nights he actually took it off so all the other bands on the package had a lot of room but tonight he didn’t. It’s all good though.
CD: Yeah, it was a bigger stage than what we’ve played on in a while.
AG: It didn’t really affect me all that much though.
BW: We always factor those things in before we play. Like, oh, yup. Tiny stage. Weird stuff like that but usually we try to get around it. Sometimes it’s the smallest stage on the tour and you have the greatest show of your life. It just depends really. It depends on the mood of the room. Like tonight, we’ve never played here before so kids were like not 100% sure because they were probably listening more than anything because we’d never been here before but like other areas the kids go crazy and we go crazy and it’s a good time. It just all depends.
AS: Alright, enough about music for a second. Who’s a baseball fan and what’s your favorite team?
All the members present raised their hands except for Christian who was so-so about his like of baseball.
AG: Philadelphia, Phillies! Woo!
CD: I’m going get stabbed for this but I’m from Maryland so Baltimore, Orioles. Terrible but hometown team, y’know?
AS: I’m an A’s fan for sure. Teams you dislike?
BW: Braves & Mets.
AG: Braves, Mets, Giants & Yankees.
BW: Yankees are the worst. I would burn every single piece of Yankees merchandise in the world if I had the opportunity. You could send me to jail, you could lock me up or you could kill me but I’d love to do it. I’d love to be that guy. Gosh, I’m sweating now because we’re talking about the Yankees. [laughs]
CD: [laughs] Oh no, look what you did!
Aside from making Ben sweat over the fact that he really hates the Yankees we had a blast that night. Hanging out with the guys from Texas In July was certainly a treat as they are all really down to earth guys who will stand and talk with fans, sign autographs and have their photos taken. Thanks to all the guys as well as their tour manager Jimmy and Natalie from Equal Vision.