Interview: Kenny Vasoli of The Starting Line

The Starting Line

Recently I was able to schedule a Zoom interview with Kenny Vasoli of The Starting Line to discuss the band’s recently announced holiday shows. In this chat, we talked a lot about the band’s recent livestream performances, the legacy he hopes The Starting Line have achieved, as well as plans for new music from the band.

Thank you so much for connecting with me today, Kenny. Let’s first talk about your upcoming holiday shows that The Starting Line will be performing at. What inspired you and your bandmates to get back together and do these special concerts for everyone?

You know, it’s funny, we’ve been kind of consistently doing an annual one at least every year, every other year. I think there was a year or two that we took off, coming off the fresh hiatus or whatever it was. But then we were kind of just always inching back to at least doing hometown stuff. We would always just get an offer around Christmas time. And it was always easy enough for us to handle, and we always enjoyed doing it. So it just kind of became like an unspoken tradition for us. I just feel like it’s a common misconception that we’re constantly revising or something just because we went away at that point, and we don’t regularly put out music. So it does, I think, strike people as new “news.”

I’m glad you still have that great relationship with your bandmates. And yeah during the pandemic, The Starting Line did a series of the Live at Studio 4 performances. What do you guys learn about yourselves getting back together with these new recordings?

It was great. I mean, it was a really good gut check for us and our capabilities as musicians and as a band, and as a unit, it really put us to the test, because the stakes were so high. Number one, doing a whole live stream and taking just big long takes, hour-plus long takes of us playing live. There was not a lot of time to prepare for this and it was pretty much resting on us, doing our homework on our own, and then coming together for like three days and really just hammering it out. So I’m really proud of what we were able to pull off in terms of trying to do something really ambitious, which is not sort of like what we put ourselves to the test with often. We really do well with playing old material and just keep honing old material. And the fans seem to like it too. So it’s out of the ordinary for us to like, be like, alright, let’s play everything we’ve ever had. Like all this shit we didn’t even play when we released this record. It was really interesting to put ourselves back in that era, too, because it’s something that we were only really understanding the context of when we were like, 20 years old. And I don’t think that we’ve re-connected with it a lot on our own. So it forced us to do that. And I think we were kind of pleasantly surprised that at what we weren’t expecting from the records, and then the songs that we were like, obviously visibly not as excited to play like, also had its charm because you have a new sort of sense of humor about it rather than like an embarrassment or something like that. But it was a very positive experience.

The recordings all sound great from everything I’ve heard back. So kudos to you guys for doing that.

Oh, thanks! And big love to Sunny and Will, too. That’s the other part of it that made the stakes so high, because I respect both of those people infinitely and I really wanted to do right by them and their craft and I’m happy it came together.

Sweet. So what details can you share about the Adjacent Music Festival coming to Jersey and your band’s role in that? 

Oh, shit! Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. Is that announced now?

Yeah, it’s kind of quietly announced. So I was seeing what you can, and can’t share, basically?

Yeah, I see it trickling out. It’s really exciting. I mean, you might know more than me to be honest about the festival itself, but it’s very exciting. That reunited Blink-182 is going to be there which I’m super hyped about obviously. I’m right there with everybody. I’d really love to see that happen, and to be asked to play it is really just humbling and an honor. And I’m really happy to be there and any excuse I have to play with Blink…I’ll always be that fanboy. I always got dropped off at Blink shows, going through Electric Factory shows was their first tour with Travis when he was even setting up his own drums. I’ve been a lifer with that band so it’s not lost on me what an honor it is.

Yeah, their tickets just went on sale today, and they just got snapped up, as you can imagine, very quickly. Everybody’s excited about the classic lineup being back together. 

So yeah, it should be a fun one for sure.

Cool, so The Starting Line last released new music in 2015 with the Anyways EP. Is there any chance for new music on the horizon?

There’s a high chance of new music. It’s not recorded yet. I am actively putting together stuff, but I’m famously slow at finishing stuff, especially for The Starting Line. Which it’s just one of those things where I just need to finally put my foot to the initiative to get it finished. That’s all it’ll take is just really calling the guys up and be like, “Hey, let’s try and make it happen in a month or two.” But I want to make sure that the songs are really worth doing. But I’d like to do something similar to another seven-inch type thing.

Sweet! Also Drive-Thru records announced an EP box set with your guys’ With Hopes Of Starting Over being the first in the set. So that was exciting to see. What memories do you have from making that EP way back when?

We were very excited because that was the first thing that we were consciously recording for Drive-Thru. And it was really…we were just ecstatic with the news of being signed to Drive-Thru and then getting to work with Chris Bedini. Again, he was already kind of our guy from Jersey that was our top choice with handling our recordings. So to be able to go in with a budget and have a little bit more time to do things. And we were trying to pick the song that was going to come out on the Atticus comp and everything. And I mean, the one thing is, I wish…it was when AutoTune first hit the streets. And we’re like, “Oh, shit!” And that was in hindsight, I think we should have just let me try a little harder. I’m not excited at all with AutoTune hitting the market. But that was the first and last time I think of efforts, I would have been on a record. So that was a good learning experience. And I think yeah, for what it is, it’s a solid EP, and it’s responsible for a lot of the momentum that came afterwards. And that song “Greg’s Last Day” made it on the comp, which was very cool for us. And I remember Mark <Hoppus> gave us a phone call once and said it was his favorite song on the comp. Which who knows if it’s true?

It probably is. He seems like a pretty authentic guy. 

He’s really nice. I don’t think I’ve told this story much. But in some sort of turn of events, we got invited to the house that Blink-182 was recording their self-titled album in. And Travis wasn’t there that day. It was just Mark and Tom, and Jerry Finn was also not there. I think maybe the engineer was doing a few things like pickup parts or like overdubs with them. But we were so excited. And I got to smoke weed with Tom in the garage. And he talked to me for a bit. We just saw Tom enter the room and he was like, “Who smokes weed?” <Raises his hand> “Garage, now!” I was like this is such a dream come true. They played us “Feeling This”and it was magic, man!

Yeah, that’s an amazing story!

Yeah, I guess it all led to that moment.

Awesome. What do you think makes The Starting Line so special? And what do you love most about performing these great songs with your bandmates?

Oh, man, I don’t know. I mean, I like to think that it’s just purity and what we do. I don’t think that we’re a very gimmicky band. We’ve never been that/ We’ve just always been authentic to who we are and what we’ve what we’d like to play as a band. We’ve never, I mean probably to a fault in some way, I like my design greatly. We’ve never let ourselves get too influenced by the mainstream music industry. And I think that we’ve done our best to sort of retain what kind of integrity we have, whatever that means. I’m not trying to be pretentious about it, because I don’t think that we’re like The Beatles, or Radiohead or anything like that. I do know that we’re a pop punk band. And it’s a genre that sort of represents nostalgia and eternal youth, which I’m totally able to appreciate. And I realize that the older I get that there’s a place for that. It’s something that is becoming what The Clash, or the Ramones were for my parents.Yeah, it’s all relative. Time and generations and stuff like that. But I just, I respect our place in that and I’m infinitely grateful that we have any sort of a page in music history. I think that that’s just something that’s so important to me because I have such a love and fascination with music, that too, to have any sort of influence or just any sort of part in the story of music history. Yeah, I’m just so happy to have a life in that, and any sort of ways that I can just insert some of how I hear things in my brain. That’s a ‘W’ for me.

That’s awesome. That’s a great answer to that question, too. What can you tell me about the status of your other projects like Vacationer or Person L?

Vacationer is very active, and we’re making a lot of music kind of constantly. We have a record that’s finished and getting all this stuff sorted out for that. So I can disclose more later.

Sweet, the last question I have for you is, as you look back on the past material of The Starting Line, what do you hope fans will most take away from listening to your music, and what do you hope they look forward to in the future?

Just enjoyment, really. Yeah, it’s just fun. I mean, I think that I’m biased because it’s something that I’ve been hearing for so long, and I’ve gone through so many relationships with it, and with the songs in my brain. But at this point, I’m happy that I have some stuff that I think stands the test of time as far as enjoyment level. Like it’s still just really fun stuff to play and hopefully hear live. I think that we have our place among even some of the younger bands that are coming up now and, and in that sound like it doesn’t I don’t think that we sound too geriatric, thankfully. And yeah, for the future, hopefully, we can just keep that out. We don’t want to fuck that up!

Cool, so I live about ten minutes down the road from the Fillmore Silver Spring, so hopefully, I can check you guys out!

Yeah, that’s gonna be really fun. I’m super stoked to be reuniting with the Mae guys. And then we’re super stoked to be playing again.

That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time, and I’ll let you get back to your day. 

Thanks, Adam!