Interview: Phil Sneed of Story of the Year

Story of the Year

This interview was conducted with Phil Sneed, guitarist of Story of the Year, at the Kansas City, MO stop of the Taste of Chaos Tour in 2006.

You guys are currently midway through the U.S. run of the Taste of Chaos tour. You also did the TOC international tour. What would you say the difference between the two is?

The weather is certainly not different. The U.S. tour is definitely more laid back. For the international tour we had more days off. This one is real chill. Everyone’s always at the same places. Even on days off we still get to hang and go see movies, etc. All bands here, as well as overseas, are just very cool people. Everyone only plays a half-hour set, except for Thrice and Deftones. It’s nothing too grouling. Good time. 

What’s the craziest part of playing overseas? (ex.Japan, Australia, etc.)

The fact that we’re there doing what we love. Not only that we’re there, but it’s the fact that we’re there playing music. Australia was incredible. The kids are nuts!

What’s the fan response overseas compared to the U.S.?

The overseas’ crowd is more grateful, I’d say. They realize that they get very few American bands over there. When the American bands do play over there, they won’t come back for a while. Kids don’t stand in the back and cross their arms. They really get into it. Here in the U.S., bands play the same places many times. Over here bands don’t sell many records unlike overseas, so they have to tour nonstop because it’s the only way they can support themselves and continue on as a band. 

What are you looking forward to on your next album? What do you want it to sound like compared to Page Avenue and In the Wake of Determination?

It’s always been our goal to never make a record twice. So we’re definitely looking forward to a third record. Whatever the case may be: if it’s heavier, poppier…We’re just excited to get back into the studio. We’ll probably get more time than the last one. “In the Wake of Determination” was very rushed. We’re hoping to see what influences we can bring into this next record. 

When do you think you’ll go into the next album?

We’re definitely touring through the Fall, so hopefully we can get into writing in the Winter and hope to start recording around the first of the year

In the Wake of Determination was quite the departure from Page Ave. musically, vocally, and musicianship-wise; what are your thoughts on how it turned out?

We’re really happy with it and how everything turned out. Speaking from an artist’s perspective, everyone wishes to change some things and no one can be 100% satisfied with what they’re doing. But we’re very happy with how it turned out. We were so excited. We set out with goals and wanted to have a solid rock record. We accomplished just that and we’re very excited with it. 

A lot of people embraced it with open arms, and others wanted ‘poppy’ Story of the Year, do you feel you gained more fans on this record than lost?

As far as record sales go, it seems we’ve lost more. But the fans of our band that were there from the beginning I feel are even stronger fans now after this record. There are definitely the fans that come to just see a single and leave. They don’t really enjoy this new album much considering the radio play isn’t as substantial as the last. But the fans from day one and even the kids that were on the fence definitely jumped over and got to be stronger fans. 

Did you go into the album thinking you needed a single? Was Maverick upset that you didn’t put another “Until the Day I die” on this record?

No not really, but a couple of us were worried at first. We had a lot of radio and video success on the last album, but once we figured out what we wanted to do, we put all that aside. The label respected what we wanted, and they helped us out just as much as they ever had. We didn’t set out to make the radio happy, we set out to make ourselves and the fans happy. If a single pops out, great. I’m going to be happier when I’m 40 knowing I made a great record rather than looking back saying I had a great single. 

Why aren’t you doing the Canadian dates of the TOC tour?

We definitely want to because we haven’t been to Canada in a while. The UK tour was booked during that time, so we have to fly over to the UK. We just can’t do ’em. But to make up for them, this summer we’re doing a huge Canadian Tour to make sure we go there for a good amount of time this year. 

There’s a few minutes involving a scuffle between SOTY/John Oakes(manager) and Against-Me on their DVD, what are your thoughts on that?

As far as I know, they were trying to get funny footage of bands messing with ’em. They came on our bus and just starting drinking our beer, so our tour manager did his job and kicked them out of our home. I wouldn’t come into someone else’s home and open their fridge and start taking stuff. They made us looked like dick-heads on it. I’m probably not gonna go pay money for a DVD that’s gonna make us look like dick-heads. But, if they thought that we were an important enough band to give them popularity then I guess I’m flattered. 

Does the P.A.C. (Page Ave. Crew) have group cuddles on lonely nights?

Yeah, actually every night! One of our bus drivers actually quit because he said he saw two naked dudes 69-ing on the front of the bus. It didn’t really happen, but we tell people it did because it’s funny.

Has Godsmack sent you an apology card yet?

No, but Sully has managed to use the word “away” 600 times in the course of one album. 

Can Biff Steel (guitar tech) become the 6th member of the band and start being in Press Shots considering he plays the keyboard at your shows?

He only does 1 or 2 songs so that only makes him half of a member. If there’s some way to blue screen half of him out, sure. We’ll have his arms and one of his legs in the shots. 

What does the word: “Jargon” mean do you?

Syd’s just jealous. 

When do you plan on trying to beat Halo 2 past the beginner setting?

Syd is just jealous.

The majority of you are married or have girlfriends. How do you manage on the road?

Expensive phone bills! Our wives have basically become our pen-pals. It’s difficult to say the least. 

There’s a story involving you and Anthony Green where you almost got in trouble by the law. Something involving burning a field? Care to elaborate?

Man, people know about that? Well, in 2003 we were touring with Saosin, when Anthony was in the band. We were shooting roman candles at eachother. I guess it was dry season, and we caught a field on fire. Anthony got arrested. 

Some of you have other projects such as film/video directing, etc. and namely your record label: Royal Crest Records. You’ve released one compilation: “Pick Your Battles: Volume 1” and signed St. Louis band: Sophomore. Any future plans with the label?

No, nothing for now. We’re just working with Sophomore trying to put them in a position that suits them. A lot of the other dudes have done a lot of directing and other bands’ videos and video editing. They’ll be moving into that. We’re all kind of doing something, but this band is our first priority right now. 

What are some of your favorite bands to play/tour with?

One of my favorite bands on this tour is Dredg. I’ve been a fan of them for 6 years now. Some of our Touring friends are Letter Kills, Anberlin, Funeral For a Friend, He is Legend, Every Time I die, and Killswitch Engage. 

What is your dream band to play with? Could it be Dragon Force?

Ha. That’d rule, but for me: The Police, or Sting by himself, Silverchair, and The Cranberries.

How do you feel about substantially helping out bands along the way such as Anberlin and hometown friends Adair?

We’re just looking to tour with some buddies. We’re not doing it to put us in a position to do something. If they would have put out a record first, they would have put us on 80 tours. I’ve been a fan of Anberlin for ever and asked them to tour with us and they were very excited about it. We just like to tour with bands we like. If we get to pick, we want good guys. Not only that, but bands that we can stand on the side of the stage and watch. 

What are you guys currently rocking on your ipods?

Lately, Drew from Dredg gave me a bunch of stuff and for hours I’ve been listening to Mogwai. Khaki King. I listen to Dredg a lot. Pinback. I just got a new Celtic cd. Trevor Jones (composer) Mute Math, Apex Theory, Elliot, Classic Case, and the new Dead Poetic. 

What does Lion’s Choice think of your devotion? Namely your tattoo. Have they given you a ‘Free-Lion’s Choice-For-Life’ card yet?

I asked for one, but they didn’t give me one. They gave me 10 free meals and some golf balls with their logo on it. They heard about the tattoo and met with me and we hung out. We’d like to do a Lion’s Choice sponsored tour. That’d be cool. Everyone! If you have lots of money, buy lions choice! They’re going national soon. 

Any new Custom Paul Reed Smith Guitars?

We just asked the other day, and it’d be really sweet to get those. I want a Dimebag Darrel style guitar with a St. Louis flag instead of the rebel flag, and the Lion’s choice logo on the back, some civil war logos and all sorts of stuff that I’m in to. It’s gonna be a very personal guitar. Ryan’s is simple with just some words and phrases on it. 

What does your and Ryan’s guitar rig consist of?

They’re actually kind of changing right now. Ryan’s changing around a lot and mine right now is a Bad Cat Hot 100 with a Peavey 5150. That and a few pedals. Mine’s pretty simple. Ryan’s is pretty crazy. He’s got a whole lot of pedals and a midi board. We both play PRS guitar’s. 

Any last words for the readers who would love to do what you do: doing what you love every night doing it pretty much your way?

Just support bands. If you like a band, get the cd. Get their merch. Go to their shows. There’s a lot of bands that if they aren’t hugely successful touring, they probably won’t put out another record. It’s hard to sell records. A band can’t make a living just on a CD. You have to support a touring band if you want to see another record. If you’re a band, you have to work very hard and just be as cool and nice as you possibly can because a-holes don’t make it very far. 

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