Interview: Tony Lovato of Mest


Recently I was able to schedule a Zoom call with Tony Lovato of Mest to discuss the band’s new album, Youth. In this interview I asked Tony about the writing/recording process for the new record, his memories surrounding some of the past Mest material and much more. Youth will be released on May 31st, and pre-orders options are here.

Thank you so much for your time tonight, Tony. You recently recorded a music video and a single for “When We Were Young” featuring Jarrett Reddick of Bowling for Soup. So can you tell me what went into the writing process for that, and how did the partnership with Jarett come about?

Yeah, so as far as writing, this was a palette of a couple songs, and when the song was written for the record, and like a lot of the songs…I’ve obviously done a lot of interviews for this for this time on the single and record and stuff. And it’s funny, the more interviews you do, the more you realize, because you’re forced to like think about what the fuck inspires it, because otherwise, I’m just doing shit. And then it’s like, oh, that’s why that’s what was happening. But yeah, I was driving a long drive to the studio, it was in Beverly Hills, and I live out in Corona, California. So about 10 hours, 20 minutes. I listen to a lot of the music that I grew up listening to just doing that drive, having a long time, and then driving up in the hills of Beverly Hills and shit. That’s where we actually recorded a lot of our earlier first records, the first chapter of Mest. So there were just a lot of thoughts of seeing shared memories and stuff like that. And, I’ve always, as far as songwriting goes, I’ve always liked storytellers, and I tend to be fond of songs that are like the old days. Sort of things and memories and sort of positive stuff in a way. And when I was writing this song, it sort of was directed directly to people our age that have been listening to this music since they were kids. And obviously, there’s what people call a revival in this music, but I think the bands have always been around. I think maybe people just add those ages again, where life’s a little more stable, and you’re able to go and have fun again and buy some records and get stuff and babysitters and go live a little bit more. And there’s a middle chapter of our lives where you’re getting your life together. And then after you sort of get your shit together, you tend to be able to go experience life again, so to speak. So when I was writing the song, it was sort of that concept with the fans my age in mind. It was sort of written to myself in a way to have like, thinking about those dark, inner years of life. I sent a picture, and it was a concept of celebrating the past, but also positively looking at the future in a way. It’s like cheers to the past, but here’s to the future And sort of just the idea of at what age and it’s never happened? What has happened to me, where you sort of hit a roadblock and you sort of stop all the dreams and ambitions and the bigger things that we think. Or you’re told from your youth that you can do anything you want to do. And then we had an age where everybody’s like, Well, okay, go get a job figure shit out, that type of shit. 

And we wrote “Rooftops” back in the day, and that was about my late teen years about fucking around and not giving a shit. And those are all chapters of your life, where I wrote “Jaded,” and it was sort of about those years. So I wanted to write a song to our generation, the older generation, of just saying why can’t we go back to when we were young? But it’s not how life is terrible now. It’s just being happy that those things happened. Speaking about those days, fondly, and I get to live a lot of life vicariously through my kids now. And the look inside your eyes reminds me of a better time just like looking at my kids and watching them fucking enjoy life. Everything’s new. And I get to go back to being when I was young, because I get to live, I get to do things with them. 

And as far as Jarett being involved, Luke had been friends with him for years, so I hit him up. And we talked about writing songs together, schedule wise, it just didn’t really pan out. He was touring a lot. My writing sessions were all over the place. But it was just like a phone call or just like, “Hey, did you want to do a song together?” And he’s like, Yeah, I’m gonna send you over this idea. And he said it’s very cool. He was just down, and we’ve been friends for years, toured together a bunch. So it was pretty easy when you’re doing a show with friends. It’s very easy and simple. Not management involved, not labels involved. We’ve been friends for over two decades when I’m putting something together, and it was easy.

It’s nice that you still can have that partnership and leverage great artists like that, too. So I know that Destination Unknown recently got a vinyl reissue by Smartpunk Records. Are there any plans for anything else in the Mest catalog to eventually get a vinyl treatment?

There are no plans as of now in the works. But undoubtedly, I want to print at least the first three Mest records. We’ve got the second one, obviously. But definitely the first and third on vinyl for fans. I know that people have been asking for years, Smartpunk Records was able to sort that out. And that was a surprise to me. Anyways, I didn’t even know it was happening. And then I got a message through my agent. I’ve talked with Matt. And it was just like, Dave asked if I wanted to be involved with helping him with promotion and shit like that. And I was like, Yeah, of course, man. It’d be cool. But yeah, I would love to put out <album> one and three. You just have to sort that shit out with labels, or if you don’t tell them, you get that cease and desist order. (Laughter)

Destination Unknown is probably your most well-known record, and arguably the most successful one for Mest. What memories do you have most vividly from this era of music at that point in your career?

It’s crazy. A good friend of mine, John, grew up with us at six years old, and eventually worked with the band. He was with me for the past like 10 days and we had a show in Arizona, then we drove back home to California…And we spent so many years together, and so he was part of that era, too. So we’re bringing up memories and stories. And it was a fucking crazy time, because you took four kids in a band, who brought all of their friends I grew up with on tour and taught them like how to be guitar techs, and merch guys, lighting guys…And when you have like that many young, unstable minds together, crazy, stupid shit starts happening. And we had the time of our lives. It’s surprising that nobody died, to be honest. We would tell some of those stories and it’s always good when we get together because there’s so much shit that we don’t remember, individually, and then somebody else who brings it up, and then sometimes I suppose memory for somebody else, sometimes every second thought that really happened…I was telling John about something that we did, and to him. And he was like, I don’t remember that at all. And I’m like, Dude, I got fucking got pictures of it! But it was an exciting time. It was cool for us, because we definitely had to earn our following as a band. We were never a radio band. Our label tried the radio thing, and it actually sort of backfired. And then due to that first record backfiring with the radio, we had to work twice as hard on the road to go out there and perform in front of people and show people what we were as a band, and what we sounded like. So it wasn’t like people obviously, back in the day of passing along CDs to people or mix-CDs and stuff. But when we had that opportunity to play in front of people were like, alright, let’s seize this fucking opportunity. Let’s win these fans over. This is our one time, so we always took that to heart and we always wanted to be a fucking exciting, fun, live band. And we did a ton of fucking touring back in those days. I mean, it felt like I was on the road fucking night. And realistically, I probably was. And I don’t know if Destination Unknown was our biggest record. I’d have to check SoundScan, because obviously the next record came out and “Jaded” was on there and it actually made TRL at number nine one time…It was on there for a couple of weeks and stuff like that.

Yeah, and a lot of people still point to that as like a key moment in your band’s career when you started to break through into the mainstream a little bit. So I see your next LP, called Youth, comes out on May 31. What was the inspiration behind the album cover, and can you talk a little bit about the rest of the pieces around Youth

Yeah, a lot of these songs were inspired by memories and thoughts of the past, which a lot of my songs do. But when we did that video, my stepson, my son, and my buddy’s kid, who does that flip in the video where it goes from us to them, which was just certainly made up on the spot. We always do that in videos where it comes up with shit, and we’re trying to think of a cover of the record and had all of these ideas. And I’m like, let’s think back to the old days. And I was like, that scribble art on Dookie was really cool. And thinking of colors and something like represent our era bands and shit. They’re like, that looks new and cool. But at the same time, it represented that era, I guess, from those years, and I just remember that shot in the video. And I’m like, if we can just get a still of that, you can make it look old school. And I feel like with the skateboard and the BMX bikes here with the guitar, that was our entire childhood that worked for us. I think that was the best day of the summer was fucking Warped Tour, you know what I mean? We were putting out in front and playing shows. And it just made sense, and we didn’t have the title for it yet. We had a working title, some ideas, and then when I was just looking at it, and if people see this, and they don’t even know what the band is, I feel like it’s a cover that’s gonna grab people’s attention. It’s just fucking cool looking.

Yeah, that makes sense. The package and the whole statement that you’re trying to put out, it really,really shines from my perspective, too. What are some of the songs you’re most proud of in your catalog? And what do you feel that this record can do to kind of not only revisit the past, but also push you guys into the future too?

Yeah, it’s where I felt we do like the not the deep dive, so to speak. But obviously, the fan favorites and my favorite songs are playing live and there’s, I think, a reason why when we’re going to create the setlist, I was going to look at our Spotify <list> and see what people are looking at, or what people are playing the most. And there has been times where I’m like, fuck, we haven’t played the song in years! And I’m looking at it’s one of the most streamed songs, and I’m like, we need to be playing this song! It must mean that they fucking like that song-wise and not in our setlist. And I remember thinking about that song <”Rooftops”> just being like, fuck man, I feel like I’m just writing song after song after song in my bedroom. And so like just the thought of like, how that song came about was really just talking about what I was going through. And it made sense to me, and obviously, there’s this female/male theme in the verses. But like when I was writing the chorus, it wasn’t just writing in that concept. It was like here’s another song to the fucking band. Here’s another song to the producer trying to think of a perfect song to the fans. I remember where I was sitting in my bedroom that I grew up in. And you know, like, it was one of those core memories.

I always loved “Drawing Board,” and “Mother’s Prayer” always means a lot to people. And that was a song that meant a lot to me when I was writing it. “I’m walking on broken glass,” was about my grandfather, when he got really sick and almost passed away and then he did. And I never was able to tell him the song was about him. I went and saw him when he was not really there anymore, but still alive, and sort of had everybody leave the room. And I just told him that I wrote that song, and that it’s about him and never really had…I probably should have told him a little bit earlier. So he knew, but when I write songs like that, I don’t really like to tell people, it’s just one of those things. You sort of hold it to yourself. And last minute, you’re like, fuck, I should have told him. 

But with the new record, there’s so many songs that literally I just fucking I go back and I’m listening to the new record, and I am so stoked. On the lyrics of this record, having written so many songs in my life, it’s hard to find. When you’re writing lyrics, I don’t want to write just shoot the wrongs, I don’t want to read the same old shit. So you sort of got to let the brain do the deep dive into what’s weighing on your shoulders. I’m the friend that all friends come to and sort of throw their problems. I’m like the therapist of my friends group. I don’t really have somebody like that. So I think music is my outlet to sort of like, everybody thinks that, you know, I am always okay, and it actually helps talk to my friends and hearing their problems, because then I weigh out the shit in my head of what I’m going through. It’s like cell therapy. But it was cool to literally write a lot of these songs, because it was shit that I had gone through over the past five/six years, and it was just a good release. And I think when fans, and fans our age hear the songs, I think lyrically it’s gonna be extremely relatable to them. But I think at the same time, if there’s a kid listening to us for the first time, I think, undoubtedly, they’ll still be able to relate to the lyrics. Because it’s not a thing where it’s not super vague. But when you do leave a little bit of openness for interpretation for people. You don’t wanna get overly detailed with shit, so it’s like saying something without saying it. But yeah, I’m just stoked on this record. I think it’s possibly the I think it’s the best record we’ve ever fucking wrote. I’m not just saying that, because it’s the new record…I mean, I got my best friend back home that I’ve sent him records to. He’s the first one that ever hears any songs from demo to ending. And he’s a fucking asshole! (Laughter) But that’s why I sent it to him. I mean that’s the reason I want his opinion.

You want to get a range of opinions, right?

Absolutely. I send shit to my dad, my wife, and because I need to know, even my son. I’m like, What’s your favorite song? And, of course, he’s like, the song that we’re putting out called “Hate” you said over because there’s a lot of “fucks” in it. So he is able to swear if he sings along, and then I do that’s not how you’re supposed to pick your favorite song. But my buddy said you need to get this record. And fans need to hear this too. He said it was favorite Mest record to date, and he’s been there since day one. When the band started, we took his drummer from his old band. So he’s heard everything and he has, and he’s nostalgically tied to all of those songs and times. So for him to hear this new record and be like, this is your best record, which never happens…I mean, it’s hard to get those feelings that you get from an old record or old songs. So I always tell people, when you listen to the record, you’re not going to feel what you felt. When you listen to fucking “Jaded,” ”Rooftops,” and “Drawing Board.” You gotta wait five years from now. And then when you listen to “When we were Young,” and five years from now, you’re gonna get that feeling that I get with those others. You need to have life and memories and shit tied to it. But musically, melodically and lyrically, undoubtedly its our fucking best record for sure.

Yeah, it sounds great to my ears. I got the advance of it from your publicist. It’s really a refreshing take on Mest, and what you guys have done over your career. So I applaud you guys for that.

Thank you, man. Appreciate that. 

Sure thing. Do you have any favorite bands that you’ve recently toured with or over the years that you still keep in touch with? I know I remember back in the day I saw you guys tour with bands like Good Charlotte and Goldfinger…But what were the core groups? Do you remember where you either learned a key lesson from them along the way?

With almost every band that we’ve toured with, I’m at least in contact with one or two guys in each bandAnd I wouldn’t say that there were any bands, I learned anything from as far as on the road and stuff like that, because we were pretty self-destructive. I see younger bands, and I go to shows sometimes, and I just sort of observe, and I’m always like, it’s cool, man. They’re doing what they need to be doing right now. They’re at that age. Because a bunch of bands that, and I won’t name names, but there were bands that we toured with same era, same genre, and everything, and we’re way too fucking serious at the time. And I can tell, although enjoying it wasn’t thoroughly enjoying it the way we did. And then I would see them in the later years. 5/10 years later, and everybody’s fucking drinking and partying. And I’m like, and we’re done with that shit. I’m like, you’re supposed to do that shit in the beginning, so that you don’t you’re not fucking tired out and old trying to fucking have a good time. We definitely chaptered it out properly with how we had to do it. Our second headlining tour was with Catch 22, which those guys didn’t really hang out that much. There’s nothing like personally, I think they just didn’t have the same vibe that we had going on. Because it was us, Catch 22, Madcap, and Homegrown, and us Madcap and Homegrown everybody from band member to  crew member hung out every single day. And it was just a bus. And it was like during the Jackass era, and we were doing that shit before Jackass even started becoming an MTV thing…But that just like was the inspiration for every night and it was just fucking night after night. It was the funniest tour ever…

Almost like a mini-Warped Tour or like a core group that you kind of hang out with night after night kind of thing. 

100%. Yeah.

Do you remember the song, “The Innocent” that you guys recorded over 9/11? 

Yeah, it was John Feldman and Good Charlotte. 

Can you remember what was going on at the time for your band and why you felt like you needed to put that out at that point in time?

I mean, obviously, it was an easily inspired song. But Feldman was writing it, and he was like okay, I got this song. Do you want to put you guys and Good Charlotte on it? And we’re like, yeah, absolutely. Whatever you need. And we were doing a bunch of touring at that time. And I want to say that we might have even fucking, I don’t know if we were out filming a video in LA or something. But I remember I was in Paul’s hotel room to live in Charlotte. They were doing something, maybe they were doing videos, too. We’re doing a record. I can’t remember how it worked. But it was pretty simple, man.

I remember people still point back to that single as being one of the key moments from that period of time, not only from the pop-punk era, but also just in general. When bands were putting out music inspired by those tragic events…

I mean, I remember that we were on our way to start the MxPx tour. And we’re in this shitty little van, and we go into the middle of nowhere. And on a six, seven hour drive, we stopped pulling to a gas station. All of a sudden our cell phones just got 13 messages and voicemails. And it’s our manager. And he’s like, “I’m not gonna be able to make it out to the first show. There’s no flights. There’s some planes flying into the buildings in New York…” And I remember the core memory dude walking into that first truck stop, and It was like everything was in slow motion. Nobody’s saying a word. And everyone’s staring up at the TV and we’re just like, “What the fuck is going on?” And we look up and you start watching the news. The rest of that nightmare. And the next couple of days, every time you stopped at a truck stop, it was just silent. People are genuinely nice to each other for the first time no matter what you look like, it was just like a very unifying experience for Americans at the time, but it was also a scary time too. We ended up playing New York three months later and it was fun, man. I remember saying in the van what just happened today, this is gonna be the history being taught to kids. And it’s weird that for our kids now it is history.

I’m glad you still have core memories from that, because everybody has their own story around that period of time. And now you have a song that lives on through that period of time as well, too. So the last question I have for you is you mentioned Youth being possibly your best record. At what point do you think you’ll measure this as a successful record? And not only by Spotify streams, or album sales or things like that, but just your overall feeling going into the promotion cycle for this?

Fuck, that’s a good question. Because how do you measure success in this day and age, right? I mean, it’s crazy, cuz me and my wife were just talking about that. And how back in the day, CD sales were and what it meant, and the start of a band or the end of a band. There were so many CDs back in the day that got put out that sold 1000 copies that were fucking amazing records. And then there was the early 2000s, that were also a ton of shitty ones, too. Some people only tie music to a good, strictly a good time lyric, and that’s totally fine. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, you know? So how do you measure success? You know, I’m not wanting to shy away from listening to my own records. I feel like if you can listen to your own music and not be fucking stoked on it, why are you creating music? I’ve always loved going back and listening to my records. I mean, when you’re done with a record, if anybody said, they didn’t do this too, it’s a fucking lie, you listen to it nonstop. And I do it for multiple reasons. One, I’m usually stoked on the songs so I’m still using it in my head, and until this record until you put out the record. I’ll be like, oh, I want to change this. I want to do that. But I’ve listened to this record enough times where lyrically It just means so much to me. And I feel like we were able to encompass all of the old shit in the early Mest records that I loved. And enough of a progressive, new Mest sound where it’s like, it doesn’t sound dated, like you can hear it. It sounds like some shit that would come out right now that some kid that listens to Mest and kids are influenced by our bands are putting out now. I made sure we touched on every style that Mest sort of has played into. From acoustic pop rock shit, to the fast passion to the junk shit and the tempo stuff, and I don’t think we purposely wrote it like that. We started writing songs, and it sort of took a vibe. I feel like if you’re a fan of Mest, you’re gonna fucking love this record.

Yeah, and it sounds like you got your heart in the right place and you sound like you have a very authentic feeling towards this album. So that in itself is a success in its own right. So I applaud you guys for this and I look forward to promoting the record with you when it comes out on May 31st.

Thanks so much, Adam!

Have a great evening!