How do you guys personally feel about the new album?
Derek: I can honestly say that we are more pleased with this album than anything that we’ve done before. From the writing of the songs, down to the actual recording of the album it was about as pure a process as possible, creatively.
Are there any new directions that you tried to take on this album?
Derek: I think we tried to connect a bit with some of the older albums, not musically – but in terms of how honest and forward the lyrics are. We also took measures to strip away some of the musical layers that we had implemented on Crimson.
Why did you only pick 10 tracks you guys said there were 15 songs recorded?
Derek: I don’t think it was quite 15 songs, regardless… we wanted to keep things simple, and 10 song albums used to be the standard when vinyl was king. With the onset of technology and especially digital releases, there is no end to how much music you can release at one time. We wanted to take a step back, and make it short & sweet. And for the record, the record label requested we add an 11th song on the album.
What does the new album offer both veterans Trio fans and the new generation of fans?
Derek: I hope that there is a little bit in there for everyone. I feel like there are shades of the bands earliest material on the album, as well as musical elements that were introduced on the past few albums.
How do you guys come up with the album art? Is it your idea completely, someone else’s idea, or do you even have anything to do with it?
Derek: It’s usually collaboration between the graphic artist and us. In the case of Agony & Irony, Matt had the idea for a cover based on a 1960’s Time magazine cover. John Yates (our graphic artist for the past few albums) took the idea and eventually it ended up where it is today.
With Crimson, it seemed like a lot of fans didn’t care for it at all, the so called “old-schoolers,” you know, the people who would prefer you re-write Goddamnit six times in a row. From what I’ve heard of the new songs, it sounds kind of like your older stuff tone-wise, mixed with what you guys have learned about crafting songs. Is this kind of your guys Reactionary?
Derek: It was so much reactionary, as it was the realization that we had taken certain things about as far as we wanted to. It was time to move on, and in doing so some things came full-circle.
With you guys signing V2 and then it folding, was there ever any thought of just releasing a record on your own?
Derek: We explored about every option that we had. At the end of the day, we ended up working with the person we wanted to work with in the first place.
Being that there was never a steady drummer for more than two records, do you feel the band coming together more so than ever now that Derek has been part of the creative process for four albums?
Dan: Well the bands first drummer Glen was with the band for a very substantial period of time, and definitely helped shape what the band was becoming. But now that Derek has been with us for so long the band is better than ever. He’s more involved in the writing than anyone we’ve played with and is responsible for a lot of great production ideas.
A lot of bands don’t even have one capable singer but you guys have two who are both more than capable and yet very different. How much easier does this make the recording process?
Dan: I suppose it makes things easier in the sense that we like to use a lot of harmonies and background vocals… but Derek is actually a better singer than either of us, and he helps out a bunch with that as well…
How do you come up with those lyrics and vocal melodies? Do you just hum along while you’re writing, or do you find the key of the song and generate a melody from that, etc?
Dan: generally, I either start with a lyric idea and build a song around that, but honestly, it kinda happens a little bit differently for every song, that makes them more special.
Being in the studio and trying to write a record can be, I would imagine, quite the process. I was wondering when you guys have your differences or you are feeling “cramped” in the studio what you do yourselves or as a band to cool down and relieve the tension.
Dan: I eat extremely spicy Thai food. Take a run. Do some push-ups. Play guitar. Play world of warcraft. … Not necessarily in that order.
What is it like being in a band now, compared to when you first started? Is it harder now or back when you guys first started out?
Dan: I think it’s probably harder now because it seems like everyone expects things from you, like what we have to sound like or look like, etc… when you’re first starting out it’s a little more difficult to tour and put gas in the tank, but it’s also a lot easier to tell someone to go jump in a lake.
You guys have always had the amazing ability to write consistent albums time after time. What advice would you guys give to bands that feel the need to stray away from the music they play and write the best?
Dan: Not sure I understand the question, but I think you should always write whatever you want to writ, why would you ever do anything else? If you really want to start treading in some different waters I would encourage that. It’s not always a popular choice but you should never restrict your art.
What can we expect from the headlining tour?
Dan: Aqua-technics … (like Pyro but different!) Oh and also a little bit of everything. We’re really excited about finally getting a chance to play a bunch of our new stuff, but we’ll be bringing out a bunch of different old stuff as well. See you there!
Are you guys looking forward to the upcoming Bayside tour and how did you guys get hooked up with them?
Dan: We’re on tour with them right now and it’s been great. Our paths have crossed many times so it’s great to finally be out doing some proper shows with them.
Do you ever find it hard to make set lists to please all your fans with such a huge song collection?
Dan: Yes. Absolutely, but we try and get ideas from the blood-pact, or some “pick-our-set” websites. We definitely can get comfortable playing the same set, or new stuff that we’re really excited about finally playing. But we also want to make sure everyone has a good time…
What songs are you guys sick of playing? And what songs can you play over and over again?
Dan: I’m not really sick of playing anything… there’s certain songs that I feel differently about now because I’m at a different place in my life than I was when I wrote them… but they’re still fun to play live because the nice people that come and see us are having a good time.
Any songs that you wish you didn’t write because it was so cringe-worthy?
Dan: Yes, there are definitely a couple. “Enjoy Your Day” for example is a real “Heart On My Sleeve” emo un-jam … but I definitely remember when I wrote that tune it just poured out of me and was very cathartic. I still enjoy playing it on stage but I could never just sit back and listen to it.
Who came up with the idea for the “Love Love Kiss Kiss” contest? And have you seen any good submissions so far?
Matt: We all put our heads together but I believe it spawned from a conversation Dan and Derek had. They talked about leaking the whole record as sheet music and seeing what people came up with but it ended up just being the one song. All of the submissions were really fun to watch and listen to but we definitely have our faves. Its going to be hard to pick just one.
What has helped you stay focused as a band over the years?
How did the episode of The Hills come about? And how did you feel about it, before and after it aired?
Matt: One of the stars of the show is an intern at our label. Her sister just had a baby and named her “Sadie” after one of our songs. I didn’t know what The Hills was but I was told it’s very popular. If it was for a show that nobody watched we would’ve still done it as we were really flattered that they’re such big fans. They were very nice. I still haven’t seen the show (not even the one we were on). I can’t stand television.
Does Matt have any plans to make another Heavens CD in the future? Or do the other guys have solo projects in the works?
Matt: Heavens has been working on some new tunes but it will probably be quite some time before they’re finished. We’re all going to be quite busy with the Trio for a while but that’s not to say they’re wont be projects in the future.
How did you guys meet Heather Gabel? And how did she get involved with the band?
Matt: We met Heather when we were in art school together in Chicago. She came up with the heart and skull logo and has designed our shirts from the very beginning. She got involved with the band by being awesome and very patient.
What is the meaning behind “Fuck You Aurora?”
Matt: It’s about a friend of mine that moved to Aurora, Illinois. After that we didn’t get to see much of each other. Somebody’s gotta take the blame. Sorry Aurora.
Who would you say is the most influential band from Chicago?
att: Naked Raygun and Pegboy. And Screeching Weasel. And 8 Bark and Cap’n Jazz.
If you had your own record label, what unsigned bands would you sign and why?
Matt: Bayside. They’re about to be free agents and they are the best. I would only sign a band that I like as people. I would never wanna work with dicks. It wouldn’t be any fun. I’m not sure if Sludgeworth has a label but I would sign them in a heartbeat. Same with Screeching Weasel.
Are you guys still close with Vagrant?
Matt: Not especially but there are no hard feelings. They were pretty good to us and we were pretty good to them. We’re still very close to Asian Man Records though.
What’s your warm up/practice routine like now?
Matt: I do a vocal warm-up with a voice coach on my IPOD and drink Throat Coat Tea. Derek does yoga then has a beer. Dan invents drinks and listens to Zeppelin.
What’s your most anticipated summer blockbuster?
The Dark Knight!!! Kat Von D did a Joker-inspired tattoo on me when Heath passed away. I’ve always been a big fan and with Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins) directing it’s going to be amazing! If you watch closely you might catch a Matt Skiba sighting in the film. My bunk is covered in Batman/Joker shit.
Anything else you want to say to the readers of AbsolutePunk.net?
Dan: Thanks for being so patient with us … we know we haven’t been touring or anything for a while, but we look forward to seeing you all soon!
Thank you for taking time to answer these questions for me!