Story of the Year have had a somewhat tremulous time recently. First they were dropped (or rather not picked up) by the major label Maverick was incorporated into, then they had the monster task of getting onto a newer, better label (which they managed), they then embarked on a monster tour which left Ryan and co. jealous at people who get to walk their own dogs in the park. Oh, and in the interim, they’ve released a rather brilliant album too. Just proving that if you work hard enough, you can choose your own fate. Gigwise caught up with the wonderfully wonderful Dan Marsala and Ryan Phillips. My, these boys are talkative types; we thought we were opinionated motherfuckers!
So what fucks Story of the Year off? Is it people screaming, crying or gunning for their affections, or the lack of decent music permeating the scene right now? It’s got to be the latter; someone at Story of the Year HQ has posted a rantarific blog on their myspace likening the video for new single, ‘Wake Up’, to making a choice between the new Akon record or butt fucking a bloated corpse. Controversial folk that we are, we call them up on this. “Holy shit! That’s fucking amazing!” says lead guitarist Ryan Phillips. “That’s exactly what it is.” Though both members of the band admit, “We’ve got no beef with Akon!”, they obviously aren’t too fond of the genre formerly known as rhythm and blues. They notoriously post blogs calling out for ‘music with a message’ and not just songs about ‘rims and hoes’. Ryan laughs his head off, “I just want to be clear. I fucking hate it! Every song is about the same thing. ‘This is how rich I am, this is how my shit I have’. It’s about as fucking terrible as it gets.” So what do Story of the Year make of pop punk artists incorporating the dreaded RnB influence into their work? Dan Marsala responds, “If it’s done with integrity and there’s a good motivation behind it then I guess that’s cool. But I think a lot of the artists we’re talking about are just doing it to make money.”
Talking of money, it hasn’t been too easy for the band, when they were left out in the cold after ex-label Maverick amalgamated some of its output into Universal’s production. But it’s not all bad because they were taken up by those rather nice people at Epitaph. How did this come about? “Brett (Gurewitz - owner of Epitaph and ex-guitarist of Bad Religion) was immediately the guy who was most excited about us.” says Dan. “It really showed that he loved the band and had done for a long time! He’d been following us for the last five years, so we could tell he was genuinely going to support us the 100%. It was all pointing to ‘yes’. Everyone at Epitaph is awesome!” We ask what made them choose the indie label. Ryan brags, “They gave us porches! And $40 million!” We ask if we can print that, and then write ‘This is a blatant lie’ underneath. Ryan replies, “Of course!” So, this is a blatant lie, readers. A blatant lie!
The band has been touring for a while. What do they miss most about being on the road? Ryan wines, “I miss my dogs so badly! I see people walking their dogs and the dogs look so happy. I just want to see my dogs.” Dan adds “Being on the road is an awesome, amazing experience but you do miss certain things. It’s the best job I could ask for!”
The new album ‘The Black Swan’ was released last month (you can find the Gigwise bum fucking here – no bloated corpse in sight). The band admits that overall the reviews have been really good for the album. This isn’t necessarily a surprise since debut album ‘Page Avenue’ sold by the shitload. For whatever reason, their sophomore effort did not. Have the band felt pressured writing the new album with this in the back of their minds? “The thing I’m most proud about our situation is that we never looked back and thought ‘Ok we need another ‘Page Avenue’”, says Ryan, “We’ve always been of the mindset that we’re going to push and challenge ourselves in writing new music. We all really liked the second record and are all really proud of it. But yeah, it definitely wasn’t as commercially liked or accepted. It’s shit you take into account when you’re writing but at the same time, we said ‘Ok let’s just make songs we like’ and hope that everyone else liked them too – but you never know.”
Is the band even bothered about how they are perceived in the press these days, with two albums done and dusted? Ryan admits he’s not the kind of person that cares about stuff like that, “I did when we first started out but I’ve just got to the point now where it’s not going to change how I feel. It’s not going to change how I feel about my band and it’s not going to change how I write music. No offence to you, but I really don’t care about that sort of stuff.” Dan adds, “I always check stuff out but it doesn’t affect me. We write music for ourselves. Music that we love! If everyone hates it that sucks, but we’ll let the fans speak for themselves. If people are at our shows then that’s what I care about more.” So is the band more confident in writing records three albums on? “It doesn’t necessarily become easier because it never becomes easy.” Dan admits, “You know you have to live with these songs forever and you want them to be as good as they can be. There’s always that sense that you’re never done.” Ryan adds, “I think we’ve become harder to please now. It is easier to work together and get shit done but it’s harder to like it.”
The band bought in the aids of John Feldmann and “Elvis” Baskette to produce the new record (notably famed for bringing Atreyu, Lostprophets and Escape the Fate’s work to life). How much influence have the producers had on the final record? “Any time you hire in a producer, you automatically get another band member.” says Ryan. “Feldmann (also the lead singer in Goldfinger) has definitely affected how the songs have turned out.” Dan adds, “Elvis did a lot of stuff with the drums. He’s really good at knowing when to break things down a little more so things hit harder. He’s also really good at making sure the bridge takes you to a different place.” Ryan tells any band that might be reading to this to “Go make a record with Elvis. It’s the best time we’ve ever had!” Dan agrees, “He is a genius and he has an awesome beach house we lived and recorded in. It was the best experience ever.”
As they are releasing a DVD filled with lots of insane back stage shenanigans, we ask what the craziest thing they’ve done on tour is. “I’m thinking of something from the DVD right now, which is very entertaining” says Dan. “Our friend Sid, who’s also from St Louis, was backstage with us. Adam (SotY’s bass player) peed in a water bottle. We ended up getting everyone to throw in 20 bucks and we made our friend drink the pee! He slammed the whole bottle!” Ryan adds, “I did a dump and bought it on stage and played the whole show with my turd.” Where did he put it? “On a plate.” he responds, “I actually reached in and grabbed it bare hand and then our merch guy saw it and threw up!” Whatever made him do that? “He’s just naturally weird.” says Dan.
Story of the Year’s album ‘The Black Swan’ and their DVD of backstage mayhem are out now. The band will be back in the autumn on the International Taste of Chaos and will be doing another headlining tour towards the end of the year.