Local punks Off With Their Heads have been grinding out some of the best melodic "don't call it pop-" punk the Twin Cities has seen in recent history, all under the radar, for seven years now. A stable lineup since 2007 and constant touring (15 months in the last year and a half) have led to a strong national following and sales of over 20,000 records worldwide -- all for a band who owes more to the local underground basement scene than radio play. Now, they've officially signed with LA punk powerhouse label Epitaph (as we first reported here) and are ditching the winter cold for another round on the road, starting with tonight's show at Memory Lanes. We sat down with OWTH singer/guitarist Ryan Young for a quick five questions about what it means when you spend more time in a van than in your hometown.
Gimme Noise: Tonight's your tour kickoff. What is your favorite tour story?
Ryan Young: On our first trip to Europe, we had six days in the UK. The last day of these shows was in Southampton with our friends Four Letter Word from Wales. The show was great, and everyone was having a great time. Benny (our German booking agent and driver) hadn't had a chance to let loose yet. Since we were sleeping walking distance from the club, he was free to drink all he wanted. I remember seeing him crowd surfing while we were playing--not a typical Benny day. After the show, we were all loading out while Benny was passed out on the stage. We basically loaded him out of the club along with all the gear and threw him up into the loft in the back of the van with his feet were hanging down out of the back. As Josh was trying to load a guitar cabinet into the van, Benny wound up and kicked him right in the face. Josh always gets pissed off, but this was a whole new level. While we loaded the rest of the gear, Josh was just leaning against the building by the van glaring at Benny. No smile, just a hateful glare. I went back into the club to do a dummy check but decided to take one last look at the van before going in. What I saw was Josh grabbing Benny's passed out legs and just beating the shit out of them, Charlie Murphy style. While he was beating, he was screaming "YOU. DON'T. KICK. ME. IN. THE. FACE. YOU PIECE OF SHIT!!!!" All the while, Benny was screaming "FUCK YOU, AMERICAN PIECE OF SHIT!" I almost collapsed laughing, which made Josh even more mad. Benny slept in the van that night. The next morning, he had no memory of any of what had happened. Classic.
GN: In the past couple years you've spent more time touring or staying in other cities than living here. Is that much time in a van difficult? How does touring so much affect your connection to the Twin Cities?
Young: Sometimes being in the van can drive you a little crazy, but it passes. Doing something extraordinary with your life always has its price. Being in a full time touring band takes everything else from your life and puts it second. It can be hard, but it's worth it to not get stuck with regret. My connection to the Twin Cities is weak at best. I have a few close friends that I stay in touch with, but that's about it. I've been spending my small amount of time off with my girlfriend. She lived in Chicago up until a few months ago, now we are out in San Diego.
GN: How did the band end up signing with Epitaph? What are your plans for the next record? How do you see things changing up musically and lyrically?
Young: Brett just called me up one day and said he was a fan. I was surprised to say the least, as a lot of the stuff that label has put out lately has been the exact opposite of what I am in to. He seemed cool enough. We talked about Rancid a lot. Ten months later, we worked out a deal that made us both happy. Now we have a new full length recorded and it will be coming out June 1st. Nothing has changed, we just had the money to spend some time in the studio, so I'm actually happy with how it turned out. We have full creative control over everything we do, which is awesome.
GN: What music turns your crank these days?
Young: I just like catchy stuff. Pop radio. Good indie rock. Frank Turner. Neutral Milk Hotel. Cocksparrer. Nick Cave. Pink. Lady Ga Ga. I'm all over the place. Most punk shit doesn't stand out enough for me to get into it.
GN: Does the term "pop-punk" mean anything in 2010?
Young: I'm the wrong one to ask, because I hate pop punk. Everyone always asks me "How can you hate pop punk if you are in a pop punk band?" I don't consider OWTH a pop punk band. We are just a band. Pop punk to me is a bunch of nerds in leather jackets who worship one of 3 dickheads in bad bands that sound like dumber versions of oldies. That's not me, and I want no part of it. I just like people that make music that means something to them. You can almost instantly see someone's motives for music within five seconds of their first song. If nothing else, at least I'm not full of shit and hopping on some fashionable trend. I just am who I am and do what I do. I think music would be a lot more interesting if people were just themselves. Pop punk is imitation.
Off With Their Heads plays Memory Lanes tonight with Amen And The Hell Yeahs and Western Curses, doors at 9:00 PM.