Thursday, June 23, 2016

No Plan B: An Interview with Josh LeMay of Citizen Zero

To create art you have to be fearless. You have to do what, in your heart, you know is right regardless what other people think.  You have to be willing to take the leap of faith even though there may not be a net.  Sometimes you fall but every scar is a lesson.  You grow from lessons.  They make you who you are today.  That is the philosophy that embodies Citizen Zero.

Fran Chismar: Thank you so much for calling and taking the time out of your schedule.

Josh LeMay: Of course.

Where are you at right now? Where are calling from?

I am in ... Just outside of Detroit, Michigan.

Okay, so are you on tour right now or are you at home?

We're not, we're home for a very brief time. We get to celebrate the 4th of July here at home in Michigan which is always bad-ass. Nobody has quite the experience that Michigan does. When we get the good weather, we really, really celebrate it.

I have to ask because this is for me more than anything else, are you a Red Wings fan?

I don't have a choice, I have to be. The other one ... Not so much. You know you don't have to be but this is hockey town, you got to be a Red Wings fan.

I grew up outside of Philadelphia, I still live just outside of Philadelphia and everyone here is Flyers country and so I've been a Red Wings fan since Yzerman's rookie year.

Oh, boy.

Which is tough being in Philly and being a Red Wings fan.

Yeah, that's ... It's like you got to be unanimously hated.

You don't go to a game and wear a Red Wings jersey.

No. It's dangerous.

Okay, enough about me.  So it's 2016 and you're about to put out your debut album on Wind-Up Records, State of Mind. You've already toured with some really big names which is awesome considering ... It seems like a really fast start for a new band before their debut touring with this type of caliper bands but it's actually been a long road, you guys have been a band since 2010? Is that correct?

Yeah, we've been writing songs since 2010, played our first song in February 2011 and yeah, man, it's been a lot of behind the scenes rough road to get to this point. I keep reinstating this line and it literally stands true every time I say it. It took us years just to get to the starting line.

What are some of the things that you've had to overcome along the way? You were already cutting an EP by 2012, correct?

Correct. Yeah, so we had done that in Detroit and found some folks to believe in us then and started making some progres in 2011 and really cutting our teeth and learning what it's like to be produced and learning how important that is, is what I should say and learning how important putting on a good live show, not just playing the songs but actually putting on a show. Just took some bad press and took some good press and learned how that felt and just really, again, learning all the ropes and paying our dues as everyone says. 2012 came along and, yeah, it was a good start, man. Just playing shows like crazy and really having some sort of unique opportunities unfold for us and all this other crazy stuff.

Then 2013 came along and it was ... We had some label interest, so now we're starting to get really the attention of some people that can, in our eyes, make or break our careers. We're in the studio and we're cutting these tracks with the assumption of we got this in the bag, we're a guaranteed shoe-in with these labels if we record these songs that they've heard demos for and they already loved them and they're just like, "Yeah, you know what? This is going to work, so you guys record these songs, get them done, get us a whole album and we'll talk." April 3, 2013 came around and we were in the studio and absolutely killed in the studio all day long, just had a great day, 9 hours worth of music recorded. It's myself and 3 brothers in a band, it's myself, John Dudley, Greg Dudley, and Matt Dudley and-

You guys are pretty young at this point too?

We're young, I'm only 22 years old in April 2013. Yeah, we're real young and once they show it on April 4th, Matt, our lead guitar player committed suicide that day. Obviously everything totally halted. Something like that changes not just the project you're working on, that alters lives.

It's family at this point.

It's family.

Beyond the band.

When I met Matt in 2010 there every ... I can maybe think of 5 or 6 days that we were not together in that entire period of time. All we did was sit and write music and all that kind of stuff. Just totally, totally crazy. Again, really a state of confusion.

Is this something that everyone may have had a hint he was having issues or it was just completely out of the blue?

That's always a common question right after and I guess the answer is yes and no. It was a day-by-day thing so you know what I mean? Everybody, every human being, we're all wired similarly in the fact that we all have dark sides, we all have that sadness in us, that's just human emotion. You go from having ups and downs and everything in between so yeah, I mean I guess yes, in the sense that there were dark days with Matt but never ... I have dark days too and I ... You know? It's never, I guess it's just you never really comprehend that happening. Again, hindsight being. 

Hindsight is 20/20

Yeah, exactly and hindsight being 20/20 in retrospect, yeah, of course you see it, and you're like, "Man why?" At the same time during it, it just doesn't ... It's not even a fathomable thought, really, it never seems like it happens to anybody in your circle. Especially that close. That obviously took us off course. It wasn't actually that far after that, the brothers both said, "We're going to continue on and do this, it's what he wanted." We picked up and met our guitar player, Sammy Boller, a monster on the guitar.  Matt was an absolute monster as far as guitar players went, just incredible. It was pretty cool to have found another guitar player that even came close and in same ways even surpassed him.

Which is welcomed right away. Was that weird ... Going from family to letting someone else in?

You know what? Here's what was weird. Sammy was not the first guy that we had unfortunately and life would have been a lot easier if we had just found Sammy and we were good to go.  We toured through several other candidates before and that's what it made it difficult - because those guys, whoever we tried out, nothing personal against them, but they just didn't measure up and it made it really difficult. When you're just like trying guy after guy after guy after guy after guy, and nothing's working out, you're just going, "Man, is this ever going to get to a point where we find somebody who's worthy in our eyes?"  Again we had attracted and gotten attention at this point so it was one of those things where "Is this going to be ... Is this person not only good enough to fill the position but worthy of the accolades that have already happened to us?" Just a lot of mixed emotions and it's not an easy thing to come into and especially because Sammy's ... To say something about Sammy's character is he came in and not only filled that slot but he quickly, quickly, quickly became one of our best friends, instantly. It was just like, "Okay, we've got this bond that goes beyond music."  Just personally, we're all on the same page and that was really refreshing, too. Sammy was our glimmer of hope.

He was going to Berkeley School Music, on a full ride to Berkeley School of Music and he was leaving in September.  We met him August. He didn't go. He stayed home but within 4 weeks after he was supposed to leave for Berkeley we were opening up for ZZ Top and Kid Rock at amphitheaters.

Which is amazing. You never know when you're going to get that opportunity again.

You're not, that's the thing. We measure our success by stuff that we're checking off the list as achievements I guess and it keeps you humble because you're always measuring yourself against something greater, something that we're trying to achieve, so you never stop being hungry for it, which we hope is a recipe for keeping ourselves humble. The real reason is it's for somebody like Sammy, for somebody like me, for somebody like John, that moment when you're walking out onstage at a place where you've grown up and seen shows your entire life, now we're getting radio play and what not. It's like you're getting radio play in your hometown that you're ... You've had these childhood dreams.

We're all 3rd generation musicians in our family so we grew up with that dream.  Some kids want to be Ninjas and firefighters.  That's all we ever wanted to do was play music. I was 3 years old writing on my little papers in 3rd grade saying "What do you want to be when you grow up?" It was always a musician.

There was no doubt? There was no doubt then when you started to play together as a band?  I'm sure you guys had jobs or school but you knew what you wanted to do. You knew.

We knew what we wanted to do even before we were in a serious band. It was 6th grade when we started writing songs. You don't even know. I couldn't even spell most words.  It was an obsession even before it was maybe an opportunity to actually do something with it. We didn't even comprehend that, "Hey, by they way, one day you're going to have bills to pay and shit." You know what I mean? It was even before that and then the bills came later and it was like, "Okay, what if I could do this to pay my bills?" It's totally like this unfathomable thing.  Again, we're so grateful for the opportunity to say that, "Okay, we're going to make a living playing music."  It's just crazy.

I'm going to try not to jump around too much but just thinking about that. The industry's really changed even over the last 10 years, let alone the last 20 years. It seems like ... I'm not saying that bands didn't have to hustle before. You look at underground bands like Black Flag and traveling the world in a van and things like that, it was tough. It seems like there's less money behind it and there's more hustle to have happen, a lot more social interaction. Do you find it that way? Do you find it's maybe a lot harder work than what you originally anticipated more than just playing music?

Yeah, it's kind of a 2-part answer to this question. As a fan of other bands and as a fan of music, there's nothing cooler to me than the opportunity that social media gives because you know?

Without a doubt.

To be able interact totally unfiltered, that is super cool to me. Like I said, as a fan first of music, it's insane to see like what some of these ... It's just really humanizing to see some of the stuff. What these guys do behind the scene kind of stuff. Then the other side of it, something did come with that but I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. It definitely has changed.  A label, for instance, is going to expect more out of their band.  It's really become a machine, the labels in themselves but you, yourself have to be the machine, you have to keep feeding the machine so you're just as much a part of it as a label. Now again, I'm pretty young so who the hell knew how it was back in the day but I got a feeling it was drastically different than it is now.

For us, as a music blog, we definitely as a consensus find much more pleasure dealing with newer bands or younger bands just for the interaction and having the accessibility. Larger bands don't necessarily always have the time or the need but talking to you right now, this is what does it for us. This is what gets us excited about music but it also makes you appreciate someone. Like I've had Twitter conversations with Tom Morello. It makes you appreciate how huge this guy is that he still takes time to just chat with fans.

Yeah, it's bad-ass. At the end of the day we're all just dudes playing music. Just dudes wanting to play music, man, that's what it's all about, you know? It's just, someday, I'd get really lucky.

Yeah, you know what? It's luck but it's hard work and you see it. It's definitely what happens behind the scenes is a little more visible now and I think everyone has a little bit more of an appreciation for it.

Yeah, that's switch is great, great news.

Yeah, yeah. Just to backtrack a little bit. When Sammy joined the band, did it change the musical direction at all like what you were doing 6 years ago, is it different from the new music?

That's a pivotal part of our story, Fran. When Sammy ... Me and Matt were definitely the main writers, and me and Sammy are the driving force behind at least the initial idea. Everybody else because ... Members are not interchangeable in this band, let's just say that, like everybody- Without like a John on drums, we're probably fucked, but you know, the first song I ever wrote with Sammy was a song called "Go", which is the first single off this new record.

Which is incredible.

Oh, thank you, thank you, but that's crazy to me because we measure things, we measure success by these little benchmark moments that we hit.  You do see the behind the scenes and I'm glad you know that our history started a while ago just because of the fact that we worked through a lot of hurdles. Every band does, every band has worked through shit that most people will never know about. Just from inner turmoil and different people wanting to grab at you and pull you in different directions and everybody knows that and it's just crazy, right?

Again, we started to wonder... Especially during that 2013 year, even though we're playing these big shows and what not, "How do bands get signed? What's the next step from here? How much can we do by ourselves? How much does the label do?" You start to really ask questions now that are leading us to the next step in our career and it was at that point that Sammy and I started writing songs. Johnny and Greg started writing songs together and all of a sudden we're writing this stuff that doesn't sound anything ... I shouldn't say that, it does sound like old stuff but it's definitely not the same. You couldn't put an old EP that we had on with these new songs. We still had our own identity and everything but these were now songs that were taking a different form, a little more like "Go".  We've now matured from being 20 and 22-old year shits to 24-year old shits.  Now we know something. I started developing ideas in my head of the world around me. At that age I'm caring less and less if my opinions piss people off and more and more about having a stance on things, so we started writing songs and they start coming out a little less ... How do I say this correctly? A little less angry and little more directly to the point.

For instance, "Go", is written about ... You probably read this somewhere if you've done your research on us, but "Go" was written about the Sandy Hook tragedy.  I don't know if you were going to ask me that at some point so we can touch on that in the second part. The long story short is at this point in our career we were writing songs that didn't fit with older stuff so all that label attention that we had dried up and they went, "Wait, wait, wait. You guys only have 2 songs that sound like all this new shit, so who are you?" was the big question at that point and the same time were being asked, "What's the story? Tell us the story."

"Well, we've been through this, we've done this, we've overcome this."  They'd say, "Yeah, that's not a story." I was like "I don't know what the fuck ... What the fuck's a story? I don't know what that is." He's like, "What?  You're not saying anything. You're being cryptic and avoiding the topic." Anyway, long story short, we totally dried up again. The next 2 years was spent trying to over come something, trying to overcome the defeat that we were in and trying to reinvent ourselves. From that turmoil, from that dark place, is where this record came from and it's called State of Mind just because of the fact that that's what 2 years was defined by - different states of mind.

From moment-to-moment, from second-to-second. Some days, from day-to-day, from week-to-week. It was great moments, it was triumphant moments followed by somebody totally pulled the rug out from underneath you and you start over. It was one thing after another. Again, this idea that started to develop and this all spun from one question, I'm sorry.

That's okay, please.

The idea sprung up that we were living this life and we were going to do it not matter what so we started developing this idea of no plan B. There was nothing else we were going to do besides this. There was another line that stuck in our heads which was ... I ended up getting it tattooed on myself, which is "fight to love". It's got to let love for what you're doing overcome everything else.  Don't be afraid to fail and don't be afraid to go for things and have to start over.  There's songs that reflect that. There's a song on this record called "Love Let It" and it's like my baby. It's literally just about that.

I was actually going to ask which track are you most excited for people to hear when the album comes out? Is that the one?

"Love Let It" is really near and dear to my heart because you don't ... I think the great ones come out very quickly. You just have this rush of emotion that hits you and all of a sudden you don't have to think, it just sort of comes. I think that one came to me the quickest in a state that was truest to the actual song, which I think is important. It's as honest as you can possibly be because people are going to see through it if it isn't. People are way, way smarter than we give them credit for. People say that people are stupid. Generally, the people that say that are stupid.

I'm trying not to jump around but so much of what you're saying is touching on probably 5 different questions I have for you, and we can go back, but I had a chance to listen to State of Mind.

You did, good.

I had a chance to really let it sink in.  My comments that I wrote said, "It's honest and pure rock." There's no gimmicks, it transcends genre, it's just honest and pure.

That's great, what a compliment.

There's diversity. You're saying where "Go" is but there's that contrast of sound like with "Home" that it's showing different sides without it being too different, without it sounding like two different bands and I'm excited for you guys because this sounds like a break-out album. This sounds like something that it should be played on the radio. You should be hearing it. People should know this when it comes out.

That's awesome, man. That's what we're going for.

To go back and I was going to touch on Sandy Hook. I had read about that, but more or less that it's amazing what comes out of tragedy. My Chemical Romance wrote their first song based on 9/11. The band was formed on that so it's amazing what inspires people, what comes from tragedy to this point and it's ... That's the first thing I thought of when I saw that you and Sammy had written the first song after Sandy Hook.

By my own admission, I wrote that at a time where I probably had no business having a political view, it's stupid to really ... I'm so so stupid. I don't say I wasn't paying attention but not like I am now, now I've woken up to some things.  It came from that thing of, "Oh, hey, by the way, I have an opinion." You know what I mean? I guess the whole Sandy Hook thing-

That's self awareness too, like realizing this.

It is, that's really the most important. I was actually going to say those exact same words. It's arguably the most important thing anybody could have and you lose sight of it from time to time but in my opinion, I don't think there's a stronger person out there than somebody who's self aware and sometimes you can't choose to have it, it just sort of happens when it happens.

You have to wait till it hits, kind of like puberty.

Right? Maybe? (laughing)

It's funny because it makes me think of ... I don't know if you've ever read the book Money Ball but Bill Beane describes what it takes to be a perfect baseball player He's like, "Sometimes it's someone who is too stupid to realize that he can fail."  He was saying, "Sometimes the best players who have natural abilities don't know how to overcome failure so sometimes it has to be the student of the game that has to learn to overcome and learn every step of the way so they can improve." It sound like that's what you guys are going through, just kind of-

Totally! Well said.

Your constantly getting better and it just seems like a perfect ex- That analogy fits this perfectly.

I think it comes from that spot again of just ... That state of self-awareness, "We know we're stupid. 


We know we're green. We don't know anything.  We don't know a lot so it's that conscious unknowing stage. You know what I mean?  We're green to all of this so it's every step of the way.  It's exciting and back to that first point, just remain hungry for it.  I think you just touched on that and I think it's really important.

Back to Sandy Hook. That song came quick. Most songs on this record came quick but that one in particular being the first song me and Sammy wrote, except for the piano part, the whole song was done on piano. He came up with this really haunting piano part which is how the song starts, which is now guitar. We were sitting there playing it. It was just that, there was nothing else to it. We had just done it the night before and then Sandy Hook happens the very next day.  I'm sitting at home. I can't remember if I was unemployed but most likely I was. Sitting there and watching the news as this whole thing unfolded.

It was, first of all, the act itself.  What actually happened was even more so than others, not like you can really compare the sickness of people from tragedy to tragedy but something as innocent as Sandy Hook ... That ... It still... I can't even talk about it because it sends chills ... I've never seen more evil in my life, let's just say that. When this happens, already it's stirring up emotions in everybody just because of how unreal and how it does not seem like it's our reality.  After that, I started really paying attention to the whole thing as it unfolded, in the hours after, and started realizing how every single media affiliate, every single television affiliate was recording and it got insane.

It still happens to this day. It's happened every single time with the most recent tragedy like Orlando. The song transcends not just Sandy Hook.  It started there but it needs to be pulled everywhere. There's no integrity. Every media affiliate has their own political agenda. Every media affiliate didn't have the integrity to just report the situation. I have no problem with that but the big moment for me was when the actual officers involved were pushing people back and saying, "Media's got to stay back. We'll let you know when things unfold, blah, blah, blah, blah." The media were taking cameras and shooting through the actual police barricade and getting tight shots. Every single one is guilty of it, is getting tight shots of parents crying.

They're selling the tragedy.

They're selling, oh yeah, absolutely.  They're saying stuff like, "Look at the devastation on their faces." It's like, "Are you serious?"

It sort of means that there's no respect for it.

Oh yeah, zero. Within 5 minutes they're interviewing people on gun policy. "We need more guns, we need less guns, we need no guns."  Every second it was something different.  Now the NRA are involved.  They're all using it for a political reason now.  It was totally insane and it's happened time and time again. You always know the shooter, you never know the victims. They're just feeding off of this. It was just crazy, man.

I think it's to the point where we as people realize this and are tired of it.

It's just a reality TV show. That's really what it is. You're not even reporting on reality, you're just making a TV show out of it. That's exactly what it is. Yeah, that particular one really showed me. I started paying attention and now I see it almost every single time this happens, which seems like it's happening a lot more.

What's beautiful is that you have a voice, you have an opinion. Most other people that are going to agree with your opinion and you have the stage where it could be heard at this point.

Yeah, that's great man. What an opportunity.

I think you'll find more and more people connect with that as they hear it and the story behind it. I think that's the kind of thing that people need to know about music. It's not always about the music itself, the emotion, the feeling and what's behind it. I'm glad that you could tell the story, I'm glad that people can read the story. That's the kind of thing that you hope for people to connect with.

That's the kind of thing you hope from rock 'n roll.

Yeah, that's what rock 'n roll's about. It's more than just a ... It can be chords and rocking music but there's definitely good messages if you think back to all the great political songs. There's so many messages that have been shared that way.


It's exciting. Speaking of the music, and just about rock itself, when it's done right it can seem really simple. When you're rocking, like a good rocking song can seem really simple but the musicianship in your music is actually pretty technical. You mention Sammy going to Berkeley, you guys are kick-ass musicians.

Thank you.

That's to take something technical and make it seem simple is a feat. That's impressive. Now Sammy has contributed to Secrets of Shred in Guitar World, correct?

Yeah, he's not bad, that guy.(laughing)  That was crazy, man.  We had nothing going at that point. They just randomly found Sammy.  I'm telling you, we don't understand anything the way that dude understands music in general. I can't breathe or walk as well as he understands and knows how to play music. It's freaky.

He just breathes it.  It's part of him.

We hate him for it, yeah, totally.

When you guys are writing, are you writing in pockets? Is it you and Sammy? Is it the band together? Is it lyrics first? Is it music first?

You know what, man? We're firm believers in the oblique strategies, right? I don't know if you ever heard that? It's totally like no formula. The best times to write is when you are out of your comfort zone so we try not to limit ourselves to any certain way. If you're comfortable, it's really hard to be creative. Creativity comes with chaos and disorganization and places where you aren't comfortable. That's really the most important think I think. For us, it's like I write lyrics without any music, which is weird I think. It makes me a poet or something, I don't know.

I'm sure that's a challenge.

Lyrics without music is poetry, I guess.  Sammy will just write guitar parts and then say, "Hey, do you have an idea for this?" Maybe I do or maybe it takes me 6 months to write something or maybe I'm watching the news and it suddenly hits me so there is no formula and that's really fun.

That's great that there's no formula because anything goes.

That's right, there is no wrong way to do it.

Speaking to which, for so many of the new bands that I talk to, by the time their debut hits they've been carrying these songs or playing these songs for years before people have heard them. Now that people are hearing them they already have the whole new album worth of material written and they're sitting on it because they're promoting the new material. Is there a suitcase of material somewhere that you guys are already excited about?

We're super, super avid writers. We don't have the songs chosen yet but, of course, there's always music. We were trying to put some of that music on this album and we said, "No, let's just wait." There's a catalog waiting to see the light of day...

How much of this didn't make the album? How many songs were you choosing from when you went into this?

Oh, boy.

A good amount?

A good amount, yeah, I don't even know. We probably narrowed 35 songs maybe down to the 11 on this.

Is it something where you're in the studio and the producer's saying, "I like this, I like that," or were you guys more maybe pulling towards what you wanted.

There were songs that we pushed for sure that we kind of crammed down their throat. I'm trying to think which ones.  There were some that were really obvious.  "Go" was one of the obvious ones. "What a Feeling" and "Save the Queen" were obvious ones.

Those 3 stand out and also the title track stands out. So many of them stand out as I go through it. Every time I listen to it I take on another track that I obsess upon.

That's what we're hoping for, man.

Every time it's like I hear something I didn't hear before and it sticks out.  I hit replay a couple times and before I know that I've done that with just about every song on the album.

Nice. Oh, hell yeah, that's great. I'll take that all day.

Going back, pulling back on the music, the performance. Now just to name a few you've already said ZZ Top and Kid Rock but you've performed at Rock on the Range, you've toured with Royal Blood, Halestorm, Highly Suspect. We're big fans of High Suspect too.

Yeah, those guys, man.

We've had that opportunity to interview them as well and they were wonderful. They're characters but it's honest and it's in your face. You appreciate that.

They're not faking it.

No, but being on the road with some of these big names and not having an album out or being in front people that don't know you yet, how are you received?

That is a question.

When I cover bands and hear the opening act, who isn't really known, one of the coolest things is when they start playing and you see people's heads pop up and start to move towards the stage a little bit and they grab their attention.  I'm assuming you're spending time at merchant tables and you're getting feedback. Are people really into it and are you getting good vibes?

The most common thing I've ever heard is people say, "Well, we only saw the last 2 songs because it was just the opening act ..." That's the most common thing, nobody actually shows up at the openers. They're like, "We got an hour or 2 of bullshit and then the main attraction's going to come on." My theory is you never know who's going to show up and who's going to be there, you know what I mean? You never know who's going to be the opening band so for me I'm just like, "Dude, I'm going to the opening bands because who knows?" You could be like, "Holy shit, Highly Suspect is the opening." You know what I mean? You can be walking in to go see Shinedown but then the opening band could be Highly Suspect.  You're just like, "Wait, what the fuck?"

Yes, yes, I've seen that. The perfect example is when I was ... Going back I was probably like 20 years old. There's a venue in Philly called the Trocadero which maybe holds about 1,000 people. It's an old movie theater. I went see the Jesus and Mary Chain. This is a place that probably has like a 5 foot tall stage, it's a high stage. Jesus and Mary Chain had such an elaborate stage show, they made the opening act, who was an unknown band at the time, set up on the floor.  They had to play on the floor at face level.

In front of the 5 foot stage?

Yes. Maybe 20 people were there, I didn't really know the band but it was Nine Inch Nails before Pretty Hate Machine dropped.


Absolutely killed it. Trent Reznor's dragging the keyboard player across the floor by his hair.

Dude, that just gave me fucking goosebumps. Are you serious?

Yeah, there were 15 to 20 of us there for the show and we were just ... He was spitting beer at us and breaking instruments. He had broken every instrument by the end of the set.  You never know what you're going to get and I didn't even stay for the whole Jesus and Mary Chain show. I was so blown away that we just left after about 5 songs of the main act.

Holy shit.

That's the magic of music. 

Dude, that's a crazy-ass story. Somebody needs to interview you on that one.

That's why I say, you never know who's going to show up, you never know who's going to be there. For us getting to cover some of these bands that are just breaking and see them blow away the headliner is such magic.

That's the dream.

That is the dream. That's the dream. For someone who may not know Citizen Zero, what can they expect from your live show?

We're a live band, man, that's where we cut our teeth. Like you said, you paid a huge compliment by calling us great musicians, that's not something we take lightly. Being a 3rd-generation of our family, we have a responsibility not to fake it so we're ... Mm? Saying it in a diplomatic way that's not so diplomatic. We're the real deal as far as musicians go. That's always been our thing. We've always wanted to be a musician's band.  Growing up, that was all I wanted to be.

I wanted to be a musician. I never said, "I want to be a songwriter."  When asked "What do you want to do for a living?", all my papers read, "Musician".  Yeah, so we're those guys.  "Can you guys play '18 And Life'?"  And we love to say, "You know what? Yes, yes we can." We're like iTunes.

I've seen bands that were great musicians that ... Perfect example not to call anyone out but I love the New Pornographers. Finally got a chance to see them live, great musicians, played everything technically perfect, but it was kind of like I was watching them like they were in a cage at the zoo, like there was no connect. They were nailing it but there was absolutely no connect with the audience. It was like it was a 2-way mirror.

Probably like the wrong audience because have you ever been in a Dream Theater show? Those are guys are too busy to entertain. They need to sit there and play but you go to that show and you expect, "I'm going to see greatness..." Not a whole lot of movement.

So you guys are completely in the moment? You're completely connecting? You and the crowd are becoming one?

We try to. You know what? One of the coolest stories I have, man, is from Billy Gibbons, believe it or not. He told me and Sammy this as we were talking to him and he's showing us all the guitars.  The dude is like the coolest guy I think I've ever met. It's fucking Bill Gibbons of ZZ Top, right? I'm having a super-fan moment like the way 13-year olds react to Bieber. I'm literally creaming my pants as I'm sitting in front of him, trying not to show it but he must have been thinking, "Dude, take care of yourself, come on." Anyhow, he said, "I listen to your music", all of this in his Southern accent.  Then he tells us running through his riffs, "You know, I play this guitar, and this guitar, and this guitar, and I put them through this thing so everything kind of sounds the same."

We're gear nerds totally. Me and Sammy ask, "We buy other guitars so they sound different. Why do you buy other guitars?"  He says, "Well, what do you mean, man?  People got to see the fuzzy guitar." I said, "Well, yeah, yeah, I get it. People got to see the fuzzy guitar but why do they need to sound the same?"  And he says, "Because people are expecting everything to sound a certain way and you got to deliver that because at the end of the day, don't forget you're an entertainer.  People are coming to see you and you need"...  How did he put it?...  He said, "You're playing stages like this, you now have a responsibility to do your job, to entertain so it's no longer that you're doing it because you're satisfying yourself, you're an instrument yourself. You are here because the people want you here."

That's why people pay money to see ZZ Top. That's because you're going to be entertained. You're not just going to the show. The same with a Springsteen or someone like that. There's a difference, they take that responsibility seriously.

In the great ones, there's a difference.

Out of all the bands that you've toured with, by far who was the coolest experience to tour with? Who did you connect the most with?

The Royal Blood guys are super cool. Just because of how different that whole thing is. 9 times out of 10, that wouldn't work, right? It doesn't make any sense normally.

It's them and Death From Above 1979.

Right, like some like it short. Even again, from a gear nerd perspective, we sat there just scratching our heads, asking, "You're doing what?  That doesn't make sense." Mostly, he just had a really cool way about him. We were playing at Saint Andrew's in Detroit with him, it was a first show and they came in. They, along with their 2 crew members, loaded their own gear on stage.


Yeah, they wanted to do everything themselves. They had everything a certain way. They're perfectionists.  Once they were done, they waited until the whole place cleared out, they came back in the venue and loaded their own gear out.  It was interesting.  They're just ingrained in it. They're just have the attitude of "No, man, this is what we do, I don't need any help with this.  This is my shit, I know exactly what I want."  I said, "Okay, cool."

Yeah, I was going to say it's either humble or being control freaks.

Oh, very humble. Super, crazy, down to earth guys.

The Rival Sons guys, definitely not down to earth but not in a bad way. Those dudes are from California and they're not faking it that they're from California. They're embody California personality-wise. Everything about them was so fucking cool, it made me sick. They're just rolling out of bed and are just fucking cool, it sucks. Like, right, we're all gear nerds asking Scott what they like about all those amps and stuff.  I ask, "What's this?"  He's got his fucking perfectly groomed mustache and sunglasses and would say in this really, calm, smooth voice, "I play this.  I play orange amps, man, they're custom."  I'd just think, "Goddammit!  You're cool. Fuck, I didn't hear a word you said but, man..."

What's the most rock 'n roll thing you've seen far on tour?

Oh, Jesus.

What did you see that you're like, "Yeah, this is what I was waiting to see"?

This is pretty easy because this is insane. We played Rocklahoma not too long ago. There was bad weather coming in and this is Pryor Creek, Oklahoma so these people are no strangers to bad weather and tornadoes.  I talked to a guy there and he said, "Man, I've been coming to Rocklahoma for 10 years and blah, blah, blah." He says, "Man, I've lived in Oklahoma my whole life.  I've moved around quite a bit. Nader picked me up and put me here.  Nader picked me up, put me somewhere else. I think, "Okay, wow, this is no joke," and then air raid siren goes off half way through on Sunday, right? It looks like, in the distance, coming our way is the end of the world. I've never seen the sky look like this ... We're from Michigan, we don't have tornadoes here. We are looking at what looks to be the Apocalypse about 20 miles away and the sky is 8 different colors of green.  All of the security personnel is evacuated. All the people are getting pushed out and evacuated.  It's thousands of people.  Everybody's being pushed out but there are about 200 people in the beer line that refuse to leave. Literally being evacuated, end of the world coming our way. Beer line ... Totally full and acting like nothing's going on.

Hey, if you got to go out, you might as well go out with a beer in your hand.

That's right, and they're just like, "No, man. We came here to hear some rock 'n roll and drink beer, goddammit. Since you got to stop the rock 'n roll, I guess we have to drink all this beer."

You've heard of Steel Panther?

Oh, yeah, yeah.

Those dudes ... Those dudes are the most ... You asked me what the most rock 'n roll band I've ever seen.

They're still living it?

Just everything they do is the most rock 'n roll thing I've ever seen in my life. They were fucking insane.

Speaking of Michigan and Detroit, you're saying  you're 3rd-generation musicians and Detroit has such a rich, musical history from Motown to Mayer Hawthorne, MC5 to White Stripes. What's the music scene in Detroit right now? What's the current state?

It's different, man.  Detroit's coming back on the rise, right? If you asked me maybe 3 years ago I would say that it's hard because there were a lot of venues outside the Detroit area but not a whole lot in it and if there was, the suburbanites were too scared to go and check it out. It's changing so right now the music scene is ramping up. It seems they have a really big electronic music scene here if that's your thing.

A really big indie scene, like crazy big indie scene. The rock 'n roll scene ... I'd say we're the underdogs here now for sure. The ones that I hear that are still great though, man, we got some great, great rock 'n roll here.

One of our writers just interviewed I Prevail and they're, if I'm correct, they're from Detroit.

Yeah, we're actually managed by the same manager.

Oh, awesome, very cool. It's nice to see some of these cities with a rich history that for Philly it's there's a really big indie scene, bands like Cheerleader and War on Drugs and things like that. It's nice to see that it's still percolating, still churning them out which is very cool.


Just for fun, out of 4 of you who spends the most time on their hair?

Sammy by a mile. Not even a close second.

Just talking about touring schedule is how much you guys have toured recently just to go back and ... Are you guys in relationships or do you find it hard to be in relationships being on the road that much? I know you're getting to spend some time at home right now is it ... Are you finding that part difficult?

I'd be lying if I said it was easy, for sure. This is not conducive for any sort of a ... This a pretty unforgiving lifestyle, let's just say that. If you're just a vagabond, it's great. If you're a homebody you're going to have troubles. You're not going to be happy. It's not going to be what you thought it was, that's for sure. Yeah, but the answer's yeah.

Who has the best tattoo, who has the worst tattoo?

I'm the only one with a large amount of tattoos so I'm going to say me for sure on the best. The worst goes to Johnny. By far.


Johnny the drummer gave himself a stick and poke ... It's supposed to be an arrow, like a bow and arrow-

He gave it to himself?

Like an arrow but it just turned out just like an arrow.

I got to see pictures of this.

It's insane, we all reminded him afterward, "You know what? It's forever, they don't ... There's no washing it off." He holds his bicep up and he'll say, "Hey do you want to go this way?" Put his arm up and it's just an arrow pointing at his chest. Absolutely ridiculous.

That I need to see.

We could send it to you. You're going to hate it.

That's perfect, I need to include it in the interview.

That's great.

If you could plug anything, whatever you wanted to say, that you're excited about?  Do you want to tell people about any upcoming shows or tours?

Absolutely. We're doing our first tour where we're going to be the headliner starting in August. We start on the East Coast, make our way through the Midwest, through the center of the country and then head up to Washington all the way down through California, and all the way down through Arizona, Colorado, all over the place and end up in Texas.  Anybody who's reading, if they're in any of those towns, we'd love to hang and we'd love to have you out to a show.

Awesome.  I'm excited for everyone to hear the album. It's August it's hitting?

August 12th.

August 12th, okay, fantastic and it's State of Mind and it's fabulous. I can't tell you how many times I've listened to it at this point. Not just with research.

I love it, thank you.

It always starts with research and then ends up ... I'd love to know how many plays I have on it at this point.

That's good, man.

Influence-wise, to me, it reminded me of Shinedown without ... I hate comparing people, bands to other bands because I think it's disrespectful.

It's a pretty natural thing to do, though.

Yeah, influence-wise who do you guys listen to? When you're on tour who are you listening to on the tour bus?

God, man. I don't know if you've ever seen it. Have you ever seen the Pearl Jam 20 documentary?

I haven't, no.

I was never a huge Pearl Jam fan, believe it or not, but I watched that documentary and I was like, "Fuck, these guys are great." Chris Cornell was one of my favorites growing up. The dude is just iconic as far as voice, lyrically, just a genius. Everything about him, he could always play guitar incredibly well. Started out as a drummer, I started out as a drummer and he said something in there that was crazy to me.  I think it's why I gravitated towards the grunge era. I was really young at that age but Alice in Chains was one of my favorites growing up. Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, even going back like Mother Love Bone and Temple of the Dog and all these bands. Cheap Trick.

Another great band.

Oh, yeah, love them. King's X is actually one of my favorites. I don't even know if you know who they are.

Yeah, I do, I do.

Dude, that's probably my favorite. Anyway, he said something about when the great '90s music came out, so many of those guys were pulling influence from so many different genres.  Stuff like Motown to old school country and blues, and at the same time Zeppelin, Hendrix, just this huge array of music. Never just sticking with one thing and that's how each and every one of us are. It's weird to find guys that have that common list. All of a sudden a record will come out and we play the living shit out of that record. It's just like we play it, play it, play it, play it, play it, play it, play it.

Then all of a sudden something else comes out and we go to that one and we play it, play it, play it, play it, play it, and it's not just one genre. My grandpa was a bluegrass guy so I grew up on old school country and bluegrass like Merle Haggard, all that kind of stuff.  Then my dad was a rock guy so I grew up with Zeppelin and Hendrix.  Then in the '90s, my dad loved rock music, too, so I was listening to King's X, Soundgarden and STP. Just great bands that wrote great songs. It was later on in life that I decided I didn't only want to be a musician but said, "I want to tell great stories and I want to write great songs. I don't just want to be a great player."  We want to have something to say and have something to scream about.

We always say, "Great music transcends genre." It doesn't get pigeon-holed. It embodies much more. Like that grunge era embodied a whole time period. It wasn't just a type of music, it was ... Soundgarden's a perfect example. I got to see Lollapalooza '92, Soundgarden and Peal Jam perform, you know at the top of their game.


I'll never forget that. It was more than just a show. It was a period of time, more the music and it really was because it spoke to so many people on so many different levels. That's what music should do. It should be ... You're mentioning Grunge and you're mentioning Cheap Trick which is opened at power-pop in my opinion.

Yeah, it is. It definitely doesn't fit with other stuff I just said.

No, no, but it's great music, nonetheless. It's that if you have an appreciation for music, you can appreciate it all and I think you definitely hear that when listening to your music. You can definitely just hear the love of it.

That's awesome, man.

You can't call that in. You can't fake it,

That's a huge compliment.

You know what? You deserve it and we're excited for you. I can't thank you enough, this has been ... I can't believe we talked for over an hour at this point.

I didn't realize that, that's awesome.

I'm not going to take any more of your time. I can't thank you enough, this has been incredible. This is what we do it for. This. You've been awesome.

Cool, man. Thank you so much, man. I really appreciate that.

See you when the needle drops!


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