Amid poo-slinging, mud-flinging fervor, the ever-alternative teenagers in America (and some politically-correct parts of Canada) have once again made going to the Vans Warped Tour a pilgrimage, camping out and getting dehydrated for the hottest punk rock bands. For Michiganders this year, it’s a bitter sweet session, since all of them had to wait the whole summer, until the thought of school crept back into their nightmares, until they make it to this annual summer punk camp. The plus side, however, is with Detroit being the last tour-stop, all hell could break loose as well! Long time legends NOFX and Bad Religion, popular stars MXPX and Good Charlotte, and fresh new faces from the Drive-Thru wagon are among the smorgasbord of bands on the ticket this time around. As anticipation boils, Something Corporate’s piano-banging lead singer Andrew McMahon talked with The Michigan Daily to answer silent cries with an insider’s pit-stop status report. Excerpts of the interview follow.
TMD – It must feel good to be on the final leg of the tour?
AM – You better believe it! I mean, don’t get me wrong. The tour has been amazing, but anytime you do anything for seven weeks straight and you kind of don’t get a break, it’s always kind of nice to see something on the horizon, you know what I mean?
TMD – We Michiganders have looked upon us being the last show of this year’s Warped Tour as the bands saving their best for last. Can we expect to see some special antics come August 18?
AM – I’m not sure exactly what we’ll have planned by that point, but yeah, we’d like to, especially on the last day of the tour. You’ll probably see a lot of band pranks and things like that. At that point, everyone will be so delirious from being out so long that something is bound to happen.
TMD – So, since it’s Something Corporate’s first time on Warped, do you feel like freshmen?
AM – Oh yeah, I mean totally! A lot of these bands have been doing this for so long on this tour specifically, like you play and you come back every year. It’s kind of how this tour works, so yeah, there were some nerves going into it. But I’m really proud of the way that our band has come together and really tightened up, to put a great show live out here everyday. So it’s been good. You have like first-day-of-school kind of nerves going in this tour.
TMD – Which bands have you hit it off well with?
AM – Obviously, a lot of the Drive-Thru bands we’ve been out with have been really cool, like some of the guys from Thursday, Lucky Seven, the New Found Glory guys. There’s so many bands out here, it’s hard to keep track of. It kind of changes from day to day, but you meet all kinds of new cool people you’ve never met before.
TMD – Now you guys must be the only band with a piano?
AM – Yeah, we’re the only band with a wooden, upright, non-synthesized piano.
TMD – Any challenges with that for the show?
AM – Yeah, it can be hard in the beginning. Basically, the way that the sound stuff works is you get onstage with 30 minutes before your show, and you have to be ready, not to mention that you have no sound check, because there’s usually a band playing right next to you. So, I mean with a piano, getting it mixed and the monitors, in 30 minutes without being able to hear it can sometimes be troublesome. But we’ve worked the kinks out early and it’s been working every day pretty much.
TMD – Any really memorable fans?
AM – Yeah, like the other day we had a couple kids take us out and let us take showers and do our laundry at their house. We played a show in Orlando and it was pouring rain, and I crowd-surfed and ran around the audience in the mud, basically, and we had no showers that day at the venue, and I was like, “god, if only I can have a shower.” This kid overhead me and said, “We only live a few miles away.” They let us do our laundry and take showers and eat at their house, which was probably the coolest thing we could have happen.
TMD – OK, let’s switch gears. Any regret of not continuing your education?
AM – To be honest, I kind of look at this as a continuation of my education. I think a lot of people look at somebody in a band who didn’t go to college as some sort of dropout. To me, college is a chance to go and find your passion and learn about it and study it. And to me music is my passion, and I couldn’t be studying it or learning about it in any better way than right now. I think it’s this way for all of us in the band. I mean, we’re all here to gain something from this experience, not just get wasted everyday. That’s our purgative. We want to earn whatever success we can get.
TMD – Let’s talk about your new album. After signing with Drive-Thru, would you say that you guys made an extra effort to diversify your sound?
AM – Not really, I mean when we signed with Drive-Thru, we made a very specific point, and they made a very specific point to us that they weren’t signing us to be like any of their bands. They were signing us because they liked the way our band was. When we went into the recording process, we were just recording what was right for us, no matter what record label we were on. And to be honest, I think it’s almost been cool to have that as a reference point, having the Drive-Thru thing, just because we ended up seeing the contrast between the scenes that we play and our own. I think it’s kind of cool. I like being able to give something different to the kids that come to our shows.
TMD – Well, some die-hard fans have noted that songs on the album, such as “Hurricane”, “Cavanaugh Park”, and “Straw Dog” all sound different from their originals. What was done differently for the new album?
AM – Well I think you’re always going to have things sound a little different when you get to dive in. I mean the sounds on the record are so much better than anything else. I think before, everything was a little bit more low fidelity, because we didn’t have the resources to make them sound as good as we wanted them to. And I think with us, we knew it was a problem that we knew we were going to have, but at the same time, we always want to come out with the best product and the product that makes us the happiest first, because otherwise you really can’t be true to your fans. For us, we don’t ever want to back a product that we weren’t 100% behind, and we had a chance to go in and record some songs with the kind of quality that we were really looking forward to. Like the songs you mentioned, we were really happy with the way they turned out. Like “Cavanaugh Park” we were able to add a 32-piece symphony to, you know? Little things like that, little developments that happen as you grow as a band. And we stand by those songs. I think the thing that you’ll find with most kids, it’s kind of like whatever they hear first, they tend to like the most? So for us, it’s like, in the long term of things we saw the long term potential of those songs.
TMD – Would you disagree with being labeled as emo?
AM – Yea I would completely. I read this review of our record the other day that basically just said we weren’t being true to “our emo selves” or something. And at one time I had this kid at a show come up to me and say “you guys used to be so emo,” like we had cast aside the “emo torch” we were carrying or something, you know? We’re just a band that plays, and we consider ourselves a rock band just because we don’t like the stigma associated with the other categories we’ve been put in, if that makes any sense? We just play exactly what we want to play, and if that earns us some sort of emo title, it doesn’t necessarily make me mad, or something, but I’d definitely disagree with it. I don’t think we consistently play slow, tempo-less, whiny music. Not to say that’s all that emo is, but I think it’s how a lot of people would characterize it.
TMD – What’s it like seeing yourself in magazines like Seventeen and YM? Do you get a say in the publicity or is it all just done for ya?
AM – Well we obviously get a say, and we do as much as we can, but at this point we want to be in everything we can. With our band, our entire goal has been to put our music in as many hands as possible, and out of any other necessity other than the fact that we want other people listening to us, you know? It’s like, some people view that as, like, a “sellout mentality,” like all you want to do is sell records, and I think there is a place for me that might come from that, but for us it’s more just like we’re really of what we’ve done as musicians and the more people who’re listening to it, the better we feel. So, if that means we’re going to be in a bunch of magazines trying to get attention placed on this band, then I’m really happy about it.
TMD – Ok, do you have an explanation for your name, because there’s a rumor that MCA originally wanted it to be changed?
AM – Well it wasn’t really MCA. I don’t want to say the label, but there were people involved around the signing of this band who thought that it may be a smart idea if we changed it initially, just because they thought, “well you know, you’re signed to a record label, and people may think that’s a ‘corporate thing,’ and you may take shit for it.” And all of us just thought that if we changed our name on behave of a record deal signing, wouldn’t that be the absolute most corporate thing you could do? We were just like “fuck it!” I mean our first show, we’d introduced ourselves as “Something Corporate” and they go “Something Stupid!” We’ve been taking crap for our name since day one. Hell, if we stayed through that, I’m going stay through anybody telling me to change it for a record deal.
TMD – Now you guys shot your video for “I Woke Up in a Car” in Canada. Do you think you were an exporter of the American film industry away from Hollywood?
AM – You know, (laughs nervously) I guess you can definitely say that, and I can see that. I mean I’ve never been asked that, so yea, we probably are. But at the same time…(stutters over words)…god I really hope I don’t get myself into deep shit with Hollywood or something you know, but at the point that we were making that video it was like you know, everything you do in this business costs money, so you have to repay every cent of everything you do. So, we found a place that we can do it cheaper and at a better price for our business…and believe me, you don’t see much money when you make records, you know? You can ask people who sell millions of records, they don’t really see that much money either. So, it’s like paying off a $200,000 dollar video or a $75,000 thousand dollar video. And the intention really wasn’t just to save us money when we did it. The reason we did it there (Canada) was because we had two days off between tours and we were out there doing a New Found Glory concert, so we were like “We’re in Toronto. They have a big film industry here. There’s a director who wants to do it, and we’re out there. So it wasn’t really motivated by anything like “fuck Hollywood” or something like that, but really more by time and convenience. But yea there was definitely a price break involved. That I won’t deny.
TMD – Ok, now this question you’ve probably been asked a million times, but I have to get it straight…in “If U C Jordan,” what does the line “Did you make it in time to masturbate” mean?
AM – (laughs) You know I was just throwing everything at the wall, because I was so pissed at that kid, and it goes back to the history between the two of us. He had this website back in high school, where it was basically him and his buddies all discussing masturbation over the web. I don’t know, it was kind of funny actually, but on this website he had made a point to rip on our band, or something. This was like a stupid cheesy high school fight. So, I decided to make like the dickhead reference about him on his way home to masturbate, just kind of because I was really in the mood to slander the kid at the time. This song was really never meant to leave my garage!