Yuri Ruley takes a break from smacking the skins to chat us up.
You guys have been around for a while and have seen a lot of bands coming and going, what do you think about all the bands that have been coming out and doing what you guys do?
It’s funny because we have a guy on tour with us that played in the Dependents and they’ve been around since ’79. They played thirteen years longer than us so we are in the middle of punk rocks history. We were that band a while ago, the new band. So you are talking about Good Charlotte and Sum 41?
Some bands have hits, but we have been doing it long enough to notice how a trend works. A band works hard, gets a hit, and then can’t hold it for that long. It illustrates the point that music goes in waves, popularity I mean. You know its going to come and these bands that are getting big now but in a year you’ll be like ‘whatever happened to?’
Is there a formula for writing a song or putting a record together? Is there a goal?
We used to just, if we had twenty-five songs that we’d tell the label we had enough songs for a record and they’d be ready. But since we’ve been on a major they want to be sure that we have something they can work with. With this record we really thought we’d be going into the studio earlier than we did. We had sixteen songs demoed out. We were working with a new A&R guy and other new people who worked with us. It was a transition for us and him as well. But he asked what else we had and wanted us to write more stuff. Now it’s a little more of a process involved. We have the label saying ‘it’s cool’ but they wanted more stuff. So when they said we had enough stuff it was nine months after we thought we could start.
When he told you to go back to the drawing board were you like ‘f you’ or were you cool with it?
I guess it wasn’t the first time it had happened. The album before was the same way. The A&R guy heard “Responsibility” and he liked it but later he didn’t want “Responsibility” to be the song. We had to go back to the studio and we had written three new songs and the label liked this one great song and then we’d go back to record and then they said “Responsibility” was the song. So it was a long process. But I want to answer your question. For this record we had one really strong idea of what we wanted to do. We wanted the song to get a lot of attention and the producer. We met with a lot of producers. We have no problem getting a good sound or writing good songs. We basically told him that we wanted to expand our sound and take risks and someone to produce us who is into that. We talked to a lot of different people and ended up with Dave Zurtz. We had lots of conversations with him. We wanted to break some ground. Working with Dave was a big part of why the record is the way it is. Why there are certain songs on the record. We didn’t just hand him the reigns, but his decisions were one quarter of the decisions. It was a great experience. The guy has been working on records longer than I have been alive. Everything that happens during the time of the record makes it what it is. You can’t control it totally.
What is the songwriting process?
Our band works differently than some bands. Mike came to me and asked if I wanted to drum for them. I walked into a band where the songs were already done and that is still the case. Mike writes tons of songs. I can’t write a song as good as Mike. He has twelve years of songwriting experience. I play the drums, he writes the songs. As far as Tom and my collaborations with mike is that we come in after the songs and chord progressions are done. The songs are essentially done, but we all put that song in a blender and it comes out a hundred different ways.
When Mike brings a song in and you hear it do you have a moment when you are like ‘wow, that is awesome’?
I generally don’t have a lot of emotional attachment to any of our songs because I see it more as I have a job to do and that job is to make the song the best it can be. I never hear it and say ‘wow that touches me.’
Do you hear a song and think it could be huge?
Not often, but it did happen recently. When he sat down and played “Quit Your Life” I thought it was great. We recorded it and put strings on it and it was good. Mike plays everything on an acoustic guitar and they never sound like they end up. Usually the tempo is a lot slower but he always has a different idea of what he wants it to sound like in the end. That song just sounded exactly how it should sound. We didn’t want to change a thing.
Have you ever thought of doing an acoustic record?
I don’t think us as a band we are all on the same page with that. Some people tell us we should do an acoustic record. We do in store stuff and we do that stuff acoustically and people tell us how cool it sounds. I don’t think we are on the same page on whether we should do that or not, we haven’t really talked about it. It’s a cool idea, but it has to be done a certain way for it to sound right. We have an outlet for that, a band called Arthur. The songs are slower and pretty mellow. It’s more arty and mature stuff. That is our outlet.
More mature? Is MXPX a thing where you don’t have to act your age?
Kind of. We were fifteen when we started the band, but that punk rock style is a youthful thing. Our band Arthur is something where we want to sound more accomplished as musicians. We want to write things that sound like we’ve been playing for twelve years. Not that I’m trashing MXPX.
You get guys who review albums who are forty-five who review albums – do you think they can’t relate and it’s not fair they review the album?
Yeah, because they compare us to Blink-182 and you can just tell. If they listen to the record once they think that because they don’t know better. Punk happened after they were kids and was adults.
Punk moved us and they didn’t get it then so how can they get it now.
Does anything compare to getting on the road and being on stage?
Not really. There is nothing that I do in my life that is anything like getting on stage in front of people. I think that is really what draws people to play. It’s such a rush. It’s great because it’s so much fun. It’s a blast, it’s exhausting. It’s everything rolled into one. I can barely stand up after I play. I give everything to the crowd. I don’t even think about playing – I think about performing for these people. That is what makes it fun. Your mind set. For a lot of years I was more focused on playing my parts really, really good. I had a friend who is our tech from the Decendents who is cool to have around and I asked him what I could be doing better and he told me not to worry about playing the drums. I don’t think about it now and I love playing more playing in that zone. I don’t even look at the drum set; I look at the kids faces. It’s amazing.
It’s one thing that millions of people will never experience. It’s a rare and unique perspective.
I think acting on stage is similar.
Is it weird to have bands that open for you calling you their idols?
It is weird. We played shows with Dashboard Confessional and Vendetta Red and they are from Seattle and by chance we got added to the Ataris and Vendetta Red. So we are new friends and they rode on our bus with us and we hung out and never really talked to them outside of talking about nothing, but last night was the first time they were like ‘I hate to fan out on you’. They are like “I drove all the way to Buffalo” and telling us about a part of their life where our music played a pivitol roll. They were apologizing at the same time because they didn’t want to sound weird. But now they feel confident enough, and drunk enough, to talk to us about that. We toured with bands before that we felt that way and we didn’t want to say anything to them and make it awkward. We don’t care, it’s great, but can be weird when someone tells you they think you are awesome.
I have talked to a lot of bands who list their greatest moments as opening up for you guys.
It is interesting. The more we are around the more it is strange. So much time has gone by. Good Charlotte toured with us and they asked us if we remembered a show in like Waldorf, Maryland and asked us if we remembered that they took us to Staples. It is totally random stuff that we don’t remember, but for them it was a big deal. And then to have those people get big and you affected them it is cool.
What is the ultimate goal? To keep making music or is there no spoken goal?
We don’t have a spoken goal. We never set goals. We aren’t lazy, we are hard working, but we do set short term goals like going to Japan or Australia to tour. The label has stuff for us to do so even if we don’t have a goal our management and label have goals for us. It’s a business and you have to make the right moves. So a lot of the time we feel like we are along for the ride.
+ Charlie Craine