The Hope Conspiracy
Like every band, The Hope Conspiracy has stories. Out-of-control vans, out-of-control shows, long drives, frustration and a burning desire to get past all this trivial shit and make it to the best part of the day - the 30 minutes or so of being on stage and playing. Their hardcore isn't emotional in the sense that most people understand it because they don't sound like a pop band with a distortion pedal; instead, they are truly a modern hardcore band with pulverizing song structures and a message of unity and defiance. "Endnote" made me a fan; seeing them live sealed the deal because there are few bands that pour as much passion and energy into so little time. I've seen them live a couple of times and Kevin and I finally had a chance to talk on the phone in September of 2003. As usual, I didn't transcribe laughter, but there was a lot of it in this conversation.
Bear with me if I seem a little out of it today. It's hot in here and my girlfriend is looking through vegan cookbooks.
Kevin: I'm out of it too. I had a late night last night hanging out with Tim. We actually were in the studio all day yesterday for the new band.
No kidding. You're doing a band together?
Kevin: Yeah, it's me, Tim, Matt Woods who used to play bass in American Nightmare, Jarrod Alexander on drums, Jimmy Carroll is playing second guitar. He's in Suicide File.
So is there anything in the last year or two that Jarrod Alexander hasn't done?
Kevin: Out of Boston? Yeah, I can name a few bands he hasn't been in, but I'd say the majority of bands, yeah, he's definitely had a hand in all of our records at one point or another for our bands. We're just all friends and he's an amazing drummer so it makes it that much easier to work with him and get a hold of him if we need him or whatever.
He actually played on "Endnote," didn't he?
Kevin: Yeah, he played on "Endnote," he helped with writing. He played a few shows with us too. I think it was April of 2002, he played a few weekends with us.
Didn't he play on the first American Nightmare album?
Kevin: He played on "Background Music" and he's in Suicide File, he played on the new Throwdown record.
And wasn't he with Death By Stereo for a while?
Kevin: Yup. He was the first drummer for Death By Stereo. He did a tour with The Vandals. He's going out with some other bands, some major label band, I don't even know who the hell they are. I've never heard of them, I don't know if they get radio play or something, but he was asked to do a tour with them because he's back out in San Diego now, he just graduated from Berkeley, so we lost him. He's back out in California but he's in this band right now, the new band. Yeah. He's awesome. I love that guy.
So I did as much research on the band as I could, but I couldn't really find that much about The Hope Conspiracy. There just doesn't seem to be a lot of information, so I wanted to start with finding out how you got started.
Kevin: What happened was Jonas and Dan and Adam at the end of Harvest, they were all from Minneapolis, once Harvest was done, they still wanted to be in a band but they wanted to get out of Minneapolis because it's just so remote. Any time you want to go play a show elsewhere, you're talking about an eight-hour minimum drive to Chicago or 10 hours the other direction. You know how it is out there. They wanted to move out east to Boston to start a band and be able to go on tour full time and be in a place where you can play Boston one night and drive an hour and a half north to Portland, Maine, and play for a whole set of different people or an hour south to Providence to play for a whole different crowd. Then you've got three and a half or four hours down to New York and two hours to Connecticut. It just made sense. Any time you want to go play a show or do a weekend, you're talking about playing a bunch of cities that are at least within four hours of each other. It was just what they wanted to do, so they hooked up with Neeraj who was out in Chicago in a band that was breaking up and they all moved out here. I heard through the grapevine that they were looking for somebody to do vocals, so I definitely was interested. I asked my friend Trey, who was the tour manager for Converge at the time, to let those guys know that I was definitely down to do it. Sure enough, Adam gave me a call and we talked for a while, and he said he wouldn't make any promises but that we'd have a practice and he'd send me a tape and I could write some stuff to what they had so far, just show up, hang out for the day and have a practice. We set up in Dan's bedroom, we had to set up all the equipment in a room that was literally 10 by 12 or something, all the amps and cabinets and the drum set. He got permission from the landlord and neighbors, like "Do you mind if we practice for a few hours?" They were cool with it so we did it in Dan's bedroom and ever since then, I've been in the band. They liked what they heard and we had fun and we all got along. Obviously the lineup has changed dramatically since then because Dan and Adam aren't even in the band anymore and neither is Neeraj, it's basically just me and Jonas now, but we've kept it going.
So what were you doing before that?
Kevin: I was in a small local band that was really going nowhere. I was going to school at the time and the band I was in at the time, we went on maybe one tour down the East Coast to Atlanta once. We'd play once or twice a month around here or somewhere in New England. It wasn't really a full-time thing or something that I would have liked to dedicate myself fully to, so when I heard those guys were coming out, I was a fan of Harvest and I was really excited about doing something so when I heard they were looking and they were cool with me doing the vocals, I quit that band and basically took a leave of absence from school and we went on tour as much as we could and recorded. It was great, it was a good experience for me because I had never done that before. I had always wanted to go out west or Europe or wherever just to play music, and this band has been my vehicle to meet so many cool people and go to so many cool places that I would never have thought I would ever go.
And you go to many out of the way places that you'd never think of going.
Kevin: Oh yeah, like out in the Midwest, like Rock Island or Kansas City, places like that, I would never have though I would even go to. It's cool because you get to see how every city and the people in that city are different from where you're from. It's just really interesting.
And you get to meet some really genuine people out on the road.
Kevin: You also meet some really awful people out there too. You know what I'm saying. You get out there and have your set of people you can't wait to see and you meet these people who are amazing and then you get these others who just keep showing up and you're like, "Oh god, here comes so-and-so."
So how did you settle on the band name?
Kevin: We were all having arguments about what we wanted to call the band and I think it was probably a week before we sent off the demo for manufacturing and we still hadn't come up with a name. I was like, "Listen, here's a list of names I've wanted to call it," and no one wanted to go with anything I had and then Jonas was searching around on the Web one day and came across the Conspiracy of Hope tour which was a huge U2 tour back in the 80's. We were all, for the most part, fans of U2 and a lot of 80's rock bands. We'd listen them to them in the van and at home and he brought that to the table and we all kind of liked it. It was different, it wasn't a cliché, it wasn't something you hear and think, "Oh, that's a hardcore band" or "That's an indie rock band." It was just what we felt worked for us at the time.
So let me make sure I understand this - you play hardcore but the band name was influenced by a U2 tour and you're a big fan of U2 and, for lack of a better example, Big Country.
Kevin: Yeah. Absolutely. I love that stuff. Big Country, I can't believe you brought them up.
I still love that band.
Kevin: The only song I know is that single.
I think Down By Law actually covered that song. It's weird how that stuff creeps in every once in a while.
Kevin: Well, I'm an 80's kid. I mean, I'm 29 pushing 30. I turn 30 next April. I grew up in the 80's, that was what was on the radio, that was what I grew up with. I have an older sister who is basically responsible for getting me into rock 'n' roll and cool music in general. I used to sit around listening to her eight-tracks back when I was in kindergarten and then raided her record and tape collections over the years. That was my introduction to music, listening to bands like that.
I'm right there with you. I mean, I was reading Thrasher and finding out about Septic Death from Pushead, but I was still listening to The Psychedelic Furs and New Order.
Kevin: Yeah, exactly. In high school and middle school, if it wasn't for girlfriends I had, I would have never listened to anything but hardcore. If it wasn't for some friend making a mix tape that had The Cure or New Order or Depeche Mode or all that stuff, it would have been nothing but Black Flag, The Misfits and Slapshot 24 hours a day.
Nothing wrong with that.
Kevin: Well, there isn't, but I'm glad I had some variety there.
The thing that's cracking me up right now is that when you and I were supposed to talk on Friday, I was watching "Pretty In Pink" right before I called you.
Kevin: What a good movie. Amazingly enough, Friday, now that you mention that, do you remember that movie "Spacehunter," the 3D movie? It was like Molly Ringwald's first movie. Guess who directed that movie? John Hughes. I never knew that and I'm sitting there watching Encore because it's about the only thing I have on in this house when I am home, and sure enough, on comes "Spacehunter" and I'm like "Holy shit." You get the cheesy 3D special effects going without actually being 3D because it's on your TV screen and all of a sudden, out comes the name John Hughes, shooting from outer space toward you. I was like, "Oh man, I get it now." It was a John Hughes movie and Molly Ringwald was in it and it was so campy. I appreciate it so much more now that I see it when I'm older, whereas before I was like, "That is the worst movie I've ever seen."
I saw that when I was 10 or 11 and I was stoked about it when I saw the previews because it had spinning crap coming out of the screen.
Kevin: Yeah, you got to see it in 3D?
Yeah, I actually saw it in the theater.
Kevin: That and "Jaws." There was a 3D "Friday The 13th," then there was "Metalstorm," "Treasure Of The Four Crowns," I saw all that shit.
Since we're talking about cheesy old 80's movies, do you remember that Barry Bostwick movie with the dirt bikes?
Kevin: Oh, not "Delta Force."
That was the Chuck Norris one. It's going to kill me if I don't find the title now.
Kevin: It was something-force, wasn't it?
Let me check IMDB ... "Megaforce." He played Ace Hunter.
Kevin: "Megaforce." Which actor is he? Was in "The Warriors"?
I don't remember if he was in that, but he was in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
Kevin: Yeah, okay. You remember "The Warriors," right?
Yup. He was in those John Jakes TV movies, but other than that, he's been in pretty much nothing of any note.
Kevin: He was in "Megaforce"!
Well, yeah. But that was actually directed by Hal Needham who was involved with "The French Connection II," "Chinatown," he did stunt coordination on "White Lightning ..."
Kevin: Wow. And then he does "Megaforce." Or started off with "Megaforce." That was probably his first movie.
Anyway, the other thing I realized about the John Hughes movies is that he only wrote most of them. It was usually someone like Howard Deutch who directed them.
Kevin: Really. He wrote "Pretty In Pink," "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club" all in one weekend, didn't he?
Something ridiculous like that. I think it was something like two or three days for them. By '88 or '89, he was pretty much doing nothing but "Home Alone" and "Uncle Buck."
Kevin: Oh god, that was amazing.
He did "Dutch."
Kevin: That was a good movie too. They're all good.
I can't fault him for doing "Beethoven" and "Beethoven 2" if he did "Dutch."
Kevin: I actually like "Dutch." That's a good movie.
Ed O'Neill is so good in it. He just puts on the ring and bam!
Kevin: That was a flop too, wasn't it?
Total flop, but it's a cult classic. Anyway, getting back to the music, I was reading the liner notes for "Endnote" and there's the line, "You feel as if you have missed out on a great deal that life has to offer," and so forth. I kept getting an impression of living with exaggerated intensity, of going after everything, seizing it by the throat and choking every last ounce of life and vitality out of it. That seems to be a guiding idea.
Kevin: Pretty much. That's how we've always approached this thing. I've gone through a great deal in 29 years. I've been incarcerated. I've lost good friends to drugs. I've seen a lot of awful things. It doesn't matter how you grow up or where you grow up, awful things can happen to anybody. Obviously the potential is there if you grow up in the inner city to end up in a rally bad way, but at the same time, you can be from the nicest part of town and have the worst luck, have the worst things happen to you. That whole thing in the liner notes was pretty much an analysis of who I was as a person when I went and got therapy one time. That was what came out. It was a color test they gave me. They give you a set of colors and you put them in order, however you want and the order you put them in draws some sort of conclusion, psychologically, about you, and that's the one I got when I did that. Needless to say, the therapist, when I was talking to him, said, "This touring thing, you lack stability in your life yet that's exactly what you need. I know that with everything you've been through, you feel like you need to get out there, like you've wasted time, you need to do whatever you have to do to get it all back, but by doing that, you might become self-destructive," and to a point I can see that being the case but when I'm standing still, so to speak, in a job that I have to go to every day or having no outlet whatsoever musically, I would literally go insane, so having the band, and mind you, there have been some bad points in the band where I thought I was going to lose my mind but you just get through it. If it wasn't for this band, I might sound like a broken record, but I never would have met some of the people I've met and been to some of the places I've been. I think, in life, the most important thing is traveling and meeting different people or else you just become this ignorant townie homebody where your only outlet is the baseball game and local bar. I just think people need to realize that you need to have some sort of artistic outlet or some sort of thing that enables you artistically to have a release, via photography if you're a photographer, just get out there and do something. What's life worth living if you're just going to be showing up to some mindless job every day, every week, every year, you know? In the end, you might get laid off because they can't afford to keep you around. I just feel like at any time life can come to an end and if you didn't take advantage of all the things you could have taken advantage of like being in a band. Some people get so scared, like "Oh, I can't go on tour, I have a job, I have to hold it down," and I respect that to a point. You have to put food in your mouth and you have to pay your rent, but at the same time, once you break out of that mold where you feel like you have to do that, it's the most liberating feeling you can have. At the same time, and this might sound like a contradiction, there are times when I get home from tour and it's almost like an emotional crash where I get in my room, I put my bags down and I'm like, "Okay, what do I do now?" I can't get a job because I have to go back out on tour next month or we have to record or we have to write or something so what I do is odd jobs - landscaping or graphic design. I have a friend who's a photographer and she definitely helps me out from time to time and I do work for her. I'm telling you, just not having to answer to a boss is the greatest feeling in the world. I don't know how else to describe it. I have a problem with authority. It's something I've had since I was a kid.
I never would have guessed that one.
Kevin: It really sucks. It's not that I lack discipline, I just question everybody that has that role in life. "Think like this." Well, why? You know? "Because that's how it is." Well, maybe to you, but not me. I've always had a middle finger up in the air to most authority figures. It's definitely had its repercussions but at the same time, I've been able to do this band and voice it and have a good time doing it.
Just out of curiosity, have you ever read Daniel Quinn's "Ishmael"?
Kevin: I haven't, actually. I hate this, this is one thing I can't stand about myself but I don't read enough. It drives me nuts because I used to read all the time and I don't anymore and I don't know why. The last book I read was Mötley Crüe's "Dirt." It's sick. It's seriously one of the best books ever.
I was asking about because the whole point of "Ishmael" is questioning the accepted story; people have an idea of how things came to be the way they are and the myth behind it, and the book is about questioning that idea.
Kevin: "Ishmael"? A friend of mine, actually, that first band I mentioned, he read that book and he recommended that to me as well. I just have never gotten around to actually picking it up and read it but now that you've brought it up, I think I'll do that. We're actually going away on tour next week and I'll probably pick it up and bring it with me on the plane.
Are you heading overseas? The Australia and New Zealand tour?
Kevin: Yeah, Australia, New Zealand.
Did you ever get in touch with Josh?
Kevin: I forwarded it to Jonas and told him to make sure he emailed him. I live with Jake from Converge who runs Deathwish and the office was moving, so all of the computers were taken out of the house and, for a little while there, I didn't have any email so the day that you sent it to me and we talked, I sent it immediately to Jonas and told him I wasn't going to be able to respond to this guy in a timely fashion so please do so. I have yet to ask Jonas but I have the computer back up and running so I'll call him tonight and find out if he did and take it from there.
Cool. What he was saying is that there is apparently no shortage of people in New Zealand who would be happy to show you around, put you up, etc.
Kevin: Awesome. I can't even believe I'm going there, that's how ecstatic I am about this. I mean, I've always talked about wanting to go to Australia, you know, like, "One day I'll go there, hopefully. I'll save up the money," and here we are going through this band. I'm so excited and grateful for this whole thing.
Now, you mentioned design when you were talking about your odd jobs a little bit ago. How did you get into that? Was that what you went to school for or is it something you picked up from living with Jake?
Kevin: Yeah. Jake has done design for many bands.
He has his own studio, right?
Kevin: Yeah, he does. He's not as fully active with it as he was a few years ago. He actually dedicates a hell of a lot more of his time, design-wise, to just Converge and the label now, and then a few chosen bands, but there was a little while there that I'd have a little stack of promos on my desk at home and every other one was designed by Jake for a little bit, probably two or three years. I think he's dedicating a lot more time to just the label and Converge.
So how did you wind up getting into it?
Kevin: When I started going to college, I was getting into photography a little bit and I was kind of aimless. One day, I was talking to a friend who was going to school for graphic design at Mass. Art. I just started talking to him, looking at most of the stuff he had been doing and I was like, "This is really cool." I just took an interest in it and started taking classes. From there, I started making shirt designs for my own band. I did some work for Jake a couple of years ago. I have actually been really lazy with it over the past year and a half, doing things for other bands or other people. I've probably only done three or four jobs in the last year and a half which kind of bums me out, but I can't design if I'm going to be on tour for six or seven months. I've fallen off on that aspect. A lot of things in my life have been put on the back burner for the band, but now that we're home for a little while, actually, we're going away for the fall but I was home for this whole summer and just kind of took a break and got back to the things that were on the back burner.
Well, we haven't talked a whole lot, but you strike me as someone who almost needs to be on the road.
Kevin: It's a weird thing, man. The road, I love being out there, but it's a lifestyle that can really do damage to you if you aren't careful because you end up getting into almost an institutionalized mindset where you need that setting all the time, on the go, new cities every day, new set of circumstances, new set of people, new scenery. That's why I said when you come home from tour, it's almost this emotional crash because you come to a screeching halt. Things that you put on the back burner, you come home to them and there are 10 more things that you needed to get done or didn't do that are still there waiting for you. It's almost like an escape from your problems that are maybe around your hometown. You get away and by the time you hit Seattle, you're at your peak. By the time you hit, say for instance you're going west to Seattle, all the way down to San Diego, then as soon as you hit San Diego and start heading back east again, you can almost feel everything coming to a stop and the inevitable happens. You get home and you're wondering what the hell you're going to do with yourself and you don't know how to get the things that you do have to do going because the only thing you did for a month or five weeks or two months is basically drive a van, get up on stage for 25 minutes or a half an hour and hang out with your friends. It's really weird. You can get lazy if you aren't careful and just want to fall into that lifestyle all the time, that transient way of thinking and mindset. It's scary, but at the same time, I love it, you know?
I know what you're saying. Most of my friends are in bands. In most cases, I was a fan of their music before I became their friend. Living out here, I usually have to drive to another city to have dinner and a beer with them and a conversation.
Kevin: Yeah. It's strange. Every time you come home, things are a little bit different. People have moved away or someone doesn't hang out anymore. Your relationships and your friendships will suffer. Luckily for me, most of the people that I hold closest and dearest to me are also in the same situation so that it's not a big deal when we don't see each other for two or three months because when we do see each other, it's like no time has passed and everything is back to normal. Wes came home the other night and we all went out and hung out and went to a bar and had a great time. Nothing's changed, everything's cool and sure enough, they're going away Friday and I'm going away Sunday and we won't see each other until England sometime in November.
Yeah, but there's something really ridiculously romanticized and kind of appealing about being able to say, "I'll see you at Heathrow," when they're going ... they're doing the U.S., right?
Kevin: Yeah, they're hitting the U.S. When we go down to Australia and New Zealand, they'll be hitting the U.S. and we'll go to Europe and when we're just getting done, on the last few dates of our trip, they'll be starting theirs so we cross paths in actually Iceland. We play Iceland together. I tell my friends, like people I went to high school with that ended up getting married and getting normal jobs and stuff like that, we'll hang out and I'll keep in touch and tell them what I'm doing and they're just like, "You have to be kidding me. Can I trade place with you?" They aren't miserable, they're just bored.
I'm tempted to cash in my frequent flier miles to get to that Iceland show.
Kevin: You should definitely come out. We would have the sickest time ever. We're going to be there for two days.
You guys and Give Up The Ghost in Iceland.
Kevin: Yeah. In Reykjavik.
When is this happening?
Kevin: If you want, I'll get the exact dates and email them to you.
If you could, I'd appreciate it.
Kevin: Definitely. I've never heard anything bad about Iceland. I've heard it's unbelievable.
I've never been there and I have time off to burn.
Kevin: So that would be a perfect scenario to do it.
That's an excuse to do some drinking.
Kevin: Oh, we'll do drinking. Trust me. That would be sick if you came out. We'd have so much fun.
So the weird thing about this interview is that, for once, I didn't have a lot of questions about the lyrics. They're clearly written - there doesn't seem to be a lot of interpretation that would need to go into them, people just need to listen to them or read them and apply them to their own lives.
Kevin: Yeah. As far as lyrics go, I do my best. I'm not the most poetic writer ever, to say the least. I just try to my best at being honest and saying how I feel without being cliché or cheesy. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I just hope that when people buy it and read it, they like it, they think it's put together well and well-written or they can relate to it and they aren't just shaking their head, like "God, this is ridiculous." That's all I could ever ask. If people don't like it, fine. Whatever. Go get your money back, but I say what I say. If it offends somebody, then so be it. We aren't your band.
Well, isn't the greatest thing you can get as a musician is someone having an active emotional response to it, like somebody buying the album and having their life changed?
Kevin: Yeah. I've actually had a few people come up and say that to me. First of all, it's an amazing thing for someone to come up and say something like that, but at the same time, it's kind of, for me anyway, an awkward moment, because I'm like, "How do I respond to that?" I shake their hand, talk with them a little bit, but it's amazing to me that by me writing about something I've gone through or something that's affected me in some way could affect somebody like that, make them pull out of whatever or relate on the same level that I felt when I wrote it, you know? Yeah. It's really cool to have your music out there and have people pick up on just exactly what it is that you're trying to get across and how you're feeling. Some people are just very jaded nowadays. It's just about a sound. If it's a sound and a style and a look, a fashion, substance just goes by the wayside.
Well, the heart's out of it too.
That's what gets me about it. I haven't been to many shows in Chicago, but at the ones I've been to, people just don't seem to act like they care.
Kevin: I'm not putting Chicago down at all.
Neither am I.
Kevin: This band has had some of its best shows in Chicago at the Fireside, you know? But I totally pick up on what you're saying. Sometimes we've gone out to Chicago and we look forward to getting there, we're like, "Oh, Chicago, cool." Then you end up playing and it's almost like this vibe in the air at times where people could care less almost or they could have easily stayed home and watched a movie instead, that kind of jaded attitude which, to me, that's the thing I have trouble with mostly when we're on tour. I can't fucking stand when I'm walking through the crowd and hear kids complaining or talking shit about the fucking very lifestyle they've chosen for themselves.
That showed at that Iowa City show because you were pretty visibly pissed on stage.
Kevin: Mind you, that was the seventh week of tour. I was definitely emotionally exhausted at the end of that tour to say the least. I was just not thinking as clearly as I should have been and maybe drinking a little too much. Actually, I was drinking way too much for drinking night after night, week after week for that whole time we were out there, and plus we had just lost a substantial, substantial amount of money which was going to be my rent and groceries for quite some time. I think I was at a place inside myself where I was just ... I wasn't under-appreciating the scene or the kids who were there to support, but I think I was just like, "What am I doing?" You know when you feel like you have just given so much to something and wind up not only empty-handed, but a sense of being unappreciated? A lot of these kids, and mind you, I know there are kids that appreciate it, we get the emails, we get the kids who come up to us at shows, that go out of their way to make themselves known and meet us and shake our hands and say how much we mean to them, I'm not looking for that all the time even though it's great to have those kids come up to us and say that to us, but then there are also the kids that get this "Fuck them" attitude like they don't care if they don't see what actually went into making it to that stage that day. They didn't see the 10, 12, 13, 14-hour drives. They didn't see the $9,000-plus dollars getting stolen. They didn't see ...
The fast food you ate, the van with empty soda cans and cigarette butts in the bottom of it.
Kevin: Yeah. A taco from Taco Bell which is the only thing we had to eat that day. I'm not complaining about it at all. That's what I've chosen for myself, but you know when you just get fed up? All of a sudden, things I'm willing to put up with and let roll off my shoulders suddenly don't roll off my shoulders quite so easily anymore. My temper starts flaring and getting up there and I just reach a breaking point and I'd say once that money was stolen and a few of those Midwest shows on those AN dates, I was at my breaking point and a lot of people saw it, not just you and it sucks. There's nothing I can say about it.
Well, just so you know, I'm not calling you on it or anything like that. I know that sense of frustration when people aren't respecting things as much as they should or giving as much as they should. We talked about this briefly at that show because I know how much it takes to actually make the shows happen and how much it sucks when five kids show up and don't want to give a touring band $3 to put in the gas tank.
Kevin: Yeah, it's amazing. A lot of these kids, they act like they're owed something. It's interesting to see some of the attitudes that are out there when you're on tour and it all depends on what city you're in because, and I mentioned Rock Island earlier because I will never forget this show for as long as I live, we were on tour with Bleeding Through and Most Previous Blood. It was dead of winter, probably 8 degrees out, freezing cold, driving all day. I think we were heading back east so we were out in the Rock Island area and that was where the show was going to be. We've never been there before, we had no idea what to expect and we were all bitter and cold and hungry and pissed off. We get to this town and we were like, "Oh my god, I can only imagine what this is going to be like," you know? We were playing some hall, we took the equipment upstairs and there's no line, there are no kids anywhere to be seen and it is literally ten minutes before doors. There were a few kids there hanging out and this hall probably holds a good 500 or 600 people and there are three or four kids there. We're all looking at each other and the room is probably as cold as it is outside at this point. You can see your breath. I was miserable, I was like, "Let's just get this over with, please set up, let's play." All of a sudden, it was just unreal because I walked outside about 10 minutes after doors were supposed to open and there was a line down the fucking stairs, out the door, at least 300 kids, but so many kids just came out of nowhere. It was almost like they had showed up in a school bus or something. It ended up being, seriously, not only one of the best shows on that tour, but probably one of the top 10 shows we've ever played as a band. The kids were so psyched about us being there, about us playing, so appreciative, it was unbelievable. It was one of the best experiences I've ever had playing in this band. It just goes to show that you never know. We can go play a show where it's sold out and there are 2,000 people and play and feel like I'm just aimlessly barking into a microphone, there's no energy and it's lost on all these people, and then there are these other times when we show up and there could be 10 kids there but those 10 kids are just stoked and they're there to see us. That, to me, is what I love most. I would rather play for 10 stoked, excited kids who are happy to see me than play some sold-out show where there's a bunch of fucking deadbeats just trying to get in for free or get a free shirt or yawn in the middle of every song, you know what I mean? It's not fun for me at all. That was one of those times where I was wrong. I was sitting there being a bitter man and then sure enough, they came out of the woodwork and they were all there to have a good time.
I think what says even more about you and the band is that you were ready to play for those four kids anyway.
Kevin: Oh man, we played, oh, where was it? Dallas, Texas, we played for eight kids one time in 2001. I'll never forget it. And those eight kids, man, were they stoked. As funny as it sounds, it was a fun show. Kids were having a blast.
Well, you can have a blast at those shows because you don't have to worry about some knucklehead kicking your ass.
Kevin: Yeah, totally.
So getting into the lyrics, there are two songs that I wanted to talk to you about specifically and the first one is "Defiant Hearts," specifically the line, "Let 'em know we are / The ones that stick it out, the ones that never run." That really seems to tie into the spirit of resistance that runs throughout the music and what we've been talking. It seems pretty clear at this point that you aren't necessarily someone who turns the other cheek.
Kevin: Exactly. I don't. I've gotten better. The older I get, the better I get, you know what I mean? I'm more apt to just walk away from a situation now, especially things I've gone through in life where it just ended up blowing up in my face and it would have been better off if I had just walked away, but as a spirit sense, it's more just saying "Pull together. It's not about fashion, it's not about one opinion, it's about many opinions and just putting them all together and fighting against the outside world. As cliché and old as this scene is right now, you know, it's like Agnostic Front circa "United Blood," it's all about unity and sticking together. I just want to establish that sense in the scene where we're together and if one of us goes down, we're going to pick them up, and if one person fucks with us, we're going to fuck them up. We're here together and we're going to fight for each other and establish some sort of community. It's all I was saying in that song.
Even at Krazyfest, I wound up talking to a pretty large number of people who are bummed out about the scene these days because they think there are too many pop-punk kids or the scene is getting ruined by MTV or something like that, but those kids will be gone in three to five years anyway, the same way that the kids who came in with Green Day and The Offspring are gone now. It just seems like people are worried about the scene and unity lately, but it seems like the core of people who have been around for a long time is still intact.
Kevin: I know exactly what you're saying. I think hardcore, granted, there's a very strong major label presence in the scene right now. It seems to be how things go with the industry. They pick up on something, exploit it for a year or two and move on to the next thing. It'll come and go just like anything else and all these bands that are not thinking about the music, that are more interested in what label - and I'm not putting this down in any way, shape or form because obviously choosing the right label is very important, to make sure you're getting involved with people who believe in you - but the problem I have with that is that a lot of these kids who are in these bands are getting into this thing just to get a record deal. It's disturbing. Don't you realize they aren't going to care about you in a year or even eight months down the line? If your record comes out and only sells X amount of units, you're out of there. You're done. They don't even want to deal with you anymore. It's a machine and they suck you up, chew you up and spit you out.
And they get something regardless because if it flops, it's a tax loss.
Kevin: Exactly. I just question the integrity of some of these people. I'm talking about kids that are getting involved with these bands just to do this, it seems like they have no roots, like they don't have any ethics as far as hardcore goes. They call themselves hardcore but I question whether they really know what hardcore is. I'm not being a snob here, like a music snob, like, "Oh, have you ever heard of Minor Threat?" or "I'm sure they've never heard of the Cro-Mags or this band or that band or Born Against." I'm not being like that at all, but at the same time, to call yourself a hardcore band, I think you should really know what it is to be hardcore first. I really think you ought to get out there and get in the trenches first before you start having your fucking t-shirts up in Hot Topic and signing with, I'm not going to name names here, whatever label and your first tour is in a bus on Warped Tour. Fuck that shit. That shit offends the fuck out of me. It really pisses me the fuck off because that's what it's turned into.
And I know you've spent hours in the van, you've been broken by the side of the road somewhere ...
Kevin: Yeah. Nebraska. No, Iowa.
I honestly wish that every band I know could make a decent, honest living off this and not have to get home and scramble to find part-time jobs until the next tour.
Kevin: That's the catch 22. You dedicate yourself to a band which is what a lot of these kids want. They want to see somebody out there and up on that stage that is committed and living exactly what they're saying, the words that they speak or scream on-stage, but then the minute you're like, "Time to get paid" or "Time to pay my bills" or whatever, and I know this has been said in probably 10 trillion interviews, that's when they're like, "Oh, they're all about the money." Doing it for the money? Motherfucker, I fucking pay my own bills. I don't have the luxury of mommy and daddy putting food on the table for me and doing my fucking laundry twice a week.
There's a reason why you hear about so many benefit shows when a musician gets in an accident or runs up hospital bills because they don't usually have health insurance.
Kevin: Yeah, exactly, so you have to deal with that. You're walking a tightrope when it comes to how people perceive you. Jonas told me one the other night about me that made my head spin that he heard through the grapevine that kids were saying about me, and I'm not going to say what it was but I have been one of those people that said, "Fuck you, fuck you, I don't give a fuck what you think about me, I don't care what you say about me," but there are times when I hear that certain thing and I was like, "That's how people perceive me? That's what people are saying about me?" I know how kids are because I was there once. I remember the urban myths about certain guys in bands and I remember the rumors about dudes that were in this band or that band and I always thought to myself, "Wow, that's how they really are." Then all of a sudden, I realized that someone fabricated that or manufactured that and before you know it, it spreads like wildfire.
And has nothing to do with who they are.
Kevin: Yeah, exactly, and this one little thing or rumor gets caught in all these kids' minds and that's who you are as a person to them. They don't know you personally or anything about you. They think they do, but they don't. They don't know shit. They don't know what I or any of us have been through as a band or as people. It's tough. When you're doing this thing, like I said, you're walking a tightrope on how people perceive you and it's interesting when you finally hear something.
The way somebody put it to me once is that you always have to be on. If you're having one bad day and you meet one kid on that day or in the five minutes when you get off stage and want to cool down, drink some water and stop sweating and someone wants you to sign something and you ask them to hold on a minute, suddenly you're the asshole of the year.
Kevin: Oh dude, let me tell you, there's a certain city in this country and ironically enough, it's happened twice in the same club in the same city where I, somehow, some way, was perceived as the biggest asshole on two feet. It happened ... I think last winter on the From Autumn To Ashes tour we were on. It was a two-week U.S. tour in the middle of the winter. Mind you, to do a two-week tour across this whole country is ridiculous, in the winter especially. It's possible, we did one in the summer with Stretch Armstrong, the summer before this past one, but we're doing a two-week tour in the winter. We had to drive from San Diego, literally, this is how it was on most of the shows, show up an hour before doors, unload, unwind. Obviously we can't eat because we have to go on soon and we're just trying to unwind and loosen up after being in a van for fucking 15 hours or whatever, we get on stage, play the show, maybe eat and then pack shit up, get back in the van and go. After the San Diego show, we had to drive, get this, San Diego to Boulder, Colorado. Okay? We immediately pack the trailer up, get in the van and make our fucking trek to Boulder so that we can get there just in time. We get to northern Arizona, out by the Grand Canyon somewhere, sheets of ice on the road. I start falling asleep, it's the middle of the night, probably three or four in the morning, Jared's driving and I start dozing off in the passenger seat. All of a sudden, in my half-sleep or in my eyes-closed dozing off, I hear, "Oh fuck!" I hear this panicked, "Oh fuck!" and feel this sensation of sliding, like back and forth. I wake up and hear Jared go, "Hold on!" and see the wheel going every which way and I look out the front window and everything is going sideways. We're flying off the side of the highway, sideways, with the trailer, fucking land in a ditch, fucking almost tip over and luckily the trailer, even though it was what made us slide off the road, kept us from tipping over. It buckled to a point that when we started tipping, it brought the momentum back down. So we had From Autumn To Ashes behind us. They go by us because they can't stop and luckily they don't have a trailer. They come running back to see if we're okay, everybody was okay, but we were stuck on the side of the road for hours. Finally we get out of there and there was obviously no way we were going to make the show. We had to get the van checked out and From Autumn To Ashes, they were the best guys ever. They stuck by us just in case we needed anything, they would be able to help us out and they said, "You know? Fuck the show, we aren't going to make it either, we're going to make sure you guys get where you're going and we get there together," because the roads were brutal. We ended up calling the booking agent in fucking Colorado and the dude went ballistic. He didn't ask us how we were or if everybody was okay, the only thing he gave a fuck about was the fact that he had a show that night and the bands weren't going to come and he wasn't going to make his rent, quote-unquote. At that point, I realized exactly what we were dealing with in some of these people. They don't care about us, they care about the fucking money and how many kids were going to come out to that show that night, which they obviously have to care about, but they didn't care about us. Anyway, after this whole ordeal, we end up skipping Boulder and the next stop is Kansas City. We get to Kansas City, we haven't been out of a van in two days at this point, get there late of course because that's just how things were on that tour, and kids are in the doorway of this club that we're packing into and all I know is that I think I said, "Excuse me, we're trying to get through here," and the next thing you know, it's on the Net somewhere, like someone forwarded it to me because they thought it was funny, I forget who it was, and I went there and there was this big spiel about how I'm a fucking asshole who yelled at somebody for trying to help them, just complete bullshit. It was just one thing after another with people out there, it was like, "Wow, they really are out to get you sometimes." They really just go out of their way to get you, push your buttons and paint this picture of you that is not fucking true. You have to be able to laugh about it, which I do, and say, "Fuck it." You're either for me or against me and I'm not going to waste my time with you if you're against me and looking to get under my skin.
Well, going back to roots, and hopefully this will give you another chuckle, on hardcore day at Krazyfest, I was waiting in line and listening to all these kids talking about music, but I was standing behind this one guy who kept asking another kid, "So what do you think of so-and-so or so-and-so?" The one thing I picked up on was when the guy asking the questions said to the other kid, "What do you mean you haven't heard Earth Crisis?" I was sitting there thinking, "Well shit, that kind of makes you new school, doesn't it?" If you were saying that about Dag Nasty or Government Issue or Minor Threat, okay, I can understand that, but Earth Crisis?
Kevin: Doesn't that really kind of show you the way things are now? We're getting older. We came up with the things we came up with, like you said, Dag Nasty, 7 Seconds, Gorilla Biscuits, this, that and the other thing. When you say to a kid now, "You haven't heard Gorilla Biscuits?" It's like, "Who?" Now you're hearing this in line at Krazyfest or wherever, "You haven't heard of Earth Crisis?" Wow. It's a whole new generation. It's another generation of kids.
I was almost wondering at that point if I was in the right place.
Kevin: Yeah. I ask myself that probably 50% of the time when we're out there on the road. We'll get out there and I'll see like, and it's also different depending on who we're with, but I'll get up there and there will be this group or flock of young, high school girls up front, waiting for and anticipating whatever band might be headlining that night, getting their spot or there to check us out and see what we're all about and those poor girls have no idea what the fuck is about to happen. Sure enough, we'll do our thing, I'll get up there and do my thing, yelling, swearing, doing whatever the fuck it is we do and it's so funny to see the looks of horror on some of the people's faces because you can tell they aren't hardcore kids and that's what I'm getting at with this. If you go to a hardcore show, that's what it's about. It's about being pissed, it's about being intense, it's about being angry about the state of the world.
Or your life.
Kevin: Yeah, or your life. It's not a fashion show. At times it can be and mind you, I don't mind looking good, but it's not about that. That's where it gets lost on some of these kids and they show up to these shows and a lot of these bands that are bigger take us out on tour with them and these kids see us and they're like, "What the fuck is happening?" They have no idea how to handle it or how to perceive it.
Or how to deal with the handful of people who do know what it is and how to handle it.
Kevin: Yeah. It's funny.
Now I have to ask this because we're pretty close to the same age. I've been going to shows lately and I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I'm actually starting to feel old.
Kevin: Oh god, I feel that all the time.
You know, not as into getting my ya-yas out, it takes a little more alcohol to take the edge off the bumps and bruises from the pit, shit like that.
Kevin: Oh, I don't go out there, I'll just tell you that, and after a show, me and Jonas laugh. Jonas is a lot younger than I am, but I'm telling you, the first half-week of tour, we laugh at how horrible we feel on a nightly basis. The first show, obviously, we're shaking the rust off and the next night, we're in absolute agony from the night before, so the first week is like boot camp. We're trying to get back in shape again and I'm telling you, there are shows where I'll wrench a knee, twist an ankle, fuck up my hand or wrist, cut my fucking head. I'll go back and sit down and the next day I'll wake up and I'm limping around and my hand looks like a potato or something because it's all fucking inflamed and red because I chipped something or hurt something. I look in the mirror and I've got a cut across my head and a black eye or something and I'm just like, "Christ, I'm 29 years old. What the fuck am I doing?" You know what I mean? It's funny and at times it's sad because, like you said, I realize, and we sound like old men, but I just don't bounce back like we did when we were younger and skating around or whatever. We could eat shit on the board, fuck up a leg and still be up and doing it.
Yeah, blood running down my leg and everything.
Kevin: Yeah, it didn't matter. Whatever, you know? Now, when I hurt something, I was in agony all last winter. I did something to my hand and my wrist and my pinky finger on my right hand and it just would not heal because every night I would do something to re-injure it. Just now, it's starting to feel good, but once the cold weather comes, it kills. It's just one of those things where I know I'll have it for the rest of my life. It was like a broken bone that I just never got fixed and it hurts like hell when I touch it in certain spots.
Well, this will crack you up then because my knee is still not 100% from that spill I took in Iowa City over the planter.
Kevin: Wait, I forget what happened.
We were just jumping over shit and I caught my foot on that planter.
Kevin: Was I still there when that happened?
I think so, because that was right after the bar where we told everybody that you were Sum 41.
Kevin: That was a good night. I had fun that night.
It was a great night. I'm going to have a souvenir from it for the rest of my life probably.
Kevin: Oh, man. Aren't those guys in Every Time I Die a blast? They're fun, man. Those guys are awesome, but yeah, I just don't bounce back like I used to. I tell you, when we play with Sick Of It All, those guys still bring it like nobody else can bring it. We'll go on and I walk off the stage and I'm huffing and puffing, I'm sweating and we just played 20 minutes. They'll get up there and absolutely shred the stage from one end to another for an hour straight and walk off like nothing ever happened. You know what? I have no excuses. Those guys are in their late 30s, pushing 40 some of them, and they're smoking us. They're pros. This is what they do and it's really inspiring to see it. It kind of kicks me in the ass, like fucking put up or shut up. I love that fucking band. The new shit is amazing.
So I pretty much have one real question left. When you're out there and, just for example, a huge amount of cash disappears, what keeps you going? What fuels you when the shit just hit the fan and you're wondering why you're still doing this?
Kevin: I love music. I just love it. We lost our money, and we're going to struggle to pay bills and get a day job until the next tour and do what we have to do to squeak by, but in the end, there's nothing better than playing music we believe in and like and love. The fact that other people are showing up to see us and buying our shirts or buying our CDs or wearing our pins or whatever just because they too believe in us or in some way, shape or form relate to what we say and are doing it. It's not an ego trip at all for me, it's just something I love to do. I fell in love with music at a young age and to this day, I still put things on that I listened to when I was seven years old and that still excite me the same way they did back then. To get up there and play those songs and get that feeling night after night is the best thing ever and that's what keeps me going. I love writing music. As long as I keep loving it, I think I'm going to be involved with music and punk or hardcore for as long as it takes, as long as I can, until it's hard for me to do it or get up there. Even if I do have to go get the day job and settle down and get married or whatever, I always think I'll have a band. We might play once a month maybe, but I will always be involved. There's nothing better than when I get that one CD from that one band when I feel like everything out there has been terrible musically lately and I get that one CD and put it on and I'm like, "Fuck yeah, that's why I do it." I get inspired by other bands and other people. It's amazing and you can't beat that feeling.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Kevin: It's been a pretty lengthy interview. I can't think of anything else right now unless you want to talk a little bit about the other band or if you want to save that for another time.
It's up to you, but I'd at least like to know what the name of it is.
Kevin: We're going to call it The Bars. What do you think?
Based on the last few conversations I've had with Tim when he's always getting ready to go out with you, I think it's totally appropriate.
Kevin: Yeah. It's funny. Well, we took it from a Black Flag song and they're obviously one of the biggest influences on all of us, ever because not only were they one of the greatest punk bands, they were one of the greatest hardcore bands and one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands. They covered all the bases. They were just a fucking machine. We were all arguing over names, once again, the age-old band name argument when you start a band, and we couldn't agree on one thing and then finally one night, we were all sitting around, looking at the back of "Slip It In" and we were like, "The Bars." I was like, "That's it." And everyone was like, "Yeah, that's it. We're going to call it the bars." Obviously, it's a metaphor for a couple of different things so it works. Lyrically it works really well with what we're doing so far and how we feel. I'll have to play it for you next time I see you.
If you're on tour in the Midwest and you need a place to crash or a home-cooked meal, let me know.
Kevin: Oh man, thank you so much.
I've eaten enough shitty fast food and truck stop noodles to know how good it can be.
Kevin: Yeah, thank you so much. We'll totally bro down. Send me your email and I'll send you the info for Iceland.
The beers are on me the next time we get together.
Kevin: Trust me, we'll be buying rounds for each other all night.