I wound up talking to Evan Baken from The Movielife because I heard about their van wreck; I sent my condolences and let him know that I had been looking forward to the show. A few emails later, we had arranged a time to talk on the phone about The Movielife's most recent album, "This Time Next Year."
The first thing I wanted to talk about is the phone number. I realized that the number you gave me to call you is the same one that's in the liner notes and I thought it was really cool that you give people who want to get in touch with you an easy way to do that.
Evan: Oh yeah, someone told me we were nuts. It's my house, but we also set up a corporation to handle insurance and other bullshit. It's the same number. Someone asked, "Don't people call you all the time? Doesn't it bother you?" Not really. I don't get that many phone calls, but if anyone needs to get in touch with us, yeah, it's on the CD.
That blew me away because I've never really seen a band do anything like that before. Sure, there are PO Boxes and some bands give a house address.
Evan: It may switch to a PO Box. I think I'm moving. It hasn't been a problem in terms of too many calls so it hasn't been a big deal. Plus, I'd rather that people call us. I put my email too, my own email. That's really mine, I check it and I get my own email there too. I get email from kids like that and instant messages. It's good because people are like, "Dude, there are no directions posted for this show" or "What's the venue?" It's a really good way to tell people stuff.
It also seems like a really quick way to put shit-talking to an end.
Evan: Yeah, but shit-talking hasn't really been that bad for us. I don't know. People always shit-talk.
So is "This Time Next Year" the band's first album?
Evan: This is actually our second. It's the first one on Revelation, but there's another one called "It's Go Time" which we did with a label here on Long Island. Our friend started a label and we helped them get off the ground and helped us get off the ground since we started at kind of the same time. It helped them get distribution and basically start off and learn things about shipping CDs and handling orders and crap like that, and it got us exposure and helped us tour. We toured on demos and they're two bucks each. You can't live. We were starving. CDs you can sell for ten bucks and get food money out of it, or gas and stuff. But yeah, "This Time Next Year" is the first one on a real label that's been around and has us doing interviews and has distribution and gets it in stores and stuff like that.
So how long have you been around? I hadn't heard about you until this album.
Evan: Yeah, especially out in California. It's been kind of hard. We've been around since 1997 so it's almost four years, but we weren't always serious. We started out for fun and had a couple of different guys in the beginning. We started playing and toured the summer after that with our friends who were in a band on Long Island, again, just for fun. Then we got more serious about it, playing more shows and trying to do more. We just built up slowly from there, really. We didn't start out like we wanted to be in a band, we wanted to get on a label, we wanted to do this, we wanted to do that. We just kind of started and eventually decided to do it, to get the ball rolling.
So how did you settle on The Movielife? Where did that come from?
Evan: I remember we were standing in line for an Indecision show at CBGBs and Vin, he's our singer, mentioned that he had this band. It wasn't a real band, it never did anything. It was him and his friend Al thought The Movielife would be a cool name. We were always goofing around with names we couldn't have. It took us forever to pick a name, we were always like, "What do you think of that name?" "We'd never use it." That day in line, we decided to call ourselves The Movielife. It relates to us.
How does it relate to you?
Evan: Well, people think we love movies or something, but it's more about how life is like a movie. Sometimes weird shit happens and you're like, "That only happens in the movies." You know, something crazy that would never happen, like going to a fair or carnival with your girlfriend and she asks if you can win her one of the big bears and you're like, "Nobody wins those, that only happens in the movies. This is real life, the carnival is a fix. You'll lose." It's about how that life is a fantasy, but real life can seem like that. You see people all the time who look familiar. It's almost like you're on a set, like this day you were on my set and I saw you and then a month later you were called back in, like you're an extra and I saw you again. It's more like that. We watch TV, we watch a lot of movies but it's not just because we like movies.
In another way, it seems like your music ties in to that because your music seems pretty positive and uplifting, it seems like it's about a lot of old school themes like unity and friendship and sticking together with people.
Evan: Yeah, I definitely think so. I mean, the only negative one is the first song and that's thirty seconds and plus, there's laughing afterwards. We're not really political and there's no hate. We want people to have fun. We want shows to be like they used to be. Five years ago on Long Island, shows would have two or three hundred kids, no matter who was playing. Kids would dance; it was fun. Nowadays, shows are getting fewer and farther between here. Venues cost so much money. At least for us, that's what we try to be like - have fun and be positive. Yeah, most of his lyrics are about sticking together, relationships with girls or friends. I think we're pretty positive in general. There's nothing really negative or hateful that we have to say about anything really. As far as fights go, we're not really catering to that kind of crowd.
The song "This Time Next Year" really got to me because it sounds like it's sung by someone coming out of a hard time and trying to convince themselves that it's going to get better.
Evan: Yeah, and that's what we thought of with the band too. We went through all this bullshit to get on a label. There are bands that just get signed. They got signed because they lived in Boston or they're ex-members of some band or something. It was always a struggle for us and we got a million rejections before this CD. When we did our first CD, I sent out demos before that CD came out to all these labels and we got rejected. Then, once we did the CD, we got a bunch of offers. Not only that song but the whole record's theme was "It has to get better than this." We finally got somewhere. Now we're going to get better. We're going to get fans, we're going to tour, good things are going to happen. A year from now, after this record comes out, things are going to be better for us. I guess that's pretty positive. I never thought of it like that but I know that's why we called the record that, because it seemed like things couldn't really get worse. But then we crashed.
Right, which is why I originally emailed you.
Evan: Yeah. Where are you at? San Diego?
Yeah. You guys were supposed to play here last night.
Evan: We've never played San Diego before. Never even been there. How do you like that? This tour was like, Seattle, awesome. I had never been to Seattle. Portland, awesome. Never been to Portland. San Diego. I had never been to San Diego. We didn't make it to Portland.
So you didn't even make it to the West Coast?
Evan: Well, we've been to the West Coast. We've been to California three times. Seattle and Portland are kind of up there. If you're going up there, there's nothing else to make it worthwhile.
Unless you get lucky and pick up a show in Boise or something.
Evan: Right. You can play Great Falls, Montana, but it's weird as hell up there and they don't really do that many shows. I think the only reason we had a good show there is because we played Halloween and all the kids were dressed up. The guys from Reach The Sky figured that if we toured and hit Seattle first, we just go straight down and it makes sense then, but we only had a day to get there from Minneapolis and it was snowing. We were trying to go through the night and decided not to waste any time. We weren't speeding, but we didn't want to sleep, drive the next day and sleep again because we couldn't do it. It would take two days. We played the show in Minneapolis and started driving. I was driving, the roads were pretty normal but they'd get patches of snow so I'd slow down. Then it was black ice. You can't even see it and you're gliding on it. You have no traction, no control and five seconds later, we were flipping over. That was it. We didn't make it. One more day to Seattle and then sun, California.
I heard one of the guys broke his wrist.
Evan: Yeah, that was Brandon. Brandon broke his wrist; he also had some cuts on his fingers. Phil cut his nose and his forehead. That's not bad, but he may need plastic surgery to remove scars which sounds a little worse. Everyone else was just kind of hurt.
And shaken up.
Evan: Right. And I was driving. Now I'm like, "This is all my fault. I was driving. I could have killed everyone." So that sucked too. That's kind of a guilt thing.
So how are you dealing with that?
Evan: I don't know. I'll let you know next time it's winter. Hopefully, we won't ever tour in winter again. We've been playing around here on weekends when it's been snowing like crazy. We played Boston one time and drove home in a snowstorm. We were seriously going 10 miles an hour. It was a nightmare, so basically we just aren't going to tour cold places in the winter. Come December, January, February, we're going to go south. Everyone had told me that it's not my fault, it could have been anyone driving. No one's really blaming or mad at me that we crashed. I can get over it like that. It's not the end of the world. We're lucky that no one really got hurt. Midtown crashed and their merch girl was in the hospital for weeks because she flew out the window. She needed major surgery. We were in the hospital for a couple of hours and everyone got released. It could have been a lot worse.
So how did you guys wind up with Revelation?
Evan: When the first CD came out, they picked it up for distribution, them and Initial and Crank!. It started to move a little. We also had a song on The Emo Diaries, Emo Diaries 4 or something. Jason Upright, who worked in A&R, heard that song and kind of put it on the back burner, like "Oh, this band is cool." Then, since Rev picked up the CD, he heard the CD and contacted us. Around that time, we were going on a tour and we did one month on the East Coast and then we did a West Coast thing right after it so the timing worked out. When he was finding out about us and liking our old shit, we were on tour and he got a chance to see us in California. I think we played Koo's café and the PCH Club or something. We talked to him and he was all, "Let me hear some new shit," but then said, "Look, I don't think anything is really going to change my mind because I like you already" and made us an offer. We had other offers at that point; we were getting some. It's funny, someone takes an interest and then all of a sudden, these other people come out of the woodwork. Now it's like, "Maybe I should pay attention to this band." Jason was the first guy to take a good interest in us. They actually went to see us and called us all the time so we had some loyalty towards Revelation. Then we signed and he quit. You know, shit happens.
So there's yet another reason for "This Time Next Year."
What was working with Brian McTernan like? Didn't he also do the Reach The Sky record?
Evan: Oh yeah. Brian's the best there is. He does all the good records. I mean, he does a lot of East Coast bands. He does Cave-In and us, Reach The Sky, Six Going On Seven, he did the new Hot Water Music that's coming out. He's awesome. For the money we spent on our first CD, which sounds like shit, we could have done it with him and it would have sounded awesome, but we didn't know him at the time. We were doing a split with Ex Number Five and they wanted to use him, so we were like, "Okay, we'll try to use him too." Something happened, oh yeah, his tape machine broke. This is kind of weird, kind of like . the movies! So the tape machine breaks and Ex Number Five had to cancel their session that was booked because they were booked ahead of us. They had to cancel until his machine got fixed. When his machine got fixed a month later, we were in there and we hit it off. He really liked us and we really liked him. We went back and did a 7" for Initial with him and then we did the record. It's just kind of weird how the shit broke and those guys who were talking about him all along couldn't use him and we did. He's the only guy we use now. Yeah, he's awesome. The studio was cool, fun to work with, everyone likes him, he's just a great guy.
Going back to the music, I actually heard about you from a friend of a friend up in Portland of all places. I picked up the album and heard a lot of the East Coast hardcore influences that I love and started hearing a lot of things that I really missed about punk rock and hardcore, like friendship and unity. "Single White Female" really seems to capture what's happening in punk rock right now as it describes someone who's singing the right songs and doing everything they can to fit in with the scene. It seems like people are just going through the motions; they aren't doing it because they feel it, they're doing it because they think it's cool.
Evan: Yeah. I've been to shows where people get on the mike and they're like, "You people are a fashion show." Whatever. You don't have your own brain. Vin writes the lyrics, but he's been going to shows since he was a kid, 12 or 13, whatever, so I definitely would say that's where it comes from, liking all those bands - Lifetime, Gorilla Biscuits, Civ. That's what he was influenced by then so I guess a lot of that carries over when he's writing lyrics. That's what he knows. He doesn't know the political system of Europe to sing about communism or whatever. This is what we know. It's hardcore. Friendship. I guess that's what he liked about hardcore in the first place.
"Stage dives make me feel more alive than coded messages in slowed down songs."
So how do you guys go about writing your songs? Vin writes the lyrics; how do you do the music?
Evan: Me and Alex will jam. We rehearse in my basement so we'll play. He'll just start making up stuff on the spot. If something good happens, we'll keep it, work on it, try to come up with other parts and stuff, but basically he comes up with the music. Then we present it to everyone else, everyone adds their input - "Let's play this four times, let's do this twice, I'm going to play this lead over that part, whatever." Then Vin takes it home, writes the lyrics and we have a song. It goes through everyone putting shit in. Alex comes up with the music but it's never exactly the same when we present it as it is when it gets done. It's never the same shell or the same song because there are so many changes. That also adds to the hardcore element or the variety of it because someone will have a suggestion. It's not just one guy writing it, like Alex who's into the Pixies and Weezer and other indie rock. It's not just him. Brandon will have a suggestion that gives it more of a hardcore feel or a poppy feel. Everyone throws their hand in the mix eventually and gives it a little more variety. That's how I explain it. Everyone throws something in.
How about you? Where are your roots?
Evan: Me and Alex were best friends pretty much, so it's Dag Nasty, Misfits, Fugazi, Pixies, that kind of shit. Hardcore but also more indie rock. The other guys are all into Gorilla Biscuits, Sick Of It All, Shift, stuff like that. It's cool that people in Portland and California are hearing about us. I guess it helps to be on a real label that gets out there. We go to shows now, like the beginning of this tour. We played Chicago and Minnesota and kids actually had the CD and knew the words. That's new to us. On the East Coast, we've played and I guess people have seen us, but to go further out, it's cool to see people that have just heard about us.
I'm usually sketchy on Rev. Half of it rocks my world; the other half doesn't do much for me at all.
Evan: Yeah. Rev is not without its flaws. I don't think they're the ultimate hardcore label. They've signed some bands that don't tour. I've heard some horror stories about bands threatening the label or threatening people there because something went wrong with their record or some bullshit. It took us so long to get on Rev and with all the major labels out there, I think people take it for granted that they're on a good label. They don't tour and they sit on their ass and complain. Not us. We've always excited to do shit. We pay all our bills and whatnot. We love it.
So what do you like best about the band? Being on Rev? Playing drums, what?
Evan: I can't say I like being on Rev the best only because it's not the best. If it were the best, I'd stay on Rev forever, but you have to move up if you want to make a living playing music. You have to move up at some point. They've had some A&R changes and some internal things going on that are kind of making me a little nutty right now. They're definitely helping us, but they're not the best. Right now, Long Island is the best. That's where we're from and kids come out and there are so many kids. They just go insane. It's awesome. When you play a show and look around and you don't know anyone there, get nervous, and then they go crazy, it's awesome. If the band becomes like that in other spots, then that'll be a dream come true. Right now, that's Long Island and I guess that's the best thing about playing.
Just like the movies.
Evan: Sure. To a degree. Plus, meeting other people is cool. Being in a band, seeing the world, meeting other people in other bands is awesome, like we've made friends with guys in Reach The Sky and New Found Glory and Kill Your Idols just from playing. They're awesome, they're some of our better friends now and I wouldn't have them if I wasn't in the band. That part is cool and that's old school hardcore - friendship and meeting people on the road.
Yeah, and then meeting up with each other down the road and going over what's happened since you last saw each other.
Evan: Yeah, that's what it's like. You know Dashboard Confessional? It's a guy who does acoustic songs. He was on Drive-Thru, now he's on Vagrant. He became a friend of ours. We played some show with him in Connecticut. We had never heard of him but his old band was on The Emo Diaries with our band so we had a little bond, then a month later, we saw him again. I just saw him again. He played three days in New York City, he played Roseland, Long Island and Brownie's. It was awesome to hang out and see him and see how far he's come, people that sing his words. It's awesome and I remember four or five months ago when we played a shitty show in Connecticut and no one knew what the hell was going on so that's kind of cool.
Anything you'd like to add?
Evan: Thanks for originally writing us about the accident. That's awesome. I expected friends of ours to write us, but we were in North Dakota and we had to kill time so we went to Kinko's and I had 50 emails from people, like "Get well." And this is before it was on the Rev board or our site. That's good about the scene that shit like that gets around people care. Ever since then, I get emails all the time from kids, other labels, zines, people in other bands, people in bands we did like one show with. They were like, "Dude, I played with you back then, it was awesome, I hope things are all right." It's just pretty wild. I'm appreciative of all that. It's cool. It means a lot.
Well, it goes back to brotherhood and unity.
Evan: Yeah, for example, my friends Midtown were in a crash and the girl who got hurt didn't have insurance so they wanted to do a benefit and we played benefits with them. We played a Jersey benefit with them, we played a Binghamton benefit, and then we got in a crash, so Midtown is like, "You were there for us, whatever you need. You need us to do a benefit, we'll do a benefit. You need to borrow our equipment to play these shows, you can borrow our equipment." There's definitely some brotherhood still there which is cool and it's good to see that people are so willing to help out.
Yeah, and go out of their way to offer, that you don't have to ask for it.
Evan: Yeah, because I'd feel weird asking. "Can I borrow this? Can I do that?" They approach you. Or people are like, "I can't come to these shows, I live far away. Can I send you money?" It's wild. You don't have to send money but the fact that you would just because you liked us is crazy. That's all. I'd just say thanks to all those people. The CD is "This Time Next Year." The first CD is "It's Go Time," it was on Fadeaway Records. The site is http://www.fadeawayrecords.com. They just repressed it and we got copies of it so I know that Rev will have it, Initial should have it, Lumberjack and Crank!. It should definitely be available. And we would have had it with us if we had played your damn city. Is Legoland by you?
Yeah, it's about 20 or 30 miles from where I am.
Evan: Is that like a kid's place?
I've never been there.
Evan: There are a couple of things we like to do on tour and one is gamble. Vegas, we were ready to go so bad. Then there's California Adventure and that would have been sweet. Plus we were playing Florida and we had a day off so we were going to go with the guys in Dashboard Confessional to Universal. We basically missed out on four theme parks and Las Vegas on this tour which would also have made life a little bit more fun. Whatever. We'll get there.
So just as a final note from my end, it actually is Monday and it actually is raining.
Evan: Really? Someone emailed me to say get well and their screen name was "Monday And Raining." That's awesome.