Having just finished tours alongside Bad Religion, Rancid and Alkaline Trio, Broadway Calls had barely unpacked the van from last year’s Warped Tour when SideOneDummy – the gold standard for punk rock labels nowadays – came calling to add the Oregon-based trio to their already impressive roster.
Singer/guitarist Ty Vaughn spoke recently about touring with his idols, leaving backstage notes for Gaslight Anthem, the Polar Bear Club and why they’ll never leave the Northwest.
Innocent Words: I last spoke with you guys right before the last record came out. You guys have certainly been busy. When did you find time to write and record this new record?
Ty Vaughn: We didn’t really have a lot of time. The whole process happened within a couple of months last winter. I mean, we had a couple songs that we had played at shows throughout 2008 but definitely nowhere near an entire record. We got home from our tour with Polar Bear Club, Crime In Stereo and The Swellers right before Thanksgiving. Right after that weekend, we started writing. I was working on songs every day, and my goal was to write two songs a week. Josh (Baird, drums) and I would get together pretty often to try to make songs out of our ideas. We would record demos and send them to Bill Stevenson (producer) and just kind of talk over the phone about everything.
The Alkaline Trio tour was coming up fast, and we really wanted to be done writing before that happened. While we were in Europe though, we decided we needed a few more songs before the studio. We got home and wrote four more songs that I actually feel turned out to be the strongest songs on the record. We met with Bill at the Blasting Room at the beginning of March and had an incredible time in the studio. We’d never worked with a producer before, and the first four days we were there, it was all pre-production. So we all sat in the room and tore apart the songs we’d been working on all winter. It was crazy. I was pretty territorial over the songs at first, but then I was like, “Oh yeah, this is Bill Stevenson. Quit being a jerk and let him make the songs better.”
IW: So, were you guys able to take any time off in the past year?
Vaughn: Actually, yeah. We’re off in July because our record comes out in August, and we’ll probably be on the road until Christmas. It’s weird because this is the first summer in years that we’ve been home. We’ll probably just hang out with friends and maybe do some camping. Josh has a screen-printing business called Cheap Shot Screenprinting that he’s getting off the ground. I’ll probably just hang around and read, drink, eat and enjoy not sleeping on floors every night. Matt (Koening, bass) just kind of disappears with his girlfriend when we’re home. Portland is an incredible city to be in during the summer. Maybe I’ll ride my bike. Maybe get in shape … probably not.
IW: Is everyone still living in Rainier?
Vaughn: I split my time between Rainier, Portland, and Seattle. Josh lives right across the river from Rainier in Longview, Wash. He’s definitely the most domesticated of all of us, and Matt lives out on the coast somewhere with his girlfriend. The Northwest will always be home for us. We love to travel and see the world, but when we start to see the Cascade Mountains and evergreen trees, we know it’s where we come from, and where we’ll always come back to.
IW: Anything you want to say about the new record?
Vaughn: A shorter, tighter record than our self-titled album. There are no acoustic songs. Our goal was to keep the energy up all the way through, and I think it happened. It sounds like Broadway Calls though. No big departure from our other stuff musically. It’s pop-punk but not the gross, hardcore crossover stuff that people unfortunately stick to that name. It’s definitely more like the music that we grew up with: bands like Green Day, Alkaline Trio, The Lawrence Arms, The Ramones, The Descendents, The Queers.
IW: What else is new with the band?
Vaughn: Actually, we just got home from our first headlining Western states tour. It was awesome. It felt really good to play shows every night and to know the kids there actually wanted to see us. The whole tour was with one of our new favorite bands called The Menzingers. It was their first time on the West Coast. None of the members had ever been west of Chicago, so it was really fun to show them our favorite things about this part of the country. Even though we don’t sound exactly the same, I think the kids at the shows really enjoyed watching them for the first time. Other than that, just doing all the random stuff that we need to do before the record comes out. Also, we keep finding out about all these rad tours we get to be a part of for the rest of 2009, and it’s pretty wild.
IW: You guys just re-released your last record on Adeline Records. How did you end up on SideOne?
Vaughn: Well, everyone knows that SideOneDummy has a pretty close relationship with Warped Tour, with the compilation CDs and all that. So, they have this small team out there every day hustling and working to sell those CDs and promote all the SideOneDummy bands. We were doing the same thing every day as they were, and we all became friends. At the end of the summer, a guy named Johnny B got a job in their office and kind of started to spread the word. Joe Sib (Editor’s Note: Sib is SideOneDummy’s founder and the singer for Wax, flew up to San Francisco one night to check out Fake Problems, which was playing at Thee Parkside.
We were playing right down the street at Bottom Of The Hill. He came to our show, watched us, met us, and told us he wanted to sign us. Then he walked down the street, and I’m assuming did the same thing to Fake Problems. It was a pretty crazy night. Joe, Bill, and everyone at SideOneDummy are amazing to us. Such a great label to call home.
IW: Does it feel like things have been happening so fast for the band, or does it just seem that way?
Vaughn: I guess from our point of view, it’s seemed slow and steady. Every time something awesome has happened though, it definitely takes us by surprise. It’s like “One-month tour of Europe with Alkaline Trio? Holy shit!” or “Recording at the Blasting Room with Bill Stevenson? That’s a dream come true!” We’re really happy with the pace of things happening. We’ve never felt like a “hyped” band. I don’t know if other people think we are, but it doesn’t feel that way to us. As long as things keep gradually progressing, getting bigger, and stay exciting, we’re going to be happy. There is, however, a hunger in us that I really don’t ever see being completely satisfied, and that’s a good thing. When bands get totally comfortable and content, they lose the drive. I like to always have the next new, cool thing to look forward to and work towards. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty lazy man, but this band isn’t.
IW: You guys have been on some amazing tours lately with Rancid and Bad Religion. How were the shows with Alkaline Trio?
Vaughn: The Alkaline Trio tour was great on so many levels. That band and their crew are some of the nicest guys we’ve ever met. They’re a huge inspiration to us both musically and just as a band making a solid career out of touring. They definitely showed us a good time over there. Plus, we had never been anywhere in mainland Europe before, so that was really exciting. Our good friends Polar Bear Club were over there at the same time with Gaslight Anthem, and we would play a lot of the same venues with Alkaline Trio as they were. So, all four bands would write little notes to each other, or draw disgusting pictures, and leave them for the other tour. It was really fun to know that some of our best friends were experiencing the same thing, for the first time, as we were.
IW: Do you ever get intimidated playing with bands that are your idols?
Vaughn: It’s not really the bands that are intimidating but their crowds. It’s fucking hard to open for Bad Religion in Los Angeles! “Hi, we’re Broadway Calls. We’re gonna play some songs you’ve never heard and hope you don’t get too upset while you’re waiting to see one of the greatest punk bands of all time.” We played three shows with Bad Religion last year, and I think we only got one cup thrown at us. I sing with my eyes closed most of the time though, so there could have been more. Tim Armstrong was at the first show though, and he actually introduced himself to me and said he liked our band. That was insane. A guy from Rancid and Operation Ivy likes us? That’s like some space/time trip. It’s not supposed to happen. I guess that’s kind of how we got to open for Rancid later in the year though.
IW: As if you didn’t have enough going on, what’s next for the band?
Vaughn: Good Views, Bad News is the name of our new record, and it came out on August 18. We have Warped Tour, Reading/Leeds, dates with The Offspring, Rival Schools, and Polar Bear Club in Europe then back to the states for tours with Streetlight Manifesto, Gaslight Anthem, The Menzingers, Bayside, and The Bouncing Souls.