No More Pencils, No More Books Title Fight Earns Rock ‘n’ Roll Education

The guys in Kingston, Penn.’s melodic hardcore band Title Fight saw no reason why they had to choose between their band and a college education. They could tour during the summer and on holiday breaks, write and record during their free time and attend classes during the week.

It was a perfect plan, and the group didn’t have to choose between one or the other… until they did.

Just months into their first semester at school, the band, three-fourths of which had been playing together since they were 13, was offered a chance to tour with New Found Glory. They thought about it a bit, and then chose to take the tour.

Ever since then, things have been falling into place for Title Fight. They recently signed to the highly influential indie label SideOneDummy; they just released their year-in-the-making debut full-length, Shed, and are about to head out on their first headlining tour of the U.S. followed by a summer of European festival dates. And best of all, no finals.

Bassist and band co-founder Ned Russin spoke recently about the new record.

Innocent Words: This is your first full length, right?

Ned Russin: Yeah, we did two 7-inches and a split with our friends’ band… and the guy who runs (the record label) Run For Cover thought it would be a good idea if we put all of our EPs onto one record to get all of our music out there, because most of it was out of print. We did that and a lot of people took that as our first full length, but that was really more of a collection.

IW: So are the songs on Shed relatively new, written just for this record?

Russin: Well, we recorded our last EP, The Last Thing You Forget, in December of 2008 and right after that we were still in high school at the time and just starting to get serious about touring, so that’s what we put our attention to and didn’t start writing until about the next winter. All the songs that we wrote were for this LP. We wrote them all at once because we wanted them to be one cohesive thought rather than be a scatterbrained collection of songs from all over the place.

IW: You guys have been together for a long time – since 2003, I’m assuming you’re influences have changed over time. Has your sound changed at all? Or is it still the same sound and influences you guys have had since day one?

Russin: I’d like to think it’s pretty different. When we started out we were 13 and just wanted to be like Blink 182, and we were a three-piece at the time and all our songs were pretty simple and basic. It was cool at the time, I was stoked on it, but I feel we have drawn in a whole lot more of influences. At the time, we were into bands like The Descendents, but as we grew up we’ve gotten into a lot of other different bands. I’d like to think at the time that we were all kind of listening to the same exact bands because we had all kind of just started getting into punk rock and heard core together, and we all have our own tastes now. Now we’re four kids who relatively listen to all the same stuff, but we all bring in our own influence. There’s definitely a progression in that sense. As far as our songs go, they are definitely better, or at the very least more mature. We’re the same people with the same goals that we had when we were 13 – being in a band and playing shows – but at the same time we have a better understanding now and are a lot more experienced.

IW: You guys dropped out of college to concentrate on this band full time. Did you catch any flak from your parents?

Russin: Oh, yeah.

IW: Where were you guys going?

Russin: I was going to St. Joseph’s down in Philly, Shane (Moran, guitar) and my brother (Ben, drums) were going to Temple and Jamie (Rhoden, vocals and guitar) never went to college.

IW: Did you have that feeling like maybe this isn’t a good idea or did you always have the thought that you could go back if things weren’t working out with the band?

Russin: It was a weird situation. It was always “You have to go to college,” and I heard that from my school, and I heard that from my parents and everybody around me. That’s cool, that’s what people do, you go to college and then get a job and that’s great for a lot of people, but we had such a cool opportunity… I had it in my head that we could do both, go to school and in the summer and on Christmas breaks we’d tour and write records, and then we got an opportunity to do a tour with New Found Glory… We could go on tour with New Found Glory and do what we said we’ve wanted to do since we were 13 or we could go back to school. We thought about it, and it just seemed like the right decision. It was a cool and interesting opportunity that we were really fortunate to have, and we want to take every opportunity that we get because this stuff doesn’t happen every day. We really want to do this to the best of our ability and that meant taking some time off from school to concentrate on this.

IW: When was this?

Russin: I only got a semester into school, so I only went until December 2010.

IW: The tour with New Found Glory, where did you go with them?

Russin: They were going on a big tour with Dashboard Confessional, and they were playing really big venues, and they wanted to do a small intimate tour before that Dashboard tour, so we got on that one. It was three-weeks, and it went all the way to St. Louis, and we did a lot of east coast stuff. It was a scattered tour…

IW: Were you able to play in markets you hadn’t been before?

Russin: Yeah, up until that tour, we did a full U.S. tour with our friends in Foundation and Mother of Mercy, and that was our first time really going out past the East Coast, but that was also a really quick tour, so we really didn’t get to see a lot of places. The New Found Glory tour was almost all new places for us.

IW: And how did you guys connect with your new label SideOneDummy?

Russin: We got in touch with them through our lawyer, who also works with Gaslight Anthem (also on SideOne) and he said “SideOne has heard your stuff, they really like you and I think you should talk to them.” At that time we were really set on another label and didn’t want to talk to anyone else. He convinced us to just talk to them and we flew out to LA and met with them, and it’s corny and cliché to say this but we just clicked, and they have a small staff and they all came out into the lounge area of their office and they all talked to us. They told us what they do, pitched themselves to us and they were just really cool down to earth guys who really liked music. They were into us because they liked our music not because they thought we could sell a million records. That’s what we were excited about… It sounds like it wouldn’t be a fit but they said they have an eclectic line up because they want the best bands from the different genres. They want the best punk band so they have 7 Seconds; they want the best gypsy punk band, so they have Gogol Bordello. Hearing that was really flattering.

IW: Did you approach going into this album any differently then you did your 7 inches or your split?

Russin: Yeah, we definitely did. We did three-song EPs, so it’s pretty easy to pull off. With a full-length, you don’t want to write 13 songs that sound exactly the same or that are all completely different, so we were really focused on something that was interesting for us to write and play but to listen to as well, so people wouldn’t get bored with it. We didn’t want to sound redundant, so we took a really long time to write this one. We all write together, and we don’t stop until everybody gives it the go ahead. It took us about a year, so it was long and stressful, but it was really a rewarding and cool experience. I have a newfound respect for full-length records.

IW: The album Shed is doing well, what’s next for Title Fight?

Russin: We are on the road for five weeks, our first headliner in the U.S., so we are really excited about that, and then we go right to Europe for some festivals, then we come back home and head back to Europe shortly after, and maybe Australia. We’re home for two or three weeks in July and on the road for the rest of the summer.