The Copyrights Learning the Indigenous People On ‘North Sentinel Island’

Illinois is known for churning out dependable infectious pop punk rock like… well, like Illinois is known for churning out dependable corrupt politicians.

Granted the guys that make up Carbondale, IL-based The Copyrights are a good four hours outside of Chicago, but they easily made the list of “local boys make good,” right up there with Cheap Trick, Alkaline Trio, Screeching Weasel and the Smoking Popes. Their fifth and latest full length North Sentinel Island is just further proof that they deserve to be on that list.

Singer/bassist Adam Fletcher and drummer Luke McNeill spoke recently about the new record, finding time to tour and playing just about every festival known to man.

Innocent Words: I talked to you guys right before Learn the Hard Way came out. What’s the band been up to since that record?

Luke McNeill: We’ve been taking it easy. We actually probably released a full LP’s worth of stuff in that time, it was just split up between 7-inches and that split LP with the Methadones. Then we started working on North Sentinel Island, and we really wanted to take our time with that and not be rushed at all. It took about two years from when we first started demoing for it to now.

Adam Fletcher: Yeah, we did three different sessions of demos for this album. We started off with me, Brett (Hunter, guitar/vocals), and Luke out in Brett’s trailer doing guitar and vocals on a four track. Then I took those home and re-recorded everything over them with a drum machine. A few months later Luke and I got together and recorded the songs in his basement with real drums on his laptop. I think I can be held responsible for a good chunk of the delay. My girlfriend and I moved from Chicago, back down to our hometown of Carbondale, Illinois. We bought a house and stuff, so you know, I didn’t want to release the new record and not be able to tour to support it.

IW: What can you tell me about North Sentinel Island?

McNeill: I’m actually pretty damn proud of this record. It’s really cohesive, definitely an “album,” as in all the songs sound like they belong, and it almost sequenced itself. It sounds amazing, definitely our best sounding record. Matt Allison always works wonders though. I also think it has Adam’s best vocal performances. He really nailed them. As far as the songs, they’re kind of weird (for a pop-punk band), and it’s definitely really poppy. If I had to compare it to another Copyrights record it would be Make Sound.

Fletcher: In the past we’ve always gone in the studio and blasted out a record in a week or two. Since our approach to this record was different, and more laid back it gave us more time to go overboard with some production, which we love to do. Instead of burying the weird noises and bullshit we sometimes do in songs, we turned it up. I also think that it’s some of Luke’s best songwriting. It’s a perfect mix of the simple “second verse, same as the first” style from our first album but with a more layered production that we did on Learn The Hard Way.

IW: How did you first hear about North Sentinel Island? (According to Wikipedia, “North Sentinel Island is home to a tribe of indigenous people… who reject any contact with other people, and are among the last people to remain virtually untouched by modern civilization.)

Fletcher: I’ll let Luke answer that one; he’s the one who introduced me to it. To be honest, at first I wasn’t really into using it for the title of our album, but it definitely grew on me.

McNeill: Hmmm. I don’t know where I first read about it, but it hooked me right at first. I just think it’s amazing that there is still a place in this world completely untouched by modern man. That’s some fucking dedication. The more I read about it, the more I felt like it related to this newest batch of songs. There is a sense of willful isolation, and how that’s almost impossible to achieve today. Also, there’s an ever-shrinking sense of wildness in our world, and how much we miss that.

IW: How long have you been thinking about working with producer Matt Allison?

McNeill: Well, we’ve worked with Matt on three albums now. He produced Make Sound and he also produced the Methadones split LP. He’s a great guy who gets great tones, and brings a different, more “poppy” perspective to the project, which we definitely wanted on this one.

Fletcher: Living in Chicago Matt and I hung out quite a bit, he’s a good friend, and a great guy to spend an evening drinking Busch Lights and drunkenly talking about music with. Like Luke said, we had worked with him in the past, but this time around he wanted to make a record with us where time in the studio wasn’t an issue. Which for me, you know doing vocals, that helped out so much. Matt is the best engineer in Chicago, and when he said he wanted to do this record and approach it like that, it was a no-brainer.

IW: I could totally be misreading the lyrics here, but it seems like a there’s lot of songs about traveling, leaving town, etc. Is there a general theme to the record?

McNeill: Yes, you’re totally right. There are general themes, plural, on the record. One of them is definitely traveling and at least how you become older and go to more places, you not only see a lot more of the world you also get a sense of the world becoming smaller. It’s a bit bittersweet, but then again, our desire to travel and meet different people and see different places is indicative of our spirit, hopefully.

IW: So between The Copyrights and Dear Landlord, how do you decide who to give a song to when you’re writing it?

McNeill: Well, when I write a shitty song that’s almost unlistenable, I give it to those scrubs in Dear Landlord as a Christmas gift. No, obviously I’m not in that band, so this was probably a question for Adam or Brett.

Fletcher: Brad and Zack do most of the Dear Landlord songwriting. Brett writes a few as well. I just play the bass, dude. Obviously with Copyrights stuff, I’m a little more involved in because it’s me singing it, but luckily Luke is a great songwriter and rarely is there ever an issue.

IW: Is it difficult for you to find time to tour?

Fletcher: Brett and I juggle both Dear Landlord and The Copyrights which keeps us pretty busy, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Luke and Jeff have real jobs, so their time on the road is limited. Luckily they are cool with getting people to fill in when we need to.

McNeill: Yeah me and (Jeff) Funberg (guitar/vocals) have full-time jobs, so it’s kind of tough to tour. But I still get out for like a month a year. I love it. It’s like my vacation for sure.

IW: What is the best and worst thing about playing festivals?

Fletcher: The best would probably be hanging out with friends from around the world, and at festivals you have plenty of time to walk around and spend time hanging out. On tour it’s always roll in to town play, leave town. So actually getting a couple days to hang out in one place can be nice. Worst? The hangovers are usually pretty brutal. Somehow I usually end up drinking all day at those things.

McNeill: Best: actually playing. The shows are always awesome because it’s such a high concentration of fans at one show. Worst: too many fucking people, dude. We’re a basement/dive bar band. Waiting in line and just generally getting the experience and vibe of a huge concert is kind of a drag.

IW: What’s next for the band?

McNeill: We’re touring the West Coast in early September, starting with Awesome Fest. Scared of chaka fuck yes. Then we’re touring the Eastern US with a few Canada dates in late September/October. Riot Fest in Chicago is in there somewhere. Looking forward to playing a new set list! We’ve been playing the same songs for what seems like 10 years!