Monday, July 31, 2006

Story of the Year Followup interview with Ryan Phillips

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The Warner label efficiently set up an interview (thank you Charlotte) this time around so Ryan Phillips was waiting at the Croatian Cultural Centre for our interview. The first thing I noticed was that Ryan had lost weight since our last meeting in January, and the second thing I noticed was that Adam wasn’t present.


After pointing out his thinness, Ryan responded with a ‘good’ and said he wasn’t drinking beer or partying during the Canadian leg of the tour. In response to my second question, Ryan somberly told me that Adam had to leave the Canada last week as Adam’s father is seriously ill with pancreatic cancer. This information was an immediate downer, and it’s times like this that you feel as though you should leave one alone with his thoughts, etc., but Ryan is a professional and continued on.

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The interview opened with Swanktrendz asking how it was touring with Hawthorne Heights. How was it being second billing? Ryan felt it was different and great. Usually Story of the Year brings bands along, so it was nice to tour with someone else headlining for a change.

ST I noticed Hawthorne Heights is going on to Japan. Will you be heading there as well?

SOTY Yeah, we’re going to Japan tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow... (Yells to HH Hey, are you guys going to Japan? They respond yes, but they are playing a different venue; Summer Sonic whereas SOTY is at Fuji Fest). Yeah we’re going to Japan tomorrow and then Korea.

ST So, since I last saw you in January, have you been touring nonstop or have you had a break?

SOTY We went to Japan, and then... Australia... and New Zealand and England ...

ST Oh my god, all that in six months?

SOTY And then we did a couple of small shows in the States

ST And your following? Is it getting larger and larger?

SOTY Definitely overseas. This is the first time we’ve had a following overseas. With our first album it was just stuck in the States, but we played to 5,000 in Sydney, Australia. That was pretty nice. We’re bigger in Australia than anywhere else.

ST Well, that’s a great place to start because I often find music from Australia hits Germany (with the tourist connections) and from Germany to the UK and so on back to North America.

SOTY Yeah, I‘ve got no complaints, you know.

ST There’s some things that you and Adam said to me last time that I want to revisit. For example, the statement was made that male fans are loyal and (Adam said) what a male is listening to between 10 and 15 will largely influence his musical tastes. I’ve been testing out your theory just by asking a lot of men what they were listening to when they were younger, and indeed they are still loyal.

SOTY It’s the truth, man.

ST Yet with females it’s different

SOTY Every four months they have a new favourite.

ST Explain that male psyche to me

SOTY I have no idea, it’s like some weird phenomenon - when guys love a band they just keep going to see them.

ST I think females become more loyal to a band the older they become. I have a ten year old boy and guess what he listens to?

SOTY What?

ST Story of the Year. His favourite song is ‘Falling Down’.

SOTY Are you serious? That kid rules. ‘Falling Down’ is my favourite song off that record. It’s the heaviest. When I was 10 I was listening to Metallica, Megadeath, and Pantera.

ST I still like the song ‘Meathead” but for some reason I always refer to it as ‘Jarhead’. I can’t get the name ‘Meathead’ straight.

SOTY The working title was ‘Jarhead’ and I think it’s actually imbedded in the cd so it will come up saying ‘Jarhead’ even though the cd cover reads otherwise.

ST What genre did the label assign you? I realize that nobody likes to be categorized, but labels choose genres as soon as they sign a band - it is unavoidable. If I were to walk into a store where would I look?

SOTY Gee, I don’t know. Hopefully just rock or something else. Honestly, I couldn’t care less what people call my band. Call us bluegrass, rat band, country, screamo, or emo I don’t give a shit, I don’t care.

ST Just so long as you get heard

SOTY Yeah, that’s right. It’s nice to be heard.

ST I wanted to get your opinion on MP3 file sharing of music.

SOTY Here’s what I think, I think the internet, well you know how it started with Napster and all that... I think the internet can be an awesome tool for struggling new music, you know? I think if you find a band - it’s a great tool for finding a band - but if you find a band you really like, that you’re really passionate about, I think you should buy the cd. If you download the shit for free and you don’t like it - whatever. But if you like it, then buy it. You should support the band. I would say that for every cd we sell, maybe ten are pirated. And I think I am being generous.

ST Really? So you find that to be the case? I like filesharing because when I hear about a band through word of mouth and I go on Limewire, I can see how popular the band is through the numbers. Then I buy the cds prior to reviewing a show.

SOTY Look at bands in the 80’s early 90’s that were big - they sold millions and millions of records. Now you don’t really see that too much. For the 20% who buy the cds, 80% download the music for free,

ST Wow, you think the numbers are that high? Another area I will have to look into.

SOTY Then they go to itunes after hearing a song on the radio and buy one song for 99 cents instead of buying the whole record. Coming from the artist’s side, it’s kind of hard. But then again we wouldn’t have gotten known in the early days if it weren’t for downloading.

ST I have to agree with that I would not have known about you except through word of mouth by a loyal fan; looking you up on Limewire, listening to a couple of songs and then buying your cds. So if it hadn’t have been for Limewire I may not have followed through.

SOTY Fair enough. That’s how it works these days. You know back in the days when people would go to Well. we set the world record as the number one for downloads.

ST Well, just go to Limewire - you’d be amazed at how many hits there are for your name

SOTY Really? Well I’m not joking - we broke the record for’s downloads. And like those people wouldn’t have known about us if it weren’t for those sites. So, I‘m not complaining about it, but...

ST Just buy the music

SOTY Yeah, support the artists. Go out and buy it. .

ST Which reminds me, when I attended your concert in January, there weren’t any cds available. Did you bring some this time around?

SOTY We’ve had weird problems with our label in the recent past. If we’re in a mall, or a small town we’ll look for our cd, and we’ll call people if the cds aren’t in a store. But we still don’t bring cds to concerts, So I don’t know if they will have anything tonight.

ST Well, we have the cds in stores in Vancouver.

SOTY That’s good to hear. If we’re in the States we’ll just call and say there aren’t any cds, but up here we can’t do that.

ST As well, you have great shirts and merchandising, but the cds are a big cash cow.


ST Last time we spoke, you talked about “saturation effect” with the crowd at your first big festival. Do you remember? Could you explain to me again, what you did? What advice would you give to a Vancouver band who has the same opportunity to be seen?

SOTY Oh yeah, we did a great self promotion. We did everything stupid you can think of. I’ve never heard of any other band doing this. We were psycho at the time. We had band practise every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. So every Tuesday we each had to put in 20 or 30 bucks to buy cds. We recorded our songs right onto the computer and then sat there and burned cd after cd. We made 5000 copies. We passed the cds out for free. 5 to 7 thousand off our laptops. We made pamphlets. Adam and I had software to make a home video. That video we made was what did it at the festival. We broke into all the tour buses and put our video in each band’s bus. Then the singer from Goldfinger, took it to Maverick, and we showcased for Maverick and were signed. If it wasn’t for that video and us being total psychopaths, well, I’d still be delivering pizza.

ST That’s really aggressive marketing.

SOTY While I think this business, no matter who you are, involves a little luck and knowing the right people. You can be the best band in the world, but I believe that without giving it everything you have, giving up everything, sacrificing everything, putting everything in the back seat for what you want - no amount of luck is going to help you. You know what I’m saying?

ST I know exactly what you are saying. You obviously have a strong work ethic.

SOTY You have to care, and do it long enough. New bands have to give it everything they’ve fucking got. Most people are just so lazy, people don’t want to do the work themselves.

ST Often bands expect to get discovered and signed in some bar. They want the labels to come to them.

SOTY People don't want to do the work themselves. Or they’ll get a record deal, sit back and expect the label to do all the work. What can the label do for us? Signing to a label - that’s just the first step. Do you know how many bands are signed, record a record, and their first cd is shelved because the band hasn’t done anything to promote themselves? We treat our band as though it’s independent. We are really serious about our music.

ST Well you guys are pretty tight - ousting the original singer and sticking to the lineup you have now was a good move.

SOTY Yeah, I think it’s ... well yeah, we’re all best friends which helps...

ST Anyhow, Charlotte’s looking at me, so I should get going. I had one more question, but now I’m not sure if it’s the right time to be asking it.

SOTY No, go ahead and ask it.

ST Back in January we discussed where and when songs/lyrics were written. Later, there was a discussion amongst some of my friends about good lyrics being born out of sadness or tragedy. Essentially, without those harsh emotions you can’t write. Do you believe you have to have a certain amount of tragedy or trauma in your life to be a good songwriter?

SOTY Well, I don’t write lyrics - Dan and Adam do that. I think their lyrics are awesome, but I am biased and in a band with them.

ST But you write excellent music

SOTY Well thank you. Yeah, and they write really, really good lyrics.

ST Yes, but in your world ... in “Ryan’s world” ... would you agree with that statement - that good lyrics are born out of tragedy, trauma, or sorrow?

SOTY I would agree to a certain point. I think human emotion sparks creativity whether it’s tragedy or ....

ST So if life is ‘golden’ from the get go, do you think a person could write good lyrics?

SOTY Hmmm...if you are ultra happy, poppy, maybe you can write like Hootie and the Blowfish... maybe ... Love, tragedy, heartbreak, good friends, good times, are necessary. Without emotion, what are you going to write about if you don’t experience it?

ST Thanks again and I am really sorry about Adam’s Dad. Send our regards.

SOTY Okay, thank you.

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