***Slide Show*** by Melissa Hetu
With five full-lengths under their belts, countless sold-out tours and more than a decade spent in the music industry, what more could a band ask for? Well, the fact is the southern-California punk five-piece Strung Out couldn’t ask for more and are just happy to still be playing music. The band definitely proved that last weekend in front of a packed house at the Metropolis. I had the chance to speak with Strung Out’s guitarist Jake Kiley before last weekend’s show and here’s what we talked about.
The Concordian: When Strung Out goes out on tour, do you guys usually choose which bands you tour with?
Kiley: Pretty much. We have a lot to say in that. We listen to our agents and club promoters, and we ask them what bands they think would work well, but we also deal with our own personal choice and taste.
The Concordian: Do you like touring with similar bands or do you prefer going out on the road with bands that are a little different?
Kiley: I think it’s good to be a little different; that’s what we’ve done for the last few years, is take out bands that work with our style but are also a little bit different. I think it’s more fun for everybody because the kids get exposed to different stuff. If their fans come to see them, then they get to see us too. It’s better than just playing with another Fat Wreck Chords band all the time or other band that’s just like you because it just gets redundant I think.
The Concordian: Do you find it hard today to choose bands to accompany you out on tour? Do you think there are a lot of good bands out there right now?
Kiley: I think there are. We haven’t really been out with Comeback Kid or Bane before, so it’s new for us to see them and so far it’s been great. We like to bring out bands that we are either fans of or know that a lot of kids are really into. Overall, there’s a ton of options out there; there are so many bands out there these days. So much of the scene has become segregated and I don’t think that’s good. So that’s what we’re trying to do; expose kids to other things.
The Concordian: Strung Out is from California, which is a place that a lot of punk bands came out of in the 90s. Has the style changed at all out there?
Kiley: California’s pretty damn trendy, so they pretty much follow what’s going on. Unfortunately, that’s the screamo, emo, gaymo thing, which is cool when a couple of bands do it, but when all the bands start doing it, and it just becomes homogenized and completely soulless, then you’re f#@ked! And that’s pretty much where it is in most of the States. I don’t know how it is up here, it seems like there’s a little more integrity up here, but down in the States it’s more like who wants to be a star these days. Our society just caters to that and it’s just terrible. I’m ashamed of it but we just try to do our own thing and stay away from that. There are still a lot of good talented bands coming out. Kids hopefully are playing what they believe in and what’s coming from their heart and hopefully not just what they are seeing in these magazines; what they’re being told, what to play.
The Concordian: Do you feel like you fit into the scene in California?
Kiley: I don’t know. I don’t really want to. I hope that kids look into the history of the scene a little bit and look at bands that have been doing it for five, ten, fifteen years and can get some influence from that because that seems to be the way it used to work. You would find out about a band and then find out who inspired them and then just retrace the whole scene. These days, kids just go to a Hot Topic in a mall and it’s all right there; you don’t have to go searching for anything. There’s a plethora of bands and it’s like “these are the hot new bands, forget about everything else that’s built it to this point, just buy this!” There’s too much of that going on and unfortunately kids just eat it up. They don’t want to go out, some do, but a lot of them are just complacent to take that and fit into that. I don’t want to fit into that because that s#@t is going to burn out pretty quickly and I don’t want to be aligned with that at all because when it goes down I don’t want to be anywhere near that.
The Concordian: What keeps it fresh for Strung Out on tour? What makes it still enjoyable after all these years?
Kiley: Just the fans keep me into this. This is my dream come true to be doing this. It’s not hard for me to stay motivated because it’s everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I hoped I would get to this point and now I’ve been able to be at this point for a little while. It’s just maintaining it and meeting the fans, getting to hear from them. That’s the important thing and that’s what fuels me.
The Concordian: Have you been working on new material at all?
Kiley: Not really. I have nothing written myself. We are just going to take our time with this next one. We still have some touring to do but I’m just completely uninspired by the music scene right now. I need time to get away from it all. I love touring and playing these songs in front of the kids, but I don’t know what I want to write right now.
The Concordian: Do you feel a responsibility as an artist to talk about things that are going on around you?
Kiley: I think you kind of have to a little bit. There are different bands that deal with politics in different ways. We never really wanted to be a total political band or get pigeon holed by that but these days it’s so important to just express your views on things because it affects everybody. Our country’s at war and there are all kinds of crazy things going on. Musicians have always been a voice for the people and it’s always been an outlet for social change. I think we are trying to stay true to that and express ourselves. All we’ve ever really been able to talk about is stuff that we’ve experience and that we’ve gone through but now it’s all affecting our lives so it’s become more apparent.
The Concordian: Do you think that younger bands don’t necessarily realize the impact that they have on their fans or the influence they have?
Kiley: Yah, I’m afraid, seeing the Warped Tour, not one of those bands had anything to say about anything outside of stuff like “Let’s rock”. Music’s an escape but at the same time should be a political tool as well or just a way to get people to look at things differently and think outside of the news and mainstream media. People back home in the States are more than happy to eat that s#@t up. They are more than happy to believe everything that Fox News tells them; that we are the heroes of the world. I believed it for a long time too when I was little but then you get to get out and see other things and cultures, see what the rest of the world is like and you realize there’s an agenda behind a lot of our politics. It’s discouraging and it’s motivated us to become more active and at least let people know that we are not all blindly following this; we know these things are wrong. We can’t change the whole government ourselves and most kids out there are not going to start a revolution: As much as they want to talk about it, they are not, they’re too complacent. At least we can voice our descent.
The Concordian: Do you think Strung Out is relevant today?
Kiley: I think we’re up there. It depends: I look at things differently than a lot of people do. I think there needs to be bands out there that are doing it like we are doing it: More ground level, more under the radar. There are just so many outlets these days for media, there’s all these magazines and video channels now, stuff that didn’t exist when our band was first starting. But you know, I think we’re just doing it the way our heroes were doing it like NOFX, Bad Religion; the people we looked up to. This is the way they built their careers and how they’ve lasted as long as they have. I’m more about that than just becoming the big thing for the next two years and then being done. I’d rather just do it this way. Whether we’re relevant, obviously we are selling out all of these shows and our new record sold as much as any of our others, so we’re as relevant now as we’ve ever been.
The Concordian: What have you learned from being in Strung Out?
Kiley: So much! From traveling, I’ve learned so much; it’s been the best education I could ever get. I’ve learned that people basically no matter what they seem like, all want the same things out of life. You can go to Athens, Greece or Prague or come up here or go to Japan and people basically want the same things out of life. They just want to have a good time, be happy and live their life without a lot of restrictions. A lot of the world is very liberated and free. The whole idea of America being the land of the free, I don’t know where that bulls#@t came from because we have more limitations on us than most European countries, more than Australia, anywhere else you go is more chill. It’s just a big f#@king fa