St. Louis Missouri’s Story Of The Year not only have a successful sophomore record under their belt but also have the ability to put on an impressive live show. The band was in town last Wednesday night at the Spectrum to support In The Wake Of Determination. This is what they had to say when we met up with them earlier that day:
The Concordian: There seems to be a trend in punk-rock music where a band’s second record is mellower than their first. However, you guys did the contrary with In The Wake Of Determination. Why is that?
Phillips: We just like heavy music. In this industry you have to follow your heart and do what you want to do or else you are just going to fail. We just didn’t put any limitations on anything and said we were going to make a record that we would listen to or that we would go to a store and buy, we are going to do it our way no matter what happens.
The Concordian: On your record, you touch on subjects like discrimination and social issues. You guys goof a lot on stage but Story Of The Year can be serious?
Sneed: When it comes to lyrics, we are not like Weird Al; there’s no real jokes in the lyrics. We play every day and our shows reflect our personalities. Even if we are singing about one thing, it has nothing to do with our passion with that subject. We are goofy dudes and we are going to screw around on stage and entertain ourselves while trying to entertain other people. It’s both sides of us, if you are listening to us live you are getting the lyrical aspect of what was written in the studio, which has always been a serious subject but you are also getting our personalities coming out when we play live. It doesn’t clash in any way and I hope that no one sees it clashing because that’s not our intent, it’s just this is us, and this is how we feel.
The Concordian: Does Story Of The Year feel a responsibility at all to talk about these subjects?
Phillips: On this record I was not involved in writing lyrics at all, it was not something I wanted to devote myself to on this record. But if I was to be involved in lyric writing, I wouldn’t want to get to politically involved. There are only a handful of bands that “preach” that I actually like; the rest just kind of annoys me. If I’m listening to music, I don’t want to hear somebody telling me who I should vote for or what I should believe in. It was awesome when Rage Against The Machine did it but there’s this trend in music right now to write nine songs about f**k George Bush, and I don’t want to be a part of something like that. I’m not bashing it but I like it when songs tend to be a little more personal and not 100 per cent politically driven.
The Concordian: You guys have song notes in the album; do you think that makes your songs less ambiguous for your fans?
Sneed: Yes and no. It was Ryan’s idea; we were all talking about having something additional on the record and a lot of times, if you are on a major label you can’t do it because they only have a certain budget for you and it’s pretty limited. It seems like the indie bands can do all these elaborate things because they are not all that worried about spending all that money. We were thinking the whole time, “We have to do something for these kids that have followed us before our first record came out in 2003 that deserve anything and everything that we can give them, included in something that they can get for free and that they can appreciate.” And Ryan had the idea of song notes just because it’s an awesome personal message from us to whomever cares. Growing up as fans of bands, I would have loved to have gotten into the minds of people that I loved and appreciated or looked up to as song writers and lyricists. So we thought it was a pretty awesome thing to do, and it turned out to be a lot of fun to us. Like you said, we are kind of screwy dudes, so a lot of our personality is reflected in those notes. It was just a good solid, easy thing to do for people who cared about our band.
The Concordian: On your website you guys have a lot of personal information about yourselves; diaries, photos, Q&As…
Phillips: I know there are a lot of people who think that you have to have some shroud of mystery; you have to be a rock star. To me that’s stupid. The people who buy our record, and the people who come to our shows, I want to be intimate with them. I want them to see pictures of us doing stupid crap. As for the song notes, if some of my favorite bands would have done that, I would have just thought the world of it. No one in this band is interested in being mysterious or being a rock star; we want to do everything we can for our fans, stuff that we wanted our favorite bands to do.
The Concordian: I read in your biography that this record was very ’80s influenced. What is it about the ’80s that you guys liked?
Sneed: Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s all of us listened to different stuff and you can definitely hear that. Maybe it’s just that time period when a person grows up but you never lose that passion for the music that you liked when you were younger, unless it’s something you’re embarrassed of. But none of us are embarrassed of what we listened to, so it’s bound to stick with you through life. So if this is your job, it comes out pretty easily because it is so engrained in your mind.
Phillips: Our bass player Adam said it best: This record was definitely a lot more influenced by what influenced us growing up as opposed to what’s going on right now.
I wouldn’t say it’s an ’80s record, but it’s definitely a rock record that was more influenced by what made us fall in love with music in the first place: Just good rock songs.
The Concordian: You guys practice a lot on the road or at least try to. How important is it for you guys to become the best musician you can be?
Phillips: It’s a personal mission to me to become the best that I can possibly be. There’s probably not a day that goes by that I don’t spend a couple of hours playing my guitar because not only is it personal but it seems like bands that have longevity and that actually make careers, it’s a pattern; they all tend to be gifted players. Most great bands and great musicians most of them are gifted players. I love my instrument but beyond that, it’s my job, my career. If I was a doctor, I would be the best surgeon that I would be. If I was a fireman, I’d lift weights. I’m in a band, so why f**k around? So I want to be the best that I can be.
The Concordian: You were talking about longevity; where do you see your future?
Phillips: Dude, I’m going to keep playing my guitar and keep playing shows as long as there are four people coming to see my band. As long as there is more than one person in the city that will come to see my band, that’s as long as I’m going to do it and probably still after that. We are not the kind of people who are going to give up or that are lazy. We love what we do and I think that we are going to surprise a lot of people. In ten years we are still going to be on a tour bus playing shows, actually I know.