Warped Tour | In the Trenches

live_warped_sm.jpgMost musicians on tour began as fans, bonding over the music, the fun and the inevitable heat.








For many, the Vans Warped tour is a necessary rite of passage. Often referred to as "punk-rock summer camp," the tour began in 1994 and most musicians on tour began as fans, bonding over the music, the fun and the inevitable heat, a heat that was especially obvious at the St. Louis stop July 1.

"We’ve been going five years now, but this is our first playing it," We the Kings drummer Danny Duncan said.

Lead singer Travis Clark added, "We all walk around going, ‘Which band are we going to see next?’ the same way we were when we showed up with tickets."

"Warning: our music might make you dance," Nothing Less lead singer Tim Waters said, offering headphones and a CD player to individuals waiting to get into the show. Some bands tag along on tour without the promise of a stage, playing acoustic sets from merch tents and walking the lines at the beginning of the day, like Columbus, Ohio’s Nothing Less and All Left Out from Auckland, New Zealand. Often times, merchandise sales pay directly for gas and other road expenses for these bands

For some new acts, such as Farewell, signed to Epitaph Records, this is their first time playing as a billed act.

"It is our first time actually playing on tour," guitarist Will Andrews said. "We’ve played a couple of times, when they were just in North Carolina, one or two shows. But, this is our first time actually being on the tour. We’re on until the July 23 Boston date, so we still have a ways to go."

For Japanese ska band Oreska, it is their fifth time in the United States, but their first time on the Warped Tour. "It’s hard to meet other bands because of the language barrier," trombone player Leader said through a translator. "But we watch each other’s sets and we support each other through our music."

For seasoned veterans Eric Roberts and Matt McGinley from Gym Class Heroes, though, Warped Tour has become a frequent, comfortable pastime. "I think the catering’s better this year," bassist Eric Roberts said.

"Quality of food or length of line?" drummer Matt McGinley asked.

"Definitely quality of food. Length of line never really goes away," Roberts responded, laughing.

With over 900 people on the tour this year, bands and crew combined, the lines really do not ever go away. However, one thing remains true: For all the bands, whether newbies or veterans, Warped Tour is a great opportunity to get music to the fans, meet other bands and rock hard. Here’s what some of the bands on tour are doing this year, whether it’s new albums, new lineups or just new outlooks on life.

We the Kings

As four fresh-faced guys from Bradenton, Fla., We the Kings is excited to be out on their first Warped Tour, playing shows and promoting their new self-titled disc.

"It’s going well. None of us are that sunburnt yet," redhead and lead singer Travis Clark said, laughing. "You know, we’ve heard these horror stories of Warped Tour from all our friends’ bands, but you know, we’re Florida kids, so this is easy for us."

Not only have they accomplished making it onto the Warped Tour, but they have also checked off a couple other things on their to-do list.

"We got on the radio, which was a goal to do the whole Wonders-hear-yourself-on-the-radio kind of thing. We made a music video, which is awesome and it’s getting a lot of play on TV. We’ve toured, but we want to see Japan, Australia and the rest of Europe. It’d be cool to have a gold record or something like that hanging up in our house," Clark said.

"Oh, and we all want to buy a castle! One giant castle with a moat and live Florida alligators. It has to be in Bradenton, though," they all agreed, laughing.

Most of all, the guys emphasize the importance of being in a band with their best friends.

"We were always like, ‘Oh, we’re going to make it big’ and all that. You know, childhood dream stuff. But, it was never to the point where we wanted to bring an awesome guitarist in or sweet lead singer or something. We were all friends hanging out and playing. It’s all about friends. If you don’t have good friends out on the road, it’s pointless. Find your best friends, play in a band, and if you make it, that’s great, but if you don’t, you will still have the best time of your lives," Clark said.

After the Warped Tour, the boys plan on going on a co-headlining tour with The Academy Is… in the United Kingdom.

{mospagebreak}Jack’s Mannequin

Named the most anticipated album of the year by Alternative Press magazine, Jack’s Mannequin’s new album drops September 9, tentatively.

"I’m going to say that loosely, but it looks like September 9. In my crazy head, I continue to work on music, and I call the label and I’m like, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m finished,’ but we’re very close," lead singer and band leader Andrew McMahon said.

McMahon said the title, The Glass Passenger, stems from a lyric that did not make it onto the album. "The things that I encountered in the past few years that sort of inspired the writing of this record, I think, if nothing else, I found that life is anything but all the things I was so confident about it being. I think Glass Passenger is really just a reference that things are fragile and that maybe we aren’t in so much control after all," McMahon said.

The day McMahon finished recording Everything in Transit, his first album with Jack’s Mannequin, he was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia. He received a stem cell transplant from his sister in August 2005 and is now cancer free. Perhaps because of this, his outlook on life was different when he sat down to work on The Glass Passenger as compared to the writing process with Everything in Transit.

"I think its purposes were similar [to Everything in Transit] in the sense that I was using a record to sort of help me get through, work out some things that were in my head, but with Everything in Transit, it was much more of a stream of consciousness. Whereas, this record, because I think a lot of what I ended up writing about, things that I ended up needing to sort through, were things that happened in the past, and sort of at a time when I wasn’t really well enough to write, the digging process actually became really hard. I would get writer’s block, because I would think of all of these things that I felt like I had to write about, but there were all these subjects that I was trying to avoid in some ways, so it was harder," McMahon said.

In the end, though, writing became almost therapeutic. "It actually helped me work some stuff out; it just took me a while to find out, you need to look backwards, you need to sort this shit out, if you have any hope of moving forward at all. The record was sort of helpful at connecting the past and present," McMahon said.

The Glass Passenger is somewhat of a concept album, he continued, but not in the same way Everything in Transit was. "I think a lot of these songs just relate to the idea of surviving it, along with just trying to climb the hill and just get out from underneath something," McMahon said. "All the songs directly relate to this idea of a sort of tangible, overwhelming sense of pressure and this lack of confidence, while just clawing at the fucking wall, trying to get up over it. And, if anything, I think that is the theme that directly relates to this album."

As of right now, "Swim" is looking like it is going to be the first single, and Jack’s Mannequin will be touring in support of the album through the next year.

Reel Big Fish

After conflicts with their former label, Jive, ska legends Reel Big Fish decided to release their latest album, Monkeys for Nothing and the Chimps for Free on their own last summer.

"We don’t need a label," lead singer Aaron Barrett said with a smile. "We basically fund the music ourselves; we work with a company called Rock Ridge Music and they distribute the albums worldwide for us. We don’t have a record deal, but we didn’t want to start a label because there’s no point… We’ve got a good thing going right now. We’re an indie band in the real sense of the term. Totally unsigned, technically."

The band has been together since 1996; over the years, they have gone through many different lineups and albums together. They have built a dedicated fan base and a following in the United States and abroad. "There’s two ways to look at it," drummer Ryland Steen said. "There are some people who would sit and complain they do the same tour every year, but another way to look at it is, we’re still doing the same tour. It means that we have an amazing audience, with great loyalty. They don’t just come to hear one song. Reel Big Fish has built their reputation over the past 12 years of having an action-packed live show. I think that’s one reason why the fans still come."

This crazy, action-packed show is a part of Reel Big Fish that they are both known for and that they have down to a science. "The crazy kind of kicks in when you get onstage," Steen said. "I don’t get a microphone because they’re afraid I might get a little too crazy, but especially Aaron and Scott, because they’ve been doing it so long. There’s just this chemistry there that you just can’t duplicate."

This past year, they also replaced bassist Matt Wong with Derek Gibb, a former member of The Forces of Evil. "Matt liked playing the music and everything," Barnett said. "But it was never his dream to be in a touring band. It’s just not what he wanted to do…He stuck with it for 16 years, he didn’t just want to up and quit, because he believed in what he was doing. He just didn’t like to be on the road. He just decided to do something else."

Check out Reel Big Fish on the rest of Warped Tour.


For Anberlin, a Florida-based alternative rock band, the past few months have also been spent in the studio working on their fourth studio album titled A New Surrender. "We finished it about a month ago in Los Angeles with Neil Avaron," lead singer Stephen Christian said. "It will be out September 30."

After working with producer Aaron Sprinkle for the past three albums, Anberlin decided to go in a different direction with Avaron, known for his work with Yellowcard and Fall Out Boy.

"We just feel like we hit a glass ceiling…we just thought, we can go back with Aaron, but we were too afraid to make the same record. I mean, no one wants to buy Cities again… We felt like going with Neil because he had the rock side. He did the Wallflowers records, but then again, he did Fall Out Boy, so we kind of felt we had the best of both worlds," Christian said.

Christian said the band spent three and a half months on New Surrender, as opposed to the four and a half weeks the band spent recording their last release, Cities. "It’s just done to where every song is meticulous. You know, why is that line in there? Why is that melody line in there? Does it have a purpose in being in there? It’s just a lot of stuff we wanted to do previously on records that we never got a chance to because we were always in a time crunch," Christian said.

In those three and a half months of production, there was almost no down time. "Man, we’ve never worked so hard. It’s not like we had free time where we just sat around. Nose to the grind. There was one song; I had to rewrite every word, every melody line 17 times, all the way. And still, it didn’t even make it on the record. That’s how meticulous it is," Christian said.

Anberlin realizes the importance of their fans and runs several different contests and meet and greets to get to know them and get their opinions. "We did this awesome thing where we went on our message board and asked people anywhere within the New York area to come and hang out. We didn’t tell them what it was for or anything. Well, the 12 people got to go downtown to Universal Republic and go into the building and sit by themselves and listen to the entire record, front to back. It was really cool. We called and said, ‘Hey, thanks for coming and stuff like that,’" Christian said.

They also asked them what they thought the first single off "Never Surrender" should be.

"They really wanted "Feel Good Drag" [from their second disc Never Take Friendship Personal] as the first single, because we redid a song off Never Take Friendship Personal that we felt like it never really got a chance to be anything because it was a small label. We thought, ‘Man, that could be a big song, but no one’s had the chance to hear it.’ So, we listened to them, and our vote was ‘Feel Good Drag’ as the first single," Christian said.

He says it is still up in the air, though. "Everybody has their opinion. The record label says one thing, Neil says another thing, and we want another thing. I think it’s going to come down to the label, because they have the money and we don’t. They own our souls," he said, laughing.

Their album will hit stores September 30 and they will be touring overseas and across the United States in support of it. | Katie Herring

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