Off With Their Heads Make The Label Leap

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The explosion of Nirvana onto the pop music scene had a profound impact on the values inherent to the genre and the effects of that success are still being felt over a decade later. Prior to the emergence of grunge and Nirvana's ascension to the top of the proverbial heap, a band's signing with a major label was cause for celebration; it was a sign that the band was doing well enough that a larger business body wanted to endorse and promote it because they believed the band's music and image could be readily consumed by a mass market. Because Nirvana (and, by extension, grunge) had totally wiped the slate clean in 1992, there was a void left in the 'values' margin of rock which was filled by a whole new system based on underground syllogisms. Bands began to equate signing to a major label with a spontaneous loss of self; staying independent would mean a diminished dollar reward, yes, but  not “selling out” would also mean greater creative freedom which could ultimately yield greater satisfaction to both the band and the listener – that's the theory anyway.

Seventeen years after rock's value set was re-written and it's largely taken as gospel; not many bands or fans look at the dogma from a different point of view, it is just “how it is.” The catch to such a rigid structure is that it (again) begs for an upstart to try and tip it – which is exactly what Off With Their Heads singer/guitarist Ryan Young thought would happen when his band signed with Epitaph Records. “We'd been talking about [signing with Epitaph] for about ten months, but we officially signed in December and word had started to filter out about it now,” explains Young, as he fills in some of the gaps in Off With Their Heads' story while on a tour stop in Rochester, NY. “You know, we were expecting a giant backlash from, well everybody basically, but we've gotten a ton of emails and comments saying congratulations. It's been so weird! We were actually a little bummed out [chuckling].

“Of course, the business workings of it aren't anyone's business other than our own and the label's but it has become standard now that people want to get involved and sound off on the politics of it,” continues the singer, “so when everybody was all happy about it, we were a little disappointed. You could tell that there were a couple congratulatory brush-offs – like, 'Congratulations, you've sold out' – but most of them it was really genuine; people were congratulating us and telling us we deserved it.”

Whether naysayers will prove to be justified or not remains to be seen but, in listening to Young talk about the band's forthcoming Epitaph debut, Falling Apart (“Falling Apart is the tentative title we've given it,” says the singer. “That just came up yesterday so I say 'tentatively' in case something changes.”), it's hard not to get excited at the possibilities that the band has in store. Rather than collect a series of tracks that the band has already released on seven-inch singles and EPs, Off With Their Heads wanted to properly introduce themselves to a prospective larger audience and so took longer in the studio than they ever have done before in the name of getting it right. The band worked on the songs and then re-worked some to make sure they were solid enough to make a muscular presentation and, when the dust settled, the band discovered to their dismay that they'd actually surpassed their own expectations of themselves; in Falling Apart, the often self-deprecating singer says that they've created something they're genuinely proud of and can't wait to show it to fans when the album drops in June, 2010. “Before we went into the studio to start recording, we had been on tour for fifteen months – since September of 2008 – so this entire record is essentially things that were written at those times when we got to a show early and were just screwing around,” says Young modestly as he explains the process that ultimately yielded OWTH's forthcoming record. “We didn't practice most of the songs until the week before we recorded it and it just sort of came together naturally. That's how we've always worked; every record we've done, we'll have, like, five songs and we'll just strap all our ideas together to fill out the rest. Oddly, everyone seems to like the songs that were thrown together at the last minute the best which is sort of self-defeating but that's just how we work.

“This time was a little different for us though, because we spent sixteen days doing it which seemed really luxurious – we've never spent more than three days recording before. It was awesome; we had time to really make it what we wanted to and I actually think we went a little beyond what I thought we could do. Three of the songs that are on the record have been released on vinyl comps or seven-inches before, but we just weren't happy with them so we reworked them a little bit and re-recorded them and the rest are all-new songs. The cool thing about having more time to do it was I got the ability to step outside of my comfort zone a bit on a couple of the songs – they're a little different but not crazy – and those turned out to be my favorites on the whole record!”

In the end, after the recording was done and everything was set, the greatest justification to the band's hard work came when, with baited breath, Off With Their Heads presented the album to Epitaph president Brett Gurewitz. Says the singer on that moment, “The whole time we were in the studio, we were feeling like there was a little more pressure just because there was Epitaph behind it this time and we didn't want to let Brett down. It felt so great after we handed him the album and he told me that it was an amazing record when he heard it. He told us that we'd knocked it out of the park so that really meant a lot to me.”

With the pressure of recording and the initial presentation of their first album for a new label off, all that remains now is for Off With Their Heads to play the waiting game until the album drops and try to build a bit of excitement for it so it might hit the ground running. That means hitting the road and getting in front of a bunch of new faces but, on this tour, Off With Their Heads will only tease audiences with a single new song from the forthcoming album, and blow their heads off with sets of material that the band feels is a fine introduction, but still leaves enough for audiences to get hungry for what's coming. “I don't like it when bands play too many new songs before the record comes out so we just threw one in there to sort of keep ourselves entertained and give the people that come out a little tease before the record comes out in June,” says the singer in a tone that is equal parts baiting and excited. “The good part is that we've got about thirty-six songs that we're able to play so we can switch it up whenever we want and that kind of keeps things interesting, so that's what we're going to do. This tour runs until April, and then we're going to take a bit of a break but, after the record hits in June, we're going right back out again to show people what we've got for them now. What Brett has told us he wants us to do is keep to business as usual; 'Keep doing what you've been doing and I'll just help make it easier.' That works for us, so I suspect we'll do a lot of support tours and things like that but nothing we don't want to, which is pretty awesome.”


Comments are closed.