Accomplices: Nick Revak and The Iron Wolf
Photographs by Heather Peterson, Black Plague Photography
It is I, Maris The Great!... Which candy bar best describes your wee wee?
Steve: 100 Grand
Reeeaaally?....how alluring. So...fun size, regular size or...(gasp)...King size?
I shall ponder the meaning of this while you tell me how your meddling, little rock group came into being.
Steve: I was in a punk band with Chris by day and in a Weezer/Pavement cover band with Pj by night. We could barely play our instruments, but still had bands. I never even played a 'real' show (ie at a club or hall) with either band, but when the drummer of the band with Chris quit, Pj stepped up to the plate so the songs Chris and I wrote wouldn't go to waste. We met up one afternoon in Pj's garage not even knowing the journey we were embarking on that day.
And I might add that you didn't know your journey would lead you to the doom of the undead! So ...where did you get the band name?
Steve: It was a name I came up with around the time we started playing, it fit the story of the band. Pj wanted to name our band 300 Yard Drive. We never intended to be a real band - Chris and I just wanted to teach Pj the songs he and I had written so we could play them for fun. It was a joke in a sense, the outcome being Punchline. We weren't very serious about the band for the first few years, it took us a while to learn our respective instruments and figure out what we were doing. Most bands would have changed their name once they got more serious. I'm glad we didn't. I think the name fits our personality and style quite well.
You mentioned the doomed Weezer and Pavement, but Punchline's sound seems like it has roots in Pop Punk? True?
Steve: Definitely true. Our original influences were Mxpx and Green Day.
They will both die!
Steve: The first two songs we ever covered were "One Of My Lies" by Green Day and "Chick Magnet" by Mxpx. We got to play with Mxpx the other day for the first time ever and I got to hang out with them and tell them that. I thought it was pretty cool. Magnified Plaid baby.
There also sounds like a Beatles influence is tucked in your music.
Steve: That is a huge compliment, you just compared us to the greatest band of all time. We are all Beatles fans and have grown up on their music... definitely an influence.
I did not mean it as a compliment, mortal! If the Beatles were still together, I would kill them! ...How much do you allow what is going on around you to influence your writing style and sound?
Steve: We write what we write. I think the music scene right now, which used to be called the punk rock scene, is dying out and being replaced by a new wave of hair metal with worse songs. The music is the most important thing to us, we don't want to be a band that releases an album every two years and that's all you get. We are constantly writing and always creating. I think every group should focus on making their own musical statement and connecting with their fans and not focus so much on working the system (music business). .
Well spoken mortal!...and what musical statement would Punchline enjoy being known for?
Steve: A very melodic one.
Do you think your sound and approach to making music works for you or against you in the music business at large?
Steve: The music business is a big uncontrollable wave. I think music listeners of our scene are currently thriving on new music, which hurts a band thats been around for a while. At the same time I definitely can't complain - the music business has been great to us and allowed us to develop a fanbase of the most amazing and nice people.
Something unusual about the band is you all seem to share lead vocals. How did this come to be?
Steve: From day one Chris and I split the vocals. Neither of us were singers but we both wrote songs. If you wrote it, you sang it. We've always stuck with that for the most part. I sing a lot on 37 Everywhere, but think the next album will have much more split up lead vocals.
Punchline utilize a lot of background, vocal harmonies. How do you write thos? How do they come into being?
Steve: Most of the background vox and harmonies are spontaneous ideas we have while in the studio. We are harmonazis.
Much of your audience is young, female mortals. Do you write songs with that in mind?
Steve: We just write what we write. I don't really agree with you that our crowds are mostly female, I just think females go to more mortal concerts. I'm going to kill you, Maris.
YOU and what army?!?....Grrrr.... How did you come to get signed by Fueled by Ramen?
Steve: In our years of DIY touring we always stood strong on not pursuing labels and holding off until someone came knocking on our door. Two of the dudes from FBR came out to see us play in October of 2002 at the last show of our second tour with Unsung Zeros (greatest band ever).
They will die!
Steve: They had been sent there after receiving word from a little girl from New York by the name of Amanda Yu that we were worth checking out. Ironically, after they left our show, they moved to another club to check out a band from Connecticut on the rise by the name of West Beverly, fronted by our now guitar player Greg Wood.
Your new CD is called 37 Everywhere. Where did such an unusual title come from?
Steve: Personal superstition. We all think something is 'up' with the number 37. Twilight Zone meets Sesame Street. Since I was a lad this number has popped out at me as if to follow me or lead me. Its pretty neat actually. For Chris' side of the story check out www.fueledbyramen.com/punchline/37.
Every band tries to improve on their last recording. What did you try to do better with this CD?
Steve: We defined the messages in the lyrics. We provided better song structure and didn't get carried away with musical ranting - which i kind of miss, but that doesn't mean the next album won't have some longer outlandish songs.
Tell me how the CD came together.
Steve: We decided ahead of time when we would be setting aside time to write and record the album. Around the same time I was in the studio with good friends Bayside...
They will die!
Steve:...Um...yes....and hit it off quite well with their producers Shep Goodman and Kenny Gioia. Even by that point we had a good 15 new songs written. We did the Coast to Coast Roast Tour and continued to write before taking two months off to complete the process. We took a little under 40 songs to New York City, chose and recorded 12, cut one to be an exclusive Japanese bonus track, end of story = 37 Everywhere.
Tell me about making the video for "Don't Try this at Home. "
Steve: For our first music video we set out for a performance video; we wanted new listeners to see the band and see us play. The next videos have a pretty good chance of being a little more off the wall, we just didn't want to off the bat show the world how weird we are.
Who did the keys and strings for the break down on the song?
Steve: Greg did. We were excited when he joined the band for his skills on the keys; I really thought the album would end up with more keys and additional instrumentation but we ran out of time.
What other song(s) on the CD do you think would work really well for a video?
Steve: Thats a tough question - I'm not a big fan of music videos, I think they are for the most part pretty pathetic. Our video was by no means groundbreaking or even close, but no music videos impress me anymore. They cost so much to make that artists with small budgets go for a good look but suffer from a lack of shots and big budget videos generally lack good and original story lines or make no sense.
If ever there was a time in the band that you felt like rock stars, when was it?
Steve: Every time we go to Japan they treat us like gold. The hotels are always walking distance from the clubs and every last detail is covered by the amazing crew that takes care of us.
Tell me about the accoustic session thingy you did.
Steve The Action accoustic sessions went so well we decided to do it again with the new album. We recorded a fake live version of Green Light, a piano version of For The Second Time, and a stripped down Don't Try This At Home. We recorded the songs at the studio where we do most of our non-album recordings. It is called Innovation Studios and is located in Steubenville, OH. I often work there with my partner Mike Ofca on producing up and coming punk rock outfits.
What's it like being with each other 24/7?
Steve: There are ups and downs. Strikes and gutters. Like most bands we get along like brothers, there are little fights but all in all its amazing to me that we've been doing it this long and have no plans of stopping anytime soon. Our drives during the day are usually spent in silence so we each get our own dose of daily quiet time.
Who is the biggest asshole in the band?
What do you like most about the music business and what do you like the least?
Steve: I love it when I am able to help out friends with a favor in this favor business. I love being able to play music for a living. I love the friends I've made. I don't know if this is what I like the least, but the first thing that came to mind: I think bands these days (and we were completely guilty of this) rush themselves into the public eye long before they master their craft and figure out exactly who the band is. Its too hard in this country to win over a person who already has their mind made up that they don't like your band from hearing your premature music 5 years ago when you put up your first demo.
If you were granted one wish in regards to Punchline, and you all had to agree on the wish, what would it be?
Steve: We really want to see March Of The Penguins.