An interview with LA’s own After Midnight Project at the Ventura, Calif., stop on the 2010 Warped Tour after a face melting stage show on the Skullcandy Stage. The band opens up about their humble beginnings, schizophrenia, and even the necessities of touring non-stop as they do.
You guys really put on a show with video and extensive light shows in addition to high energy stage performance.
AMP: Yeah, it wasn’t there today, we have to strip it down with Warped Tour; it’s 30 minute sets, quick change overs. With headlining shows we really put in the effort. This is only our third show with Travis and Ryan, so we are really focused on sounding tight right now. Our main thing is our live show. I [Jason] feel like if a band can’t play live they’re not really a band. I hate when I go see a band, they suck live, I’ll walk out. We have to live up to our album, and better; we put a lot of time in to that.
This is your third year on Warped Tour. What is different about this year than in past years?
AMP: We have toured for two years straight now, and this Warped Tour every time we start a show there is already a pretty good sized crowd, which we’re not used to on Warped Tour. Last year it was so hit or miss, and a lot of it was determined by how much hustling we did before hand. Now, the touring has really paid off. We met people on the Chevelle tour and the Papa Roach tour that are coming back to see us at Warped Tour now.
Backgrounds, we’ve got electrical engineer, USC film school, and school of music. Are you guys like a weird A-Team? How does that play in to your dynamic?
Spencer: I think so. You know, we’re not your typical “yeah, we play music bro.” (bro voice)
Travis: I’m that guy. (laugh) I’m the one who dropped out of high school, didn’t go to college, been playing music ever since.
Jason: Well you’re still an intelligent human being.
Spencer: Not to diss any band, but sometimes you meet that band you’re really a fan of, and you’re like, “really, that’s them? Those guys are really stupid.”
You’ve had a lot of success with Let’s Build Something to Break, any new projects to look out for?
AMP: We’re putting out a live album, digitally. There’s no release date yet, but it’s Live at Bamboozle 2010 and then a new album next year. Probably start recording in December. There are no set dates, we’ll be touring until then and then start recording late 2010.
With thoughts of recording a new album, are you guys jotting down ideas day to day or is it more like lock yourselves in a studio and churn out an album?
AMP: We have a rig on the road, so we are writing all the time, recording all the time. Back home we’ve got a full studio, so we’re always writing.
Your music has been described as “therapeutic blend of schizophrenic musical stylings.” How do you feel about “schizophrenic?” I didn’t get that from the show, you seem to be all there.
AMP: I think what they mean is I pull from Cat Stevens and Postal Service to Pantera and Deftones. I love all kinds of music. Like in the song “The Criminal,” really soft parts that are almost folky in to real hard, chugging rhythms. I’m hoping that’s what they mean by “schizophrenic.” I think it’s a bit more ADD, maybe.
How did you guys get your break? I here it was a lot of local radio support.
AMP: KROK starting playing our song on the “locals show” and Capone, in San Diego, picked up on it and starting playing us on regular rotation. From there a station in Detroit picked us up so before we were even signed we had this great radio buzz happening. So Universal saw this and signed us. We owe a lot of our success to KROK and 91X for sure. They had faith in the band, basically; they put themselves on the line to support us.
Also I understand that Craigslist played a part in forming the band? So you can now buy a used kiddie pool and find a band?
AMP: Actually, Danny, who recently left the band since he has three kids, wants to keep having kids and focus on that; Ryan replaced him; that’s how I met him. I put an ad on Craigslist and he looked like a total pedophile. (laughs) He was the last guy in line, and I’m thinking, “oh God, that creep with the big red beard is coming.” But he blew me away and he was our drummer for five years.
So between Warped Tour ending and beginning recording in December, is there any plans for a small tour in between?
AMP: Hopefully a big tour. We are looking at Bullet For My Valentine, Flyleaf, and others we are up for; keep your fingers crossed ‘cause we’ve got some cool things in the brew.
A lot of your lyrics and music originate from heartbreak and trying times. Is there any fear of running out of that material now that you have basically “made it?”
AMP: It’s funny, I always think of that. For me, as long as you’re on the road, and you’re away form somebody you love, you’re always gonna have those giant fights. There is so much heartache to go around. I don’t care how big you are or how rich you are. If you’re away from people you love, whether it is your mom and dad, you can put it in to a song. Put that in to music and lyrics that fans are going to be looking for.
What is the songwriting process for the band? Is it therapeutic together?
AMP: On this album, I [Jason] was the songwriter, except “c’mon, c’mon” which Spencer and I wrote together; which is one of my favorite songs. We’ll see what happens with the next album. I think everyone will be writing and see what happens. We really can’t lose. We all work so closely. Jason will bring in a song and we’ll feel like, “yeah, it’s killer.” If not then we’ll [all] work on it and make it cool for the band to play.
AMP: You kind of have to be “not part of it” because there is a feeling that if you’re from LA you’re supposed to have a typical look, like a Motley Crue kind of thing. What we focus on is every show; if you come to it, you’re gonna remember it. We put on a big production so that when you leave you’re thinking, “wow, that band was really rad. We’ll go check them out next time.” So we did that for four years non-stop. We had residencies at the Viper Room, the Key Club, and all different venues and just built, built, built, built, built, knowing how hard the competition is. Everyone comes to LA to “make it,” but they don’t really know what it takes to get there. Just like becoming an actor. There is a HUGE pool of actors, and you’ve got to get in line first.
I think we stand out by not caring about all that stuff. We let the music speak for itself. The focus is more on the performance than developing a style; I mean we don’t show up in pajamas, but still, ya know?
So no clothing line, vodka, or dubs you’re coming out with?
AMP: (laugh) no, no. That comes later down the line.
I have to ask, anything you have to have when setting out on a tour like Warped?
AMP: Just the standard stuff I guess, clean underwear. Oh, trimmers, gotta trim the chest hair, and socks. Brand new socks. Usually deodorant but I [Jason] forgot it for this tour.
When can LA look forward to seeing you back home again?
AMP: September 4th at the Key Club. It’s a headlining show so get your tickets now. We get to play our full set, some stuff no one’s ever heard before, we’re gonna make it a really cool show.
All photos courtesy of Wesley Bauman for Disarray Magazine
Wesley is a writer/photojournalist originally from Oregon who makes his home in Ventura, CA. He is currently a contributing photographer for the VCReporter and maintains an active blog (http://www.wesleybauman.wordpress.com/) where he writes on political and social satire regularly.
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