It’s no secret that I think Misery Signals are one of the greatest bands of the last ten years, so getting another chance to interview the band in the wake of their pivotal third record was an opportunity I wasn’t going to pass up.
Unfortunately my scheduled chat with vocalist Karl Schubach fell through, however bassist Kyle Johnson was happy to fill in…
Interview w/ Kyle Johnson (Bass) of Misery Signals (USA)
By Cameron Chambers
Hey man, how are you today?
Great thanks man, yourself?
Doing well. Where are you calling from at the moment?
Back home in Milwaukee man.
I know you guys have been off the road for about a month now but how did your most recent tour play out?
The last tour we were on was so awesome… it was with As I Lay Dying!
Sounds great. The last Misery Signals record “Mirrors” was predominantly written before Karl had joined the band. Did it (Controller) feel like more of a fresh start for you guys considering it’s the first record where you worked as a collective from start to finish?
Yeah, I mean it was definitely different overall. Like you said, Mirrors was written entirely before Karl even heard any of it, so this time around … well, he wasn’t actually in Milwaukee with us when we were writing but we were still able to send him songs while we were doing it, so we could get his outlook and opinion on everything, so it gave us more time to ensure the songs came out how we wanted to.
It’s definitely a lot better this time around.
“Mirrors” was well received by your fans but you guys weren’t exactly shy about your feelings towards the production aspect of the album. Were there any other producers you were looking at or was Devon the only man for the job?
I think he was our main goal throughout the process. We toyed around with getting other producers but nothing ever really grabbed us. We kind of stuck with Devon through and through even though we looked at others, but ultimately Devon seemed the most interested and he was our first pick as well.
A lot of producers are notorious for tearing apart a band’s songs during the recording sessions. Did Devon have much of a role in the writing and arranging or did most of your songs make it through in their original form?
I would say probably maybe eighty percent of the material made it through in it’s original form, but Devon definitely had suggestions and helped us structure a couple of the songs, you know, a few parts here and there, just enough to really bring the songs together.
There were definitely tracks we didn’t touch because we thought they were already where they needed to be, but any songs we were unsure of Devon really helped bring them together.
Not to downplay how great “Mirrors” was, but “Controller” seems to be a lot more focused, both lyrically and musically. Did you guys work as a group on all facets of the record?
Yeah, I mean, when we’re writing the record we sat down with each other and had several conversations on where we wanted to go with this record, and discussed what was missing with Mirrors and what we wanted to incorporate this time around, and that really gave us focus.
Instead of just writing what came to mind it gave us a goal to achieve, and I feel that shows in how the final product turned out.
It’s quite common for technically proficient bands to get lost in their own musical complexity, yet you guys have actually managed to make your songs catchy and memorable. Is that something you were conscious of when it came to writing the album?
Yeah absolutely! We honestly try and do that every time around and sometimes it works out better than others, but we’ve never been the kind of band that needs to be over technical by any means. We all respect that style but at the same time we all respect the verse-chorus style of catchy songs too, so we try and find a balance between the two.
We just try to write something memorable but we don’t sacrifice that creativity in the process.
I heard that the rest of the band wasn’t allowed in the studio when Karl was tracking vocals. Was that Devon’s way of allowing him to put his own stamp on the record?
Yeah I think that’s exactly what he was. I feel he does that with most bands he works with. I know Bleeding Through just finished working with him, and we saw them last night (they were playing in Milwaukee) and they said he did the same thing with Brandon.
He (Devon) just took the first five or six days of the vocal process and did it one on one with him (Karl) and then once you get more towards the end you bring everyone else in.
It definitely makes a singer feel a lot more comfortable, especially a singer like Karl where this was his first opportunity to really show us what he can do.
“Controller” is your heaviest record thus far but it comes off as being your most accessible as well. Can we put that down to Devon’s production talents or are you guys actually the first band to successfully pull off the “it’s heavy but melodic” line, ha ha?
Ha ha ha, well I credit Devon partially for anything that has to do with Controller. Like I said, he helped us with structures and he can make instruments sound Godly. I would say it’s a joint effort overall, and I think that if we had gone into Malice (Misery Signal’s first full-length) like we came into this record with Devon, then that record would have been a lot more focused and better than it was.
He had no idea who we were at that point and was pretty much doing Jesse (our old singer) a favour, coz he’s known Jesse for years, so he did us a favour and recorded our first CD, but this time around he understood us and knew exactly what was going on.
I read an interview with you a couple of years ago where you stated that so many of your peers were achieving commercial success and you wondered when Misery Signals time would come. Do you think “Controller” is the record that will open you up to a larger audience?
I definitely think there’s more of a possibility with this record than any of our previous records man, ha ha.
What touring plans do you guys have for the rest of 2008 and is Australian going to be getting a look in?
We’ve got a Canadian tour lined up with Comeback Kid throughout October and from there we’ve got November off, which may get filled in, but we definitely plan on hitting Australia by the end of the year.
We’re going to finish with something a little less serious if that’s cool?
What’s your favourite gig that you’ve attended as a fan?
I’d probably have to say… as far as I can remember coz I’ve been to a lot of shows that The Get Up Kids and At The Drive In. The show was about six or seven years ago in a small, two hundred capacity venue in Wisconsin.
That would have been incredible.
It was pretty intense man, it was before either band had broken and The Get Up Kids were still touring Four Minute Mile, so it was really cool to see that.
Favourite album at the moment?
I don’t know if I could pick one, although I’m a big fan of the new Weezer record.
Yeah, I’m not so sold on it, ha ha.
Ha ha, I’m definitely a bigger fan of their older material, but compared to the last few records they put out this one has touched on some older elements of the band… well, at least musically, coz the lyrics are kind of goofy. I think I pretty much stopped listening to their records up until this one though, ha ha.
Most ridiculous thing you’ve done for a dollar?
For a single dollar, ha ha? Shit… well, we actually did something the other day. It wasn’t exactly for a dollar, but we had a competition between five of us where the point of it was to see who could curse or swear the least amount in a ten hour period, and for each time you swore you had to put a dollar in, and whoever had the least amount of swears won all the money, ha ha.
Most embarrassing onstage experience?
I can’t really think of anything in particular, ha ha. I’ve fallen down too many times before and tripped over all my shit, but it happens.
That wraps it up mate, is there anything else you want to say?
Nah, I think that should cover it. Just pick up our record and let us know what you think, ha ha.
Thanks for your time man.
For all things Misery Signals head to the bands Myspace page.