With a new album on the way and a stint on the Vans Warped Tour for the second year in a row, 2013 marks the beginning of a new chapter for Sydney’s Tonight Alive. The ball is beginning to roll for what could potentially be the biggest year yet for the band, and we caught up with the band’s vocalist Jenna McDougall to discuss the new album, touring and the band’s new single featuring Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden.
How has 2013 been for Tonight Alive so far?
It’s been awesome. Every year in the past couple of years it’s been really full on, sort of month by month in a different place on a different tour. It’s been nice to have January in Australia when we were recording our record, February we did The Kerrang! Tour, and then we’ve done a bit more recording, and now we’re about to head over to the states tomorrow. It’s good; the ball is starting to roll.
Your video for “Breakdown” premieres tonight, are you looking forward to getting some new material out there?
Yeah, actually it’s been a pretty long time since we released any music, 2011; October was when we put out our last record. We’ve just been touring since then non-stop, so it’s really good to be putting out a single. We’re just showing everyone that we’ve not gone anywhere.
For the song and the video you’ve got Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden making a guest appearance.
Who’s idea was it to get Benji involved?
We’ve got the same publisher and he was in Sydney and had a day off and we had the opportunity to write with him, so we went into Sony Music Studios and sat down and wrote “Breakdown” together. We asked him if he would be interested in singing on the song and he said “no, no get Joel [Madden] to do it,” and we were like “no man, you wrote the song, do it with us.” So he recorded his part when he was actually overseas, but when he was in Sydney again, we hooked up for the video. He was awesome, an awesome guy, great to work with, and really happy to be on board. It was a great experience for us.
How much input did he have into the song?
A fair bit, it was his idea for in the chorus, I guess we worked on it together, but a lot of the ideas were starting with him and then sort of rolling off of each other’s backs. It was definitely a collaboration, it was awesome.
Coming up in May you’ve got your first Australian shows in over a year. Have you missed playing shows here?
Yeah, 100 percent. It has been exactly a year in May since we did our last tour in Australia and compared to 2011 when we did seven tours in that year in Australia, so it’s been really weird being away from home. It’s been great setting up foundations internationally and everything, but it’s really, really cool to be coming back and playing a couple of intimate shows and getting back in touch with our fans.
Can we expect to see you doing a full tour again soon after that?
Yeah definitely. When the album comes out, we’re planning on doing the first tour in the album cycle in Australia, so we’ll be launching it here and Australia will be seeing the album live for the first time out of anywhere else, so we’re excited to be doing that. Sort of after Warped Tour we’ll be doing that.
You’ve mentioned the album a few times now, how is the progress of that coming along?
Yeah it’s been awesome man. We wrote it for a year and a half and we were on the road the whole time, so it captured a different side of us, and I think the past two years have helped us learn a lot about ourselves as a band and as musicians, and also on a personal level. The album is really important to us, and we’re really excited to be putting it out. I think it’s a really good representation of the band and where we’re at for this time. It’s been a real long time since you’ve heard new music from us, so I’m really looking forward to it.
What was it like writing the album on the road?
It was really cool actually; we’ve never done that before. The last record, “What Are You So Scared Of?” a few of those songs, we were still in high school when we wrote them, and we’d never really done a whole lot of touring at the time, we’d done a handful, but nothing grueling that really pushed and challenged us in the way that the past two years have. I forget what your question was now actually [laughs].
It was “what was it like writing while on the road”?
Yeah it was really cool, it definitely captured a different side of us, and it wasn’t hard like I thought it was. I’m really surprised that bands feel that they have to take time off from the road to write a whole album; I don’t understand how that works. It’s been really cool to recount all of the experiences that we’ve had.
When can we expect to see the album released?
It’ll be post Warped Tour, it’s sort of just past mid this year.
You’ll be heading back for Warped Tour for the second year in a row now. What were some of your favourite memories playing it last year?
I guess it was a whole new experience for us, it was a massive community vibe on Warped Tour, there was no hierarchy in bands, everything was a real culture with everyone and we really enjoyed that side of it, and we haven’t experienced that anywhere else. I think the best parts were definitely getting on stage every day and playing in front of people that have never heard of us before and were just curious and wanted to check us out. That was pretty amazing, and we did signings every day as well, so we got to meet the fans over there. Warped Tour was our first American tour. I guess we were fairly fresh to the states, and I’m really looking forward to getting back there. This will be our sixth tour once we’re on this Warped Tour.
Did you enjoy the challenge of winning over people who might not have heard you before?
Definitely, it’s kind of like setting yourself a little goal and doing everything you can to achieve it. It’s like a physical thing really, you have to perform, you have to entertain, you have to communicate as well, so there’s a lot of levels of winning over people that have no idea who you are and are also really skeptical and don’t understand where you’ve come from and what you’re about. I guess that’s a challenge that a lot of bands face, but it’s definitely really rewarding at the end of it.
Tying into that last question, in a couple of days you’ll be meeting up with The Story So Far, Man Overboard, Citizen and The American Scene for the tour over there.
How are you expecting the reaction to be at those shows considering that stylistically you are a little bit different to the rest of the package?
Well we always kind of find ourselves on line-ups that we’re really, really different from. The last tour we did was with Pierce The Veil, Sleeping With Sirens and Hands Like Houses, so again, we’re often put on heavier line ups, and I’ve never really thought “this is the perfect tour package for us,” but in a way that’s a really good thing, because it really gives us a chance to stand out and bring something different to the night, keeps it interesting. It’s like everyone has got something to prove. I think it’s a positive thing to be different to the bands you’re playing alongside and keep it fresh, so it will be fun.
Do you think standing out will help you a little bit on that tour?
Yeah I think so. I mean I think that sort of pop punk, DIY thing, the underground pop punk scene in the states is really male dominated, you don’t really see a lot of female fronted pop punk bands, and you know we’re really a different kind of pop punk to the bands on the tour, it’ll be really cool to mix it up and I think there’s a lot of female fans in that genre, so hopefully we’ll be able to appeal to them as well.
You guys have toured quite extensively internationally the past few years. Where have been some of your favourite places to play overseas?
The UK is unbelievable. I mean everywhere we go, we love, and we have a great time and we make the best of it and the kids are always really receptive, but there’s something about the UK music scene that is really thriving. They’ve got a lot of support over there. They’ve got the huge Rock Sound and Kerrang! magazines, and they’ve got all the big radio stations that play the leftwing and alternative and rock music. They’ve got Radio 1 that plays Taylor Swift and Bring Me The Horizon back to back, you’ll hear whatever the fans want to hear over there, and it’s an amazing opportunity for international bands like us to break into that scene because there’s so many resources and ways to break into it, so the kids are excited, and I guess in a way music is really accessible over there, and that’s what makes it a really exciting experience to be a part of that.
Speaking of how strong the scene is over there, who are some bands that you may have met, or just heard over there that you have enjoyed?
We’ve toured with a band called Young Guns, and that was our first UK tour, and they’re legends. They just play straight up rock, and they’re all really great guys. They probably put on the best live show I’ve ever seen and they always sound amazing, and they put their whole heart and soul into it. They’ve just landed a WWE… the wrestling… their song “Bones” is the theme song for it now, and they’re doing incredible things. Lost Alone and Blitz Kids are another couple of bands that we’ve toured with over there and they’re just legends. The British people are hilarious, they’re even funnier than Australians, so we get along real well, and there’s a lot of talent over there.
What are some records that you are looking forward to hearing this year?
I’m looking forward to hearing the new Charlie Simpson record. He was the Fightstar singer, and he’s got a cool side project. Well I guess it’s not a side project, it’s a solo project really, and it’s amazing. It’s folky and poppy, but obviously he’s got rock roots, so I’m looking forward to hearing that. There’s a lot coming out isn’t there? I’ll have to have a think about that; I can’t off of the top of my head at the moment.
I’ve just got one last question before I let you go.
Back in 2011, “What Are You So Scared Of?” took out our Album of the Year poll. How confident are you that your new album will take it out again in 2013?
[Laughs] Well that could make me sound really big headed. I think this is twice the album “What Are You So Scared Of?” was. I think it’s a really solid track listing, and I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made as songwriters and as musicians. I think there’s a lot more skill to showcase, but that’s not to say that it’s a show off-y album, I think it’s quiet modest. It’s solid rock, I really love it and I’m really excited about it. I think our same structure is still there, but we’ve just taken a slightly heavier and darker tone with this album, and I’m really excited about that, so I just hope that all the listeners feel the same.
In that poll, the support from your fan base was pretty overwhelming. Are you surprised with how dedicated they are at times?
Yeah. I was a huge music fan growing up, but I never voted for my favourite band in anything, I never called up a radio station and requested their music, as much as I love those bands, I never went that far. So I’m always really surprised when people put in that effort for us, it’s incredible. I don’t know, I could never have imagined myself doing that, you must have to really care about a band enough to do it for them, so we’re so grateful for that.
Alright, thanks for having a chat. Enjoy the rest of your night.
Thank you so much dude. All the best, bye!