Punk band Off With Their Heads have been on a steady rise since their inception, gaining a horde of new fans with their signing to Epitaph Records back in 2010. Killyourstereo.com sat down with frontman Ryan Young to discuss new album ‘Home’, touring Australia and DIY Descendents tattoos.
Hey Ryan, how’s it going?
It’s going well thanks, how are you?
Good, thanks. So "Home" has been out for a few weeks now, has the initial fan reaction been much different to In Desolation or earlier releases?
I think it’s been a lot bigger than the last one, just because we kind of crossed over to a whole different world of people when we put out In Desolation. Three years of touring has pretty much made everyone who likes the band really anticipate something new because three years is really too long. We toured so much that we didn’t really have time to do anything but that. It’s been awesome, though. We actually went and toured the album already, we did most of March. It was cool playing those songs because it was like the record had been out for a year – people were singing along and really into it, it was great.
You recorded this album with Bill Stevenson of Descendents fame. What was the process like working with Bill?
It was very new to us. We had never worked with someone like that. He’s a pretty strange guy, but he’s so good at what he does. He’s good at the psychology side of it as well as the technical side. It was funny going into the studio, we had a bunch of shitty demos we sent him that were like half-finished songs. We’ve never had a producer before so we were kind of like "Alright, well he’s probably going to make us change this shit anyway so let’s just half-ass it". So he sat us down and was like "What are you guys doing? You don’t even have lyrics. You’re just going na-na-na" and we were like "I dunno. That’s what we do, we do everything last minute, he was just like "Jesus Christ. I’ve never heard someone be so unprepared". That’s us. Welcome to our dumb world. It was cool working with him in the sense that he never quite seemed happy with what we were doing so in a way it forced us to push ourselves – like, "what the fuck? What do you want us to do?" He constantly made us double check everything. He never seemed happy with anything until he and I were finishing the songs.
To me it sounds very professional and polished and slick without losing any of the sort of energy which is something it seems Bill has sort of a knack for in terms of the records he produces. Is that a thing that was important to you guys?
Definitely. They have a thing they do at that studio – it’s not just him, it’s like, everybody that works there works on all the records. Jason Livermore was a huge player in the whole album. The first mix they sent me of one of the songs, they were mixing it while we were there, and we were like "You can’t make it sound like that. It sounds like The Black Eyed Peas. It sounds way too good", and Jason was like "Well, alright, if you want to sound like a shitty garage rock band?". Like, that’s what he thinks a shitty garage rock band sounds like. But we were able to meet in the middle there.
Not to focus too much on Bill or the Descendents, but are they a band that you have an attachment to or influence you at all?
When I was 15 years old I got a needle and some India ink and some thread and I tattooed the Milo face – so I showed that to him and he was like "Oh wow, okay, so you are one of these guys". So yeah, it was a real cool thing. I’m picturing myself as like, a little kid stabbing myself in the leg to get the Descendents thing on there and then, y’know, 15 years later I’m making a record with the guy. And not only making a record, but sitting there and arguing with the guy! So yeah, it was pretty cool.
Lyrically, it feels like "Home" centres around ideas of self-doubt, growing older and of course, home – whether that be leaving home, finding home or simply not having a place one can call home. Were these the sort of thematic ideas you had in mind?
Going into the studio, I basically re-wrote every single song – We had, like, vague ideas of what we were doing. I think when I do sit down and write the record when I do, which is, y’know, all last minute, it tends to all gravitate towards the same idea. This one was the one about not ever being home, or really having a home for the last six years or so – and why we’re so into what we do that we choose not to have a home. It wasn’t intentional at the time, but like I said, when you do it all at once it’s kind of just the thing weighing on my mind the most that week.
The album also touches on religion in a few songs. “Focus on Your Own Family” is obviously a response to the Focus on the Family organisation and “Altar Boy” is a bit of a more personal song. Was this something that was important to have on the record or did that just come through naturally again?
We’ve never really gotten into it as a band, but I really hate the way that religion pushes its dumb shit on everyone else. “Focus on Your Family” I wrote for four people I actually know that have to deal with that shit. That song was specifically for the gay community and the way the church is so anti-gay – It’s like, “what do you care?”, y’know? In terms of“Altar Boy”, I grew up Catholic and that’s what that song’s about. It was fun to get some of that stuff out.
One of the tracks on the record, “Janie” was originally released on a split with J Church. Why re-record that track? Did you feel that it sort of fit cohesively with the rest of the record?
In a way it seemed the song itself fit in real well. Every record we’ve done we usually take at least one or two 7” songs we’ve released in the past. We’ve never liked the way that song was recorded, but we still play it live every show, so Zack [Gontard, guitar] and I wanted to make it something we would actually be happy with, so that was the real driving force behind re-recording that song.
So the last time you were in Australia was back in 2011 supporting Against Me!, was that your first time touring here? How did you find it?
That was, yes. It was awesome, it was really great. That was one of our goals when we started, we were like “wouldn’t it be cool if we could go to Japan, Europe and Australia with this stupid band?” and it took forever to get to Australia but it happened, and it couldn’t have been with a better group of people than Against Me! We flew into Brisbane and got there three days early because we wanted to hang out and try to soak up the city – no one told me that it’s insanely expensive. So here we show up with a few hundred dollars and spend it all in the one day on food and beer. It was pretty funny, I still can’t believe how expensive everything is over there. It was great though.
Any plans to come back, perhaps on a headline tour for “Home”?
We are talking about coming back with a band I cannot quite name just yet, we were actually just talking about it today. If we do that, it will be in September. I can’t wait to get back together.
Thanks for your time.
No problem, thank you.