The Used have stood the test of time. Forming over a decade ago in 2001, the band still enjoys a great deal of success and a strong following worldwide. Bassist Jeph Howard recently talked to killyourstereo.com about the group’s upcoming sixth studio album, their recent EP ‘The Ocean of The Sky,’ and the Australian leg of the Vans Warped Tour in December.
Hey Jeph, how are you doing today?
I’m great, how are you man?
I’m good man, thanks for taking some time out to chat to us.
Oh, of course.
Do you want to just give me a quick rundown of what The Used is up to right now?
Well, currently, I’m pacing down a dirt road by the place I’m living at the moment. However, I’m assuming you’re asking what we’re up to as a band (laughs). We are in the process of starting another record, and we’re about to go on tour tomorrow night.
Yeah, I saw John Feldmann tweet last week that he had started working with you guys on your sixth studio album. I know it’s in early stages, but can you shed any light on what’s happening there at the moment?
It’s very early stages. Originally we went to the studio and we had about 12 songs written, and we scrapped all of those when we got to the studio and we started again. Quinn [Allman] started recording some guitar lines, and we got Bert recording himself singing over those, so we’re going backwards at the moment I guess in that we’re doing the vocals first. And then we’re gonna go back and start all of the music over again from the beginning. We’ve never done it backwards like this, so it’s gonna be very interesting.
Then in our time off we’ve been writing songs in the studio, so we’ve come up with about five more in the past couple of days, and they’re just really awesome rock jams.
What can fans expect from the final product?
It’s so early that I can’t really tell you, but just know that we haven’t disappointed you so far, so have a bit of patience and we promise you that it will be good!
Based on what you’ve got at the moment, is there any of your previous albums that you could relate this upcoming one too sonically, or is this a new game altogether?
It’s way too early to tell at the moment. Especially with the way we’re doing things. Although I do think that a lot of the stuff we’re writing at the moment is very rock oriented, but I can’t put it in a specific genre. If you follow us from record to record you can tell that we change just a bit, just enough on each record. We have ways that we wanna go, and ways that we wanna be with each record, and it just kind of depends on where we’re all at when we do things.
At the moment, I think what I would want for this record is no electronics. Or less electronics I guess. Just tiny bits of it. We’ve been using electronics on every album, and it can be fun, you know? There’s fun twinkles, but I think I’m a little bit ‘twinkled out’ (laughs)
You guys released an EP, ‘The Ocean of The Sky’ earlier this year. Do you want to run me through what you guys were aiming for with that?
Sure. We wanted something that was dirty, and messy, and real. Like, when you go to see a band live, nobody’s perfect. Nobody sounds perfect, there’s going to be a mistake somewhere most of the time. If you can pull it off perfectly, good for you, but if they don’t you know, that’s real. It’s life. You’re bound to at some point, and this EP we just wanted to record it fast and make it as real as possible.
So we did, we recorded it in five days. Lyricaly, it’s very political, about the wave that’s coming that will probably hit who knows when.
So going for that dirtier, less refined sound. How do you think your fan base responded to that?
Great. They loved it. We wanted something that wasn’t really produced at all. We ‘produced’ it ourselves, and that’s what we were aiming for. Dirty, messy, kindof ‘grunge-ish.’ And I miss that about music. Everything sounds so perfect, and pretty, and clean. Rock music used to be about real life, and now it’s just not.
I think there’s waves of music, and I think there’s another one coming, and hopefully it’s a lot dirtier and nastier like that.
Are you hoping that that mentality might make it onto the new record a bit as well?
It’s too early to tell. My hope is that it will, but I think there’s going to be some even more ‘different’ surprises on this record. It’s just too early to tell at the moment where it’s going to go.
You guys are headed down to Australia for the Warped Tour’s first leg down here in over a decade. How are you guys feeling about it?
I’m excited, The first Warped Tour we did was in 2002, and that was the first time it was in Australia. No, sorry. Not the first time, the last time. So, it seems very exciting for us. It seems like we get to start Warped Tour again for the very first time.
You played the Warped Tour for the first time in 2002, and you’ve played five times now. Can you describe it briefly in as many words?
Uh, in a few words? Lots of bands playing shows (laughs). There’s definitely a difference between Warped Tour in America and what Warped Tour in Australia will be, because in America, there’s LOTS of bands playing, although in the last two years they’ve toned it down a lot. It’s an awesome place where you can go and see a band you love, and then maybe go and see someone you’ve never heard of. That’s the best part of festivals I reckon.
There’s good and bad about festivals, but the best part is you never know what bands you’ve never heard of that you’ll discover and get a taste of a lot of different types of music.
The Warped Tour is pretty significant for most bands in your genre. What does the festival mean to you guys?
You know, when we were kids, it was one of those exciting tours that came through town. We lived in Utah, and not a lot of bands came through Utah that often. Warped Tour was that big festival that you got so excited about because there were so many bands to see there. Being able to play Warped Tour for the first time was probably the most exciting ‘slap in the face’ that we’ve ever had since the beginning.
Are there any bands on the Australian festival that you’re particularly looking forward to seeing or sharing the stage with?
You know, I’ll be honest, I’m not even sure who’s on the lineup for this tour. Although, if there’s any bands off the American Warped Tour, then you know. Awesome! We’ve toured with a lot of bands, and we try to make as many friends as possible on the tours.
You guys last toured Australia in 2012 with Soundwave. Do you want to run me through a bit of how that was for you guys?
Soundwave was great. I’m just trying to picture it at the moment. My life is a bit of a blur with how much we do. I remember being in a car and meeting the singer of letlive., and he seemed like such an inteligent, nice person. At the moment, that’s the only thing that’s coming to mind from that tour…
Actually, Mastodon were on that tour! I remember seeing them every day. I like Mastodon a lot. They’re a great band. In fact so are letlive. now that I think about it.
Is there anything that you’re expecting from Warped Tour that you probably wouldn’t expect from Soundwave?
I think it’ll be a bit more intimate, which is a good thing. It’ll be a bit more simplified, which can be a very, very good thing. I think sometimes the bigger festivals get a bit more complicated, and the fans don’t get to see all the bands, so I’m looking forward to just having a bit of an easier time this time around.
Five albums into your career, with a sixth on the way, how do you guys go about selecting a setlist, particularly for a festival like Warped?
That’s very tough, you know. We want to play songs that people wanto to hear. We want them all to hear their favourite songs. But when we can only play like, five or six songs, it’s complicated when you have so many records. We try to play a couple from the early records, and a couple from the later records. We try to mix it up as much as we can. We have the fans that LOVE the first two records, so we cater to them. We always have songs from those records and we always will. You’re guaranteed to hear at least a few song from the earlier records. Then we try and play some of the newer stuff as well, because we’re excited about the newer stuff. I think we mix them up very well.
A few quick ones before we wrap things up; what’s been your favourite album released this year?
Favourite album released this year….let’s see. I can’t think of any new music I’ve listened to this year, hey. I really liked our record (laughs). I know that doesn’t count, and it sounds pretty conceited to say that, but I was very happy with The Ocean of The Sky and the way it sounds.
Favourite band to have played alongside?
My type of genres that I listen to aren’t really what we play, so unfortunately, we haven’t played with any of my favourite bands (laughs). I think we played a festival with Faith No More one time, and that was very cool. I could be wrong about that.
What would be your dream lineup to be a part of?
I don’t know if we’d go with any of those bands. I’d love to play with Tom Waits and Bob Marley. I’m not a big reggae fan, but there’s just something about him. I’d like to get a hip hop artist in there. It’d be pretty all over the place, you know what I mean? There’d even be a lot of Turkish bands or world bands involved there.
With Bert McCracken moving down to the country, do you think there’s a possibility of seeing The Used touring Australia more frequently?
Yeah, Bert just recently moved down there, and I feel like depending on how Warped Tour goes, I think that’s a pretty big possibility.
Any final words for your Australian fans before we wrap things up?
Come out and see us on Warped Tour, come out and make it be known that you love us so that we can come back!