New Jersey pop punkers Major League have had a transformative year. Despite the fact that the loss of a singer usually spells dark horizons for a band, new vocalist Brian Joyce has seized the opportunity to evolve Major League into what he wants it to be – honest, gritty and real. And if the response to their latest release, ‘There’s Nothing Wrong With Me’ is anything to go by, they’ve gone from hitting singles to a whole new ball game. We spoke to Brian about Major League’s new LP, dealing with criticism and what lies ahead in 2015.
Hey Brian, how are you? Thank you so much for doing the interview today.
Of course, absolutely. I’m doing great. We are in Boise, Idaho hanging out. It’s beautiful weather.
That’s great! You guys are on tour with Mayday Parade, right?
What’s the response been like to the new songs?
It’s been amazing! It was pretty incredible. I mean, coming on this tour we kind of figured that nobody would really know our band. It’s a very Mayday crowd. So we kind of assumed we’d just have free range to be the band [that] we want to be and to not feel like we have to play a lot of the old stuff. So we started playing a lot of the new stuff. We’d released Pillow Talk and Kaleidoscope prior to going on this tour, and at the first couple of shows, like immediately, people were singing along to the songs. It really just blew us away. So the response has been amazing, we’ve been having a blast.
You guys streamed the record before its release – was that so audiences could be more familiar with the songs when they came to the shows?
Yeah, I think that had a little bit to do with it. We knew we were going to be playing some of the newer stuff on the tour. We open with the first song on the record and we close with the last song on the record. And then there are other new songs in between. We streamed it a week before the record came out. It was the first half of the tour, kind of like getting people into the swing of a few songs that they know, and a few songs that they’ve never heard before. And now that it streamed halfway through the tour, the second half of the tour is kind of like a little experiment for us to see how many people have listened and paid attention, so that when we play the first song and the last song, we see what that interaction is like. So yeah, it was a little bit like an experiment process to see how the record was going to be perceived and stuff like that.
Speaking of the last song, ‘Rittenhouse’ is quite personal – as is most of the record. Do you ever worry about the reactions of the people that the songs are about in the writing process?
Absolutely. ‘Rittenhouse’ was about my girlfriend and I. We’ve been together for almost four years now. This summer, we’d just gotten out of the studio, and ‘Rittenhouse’ wasn’t going to be on the record – it was just an instrumental track and we were going to scrap it. And then, we’d gotten out of the studio and her and I had broken up. So I was going through a lot at the time and I called our producer Will [Yip] and I was like ‘can I come back in and do that song, I wrote some stuff to it.’ And he was like ‘absolutely.’ So I went in and just did it, one shot straight through, and just sang my heart out and gave it my all, and she heard it, and it did what it was meant to do. It was an apology for the way things went down, and the way things ended. And we’re back together and everything worked out. So, songs like that, it’s kind of like that’s great and I’m so glad it got to be the way it was and that the person that it was about appreciated it for what it was.
But for other songs, it is kind of nerve-wracking. The music video we just released is for a song called ‘Just As I Am’ on the record. And my Mum is very, very religious, and I’m not. And her and I haven’t talked about it too much, so that was the first time she kind of heard that I don’t believe in much of anything. I was panicking when we were about to release that, because I was like, my Mum’s going to hear this and she’s going to know. It is definitely a little nerve-wracking at times. But nothing I write really personally attacks anybody. It’s more so that it’s about myself, and bringing people into that world. So if you do get offended by it, it’s probably something that we could talk through, and I’d let them know that it is nothing personal.
Having music that’s so personal and so linked to who you are – does that make criticism a bit harder to take on board?
Yeah, absolutely. With our record ‘Hard Feelings’, there’s some criticism here and there and everything. It was kind of like, we’ll take it in stride, it is what it is. But this record was the first record I’m singing on and I felt like, if I was going do this, I didn’t want to just come in and be like the next singer of the band. I didn’t want to come in and feel like I was just filling a spot. I wanted to come in and make the band my own, and make it a band I want to front, and a band that I want to be the face of. So I decided that I was going to pour my heart into it, and I’m going to put it all out there, I’m going to talk about things that I was never really comfortable talking about before, and I’m really going to open myself up to this. And then you see certain comments here and there, of somebody being like ‘this song does nothing for me.’ ‘The guitar is out of tune in this acoustic track’ so that’s reason enough not to listen to the song. It’s kind of like ‘okay, but the message behind it is so much more powerful than an out of tune guitar.’ That’s the kind of stuff that just gets under my skin. It’s with any band, not just us, I see friends’ bands get reviewed, I see some of my favourite bands get reviewed.
People just assume that because it’s not something that they can personally relate to….it’s like, okay then just enjoy it for the music, or if it does personally relate to you but you don’t enjoy the music, at least dig a little bit deeper into the lyrics and let that affect you. I just think it is definitely harder to kind of swallow my pride a bit when I’ve put so much of myself into these songs, something that I was afraid to do in the first place. To put yourself out there like that, it’s like somebody coming up to you and saying ‘I don’t like you.’ And it’s for no apparent reason. So you know, I think that’s the hardest part about the criticism. I can’t really complain. There hasn’t been a lot of terrible criticism. Everything has been great so far. It’s just the few negative comments that I let affect me.
It’s sort of like there’s a default misunderstanding between people who make comments about the songs without knowing what they’re actually about, and how personal they are from your point of view. I noticed a lot on this record that with the more personal songs, your delivery is actually more personal. And live, you’re also quite emotional in the way that you sing. Is that something that you tried to consciously preserve in recording?
Yeah, it was definitely something that I was conscious about while we were recording it. Live, I do get a little more into it, and I do get a little more emotional. Where, in the studio, I’m still just as emotional, but it needs to sound good. And this record, we didn’t do auto tune, there was some pitch correction here and there, but there wasn’t really auto tune. It’s more so I was thinking about singing it, rather than just letting it out. So it was a little different in the studio, but I think that’s why I get so passionate live, because now I don’t have to force it, live. I can just let it flow. Whereas in the studio, I have to be conscious about how I’m singing it because it’s going to be on our record forever and it has to get pressed. So it has to be in tune and it has to sound good and it has to be right with the instrumentals and all that stuff. So just sonically, it has to all fit. That’s another thing that some people were saying, they were like, ‘he’s so much more passionate live than he is on the record.’ It’s like, I’m still just as passionate on the record, and I think the words speak for themselves. It’s just live, now I get to do it in a new, raw environment. The song’s pre-recorded, so now you know what it sounds like, and you can hear it in a different, kind of more passionate, aspect.
Because the songs are so emotional, do you feel like it kind of goes with the notion that good art is born out of tough times like the ones the songs are about?
Yeah! I mean, I think that’s the most beautiful part about it. Especially, recording this record, like I said before, it was so hard to talk about some of these things. It was so much, I mean the first song on the record, it starts with a time period. I was six years old, and I was standing in my living room watching my parents fight, and seeing our entire family just end, in that instance. And that’s one of my earliest memories, my parents getting divorced. It’s starting the record just bringing you right into that. I think that’s kind of the beautiful part about the process, with any band, when you kind of tell a story like that or bring somebody in, it shapes the rest of the record. I feel like if you’re open on one song, it gives a better understanding of who the artist is in every song. It’s not just a band just getting out there and singing songs about girls and stuff. It’s giving some sort of back story. Our record uses eleven songs to do that, but even if it’s just one song. It gives you a better understanding of the artist and the band as a whole, and not just the singer. I mean, the rest of the guys poured their hearts into their instrumentals and when I listen to the record I can hear their personalities coming out, I can hear the people that they are, playing these instrumentals. And I think that’s the beautiful part about really putting more of yourself into a record, rather than just sitting in the studio and plugging in some guitars.
Like you said, there are a lot of bands who just sing about girls in a way that’s a lot less authentic than you guys do it. Do you think that’s something that distinguishes you? Did you consciously want to distinguish yourselves on this record?
Yes and no. It’s not like we kind of went into this from the [view that] ‘we need to set ourselves apart.’ I just think that just being ourselves, that sets us apart right there. That’s the thing that I get confused about with a lot of bands, is bands saying, ‘I want to be the next New Found Glory. I want to be the next The Wonder Years.’ For me, I just want to be the first Major League. I just want to be us, I just want to do our sound. Even on our last record ‘Hard Feelings’, I’ll be the first to admit that on ‘Hard Feelings’ we played it safe. There were songs about girls, there were songs that didn’t really mean anything and were filler songs. Even with that record, the reviews were like ‘this doesn’t sound like Man Overboard, The Wonder Years or Fireworks.’ I was like, those bands are doing that sound, why would we want to sound like that? With this record, I know it feels like a drastic jump for a lot of people, and some people kind of feel like the band is trying to change its style. But we’re not. Before, it was a five piece, and I was okay with being the guitarist of a pop punk band. I was like okay, I’m playing guitar, I get to write my songs, whatever, and it was really good. But now that I’m fronting the band, I want people to come into my world. I want you to know that it’s not just another band. You’re getting to know this entire world and becoming a part of this entire process that is Major League. I think that’s the one thing that sets us apart, because we are just being ourselves. And you can’t replicate that – there can’t be, as hard as you can try, there’s not gonna be another Brian, Matt [Chila, guitarist], Luke [Smartnick, drummer] and Kyle [Bell, bassist]. We are our four own separate entities that make up this group. So I think that that’s the thing that sets us apart, just being ourselves.
Absolutely – and this record really shaped Major League’s, I guess, identity. Now that you’ve dropped the record, what are your plans for 2015?
We have a tour that we’ve just announced in January, with Silverstein, Beartooth, Hands Like Houses and My Iron Lung. It’s a US and Canada tour- 6 weeks. And then we’re going to be doing some overseas stuff in Europe and England in the springtime. And then in May we’re going to be heading over to Japan. And then, we have some other stuff going on next year that I can’t really spoil just yet.
That’s okay. You guys are touring with Hands Like Houses, who are from Australia, and you’re currently on tour with Tonight Alive, who are also from here…is there any chance that we’re going to see you in Australia anytime soon?
We hope so! We’ve talked about that. We’ve been actually talking with Tonight Alive a lot about that. We’ve been having a blast with them, they’re such incredible people, absolutely just the biggest sweethearts. So that’s something we’ve been discussing. We’ve never been to Australia. We’ve been wanting to go, but we just kind of feel like it needs to be the right time, because it’s such a long flight and it’s so expensive for us to get there. So we really want to plan it right. But it would be very cool, because we are on this tour with Tonight Alive and we are about to do a tour with Hands Like Houses. So the possibility of maybe, hopefully, getting something with the both of them in Australia would be very cool for us. It would be a great first time to be with old friends.
I’m sure that would be quite cool for us as well. Thanks so much for doing the interview today Brian. Congratulations on the record, and good luck with the tour!
Thank you so much, I really, really appreciate that. Thank you for taking time out of your day to interview me.
‘There’s Nothing Wrong With Me’ is out now through No Sleep Records/Shock. Major League are currently streaming it here.
Read our review here.