Title Fight are a band that aren’t afraid to take risks. Despite the cult-following they’ve earned over the years, their latest effort ‘Hyperview’ is both a departure and a progression from who they were three years ago when ‘Floral Green’ caught the alternative scene by surprise. We caught up with vocalist and bassist Ned Russin to chat about the album, their upcoming Australian tour and what’s left on Title Fight’s bucket list.
Hi Ned, thanks for doing the interview today.
Yeah, of course. How are you?
I’m good, thanks. How are you going?
I’m doing pretty well.
So, getting straight into it, you guys decided to stream ‘Hyperview’ the other day before its release. Why did you decide to stream it early?
I think it’s just kind of normal practice now. I mean, it’s more like a label question. It was basically just pitched to us, like we would stream the record early and we’d just try and choose the partner that we felt comfortable doing that with. So I don’t know, it’s just pretty normal, these days.
Have you been gauging the reactions so far?
Yeah, I was definitely looking more so than I usually do. I was pretty nervous going into the record to see how people reacted to it. Just because it was a bit of a departure from our previous sound and that’s kind of always a tough field to navigate. So I was looking to see how it was going over and I think it went surprisingly well. There’s obviously always going to be some people who like previous stuff better, and that’s fine, everybody’s entitled to their opinion and I want them to have their own opinion. So that means that not everybody’s gonna be happy all the time. But for the most part I was pleasantly surprised to see that people were pretty open to it and that they were excited about how it turned out. That’s pretty re-affirming, and that’s a good thing to have.
You talked about the album being a departure – which it definitely is –and there have been a lot of comparisons to shoegaze going around. Why the sonic change?
I mean, we’re a band that’s not complacent with doing the same thing over and over again, and when we sat down to write this record we didn’t wanna write anything that we’ve written before. I think the shoegaze thing is being thrown around a lot, and that’s fine. There’s definitely elements of some stuff. We’re not really a shoegaze band, you know? We get influence from some of that stuff but I think the elements that we’ve brought in from that kind of stuff have always been there. You know, if you look back on ‘Floral Green’, everybody always likes to cite ‘Head In The Ceiling Fan’, that would be true with it. But I mean even a long time ago on records like ‘The Last Thing You Forget’ there are some more relaxed, spacey elements. I think that’s always been an interest of ours, and we just kind of enhanced it, I guess, and we really kind of went all out with it this time. It was just, again, it was just out of necessity, out of not writing the same thing over and over again. These are things that we had worked on, and we just kind of went with it.
It’s pretty cool that you did actually take that risk. Jamie [Rhoden, vocalist/guitarist] seems to be the more prevalent vocalist on the record – was that a conscious decision?
Not really. We split the songs that we had in the studio down the middle and the songs that Jamie ended up getting were just the songs that fit the album better I guess. So it wasn’t a conscious thing going into it.
Thematically, are the tracks conceptual – do they follow a sort of narrative – or are they more abstract?
No, there’s not a strict linear narrative. There are themes that go across that can be linked to all [of] the songs, but overall its namely just kind of invulnerable honesty, I guess, trying to achieve that.
Specifically, what does ‘MRAHC’ stand for?
It’s ‘charm’ spelled backwards.
Well, this is awkward.
I don’t think people know what to make of it yet! It’s kind of interesting to put that out there. A lot of people are calling it ‘March’. The song is just called ‘Backwards Charm’, really.
This interview is going to spoil it for people. Is ‘New Vision’ a Yeats reference?
That wasn’t on purpose, I wasn’t behind that song, Jamie and Shane [Moran, guitarist] wrote that song but I don’t think they purposefully did that. It might have been subconscious. But, yeah, that is, you know. But it wasn’t a purposeful thing.
You guys are heading here soon to tour for this record. Do you think the set list is going to be a mix of new and old or are you focusing on the new stuff?
I don’t know. I definitely would like to play some new stuff. It’s just always fun to get to play new songs. You know, we’ve been playing some of the songs on our set list for probably close to five years now at this point. It’s just always kind of reinvigorating to get some new material in there. The new songs are new and exciting and I definitely would like to try and play as much as we could but also without neglecting our old songs.
There are a lot of fans who are interested in the old stuff as much as the new – do you perform songs based on what you think the crowd wants or on what you guys want to play?
A little bit of both, I guess. You know, the thing is with being in a band, the thing that I would like to think is kept at the forefront would be being true to yourself. But at the same time, you’re playing to people, and you know, you shouldn’t completely neglect the people who are coming to see you. So there has never been a point where we’ve played something only because we think people wanted to hear it but I think we also have to be true to ourselves. We’re not the band that we were a couple of years ago, and I think that we reflect that in our song writing and we reflect it live. I don’t think we’re going to cut anything that completely…We’re not going to cut like a ‘27’ or something like that. But maybe there’s some songs that just won’t get played, anymore, but that’s not a negative thing, it’s not that we’re trying to distance ourselves from the songs, it’s just that we’re trying to do different stuff.
For sure. You’ve spoken before about preferring performances to be closer to the audience. How much of a difference does being in a more intimate venue make?
It makes a lot of difference. It’s just a completely different energy. When you can interact with a person face to face and see their reaction and see their emotions, it creates a completely different performance. I think that’s why it’s my preference. It’s a much more intimate, immediate reaction. You know what, the reason why I’m interested in music and the reason I enjoy playing music is not to just sit back and entertain people. I don’t want to be somebody’s entertainment for the night, I’d like to be a thought-provoking, exciting medium that other people can be involved with. I think that’s why I feel that way.
You mentioned being thought-provoking – what sort of things do you want to champion to your audience?
I would like people to consider themselves in the grand scheme of things. I would like people to think about their place and think about things that might make them uncomfortable and things that seem scary and maybe unanswerable questions; but with the knowledge that they’re not the only ones feeling that and to be completely honest with those feelings because to me, growing up, that was a huge thing. I didn’t have a coping mechanism, you know? Music. If we could be that for somebody else, that’s one of the highest duties a band can take on. If we could do that, and if we could kind of create an open dialogue in that regard, that would be really great. And I would like to be a part of that.
Through putting yourselves out there through your music you guys are well on your way. In terms of your performances, there’s been a lot of comments in the scene, I guess, about stage diving and safety in crowds. What’s your perspective on safety at shows?
I think safety at shows is extremely important. I think people go to shows to watch a band play, and to be involved. As a band it is important to keep those people safe and not let them get hurt. Because I watch people have a good time but I know a lot of people who go home with broken bones or go to the hospital or something, like that’s no fun for anybody. But at the same time, I think expressing yourself is really important. I think the way that people react to music is a valid form of expression. I think that it just gets a little bit crowded because when you put that many people in a place and you put that kind of movement into the energy it can get a little bit violent and that’s dangerous.
It’s a really hard line to walk, because I don’t think stage diving should be banned across the board. I think that people should take proper precautions. I don’t mind playing behind a barrier. I don’t mind people being safe. But at the same time, it comes with just a certain level. I go to plenty of shows where there’s no need for a barrier, I partake in whatever activities I like to partake in. But the shows that we have been playing, it’s certainly a concern, and something that I’m not shy about saying either, to have better precautions sometimes.
Thanks for being so candid about that. In terms of where Title Fight are, what’s left on your bucket list as a band?
The thing is like, the only goals I ever had for Title Fight were to do a US tour and to release a 7 inch. We accomplished that pretty early on and everything else has always just been an added bonus. I don’t know, because I don’t think in terms like that. I just want to play music. If we could release more music that’s relevant to some extent, that would be great. That’s really all I could ask for. It would be great to go see some new places, it’d be great to meet new people, it’d be great to play with some bands, but at the end of the day the thing that I would be really only concerned with is playing more music.
Fair enough. Just to wrap up, ‘Hyperview’ was one of 2015’s most anticipated records. Is there anything you’re anticipating this year?
Not off the top of my head, honestly. I’m pretty bad with keeping up with news. I don’t know exactly who has a record coming out this year. I don’t know if Balance And Composure have a record coming out this year or not, but if they do, I would say that’s on the top of my list. But I don’t know other than that, honestly. I always end up having a pretty big list of records that I’ve enjoyed over the year, but I never know what’s coming out, you know, and it’s kind of always a pleasant surprise to be in the dark in that way.
That’s cool. Did you have an album of the year last year?
Yeah, yeah, I had a couple of favourites last year. I like a lot of 7 inches that came out, there were a lot of good EPs. This band Fury from California put out a really great 7 inch. The band Step Forward from Boston had a really great 7 inch [too]. The Australian band Total Control, I like that record. Cold World put an LP out that was great. There’s a bunch of stuff. Like I said, at the end of the year there’s always stuff that I’ve found out about. But yeah, that knowing what’s coming next, I never have any idea what’s going on.
‘Hyperview’ is out now via Anti- Records.
You can catch Title Fight on tour this June. Full tour details can be found here.