||Interview with The Class of 98
by Steve Henderson on 2006-05-01
Can you please state your names and what you do in the band for the record?
C: My name is Colby, and I play drums.
N: I’m Nick and I play guitar.
B: I am Ben and I play bass.
S: Steve – I play guitar and sing.
So, I understand someone in the band had a new addition to their family?
S: That would be me. I am a father of a six-week old baby boy. His name is Rivers Julian, and he smells a lot. It’s crazy – it will change your life.
So how does it affect your life on tour? Does it make you want to be home more, or does it make you want to go out and do more for your new family?
S: I’d say a little of both. It is definitely a little more sad when I am leaving town, but I guess I feel pushed to take care of my kid.
So, I was reading about the band’s background and history a little bit. You know, you hear about these bands that move places to pursue music full-time. A lot of bands go to LA or the OC, New York, or whatever, but you guys decided to go to Nashville. Can you talk about the reasoning behind that move?
B: Well, I think that it is kind of a misperception about Nashville – that it is all country. I think that everyone that lives outside of Nashville sees it as the country capitol of the world, but once you get to Nashville, there is actually little to do with country there. I mean, the labels have their offices there, but the thriving music culture of Nashville is its rock scene. There is a lot more rock, especially indie rock, alt-country, bluegrass, and that stuff going on. The rock scene is really thriving out there, and a lot of bands are actually being signed out of Nashville.
Like The Class of 98?
B: (Laughs) The Features, The Pink Spiders, Be Your Own Pet, Kings of Leon, Paramore. All these bigtime deals are happening, and they are all coming out of this scene that has been brewing for years and years, and I think it is finally getting recognized for the quality that is there. I think that Nashville is going to be a city to watch even more for years to come. There are a lot of really talented people out there.
S: Like Jack White!
B: Yeah, I actually ran into Jack White at Starbucks a few weeks ago.
Was he dressed all weird?
B: No, he was dressed normal! I made him sign something, so I don’t think he was annoyed because I bet that stuff happens all the time. My friend Sarah is obsessed with him, and I had him sign a little autograph to her.
With regard to your songs, they seem to be pretty narrative in the way that they are told. Are they about actual people and events, or are they fictional representations of greater concepts?
N: Well, when I wrote all the songs…(laughs)
S: Yes, they are about real people.
B: Hannah does exist.
Yeah, I was going to say, one of the tracks that stood out to me, that seems to be misunderstood is “Hannah, You’re Beautiful.”
S: She’s actually a fan of the band I was in before The Class of 98. She’s actually a girl I have known for a long time now; I’ve seen her grow up. I’ve known her since she was 14. I got to see her graduate high school. She got pregnant when she was a senior, and didn’t finish, but she got her GED. She’s cool, though.
Was the kid yours?
S: (Laughs) No, I wasn’t with her or anything. She was just a fan – she would come to all my shows and was just really into helping me and the band. She was doing street team stuff, and now has been slowly getting more and more into drugs. These last couple years she doesn’t know what to do with her life, and started doing cocaine. She’s a close friend of mine, and it has been breaking my heart to see her life falling apart like this. You know, when you get into that, you have no perception of yourself anymore. And she is, really just drop-dead gorgeous.
So what was her reaction to the song? Did you talk to her about it?
S: Oh yeah…she was like, “So, I’m that fucked up friend you write songs about, huh”? (Laughs) No, then she said she was flattered and thanked me.
Did you ask her about it beforehand?
S: Yeah, I played it for her.
B: You played it to her before you played it to us?
S: I told her that I had written the song, and she told me I had to play it for her. After I did, she gave me the okay.
In your band bio online, it says that the album title, Touch This and Die!, is a notion about not taking yourself too seriously. Despite that, there are a lot of songs on the album that are kind of heavy, really. Is it meant to be a little contradictory?
N: Yeah, there is supposed to be a contrast in that. One guy we told about the album title, didn’t really get it, you know? We told him what it was, and he was like, “Oh, Touch This and Die, huh? That’s tough.” (Laughs) I didn’t say anything to him, but I was thinking he didn’t get it.
C: That’s one thing I thought was so awesome about it, was how tough and how metal it sounded, but then when you put the disc in, it’s all poppy. (Laughs)
Yeah, I think I had that written on my Trapper Keeper.
B: Exactly! That is exactly what we were going for. I think that what had happened was, we put the EP out ourselves, and it was something that had gotten written on this old toy record player that was on the cover art. It was kind of cool how that worked.
C: Yeah, Steve brought the EPs in, and I was like, “Cool, it’s called Touch This and Die”?
B: So, it was pretty accidental, but to make it sound a little more purposeful, it’s meant to be taken lighthearted, but at the same time, these are a lot of very personal things that are inside of this. So it is almost a threat that you don’t want to touch this if you don’t want to be a part of this. Don’t touch this if you don’t want to be drawn in, and take this seriously. After all, this is a big part of who we are, and we want to share that with people.
You are a great bullshitter! (Laughs) You just made that up?
B: I’ll admit, I never thought of it that way before…
Well, after a couple beers, sure…
B: That was the sentiment behind it when we started. You know, you’re 8 years old, and you write that to your little sister. I always thought of it as something you write on the outside of your diary, because you have this thing that is so personal and so close to you.
I thought the production on the record was excellent, and then came to find out that you guys produced it yourselves…is this true?
S: Yeah, that’s right.
Was this to cut costs or maintain creative control?
S: Well, I do that on the side, also. It’s one of those things where there is no money to pay anyone else, and we liked the way we do it. I even tried to pay someone to master it, and ended up re-mastering it myself. Yeah, we got a studio and made it happen pretty fast.
So how is it being a part of the Militia Group family? Is there any pressure to make it because there are a lot of other bands on TMG launching up to majors?
B: I think that with Militia they have been awesome with getting the word out and stuff, and I don’t think there is pressure from them in the sense that we need to sell this many records by this week or you’re going to be dropped. So far, they are really focused on making this a successful partnership because we look at it that way. They are doing their part, and we are doing ours, so together, we hope, well everyone hopes they will make it. There is no obscene demand, though, like there is for some major label artist that gets dropped because they don’t sell 100,000 their first month, or whatever. There is nothing like that. Militia believes in our music, and they are supporting us incredibly so far, so we are really happy with them, and are excited about the future. The fact that all these bands has made it so far just makes it easier for us, because it gets us credit with people just because of the name “Militia Group” and we’re proud to have their name stamped on our records. So really, it is a win/win situation.
So, on a related note, I saw this blurb in your online press kit about a development deal with Interscope Records. Does that mean you guys are just on TMG as an incubator, and are going to leapfrog to Interscope soon?
S: I thought we stopped talking about that, actually (laughs). Really, it was a band I was in before – it was called Heather, and we signed a development deal with Interscope that lasted like 4 months or something, until the A&R guy got fired. That was about a year before Class of 98 started, and it was a little taste of what you can experience. We spent the time recording demos, then he was dropped and we got this phone call that said they weren’t going to pick us up. Then I met these guys not too long after that. For me, that was what started in my mind that if I started another band, I wanted to do it just for fun. It just got really serious at that point…they were talking about big tours, we had a big attorney, and it was just ridiculous and fickle. I wanted to have fun, and wanted to do it with an indie label. Militia was actually top on my list – Copeland, I mean that band changed my life…them and Death Cab.
Okay, so someone I know told me to ask this. Joan or Melissa Rivers? In other words, how do you feel about licensing your songs to E! and the WB? Was it your choice, or was it the label’s?
S: (Laughs) Well, it was just an offer we couldn’t really say no to. It’s money.
So, did they come to you directly or the label?
S: Well, E! was looking for a song to use to promote all their new shows for the season, and they wanted a Switchfoot song, and ours, who our publisher had rights to both of. They wanted an acoustic version, so whoever got it done faster, wins, so I got the call and made an acoustic version in 2 hours. Yeah, I wanted my song on TV – it was cool.
So, this is the last question. What do you guys have coming up?
B: Well, the biggest thing is that in the Fall, we are hoping to be going out with Relient K, which will be huge. We are doing some regional Warped Tour dates, but I don’t think it will go beyond that. We are going to be touring with a band called Jonzetta in May, so you can look for us in the Southeast. We are playing Cornerstone, Florida. Yeah, we’re just hitting the road, trying to make friends, make fans, and everything else.
Thanks so much for your time you guys. We really appreciate it.
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