British pop punk is not exactly the most thriving of music scenes in this country, but when you have promising talent like Me Vs Hero roaming Europe and even doing Japanese tours you feel restored faith. I am joined by Sam Thompson, singer, frontman and all round ambitious type through a very interesting coversation that surfaced some of the extreme turbulence that Me Vs Hero has gone through in it's life time, including a difficult second album and the death of a member.
RF.net: So how has 2013 been treating you Sam? What has the band been up to?
Sam: Its alright, can't complain. It's been a lot of stress, been busy.
RF.net: I heard early this year you were supposed to play in the United States. But there were some issues and you didn't tour when you planned, what happened?
We did a tour of Japan called "Beyond the Blue" and we met a band over there called With The Punches who we got really pally and became really good friends with. During the tour it was like we were one big band really, and we'd hang out all the time. We brought them to the UK to tour with us. It's what its like for small bands doing tour, you start touring a new country and book everything and you realise you don't have the budget to do it.
Basically, to bring a band from the states to here it cost £13 for the Visa for the whole band, but for a British band to go to the states it's £2000. So we were gutted not to do it, but we'll get there eventually.
RF.net: You've recently supported The Wonder Years in Japan, this is a follow up to the last tour you did in the country in summer last year, the "Beyond the Blue" tour. Is this part of a "big in Japan"-like reputation?
Sam: This time around it was nice to see more people know the words to the songs. I wouldn't say there was more people because "Beyond the Blue" was a 8 international band bill so a lot of pull and wasn't a normal tour like the one with The Wonder Years, but this time around a lot more of the people knew the words. But they're such lovely people over there they just go crazy and buy you presents and shit. You get people who follow you around and who just come to the whole tour and follow you round the country. But I guess they don't get many bands over there often. And they really value it when you go over there.
RF.net: So your debut album "Days That Shape Our Lives" is coming close to having it's 3 year anniversary (18 October). In restrospect, how do you feel about the album?
Sam: The album came out three years, we wrote it four years ago and we started about five years ago. Musically we've developed, even just my vocals sound a hell of a lot different to now. I've gotten a lot more British, and I've grown up a lot more. Musically I feel we're more interesting now than when "Days That Shape Our Lives" came out.
RF.net: As you most proberbly know, the band has been labeled as easycore for their first album and its similarities to Four Year Strong and A Day To Remember. What are your thoughts on this tag?
Sam: I mean it fine, we were easycore, we sounded just like Four Year Strong. Funny thing was that when we first wrote demos, the first demos were 'Spiceweasel Bam!' and 'Hands Me The Keys To Massey' , which appeared on our first ep; We got them done before we even heard who Four Year Strong were, it was a purevolume page we found them via. It turns out they were doing exactly what they were doing, and it didn't help that we over Americanised ourselves while being British. But there is only so much you can do with beatdowns, major scales and drop D I guess. But I don't mind it because they are a much better band than we are.
RF.net: In August 2008 your founding guitarist Alex McCulloch died. If you don't mind me asking, what happened? But also, what happened during that period of dealing with his loss and the auditioning of a new member?
The first thing we said was that we were going to carry on. We were close with his family, and me and Alex started the band and then got Mike [Booth, bass] and Ollie [Bradley, drums] in. It was a hard time anyway, just for grieving and stuff regardless of being in a band. We would get our friend in Ross [Malpass] who was a friend of the band anyway, we grew up with him and went to school with him. Not a great guitarist, but a great friend, but at the time we lost a good friend and we needed to have another good friend in the band.
We've had a lot of setbacks like that, every time a member leaves and you're in the middle of writing you need to find a new member who is good enough and convince yourself to carry on as a band and teach them how the band works and do tours and get used to writting with someone new. Obviously Alex, then we got Ross in and Ollie left and we replaced him with Steve [Jones, drums] and then he left then we got Simon [Smith] the new drummer who is great. And then Ross left but he's got a great job he's a Web Designer now and is on like 60k a year. Now we've got Grant [Berry] and it's great. I guess that's why it's taken so long to get the album done as you get used to new people and get used to writting together.
After the release of the new song "Heisenberg
" last November you've gone quite quiet on the front of the new album, which is called "I'm Completely Fine"? Why is that?
Are you an Alan Partridge fan? There is episode called "Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life" where he is swimming and this women is giving him an interview while he is treading on the water and the more it goes on the harder it gets for him to stay afloat. And it cuts to her asking him if he's alright and he says "yes I'm absolutely fine", but it's dead sarcastic as he's still drowning. Which is what we've been doing, we've been having a hard time.
We wrote the album just before Grant joined which was September , and it was me, Bobby, Simon and Mike and we knew we wouldn't get a new guitarist in. Because I write heavily anyway and I play guitar. We recorded the first with Romesh [Dodangoda] at Long Way studio so we wanted this one to stand up to that. But when we went to record the album in September with a friend of ours we felt he didn't have the things necessary to get it to the standard it needed to be. So we've had a lot of troubles and had to record it three times.
All the people we have sent the album to mix have either taken absolutly ages or we weren't happy with the product. They took the money off us or were late to give it to us; they took the piss really. Just what we ended up doing was re-tracking it all ourselves. We recorded vocals in someone's council estate high rise in someone's bedroom, we recorded guitars in Grant's parents garage which was just covers over a mitsubishi cab in one sitting and got a deal to do the drums at a place called Eight Hurst and engineered it all ourselves. We know a bit about recording anyway and we've sent it to Romesh again to mix. He just an hour ago sent us three songs mixed back. (11.10.2013)
That's why it's taken so long, its been such a turbulent year, if I could tell you how hard it's been, I won't bore you, it's been a tough journey. It's not like our first album, it's not overly Americanised, it's more mature and a lot more intresting. My voice sounds completely different, it's not as beatdown-y. There is only one beatdown on the album and not eight like on the last album, it just got really boring really quick.
RF.net: How did you feel about the reception to "Heisenberg" from fans?
Sam: People seem to like it. We don't think we published it enough, we put it on the back burner because we thought the album was going to come out soon. I think there is a riff which sounds like a The Story So Far song which I wrote and didn't realised as I never heard the song. What other bands probably won't tell you is that you will get influenced by other songs. You'll hear something specific in a song and will develop it into something similar or something distinct. To me the influence comes from a song called "Bottle of Sharades" by Living With Lions, it's the same idea and works with the song. I don't see how people compare us to The Story So Far I think we sound completely different. I think there is a lot of hype for them and everyone thinks we're trying to copy them, yet we had the album recorded before we heard them.
RF.net: What does it's title mean? And what is the song about?
Sam: The title is from a Breaking Bad episode title. It's all about change, "Heisenberg" is like a change in a person. It's directly about me and my ex who I was with for a five years and we didn't feel it was going anywhere. But when you've been with them for that long you don't want to believe it's over.
RF.net: You said that Romesh Dodangoda is mixing the album, is he also producing it?
Sam: He's just mixing it, we've produced the album ourselves.
RF.net: I have read from other interviews there could possibly be guest artists featured on the album. Apparently one is a mysterious "tattooed gentleman". Do you think you could shed light on the subject?
Sam: As soon as we put it up people guessed who it was. It's a friend of ours called Charlie Holmes from a band called Heart In Hand. He's on one of our songs which has a heavy riff at the end of it and we thought it could do with screaming.
RF.net: Thank you for coming and doing this. It's been a pleasure.
Sam: No problem at all.