I got to talk to American Steel last night.
Rory – vocals/ Guitar
Scott – Drums
*Scott didn’t contribute too much, but when he did, it was always awesome! His quotes are marked.
This was before their set in Baltimore at Ram’s Head Live on July 11, 2008 during their tour with Alkaline Trio and The Fashion.
How’s the tour been so far with Alkaline Trio? How do you guys get along with them?
It’s not our first tour (with Alkaline Trio). We did kind of a small tour six or seven years ago and we’ve been friends for a long time. Matt and I were actually roommates for a while . . .back in the day.
When he was in San Francisco?
Yeah when he first moved out he moved in with me. So we get along great.
Your album Rouge’s March was listed along with Blink 182 and Green Day as one of the best punk albums in 2000. I honestly wasn’t aware of American Steel at that time but I was obsessed with Blink. How do you feel about being compared to those major label bands with a sound, in my opinion, much more radio-friendly? Are there any bands you often get compared to that you disagree with?
All the time. I think most bands would say that, but I think there are plenty of apt comparisons to greater or lesser degrees. I don’t personally care either way, you know?
On the other hand, any bands you’re flattered to be compared to?
Well. Yeah . . . it’s always sort of . . . when people compare you, they don’t compare you to initially how well you play or write so I think that would be the kind of thing that I’d be more flattered by . Usually it’s just more like ’You kind of sound like them . . ‘ Not really making a qualitative comparison. So I guess no. laughs
Your sound has undergone a lot of change since the self-titled, how do you personally feel about the evolution of your sound?
Basically we’ve always just done what we felt like and that sort of just translates into having each reacord sound kind of different than the next. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I enjoy it that we. We sort of shoot ourselves in the foot, not just in that way but in other ways just because we’re sort of militant about just doing exactly what we want. It hasn’t translated any commercial success – there’s no saying it would’ve, but I think you can kind of alienate some fans and gain others. In the end I don’t know how it really works out, all I know is that at the end of the day you just gotta be happy with what you’re doing, you know?
How do you feel about the audience reaction to “Destroy Their Future”? I know it’s been out for a while now . . .
Yeah it’s been out for about nine months so far. We’re really happy with it. We weren’t really sure what to expect from people who’ve been fans for a while, but it’s been overwhelmingly positive and that felt really nice. I feel like it was a successful record in that sense.
That’s when I heard of you guys. I think the record was streaming on punknews and I was like, ‘Oh wow, who’s this new band?’ I felt bad ‘cause you guys have been around for a while . . .
We hear that quite often – Scott
We are an underground punk band . . . we’re not in everyone’s face – Rory
How has the audience responded to the news that Ryan Massey won’t be joining this tour?
I’ve only really heard back from a few people and they’re sort of like . . .I think some people are disappointed because there’s a few songs that Ryan sings lead vocals on and they don’t get to hear them, but generally people have been cool.
And Chip’s doing a good job too, so that makes a difference. If he was just packing it up it would be different. – Scott
What kind of plans do you have for recording again?
We’re thinking about maybe recording again this winter. Maybe doing a summer release.
Do you guys work on songs while you’re on the road?
Yeah I’ll often times write a lot on the road just because it’s inspiring more than just being around at home. So it sort of ends up that way. I sort of write whenever it comes to me.
Way to pass time on the road.
Yeah it certainly is.
Any idea what direction will you take the sound of American Steel? It’s sort of eclectic the way you pull from all sorts of genres . . .
It’s kind of forming right now. I have a handful of songs and they all have a similar sort of quality to them. At this point it’s kind of hard for me to summarize, but it will be different . . .again. laughs.
Ok, It’ll be different again.
Yeah I think that’s at least something that’s reliable about us.
I think it’s a good thing.
Yeah it’s good once you get people to expect that . . . then it’s kind of liberating.
Can you explain the relationship between Communique and American Steel?
Three of us that are in American Steel were in Communique during the time when American Steel was on hiatus.
Well, that was simple. So what’s the status of Communique right now?
It’s sort of on hold. We may or may not pick it back up. We’re having a good time with American Steel right now, so . . .
If you had to list some major influences music-wise who would it be?
Um . . .*Rory’s phone rings to generic ringtone*
Ringtones – Scott
I’d say within the general genre of punk, bands like The Clash, Television, The Jam are all early favorites. Of course the East Bay punk scene of the late 80s and early 90s – that’s when we all grew up – so that was a big influence. Bands like Operation Ivy. From childhood, my parents listened to a lot of Motown and Irish folk music, so I’d say that punk and Motown and folk music in general are my favorites consistently over the years. They have a lot in common when they’re done well. They’re all folksy and they’re all soulful in their own ways . . . when done well. Laughs
What are some of your favorite bands right now, is there a band you’d love to tour with right now?
This Alkaline Trio tour is a great tour. Me and Matt have been talking about doing it for years, so . . . we’re all pretty stoked to be doing it right now. We’ve had some pretty good fortune with touring with bands last year and this year. There’s a lot of cool bands out there that I’d like to tour with and I don’t know if there’s any that like I’m just chomping at the bit to tour with.
Do you have like a newer favorite band that’s out there right now that you like a lot?
It’s sort of hard for me to place, um . . .I’d have to pull out my Ipod . . .
Laughs. Well if you feel like it. . . No you don’t have to!
So what do you like to see in an audience?
Smiling faces. That’s a good start. I like to see people having a good time. I don’t have any expectations from people with how they want to experience moments from us or any other band. I mean, they paid money to be entertained so I would hope that they would try to take advantage of that.
Definitely. Good point. How do your audiences typically react? I mean do they dance? Do they mosh or stand still?
Well it kind of runs the gamut. On a tour like this where everyone’s pretty much Alkaline Trio fans, it’s pretty much. .you’ll get fairly polite responses. A lot of people are hearing us for the first time so it’s like a political posture that they have where they think ‘Hmm do I like this band?’
Yeah. Laughs. ‘They kind of sound like this . . .’
Exactly. And that’s what the point of the tour is for bands like us because you’re trying to play for people that have never heard of you before, but when we play our own shows, when we’re headlining, definitely a lot of singing along. Fist pumping, and the finger pointing thing that kids do. Imitates finger point gesture. I don’t’ know when kids started to do that.
I think I do that and I don’t mean to! Like, I do this gun thing. Makes gun with fingers and flings hand back and forth.
Like, (as if it means) ‘I know the words right now!’ Flings gun around.
I’ma pop a cap in you! – Scott
Yeah I don’t even understand it . . .laughter. So how do you feel if you’re doing a tour like this and you have some fans who come up to the stage and they’re like doing the fist pumping . . .?
Oh there always is. There’s always a little enclave of fans that tend to sing along and stuff.
It’s nice to have the enthusiasm. – Scott
A lot of times they’ll feel out of place, you know, ‘cause there’s so many people there hearing us for the first time so it’s a little awkward for them. I enjoy it when they have the ability to get over that self consciousness.
It should be awkward for the other guys, you know? Like ‘hey why don’t you know anything about this band that’s playing?’
Laughs. That’s a good attitude to have.
So where do you typically find inspiration for lyrical content?
Well, a lot of songs tend to be more personal. Obviously they come straight from my personal life. I do tend to write a lot about non-personal issues . . . a lot of people will call them political songs but I sort of see them as being philosophical. Philosophical musings. Sometimes I’ll even just be asking questions. Sometimes I’m just pondering out loud.
I think honesty is really important in lyrics, too.
So what lyricists do you admire and why?
Van Morrison is definitely one of my favorites.
I get that a lot.
Yeah he did this whole mystic thing that I’m not really into myself but I like it a lot. I always love Joe Strummer’s lyrics . . .Bad Religion – I always like their political songs.
Yeah I’m sure you grew up listening to them too.