Finally! I’ve been waiting for this interview to be aired for a long time. At last, it’s up in its full shine. ENERGY is an amazing punk rock / melodic hardcore punk band from Stoughton, Massachusetts. They’ve been known as the “Bridge Nine Records” band, but after parting ways with the label they managed to expand their wings and reach out for even more. The following interview gives you a good insight into their 7-year history, current happenings around the band and an idea how real and passionate person is their frontman, Jason Tankerley. Check out his hearty answers to my tormenting questions below.
Hey, Jason! So nice to have you here. I’m glad you agreed to discuss some stuff with IDIOTEQ. How are doing? How’s Stoughton? Do you already feel the spring in the air? [smiles]
Stoughton is great as usual, I love this town and I always will. The weather is certainly warming up, which means no more flannel shirts or (vegan) leather jackets.
What do you do to keep warm during these days?
I stay inside all the time [laughs].
[laughs] You should go out. It’s beautiful out there [smiles].
Alright, Jason. You’ve just closed your Indiegogo project raising money to record a 5 track EP, which turned out to be a 7 track record, right? Tell me more about it? How did you decide to launch this campaign?
Yeah I know, I’m just really lazy when it comes down to it. Well, the reason it went from 5 tracks to 7 was because without planning it, I wrote an entire song out of nowhere called “They”, and worked out a deal with our producer to squeeze it in there. The other unaccounted for track is “Another Yesterday” which was recorded last fall. It just hit me one day that it would be pretty stupid not to include that song on the E.P. because it’s got a real strong hook, people seem to like it a lot, and it’s personally my favorite ENERGY song.
We decided to launch the campaign because my friend Bryan Koppelmann (who does all of our design work), started showing me all these bands who had raised a lot of money to record their new records by having their fans fund it. I figured that since we don’t have anyone in the band who can record us professionally, and we’re functioning completely DIY at the moment, there would be no way we could raise the money to record something without the help of our fans…and they pulled through!
How does it fit in with DIY ethics? I’ve read one or two opinions that it’s not fair, because instead of trying to do everything you can all alone, it uses your fans through begging. Of course your goal wasn’t that high (unlike this project [laughs]), but I mean the general idea.
Well by saying “DIY” I don’t literally mean that we’re doing everything entirely by ourselves. I think of it more as we’re doing it more on our own than we were in the past. We’re figuring out ways to come up with the money, we’re pressing our own CD’s, we’re making our own t-shirts, buttons, etc. It’s just a lot different (right now at least) than it was when we were working with other labels.
I don’t really care if Indiegogo fits those ethics or not, I just think that if a band’s fan base is willing to fund the band’s project, idea, album, etc…then why not let them? It just goes hand in hand with the whole concept of caring about what does not affect you negatively. For instance: I’m assuming that I probably wouldn’t like the music that PROTEST THE HERO makes, but good for them for raising it. Enough people care enough to make their new album exist, so let it be. It doesn’t remove any art from the world.
Yup, and thanks to that you can now hit the Apparition Sound and begin recording your new record with producer Chris Curran. Tell me more about the place and the brain behind the helm.
Working with Chris Curran is always great no matter where we track with him. We’ve recorded with him a lot, but a lot of it either didn’t see the light of day, never made it to a proper release, or was butchered by someone else in the mixing/mastering process.
In my opinion, working with Chris on “Another Yesterday” last fall was the best experience recording with him so far. I think I’ve matured a lot as a songwriter since we last worked with him on Invasions, and that he’s perfected his craft and stepped up his game with his all new studio setup at Apparition Sound.
I come to Chris with my raw ideas, and he makes them explode by adding all types of layers, coming up with different harmony ideas, and just overall making my rough songs sound like major label productions. I like that. I like to sound on record as if we should be playing to thousands of people…and not dozens [laughs].
Chris just has a better knowledge of song structure, pop music, and what’s accessible than I do. I just write with all the emotion that I can, and try to come up with the coolest sounding melodies and guitar parts that I can, and hope for the best when I walk through his door.
I plan on doing a lot of fan interaction type of stuff while we record this record too, like live web feeds for a certain time frame each day or something like that.
Great! I’m looking forward to participate then [smiles].
You’ve decided to use your version of RAMONES’ “Pet Sematary” for this EP. I guess it’s one of your most important bands in terms of inspirations, right? Do you play a lot of covers? I mean both live shows and rehearsals or your private jammin’. Any favorite non-ENERGY songs perfect for a warm-up? [smiles]
Oh yeah that cover song was a part of our set for a while from 2009-2010. I remember the first time we ever played it was at The Great American Hardcore Fest in 2009, and I just got chills with how good we sounded playing it, and how well the room received it. Many, many people have told me that there is something special about when we cover that song, so I think it’s probably a smart idea to record it and include it with this E.P. THE RAMONES will always be one of my favorite bands of all time, and this is my favorite Ramones song.
We are also having original Invasions Of The Mind guitarist Joe Freedman record the guitars for that one because we only played it when he was in the band, and he is just an amazing guitar player.
I’m not sure about what my favorite SONGS to warm up to are, but I’d say my top 5 albums to warm up to (right now at least) are:
How do you feel about modern versions of the reunited BLACK SABBATH, THE MISFTIS, and 2 BLACK FLAGs? [smiles]
I think the modern version of THE MISFITS is a joke. Jerry Only can’t sing to save his life, and the new songs aren’t good songs. Love the packaging and marketing for it though. That’s one thing he’s always been good at.
The fact that there are two BLACK FLAG’s is a bit confusing, but whatever. I think that if Greg Ginn wants to go around the country performing music that he wrote with a singer that he recorded material with…under the band name he did it with…then who gives a shit? I’m not even sure what’s happening with the other reunion exactly, but I do know that seeing Keith Morris sing BLACK FLAG songs is awesome, so I will most likely be tempted to go to either/both if they come around, just to sing along with the singers who sang some of the songs of my youth.
BLACK SABBATH – I think that while Rick Rubin gets a lot of shit these days for not being there in the studio, and not really being a producer – this is different. I can tell from his video interviews that he is genuinely excited to be recording new material with the original songwriters of BLACK SABBATH, and I think he’ll do a great job producing them because of that. I’ve been paying close attention to all of the studio updates they’re giving and nothing has let me down yet. I will say that while it does suck that the album is being made without an original member, I think having Brad Wilk from RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE fill in was a great choice on Rick’s part. He’s young, healthy, has a great groove, and really displays his ability to perform with a band like SABBATH on a lot of RATM songs. I think drummers are probably the only position in a typical rock band setup where it shouldn’t be out of the question that you might be replaced once you start approaching 60. But yes, I do have high hopes for BLACK SABBATH’s new album “13”.
Ok, back to your heritage [smiles]. The new EP is not everything that’s new from you guys. “Halloween On Christmas” cassette tapes are now up for pre-order via Down For Anything Records. Limited to 250 copies, the outing seems to be an interesting item in your discography. What’s the story behind this mini-record?
Well when I wrote “25 Holidays” it was right after we had recorded “Another Yesterday” and I meant for the songs to sort of mirror each other. I made a post on Facebook voicing my opinion on how cool I thought it would be to have a 7 inch with one song on each side because then it would be like Halloween on Christmas. Down For Anything Records contacted me about perhaps doing the cassette tape equivalent to that idea, and I agreed immediately. We’ve never done a cassette tape before so it’s a first for us, and I’ve always wanted our music available through as many formats as possible.
That cassette tape was planned before this E.P. idea really even came to fruition. And now I’m pressing a CD single for Another Yesterday with 25 Holidays and our 3 song summer demo from 2007 that was never officially released until now. I just like doing fun stuff like this to help promote the new E.P.
The recent (constant?) success and popularity of vinyl may provide clues to why cassettes are gaining popularity again. What’s your opinion about tapes a.d. 2013?
Oh I love it! I collect cassette tapes, vinyl, CD’s, you name it. I just love physical music, and I think true music fans are losing out on a certain element that’s missing without a physical copy of what they’re listening to.
At the same time though, I love file sharing, and how awesome the internet is for music.
The Christmas single number one was “25 Holidays”, backed up by a video (surprisingly very soon after your previous picture for “Another Yesterday”). Any plans to release another one sometime soon?
The release time between those two songs was mostly just a coincidence because of the holidays Halloween/Christmas being so close. As far as I know, we plan on doing at LEAST one new music video for a brand new song from the new E.P. I’m not sure if you’ll see/hear that prior to the release of the E.P., but new music videos from ENERGY are on the way. I recently had somewhat of a reconnection with an old friend who runs a production company “Rose Glen Entertainment” and we’ve been collaborating ever since. I’m just so thankful and lucky to have people like Jon at Rose Glen, George who does our artwork, and Bryan who does our design work. Without them, I have no idea what I’d be doing.
Ok, and to make us even more busy, you’ve decided to release your first compilation called “Children Of The Night”. Isn’t it too much? ;)
[laughs] No, not really. I thoroughly enjoy putting out new CD releases, and with the help of a few other people, I can do it on a regular basis. With that particular release it was about condensing all of the material we had released since leaving B9 on to one disc. A type of “Singles Collection” if you will. It also marks the end of an era for the band because we are now working with a different producer, and I have once again taken over as the primary songwriter.
I personally feel that this new E.P. “New Worlds Of Fear” is more of a follow up to “Invasions Of The Mind” than anything we’ve done since.
You stated that you love file sharing, and how awesome the internet is for music, not making any profit. So what’s the reason to do it? Out of vanity? [smiles]
Well I never said that making a profit was bad. I just think that it’s a bit naive to think that your music isn’t free anyway, so I like to just engage a potential listener by making it as easy as possible for them to obtain my art rather than make it harder for them and force them to obtain it illegally. As far as physical copies go – that’s just a personal thing I like to do with our music. That, I will charge money for because there are production costs. There are no production costs for an MP3 aside from the one time fee of recording it. (You can make as many copies as possible and no one loses anything real, it’s great!) I think the music itself should be what’s promoting the band. If we want to make money, we should be trying harder to sell more t-shirts, sweatshirts, and playing out more in an attempt to gain a larger fan base. I believe that the reason we aren’t making a lot of money as a band is because we aren’t trying hard enough in that area, not that people are stealing our popularity via digital download.
Has it been always like this? Or are these signs of the modern age of music industry and the new channels of music distribution somehow force artists to try harder?
I think that while it helps artists in many ways, I suppose it does in a sense force the artist to try harder in other ways. I don’t really feel as if it’s my place to speak too much on the generations before me because I wasn’t there.
Do you feel the classic idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen really carefully, has been forgotten about in the digital age?
Not really. I just think that bands are more prone to doing digital E.P.’s and singles these days because of the convenience of it all. I think rock bands will probably continue to release full length albums for as long as the genre exists because a lot of rock musicians seem to be concerned about keeping that part of rock’s history alive. Perhaps some of the younger generation might not understand it, but I think that if rock music keeps surviving – so will the full length album.
In its physical form? Album sales have been low for everyone for a long time now. No matter how big your band is.
Yeah, but from what I’ve gathered – bands never made much money from album sales unless you were literally selling millions, in which case you’re actually making much more money from other things involving your band than your album sales. I think people think that album sales are what keeps a band alive, but it’s not. Even at the height of their success, I read that a band like FALL OUT BOY only pull in like 4 thousand a year from album sales. Their lives are paid for through the band in other ways. I don’t like FOB’s music, but it’s dedicated fans who pay attention and appreciate your music, who take the time out of their night to come see you, and take the money they’ve earned and buy a t-shirt, or something else we’re offering besides physical music who allow bands to make a profit these days. I am fully aware of the decline in album sales, and I’m happy about it. It means more people are hearing more music for free, and that’s all I care about.
Also, while CD sales have plummeted, vinyl sales are through the roof. Still not as high as CD’s were let’s say in the 90’s, but there is a documented INCREASED worldwide interest in vinyl, and I don’t think labels are going to stop pressing vinyl altogether any time soon if vinyl plants survived the 90’s when vinyl was at an all time low interest wise. Just because there’s very little profit involved, doesn’t mean that the artists of the world will stop pushing forward.
It’s just a fact – the internet is here to stay, and the file sharing situation isn’t going to change, so we all just need to adapt and change with the times or else we’ll end up being the dinosaurs of the industry. We’ll be the ones who are out of touch with the younger generation if we stubbornly stick to our methods for no other reason than selfish nostalgia. I think Rick Rubin had an interesting idea, and I’m seeing it happen with Spotify. Rick said that the only way to deter the average person from downloading music illegally, would be to offer them some type of subscription deal like Netflix for music where the monthly cost is so low, they’d rather pay that than go through the trouble of downloading each song/album/band illegally through 20 different torrent sites. I believe that physical music will probably never completely die, and the future of movies and music probably lays in internet streaming.
They say Spotify, iTunes and Deezer-alike services have done the unthinkable: made people pay for what was once free, persuaded consumers to pay for music again.
Are you an online streaming service user yourself?
I just listen to music however I can. Sometimes I use Spotify, sometimes I use YouTube to sample songs, but I mostly illegally download music in FLAC format and then purchase the vinyl if I like it enough. That’s pretty much my music consumption in a nutshell.
Lots of people know you as “the Bridge Nine band”. You parted ways with the hardcore label years ago. How is life of a free agent treating you? Looking back, was it a good decision?
I’m glad we aren’t on Bridge 9 Records anymore, but that doesn’t mean that I regret signing with them by any means at all. I think that the style of music we were playing at the time was appropriate for the other bands that were on the label for the most part, but towards the end of the Bridge 9/ENERGY days it was becoming very apparent that we were playing music that a label like that just couldn’t promote the right way. I don’t really blame anyone but myself for any bad decisions that have been made though.
I’m having a lot of fun doing it ourselves yeah. Being in charge of how/when we do all of our releases, and recording with Chris Curran and actually sitting back and letting him just do his thing. I know that we can’t give ourselves the push that a label like Bridge 9 could, but I prefer it this way…for now at least.
Do you have a certain pattern when it comes to releasing and distributing your music now? Having Down For Anything Records in mind, are there some DIY labels you’re still working with? Would you consider jumping to a roster if the right preposition is asked?
We work with independent labels when they can offer us something we can’t do ourselves. The same would go for a larger indie or a major label as well. I would personally be wary of the whole situation because I’d have to create new music within the confines of a time frame and schedule again, and that’s terrifying to me. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t say yes to a big label deal or something, but I’d be scared out of my mind. This is all assuming that we’d come to an agreement on the contracts, which we probably would not.
You stated that „if you’re releasing music in this day and age – it’s free whether you’re charging for it or not”. Was it a bitter statement of a man tired of the struggle, or quite the opposite – you simply love the fact it works this way?
Oh no I’m very happy about it, I just worded it that way because a lot of people like to pretend that music isn’t free or they entertain this idea that some day we will somehow rid the world of file sharing. That can’t and will never happen now. I think that as an artist, you need to concentrate on moving forward with the evolution of this industry or you will just die out with all of the other dinosaurs who are stubbornly sticking to what they’ve been used to for decades. ENERGY is definitely a struggling band, but it’s not because of file sharing. File sharing has helped spread our music across the world to people who would have never heard it otherwise. I couldn’t ask for any more than that really.
Alright, Jason. Tell me, how has your touring schedule changed over the years? Do you play a lot of shows now?
Our touring schedule has changed drastically over the years. We used to always be on tour, now we occasionally play out locally. I’m not happy with how things ended up for us as far as that goes, but I plan on getting the band out there to tour at least once or twice off of this new EP.
No chance to see you in Europe sometime? [smiles]
I wish but honestly, that is just a matter of me being too afraid to fly anymore.
Any particular reason for that?
Airplanes go really high, and they go over water. I know that statistically, you’re more likely to die in a car accident, but when planes crash…it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’re going to die. We went to Europe in 2008 with SLAPSHOT and I just won’t fly anymore after that. I just did not like it. Then again, who knows what I’d say if some crazy tour or show offer came our way. If I found myself in that situation, I’d just drug myself into unconsciousness (SLAPSHOT pun intended) and deal with it.
[laughs] Yeah, you’ve been touring with so many amazing bands. What are some of your favorite treks done with ENERGY?
I’d say touring with SLAPSHOT and hearing them play every night was pretty awesome. I really liked the tour we did with H2O in 2008. The next year we toured with DEFEATER, and then there are the countless tours we’ve done just on our own.
You had your seventh anniversary a couple of days before. After all these years, how do you remember those early days?
It’s so weird already thinking back to even the last lineup the band had, never mind the lineup that the band started with. When we first started it was Conor and I with 3 people we didn’t know too well, who all just wanted to meet somewhere in the middle with all of our influences and make some good punk music. I had larger aspirations from the start, but Punch The Clock is and always will be the roots of ENERGY. It’s where we started, it’s where it all began. It’s the first time my voice was ever professionally recorded. It’s the first piece of physical music of ours that I ever held in my hand. I hold the beginnings of the band very close to my heart, which is why I continue to press Punch The Clock on my own label, and make sure that everyone who wants a copy can get one if they’d like. I’d like to think that I’m not a very stubborn artist because even though I do enjoy repressing old material, I am more concerned with the future of the band than anything. I am however, the most sentimental person (that I know at least), so it always takes me back to 2006 when we play any of those songs. It used to make me mad when people would prefer one thing of ours to the other because it wasn’t the exact same opinion of mine, but over the years I’ve learned to look at it optimistically. It doesn’t make me mad anymore when someone tells me they only liked our first E.P. You have to look at it optimistically: that’s not someone telling you they don’t like your new material, that’s someone telling me that they enjoyed something I created at one point in my life. That’s a good thing.
Sure. It’s amazing, actually. How do you summarize your experiences gathered thanks to ENERGY? What do you owe this band?
I guess I just owe a thank you to chance for being born with the ability to sing and write music that even a small amount of people enjoy in this world. Meeting my wife and starting this band have been the two greatest things that ever happened to me. I’ve traveled to many countries, and been all over the United States dozens of times, etc. I don’t owe it all to good luck though, plenty of amazing people have helped me out along the way, some of which are still helping me to this day. ENERGY has given me an outlet to create and have people actually pay attention to what I’m doing and enjoy it. That’s really anyone should want out of this right?
Yup. It must be a hell of an adventure, to be honest.
Jason, have you made it a democratic band? [laughs] I have this feeling that you run this “business” all by yourself. [smiles]
[laughs] Well…I guess since I do write all the songs now, sing and play guitar on the recordings, handle all merch for the most part, handle the artwork and layout stuff with a few other peo. The new EP is not everything that’s new from you guys. “ple who aren’t in the band, press the CD’s to my own label…I guess it is a one man operation in a sense. I like the idea of us being a band, but at this very moment in time it is pretty much just me running the show. I won’t lie.
Where the heck do you get all these inspirations? I mean, you need to be full of crazy ideas to create such various stuff.
The stuff that’s going to be on the new E.P. is easily the most diverse release we’ve ever put out. It’s got really dark and heavy stuff, acoustic stuff, punk stuff, etc. There’s even a song on there that’s been sitting around since January of 2009 called “The Shadowlands” that reminds me of something off of THE SMASHING PUMPKINS album “Adore”. Idk, the E.P. is just all over the pl/blockquoteace stylistically, but I always wanted to be eclectic like SP. However, I do always get really worried when we’re coming out with something new because to me, no two songs I write ever sound like they should be on the same release (or even be the same band sometimes), so I never have ANY idea what people are going to think of anything I write or release until it’s out. I know that I will like it, and that’s the best I can ever do – write music that I like.
My inspiration comes from all types of music really. I’m just thoroughly fascinated with melody and all types of music, so I like to do a little of everything. I think I’m a fairly simple songwriter really, Chris Curran just makes me sound a lot better than I am.
Looking back on ENERGY’s lifetime… if you could go back, is there anything that you would do differently?
I guess I would have kept the Children Of The Night material as a separate project instead of incorporating it into ENERGY, and I would have insisted that Bridge 9 allow Chris Curran to solely produce, mix, & master Invasions Of The Mind. You live and learn though.
Ha! So that’s what really caused parting your ways! [smiles]
[laughs] No…but it didn’t help the situation. I’m not going to get into petty details, I just wish that record sounded better. That’s all I’ll say.
No worries. I’m not gonna be a hyena-journalist pouncing on you to get more [laughs].
Alright, Jason, let’s wrap it up. Is there anything you’d like to add?
[laughs] I don’t mind the prying, I just don’t crack much under that kind of pressure really.
I guess I’d just like to say thank you to anyone who took the time out of their day/night to read this interview, and to anyone who has ever gone out of their way to support us in any way. I’d also like to thank you for doing this interview that has taken quite some time now.
Also: Keep an eye out on our Facebook and website for updates regarding our new E.P. “New Worlds Of Fear” that will be out this summer, along with tour announcements, and everything else that every other band is trying to promote through their Facebook [laughs].