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TAG YOUR TARGETS – punk rock from “a city of parks”

Malmö, Sweden’s TAG YOUR TARGETS are about to release their debut full length album “Destinations” on March 15th. it;s their first proper release after the 2010 demo and a split EP with Wales’ HOT DAMN, released back in August 2011. The new outing was produced and mixed by Gustav Brunn (ATLAS LOSING GRIP, ANCHOR, HOLD HANDS) and mastered by Dragan Tanaskovic (IN FLAMES, MUSTASCH). The band will be hitting the road with A TIME TO STAND from Germany. The trek starts on March 22nd in Germany.

As usual, it was a perfect chance to ask them for an interview. They agreed and spent a lot of time with me answering my questions and turned out to be very patient fellows :) Find out more about the band, their plans and some exclusive news below!

Welcome, gentlemen! Cool to have you here [smiles]. What’s up? How’s Malmö in February? [smiles]

Thank you! Pleasure’s all ours. Malmö is cold as hell, everyone is broke and everyone shivers, except for our bass player Johan who’s in Florida on vacation (that bastard!). It feels like basically all Scandinavians are waiting for spring to come. Other than that, things are great!

Great! How on Earth did you decide to start a pop punk / punk rock band and bring California to such a cold city? [smiles]

[laughs] Well I guess it was just simply the kind of music we were interested in playing when we formed the band. We’re not the only ones playing it in these parts, but I wouldn’t suggest there’s a “scene” here either. There are so many different shapes of melodic punk rock nowadays and our music climate is very diverse so you kind of only feel that you belong to the influences you have more than anything. Honest, dynamic pop punk felt right when we started out and even if the songwriting has progressed since our first rehearsals, that’s basically our foundation right there.

Yeah, I was just about to ask you guys, don’t you feel alone in the city of so many great hardcore punks? [smiles] Tell me more about your beginnings as a band. When, where and why did you give birth to TAG YOUR TARGETS?

We’re definitely pretty much alone (that we know of) when it comes to narrowing down a specific sub-genre. But we see ourselves more than able to play with pop/rock bands, hardcore punk bands and even metal bands – and we have! So in that sense we don’t really feel alone at all, it’s only your own limitations that can hold you back.

TAG YOUR TARGETS came to be in the spring of 2010 in Malmö when me (Mike) and Philip started talking about writing music together. We shared a mutual interest in modern pop punk at the time and both really wanted to start fresh in a genre we had spent a lot of time listening to but never written or played. An idea developed into a couple of songs, a couple of songs turned into a demo recording with help from a fellow drummer and all of a sudden we found ourselves looking for band members. It kind of grew on us, we started to see the big picture and how we wanted to move forward. By the end of that year we had found Johan and Ted – the four-piece was complete. That’s pretty much how it all started!

How did you come up with your name?

Around the time it was still just a composing duo, I had a text conversation with Philip about band names and somehow I came up with TAG YOUR TARGETS. I think it just appeared to me while trying to think of a name that both the band and the listeners could relate to in one way or the other. The name, for me, simply means “put your energy in things that matter” – a topic often portrayed in our songs.

Ok. You are releasing your debut full length on March 15th. Tell us more about the new stuff. How are you proud of it and how does it differ from your 2010 demo and split EP?

Our music has always been spiced with hard rock and post-hardcore much because of our past as musicians. The 2010 demo was a test to see what we could do and for the split EP with Welsh band HOT DAMN we refined our style a bit as we had grown together as a full band by then. When writing songs for the album we wanted to keep an overall feel of melodic punk rock while still use the rock and hardcore influences to put our individual styles of playing into the mix. We are very happy with the result and we all think it turned out great.

Did you know HOT DAMN before this split? Where did the idea of doing it together come from?

We wanted to do something different from making a regular EP and since the pop punk scene is more attractive in the UK, the idea of working together with a band from that area felt very appealing. We didn’t know HOT DAMN before contacting them about the split but we had checked them out a bit and immediately thought they were awesome. Shortly after the release of the split EP, we flew over there and went on a mini tour in Wales and England with them and got to know them. Best dudes, seriously. We miss them and hope to be able to meet up again soon!

Nice. How did you like their local scenes? Tell me more about the shows.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see too much of it. We only did a couple of shows together and had a few off days when we just hung out. The original plan was to have a full tour schedule but due to the booker’s lack of interest and devotion when needed and a couple of false promises put us in a position where we had to bite our lips and make the best out of the trip. We made new friends, learned from our mistakes and even grew closer together within the band so it wasn’t all for nothing.

Ok, following your tour stories, let’s move a few months before your tour with HOT DAMN. How come you landed up supporting YELLOWCARD? [smiles]

We saw that YELLOWCARD was coming to Copenhagen, which is only a bridge away from Malmö so we contacted the people putting up the show to see if there was an open support slot. There was, and they were willing to put us on the bill so we went for it. It’s a pretty common knowledge that it’s hard to score that kind of gig but once in a while you can end up asking at the right time and place so it’s always worth a try. It’s still one of the coolest gigs we’ve done to date.

Wasn’t a bit scary? [smiles] You know, a bigger stage, hundreds of kids ready to shoot you just for a minute more with YELLOWCARD? [laughs]

We were very excited to play the show but we knew that most of the people in the audience would not care that we played since we weren’t exactly well-known. But to see 500 people at first with arms crossed and careless, slowly turn into a head-bobbing crowd as a sense of approval was an incredible feeling. We think that we warmed them up in a way a support band is supposed to, despite only playing together for about 8 months.

Ok, guys. Let’s go back to your new album [smiles]. Is there a main idea behind it? A message or some sort of a concept?

Even though ‘Destinations’ is not a concept album, the lyrics and overall feel of the album follows a distinctive pattern. This album is mainly about getting back on your feet, having hope and being independent in your choices in life. The inspiration for the lyrics has been taken from different moments, occasions and scenarios in my (Mike’s) life, mostly from times when I have been down but somehow managed to pick myself up again with new ways of thinking and different views on life itself in a positive direction.

Who was responsible for the recording process?

Since we’ve worked with him before on our songs for the HOT DAMN split (he mixed and mastered all four tracks as well) and were very happy with the result, we chose Gustav Brunn from Atlas Losing Grip to record and mix the album. He is extremely talented and has done a lot for the punk rock/hardcore scene the last couple of years. With his outstanding technique, feeling and innovation the album turned out even better than we had imagined. All songs were completely written when we entered the studio but we let Gustav affect the final tracking with his thoughts and ideas which I believe was a great move. His expertise and experience come with a rare sense for detail, so to have him co-produce during the recording process felt very assuring. Dragan Tanaskovic at Bohus Sound in Kungälv outside of Gothenburg mastered the twelve tracks with Gustav present.

Do you have one favorite aspect about the record? It could be a song, a riff, a funny situation while writing/recording?

For me, it was recording the vocals for our upcoming second single ‘At Any Rate’. I’ve always favored that one because it’s such a dynamic song in so many ways. The different parts and elements of the song mix together harmonically, the lyrics are solid and straight-forward, the melodies are insanely catchy in a non-cliché way. This is one of the songs on the album that has been around for a while before getting recorded so we all knew the song very well and had played it live at most of our shows. Still, we had no idea what was going to happen to it in a recording studio. The instrumental recordings sounded great and I knew exactly how I wanted the vocals to sound on the song, the question was if it could turn out as good as in my head. I started singing my lungs out and you know what? It turned out even better. When the recording of ‘At Any Rate’ was done, we could all agree that this was the song. The song we should make a music video for. And we are, starting next weekend!

Oh, great! It’s perfect time to reveal some secret details about it then. [smiles]

So yeah, we are making our first music video and the shooting will be done before we go on tour in late March. We are working together with a great media group located in south Sweden called Capture This Media. It’s going to be shot in Malmö and it is not your average pop punk music video. Other than that, I’m afraid I can’t say anything more about it except that it will be released later this spring.

Alright, fair enough [smiles].

Let’s discuss your upcoming dates. You’ll be touring Germany mostly. Why? Was it easier to book shows there? Do you have some friends there?

The tour is booked through Horrorbiz Booking, an agency based in Germany. Since we are not ourselves deeply involved in the booking procedure ourselves we can’t really say if it’s easier but from what we’ve understood that is definitely the case. Germany is bigger and with bigger countries come bigger opportunities I guess. But most likely, it has to do with the devotion, energy and heart put into trying to make something happen. That’s the kind of people we want to work with and we’re glad we found Horrorbiz and the band we’re touring with A TIME TO STAND through our only German friend Niclas [laughs]. This is our first proper tour and we couldn’t be more excited!

Have you ever thought about booking it completely DIY?

By the way, are you already planning more treks after this kind of litmus paper test?

Booking a tour completely ourselves is something we’d love to do but when plans for this started we had the opportunity to work this way and we wouldn’t have had time to do it ourselves as of now. It’s not impossible that our next run will be booked completely DIY, we have some other plans in store for this year but it’s too soon to tell as it’s in the initial planning stage.

Ok. Do you guys have any side projects or is it all effort on TAG YOUR TARGETS? If not active, then maybe some past bands you’ve been in?

Our bassist Johan also plays bass with the band RAINMAKER that you recently interviewed, thin his closest friends he’s referred to as Plane. I (Mike) have been on a Scandinavian run as temporary touring guitarist for MARTIN PRAHL’S SKELTER WHEEL last year and I will be involved in the making of TED BERGQVIST‘s debut full-length solo album to be recorded in April.

As for past bands, mentionable ones are as follows:

Mike – WOMAN (hard rock/stoner)

Philip – FAR ABOVE (post hardcore)

Johan – CAR CHASE TERROR (indie/alternative rock)

Ted – some rock’n’roll band, can’t remember the name. But his stage name was Tedly Deadly! That I’ll never forget [laughs].

So as you can see we all came from very different musical backgrounds, which I believe has served us well.

Amazing [smiles]. And no pop-punk history [laughs]. Have you always been into this genre? How would you compare and contrast the ’90s melodic punk rock and pop-punk scene with the 21st century’s one?

As I mentioned earlier, when me and Philip started the band we hadn’t really played that kind of music before and neither had Johan or Ted. All of us have more or less been into the pop punk genre growing up but I think Philip and Johan have been the most into it actually. I listened to a lot of skate punk and the obvious mainstream bands like BLINK-182 but I never made it to NEW FOUND GLORY before getting soaked in hard rock and metal in my teens. I think it’s the same for Ted. But regardless at what age you discover the world of a certain genre or style of music, it usually begins in the same way. You start listening to a band or two that bring you to discover the genre more and more, all of a sudden you have like 20 new bands to fill your everyday life with and we all know the rest of that story.

When it comes to comparing the ’90s with the 21st century scene I think it’s hard to see things only one way. You can also choose to call something pop punk, punk rock or even metal-core depending on what scene, bands and audience you want to be associated with. In my own personal opinion, I think there are a lot of both pros and cons with the evolution of melodic punk rock and what other genres that get blended into the mix. There will always be true souls doing what they love despite what’s in fashion and there will always be poster boys and girls doing what someone else tells them to do or compromises their visions to make it big. Since the pop punk phenomenon is bigger now than ever before, I think the difference is that we have a lot more to choose from when listening and getting inspired nowadays than in the 90’s which makes the scene so much more than a short-lived sub-genre. The CDs, MTV and radio of the 90’s is more or less replaced by the internet and has been for a long time. Technical improvements affect the music climate in a lot of ways but no matter what genre I think there’s one simple truth in this type of comparison: It’s easier to get your music out there today but harder to actually get heard when you do – unlike before the internet boom when it was harder to get your music out there but if you managed to do that you basically knew that your target audience would know about your existence overnight.

To sum it up, I believe that the differences between the past and present are directly connected with the way the music business has changed. With that said I think there are great bands, albums and songs in the entire spectrum of melodic punk rock/pop punk.

Is there anything you’d like to change in this puzzle to make the living easier for bands like yourselves?

Well, perhaps the narrow-mindedness of it all. We experience a lot of prejudice which I believe is very common for new and up-and-coming bands before getting some sort of credit or acknowledgement in the music scene, both independent/underground and mainstream. If more people with such passion and devotion for music were able to keep an open mind and give more hard working bands a chance or at least a helping and I think we could build a pretty solid community, which could potentially lead to an improvement of how the music business is shaped. More people need to realize that we can work together, split costs and help each other out rather than start up a business and try to sell a service. It’s too much “us and them” instead of a big family. I don’t want to get into politics but yeah, that’s some of the things I would like to change.

Alright, fellows. That’s about it, huh? Is there anything that we might have left out that you would like us to clarify about TAG YOUR TARGETS?

Let’s wrap it up with a summary of what’s happening with the band in the near future, shall we?

– We are releasing our debut full length album ‘Destinations’ March 15th.

– We are shooting a music video for the track ‘At Any Rate’ that will be released later this spring.

– We are going on tour in Germany (and one date in Belgium) with A TIME TO STAND starting March 22nd. For more information visit the Facebook event.

I think that’s it! Thanks so much for having us, it’s been lovely. Take care and let’s talk again soon!

Great! Thanks so much for your time, guys! Have a great tour and please let me know how it turned out afterwards! Cheers!

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