In late July I dragged my almost 35-year-old ass to the punk rock day camp known as Warped Tour. Part of my agenda was connecting with the bands who’ve sought to reclaim punk from the glam metal parading as punk that fans of the genre have become accustomed to in recent years. Naturally, at the top of my agenda was Pennsylvania quartet Title Fight, who’s album Shed harkened to the earnest, No Idea Records era punk of yesteryear.
With a sophomore album for SideOneDummy on the horizon (Floral Green due September 18) and growing in popularity, Title Fight have energy that is electrifying and that has earned them an arena tour with Rise Against and their own headlining run this fall. Ghettoblaster caught up with guitarist Shane Moran to talk about the band, the new album, and staying true to yourself in the midst of label pressures and outside influences. This is what he told us…
The new record is coming out on SideOneDummy, the same label that put out Shed. How did the relationship start between Title Fight and the label?
Before we recorded Shed we were talking to a handful of labels. We were getting antsy and that process was moving slowly so we just recorded Shed on our own dime and figured a label would fall into place after that. Our manager and lawyer kept recommending SideOneDummy because they were offering what we were after. We met with them and it felt better than any other place so we decided to do it.
Was it a multiple album deal?
Yeah, two albums with a label option. I guess this is number two. Not sure what the future holds.
Did they find you based on the strength of a demo or based on your touring?
I’m not sure if we were on their radar or whether people vouched for us. I think some of the people in the office may have known of us. When they did check us out, luckily, they were into it. I think they liked our touring history and the fact that we’d released a handful of 7”s. I guess they could see that we might have had a little something going for us.
Weren’t you guys in high school when you started the band?
I actually joined the band in 2005. They started in 2003 with Matt, Ben and Jamie when they were 12 and 13 years old. I was a couple years older, but had met all those guys in middle school. I’d been in bands over the years and I’ve had side-projects over the years, but this band has always been our main focus.
Was pursuing music always your plan A or did it derail college plans?
I think in the back of my head I always knew that this was what I wanted to do; I wanted to tour and knew that I didn’t want to go to school. Because I was a little bit older, it was became time to make a decision about college and I did end up going for a while. When the other guys started the first semester of their first year, things started happening for Title Fight. So we decided to try and make this a career. I ended up dropping out, as did the other guys. I think if it was our goal all along I wouldn’t have ended up going to college. I would have just prepared to go this route. This thing has been snowballing since we were kids so it came to a head around that time. We got a bunch of tour offers at once, and the labels started talking to us, so we decided to try it. Our lives have been totally different ever since.
With the sort of relentless touring that you guys do, I imagine relationships get strained and things at home get complicated. If Title Fight were to end tomorrow, what would you do?
I would definitely want to do something within this world of the friends that I’ve made. We’ve been really lucky to meet people all over the world. Our friends are creative and they do things on their own terms. I don’t want to go back to college. I’ve made so many connections outside of that. I’m really interested in clothing. I have a large hand in the visual aesthetic of our band and merch designs. It has always been an interest of mine. It has been a pipe dream of mine to have my own clothing line. Not screen printed stuff, but like cut and sewn stuff. Nice stuff. I want to start that up after the band. That would be something I’d be interested in spending all my time on.
While you are on a big tour like Warped Tour is it hard to stay grounded when you are getting so much attention from fans, girls, peers who maybe want to get your attention in a destructive or negative way?
I think a lot of bands really get caught up in this whole world. I know where we lie outside of this world. I’ve had a lot of fun on Warped Tour and I’m glad we did it, but it definitely isn’t our scene. Not to talk bad about anyone, but there are definitely egos and there are people who are into Warped Tour status. I think that if we were to have fallen for a lot of stuff that it may have been detrimental, but that kind of stuff annoys me. I think this is fun, but I don’t think it is as significant as people are making it out to be. They’re concerned about how many years they’ve done it, what number bus they’re on, but I don’t give a fuck about that kind of stuff. I think it is easy for us to see that stuff and be sort of turned off and be like, “We’re Title Fight and we are happy to be on this tour, but it isn’t where we live or where we thrive. That’s someplace else.”
You probably have some kindred spirits on the tour though too…
Oh yeah. There are so many great bands. A lot of friends bands. A lot of bands that I did not expect to be friends with.
Who are they?
There is this band on our stage called Vampires Everywhere and they are totally goth and wear make up and they have a guy who goes out on stage with a gag ball in his mouth all tied up trying to freak people out. They’re really nice people. On this kind of tour you can’t judge someone on their band. If you judge someone based on their personality, and who they are as a person instead of what they look like, you may find yourself getting along with a lot of people. There is another band called Motionless in White who is from our home town and I’ve known some of those kids for a while. There has always been this awkward tension. I’m not sure why it existed, but on this tour we’ve been talking and saying hello and making friends. I’m not above making friends with someone even if they aren’t playing in a punk or indie band that I think is cool at the moment or something. A lot of the bands are doing what they think is cool, which is exactly what we are doing. We’re doing what we’ll be proud to look back on too.
Have you been surprised that your music has been so well received?
When kids see something that they like and its familiar then they watch them or listen to them. It is cool to be a band like we are though. I think we have a responsibility to show people that, even if you don’t like us, there are other bands out there. There are bands like Hostage Calm and Make Do And Mend that are talented bands with a rich history who are influenced by really cool bands. It is cool when you see those kinds of bands doing well and being accepted and having a marketable sound. I think they deserve it, that they aren’t taking it for granted, and that they’re really appreciative of the attention.
Were you feeling a lot of pressure when going from a record like Shed that was really well received critically to writing and recording Floral Green? Do you worry about disappointing your stakeholders?
As much as I don’t like to acknowledge that pressure. It is definitely there to an extent for me personally. If you asked on of the other guys in the band they might have a different answer. Some people that kind of thing affects, others it doesn’t. There was definitely pressure. The label wanted us to go with a bigger name producer. They want the band to do well and to have “that song” that you can push. It makes sense when you’re investing money in a band to want something out of it. Sometimes you feel like it is maybe too much outside pressure or influence though. How would we do things if there was no one involved? The attitude I try to have is that the label signed us because we are the band that we are and so we’ll keep doing what makes us happy. This time it meant recording a different way, recording songs that are unique and creative and stuff that we are really proud of. We’ve been following those guidelines and it has been going well so far. We’re only going to be in the band once and I don’t want to have to look back on anything and be ashamed of it or where an outside force has been influencing our decisions.
What was the writing process like for Floral Green?
It was all brand new ideas. We did a lot of touring last year and then after the holidays we took two months to practice and write. We went on tour again, and then we came back and tried to wrap up as many ideas as we could. We added small things, focused on lyrics and vocals, and that led to us going into the studio. It was different than the process with Shed, which took forever to happen. We took our time. This time around we knew when we were recording and when we had to have the songs ready. In that way it was different. If we have a deadline it pushes us to get stuff done. It has only been a year and a half since Shed came out, but this is our lives now. I love putting out records and writing new music and everything involved with that is a lot of fun for me. I’d sometimes rather be doing that then touring or sitting at home. It is nice to keep the wheels moving.
Have you been playing the new material?
For the past few shows we’ve been playing a new one called “Sympathy.” We wanted to change up the set list a bit. It has been a while since we’ve been able to play a new song.
When does the new record drop?
September 18 I believe.
So after Warped Tour will you guys go home and chill and then support the record closer to the release date?
Yeah, we go home for a month and then we’ll head out with La Dispute, Make Do And Mend, and Into It. Over It. Then we’re doing a headliner in the fall that hasn’t been announced yet. We want to let the world know about this record and stay really busy.
What parts of the record are you most proud of?
I guess there are a handful of songs I had more of a hand in writing. In the past few years I’ve been becoming a lot more involved and there are songs I really helped with. There are some lyrics I helped with writing too. Those songs are “Head In The Ceiling Fan,” and “Lefty.” I think those are cool. For me it is cool to be really involved and in the mix. It is fun to be able to put my finger on a part and be like, “that was my influence.” The whole thing is awesome. I’ve been really impressed by the other guys too. Are friend Will Yifp tracked it and that was rad. Our friend John Slaby did the album artwork and it is really great. Our friend did the first video. I like this world we created with the new record where our friends have been involved. These people really represent our band, where we’re from and what we’re about. That is really important to me; to keep that kind of insular world.
Is it hard if you insulate the band to get an honest opinion about what you are doing?
It is. I see that point. But we have people that work with us who aren’t “friends” necessarily who give us input. They shoot us straight, let us know what’s up, and we need someone like that to balance things out. I think the biggest challenge though is keeping our identities in the midst of all that. We are being ourselves in the midst of all that and trying to make honest music. All the subtleties about who we are is what makes Title Fight special. I admire a lot of our contemporaries, but there are some who let growth take away part of what is important or special about them. We are trying to hold onto that kind of stuff.
Is there a theme that runs throughout Floral Green that ties it all together?
There is no message that is conceptual or anything like that. Most of what we write is about sadness and frustration and stuff like that. It is normal everyday stuff that everyone goes through. Death, loneliness, relationship problems. Stuff like that. I’m not sure we know how to write a happy song. We identify with sadness and write a song to let out that as a catharsis.
Is this kind of tour, Warped Tour, something that you’d do again in the future?
I can’t complain about a lot of it. The shows have been good, we’ve been selling a lot of merch, we’ve been on a bus for the first time, which is crazy. I don’t think I’d want to do it again though. On this tour you are on tour 100 percent all day and night. There are restrictions, rules, and a lot of walking on eggshells. It is like high school in a way. A lot of people, a lot of personalities, and we’re used to doing our own thing. It feels like high school and I hated high school. I can put up with the heat and that stuff, but I don’t like feeling like what I love doing is becoming a business. There is an agenda and order, and that kind of stuff sucks when you’re devoting your life to being in a band and touring. I don’t like being told to do things.