WORDS: ADAM HOPKIN | ISSUE #53 COVER FEATURE
“It definitely takes a toll for sure,” says Parker, talking about how life on tour with one of pop punk’s biggest acts has affected his relationships back home in Walnut Creek. “It makes you take into account the time that you are able to spend at home and what you want to actually be doing with that time”, explains guitarist Kevin Geyer.
Life on the road is often glamorised without regard for how the constant grind of going city to city, living out of a bus alienates those demanded on stages across the globe. “It makes it harder to relate, going to all these places and playing shows and then people ask you about that and they have this huge image of you in their mind, and you just think, you have known me from since when I was a kid”, Parker says. But as he explains it’s this feeling of isolation and disconnect that has fuelled their latest full-length effort, Proper Dose.
“People can kind of formulate their own opinions but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are right”
Whether its fans boasting how their last performance was better than every preceding show or how the newer albums just aren’t the same, opinions, ridicule and the public eye are all inescapable as an artist, and as The Story So Far would learn, everyone wants to be heard.
“We kind of haven’t done a lot of press in the past” comments Ryan. “People can kind of formulate their own opinions but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are right”, laughs Kevin. The reality was press surrounding the band found itself far more concerned with cultivating a group seen as rock’s latest bad boys than the merit of their musical releases. “Things got spun a certain way and got repeated here and there and it jumped into this whole world that distracted us from the things that we cared about for this band” explains Kevin.”
“I was finally in a place where everything was cool and I just let it all spiral downwards…”
Addressing the absence of any personal insight into the band for almost five years, Parker states, “I didn’t think that it would have been conducive to helping the band if I did an interview where I was just like, rude or something, so I just wanted to shy away from it.” Allowing their artistic platform to speak for itself, Ryan comments, “we don’t feel the need to govern how people see us, how they think we are or any of that stuff”.
This unwanted attention along with years of back to back studio time and tours clearly took its toll, seeing parker move back to his hometown to find solidarity in isolation. “Life was great,” he says, “I was finally in a place where everything was cool and I just let it all spiral downwards”. Adjusting his posture and almost becoming hesitant he recalls, “coming off touring heavily with these guys and going so hard and playing awesome shows every night, riding this huge high, then coming home and having all this time to rest and having all this money which we never really had before,” Cannon goes on to admit, “I picked up lots of bad habits.”
“I believe that it just means finding a real balance between everything in your life”
“I didn’t hang out with anyone” Cannon recollects, explaining how this period of self-destruction almost meant the end of The Story So Far. “I barely talked to anyone and I barely listened to any music. We all kind of did things and took a step back because we really didn’t know if we wanted to keep doing it and none of the inspiration was there.”
It’s this search for stability in a lifestyle that feeds on uncertainty; whether it’s how your next album is received or knowing your musical career can’t last forever, which inspired the title of their latest effort, Proper Dose. “I believe that it just means finding a real balance between everything in your life”, says Parker, “whether it be music or drugs or drinking or anything. I think that finding the balance is where your best work will shine through.”
“Just getting over the drugs and stuff was huge for me”, a smile now projected across Parker’s face, “getting back into music and realising what I had been missing. I was trying to fill the void with something that wasn’t good at all. After coming out of that and hearing that they were jamming again it’s all kind of snowballed in a really good way.”
And in the same way that Parker was reaping the rewards of moderation and balance, The Story So Far now had to find the proper dose between the old and the new to get back into a scene they had already tried to escape. “It really helped me just taking a step back, says Parker,” then when I was going through the other shit it just gave me other content that I could draw instead of just being rash and being angry.”
“I think that the scene, in general, became a little bit oversaturated.”
“We wanted to build off our past stuff we really wanted to grow, that’s all we want to do grow.” Their previous material set the bar for the genre, but as Ryan explains, the guys wouldn’t have to look far to see what they were up against, “I think that the scene, in general, became a little bit oversaturated in terms of what was going on and how things were sounding.”
“Every time we start writing seriously for a record there are these feelings that everyone has changed a bit” admits Ryan. And returning to the studio for Proper Dose seemed to be no exception, with the dynamic of the band needing to finds its footing once again. “It was really stressful at first because we had been out of it, for playing together, and feeling like we were all on different wavelengths”, adds Parker. Describing getting back into the writing process for Proper Dose as “intimidating”, the guys faced the daunting task of reinventing their sound whilst maintaining the core fan base and doing justice to their creative ambition. “Once you start sending it back and forth and teaching each other parts, that’s when it becomes real”, Kevin recounts, “you are just like “fuck we have to do an entire record of this”, it’s just a lot of trial and error.”
“When you are trying to write or maybe trying to do things that you have always done in the past and always been good at, then you use that, that pop-punk sound”, discloses Ryan. “It’s not so much that we are thinking about what other people will think, it’s more about do we want to become something else? What our strengths are and how we reached those heights of music.”
“I felt trapped.”
“I felt trapped”, expresses Parker, revealing the hesitation that came with wanting to produce an album that was genuine and explored their new identities. “It was a little bit like we couldn’t branch out and write songs that people would think this isn’t a Story So Far song, having a specific genre for your band would frustrate anyone.”
Summarising the band’s ambitions throughout their time writing, Ryan shares that it was all about “staying true to who we were, but still being able to explore new things.” “I feel like we had a few songs that felt a little, too this is what people expect from us”, agrees Kevin before adding, “We kept rewriting really small parts right up to the last second.”
“There was less restraints and all around it was more open-minded,” says Ryan, describing how the band felt more creatively liberated than on any of their past releases. “It was the longest we have ever spent writing songs and just more willingness to make a more diverse record and a broader spectrum of sound and vibes.” Crediting their label, Pure Noise with giving them the time to discover their new sound, “on this record they were completely hands-off for us and let us explore these things, they let us take the time to figure it out.” mentions Kevin, pausing before adding, “not having a deadline let us explore our actual identity.”
But as Kevin explains it was all about having confidence in their artistic innovation, “it’s just getting over that vulnerability and accepting that identity is just a construct depending on who is looking at it. For us it was more of a testament to what we actually wanted to do,” It was more, let’s just do what we want, we are playing it, Parker is singing it, it is the story so far”.
“I feel that we can put this record on and it’s undeniable”
“I feel that we can put this record on and it’s undeniable”. Parker says, and after the phenomenal reception, Proper Dose, any pride felt by the frontman has certainly been earned. “I don’t think that there is any lack of conviction with us. I think that we are more at peace with ourselves.” As for what the next chapter holds for The Story So Far, Kevin says that nothing has changed, “our intentions have always been just to jam, we want to sound as good as possible and we don’t want to compromise our integrity as far as the music goes.”
PROPER DOSE IS OUT NOW VIA PURE NOISE RECORDS. ISSUE #53 IS OUT NOW