Title Fight: Greening Out
It’s our intern’s big debut! Daniel Furnari scored the chance to interview one of his favourite bands – the Pennsylvania post-hardcore crew Title Fight – and he jumped at it. The past few months have been a whirlwind adventure for the four-piece, with their latest release Floral Green taking the band to whole new levels and places, including some huge support slots, a string of successful headline tours and a spot on the Warped Tour in the US. With their Australian headline tour in March fast approaching, Daniel chatted to the band’s vocalist and bassist Ned Russin about Title Fight hitting the big 1-0 and looked back on the band’s vast history.
Hey Ned, what are you up to right now?
We are currently driving through a snowstorm to make it to our show in Indianapolis!
How far into the tour are you?
This is the last leg of it, we have tonight, and then we go to Columbus Ohio, then we have Allentown Pennsylvania, then we’re home.
To start us off can you tell us a bit about the formation of Title Fight and what led you to play this style of music?
Basically Jamie [Rhoden, guitar/vocals] and I met in school when we were 12 years old or something, and we had talked about how we were both starting to play instruments and about how my brother started playing drums, and we all got together, the three of us, and we just started playing, and we tried to sound like the bands that we liked at the time, and that was Blink-182 and The Descendents and stuff like that, and then we kept playing and we would play locally, and then in 2005 we added our friend Shane Moran on guitar, and that’s when we kind of turned more into the band that we are today, and the four of us have been progressively listening to a lot of different bands and bringing all these different influences, and then we started playing out of town and stuff, and eventually worked our way up to the point that we were touring full time and we signed a record deal, and just last year we put out our second full length, and we’ve been touring for the last two or three years and that’s about it in a nutshell.
What has it been like being in a band with your brother, both in terms of writing and being on the road, and also with how your parents feel about your choice of career?
I’ll go chronologically with this… The writing process has always been pretty similar, we’re all pretty picky people, so when we write something we all have our own input and offer our own opinion until we feel that the song pleases all of us, and that could take anywhere from 30 minutes at a practice to three weeks or something, but we’ve been basically writing the same way since we formed the band when we were 12 or 13 years old. On the road, it’s a weird dynamic I guess because we’ve been doing this for a while we’re kind of used to it, and most people my age have just graduated or are in their senior year or something so they’re kind of looking for a job and settling down but we’re kind of doing something quite the opposite, we’re trying to continue building on what we’ve been doing for quite a long time. And we just play a lot of shows and we play anywhere and everywhere at the same time, and when we decided to do this for real and to tour more than just on our school breaks, we had conversations with our parents. And our parents have always been supportive but it was kind of a shock for them but basically their concern was that we were kind of going to get stuck in a rut and kind of be a band that plays for 100 kids a night and not be able to break out of that, and ever since then we were kind of worried about that too but we realised that we would never know unless we tried, and it’s continued to grow and I think our parents have kind of eased up to the idea of us not being in school and have kind of taken this more seriously, and with every tour we do it gets a little bit bigger, with every release we do it gets bigger as well and I think our parents are sometimes more excited than we are of the things that we’ve accomplished, and that’s a rewarding thing for us.
Having formed a band when you were so young, did you ever face any difficulties related to your age during those early years when you were trying to break through?
No, I mean honestly, we weren’t really trying to break through when we were that young. The way things happened was, it was really easy. We started playing and we just hit up promoters from our town and said, “Can we hop on a show?” and eventually they started offering us shows, and then we started making friends and stuff and going out of town playing, and it just kept building and building, and we weren’t even trying to do anything more than just play music and travel a little bit, and then we got hit up by Run For Cover Records, and we did some touring and stuff and things kept falling into place for us, and we never really had the idea that we would be a band full-time and put out multiple records and do all this stuff, we were just taking everything as it came and having fun, and like I said it kind of feels like it was just right-place-right-time more than anything, and it feels like we’re almost just along for the ride or something but we’re having a lot of fun and it’s still progressing for us.
2013 marks the 10th anniversary of Title Fight, which is obviously a big milestone for any band. Do you see any particular moments in your band’s career so far that really stand out for you and make you proud of what you’ve done?
There’s so many things that it’s kind of hard to pinpoint, but literally just having a full-length record is just… you know, we’re from an area where there’s been punk and hardcore bands for a very long time, and very few of those bands have gotten to the point where they’ve done major touring or an EP or something. The fact that we did that and that we in some way put our area on peoples’ radars, I think that’s the coolest thing. We are kids from the middle of nowhere, in Pennsylvania, we have been able to travel the country and play our music around the world. It’s cool. And the fact that we did it from a community that has been so supportive, and the people before us that really inspired us and stuff… I think that’s the thing I’m most proud of in our career.
As a band who managed to break out of your area, how do you think that the Kingston, Pennsylvania scene has changed in the last 10 years?
It’s taken a lot of twists and turns. When we first started playing the area was really cool, we had shows that we used to go to two or three times a week, and there were two or three local venues doing shows, and it was a really great time and there were a lot of kids from the area going to shows, and a lot of kids travelling to go to shows, and then in 2005 or 2006 everything just kind of stopped, and it was a weird thing because it was kind of my brother’s generation of kids that were running the area and booking shows, doing bands and all this stuff, they were in their mid-20s or something. And then the next generation of kids were my friends and myself and we had no idea what we were doing, but we realised that if anything was going to happen in the area we were the ones that had to do it. We weren’t even old enough to drive, but we had to figure out how to run a business and book shows and bring bands to make it worth their while and stuff, so it took a lot of getting on our feet but over the last couple of years there’s been a lot of bands from our area that have kind of made a name for themselves and a lot of hard work has been put into it, but I think now is a really cool era for our town, and there’s a lot of bands and a lot of kids. We’ve had our troubles with venues, but that doesn’t stop us, and everything is really in a good state. People are positive and excited.
I’ve heard that recently you guys helped to open a new venue for bands to play at in your area. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Basically the venue that we started playing at was this venue called Café Metropolis, and there were so many venues that came and went in the area, but that was the one that seemed to stay around; it seemed like it was invincible or something. Then there had been threats that it was going to be closed down for a while but nothing ever happened and we never thought much of it. Then I got a call one day from a guy who booked shows there and he said “Café Metropolis is actually closing, we’re gonna have our last shows next month”, so we played one of the last shows there. There were a bunch of bands from the area that played the last few shows, and then after that there was literally no venue in our area, so some friends and us got together and we just decided we were the ones who would have to do something, because we want shows in our area. We found a place that was really cool and we had bands from all over the country and bands from England and all these bands coming in. The environment was really good, the venue was really cool, and it was just run by a bunch of our friends and stuff. Then last June we had some problems with the local law enforcement, and we had to unfortunately close, but we’re in the process of getting a new location and it’ll be bigger and better and we’ll have more bands and we’ll be able to have more people. Hopefully we’ll be able to get that up and running very soon.
So that’s become a kind of passion project for you guys to give back to your scene?
Yeah, I mean we’re very proud of our area and the bands that have come out of it, and the ethics that people hold in the area, and the least that we could do is give the kids that we care about and the bands that we like, and our friends’ bands from across the country when they come through, a place to play. The way that we want to do it is that it clearly has nothing to do with money, because we’re losing money all the time, but it’s more important to us to have a venue that is all-ages and lets people do whatever they want.
Now that Floral Green has been out for a few months, how are you feeling about the record? Do you think you accomplished what you were aiming for when you went into the studio?
I definitely think we accomplished what we aimed for. Looking back on it now, it took a very different wrap than I thought it would originally. We kind of did the record in secrecy, didn’t really let anybody know what was going on, and then we put up the first song, “Head In The Ceiling Fan”, and we were on Warped Tour at the time and we were really unsure of how the song would go over. That was kind of our first test to see what we could expect from the record. Right away, people were really into the song, and it was honestly the opposite of what I was expecting. I thought people were going to say, “Oh, they changed their style, they’re sell-outs” and all this stuff, but it was really positive, and it just continued to grow from there. Now looking back it’s something that not only musically we’re really proud of, but the way we approached it and the way people are receiving it is something we’re just as proud of as well. It’s a really exciting time for us and hopefully it just continues to grow from here.
The music video for the song “Secret Society” is pretty unusual, and it takes a bit of a dark turn towards the end. Where did the story for that video come from, and what made you choose that concept, as well as the vintage aesthetic of the video?
So we were supposed to do a music video and we had thought about it for two or three months at this point and we just kept putting it off and off, and it was like a weekend before we were supposed to turn it in or something, and we said to each other, “We know we’re gonna do it for ‘Secret Society’, but what do you want to do?” We’ve done music videos in the past where we usually just found an interesting setting and did a live video. We’re not really big on music videos… In 2013 it seems kind of silly to do that but we thought about it and Shane up with an idea from a line in the song, and the line in the song is, “I’ll be you and you’ll be me”, and for some reason he came up with the idea of a girl cutting off somebody’s face and wearing it as a mask. So we kind of took that idea and ran with it, and then my girlfriend actually did the video with us, and she directed it, edited it, and she kind of helped out a lot on that. As far as the aesthetic goes, we didn’t really have that many options for cameras. We have a VHS camera that we bought a while ago that we use for stuff, we had that lying around and we decided we liked the way it looks aesthetically and at the same time it’s just different to what’s going on today. A lot of people try and have this clean-cut HD aesthetic, and that’s not really us. We like things to be more raw and different. So the first reason we chose it was really because we like the way it looks.
You’re heading to Australia in March and a lot of the venues you’re going to be playing are much more intimate and “punk friendly” compared to where you played the last time you came here. Do you think this tour will be closer to the kind of shows you play back home?
Yeah, that’s the thing we’re most excited about. Last time we came it was really cool, it was a lot of fun, we had a great experience, but it was just a little off. The venues were a little too big, there were barriers everywhere and it was just not what we’re used to. So we said, “We’d love to come back, but we don’t want to have that experience again”. So Graham [Nixon] from Resist Records kind of took the reigns and he said these were the places we could play at, and it seems way more of what we’re pursuing and I hope it shows at the shows, hopefully people are excited to come see us in a setting that feels a lot more natural to us.
With the new material there’s obviously a lot less thrashy punk beats, there’s a bit more space and a bit more mood. How have people reacted to these new songs in a live setting and how do you expect the Australian audiences to react?
I mean it’s different everywhere we go, you know, but for the most part with the new songs it’s weird because for a long time we wrote songs that were really fast and really aggressive and people would just go off and go crazy, so whenever we write songs we try and maintain that same energy, but the tempo was a little different this time, so it’s kind of weird to expect how people will react to a song that I feel has the same energy but is a little bit slowed down. In some places people go crazy and act like nothing has changed, but in some places people don’t move around as much and they just sing along, but it’s all in the same mood and stuff, which is cool. We don’t want people to treat us differently, or think that you can’t go to a show and think you can’t go off and have fun, we don’t want people to think that. So it varies everywhere, but people seem to be excited and that’s all we really wanted.
Ned and the guys will be out on tour in March and you’ll be a damned fool if you don’t get yourself along to one of their intimate punk gigs! Check out the dates below.
Title Fight Tour Dates
Wed Mar 6th – YAC, Byron Bay
with Luca Brasi
Thu Mar 7th – Sun Distortion, Brisbane
with Luca Brasi
Fri Mar 8th – Crowbar, Brisbane (18+)
with Luca Brasi
Sat Mar 9th – Annandale Hotel, Sydney (18+)
with Luca Brasi
Sun Mar 10th – Annandale Hotel, Sydney
with Luca Brasi
Wed Mar 13th – Amplifier Bar, Perth (18+)
with Luca Brasi
Thu Mar 14th – YMCA HQ, Leederville
with Luca Brasi
Fri Mar 15th – Enigma Bar, Adelaide
with Luca Brasi
Sat Mar 16th – Reverence Hotel, Footscray (18+)
with Luca Brasi
Sun Mar 17th – Phoenix Youth Centre, Melbourne
with Luca Brasi