Title Fight: The Greatest View
2015 will either be the year that Title Fight became your favourite band or the year that you abandoned them entirely. Ahead of the release of their third album, BLUNT spoke with the band on their evolution and its equal and opposite reactions.
Forget everything you know about Title Fight. Well, most things. Here’s what hasn’t changed – the band’s line-up remains unmoved since 2005, spanning the majority of their collective works (save for their first two demo EP releases). They still hail from Kingston, a relatively small town of just over 13,000 around two hours north-east of Philadelphia. As far as what’s been established in their sound and stylistic approach, however, things are set to get a little more complicated with the release of Hyperview, the band’s third studio album and the follow-on from their 2013 EP, Spring Songs. The record comes from a very unique place, allowing for the quartet to explore both the innermost and furthermost points of their musical spectrum.
“When we first started writing the record, we would go to our practice space four times a week and test out as much new material as we could,” begins Ned Russin, the band’s bass player and one of its two vocalists. “The first batch of songs that we really gravitated to ended up being harsh and dissonant, yet groovy and melodic in their own way. One of them actually ended up becoming the song ‘Chlorine’, which made it onto the album. We had this certain idea of what the record was going to be once we’d fleshed out these songs. We knew that was the direction we wanted to head in. All the while, we were courting labels and discussing the trajectory of the band, which really put things into perspective.”
After humble teenage beginnings in 2003, Title Fight finally released their debut studio album Shed in May of 2011. Even though it was indeed their first album, it was noted among fans and critics alike for its maturation and growth from their earlier, more punk-oriented material. A similar musical thread was stitched through Shed’s follow-up almost 18 months later, Floral Green. This record also allowed the band to interweave their shoegaze, proto-grunge and slowcore influences; ranging from acts like Ride and Low to Sonic Youth and Mudhoney. Now, the sonic leaps and bounds made on Hyperview could well have you mistaking the band for someone else. What’s more, the band aren’t interested in showing remorse for their actions – and nor should they.
“At this point, we’ve shown on our previous releases that we’re not the kind of band that is afraid of change,” explains Russin. “I want the fans of this band [to know] that we’re never going to make the same record twice. That’s not what we’re about. I know that attitude will probably alienate some people. I know there will be people that hear this record and say that they liked the last one but they don’t ‘get’ this one. It’s a risk that, by now, we’re willing to take. I’m certainly expecting a backlash of some sort, but I felt like we had to do this record.”
Hyperview was recorded with producer Will Yip, who has worked on the lion’s share of the band’s releases as their producer, recording engineer and their mixer. As well as differing from a stylistic approach, Russin notes that the writing itself was a substantial change from how the quartet – completed by Ned’s twin brother, Ben, on drums, as well as guitarists Jamie Rhoden and Shane Moran – have done things previously. “This is the first record that felt like it was a real collaborative effort in the studio,” he explains. “It really came together while we were all in there and trying to make it work. The other records that we’ve done was simply a matter of having a bunch of songs and wanting to just go in and record them. This time we took a route completely different to that which we’ve gone in the past. When you get out of that, your mentality is really different.”
The band recorded at Studio 4 in Conshohocken, a suburb of Philadelphia, and have gone on record stating that everyone from Dinosaur Jr. to The Beach Boys have served as influences for the album’s directives. It’s also worth pointing out that the album is the band’s first for their new label, ANTI- Records, home to artists as diverse as Tom Waits, Mavis Staples, The Antlers and Bob Mould. Even with this entire context in consideration, the band still seek to have this context extracted when it comes down to the songs. Title Fight wish to be judged on their music and their music alone.
“For us, a record is for ourselves,” says Russin. “We want it to be our best possible output at the time. We want it to be as true to ourselves as possible, and not let outside influences bare too much power over what we do. It was weird for me, personally. We got into the studio and we knew we were changing direction a bit, and it was a really hectic experience. There was a pressure we had never felt before – there was new label stuff, as well as this uncertainty as to whether anyone would even like it. In a funny way, though, all of that made the songs have the kind of attitude that they have. We had people’s attention – this was us deciding what to do with it.”
Unprompted, Russin delves into his take on the weight of anticipation and expectation that come with the band’s current profile. Having transcended the DIY/underground scene and having scored appearances on bills as notable as Coachella and Reading and Leeds, there are more eyes on the band than ever before. One could certainly view Hyperview as a response to that on several levels, but Russin comes from the standpoint that they would have ended up at the same conclusion regardless of outside influence.
“It’s about proving ourselves,” he says. “Proving we’re capable songwriters, proving that this band can be anything that we make it. This album is an opportunity on a level we’ve never known before. It’s a big thing for us; it’s not lost on us. It’s rough sometimes – it makes you reconsider everything that you’re doing, the decisions that you’re making, the songs that you’re writing, the direction you’re trying to go. That kind of pressure tests the authenticity of what you’re doing. Are you doing it because this is what you want to do, or are you doing this just because you think it’s what’s expected of you?”
So, here we are, within touching distance of Hyperview being released into the great unknown. Although a reaction from every single listener is impossible to gauge, exactly what does Russin
want people to get out of the record?
“I want people to be able to appreciate that aspect of it,” he says, clarifying: “The work that we did. The arrangements, the writing, the re-writings. I would like for people to respect this album as a creative endeavour, to respect all that we did to make this the very best record that we could. At the same time, I really want people to have a guttural response to it.” He pauses, before adding: “I want people to be honest to that.”