Defeater interview

22 12 2008

One of the first posts on this website was about a band called Sluts changing their name to Defeater. Normally, that wouldn’t be very exciting news, especially since the band wasn’t that well-known. But when I checked out their myspace I was stunned. They sounded so fucking good. Their myspace-page said they would be releasing a full-length very soon, so I kept checking back weekly, maybe even almost daily for more news, I was so excited about this band. Then when Travels was released, I was extatic. Travels may be one of the best and most original albums, released by a hardcoreband this year. They managed to be the band that blew everything else out of the water for me. Defeater instantly became one of my favorite bands, and Travels is one of my favorite releases this year. I decided to have a chat with Jay and try to see what’s up with the album and their plans for the future.

First off, could you introduce Defeater and yourself for everyone who doesn’t know what this is all about?
Defeater is a band from Boston. I’m Jay, I play guitar and do some backing vocals.

To make it all clear, Defeater used to be called Sluts, right?
Yeah sorta? Sluts was a great time man. We had a shitty name, we let Mike sing cause he was our friend and said “Hey are you and Andy starting a hardcore band? I have so much stuff I want to scream about”. We toured and met some awesome people along the way and just did our thing. The thing about Sluts was that it was intended to last 6 months, and I think maybe we all lost track of time because next thing we knew it was almost 3 years later. One day I was in California and Mike called me and said he was done. So that was kinda that. I don’t think anyone was really stressing, at that point I think most of us would agree that things had basically run their course.

So why the name change?
Well I think we did the “we don’t care” band long enough. Andy, Gus and I don’t have anything else in our lives beside music. So we wrote, we recorded, and before you know it we had quite a few songs that we were honestly really proud of. We didn’t have a name, we didn’t have a singer but I had met Derek at my studio about a year before and thought to ask him what he was up to in life and if he would want to come down.
I think I told him “Yeah man, it sounds like 108 and Rise Against” (which it doesn’t), and he was like “uhhh.. that sounds shitty can you just send me the songs online?” So I did, and he called me the next day saying that I suck at describing music (fair evaluation) and that he was actually really into what I had sent him. We all wanted a fresh start. Derek clicked with our group, and shared in my vision for where I wanted to take this record. New vision, plus new singer, plus new outlook equals new name.

Do you think Defeater suits the band better?

Yeah, it’s not even comparable. We all love this band. We want to make art, we want to look back on what we do now for the rest of our lives. Sometimes you just get that feeling, when everything is coming together the way it should. I’m addicted to that feeling.

When the name change was announced, you already had some songs on myspace that would be featured on Travels. Did everything go really fast, or had you been working on Travels for a long time?
So quickly, but we did wait to have our ducks in a row before we announced the name change. The guys at Topshelf Records had already committed to releasing Travels so it made sense to try to do it “right” if you will.

Then when Travels was released, everything picked up speed. You got a lot of good reviews and a lot of positive feedback on the internet. How did that make you feel?
We just made the record we wanted to make, and we took some chances with it musically / lyrically / conceptually. It’s emotionally crazy when you release a record, basically you pour your blood sweat and tears into something and then say “ok world, go ahead a rip me apart”. To see people actually responding positively feels amazing.

Travels could be what we consider a ‘concept’ album. Could you explain that for me?

Yeah people have been throwing that term around a lot. I guess it’s fairly fitting. Doing it this way was just one piece of our vision.

So basicly, the lyrics are one, narrative story. It’s a mix of fact and fiction. I would assume these facts are based upon real-life events of your singer/the band. Why did you guys decide to write the lyrics like this?

I’ve had this idea kicking around for a while. I mentioned it to Derek, I think before he even joined, and he loved the idea too. I wrote an outline and sent it to him and he just started going to town on the actual details and lyrics. We both felt like a third person narrative would be cool way to lay it all out.
We honestly spent way more time story-boarding and ironing out events and details than we did actually singing the words. When you have limited space and so many things to get to organized, thinking about the record as a whole piece of music gets tricky. You start micro managing the events in an effort to shape the story to the songs while retaining all the integrity of your original vision.

How do you think your life’s story/the band’s story fits in with this?
There is a lot of truth to my life to be found in there. The line “I’ve never wanted to kill a man like I want to kill you man” is a good example of how sometimes the record will get directly literal. We made sure my voice was on that line as another added hint to the fact that it was borrowed directly from my past.

The lyrics are a story about two brothers. Could you tell us if one of them is based on yourself?
I have a few brothers and none of them are that character. We all are living in this world where our creative side and our rational side don’t always see eye to eye. If you want to consider the brothers anything consider them art vs. money or security vs. freedom. They are opposite magnets pushing away from each other yet searching for the same things.

So with Travels, you’re telling a story. But don’t you feel confined to what your story dictates you? Wouldn’t you like to talk about something else? Have a more outspoken or maybe less criptic message?
I don’t feel constricted because we create the story, we create the scene. With no disrespect to any bands out there I would say that hardcore has enough songs about straight edge / unity / family / etc.

Some people say the accoustic song is a Bob Dylan cover. Something that’s not very common on a hardcore-record. Why did you guys record that song and put it on the record?
Actually, we did not cover a Bob Dylan song. People keep saying that, but it’s not true. There are three words borrowed from Bob Dylan in the song before the one you are referring to.
The song I presume you are talking about is the folksy acoustic piece that follows the song with Bob Dylan words. That song seems to be really hit or miss with people but I think it’s important to the flow of the record. At that point our character is in New York city and he runs into a homeless man playing an old acoustic on the corner, the listener gets to hear the actual song that our character hears. We thought it was a cool idea haha, who knows.

So let’s talk about something different now. A few weeks after Travels came out you signed to B9. What did that feel like?

So amazing. I’m not sure there is a better place we could have ended up. We know we haven’t been signed long but it’s really proving to be everything we hoped it would be already. Chris, Karl, Jamie and Seth are all so on point.

How did you hook up with B9?

I’ve had a relationship with Bridge 9 for a while now because I’ve recorded records for them. Also Seth who runs Topshelf Records also works out of the Bridge 9 office, and he was so instrumental in helping us grab their attention. Karl had told me that he really liked the record so after that I think it was really just a matter of making the transition work for all parties involved.

I heard a vinyl press of Travels is in the works?

Yes! February 24th!

So I guess that pretty much means the future is looking up for Defeater. What are some plans for you guys in the near future?
We are touring in January, and in the works of lining up more tours as we speak. We are writing for a new B9 release, and there will be more talk of that here sooner or later.

What’s something you would really like to do with the band in the future?
Just keep making art that we’re proud of.

What’s the craziest thing that has happened so far?
This dude Patrick in Florida took us and End of a Year out to Chilis for free. It was amazing. That is literally the craziest thing that I am willing to talk about.

Last one, tell us a secret about Defeater you haven’t told anyone yet.

Gus is a not so secret Juggalo. WHO’S GOIN’ CHICKEN HUNTIN’!?


Thanks to Jay and Defeater for answering my questions. All photos credited to their owners. Hopefully they won’t mind me using them.

Defeater’s Travels CD out now on Topshelf Records, 12″ out soon on Bridge 9 Records.

Defeater myspace

Topshelf Records website

Bridge 9 Records website




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