An interview with Philip Sneed of Story of the Year (Guitar and vocals)
What scene does the band most closely identify with? Hardcore, Metal, Emo, etc? I'm not necessarily asking the clichéd "So, what are your influences" question - I'm sure you're influenced by many varied musicians!
I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say we are whatever the listener wants to put us in. But personally, we think of ourselves as a rock band.
What's your feeling about the big tour/festival sort of show vs. headlining your own club show? Different sort of energy? Crowd response and interaction?
Well, for us, we tour so much that we do it all. Therefore its perfect for us to switch it up from our last tour (which was a headline run) to do the festival sort of thing. Just before we did the last few headline runs we did TOC international so it has worked out perfect for us so far. Of course everything is a bit different with so many bands, shorter sets, different crowd, etc., that’s part of the fun of switching it up and it keeps us on our toes.
And what are some of your favorite venues? - (Club or festival setting)
We all love the Pageant here in St. Lou. We love the Norva in Norfolk. Recently we played some arena type things in Australia that we will never forget. But usually its more dependant on the crowd rather than the venue. If a particular city blows us away every single time we go there then the place that we played always holds a special place in our minds.
How do you guys approach videos? Is that something you guys are into, or just something that needs to be done? Do you see them as something valid in and of themselves, or are videos a tool to help push the album/sell the songs/make the label happy? Personally, I like the Take Me Back video a lot - a good balance of band performance with concept/story, without being over the top or ridiculous like SO many videos are.
Thank you first off and we agree. We are pretty into videos but have had such a run of problems with our ideas and getting them approved. So usually we end up a little disappointed in the fact that we never seem to be able to accomplish our original ideas due to the current state of the music industry. When you really get into the sticky stuff it becomes such a political game that by the end of it you feel like selling sandwiches at a carnival for a living.
Any thoughts on traditional CD/Cassette/Record sales vs. Downloadable music? I don't necessarily mean illegal file sharing - although any thoughts you have on that are welcome. Its just that its clearly a changing market, and downloading makes selling quick and easy - do you foresee a time when it becomes mostly about download sales and not some physical media like cds? I know there are still plenty of people out there who miss being able to get their stuff on 12" - it always feels much more substantial with that big record! Not to mention all the cool stuff you can package in there...
Well things are so crazy right now with everything that I think something drastic is going to happen soon with the way the music industry is run. I think the itunes music store and similar things where people can still support the musicians they like are a great way to get more music out there and kind of combat the decline of record sales. Hopefully it, or something soon, will have enough effect that bands wont have to quit after a good record or two because they couldn’t make a living.
Page Ave vs. In the wake of Determination:
The songs on the new album seem to have much more in common (in my opinion) with "Falling Down" than "Sidewalks" or "Until the Day I die" - would you agree? Granted, each song is its own thing, but the overall feel of In the Wake seems harder and less accessible to the average radio listening person... speaking of which, this album seems to be almost exclusively the territory of college radio - in the NYC area anyway. When Page Ave. came out, every time I turned on the radio I heard "Until the day I die" - and it still gets a fair amount of play... thoughts?
Well, Page Avenue gained radio support over a good amount of time, and we worked ridiculously hard touring that record for 2 years including 6-8 months before it even came out. But the difference in radio in just those few years has been such a disaster that everyone seems to have condensed formats so they play fewer bands more times. All we keep hearing is : "sweet! you made an awesome ROCK record and I love it! But I don’t know if we should play it cuz people might get confused with the new stuff compared to the old". So hearing that kind of crap just goes to show that no one is looking for a band that is trying to progress, they just want the next #1 single in whatever genre they think is the hot thing at that time.
Billboard indicates In the Wake is doing well (although slightly less so than Page) and Amazon.com shows the sales ranking for both albums as being pretty similar, so you guys are obviously doing something right. Do you think this gives you some leeway to try new things in your songwriting or are you inclined to just keep doing what you're doing? Not that I think you guys should run out and add a horn section or something...
Ha-ha. Well all that is due to our touring fan base. We have a great fan base that sticks by us and has for a long time now that will continue to fight for us. We wanted to be a band with a fan base that was based on touring and our hard work, rather than only radio or video success and we succeeded in that. That in mind, I certainly hope that all the supporters of this band will give us some room to explore what we can do and grow with us. All the bands that we have loved for years and years certainly didn’t make the same record over and over. We don’t want to do that either, hopefully people will respect, like, and support that.
How DOES songwriting happen for you guys? Are you the sort that would want to put together something elaborate like Green Days most recent album – or do you think in terms of an "album" at all - some people prefer to craft a song at a time and let the album be the sum of those individual parts. Both are equally valid in my opinion, but I'm curious what your approach is.
Well the first record was more song by song and it just kinda happened to have a lyrical theme when it was all said and done. ITWOD was more about a rock album. Ryan had about 50 songs written as far as music goes and we just picked em all apart and worked as a group to get what we wanted out of a million rock riffs and solos. Both were great experiences and I wouldn’t rule out anything for us in the future.
Have online outlets such as Myspace been useful for you guys? Do you see this as something that is good/helpful/useful to the music industry or upcoming bands? Are you guys actually reading the comments and things – or is it mostly read and updated by an intern somewhere at the label... most fans would like to think they're reaching you personally, you know?
Well we think since we are on the road so much that a diary sort of thing is important to keep up with for the people that are into your band. Myspace has become very very useful for us because we have our buddy Bamboo (who sells our merch too) updating our myspace all the time with photos from tour. and if you know us the you know that they aren’t the usual live photos here and there. its awesome. I also read all the comments and Adam sometimes gets and responds to the messages and such when he can. We also have a separate diary on our website and there is a section called "ask Phil" on our message board in which I have answered every single valid question over 409 pages to date. so we keep up on it in every way we possibly can. The Main reason for it: we all would have loved the bands that we loved to do something like that when we were younger.
Random stupid question: Why are all rock t-shirts black? Would you support a campaign to bring back color to band shirts? The first band shirt I ever bought was at a Youth of Today show, and it was bright red. You won't find THAT too often today, and I miss it. Can I count on your support?
Yes of course. We have 2 bright red shirts and a hideous yellow shirt with a bass fish on it as well. I used to actually boycott black shirts when I played on stage cuz I was sick of seeing them. Then I realized why the black t-shirt is impossible to oust at least on band members: its not about color preference, its about the hideous looking sweat stain that develops around the 3rd song in the set that is impossible not to notice when you see a picture of it later. its grossly embarrassing. Hope that helps you in your quest for truth.