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Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Jonathan Bunch, am: 01.12.2003 ]

Ja, Sensefield gibt sie noch und sie werden sich so schnell auch nicht unterkriegen lassen. Diesen Eindruck hatte ich jedenfalls als ich die Jungs vor nicht allzu langer Zeit auf ihrer Europatour traf. Die Zuschauerresonanz ließ zwar an diesem Tag zahlenmäßig etwas zu wünschen übrig, doch davon ließ sich Jon, der umgängliche und sehr gesprächige Sänger der Band, nicht beeindrucken. Wir sprachen über kulturelle Unterschiede zwischen Europa und den USA, das neue Album, die alten Punktage und was Vietnam damit überhaupt zu tun hat.


Musicscan: Tell me a little bit about the tour. How has the tour been so far?

Sensefield: It is going really really well. I actually think it is probably one of our better tours and it seems to be the most consistent when it comes to the crowds. They are excited and the new records seems to be doing well. And there are a lot of kids singing the new songs and which is always a really nice thing to see. Obviously you guys are in a band and you know what it is like. There were a lot of years when we would put out a new record and people would say "oh I didn't know that you put out a new record." It seems like a lot of things have fallen into place, where we come to town and the people know we have a new record out and they are singing along to the new stuff.

Musicscan: How has the response to the new album been in Europe so far?

Sensefield: Here in Europe, people aren't afraid to dance and stuff and it is nice to see people dancing. In America they are kind of shy when it comes to moving their bodies to a rock band. Especially in Holland, Belgium and Germany people really sway to the songs and it just makes it so much easier. You feel like they are feeling it and that is something you want. You want to just get up there and play and people are dancing when you play. You don't get that in America, you really have to work for it and you are always wondering if they are enjoying themselves.

Musicscan: Do you find that the audience is also older here than in the States?

Sensefield: It is really hard for me to tell at this point. We have been around for such a long time, so we have the people that followed us from the beginning and then we have the really young kids, too. This is our fifth album, so there has been a lot of time in between. It does seem like we get younger people there, it seems like everybody is around 25 here. It is weird.

Musicscan: Do you think your audience has changed since you signed with a major compared to the old Revelation crowd?

Sensefield: When we first started, there was definitely a post-hardcore scene brewing. When we started our peers where bands like Shudder To Think, Jawbox, Jawbreaker, Samiam, Rocket From The Crypt, Green Day and Sunny Day Real Estate. They were the only two bands who were coming from a hardcore background. When we were kids, we listened to the DC bands like Fugazi, Rites Of Spring and Government Issue and stuff like that and we just happened to get on bills with hardcore bands like Snapcase and Earth Crisis. We were part of the scene, but we also opened it up a bit. In a matter of years, the scene became sort of what rock music is today. Punk became a commercial style. There are stores and malls that cater to punkrock stuff. Punkrock is MTV now, it has come full circle. I would never say that we are a punk band, but we are kids that grew up listening to punk and we were part of the biggest punk scene in the world. Los Angeles still has the biggest punk scene, the biggest shows there would be around 5000 kids. That was around '93 and '94 and now punkrock is pop music, it is the Backstreet Boys now in a weird way. It is just completely commercialised and manufactured with bands not writing their own music and they are formed. There is nothing wrong with that, but I just want to point out the difference in the crowds. Now it is unimaginable the difference, because now there is no scene. I guess there is, but what is it really? There are no boundaries anymore and that is good. It is important not to be a musical elitist.

Musicscan: Do you still feel connected to the punk scene in some way, though, or have you grown out of that?

Sensefield: When I was in it back in the day, I was only in it because it gave us something to do and something to live for. It was exciting, it was dangerous and it was scary. It definitely wasn't an easy think like today. It was more bad than good. It was something we got into to give us something to do because there was a lot of hanging out and a lot of times there was nowhere to go. And we would get into bands and we would go out and see other bands and follow them. That gave us an inspiration and that is how we started picking up instruments when we were 13 and 14 years old. You could pick up a bass and play a punk song by the end of the day and then all of a sudden you would start a band. I don't live in the past like that, I don't really like to dwell on stuff like that. Those weren't the best days of my life. I like to think about the future and think about what I would like to do next. I do think about the past and try to learn from it, but I don't think that these were the best days of my life. I am thankful for being part of it, but part of me doesn't really like it, because it was so bad. There was just a lot of violence and a lot of misplaced kids. We were the sons and daughters of the people who came back from the Vietnam war, a lot of unwanted kids. It definitely showed especially in Los Angeles. My dad was a LAPD police officer. We would be walking down to shows and I would see all of the LAPD in their riot gear. I didn't grow up with him, but it was just weird. There were many kids that just had a fucked up time. I don't look at it as a great thing, there was a lot of pain involved. A lot of bad times with violence, it was just the most violent scene with people hurting each other all the time. I saw some really good bands, though and I had some incredible moments, but it wasn't something that I particularly appreciate on every level.

Musicscan: But what about the ideals and ideas that are shared among the punk community?

Sensefield: I think most of them are just common every day ideals that people should have without there being a punk scene. Just treating each other with kindness. I don't think that was really the case when we were growing up. Maybe because of the place we were from, but it was more about gangs and paranoia and a lot of drugs. Maybe I only remember the bad stuff; I don't know. We were fighting for that within the punk scene, but it wasn't easy to find. I learned some of my ideals form the punk scene I guess, but it was from bands from far away. We would listen to Minor Threat and we realized that you don't have to be a dipshit punk. You can be conscious. But Los Angeles was just run by the gangs period. You had to be in one in order to survive a show a lot of times. When we were little kids, it was easier because we were so small and people wouldn't fuck with you. I understand it differently now. I think our grandfathers were called the greatest generation. They came back from World War II and they were the super power. Our parents then came in and had to live up to the greatest generation and they are given the Vietnam war and the blow that. They have to live with that and they are looked down upon for losing our first war and then they have children they don't know what to do with and up comes punkrock. I feel like it is a direct reaction from being the sons and daughters of this Vietnam generation. There were just a lot of misplaced kids and that is what I was. I didn't know it at the time really, but now I look at it differently.

Musicscan: Did all of that make you want to branch out musically, too, and explore new boundaries artistically?

Sensefield: You get tired of playing the same old thrash songs and other bands are developing and growing. The bands we wanted to emulate on and we were mostly influenced by were the DC bands, especially all the Dischord bands. That is what we wanted to be like. That is where the whole emo thing started. Emo really started in '85 in DC and that is what opened our mind to other music. By the time we were twenty we started our own style of what we learned from music and that is when Sunny Day Real Estate started and the called it emo. We would play with a lot of the hardcore bands and they would look at us like we were from another planet. We have this melody and they didn't know what to think of it. Within a couple of years, though, a lot of these bands started to play a lot more melodic music as well.

Musicscan: Most of the bands you mentioned are gone now, but you are still around. What is behind the longevity what makes you stick it out for a while? Especially considering you have been through the major label hell for at least five years.

Sensefield: We were still working during those five years. We were recording, but we were also touring. To break it down for you, we got signed in '96 and we toured most of that year. Most of '97 we were trying to figure out what to do, but what we didn't understand was that we should have put out a record immediately. We were signed, but there were bands signed after us, finished a record and got a record on the charts and selling millions of copies. We didn't really understand that. That is also another pitfall coming from the punk scene and doing your own thing. You don't think that strategically businesswise. It has always been competitive but it has become fiercely competitive to a point where the kids aren't even writing their own songs anymore. There is nothing wrong with that, but it just shows you that it is a market and image is just so important. I think there is good music out there. I think Jimmy Eat World is a great band and they will always be an example of a band that started out as kids. When we got signed and worked on the record we simply took too long. But then the label went under heavy restructuring so after two years there was nobody still at the label where we first signed. So all of our support was gone and you really need your support team. The important thing is also to be your own island, separate from the label. I think most bands rely too heavily on the label and when they get dropped they don't have a way to continue because the label became the surrogate parent. Similar to a sports figure, he has to think about himself first and not worry about what team he is on. If that team lets him go, he needs to think of himself first. You tend to think that the label is your friend and the label is your life support, but if you continue doing what you do no matter what and you keep working, people will keep coming and you don't have to remind anybody but yourself.

Musicscan: Except when the songs are written for you by the label. But you guys had all this time of touring and experience behind you and I assume that this definitely helped you out.

Sensefield: Yes, touring always helps you out, but life on the road isn't easy on many levels. With relationships for example, but you are also always away. There should be a good balance.

Musicscan: What was it like to write the album with Chris? I think you two pretty much wrote the entire album on your own.

Sensefield: It was good. It was a bit like going back to the old Reason To Believe days when it was just him and I. We first started together when we were kids and this album sort of brought us back to that and it brought back a lot of old memories and it reminded me of why we started and all of that. The album is a bit more aggressive than the rest of our other albums and it brought back a lot of hidden feelings. I wasn't doing well when we worked on this record. I was going through a lot of emotional stuff and figuring out a lot of different personal things. And I think this shows on the record. It is not easy material or imagery to sit down and eat a picnic to. There is also a lot of hope in there, too, which I think is important.

Musicscan: What was it like to finally have a radio single out? Did it change the band or the perception of it?

Sensefield: It is interesting when you see a hit band live, they never play that song until the end. Everybody has to sit through the whole set and hear it. You do that, because after that one song everybody leaves. We had that, too. But it is the best feeling hearing your song on the radio, it is the best feeling in the world. I hope you guys get it. It feels natural, it feels right. This is the way it should be, your song should be on the radio and you should have something on TV and your songs should be heard. The best feeling is when the crowd knows your songs and when they are singing every word. That is what you want.

Musicscan: Ok, lets wrap this up. What can we expect from you guys in the next couple of months?

Sensefield: We are going to take a few weeks off for the holidays and we'll see what is in store next, if we want to go back out again or if we are going to work on some more music. We are just letting the year come to a close for us. What is it now, November? We have been away for a while now and if we weren't on tour, we would be stuck in the studio. I just had a son and we are just going to do the family thing for the rest of the year and reassess where we are. We are really not sure what we are going to do yet.