Older readers might recall Chicago natives August Premier back from their days as a member of the quickly growing Fueled By Ramen roster. Now, recently reunited, August Premier are set to release their new album on Pacific Ridge Records. I recently sat down (behind my computer) with Mickey Molinari and Chris Rogner to discuss the band’s reformation, their future and being in a band with the same guys for over a decade. While you read, look above and check out their new track “Worlds Away,” featuring Tim Rogner from Allister, exclusively on Mind Equals Blown.
MEB: With being in a band comes a million different problems. What was the motivation to get back together and brush the dust off of August Premier?
Mickey Molinari: The timing just felt right. Chris [Rogner, vocalist/guitarist] gave me a call and asked if I would want to do it again. Obviously I said yes. I had been in a bunch of bands since August Premier and nothing to me ever felt right. The guys in August Premier are some of my oldest friends and I can’t say no to playing music with them.
In respect to how you see yourselves as a band, how you go about writing music and how you balance music and “real life,” what’s changed since the early days of August Premier?
Mickey: I think we see ourselves as a rock band, nothing more nothing less. We have never aimed to sound or be like anyone else. Chris and Danny [Halminiak, guitarist/vocalist] do the majority of the writing, one of them will present an idea or an almost finished song to the band and we go from there. The balance between “real life” and music is something everyone in a band deals with. We find if you care enough, you make it work; after all we do play music in “real life” (laughs). Things have and haven’t changed since 2003, Danny and myself had kids and Mark [Halminiak, bassist] got married and other than people working full time, things are pretty much where they left off. We are still the same guys doing what we love to do, making music.
Being on a stacked Fueled By Ramen roster in the label’s mid-’00 heyday and being on a smaller label like Pacific Ridge must be worlds apart. Tell us about a few of the most important differences between the two.
Mickey: It’s not as different as one might think. When we signed with FBR in 2002 they were still a fairly unknown label. The guys who worked there were so good to us. They were truly into our band and got what we wanted to do musically. It was still very much a DIY label. They gave us a budget to record and handled some press for us; booking shows and tours were still on us. We loved having the name behind us because they were a label we really respected and felt it gave us some credibility. It was shortly after we signed that they blew up as a label and we felt kinda buried, which happens to labels – focus shifts to who has all the attention.
With a smaller label like Pac Ridge there is a lot more focus on the label working with bands. I met Wayne [Stadler] (Pac Ridge Owner) after we signed with FBR and have remained in contact with him since. When AP decided to give it another go there was no one else I wanted to work with; his dedication to the bands he works with is almost unheard of. He really wants to make your vision come to life, from the music to the artwork to how you are promoted. There is a lot less pressure coming from Wayne than we had with FBR. Labels always give the feel that at the base of everything it’s all about numbers and money (nothing wrong with that) but with Pac Ridge you always get the feel that it’s music first, business second. We couldn’t be any happier working with them.
Happy Miserable is scheduled to come out on March 27th. How will it sound compared to your older material?
Mickey: Happy Miserable I think is the perfect example of what we see ourselves as a band that I think we could never quite make happen on the previous records. When we first started writing we shared a practice space with another band and nothing seemed to feel right. So we ended up in Chris’ brother’s garage and something just clicked with the writing. It brought this new life to the songs and the feel of the music. I also have to give credit to Matt Allison [producer] for seeing what we needed in a recording and delivering something better than we ever imagined.
How do you guys go about writing an August Premier record? Do the lyrics come first, followed by the rest? Are songs pieced together over long periods of time? Do you guys sit down and decide “today, we’re going to write this record” or does it come naturally?
Chris Rogner: It’s a little of everything I suppose. When we first set a date to get into the studio, that’s when it really sank in that we needed to sit down and write/finish writing this record. There were ideas that we already had and a few full songs we already had done, but that was when we realized we needed to buckle down and finish it. For me personally, I almost always have ideas for songs but I never really finish them on my own. Usually it’s always a melody idea with a few lines that come to me at first and I go from there. I like to bring in my ideas and structure it as a band, and let the lyrics come when they do. I don’t like to force lyrics out. Danny on the other hand will generally work on songs on his own and bring it in to the band when it’s mostly complete. There are other songs where Danny and I will show each other an idea and he’ll help finish mine or vice versa. So I guess there’s not one specific way to do it. Some songs take a while to finish. Others are done in an hour. It just depends on the song.
How did you guys get hooked up with Matt Allison? His resume reads like a who’s who of ’00-era punk; how was the experience?
Chris: My brother Tim and I had this birthday idea for our dad to take him to a studio and re-record a few songs that his band wrote and recorded when he was our age. We ended up going to Atlas cause Tim had worked with Matt a few times before and I had always wanted to. We brought Mickey in to play drums on it. We were only in there for two days, but Mickey and I ended up talking to Matt about AP and how we had always wanted to work with him. He seemed really into the idea of recording our band (which we were really fucking stoked about), and as soon as we got word from Wayne that he’d put out our album, we called Matt and set the dates. It was awesome recording with him. He’s recorded some of my all-time favorite albums, so it was a real privilege to get the opportunity. I could probably go on for hours about how great an experience it was and how good he is, but his records speak for themselves. Just an overall good guy. Oh, and Justin [Yates] is a rad dude too.
Pop punk and pop rock are the in-things right now. How do you guys see yourselves in the grand scheme of things? What sets you apart from other similar bands?
Mickey: I’m not really sure how we fit in with things these days. I feel maybe we are the old guys. We aren’t into gimmicks, we aren’t big on fashion, we don’t have backing tracks or stage props. We have always been the same – writing music we love to play, and [let] what happens happen. Hell we recorded most of this record live (bass, drums and guitar) without a click track. When we first started the band we never even thought we would get to record anything let alone sign to a label like FBR and we never thought we would be doing this now.
After the album drops, what are you guys going to be up to for the remainder of the year?
Mickey: We plan to play a bunch of shows around the Midwest, just one step at a time. I can’t say what will happen for the whole year; we just take it as it comes.
What keeps you guys motivated to go out on tour year after year?
Mickey: For me I love to travel, seeing new places, meeting new people, eating different foods. Nothing beats road trips with good friends playing music.
Best tour memory?
Mickey: So many. I will never forget randomly meeting Rikki Rockett at The Warehouse in Lacrosse, WI. He was checking out some clothes in the store beneath the venue, super random.
Cities with the most August Premier love?
Mickey: I think it will always be Chicago.
Best restaurants you’ve visited on tour?
Mickey: Stubb’s in Austin, TX
Any last words for your fans?
Mickey: Thanks for your support even when we weren’t a band. I hope you all enjoy the new record.