With their new record Die On Stage releasing this week, the Run for Cover veterans in Hostage Calm are on the cusp of a breakout. Fortunately I was able to talk with singer Chris Martin for a bit about the band’s progression, their recording process with Will Yip, and other changes that came this time around as they worked on their latest record.
MEB: From Please Remain Calm to Die On Stage, what was the band’s personal progression between the records?
A pretty defining event in my life is that I had gone from being in a very long-time relationship to going off on my own, and I think the record sort of documents that process of going off on your own and kind of embraces both the highs and lows that define young American life. This record came on the heels of that move, and sonically we’d been on tour with legendary punk bands for two years. Everything from Saves the Day, Anti-Flag, etc. – we were on tour with the greats. I think that also continued to inspire us from the standpoint of trying to make a record that didn’t sound like them, but one that was as singularly important and iconic as those bands made.
This was the first record where you worked with Will Yip (Title Fight, Circa Survive). Did he have a hand in that process of creating a record that was inspired by the bands that you toured with the past two years?
Well, we were inspired to rise to that sort of greatness and I think that Will definitely is the type of person who we could tell wanted to make iconic records, he wanted to make records that were timeless and were super articulate – emotionally and sonically. For us that became a no-brainer. He helped really capture this band in a way that emphasizes the grandeur and enormity of these songs. During this record we talked albums that had big defining impacts on bands’ careers and a singular importance in rock history, whether it’s a Stone Temple Pilots record or Born in the USA, which had a fully realized greatness. And that’s what Will helped bring to the table; he had that hunger to make a timeless classic record.
Definitely. When you’re listening to it you hear those grand moments that were always there, but really hit the top notch in a way that he has proven to do in the past. In addition to that, what other things were different about the recording process this time around?
I attribute the sonic clarity and energy that comes across to Will’s ability to capture and coach great takes. I definitely hit a real stride with him singing, where I feel like he and I got this flow where we could just go for hours and hours to get better takes. He figured out how to work me harder and that’s reflected across the album. On top of that, there were other aspects that Will was able to bring to the table. We had access to everything we would need. We were playing Rickenbacker twelve-string guitars, playing on Billy Joel’s piano and Sheryl Crow’s acoustic guitar. It was a crazy fuckin’ rock and roll field trip for us.
But this is also the first time we did a record where we had almost two months in the studio, and a house to live in. We had infrastructure to make what we thought was a legendary record or something that was timeless. We didn’t have to work during the day or come in after class. I have to thank Run for Cover [Records] for putting us in that position to succeed by believing in us to go into Studio 4 and come out with a record we would be proud of forever.
Of all these different musical aspects you had access to, which inspired the barbershop quarter part in the middle of “Past Ideas of the Future”?
(laughs) That was just something I was trying to do since I didn’t want the song to have a chorus. I love songs that have a chorus and it’s pretty obvious to anybody who’s listening to Die On Stage or any of our other records. I wanted the song to be a dramatic piece that built to a climax, with little climaxes along the way. But that was one part that was going to be the dramatic entrance of the band, so we put in that little a cappella spot, which we’ve known how to do with “Patriot” and all this other stuff.
An interesting track was “Raised”, which has more synth-based sounds, which you haven’t really done in the past. What inspired that shift?
We were talking to Will while we were producing it and we wanted “Raised” to kind of take rock music into the future. I don’t want our band or our genre to be this thing that’s just celebrating the past and reenacting that past glory of punk. I want our band to help bring the genre into the future, so for that track we were like, “let’s do a song that kind of takes on a whole different electronic element but stays true to the intensity of the band, both emotionally and sonically.” But as we were going through it I was like “how can we get an almost drum sound in samples, things that could give this almost a hip-hop or club flair while still having the punk over it?” And we realized that they still have this Yamaha drum machine in the studio that was used on a Fresh Prince record with Will Smith, which was tracked at Studio 4 like a lot of old Philadelphia hip-hop. I actually was playing a beat on the drum machine that looked like a yak bak; it was almost a joke playing it. But it being mixed in made the record sound really special at that moment and gave it this little flair that exists in a lot of other music besides punk. It was a neat touch.
That’s probably the greatest random fact from any production of a punk record ever.
(laughs) Yeah it is. I don’t know if was also used on the House of Pain track “Jump Around”, but I believe that was recorded at that place too. So many records were recorded there.
So with all of these different elements and themes and Will Smith drum machines, how did they come together to form the title Die On Stage?
I think Die On Stage has been a mantra for our band for a little while, I say it sometimes before we go on stage to get everybody stoked to burn it all down. It captured the mentality we have of going up there and kind of sacrificing ourselves for the art. By making music or art, you’re giving yourself to it and you become vulnerable. You’re giving up the comfort you normally have in everyday life by expressing the different ways you feel.
Death is the end materially, for a person, a relationship, or a band. It’s the limit of physical effort. After that death, all that you have is the memory of you. For this record I think we were striving to make something that was so timeless that it could live beyond us. Once we finished recording and it got pressed, it’s out there forever and it’ll live on in some kid’s record player or the memory of some set we played. There’s something romantic to us about that; to make such a great push and striving to create the most intense moment we can in our young lives, in hopes that somehow through it – we can live forever.
That was beautifully put.
Well stemming from that, you’re going on tour with Citizen, fellow Run for Cover bandmates. What is the approach for your setlist as far as playing songs from Die On Stage? Are you going to stick with the singles or just go right for it?
We’re definitely going for it, we like to play what we like to play. Among those we may play some singles off the new record or others we’ve done because we do like those songs, but there are other songs that aren’t singles or older songs that were singles that we’re gonna play just because we love playing them.
And this tour lasts until the middle of October, what are your plans after that?
We’ll be going to Europe with Man Overboard next spring and other than that, we plan to be in as many towns as possible in support of this new record.
I hope that all goes well, thank you for talking with me!
Anytime, you can always count on me being verbose and answer the questions for ten minutes longer than what’s needed.