Last January at Fusion Shows’ 5th anniversary party at the Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac, Michigan, Mind Equals Blown sat down with Ryan Rockwell, rhythm guitarist and co-lead singer of Mixtapes to discuss upcoming plans, memorable moments of 2012 and how to properly defend pop-punk.
MEB: So tonight you’re going to be playing with La Dispute, Into It. Over It., The Swellers and a handful of others.
Ryan: And Cheap Girls.
And Cheap Girls, yes! What was your reaction when Nate asked you to play?
Nate has always done really good shows in Michigan, when we met him on tour for The Wonder Years; I think it was about two years ago and I can honestly say, and I’m not just saying this because we’re not very nice, you know our band. We were talking on the way here and Nate has never booked a bad show for us. It’s like every time I come through Michigan it’s an awesome show with an awesome lineup. There’s always a good amount of people and he knows what he’s doing. He’s easy to work with; he doesn’t try to promise you the world, he’s always like, “This is what I’ll give you, it’s always there…” And not even just with money, just in general, he just knows what’s up. Whenever he’s going to do a show, I know it’s going to be good. When he asked us to play [this show], we were stoked. When we found out we were headlining our own stage, it was cool.
Because the last time we played in Pontiac was two roads down from here, two years ago, in front of 15 people. And now this show’s sold out with over 1,000 people two years later.
That’s pretty good progress!
It’s pretty awesome. And we don’t deserve any of it.
So, over the next couple of months, you have just a couple of shows, a couple this month and a couple in February. After that, do you guys have any solid touring plans?
We’re actually going to record a new record in March.
Which nobody knows about yet…we’re going to do a full US tour in June and then another tour in July and August, and then probably more and more. We’re going to release our record in the summer. But then I don’t even know, even if I could tell you, I don’t have enough details to actually give you exact ones. We’re going to be playing anywhere you can think of in the US, and have a new record out.
Okay, so that doesn’t mean like Warped Tour or anything like that?
I can’t say.
You can’t say, okay. [Winks]
Awesome. Now, let’s talk about your material a little bit. You have one coming up, but, last year you released two LPs, if you include the vinyl pressing of How to Throw a Successful Party, and two seven inches. Now out of all of the stuff that you released last year, what song out of all that would you say that you’re the most proud of?
Can I give you, like, two or three?
Oh yeah, that’s cool.
One of them would definitely be “One for the Ozarks.” The whole band started when my dad passed away, and one of my dad’s best friends is my cousin Adam and he actually passed away when I was up there visiting them, and when I was actually writing the record in Missouri, which is where the Ozarks are, and he passed away, and it’s kind of about that. It’s a really personal song, and I like that one lyrically and the way it sounds, so that’s one of them. I really like the song “Puzzle, Pt. 2” off the split with Broadway Calls. It shows a different vibe, like a Promise Ring/Hold Steady-punk rock vibe, kind of like a ‘90s vibe and less pop-punk, which I think is cool, and I like the lyrics. And I would say “Basement Manners” because it’s a song that encompasses the way we feel about the scene, which isn’t necessarily saying we’re trying to be better than others, there’s just a lot of attitudes and things that bother me that I didn’t even think about until we started touring in a band, and I saw other things and attitudes that are really messed up. Just like the way people treat other people and be cliquey and act off of things. I don’t know, those would probably be my three.
Okay, cool. Now, you guys have written a lot of material over the past couple of years; you’ve written over 50 songs in two years. What is your process like when you’re writing music and lyrics that you’re able to produce that much?
Usually Maura and I write pretty similarly. I usually write the lyrics first and it’s going to sound like I’m kind of joking, but the real thing is that I write the lyrics first because they’re important to me and they’re not extremely complicated. Maura’s are supposed to tell the point, but usually I try to find the lyrics first and then the melody, and try to find the power chords, and then write two leads and then it’s done.
Honestly, on our new album, we’ve been trying to do a little bit of different things. I’m really proud of all of the stuff we’ve done a lot. And I think that where we started with Maps and where we got to with Even on the Worst Nights that we’d perfected the stuff that we’d be doing, in my opinion, and I’m really proud of that record. We’re not going to change, but we’re going to try and add a lot more twists, but after all’s said and done, it’s still going to sound like us. It may end up being stuff that I’m going to notice, but that’s okay. So, I don’t know, I just write lyrics and try to find the melody. Sometimes music comes first. We’re not usually a band traditionally that’s gotten together and jammed. I mean, we all contribute, but sometimes we’ll write an idea and then come together and try to finish it. We don’t just jam until we find the right lead, because that would take hours and we’d get really bored with that.
When you started this band, you said it was to help you cope with your father passing away. What was your father like as a person?
He was awesome. I mean, anybody’s going to say that unless their parents sucked really bad, but they’re obviously going to say good things. My father was my best friend. He was one of those people that all of my friends would vouch for it. My friends would consider him to be like more their dad than mine. He was just really kind and he was really strong. We hung out every day, so I can confidently say that that was the worst thing I’ve ever had to go through. So, it hit me pretty hard. There’s nothing in my life I can think of that has affected me the way that it did. At the time I was in a rap group [Castles], which I still do, and it was the only thing I was doing because I was so burnt out on everything else, and that’s kind of what sparked it because these emotions I was feeling weren’t going to work in these poppy, hip-hop songs that I was doing with my friends for fun, so we wrote these songs that ended up becoming Maps. And at the same time, Maura was going through a lot of rough personal things too, so it made sense that we were in the same spots kind of where it worked out. My dad was really kind, he just helped people, probably more than he should have. But at the same time, people weren’t taking advantage of him. He was just very kind and had an awesome personality. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people hit the way that when I told them that my dad had passed away, especially when it was someone else’s dad. It was cool to see, but I still miss him every day.
The news broke the other day that your bassist Michael was leaving the band. What was your reaction when he told you that he wanted to leave?
He actually told me just about five or six days ago.
Oh, really? Okay…
I think people think that there’s a situation or story, but there isn’t. I work in an arcade when we’re in town and Mike just called me and said, “Hey, can I talk to you?” and I said, “Yeah, sure.” He came up and he just told me. He has reasons, like, we’re not fighting, we’re all still friends, obviously. Mike comes over to my house and watches football still. Mike has just accomplished what he wants to accomplish in a band, and now he wants to go to school and he has a good job. I didn’t have any bigger emotions other than I was sad, I’m not upset that somebody’s doing something that’ll help better their life, you know what I mean?
Yeah. For those who can’t see me, Michael’s standing right next to me. I’ve had people come up to me and ask, “WHAT HAPPENED?!” and they want some crazy story, and there isn’t one. And now I’m just going to be super angry at him, and then I’ll say what REALLY happened.
Nah, I’m totally kidding. Mike’s going to go to school, and he’s going to work and we’re going to find a new bass player, Mike and I are going to watch football on Sundays and everything will be fine. I think Mike, overall, wants to be a cop. Don’t you wanna be a cop, Mike?
That’s what he’s going to school for, he’s going for criminal justice. And I’m not being funny, that’s just the truth. That’s what he’s always wanted to do. Before we started touring, that’s what he went to school for originally, and now he’s going to finish it. Sure, it was emotional because we’ve done so much together, but it wasn’t negative or bad. But, you know, stuff happens.
Yeah, I think most of the time when stuff like that happens, people expect like there to be a big process when a lot of time, there isn’t.
Yeah, I think people always think there’s going to be some drama, but people that know us know that we’re not a drama-type band, we just hang out. We should make some drama though!
Boone: No, what we should do is that we should make like a video of us just having practice, and then you just fucking take his guitar and smash it on the ground.
I’m going to end on this: Mike will never step foot inside a show in Cincinnati ever again.
Oooooh. Then there’ll be some type of Woe, Is Me level drama going on.
My hardcore brotherhood will be behind me at all times.
Also, Mike is the least punk person for going back to school and quitting a band. “Oh cool. Just because we don’t make any money, you think you’re too good for us!”…we do make money though. We’ve banked so much money. No Sleep [Records] just bought me a new car. [Ryan shakes his lanyard in my face]. So, that’s always nice.
So, now have you guys started looking for a new bass player?
Yeah, a little bit. Like I said, Mike literally just told me about five or six days ago.
Oh, right. Haha..
It was the day after he told me that we announced it. We only have four shows left and Mike’s going to play them all, and then we’re going to record a record. But Boone, Maura and I can all play bass. If we can find somebody before that, cool, but as long as we can find somebody before we go on tour. So, I think our main goal is to find somebody that’s cool and preferably somebody that we know. People have been hitting us up on Twitter, and it’s like, no offense, but we’re going to find someone we know. Unless it’s like a last resort, but it shouldn’t be that much of a problem. And we’re going to try and find someone that can sing as well.
Okay, cool. Oh yeah, so, I’m in a Facebook group with Nick Steinborn and he wanted me to ask you-
Oh, god. Nick from The Wonder Years wants to ask me something?
Yeah, he wanted me to ask you what you guys are doing to help defend pop-punk?
I love Nick Steinborn. First of all, let’s get real here, I actually have an AK-47. And that’s for real, none of these other bands do, so I’m on the front lines. When I wake up in the morning, I actually have AK under my bed and that’s no joke. And I have some Uzis too. But outside of that, I don’t really know, because I think modern pop-punk sucks.
[Laughs] So, I don’t know, I think we’re defendin’ it good. Nick is more on the front lines because he was on the Defend Pop-Punk Tour. Nick Steinborn, he’s out there guns blazing, ready to defend this genre of music that we cherish so dearly and take so seriously. So, I’m trying to defend pop-punk, but it’s hard. So what I’m going to do is that I’m going to start a real crusade. I’m going to find anybody who doesn’t hate their girlfriend, and I’m going to kill them. I mean, their ex-girlfriend that dumped them.
I’m really excited to see how that pans out. Now looking back at 2012, what would you say were some of the highlights of that year?
Musically, we had an insane year. When we first started this band, we were going to just play two shows in Cincinnati. We never had a goal, and never really planned on touring or anything. We went to Europe and we played a festival with The Ting Tings on the ocean, we played Mexico, we played US tours with bands that have been on the radio. Everything was a highlight. We’ve been the luckiest band ever. We did a lot of stuff that would even deter us from getting more popular just to be annoying. Even then, we sold out shows – not big ones by any means, but it’s still incredible. We put out a record that got on the Billboard Heatseekers chart that we never thought would ever happen, so it’s been pretty awesome.
Okay, awesome. Do you have any final words you want to say?
Thank you for interviewing me!
I got cookies [from a fan]. They’re a little burnt, but they’re still good. Boone, how are the cookies?
I like ‘em!
Well, there you go. Other than that, we had a good year, and thank you for interviewing me, and for coming out to the show. And now I’m done.
Check out Mixtapes’ recent split with Broadway Calls called Vision Quest, out now on No Sleep Records.