Band Interview: Strung Out

Matt Albers

We at Damnation Magazine do our best to branch out and represent coverage of all of the facets of both loud rock and pop culture. Although musically, we generally lead towards the side of heavy metal, we also promote and cover the many other various genres and subgenres. Although the phrase, “punk is dead,” has become so commonplace over the recent decades that the sentiment is practically understood, bands retaining the now early punk and hardcore sounds and styles still exist today, and can even thrive. Simi Valley, California’s Strung Out is one such example, who have produced an ever-expanding catalog of eclectic original material since forming in 1989. Recently, we talked with guitarist Jake Kiley about Strung Out’s current tour, latest album, artistic integrity, and how social media has recently assisted them in their career.

Strung Out lineup (left to right): Jake Kiley [guitar, 1989 - present], Chris Aiken [bass, 1999 - present], Jordan Burns [drums, 1993 - present], Rob Ramos [guitar/vocals, 1989 - present], Jason Cruz [vocals, 1989 - present] - image courtesy of Fat Wreck Chords
Strung Out lineup (left to right): Jake Kiley [guitar, 1989 – present], Chris Aiken [bass, 1999 – present], Jordan Burns [drums, 1993 – present],
Rob Ramos [guitar/vocals, 1989 – present],
Jason Cruz [vocals, 1989 – present] – image courtesy of Fat Wreck Chords
The “punk” or “hardcore” moniker for bands and subgenres has certainly expanded from the time of Strung Out’s inception. Today, we have bands like A Day To Remember and Bring Me The Horizon that are described as modern “hardcore” bands, and modern “punk” bands like letlive. In your experience, after bands like Strung Out, Refused, or even The Offspring or Green Day have expounded on the sound over the past two decades or so. What are your thoughts, opinions, or observations on punk music and the culture surrounding it throughout your career, leading to today?

We’ll, it’s obviously changed a lot over the last 30 years, but what hasn’t? You’ve seen it all get mixed and mashed together with varying results. And of course it’s become a much safer, less taboo form of music. I’ve always thought punk and hardcore was about doing things your way, on your terms with no rules. Not everyone believes that of course, but it makes sense to me.

Strung Out is known for incorporating elements of heavy metal, hard and progressive rock into their sound, especially later on in your career. Why was that important for the band to experiment in this way, both in general and during the time period and albums in which you did?

Just to keep it enjoyable for ourselves. We could not exist just by putting out the same music over and over, some bands have no problem with that. We might even be a bigger band if just kept repeating Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues [1996], but God damn, that would be boring for us.

Explain your relationship with punk record label Fat Wreck Chords, owned by Fat Mike of  NOFX. What does having a dedicated label like this mean for the music and bands such as Strung Out?

Strung Out - TRANSMISSION.ALPHA.DELTA album cover [2015] - image courtesy of Fat Wreck Chords
Strung Out – TRANSMISSION.ALPHA.DELTA album cover [2015] – image courtesy of Fat Wreck Chords

It’s always been a very easy, comfortable relationship with Fat. They’ve always supported us and given us complete control, so there’s really not much more you can ask for.

2015’s Transmission.Alpha.Delta was the first Strung Out album in six years. What was the reason for such a long break between albums? How did the time away affect the final product, in terms of writing, composition, and production?

We were quite busy during those years, but mostly doing retrospective things. We put out a “best of” album, a box set with DVD, and a B-sides album. I think the time spent touring on those was great for us, and really got us back in touch with our roots. It prepared us very well to make Transmission.Alpha.Delta.

Tell us about this tour with Pennywise, Unwritten Law, and Runaway Kids. How did it come about, and what is it like touring with these bands in 2016, in terms of both morale and interaction, as well as audience response?

So far, it’s been amazing! Sold out shows and some of the best crowd responses and business we’ve had in years. Pennywise invited us to be on it earlier this year and we jumped at it, they’re a great match for us and have been supporting us since day one. Amazing guys! They tried to get H2O to be on it but it didn’t work out, so Unwritten Law stepped in and it’s been a great line up. Runaway Kids join up tomorrow so we’re looking forward to checking them out.

We are now fully-immersed in the age of social media, where everyone is connected to one another through mobile devices and multiple platform accounts. What is your relationship with social media as a professional musician? What are your thoughts, opinions, critiques, or concerns with it, compared your past experiences in music prior to its inception and influence? What do you think the future hold?

Strung Out band logo - image courtesy of Fat Wreck Chords
Strung Out band logo – image courtesy of Fat Wreck Chords

It’s actually been pretty cool for us. Our Instagram is a fun way to share the experience with our fans! Things like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube have been great at spreading our music, and even though album sales are down for all bands, our shows have been bigger than ever and merch sales are bigger. I just want to play to a full house, and that’s been happening a lot so I’ll say it’s a good thing. The future of it? I’m scared for what it will do to kids who know nothing else.

Comics: Marvel or D.C.? Go!

Manga!

Finally, someone thought outside the box for our go-to comic book interview wrap-up question! Thanks to Jake Kiley for taking time out to answer our questions, and Vanessa Burt of Fat Wreck Chords for setting it all up! Be sure to catch Strung Out on tour this fall with Pennywise, Unwritten Law, and Runaway Kids. Strung Out’s latest and eighth studio album, Transmission.Alpha.Delta., is available now.

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