After nearly a decade away, The Starting Line is back. The veteran pop-punk group will release new music for the first the time in eight years on Feb. 19, with a new 7-inch, Anyways. You've heard the single "Anyways," now watch the video, premiering on Fuse, above.
The clip shows the Philly band doing what they've always done—put on a killer live show. Ahead of the Starting Line's first musical release since 2007's Direction, we caught up with frontman Kenny Vasoli to talk about the band's future, new music and potential touring opportunities.
FUSE: It's been eight years since you last recorded and released new Starting Line music. Why start again now?
Vasoli: It'd come to a time where we finally had the appetite to make new Starting Line songs. It's been in the back of our minds for a while—we realized there were some fans out there that were still interested in that kind of thing. I didn't want to force any new material when there wasn't that inspiration to write that kind of stuff.
For a few years I took a departure and stopped making rock and roll music all together. I really just tried to give my ears a break and give my body a break from going full-blast all the time. Eventually some energy built up in me to get punk material out and it was nice to just pick up a guitar, holler some stuff and pitch a fit. The Starting Line is the best way for me to do that. It's the best way for me to vent.
You told Philly Voice that you had to take that departure from punk rock. Was it out of necessity? Did you just fall out of love with the stuff?
I think became a little disenchanted with the genre. I had been listening to an awful lot of it and had been making it for quite a few years and tried to reshape it in ways that maybe felt fresh to me and kept it exciting. I also got to a point where I felt like The Starting Line could only fulfill so much of my curiosity with music. I started branching off into other stuff and after The Starting Line, I started another band [Person L] that was even more full-throttle, scream-y, dissonant, angular. Loud volume, altogether, became taxing on me. My ears started to hurt. My throat started to hurt. It was out of necessity to give my body a break. I fell into some chiller music that felt more natural. Eventually the urge got built up again to make more aggressive music.
In the last eight years you've got on to do other types of music: Person L and Vacationer. Those bands are pretty different from the Starting Line.
I've identified in myself that I'm a digger when it comes to music. Once I find something new that grabs my ear, I start digging really hard until [I learn] how that genre came about and what were the masterpiece records considered from that genre and I'm just a big music head. I'm addicted to the thing. I like to adventure.
Vacationer is playing the Paramore cruise Parahoy in March. With the new Starting Line material, are both projects active?
I consider Vacationer my bread and butter. That's what I spend the majority of my time doing.
The Starting Line isn't a full-time thing?
No. I didn't want to put presumptions in people's heads that we're back, full-force, as far as touring and album-making goes. We're picking up the pace a little bit, as far as activity, but I don't really think I could sustain going on a full tour, physically. While we have these new songs and we've been writing new stuff, I know the fans don't want a set list comprised of all new material. I'm going to have to sing songs that I wrote when I was 17 or 18, and as a 31-year-old, I can only do that a couple nights in a row before it take its toll on me and doesn't sound very good after that. It's not that it's not fun. It's a whole lot of fun. It's still fun because we do it so infrequently that when we do do it, it's like a family reunion. It's something really special.
Is it physically challenging to sing those songs from when you were a teen? When All Time Low does "Dear Maria, Count Me In Live" they have to take the vocals down a half-step. [Frontman] Alex Gaskarth's voice just isn't that high anymore.
That's what it is! Power to the people that can still making it happen, the [Circa Survive/Saosin singer] Anthony Greens of the world that are just freakishly on-point every time they sing the songs. I, unfortunately, don't have that stamina or range anymore. I just know my limits. I don't want to go out there and butcher the songs.
So touring is out of the question, as it stands now?
Yeah. I think, unless it's something that's like a weekend at a time, It would have to be really broken up. To tell you the truth, I'm not the only one stopping the gears from moving. Everyone has their own things going as we make deeper routes in our lives. It's harder to just pick up and play a bunch of Starting Line shows. We're talking about trying to throw something together in our hometown of Philadelphia around when the 7-inch is coming out. We're doing the Slam Dunk Festival in the U.K. in May. I'm sure there will be other stuff. We get offers and if something is really cool then we're going to do it. We'll be keeping something active.
Would you ever consider writing a new Starting Line record?
We haven't really had too many conversations about it. I would be interested in doing another 7-inch, something more focused. I like that it's not a single and it's not really an EP or a record. The whole package of a 7-inch is a cool way to let out some new material because the people who really care about it are going to hunt for something like that. It's not trying to flash a new record in front of people's faces. If you're still keeping tabs on us, this is for those people. That being said, I'll never say never to anything. If I'm feeling inspired and the songs come about, I wouldn't be opposed to doing a new record at all.
"Anyways" is the A-Side to the 7-inch. It feels like a pretty frustrated song.
You put it perfectly—It was a frustration vent. It was a time in my life where a few things were going on. Without getting too detailed about it, I had a dog that got very sick and there was some turbulent relationships in my life and it all came in a span of a couple months. With Vacationer, I always try to keep an optimistic and relaxed view of everything. It's not the place for me to go to really get disgruntled about anything. While writing like that feels really good at the time, it's not something that feels good to sing every night. I always honored that with the Starting Line.
The Starting Line lyrics have always been a diary of more or less struggles of everyday life, or triumphs. It has always been a place for me to go to get it down on paper, to get it out of me. It seemed like less of a right place, right time for me to throw a fit and be honest about the things that were frustrating me. It's something I was a little bit scared to do with music. I wanted to make people happy with the music I was making, but if I wasn't happy, something had to be worked out. There had to be some kind of therapy going one. That's what a lot of these songs are about.
"Anyways" doesn't sound like the Starting Line's last album, 2007's Direction, but there's a line being drawn there. "Quitter," the first track on the B-Side, doesn't. It's your punk jam.
Yeah, and that felt really great, to just use that rhythm and tempo again. That was, Let's throw a capo on a guitar and make some stranger, almost folkier chords that were played in a full-on, down-stroke, punk rock style. "Quitter," even in the name just says "Oh man, fuck everything." I wasn't really having much of a chance to say that with music. It was really refreshing, in a new way, to be able to jump back into the pool. There were a lot of punk rock records that were coming out that were really getting me excited about the genre again. There were people really stripping it down and it was losing some of the pop, over-sweetened thing that was happening in the mid-to-late 2000s. It was a return to form and it really sparked something inside of me to make me really want to do that kind of punk rock.
“I wanted to make people happy with the music I was making, but if I wasn't happy, something had to be worked out.”
The term "emo revival" gets thrown around a lot, but it extends to pop-punk, too. It's nice to hear that these new tunes happened because you felt the hunger again, not simply because it seems like the timing is right for everyone to come back.
I do lift my eyebrows at a lot of bands that are trying to make a splash again. My motivation isn't to throw our band back on the radar. I have a pretty good grip on who we are and what our place is in the scene. I'm really comfortable with it. We have our fans, and these are people that have been keeping up with us for a while and maybe some new people will find out about this thing. I hope there are people out there that have this urge for a primal, meat and potatoes-style of pop-punk. Going back to Face to Face...the thing was that I finally started to identify what it was that I loved about the genre in the first place. That maybe got a little lost on me in the decade of making music. Over the span of being in the Starting Line I found out about Radiohead and all this crazy stuff. I started to listen to a bunch of stuff that wasn't pop-punk. To now be able to rekindle that fire of what it is that makes punk music so exciting, it's a lot easier to return to form.
The Starting Line seemed to be a bit earlier, too, to this idea of revivalism. You already did the 10-year-anniversary, "play the record front-to-back" thing with Say It Like You Mean It.
I was even a little bit reluctant to do that! At the time I wasn't really ready to concede that that was our record, our staple of songs. Then it seemed like we had a lot of support to do that and all the shows did really well. I looked at it more as a celebration of where we came from and that's how I'm trying to frame everything that I do with this band. I have such gratitude for what this band did for my life. It really changed it in such a great way. I get to make music every day of my life.