Interview: Lifetime

When it comes to a band like Lifetime, whose legacy spans almost longer than my entire lifetime, it’s difficult to know where to begin. To put it plainly, Lifetime is all the stuff that legends are made of, and in this area, they’re music royalty. They took melodic hardcore, emo and pop-punk, and transformed the genres into their own catchy mix of fire that countless bands, including the likes of New Found Glory (see their cover of Lifetime’s ‘Cut The Tension’) and Silverstein (watch their cover of ‘Rodeo Clown’), cite as one of their primary influences. And in the process, they managed picked up what many consider some of the most loyal fans on the planet. They’ve been to Europe, Japan and all over, but according to drummer Scott Golley, they still consider their hometown shows to be their favorite.

Re-forming in 2005, Lifetime still plays shows, records and does many of the things that other bands do. Unfortunately, conflicting schedules surrounding jobs, other bands, families, etc., prohibit them from getting back together full-time, pumping out records and touring.

When Lifetime does announce a show, it’s guaranteed to be fast, fun, loud and one of the best experiences of a your life. It’s also guaranteed to sell out quickly.

For those fans lucky enough to have tickets, Lifetime will be playing two shows this weekend, with support from Title Fight and Iron Chic. One is Saturday at Europa in Brooklyn, and the other is Sunday at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia.

Lifetime drummer Scott Golley was cool enough to take time out of his schedule to speak with Pop-Break’s Maxwell Barna about what the band’s been up to, their trip to Europe this spring, and *GASP* THE POSSIBILITY OF NEW MUSIC IN 2012! Enjoy.

P.S. -– I’ll see you folks Sunday in Philly!

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Pop-Break: Lifetime is a pretty complicated band. From what I’ve always understood, you guys formed in 1990, called it quits in ’97, came back for a reunion in ’05 and decided to re-form. Then you guys signed to Fueled by Ramen and put out a record with them, then left, right?

Scott Golley: Yeah, well, yes and no. It was actually Decaydance [Records], which was an imprint of Fueled By Ramen. Something like [Fall Out Boy bassist and vocalist] Pete Wentz’s label, I guess. But Fueled By Ramen pretty much did all the leg work as far as getting everything out.

PB: And then you guys were off the label, but still have management, and you’re back, but don’t play shows too often. Is that the general rundown of how things work? Am I missing anything?

SG: [laughs] Yeah, as far as the label thing goes, it was really just a one shot deal anyway. We had no obligations to [Decaydance Records] other than just the one album that we did, and that was sort of the end of it. And then I really don’t know what exactly happened with the label itself, that it sort of got absorbed by a major — but who knows. I really try to stay away from that end of the business.

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But we do have people who still work for us, I guess just because for as much as we love doing the band, everybody’s lives just got so complicated by having children and doing other stuff; being spread across the country. We kind of need to have somebody to take care of the logistics. When we do finally get together, we don’t want to worry about stuff. Not that we’re lazy, but to coordinate between five people, we sort of need that little babysitter going on.

PB: Absolutely. So who’s your management now?

SG: Well, Outerloop [Management] handles whatever business stuff goes on as far as touring. Like when we went to Japan, they handled all the paper work, that sort of deal. Mike Mowery is the guy who runs that for us. And we also have a tour manager, Rob, who’s now in Vancouver. And he’s just like one of those guys who is so comfortable to have around because you just know you won’t have to worry about anything. He’s like the sixth member of the band. We don’t necessarily need him, but we fly him to wherever we go if he can pull it off, just because he’s a great friend and totally one of those guys who gets shit done. You can just sit back and not have to worry about anything. God, we really sound lazy, don’t we? [laughs]

PB: Every couple of years or so some shithead on the internet spreads a rumor that you guys are going to get back together full-time and that you’re going to tour, that it’s going to be crazy and everyone should get pumped for it. Let’s set the record straight right now. Have you guys ever considered the possibility?

SG: We never could. It would just be absolutely impossible. There’s … Let me try to count. One, two, three, four … there’s like, nine kids between all of us. [laughs] There is just no way any of us could get that kind of a free pass. It’s just not possible. Ari [Katz] just had his third, Pete [Martin] just had his second; they’re lucky they can get away for a weekend, you know what I mean? I guess it goes back to having people do stuff for us with management and whatnot. It’s something that we all could do for ourselves, but the people that work for us are our friends anyway. They’ve been doing it for however long. And it’s to the point where we barely function as a band as it is, so when we get together the last thing we want to have to do is have to worry about a bunch of little stuff. We’re all best friends, we enjoy each other’s company, we enjoy writing and playing music together, but aside from that, that’s about as much of a commitment as we can all give.

PB: I’ve been seeing bands in sweaty New Brunswick basements since I was in high school. I’m only 22, so you guys were a little before my time, unfortunately. I came into it on the tail end of what I like to call “The Era of the Ergs.” Every time I hear “Theme From A New Brunswick Basement Show,” I just smile. What’s the story behind that song? What’s the significance of the song to you guys as a band?

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SG: There was a house, I think the address was either 57 or 67 Handy St., and at the time it was just this weird punk rock house. Chris Ross [formerly of Ensign, Nora, The Fire Still Burns; current drummer for Torchbearer], was sort of like the person responsible for the house. And then Ari lived there for a while, while there were three or four other dudes living there for a while — all at the same time! And there were just these killer shows that somehow wound up going on in this basement all the time. Friends’ bands would come in from out of town. Like, Ignite played there a couple times. The last show we had there got shut down by the cops, but Sick of It All played there. It was just this weird and incredible dynamic that I don’t know if they could have pulled off anywhere else. But somehow, these guys had their shit together. They’d charge admission at the door, and it was pretty much a legitimate operation as far as a venue, but it just so happened to be at someone’s house. It kind of had to be in someone’s house.

The whole song is basically just about Ari’s experience being at home during one of the shows. I think it was actually Ignite who played that night. But yeah, the song has something to do with a girl, at the show that he was at.

PB: Lifetime has two shows coming up! One at Europa in Brooklyn, and one at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. How and why did they come about?

SG: Yeah, we’re totally excited to play. I think they came to fruition because we felt really bad when we weren’t able to play the [The Fest in Gainesville, Fla.] this year, and we put a bunch of time into getting prepared to play shows and whatnot. And Andy [Nelson], who plays in Paint it Black with Dan [Yemin], has a lot to do with R5 Productions, which books the shows down at the Church, and I guess he was able to also set something up in New York. So he’s promoting the shows, which is nice because he’s another friend who’s just kind of doing work for us.

But yeah, we’re excited! Apparently, they sold out pretty frickin’ quick, so …

PB: Yeah! Every single show you guys announce always sells out. It’s almost impossible for slouches like me to get tickets because they sell out so fast. Clearly, you guys still have an extremely loyal fan-base, even 15 or so years later. What does that kind of loyalty mean to you in 2012?

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SG: I mean, it’s completely flattering. The fact that we don’t have an enormous back catalogue of work, where bands like Bad Religion crank out albums every other year, and have been for like, 25 [years], and we’ve only put out a handful of material… The fact that it’s still relevant and people still care is pretty amazing. It’s nice that people have fun with it, and we have such a great vibe at our shows. It’s nice to see people who maybe have just gotten into us in the past five years or so and then people our age who still like coming out and having fun. It’s cool. It’s a great dynamic.

PB: But that’s probably one of the most interesting things about a Lifetime show. You guys draw crowds of people who’ve been listening to you guys for the past 20 years, as well as kids who are just hearing you for the first time. How does it feel to be playing for such a diverse audience? Because there’s such a wide audience demographic at your shows, is it ever difficult to connect to them?

SG: I think the fact that we still do what we do is kind of a testament to the fact that we still consider ourselves kids in that sort of sense, maybe. Everybody kind of has their full-time gigs and responsibilities and that kind of stuff, but this is sort of like a great outlet to still, in a sort of way, be a kid. There’s not really a huge difference. I mean, if it was a bunch of 12- or 13-year-olds, that might be a little weird, you know? But I feel like I’m still not that far out of touch with what’s going on that I can’t hold a conversation with someone in their late teens or 20s.

It’s cool that our old fan-base still comes out, because I don’t really get the chance to get out to too many shows anymore. It’s nice that people still care enough to come out. Plus, the scene always kind of restocks itself, so there’s always going to be another younger generation coming through. And if we can still be relevant to them without having done anything in forever, then that’s awesome.

PB: Playing all the shows you have in all the places you’ve been to, do you ever get to see familiar faces that you haven’t seen in years? Like, do you ever spot a face in the audience and say, “Holy shit! That guy! I haven’t seen you in years!” Does that kind of stuff ever happen?

SG: Yeah, it happens. A lot of the people we see on the East Coast, I feel like we almost kind of know them personally now, just because they have been coming out to our shows for so long. When we were in Germany back in the early 90s or so, there was this group of kids who, since most of our shows were in Germany, would travel around, and we’d end up seeing them six or seven times on a tour. And we went to England in 2005 or 2006 and we got done playing this show in London, and these dudes came up to us. It was the same bunch of dudes that were following us around Germany! They heard that we were coming and flew to London to check us out. It was cool, but these guys, they were so hard back in the day. They’d be like, “Eh, you guys… Not so good tonight!” And we’d be like “What the fuck! You guys are busting our balls? Seriously?” And then 10 years later, we run into them in London, and they’re like, “Heyyyyyyy! You got fat!” They just would not hold back at all. And we were just like, “God damn, you guys are still ass holes! But we love you, it’s great! But man …” I think it’s just a cultural thing, where they don’t hold back any punches. Yeah, that was a little weird.

PB: Speaking of Europe, you guys are going back there in the spring for the 2012 Groezrock Festival. How’d that all come about?

SG: That’s one of those things that just sort of just fell in our lap. Dan, with Paint it Black, is obviously much more active in the scene than the rest of us. And I guess the promoter for this festival approached Dan to send out the feelers and see if there was any interest in [Lifetime] coming over. It all kind of worked out for everybody’s schedules, so uh, that’s that.

PB: Are you guys going to be playing any more shows while you’re over there, or no?

SG: [laughs] This is how we do Europe: We get there Thursday. They set up a show for us the day before the festival on Friday, Saturday is the festival and on Sunday we fly home.

PB: You guys have played Europe, you’ve played Japan and you’ve gone to quite a few other places. What has been your favorite place in the world to play, after all these years?

SG: That’s tough to say. Japan was cool in its own way in that the fans are really, really appreciative of you being there, and extend you the most incredible hospitality you’ve ever experienced. Some places in Europe just have a ton of passion, and it’s a little bit different than the Japanese vibe. But uh, I don’t know man. Nothing beats a good fuckin’ Philadelphia show, to be honest with ya. Like, a Philly or New Jersey show, I guess just because it’s [our] home town, but they seem to be the most fun, at least for me, personally. Another thing too, is that when you’re in other countries, culturally it’s different, and you’re trying to just take in the local flavor. And, well, no offense to any other countries, but I kind of prefer doing the hometown kind of thing. The vibes at the Philly shows, the Jersey shows and in New York are just so fun. It’s really a frickin’ blast.

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PB: Let’s talk about technological disconnects. The way that you guys did things in the ’90s and the way you do things now just have to be different. Logistically speaking, it’s got to be very different. How have you guys adapted, over time, to the huge leaps forward in technology from 1990-2012? I mean, thinking about it realistically, that’s a 22-year span…

SG: As far as technology goes, everything we’ve done in the past is still what we do today, even as far as working in the studio. There has been zero transition and zero adjustment between then and now. Maybe somebody got a new guitar head, I got new drums, but aside from that, the way we record and where we record it has remained the same.

PB: [laughs] No, I was talking more about things like promoting. For instance, the idea of fliering used to be huge in the 90s, and was really unavoidable if you wanted people to know what was going on. I mean, it’s still used today, of course, but has widely been replaced by the internet. It seems like today, people just make Facebook events and call it a day. How have things changed for the band in that regard?

SG: Oh! Oh, THAT. Yeah, that was just kind of starting, as far as message boards and that kind of thing, when we were together the first time. And now everyone has Photoshop, everyone can bust out fliers like no one’s business, and you still wind up with promoters who don’t put them out anyway — so I guess that hasn’t changed… But yeah, I guess a testament to how fast news travels now is that we sold out Philadelphia in nine minutes. That would have never happened before because not that many people would have known about it at the same exact time. That’s just society in general, these days. It’s not like we’re these old relics who are totally lost in time or anything. We grew up with that maybe a little bit later on in our lives, as opposed to someone maybe in your generation, where it’s always been a constant, but it’s been a slow transition, and it works. It’s cool that everybody is so connected — to a point. But yeah, that’s obviously changed over time. Everybody is a lot closer together, I suppose.

PB: Is there ANY hope whatsoever that we’re going to hear any new music from you guys? Any time? Ever? Do you have any hopeful news for us?

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SG: Somethin’ is coming out. We’re doing something. I couldn’t even give you a possible time frame, but there is material being worked on.

PB: So there’s material being worked on, but you don’t have any kind of time frame?

SG: Exactly.

PB: So we’ll get something eventually, but we just don’t know when?

SG: I would think, if we really stay focused, practice [and] get together twice a month or so, hopefully we’ll have something done within this year. I can’t promise anything, but all indications seem to point in that direction.

PB: Alright, well that’s enough to keep me satisfied.

So, final question! If you were stuck on a desert island for the rest of your life, and only had one beer to drink for the rest of your life. The quantity doesn’t matter — you could drink one beer a day, 30 a day, one a year, whatever — but it’s one beer for the rest of your life. What would it be?

SG: Shiner Bock. Shiner Bock is brewed around the Austin, Texas, area. I think you can only get it in that area, because I’ve never seen it anywhere outside of that. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about that beer that I could just drink the shit out of it, and it doesn’t get old. Maybe if I had more exposure to it … But if I had to just grab one right now, it would probably be that. I’m sure if I lived around there I’d probably get sick of it quick. I don’t know — that’s what I’m going with now.

all photos courtesy of lifetime via their facebook page