If you’ve ever been to WCDB, then you have something in common with the guys in Trapped Under Ice, who visited the station a couple weeks back. TUI came upstate for the annual Rat-A-Tat tattoo and music expo, hosted at Northern Lights by Upstate Black N Blue. The event happened over the course of an entire weekend with this year’s headliners Sick Of It All and Trapped Under Ice on Saturday and Sunday respectably, alongside 25 other hardcore outfits, both locally-based and spanning the Northeast.
photo by andrew franciosa, trapped under ice at the shelter skatepark in 2009
I unfortunately didn’t make either day of shows – but I did participate in the following interview via text message.. And I will say I have listened to TUI’s latest album, Big Kiss Goodnight , in its entirety, pretty much weekly since it was released back in October, which probably qualifies a slot in my own personal and imaginary “best of” 2k11 list – and that must count for something.
Thanks out to the guys in TUI, Danielle Mallon, John Torn, Gabby McGowan, Tobias Pettinelli and other WCDB fam for helping with the interview and asking me to assist with it from afar. You can listen to the interview in its uncut entirety here or you hit the jump to read what I transcribed. Paragraph breaks = new person talking.
Bonus: check out TUI’s Big Kiss Goodnight as you’re catching up in the best albums of the past year, regardless of whichever genre you normally seek out and be sure to keep WCDB locked during the week and on Friday’s 6-8pm for KAB radio. TUI also just released a new video for “Pleased To Meet You” which you can check out here.
WCDB: What was it like working with Chad Gilbert? [of New Found Glory]?
TUI: Real terrible experience, terrible to work with Chad. He’s a real jerk. I hope that it never happens again. He sucks. That’s not what you were looking for, was it?
WCDB: You can be not serious..
TUI: Seriously, he rocked. It was a great experience. We feel like he took a lot of our ideas and made them better, which is the objective.
We’ve been friends with him for a long time and he knows our band really well, so that made it a lot easier. I don’t know if he would have necessarily tried to find a producer otherwise.
WCDB: How did you link up to have him produce the album?
TUI: It was really natural in our relationship, just kind of happened. He produced Terror’s record (Keepers of the Faith) and that came out awesome.
I feel like it’s something we joked about with him prior to it happening. Being like “wouldn’t that be funny” and then he was like “I would love to do that” – Didn’t think it’d be something he’d be interested in doing.
To your average person, it might seem weird that he would produce our record, but by the time that we realized it was going to happen, it felt right. It felt totally natural.
WCDB: What was it like playing alongside New Found Glory in the past in comparison to working with Chad in the studio?
TUI: When we played with NFG, there was like 20 girls up front crying while we were playing.
I stage dove on a group of like 13 year old girls and then when the song was over, over the applaud of the crowd, I could hear girls screaming and crying and I thought it was because they really liked us, but they were just really sad because I jumped on them. I got offstage and apologized, tried to make everything right – and that’s it. It was really different.
That was my first show ever with the band. So it was kind of crazy, that being my first show. Lots of people and stuff there. Was a great experience.
Definitely less crying girls when we were recording, so that was good. Recording was so fun. It was the opposite of any other recording experience we’ve had. Went to the beach on the weekends, had a lot of smoothies and jamba juice, lots of Chiptole and coffee. I get real sentimental thinking about that whole period of my life, and our lives really, it was great for so many reasons. You kinda had to be there.
WCDB: Is it weird having people read [listen to] such personal lyrics?
TUI: It’s pretty much mandatory to have personal lyrics with hardcore music. The whole idea of hardcore music is about being mad, you know, anything that upsets you should be very personal. There definitely are hardcore bands that I feel like don’t write personal lyrics and I think that’s kind of weird… sometimes.
WCDB: Like they just want to beat each other up.
TUI: Yeah, I’m kind of an emotional person.
Brad’s very emotional that’s why he likes the House Cat and can relate. [Emo techno joke somewhere in there] It’s like dance music but it makes you sentimental.
That’s what we are. Hardcore music, hardcore dance music for the pit. Makes you feel sentimental. So I would hope that you know people can read or hear the emotional lyrics in Big Kiss Goodnight, and relate to it and feel apart of what I’m talking about.
WCDB: Does your creative effort push a new direction without losing sight of what TUI has built over the past couple of years?
TUI: That’s a cool question. Every release, we’ve pushed way further and tried new things and our sound has gradually evolved that way. This record, obviously, wasn’t an exception.
I think one thing that was kind of important that we tried was – I don’t want to say this wrong- but we tried to dumb down some of the things we did – I feel like with our last record, which I love our last record but it’s just very different – we really emphasized on technical guitar riffing on some parts, some of the songs were structured a little weird, we thought too hard, it was cool to break everything down to the bare essentials, more punk-influenced. It’s a little bit more rounded.
WCDB: When did you guys get out from under the ice?
TUI: We’re still under it, man.
After our first EP released called Stay Cold, that’s when we kind of strayed away from that metaphor, I guess you could say that was the moment in time when we were released. Released the beast, from the ice.
WCDB: Of all the places that you’ve played recently, has there been one show that was really awesome? And has there been one show that just sucked?
TUI: We’ve been on tour for the last month right now. No city has sucked. We’ve played a couple cities that aren’t really big cities where you would draw a lot of people for a hardcore punk show, but even the smaller shows had like 80 people and it was pretty crazy because everyone there was there with the intention of jumping off the stage, and going real wild, having a good time at the punk rock show. A lot of cities, Montreal is always crazy. Everywhere in California, Texas, Florida. There’s not one city I could pinpoint. Tampa Bay. The stage was like 7 and a half feet tall but kids were flying off of it left and right.
WCDB: How do you compare in your own words Big Kiss Goodnight from your first record?
TUI: I’d say this record is way more well rounded than our last record. I think the last one it was a lot more written for the guitar, everything followed that, but this one we tried to just write better songs as a whole and it shows through, because there’s not any point where it’s just like, a guitar record. It’s a whole band record. Bass, vocals all have their time to shine.
I think there’s one thing I’d say about the new record, it’s a lot more straight forward. The first record is great, I can say that because I wasn’t in the band when the record came out. Half the songs are a bit out of left field, but this record almost everything is more out of right field. A little more focused overall.
For me personally, I write almost all the lyrics. I changed a lot as a person, became a lot less negative (following the first album, Secrets of the World). The lyrics reflect that. Hardcore is angry music, but maybe like, the direction is a little more hopeful angry as opposed to depressed, sad, lonely angry.
WCDB: Did the two years in between records influence the final product at all?
TUI: Like I said, as far as lyrics. It’s a lot of time for growth as a person. We just spent more time writing music than we have on any piece of music before.
If we just recorded 6 months after that record, it’d have been similar. Needed time to grow as songwriters.
WCDB: We can take that question further and how would you compare Big Kiss Goodnight from the Stay Cold EP?
TUI: We were much younger and our concept of how writing music goes was a lot more ignorant, but still in a way I think that’s cool. It’s like more innocent. I think a lot of people will always associate their favorite Trapped Under Ice release with Stay Cold, that’s the release that people heard, that’s like the defined Trapped Under Ice. We’re not going to redefine ourselves, so there’s no record where people are gonna be like “Oh my God, I’ve never heard anything like this.” We’re gonna be the same band, do Trapped Under Ice, but keep improving on it, making it cooler. If you want some crazy, out of the box, there’s other bands to do that. We’re always gonna be Trapped Under Ice, that’s who we want to be.
WCDB: How did your very first show ever compare with your last?
TUI: Our very first show was cool; was in our hometown. We had released a demo before, at least on the Internet, all our friends knew what was up, knew it was time to woop each other’s butts in the pit, so lots of butt-wooping going down. Our last show was today at a tattoo convention in Albany. It was a cool experience, definitely different, not a hardcore show environment. It was tattoo convention environment – that’s not a negative thing -it’s just cool, different vibe. Definitely people jumping off the stage, getting in the pit, going wild, getting tattooed in the back.
On the other side of the spectrum, I feel our personal performances were a lot different. On our first show, people wearing sandals and zoning out, on drugs, and Justice was like out of breath every 10 seconds, wearing a yellow sweater. But now, I think things look a lot better. I think our performances have gotten better over the years.
I’d hope so. I hope I’m not the weak link.
WCDB: What is your favorite part about touring?
TUI: I love making new friends and seeing new places, that may sound corny or whatever, but even when we play cities we’ve played, every time I learn something new and see something new. Building long lasting friendships, that unless you get in the van and ride with for a month, two months and do everything together, eat, sleep make bowel movements, whatever it is, you grow together. There’s no way to bond like that.
One cool thing about being on tour is it makes you think about what you really need, what really makes you happy. When I’m home I have this huge list of things I have to do that make my day, but on tour, if I can go to Chiptole, my day is already great. If I can sleep in a bed, it’s insane. If the weather’s good, I’m flying so high. There’s so many things that can just make your day so much easier.
Why we gotta take a break every now and then.
Making friends, meeting people, that’s great too. On a more personal level, seeing places that are places I wouldn’t have gone to if it wasn’t for this band, I probably would be a high school guidance counselor or something right now, which is cool, but that’s an alternative. To me that’s the best part, seeing places, making friends.
WCDB: How do you “get to know” a city’s flavour in the short amount of time you’re in a new place?
TUI: First, my new thing is experiencing a city through its gyms. Going to the gym and seeing what kind of babes are in the gym and muscle steroid freaks, people’s attitudes. You go to a gym in one city there’s a bunch of little dudes in short shorts jogging around – there was a gym in Philadelphia, in a prominently gay neighborhood, where peope went there to socialize, with different goals then me. Then I go to a gym in New Mexico, huge power-lifter freaks, people doing crazy things. I really like that, tells me a lot about the city. That and the food.
I don’t think you always get to. Only thing you can walk to is a gas station and that’s it – in the worst area. That happens a lot. It is cool if you do get to. Couple hours to walk downtown, always awesome. I try to go to as many sports bars as possible, talk to the locals. I’m a big coffee shop fan.
WCDB: What have you learned about the guys in Backtrack while on the road that you could’ve gone without knowing?
TUI: I know a lot about what they look like naked. There ya go. I don’t care. We’re all pretty good friends.
WCDB: How do you define success when playing live?
TUI: Sometimes we judge our sets with the analogy of a painting. How’d you do tonight? Some rough brush strokes, type of thing. If you have a record out, every song is a painting. How close can you recreate that painting? It might not be 100%, but if it’s 98% close, that’s the goal.
I always think about how upset my mom would get at our shows. At a typical TUI show, my mom would be devastated and that feels great.
Bonus: At 29 minutes, TUI asks about Keep Albany Boring and Danielle Mallon explains it beautifully. After that, TUI shares whether they prefer Peanut Butter over the Internet, etc.