Set Your Goals

author PP date 23/05/12

I'm standing outside Pumpehuset together with Jordan from Set Your Goals just before their show with Every Time I Die with a paper in my hand that I had approximately expected to produce a roughly 10 minute interview. It turns out that Jordan hasn't changed much since the last time I interviewed him in that he has so much to say and refrains from answering questions from just one perspective. That's a good thing - the resulting interview ended up being almost 25 minutes long as we take a journey into the depths of Set Your Goals, about their new songs, their split with Eulogy, their thoughts on Groezrock, and what exactly happened in the studio with their previous produced Brian McTernan. Read on to find out more.

RF.net: How's it going?
Jordan: Very good. We've been on this tour for almost two weeks. It's been awesome. It's been a different kind of tour for us, and it's allowing us to tour a lot of places such as up here, where we haven't been to in like five years, so it's cool.

RF.net: So what's new in Set Your Goals other than the two new songs you have?

Jordan: We have those two songs out, and we are writing more. We plan to do an album that will hopefully be album during the spring or the summer of next year. We're gonna go with Chad who did this last record. He's produced a few bands and he plays guitar for New Found Glory, so I think he has a really good ear for the kind of music that we make. We're gonna plan to work with him and hopefully put a whole new record out. The two songs out right now are on Epitaph worlwide.

We're planning to do this tour. This summer we'll come back for festivals in July and August, and we'll be doing some shows in the US on a tour for a shop called Zumiez. There's free shows at these mall parking lots. So we're gonna do some of those this summer, too, and then take some time off the end of the year to write some more music.

RF.net: Couple of weeks ago you played at Groezrock in Belgium. What did you think about that show?
Jordan: It was awesome. That's definitely one of the best festivals. I think all the festivals we've ever played in Europe have always been better than the ones in the US, whether they be in the UK or mainland, and Groezrock is definitely up there with probably one of the best of all time for the ones we've been able to play. We played in 2009 and this year, and it's grown so much since three years ago. I think that year they only had a couple of stages, and now they had five stages, Macbeth had a small stage, and over the course of two days I saw a good 15+ bands play. And that was just bands I was able to see, they had music going all day, it's really neat.

RF.net: What was your favorite of the bands?

Jordan: It was awesome to see Refused play. I really enjoyed it. It's the kind of band you'd never think you'd see play. I liked a lot of the stuff they had to say on stage. I think they're really excited about being able to play again, and didn't expect especially their catalogue to do what it did some 12-14 years later. So that was cool. I loved watching Terror show, it was probably the biggest shows I've seen them play in terms of the amount of people. And Gorilla Biscuits show was the best Gorilla Biscuits show I've seen since they've been playing again. We did a show with them in Berlin five years ago, so it was cool to see them again in Europe. That was the last show we had seen until now. It was like madness in the tent.

RF.net: So you said you saw Refused, but you also saw Terror, and Scott Vogel said a whole bunch of things about Refused on stage, what do you think about that?

Jordan: Yeah definitely, it's one thing that you have to wonder about. Why are bands getting back together? Is it for the dollar, you know? He definitely said some things that I think should be brought to light in a sense of when a band is doing anything, I think you always kind of have to think about your well being and being able to make a living. But what is too much? I think with them, they influenced such a generation of music with an album that, you know, they really tried to get it out there, and people just weren't understanding it, so they disbanded. But I think the cool thing is that though they are making a lot of money now doing this, I think it evens out to the amount of time they've been separated. I know they all have families, and so I kind of try to see the both sides of it, and just watch their set and just enjoy the music for nothing else.

I liked the one thing he said during the Refused set where he was saying I didn't know if I'd be able to play these songs when we got asked to do the reunion, because for a few years they'd been asked, and he had to go back and revisit all of their lyrics and see if he still believed in the same things he was singing about. He said that he very much did, and he thought that they applied more now today than they did ever before, so I thought that was really cool when he said that, and that really struck me. I wish they played a lot of songs pre-"Shape Of Punk To Come", but you know, that CD is awesome, and I think that for getting back together now they had the best setlist they could have put together for all the different fans that they might have. Yeah, really cool.

And yeah, Terror crushed it. They were the best sounding live band next to Gorilla Biscuits of the whole festival. Just heavy, and so much energy. The crowd was just buzzing. I was amped, I had adrenaline. For Terror, I was down in the crowd, and for Gorilla Biscuits, I was on stage for a song and then I was in the crowd. The minute they started, everyone just launched off the stage.

RF.net: So getting back to Set Your Goals. I noticed you guys have been supporting some pretty heavy bands lately. Obviously now Every Time I Die and before you were on a Parkway Drive tour and August Burns Red tour. So how do you end up on these really heavy tours when your sound isn't really that heavy , it's way more melodic and more punk rock?
Jordan: It's very much so. I think it's all about wanting to play music and to tour as much as possible, so it really always comes down to whoever really wants to take us out. Like if we have a gap where we're not doing anything, and there's a band that wants to take us out, as was with Parkway and August Burns Red, and now with Every Time I Die. We also listen to all these bands, so for us it's like: we can go on tour and see some of our favorite bands. There is the risk of people possibly not being into you. Parkway in the US was really hard because in the United States people are a lot more into just one kind of music, but in Europe and in Canada where the August Burns Red tour was, people are a lot more open minded. I've noticed that with these shows on this tour: people are really responsive and receptive, and excited. I see a lot of smiling faces even in the back, where it's a little bit calmer. In the front we have a lot of people singing along that might know the words, but in the back, people are just sort of watching. But they're having fun watching it, they're taking it in. It's a new band that they haven't seen before. So I really appreciate being able to tour outside of America, especially with different kinds of music, because I think people there are more like us where they listen to all kinds of music.

But we did the Warped Tour with Parkway Drive in 2010, and it was awesome. We had a lot of the same fans. So even though that tour was a little split for us with their fans not really being sure about us, we did have a lot of kids who were excited to see us, which was awesome.

RF.net: Do you have any influence yourself on what tours you go on, or do you just sort of get put on them?

Jordan: No we do definitely have input to it. If we get asked about it, we either get asked by the band directly or by our booking agent will email us and say "hey, so and so's booking agent emailed me and wanted to know if you wanted to do some shows". More often than not, we've pretty much always said yes. I think one time we got offered a tour with Hollywood Undead and we said no. We were just like "That's weird" [laughs].

But we're really excited about when people respond to us and do wanna take us out. When we're putting together our own tour, like we just did this tour in the US with Cartel. We really have wanted to tour with them since forever. We bothed started around the same time, but they always were sort of into different kind of music than we were. So the option came with Cartel and us, and it made sense, and we got to put Mixtapes on the show from Ohio. They're really cool, they're kind of like old 90s band, kind of like Green Day... they're really neat. They brought something really new, and I've known some of them for a while. It was cool to reminisce about old bands we grew up with. And Fireworks was on the show, who we've known for a while.

RF.net: I remember that tour. It looked really awesome. It never came here though.

Jordan: I know! We're coming back with Mixtapes in the UK, and they're gonna come to Europe on their own. We're doing festivals, and they're gonna do their own shows. But they're a great band, and yeah, I'd love to do that all over again.

RF.net: Now you guys have released three albums and a few EPs, how would you say that you've changed over the years?
Jordan: We always try to keep an energy and keep music as fast as possible. We have a few songs that didn't get recorded from these two that we just did, that are really like throwback songs to our first record and even our demo. And we were gonna save them for the album, but I think with the music, we've always wanted to keep it really energetic. Our last record was our first venture into sort of like... I guess a new realm. I don't want to say cerebral, but kind of thinking a lot about what we were saying. I'm trying to do something a little different, but still stay the same.

With that record and with the producer we went with...because we went in with a bunch of songs, and he really made us re-shape everything and sort of re-write it. And I think that the end result was a record that's for our band and for people who've been into our band to kind of hard to understand, but again, being over here we found out that people really did get it, and absorbed it a lot more. It takes time to grow, but I think just no matter what, we always wanna be able to think about what we're saying lyrically, and the music just to be fun and to fit the mood of what we're singing about. So those are the two things we always want to stick by, and having a message.

RF.net: The new record was a bit more polished and more mature-sounding compared to the first two records. I wanted to hear if that was a byproduct of Brian McTernan working with you guys. Would you say then that the record doesn't actually represent what you really wanted to do with it?
Jordan: It's interesting because in the end of the day, it definitely was what we wanted. But the first few days, it was a curveball, because he's very strict in a way. He knows every much what he wants, so when he's dealing with a band like us, who is also very much used to leading our own music and writing it, and being very involved, having him come in and be in the same kind of mindset we clashed a lot, but as a result we had to find a balance. There was a lot of hard times during the recording where we didn't know if the record was gonna get finished, or if we wanted to keep doing the album at all. He stayed committed to it, and we stayed committed to it, and he really put himself out there a lot more than I think he may have with any other album that he's done before. Because there was a lot of stuff that was happening in our band and in other people's personal lives...there are things that you kind of only go through once or twice in a lifetime. So him having been himself there before, because he's a good 10 years older than we are, and he's been in a few bands that have gone through the motions and broken up and/or just really lived up to their full extent.

So at the very end, when the record was done, and when we were in our last days in studio with him in Baltimore, we were all really like: we couldn't have asked for a better result from how it started and what it was looking like, to what it became. And he taught us more than anything to have our music ready and to attach ourselves to it, but not so much so that you can't see other sides to it I guess. Although we both come from punk rock and hardcore, he grew up in Washington D.C., and we've grown up listening to all these bands, but we grew up in California. They're on different sides of the country and still very different cultures to grow up in a way, although we both like the same bands. So I think he really benefited us, and his influence is going to stick with us now on all the music that we do. I think that the songs that we did with Chad we wouldn't have been able to do if he hadn't had done "Burning At Both Ends" with Brian.

RF.net: So was it because of the recording process that you experienced with Brian that you decided to not go with him for the next album, and instead go with Chad?
Jordan: Exactly. I think that we both knew leaving the studio that we had learned everything we needed from each other. We didn't leave on bad terms at all, everything was really good and a lot of positivity was happening those last few weeks we were in the studio with him. And so I think now it's just sort of at a point where we can both let each other go and to do what we will do. He's got a lot of great things going for him, and I think he's happy letting us go now to work with other people, I'm sure.

RF.net: I've noticed from the new songs immediately that they are way more brighter and like you said, throwbacks to the old sound. So was that what you were going for?
Jordan: Yeah definitely in a way. Writing them we wanted to pull back a bit because we had ventured out so far on this last CD. I don't want to say it was a darker CD, but a lot of the stuff that certain members were going through. But definitely, "Happy New Year" and "Trenches" are darker, which I really like playing. With these songs... now that we're in a cool place now and you go through that rough darker spot, and you can see everything now, and it's like wow, writing music can be really fun again, and how it was when we wrote our first album and all the songs that we've done to shape the band and formed in the first place. And with these two it just felt like... the first song we put out got written on the Warped Tour over the summer, and you're just out in the sun having fun with your friends. You can't help but feel really good. So that first song got written, and we thought it was really fun, so we decided to record it. And the second song got written with no pressure. They wanted to do two songs, you wanna write another one? So we wrote the second one and put it together.

So we definitely want to throw back the sound of it to a much more fun and summer-ish sounding CD. We've been listening to Millencolin for many years and when they put out "Life On A Plate" and "Pennybridge Pioneers", those were two CDs at different years where I'd listen to them all summer, but then over the course of the year, you'd remember those good times. Hopefully the new songs will sound like that.

RF.net: So how come you decided to put out the two songs now instead of waiting for the album? I noticed there was a mixed reaction from fans and also the media for the previous record, so is this sort of a reminder that you guys are coming back?
Jordan: Yeah, definitely. We wanted people to know that we want to write music for pretty much ever. As long as we can afford to stay together, and I think even if we were to ever to stop touring full time, which isn't the plan, but if we ever did, I don't think there's a reason to ever have to disband and not write music, and put it out and not do tours. So we wanted to do the two songs. It was really fun to do, and we were really excited about recording. We were really anxious, we really wanna do two songs, or as many as we can, we don't have to do a full album, but if we can do a few just before we go on these next shows with Cartel, that'd be neat. We had like three months off, so there was totally enough time, and Epitaph was really excited about it, and agreed to help us do it if we wanted to make it happen.

So we went down to LA for three days to record them and to mix them. It was cool to put it out. We weren't worried - we don't care if people don't like them - we wanted to do them because we wanted to do them. And we want our fans who love to come see us play to hear them. And all the people who had stayed with us, and the people who, when we played "Burning At Both Ends" songs, are singing along...we were doing about four songs off that album every night in the US for the first little bit of time. And people knew all the words, who were also singing all the words to all our other CDs... that's who we wanted to write these songs for. Because we were like "wow, you get the band, you don't just like one CD, you kind of like enjoy our band", so these songs are for those people more than anything. And it just so happened that we were able to kind of revive some other people who might have fallen off. I've also found online that people are responding every day to our Facebook, saying "when I first heard Burning At Both Ends I turned it off or I just listened to only one song and decided I don't like it, and now I find myself listening to it all the time a year later". That's cool. I like when CDs can grow, because that's happened with me. The Movielife put out their last album, and when I first heard it, it wasn't what I expected, but I didn't want to stop listening to it yet. So I listened to it a few more times, and then all of a sudden, after about a month, it became my favorite CD that they've put out. And the same thing with a few other bands.

So it was good to put out our new songs.

RF.net: So would you then say that these new songs are kind of a representation of what the next album will sound like?
Jordan: Yeah, that's the direction we wanna go in and have it sound a lot more fun and just to enjoy getting really cool sounds out of the recording. We really went in this time and didn't think about it too much, we did it really quick. We put thought into the lyrics and everything, but with the music, we tracked it, we wrote some leads that we enjoyed, and hopefully we can do that again. I hope that the CD will sound like that. And that's definitely what the other songs sound like.

RF.net: So if we go back a little bit in history, there was some talk about your manager buying out your contract with Eulogy for a large sum of money. Is there any truth to that?
Jordan: Yeah. How it worked was that we were working with two managers at the time, who worked together at the same time. We're with the one now, but at the time, one of them was like "I really think you guys can do something awesome, and if it came down to it, and I had to find a way to get money together on my own however that may be to get out, and then we can do the record and get it to a label after, we'll do that", but we were very fortunate, because while the talks about that were going on, Epitaph came to us, and they had seen us play on the Warped Tour in 2008, and literally on that day, I think it was that same day after the show, Brett Gurewitz found one of our guys, and he's like "lets make this happen".

So what happened was that he pulled a certain amount together, and then we did a publishing deal, and the publishing money we gave to Eulogy. So Epitaph threw down a percentage, and we gave 100% of the deal to them to pay the rest off. So it ended up being a lot of money, but it was worth it, because even if we were to end up being in debt to Epitaph for longer, we were able to continue to be a band.

RF.net: So what was it about the Eulogy record deal that you wanted to get out of?

Jordan: Basically we were in a box. There was no room for growing, it was hard for us to get our music out there. The internet helped a lot to spread "Mutiny!", but the record wasn't as available unless people were to go online and buy it. The distribution wasn't that great, and also he was very...not honest about the money he was making on the band. So it wasn't that we wanted to make all this money on the record, but what bothered us was that he was making money and he was spending it on cars and his house, and all this stuff that he doesn't even believe in. He doesn't even care about the bands on his label, he just wants to sort of meet that criteria to make money. Whereas Epitaph is like, "we really want this band, if we're gonna be in debt because of this band, we don't care because we want them". That's why they are able to pick up all the bands that they are. It's not that they are throwing money out, but they don't let money be a barrier.

The thing with Eulogy in the end of the day was "okay, you are pocketing a lot of stuff under the table, and it's like a very unfair thing". We don't care if you give us the money, but at least use it to help push your other bands, to push our record, to grow your label... so we were just like this is a really shady thing and lets get out of it. It was nice to go to Epitaph who are like a 100% honest label. They're the #2 biggest independent label in the world, and they have the biggest selling independent record of all time. They really are just as people pretty much everything that we would wanna be associated with. We've been friends with them since that first day, because we noticed with Eulogy, it was like "wow these guys are really cool" and then a month later, like "oh, whoops". With Epitaph, it's like "these guys are really cool", and then three years later, our label A&R we know so well, his wife rode with us on Warped Tour to promote a film she's working with, and he comes out on tour with us. It's neat to see these people all the time, not just talk to them on email, to actually see them at our shows. They come to every show. Every time we've ever played in LA, they'll be there. And if they're in New York and somewhere else, they come see us play. It's like: you guys have so much going on, that's what we do, we go to see bands play. We like music. That's very awesome.

So hopefully, I really wanna keep working with them. I think the plan is to do the CD with them. I don't know what the contract is, we have to catch up on it, but we just did these songs with them, and they're always sending us press, so for as long as we can stay with them, it's kind of like a dream come true. I grew up with all their CDs, so they're the best of the best.

RF.net: So that was my last question, I'll let you off the hook now, do you have anything to add now?
Jordan: Yeah, I started working with this non-profit organization that my sister works with, so I'm just gonna plug it. It's Stand Against DV, which is for domestic violence, so it's standagainstdv.org. They basically pool resources together to stop domestic violence in families. And she was doing a fundraiser last month for child-abuse prevention month. My friend Wayne and I, he plays guitar in Man Overboard, we were talking when Adam from Beastie Boys passed away just a couple of weeks ago. We were talking about how it's so cool how he always used their band as a voice. He got really behind the Tibetian freedom concerst, and he was always investing his time and money into charities, so we though we could do that as well. So that's one thing I'm really starting to get involved with, and trying to spread word about it, and hopefully get people more involved with it, any little thing they can. So that's something I would add if I could, for sure.

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