Published Apr 23, 2011For the last few years, Title Fight only released a couple of seven-inch EPs, hard and fast offerings of harsh-throated pop punk and melodic hardcore that weren't breaking any new genre ground but established the band as unshakably confident and a vital live force. The brevity of the teenaged Pennsylvania quartet's material offered little to latch onto, but the maturation between releases was notable and promising. On debut full-length Shed, they not only master their shorter, faster chops, but the songs both open up and slow down. The change is no doubt thanks to one of the band's biggest influences, Walter Schreifels (Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand, Rival Schools), who produced the record and whose latter-day touch can be heard in the slightly off-kilter "Where Am I?" and in the jagged non-verses of the title track, a song about shedding skin ― fitting to a young band coming into their own. Tracks like "Flood of '72" keep some of the old school Saves the Day spirit as well, which is sure to please older fans. Title Fight's tendency towards sincerity couldn't have been captured any more lightly, and Shed sounds like it should have come a lot later in the game than first.
You guys put out a few seven-inches and participated in split singles and compilations before doing the full-length. Did you have a reason for doing it this way or was it just a matter of using the time and resources available to you?
Bassist/vocalist Ned Russin: I think it was a mixture of both. The first seven-inch that we did we recorded at the end of 2007. We wanted that to be our first proper release. We recorded it, got the artwork together, released it and were really happy with it. When it came around to do something else, we were still interested in doing an EP. For us, I think an EP is a really cool thing; it's short, quick and it just kind of gets the point across. That's what we wanted to do: record a few songs, put them out there and show people what we're about. We did that and then our goal was always to write a full-length after that. It took us a lot longer than we expected; I think that was the biggest thing. It took us two years since we recorded last to get the full-length recorded. So it kind of was a little bit of both: it was a time and place thing. At the same time, we didn't have time to kind of sit down and figure everything out and write the full-length. We wanted to write, but we really wanted to go on tour, so that's what we did.
You guys have toured a lot, but this is your first headlining tour coming up. Do you have any expectations for it?
I'm trying to keep my expectations low, to be honest; it's a pretty scary thing. We've done what I guess you could call a headlining tour before, but it wasn't a really a proper tour; it was just a small little run down the East coast really quickly to get us to a tour we were joining or something like that. But never something like this: a proper tour that's hitting major cities and all that stuff. I'm hoping that it goes well! I think we put together a pretty cool tour package. All the bands on the tour are different and that's what we wanted. We didn't want to have a show that's four of the same bands, we wanted each band that are their own thing and have their own kind of crowd. I think every band can kind of transcend that and bring out different kind of people, but we're not all the same exact band playing to the same exact people, and I think that's cool. I hope kids react to that too, because we're excited and I hope they are. We're playing a lot of cities that we've been to before, but never by ourselves. Hopefully the shows are good and I hope people are interested, like the new songs and are excited about the other bands we're bringing out.
I imagine you guys have been able to notice a shift in your crowds from when you first started to this point.
Yeah, definitely. There's been a big difference, especially this past year. Up until this point, we've been doing just pretty much hardcore tours and we could kind of have an idea who's coming out, especially based on who we're touring with. We did all these different tours last year and on those we were playing to completely new and different people. I think in the past year we went from being a band in the hardcore community to being a band that are in that community but can transcend into other kinds of crowds. I think the last year has been the biggest change for us, as far as reaching out to new kids. It's been crazy going from playing to 20 kids in our hometown to playing the Electric Factory in Philadelphia to 2,500 people. That's crazy. I mean, that was on the Bayside tour so there weren't 2,500 people there for us. That'd just be stupid. But we played to them! That was the craziest thing I've done and it's really cool and it's been a definite growth over the past year or so. It's cool and exciting.
Did you guys finish doing the album before you got on board with Side One?
We did the record by ourselves. We'd been in talks with them, but we didn't really finish our agreement with them until January, and we finished the record in December. We did it and funded it ourselves, booked everything and got Walter Schreifels to produce it all on our own. We had been talking to them for some time at that point, but our label situation was really confusing and long and drawn out; it was kind of annoying at that point. We wanted to work with them since before we went to record. We met with Side One in August of last year. We kind of knew we wanted to work with them right away. It took from August until January to finalize everything. It sucked waiting for that to be done, but in the same period we were talking to some other labels, but we weren't contractually obligated to any label. It was just us on our own recording.
How'd it come to be? Did they approach you?
We had kind of talked about trying to find somebody. We were on a record label called Run for Cover Records out of Boston. Our friend Jeff runs it. He does a really great job and has a lot of great bands and does a lot of hard work for all his bands. But, at the same time, we felt like we had a cool opportunity to do something that Jeff didn't really have the resources for. We'd talked about going to a different label, but we were kind of approached before we approached anybody else. That was crazy. I kind of never really expected that. We kind of sat back and let the labels come to us, which was a weird experience, to say the least [laughs]. It was weird, being a 19-year-old kid going to meet with these labels and stuff like that. We made our own decision to go with Side One because it felt right. I'm really happy with our decision.
I wanted to talk about working with Walter Schreifels. How'd you approach him?
Our booking agent's co-worker booked the Gorilla Biscuits 2006 reunion, and I know that Walter produced a couple of bands. He produced Hot Water Music, he did this band called First Step and some other stuff like that, but I kind of knew it was just a small group of bands that he did. I asked our friend if he possibly had Walter's email because I wanted to ask him about producing our record. He said, "yeah, here you go!" and that's really all it was. I got his address and I sent him an email and said, "hey, we're a band called Title Fight. We're going to record our debut record hopefully in December. Here are our songs, check them out and get back to us. No pressure." And he got back to us in two days saying he checked out the songs and really liked them, that he was free in December and we should work something out. And that's really all it took. It was crazy to hear that from Walter Schreifels, because growing up playing music, his bands were all really important to us as musicians and just as people.
I feel like I can hear him all over this record. I'm curious what he was like to work with: more hands-off or pretty involved with ideas and things like that?
The first time we met with him we went up to NYC and got dinner with him. We weren't really in agreement that he was going to do it at that point, but we basically both met and expressed our ideas what recording would be like. We said, "we don't really want someone to kind of boss us around and say that our songs stink and that we needed to re-arrange them," and he said, "well, I don't do that either. I like to be an idea man, but you're the band. This is your music. You have the first and final say, so I'll give you my opinion, but I'm just kind of there as help." Hearing that was cool because that's exactly what we wanted. He came down to our hometown and he worked with us for like a day-and-a-half working on songs, and some of the song structures and stuff. But, for the most part, we had the record written at that point. When we got to the studio he helped us with the finishing touches on everything. It wasn't the most extreme involvement, but at the same time, he was there the entire time and helped us out a lot and it was definitely a great experience to work with him, especially being our first experience working with any producer. I'd say that working with him made me like all his bands even more. He's just so cool. It's an experience I never thought I'd ever have. We're pretty easygoing guys and pretty easy to please, so hanging out with Walter Schreifels, telling us some cool stories about Gorilla Biscuits summer tour of '89, we'll be happy. We don't need much!
Outside of him as a producer, it was a good experience just learning about his career from him?
It was so cool. I love the history side of things. I love learning about just stupid little tour stories and funny stuff, and the recording process for the records that he was on and stuff. That's all really cool. I love that side of things. I mean, people in bands are obviously just normal people, they just write good songs, but it's still cool. And he'd give us good advice. He's been around the block for a long time, from indies to majors, stuff like that. When we were in the studio, we were in the middle of a label situation and he gave us a lot of good advice about that and definitely really helped us in that regard. I definitely trust his opinion because I feel like he's made a lot of good decisions in his career, and he's still a musician that really has integrity. I think that's important, and it's cool because he's been doing this since before I was born, and he's still a relevant and good musician. I'm happy that he was able to help us out. (Side One Dummy)