Interview: Set Your Goals

During Set Your Goals‘ recent headline stint in the UK, Faye sat down with their chirpy co-frontman Jordan Brown, ahead of their Leeds show, where the two had a long chat about the release of This Will Be The Death Of Us, including its plethora of guest vocals and how they leaked it themselves, as well as getting arrested with Fireworks, and their love for Popina’s!

Faye: How are you today?
Jordan: I’m good, I’m really good, I’m happy to be in Leeds.

Faye: Have you been to Popina’s cafe today? I know you’re a fan of their English breakfasts.
Jordan: We went to Popina’s today, but I actually missed out because I slept in, but everyone else went and, yeah, they definitely had their fill of the Ultimate Breakfast Challenge, that’s for sure.

Faye: Did anyone accomplish the mega breakfast?
Jordan: I actually haven’t asked if they did it this time, Dan usually tries it and he can’t make it past the blood sausage, it’s usually where he ends. It think we’re yet to actually have a successful member of our band do it. [Shouts over to Dan Coddaire – guitarist] Did anyone take that breakfast challenge today and beat it?
Dan: Phil [SYG tour manager] was the only one who actually ate it and I don’t even think he was trying to take the challenge, I think he just wanted a lot of food. I did it once, it was fucking tough, it took me like an hour.

Faye: So, you’ve been touring with Broadway Calls and Fireworks for the past couple of weeks in Europe, how’s that been?
Jordan: It’s been really good, Europe was a lot of fun. I wish we could have played some more countries, but everywhere we played was great and I we’ve got about a week’s worth of shows left here, I think there’s seven left. It’s been awesome, it’s cool being out with Broadway Calls, it’s our first time getting to know them outside of Warped Tour, like being on an intimate hang-out tour and that’s been really cool. Fireworks, I don’t think we’ll ever stop touring with them, they’re some of our best friends.

Faye: Did you have a say in who you wanted to tour with?
Jordan: We did, yeah. Actually, every time we headline we have a say, which is cool. When we put this together, we knew right away that we wanted to bring Fireworks out and Broadway Calls is definitely one we had talked about, and after a few weeks of working it out, we thought, “Yeah, we definitely have to go out together, there’s no way we can’t do this together.” and then they got added on.

Faye: How’s Fireworks been received on this tour? There’s been a bit of hype about them coming over for the first time.
Jordan: Yeah, people like them a lot, Wales was really good for them, and in Europe, the same thing. Even when it’s people’s first time seeing them, they have a really crowd-involved set and a good energy live, so people are enjoying them and listening to the music after, but, yeah, they’ve been getting a really cool reaction.

Faye: Didn’t this show tonight get upgraded?
Jordan: Yeah! I don’t know where it was originally booked, but when we found out it was here at Leeds Uni, we weren’t really sure whether it was a good idea, but it made sense because the pre-sale was insane. We weren’t sure, though, because we played this room with Gallows before and we knew how big it was and we hadn’t played a room this big before outside of California. Hopefully, it fills out and not too empty looking. [laughs] The Cockpit’s really fun to play, but I know the pre-sale was more than it could hold so that’s why they wanted to move it and get more people in.

Faye: How do you feel playing bigger shows with barrier? Because with your music, it does have hardcore roots, a genre known for lots of crowd involvement – mic grabs, stage-diving etc, do you feel you can still maintain that energy and interaction at bigger shows?
Jordan: Yeah, I know what you mean, I’m trying to think of a NOFX line actually, the song’s called The Separation of Church and Skate, it’s about the barrier, and why the barrier came about at punk shows, and that it needs to go away, and that’s kind of what it’s like with us. We prefer to definitely not have the barrier, when it’s an option, but through years of touring and playing all different kinds of stages, we do see it as a hazard to not have barriers for certain rooms, so we play by ear everyday and see if that’s cool or not. The only thing about barriers is that we always want to make sure that security is in the barrier, catching people when they’re coming over, for instance, we played in Oxford and there was no security and kids were falling and cracking their heads open, practically. It’s just senseless if you have a barrier and you don’t have security watching. My take on it is that if it’s going to keep the crowd safe, I’m for it, and we’ve found ways to work around it. We’re not like Frank Carter, by any means, jumping off of beams to get to the crowd, we can reach out far enough. [laughs] I enjoy playing bigger tours and stages, like Warped Tour, and Reading and Leeds was a lot of fun, but there’s something in a smaller room that you can’t get on those stages – you just kind of get it when you’re in it. Hopefully, we’ll always be able to go back and forth.

Faye: We’re nearing the end of the year, what have been Set Your Goals’ highlights of 2009?
Jordan: This year was really cool, I really enjoyed touring Australia and Japan with All Time Low, it was our second time going back to both countries and it was our first non-Warped Tour tour, getting to know and hang out with All Time Low, and they’re just so much fun. We’ve just gotten to do a lot of really cool stuff, the new record was a really big highlight, just finishing it, the last week of recording and getting the mixes back and hearing the finished CD, we were just like, “Woah! We can’t believe we made this, it’s awesome!” The band got a song on a video game, on Madden 2010 and just a lot of really cool stuff, the radio’s been into it, and music videos and stuff. It’s like every year, there’s more and more things that pull you to keep doing it. I’m always reflecting, and always thinking back to our first tours.

Faye: As you mentioned, this year saw you release This Will Be The Death of Us, was there a lot of pressure to produce something as good as or better than Mutiny!? Since that record pretty much became a classic in your genre.
Jordan: Yeah, definitely. I kind of got that from our fans, they were just like, “We’re excited to hear what you do next! Mutiny’s so great, that album’s done everything for me, it’s perfect!” and I’m just like, “Oh my God, I don’t know what we’re going to do!” [laughs] We put so much into those songs and spent so much time on them, and thinking about it, it really did start to put pressure on me, but once we were in the studio and we started to hear all the instruments build on top of one another, there was reassurance that we were doing something that was bigger than Mutiny! and it was just really cool to have it done and look at it, and be like, “This is the record that I always wanted to make since I was like 15-years-old.”

Faye: It took three years to release the new record, why did it take so long?
Jordan: Yeah, it took a while just because we wanted the CD to get out to more people than the label was helping us get it out to, so we just pushed the band really hard. We kept getting opportunity after opportunity, so every time we reserved a space to take time off to write music and to figure out what we’re going to do about our record label situation, because we didn’t want to put another CD out with Eulogy. So, every time we’d set up that reserve, a tour off would come about and the biggest and most exciting ones we got, which were around the time we should have been starting on a new album, were Warped Tour ’07 [laughs], then we got offered a New Found Glory tour for two-and-a-half weeks – and they’re the best guys ever, they’ve been really cool to us, then we got offered a Paramore tour after Warped Tour, so those were the two biggest tours that were going to be running in the Fall and we got opening slots on both of them, so obviously we were going to do the tours and people were still finding out about Mutiny!. So, that’s the only reason it took so long, we knew Mutiny! still had it some fuel in it still. Hopefully, it won’t be another three years.

Faye: Did you get tired singing the same old songs every night? The setlist for this tour seems really new-album heavy.
Jordan: Yeah! I notice when we play the new songs, I get really into them, I get really excited for myself singing them [laughs], but the old songs, I have way more fun with everyone else who knows them so well, but I really like the new songs a lot. We have two other songs from Mutiny!, that we haven’t really played, Old Book Misread and Flight of the Navigator that we want to add, those were the two we’ve been saving for when we come over here. For me, I just wanted to pull the important four songs from Mutiny! and those are like, Echoes, Mutiny! and the first couple songs, the songs that we put the most into, I guess, and they seem to be the best received.

Faye: With Mutiny!, there was this massive flow to it and could have easily just been this huge one song, but with This Will Be The Death of Us, there’s tons of different sounds and genres, did you just want to experiment more with this one?
Jordan: Yeah, totally, that’s exactly what we wanted to make, like a CD where every song was a different style of music. When Matt and I first talked about starting the band, that was originally the concept. We were like, “What kind of band are we going to start?”, there was just so much stuff we were into and we said, “Let’s just start writing songs and see what comes out.” There was something about the demo and Mutiny!, there was a similarity in the timing and the timing of this records, and why there’s more songs on this record, I think it’s because we spent five years touring on those songs, we played with all kinds of bands and we got into all kinds of new music, right across the spectrum. It definitely is like song, song, song than it is a full song.

Faye: It’s still got a bit of a flow to it, though.
Jordan: Yeah, we tried to keep that, when I was putting the tracklist together, I was really precise about it. We got the mastered version back and there was a half of a second too long gap between two songs and I was like, “No! It needs to be perfect!” [laughs] I like the way it flows too, I’m glad that it came off like that.

Faye: Did you find that older fans from Muntiny! and the EP adapted to the change? Or did you find that some were expecting Mutiny! part 2 and took them longer to get into?
Jordan: I think it’s a CD you definitely have to listen to several times to understand, because there are so many layers of music on it and the guitars are constantly switching up, whereas, with Mutiny! and the songs I wrote before, we basically just kept power chords on the rhythm guitars and then leads on the lead guitar and what have you, but with this record, there was a lot of chord picking and like both guitars were playing leads, then they’d turn into chords and stuff that was almost beyond me. [laughs] I was just like, “Wow.” We were just sort of experimenting that’s why it all came out like that. I think, hopefully, people will get into it more.

Faye: You play guitar, don’t you?
Jordan: Yeah, I really like playing guitar, acoustic guitar when we’re on tour cause it’s the easiest. Mikey and I write all the music before we go into the studio, like we basically have the skeletons of the songs for everyone and then as we record each instrument, we sort of build the ideas and the parts with the producer from there. I’m always playing guitar through the recording process.

Faye: Did you not want to play an instrument in Set Your Goals? How did you come about having dual lead vocals? It’s not something all that common.
Jordan: I think it’s because we wanted to have two voices just because there’s a bigger dynamic to it, but as far as having two vocals who are soloists that don’t play an instrument, that was something different in the genres we were playing in, and we noticed it was a benefit to us because we could cover every area of the room and make sure we could get everyone involved. If it was just me, I’d be running out of breath and stuff, so it kind of worked out by chance in a way too.

Faye: So, back to the new album, while it’s got summery songs, it also seems to be a lot more darker than Munity!, with songs like Flawed Methods Of Persecution & Punishment.
Jordan: Yeah, totally, Flawed Methods, especially, the mood was very… I can’t really describe it. It just felt like a certain way to me and I’d seen this documentary and the way that the documentary made me feel for that whole week, the music I was writing just came out a different way. I guess what it was, we got off Warped Tour in 2008 and we took two months off to not to anything with the band and sort of reflect and figure out what we were going to do, because we didn’t have a label. So, through all that reflection, I thought about all the times I was really low and then as we approached a song subject, I would just really take myself back to that time and use pictures in my memory to kind of recall what I was feeling of different events, and that was what would bring out the mood and the riffs. It’s really interesting music because if you read, actually, there’s a website, yourbrainonmusic.com and music is a mood that effects your emotion and that’s why you’re attracted to certain kinds. I got really psychological when I was learning about all that with our drummer.

Faye: Flawed Methods is about the death penalty, isn’t it?
Jordan: It is, yeah. The documentary is about the justice system and how corrupt it is, and that it’ been going on for years and very inhumane. The documentary is just sad, because it focuses on stories about those who were found were found innocent later and you see the families. I’ve seen the news so many times – I don’t watch news any more, because you turn it on and someone’s always crying or always dying or something like that – but this really hit me really big. I didn’t even know it was going on to the extent that it was. I already had a sense and that I was against the death penalty just because I don’t think you should be able to take the life of another, but check it out, the documentary is called At The Death House Door, it’s really good.

Faye: Another thing that’s different is the amount of guest vocals, how did they come about?
Jordan: We were having a lot of fun with the songs and we just sort of brought together some important musicians who had inspired us and who we had befriended along the way, from when we were young kids to our peers now from bands we went out with. As we were working on each song, we already talked to everyone about possibly doing a part and as we had the song written down, we’d come up with the part idea and send it to them. Is there one in particular you want to talk about?

Faye: Let’s go for the Hayley Williams one!
Jordan: Ok, that one’s really cool! That one was fun because it was a total hip-hoppy vibe, it has this constant riff and rhythm. I wanted her to sing on that song because the chorus had a melody line and I knew the melody line for her in the second half, the second chorus was doubled, so I had that part worked out, but there was this interlude that was going to happen before this chorus break, this pre-chorus, if you will, that’s still part of the verse. I used to listen to this band called Etown Concrete and they were kind of like this hardcore rap-metal band from New Jersey and I was like, “It would be so sweet if we had like these heavy-bar distorted chords!” and then have her come out with this raspy rap part with these big gang vocals underneath it, like when you hear a Lil Jon song, they always have these, “OH!”’s and so it kind of worked out perfectly. She loved it and we sent her the song, she had heard the music and song in the studio when she was visiting in L.A. and then she flew back to Nashville, then we sent her the song a few days later. She called me and was like, “Send me all the lyrics to the song! I love this song!” so we kind of just went back and forth. She was like, “I’m just going to end up singing on the whole thing, you guys can do whatever you want.” and I was like, “Alright…” [laughs] Then we got all the tapes back and we were like, “Dude, this is awesome, we’re going to use these!” We played it with her for the first time in Hamburg on this tour, so that was cool, we got to see them on one of their off-days.

Faye: With that guest vocal, it seemed that people either really, really loved it or really, really hated it. [laughs] Did you expect it to get that reaction?
Jordan: Yeah, like, “What the hell is this?!” [laughs] We knew it was going to be mixed both ways. We knew a lot of people would have things to say about it, like, “Oh, you put these people on your record because you wanted to boost you credit.” or whatever, that’s a big thing that gets talked about us all the time. I never considered those things, I literally, from the standpoint of a musician, I really work with voices like I do with guitar and just get creative and match them a certain way. As far as the reaction, yeah, I did kind of expect that people would be sort of on the fence with it and be like, “This is cheesy and dumb!” Fortunately, I think more people have liked it, because there’s a lot of people who ask us to play it all the time.

Faye: Yeah, I think some people are disappointed that you aren’t playing it on this tour.
Jordan: We’ve done it once with our friend Jimmy, who sings for the band Polar Bear Club at Leeds Festival, and that was really fun. That song’s like a special one that we’re going to save for when we are really close with someone and want them to do the part, and, hopefully, we’ll get some chances to play it again with Hayley at Soundwave, we’re going to Australia together. I love that song, I love the way it came out a lot, it’s fun.

Faye: Chad Gilbert’s [New Found Glory] guest vocal on Our Ethos: A Legacy To Pass On is my favourite, he sounds so good.
Jordan: Right! Aw, yeah, it’s great. Ok, that one was fun because he did three different takes of his vocal, because he didn’t know how he wanted to sing it and we didn’t really know, either. I did the scratch track where I sing the part, kind of how I envisioned it, so he did one where he screamed it – he had just woken up, by the way. He lived on the corner where our studio was and I’m like, “You’re cool to wake up at 8.30am? That’s super early, you could be sleeping.” and he’s like, “It’s fine, I’ll be there no worries!” So, it’s like 8.30 and I give him a call, and he’s like all groggy and I’m like, “Do you want to come to the studio to do the part? It’s cool if you want to do it later.” and he’s like, “No! I’ll be right done.” He rides down on his bike in his little pyjamas [laughs] and we were next to a gas station, so I bought him orange juice and he did the part. It’s cool that it came out that way because we had him record it three different ways, and we sort of blended them in altogether and he just nailed it.

Faye: In Summer Jam, there’s a line, “I’m just trynna get my smoothie on, dawg!”, what does it actually mean?!
Jordan: We were at a smoothie stand in 2007, in a mall in Georgia, we were on tour with Fireworks and the employees gave us free smoothies because they’d been to the show the night before, so all of us were getting really rowdy and chanting the name of the shop, which is Raspberry Cool. Then some deputies came into the mall, we thought they were the mall security and they were like, “You guys are trying to cause a ruckus, we’re going to take you to jail.” We thought they were joking, so Tymm from Fireworks pushes one of them and they start handcuffing us. So our friend Baloni, who does merch for Fireworks, you’ll see him tonight, I called him and I was like, “Dude, we’re telling the story in the song, I really want you to say something during this pause.” and he was like, “How about, ‘I’m just trynna get my smoothie on, dawg!’?” and I was like, “Alright!” [laughs], so it just kind of came about like that, it was his idea.

Faye: Didn’t you leak the new record?
Jordan: We leaked the record, yeah, pretty much. It was a week before it came out and we were playing our first show of the Gig Life Tour with Four Year Strong, and it hadn’t leaked, so we were like, “Let’s sell it at the show. Let’s leak it ourselves.” So we sold it to someone and uploaded it, so it was cool we did it ourselves. [laughs] It was kinda neat. I was happy that it lasted a week before, usually, they leak months before.

Faye: How did Epitaph feel about that?
Jordan: They knew we were going to sell it, but they didn’t like that we went on our Twitters and MySpaces and we were like, “Hey! We just sold our record, it’s leaked now! So go download it and buy it when you see us!” [laughs] and they were like, “Don’t do that! Don’t tell people it’s leaked!” So we took the tweets and stuff off, but people were still buying it, so it was cool.

Faye: So, what’s next for Set Your Goals?
Jordan: We are going to go on tour with Motion City Soundtrack and The Swellers, and that’s in January/February, then we do Punkspring in Japan, Soundwave in Australia, we’re going to do a headline tour in April/May, which we’re going to announce soon, it’s going to be really cool. I wish we could bring it over here, it’s so cool, I’m really excite about it, maybe we can. We have Warped Tour, then we’re hoping to get back over here at the end of the year.

Faye: That April/May headline tour, didn’t you go on Twitter and ask people what bands they wanted?
Jordan: Yeah, we did! We were sitting down at dinner with our agent and manager, on the Alternative Press tour, and we were talking about the bands we wanted to take out and we right away knew who we wanted to take out for second of the support bands, but we didn’t know who we wanted to take out for the other support. So, we were just Twittering, “Who do you guys want to see us play with? Tell us know!” and we took those into consideration. I think we have three bands who are on the whole thing and then four bands who are going to split and play different shows, it’ll be kind of like Gig Life again. I wish we could announce it now, it’s really cool. We’ll hopefully be announcing it by the end of January, it should be cool, you’ll like it!

Faye: Change the record, who should we be listening to?
Jordan: Ok, we’ll start with The Swellers. My favourite records of the year are The Swellers’, that album’s great, and Paramore’s new album, it’s amazing – that was a good tour, Paper Route, The Swellers and Paramore. That show blew me away. There’s a band called Hostage Calm, they’re a really good band. Hit The Switch, they’re from Bakersfield, California. Smartbomb from Worcester, Massachusetts. Theres a band called Murdock from Nashville, myspace.com/officialmurdock. I like the new Saosin CD a lot and I like the new Cartel CD, I wish they put it out before the last one, it would have done really good, I really like it. Title Fight and A Loss For Words – definitely, A Loss For Words.

Faye: Thank you, is there anything else you want to say?
Jordan: Thanks to everyone in the United Kingdom for coming to our shows and this tour has been a ton of fun, so we’re excited to be here.

- Faye Turnbull.

Many thanks to Jordan and for more information on Set Your Goals, visit: www.myspace.com/setyourgoals or follow them on Twitter: www.twitter.com/therealsyg

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