When Finch released their debut full-length, What It Is To Burn, in 2002, it catapulted them to world stardom, going gold and helping to kick-start the still-rampant emo explosion. The Temecula quintet spent almost a year in the studio recording the much anticipated follow up, Say Hello To Sunshine, which finally gets a release next month.
After three years away, Finch has emerged with a fresh attitude, a darker sensibility, a brand new drummer and a new record deal (with Geffen). Kaffeine Buzz called guitarist Randy Strohmeyer in the middle of Finch’s latest tour to talk about firings, hirings, nazi flags and “being creepy”.
Kaffeine Buzz: So you’re in Indianapolis right now?
Randy Strohmeyer: “Yeah, in the middle of nowhere. We walked miles today and all there is, is a series of junkyards and really bizarre tattoo shops and random pizza parlors. In fifth grade I had to write a report on one of the states and I got stuck with Indiana so I kind of know a few facts about it.”
KB: Like what?
RS: Well, this is where Notre Dame is… And the capital of Indiana is… Wait, I actually don’t know anything anymore. I was ten!
KB: Are you in close proximity to a junk yard as we speak?
RS: No, I’m in the bus. But out the window I can see a store called Dr. Feelgood. I want everyone to call the guy who runs it and ask him why he has Nazi flags in the back of his store. The number is 317-353-2359. They sell jewelry, smoking accessories, t-shirts, porno and Nazi flags! Crank call him.
KB: Tell me about the new record, Say Hello To Sunshine.
RS: It’s totally different to the last one. It’s a lot more dark. The lyrics to me are very creepy – the lyrics before were just kind of relatable to a kid who would’ve been our age when we wrote that album. Now we’re older and uh, a lot more creepy (laughs). We’re creepy old men.”
KB: Did you change your sound because the emo scene is so over-saturated and you’re trying to stay away from that pigeonhole? Or is it just that you’ve grown up?
RS: I think it’s a combination of both. We’re definitely frustrated that emo seems to be the only thing going on these days – I think it’s kind of retarded. It’s time for something new. Last time I thought we brought something new to the table. And this time I think we’re bringing something new to the table too. Hopefully people will love it just like we do.
KB: It’s been three years since ‘What It Is To Burn’. What took so long?
RS: Well, there was a lot of drama. A lot of firings and hirings. We were recording and then we went on tour too. There was a lot of shit that happened.
KB: Your original drummer Alex Pappas parted ways with the band halfway through recording, replaced by Marc Allen. So who is it playing drums on this record?
RS: It’s Marc Allen all the way through. We tried to have Chris Tsagakis from RX Bandits play on a few of the songs but we didn’t end up using those ones.
KB: How did you hook up with Marc?
RS: He was in [San Diego emo-rockers] Counterfit and he’d been a friend for a while. I really loved that band and used to go to all of their shows and stuff. We hung out a bit when we were both on Warped Tour, then one day I was like ‘Dude you should come jam with us’ and he started playing on all these songs we were writing and he just knew instantly what to do.
KB: Aside from the drumming what has Marc brought to Finch?
RS: He is a health nut! He actually got this piece of paper out the other day and was counting all of his calories for the day. He was really concerned about this hot dog that had a shit ton of fat in it and he was like ‘Shit! I’ve only got another 400 calories before I hit my limit for the day!’ He’s had quite an impact on me though. I’ve been doing sit ups and runs with him. He’s my personal trainer now.
KB: Did Marc joining have anything to do with the break up of Counterfit?
RS: I don’t think so. As far as I know, not at all. Marc tells me it didn’t have anything to do with it. Maybe if you asked some of the other guys from that band they’d say something different though.
KB: So aside from recording and touring what else have you been doing on your down time for the last three years?
RS: Kind of a lot. Just keeping really busy. In the last six months it’s been extremely busy and while some of it is winding down now, some things will be starting up. I’m supposed to be starting these two clothing companies. I used to do most of the design for Finch and I got the opportunity to do this and just want to see how it goes. It’ll be fun to design again.”
KB: How have you all changed on a personal level in the last three years?
RS: I don’t know. There have been a few changes but nothing major.
KB: Except for the creepy thing.
RS: Yeah, we definitely got more creepy.
KB: Have you had any more death threats from Disturbed? [An onstage brawl broke out between the bands at the Rolling Rock Town Fair in Pennsylvania in August 2004]
RS: No, thank God. That’s squashed hopefully. It definitely is on our end. We’re not down for fighting or any of that shit. We’re over it. We don’t want any deal with them. It’s over, it’s done, best of luck to them. I guess you have to respect them for taking their band so seriously that they wanna fight people over it.
KB: Did you get injured during that?
RS: I got pushed down but it was okay. Grizzly [guitarist Alex Linares] got pushed down too. It could’ve been pretty bad – we were getting pretty close to the edge of that stage and it was like, a storey up – fifteen feet or something. Pretty fucking high. Whatever. I’m just glad it didn’t get too out of hand.
KB: After the success of ‘What It Is To Burn’ how responsible do you feel for the whole emo explosion?
RS: I don’t know. I don’t feel comfortable being put in with that scene – or any scene, period, actually. To me it’s hard to talk about. I can’t say anything about it because I’ll end up sounding cocky and dickish.
KB: What kind of response have you had to the new material at your latest shows?
RS: I’ve been reading message boards and it’s all been pretty negative. Kerrang! [UK rock magazine] gave it a good review which was cool but it seems like Americans don’t get it. Kids here seem to like poppier stuff – I mean listen to the radio.
KB: A lot of bands coming out now all sound the same to me.
RS: They sound the same to me too. I actually think that people like to listen to shit that all sounds the same! I’m not gonna trash talk anyone though. We’re out to just do what we think is cool for us. And what’s cool for us is doing something that we think is different. And not really caring about what anyone else is going to say about it. We weren’t going to have the label dictate what kind of songs we wrote or anything.
KB: Random Final Question: If you came to, in the nude, in a cage, at the zoo, what animal would you want to wake up with?
RS: I’ve often wanted to hang out with a penguin. I’d rather not be in a cage. I’d rather be in one of those igloo environments. At Seaworld they have this thing called The Penguin Encounter, with little slides and stuff, and that looks like it would be fun… And/ or a koala, sans claws. Those animals are pretty darned cute. I don’t know – I have a lot of animals I’d like to hang out with eventually! As long as there’s a casino in the habitat and I’ve got the koalas whispering tips in my ear, I think that’d be delightful.”
Say Hello To Sunshine is scheduled to hit the streets June 7, but Finch are on the road right now to bring those songs to the people. They play Denver’s BlueBird this Friday, May 27 with Vendetta Red, Walking Concert and Reeve Oliver.
Rae Alexandra is a limey. She has been a music journalist and sub editor since 2001, working mainly for the UK’s Kerrang! and Q Magazines. She recently relocated to San Francisco to finish writing a novel about drunken punk rockers. Feel free to send job offers, insults and photos of emo boys to: raemondjjjj[at]yahoo.com.