Interview: Ryan Young of Off with Their Heads

Local punks get signed by Epitaph.

Off with Their Head’s brand of angry, industrial elevator music is bringing them to new heights of success.
PHOTO COURTESY OF EPITAPH RECORDS

Off with Their Head’s brand of angry, industrial elevator music is bringing them to new heights of success. PHOTO COURTESY OF EPITAPH RECORDS

Conrad Schoenleber

One of the last remaining vestiges of sincere punk rock, Minneapolis natives Off with Their Heads have just been signed with Epitaph Records. Gritty and angry, OWTH sounds like a barbaric, howling Rise Against, with gang choruses and power chords backing up their contemptuous message. Their anthems make a suiting backdrop for booze-ridden mosh pits and the hormone-addled people that inhabit them. A&E talked with band member Ryan Young about the sad state of the music industry and what the future holds. So you guys just signed to Epitaph, a âÄúmajorâÄù record label. How do you think this is going to affect your career? Well, I donâÄôt know. It depends on how hard they work, I guess. They just told us to keep doing what we do, and all that will happen is [expletive] will get easier. ThatâÄôs really all weâÄôre hoping for, to not starve on the road. No expectations. How has living in Minneapolis shaped your style and sound? In the beginning it was just because everyone, all the bands were so negative and we got poppy, and I think thatâÄôs exactly what we are. Dillinger Four was one of my favorite bands in high school, and that shines through a lot. I donâÄôt know. I donâÄôt really live there anymore, so when I go back itâÄôs like a strange new place. What are some of the best and worst moments in your career? The worst are when youâÄôve just been on the road for like six months and youâÄôre debating whether or not you should be even doing this. To be able to do what we do, you have to give up everything else in your life. Especially since IâÄôve had the same girlfriend for a couple years now, itâÄôs hard to not see her all the time. But then something good happens and itâÄôs like, âÄúWow! That was totally worth it.âÄù People are really into it now, and I donâÄôt know, itâÄôs kind of fun. The best is when people will actually get it and really enjoy themselves. Give me the most punk rock moment of your career. [Laughs] Well, one time I tried to kill Brendan Kelly from The Lawrence Arms with my guitar. I was just blacked-out drunk and kind of talking a bunch of smack about Brendan wanting to be in the show. He came up and I just swung at him, and then it just turned into a big bar-brawl situation. I wound up apologizing to him, and now we go out to lunch when in Chicago. So a brawl started the friendship? Yeah, weâÄôre all good now, but it wasnâÄôt for a couple years. ItâÄôs kind of hard to forget about someone smashing you in the face with a guitar. I give him props for that because I certainly donâÄôt know if I could. What would be your advice for all the kids who want to start a punk rock band? Man, with the fact that nobody is buying records at all, set your sights low, I would say. So be cynical? ItâÄôs really, really, really, really hard to even have a band pay for itself. From the financial side, IâÄôd say give up now. I donâÄôt know, for a young band IâÄôd say just be honest with what youâÄôre doing and itâÄôll turn out, either way. So you think people can tell when youâÄôre being honest, doing something real? I can spot that a mile away. I think people can for the most part. ThatâÄôs what sets people apart, doing something a little different. Is that a problem with the music industry, thereâÄôs so much stuff that is fake that people just buy into? Absolutely. Totally. ItâÄôs a lot about the big market major stuff. ItâÄôs just forced and shoved down throats until you like it. I mean, I like Lady Gaga, but I know thatâÄôs just ridiculous. IâÄôm just so exposed to it all the time; I think itâÄôs funny. IâÄôm a fan too, I like her. I know. Everybody does! SheâÄôs like the new Madonna. SheâÄôs weird enough to stand out, but can actually think, too. And she can sing. SheâÄôs kind of just weirdly real in general. So in some ways, is Lady Gaga punk rock? I think so. Go to her MySpace page and look at the bands she listens to. SheâÄôs got her roots in it. WhatâÄôs your upcoming tour going to be like? I dunno. A standard Off with Their Heads tour. We toured for 15 months starting September 2008. ItâÄôs just four more months to keep us busy while the new record comes out. Nothing too exciting for us, but itâÄôll be a good time. ItâÄôs a lot of small cities which is always fun. People tend to party more. We got a booking agent now, so I totally donâÄôt pay attention to where weâÄôre all booked. WeâÄôre playing a festival in Florida called the Harvest of Hope Fest, then SXSW. WeâÄôre supposed to possibly do some shows with Bad Religion; I donâÄôt know if thatâÄôs going to happen or not. ItâÄôs an open-ended tour. Finish these sentences, Off with Their Heads is: Tired Off with Their Heads will be: Drunk