Face to Face

Face to Face recently released a new album, their first in nine years, entitled Laugh Now, Laugh Later. The highly-influential band from Victorville, CA reunited in 2008 and has toured sporadically since. They’re currently on the road in support of Laugh Now, Laugh Later, and we met with lead singer/guitarist Trever Keith before their show at Bottom Lounge. We talked about the new record, Warped Tour, the band’s legacy and more. Keith offered insightful responses to all of our questions and we’d like to thank him for being exceptionally thorough.

Bill – After initially retiring in 2003, Face to Face got back together five years later. What were some of the factors that led to the band deciding to play shows again?

Trever – Basically we just missed it. Scott and I had made the decision to split the band up because we wanted the opportunity to pursue different music projects. In hindsight we probably should have just called it a hiatus, but we felt like we needed to do something finite and cut it off so people would take the other projects that we did more seriously. Ultimately, Face to Face wasn’t ever going to be something that we removed completely. The fact is that we get along great, we’ve always had a good time doing it, we have amazing fans that have supported us now for 20 years; it’s just one of those things that could never be replaced or substituted with any of the other projects that we wanted to try. We just truly missed the Face to Face experience and the shared experience we have with our fans when we go on the road and play shows.

Bill – Was recording new material always part of the plan or was the decision made after you guys spent some time playing together?

Trever – Everything happened very incrementally. The recording idea wasn’t really a plan in the beginning. At first it was really just to maybe do some shows every now and then together as Face to Face. Once the ball started rolling it kind of took on a life of its own.

Bill – Laugh Now, Laugh Later was finished last year. What can you tell me about the group’s experience in the studio?

Trever – It was pretty speedy actually. We started writing and then I moved to Nashville from Los Angeles. It was a pretty big move for me and my family. I wouldn’t say it put the writing on hold, because we were doing some other touring and stuff that came up too. Scott and I were writing individually, we each wrote about a half dozen songs separate from one another. Then we got together and kind of collaborated and wrote a couple more. We fixed the ones that we’d written by ourselves, he put his two cents in and I put mine. Then we didn’t really do anything with the songs for several months, because we had touring and stuff. Like I said, I moved to Nashville, so then Scott and I were totally separate. Actually, right before I moved he and I did a final round of tweaks on the songs. We sat down and I demoed everything up on my Logic rig and programmed drums and everything. Then we gave the music to Danny and Chad. Right before Warped Tour, I flew out to LA a few weeks early and we booked studio time and we rehearsed for about a week or so. Then we just went directly into the studio and recorded. In a way it was like revisiting some of those songs that we’d demoed up, but it was cool because we didn’t have a long amount of time to just beat the songs to death. We’d write a little bit here, let it sit, come back and revisit, make some tweaks and let it sit. The writing process was actually even going on through our recording, because I hadn’t really written any lyrics. We were recording by day and then by night I was writing lyrics and trying to get everything done before the vocals came up. What I had done though that was a little bit different this time around from any other records I’ve done, is I wrote down a bunch of titles, which basically would serve as the concept for each song or the general theme. It was a little bit of a backwards way of doing it for me, but I wanted to try something different creatively to see if it would lead me down a different road or whatever. I think it helped me with my lyrics. It helped formulate the ideas a little bit more and make them more finite before I started putting lyrics to it. It was a cool way of doing it and I’d probably try it again in the future. It wasn’t too hard to fill-in the gaps by writing the words because I already knew what I wanted the songs to be about. While we were in the studio we recorded with Joby, who’s a buddy of ours and plays guitar in The Bronx. They had used a bunch of their major label money to buy a studio before they bailed out or did whatever they did. It was really cool because he got to put the studio together exactly the way he wanted it. It’s not some big, overblown, bloated LA studio like so many that we’ve worked in and spent way too much money per day to be in there. It was more of just a real laidback vibe, almost like it was our place while we were there. We made our own hours and Joby didn’t get overbearing or overly involved, he kind of let us do what it was that we did, which was really cool. If he heard an area here or there for improvement he’d make a suggestion. I wouldn’t say he really produced it, but he definitely recorded and engineered it. He had some good ideas throughout the process. We got it all done in about two weeks, all of the music, overdubs, vocals and everything. Unfortunately it sat again for several months before we were able to mix it, so it was kind of a drawn-out process in that respect.

Bill – Compared to previous Face to Face material, what in your opinion does Laugh Now, Laugh Later sound like?

Trever – It sounds exactly like all our other stuff, (laughs). I get that question in every god damn interview I’ve done so far. It’s not your fault, it’s one of those standardized kind of questions. It’s so hard for me to describe. It’s less like Ignorance is Bliss and more like Don’t Turn Away. I wouldn’t call it a return to our punk rock roots or anything, but I think it’s a more pure, immediate kind of punk rock record. At first listen it’s not one of those records that you go, “Okay, I need to hear that again”. I think there’s an immediacy to it that sinks in the first time you hear it. As you continue to listen to it there are some layers to the album that you pick up on. It’s also one of those things that hopefully doesn’t get old quick for people, but I like that there’s an urgency to it that you can already kind of start humming along right when you put it in too. When I say it’s more like Don’t Turn Away, it’s kind of more like our earlier records that I hate to say are simplistic, it’s not really simplistic, but it doesn’t require several listens to enjoy. That’s the best way I can put it.

Bill – Tell me about the album’s first single, “It’s Not All About You”.

Trever – That’s the one we’re currently working with radio. It’s kind of our focus track right now. I don’t know if bands really even have singles anymore. That song was either the last or maybe the second to last song that came together for the record. It was one of these melodies that popped into my mind that I almost didn’t want to finish because it just seemed way too sing-along and maybe a little too candy-ass for the record. I showed it to Scott and Scott liked it. I probably had 80% of the song figured out. I was like, “Dude, I need help getting from here to here. We need a bridge, we need this and that”. He and I sat down and hammered it out and it ended up being one of the best songs on the record. I think it’s really cool.

Bill – What was your experience like with the 2010 Warped Tour?

Trever – Warped Tour has been good to us throughout our career, but I think it has turned into something that is completely unrecognizable to me from when we started doing it. For better or worse, it is what it is. I don’t think it’s a very good fit for our band these days. It was a grind, but it paid well.

Bill – What details can you share regarding your upcoming split with Rise Against?

Trever – What I can tell you about it is that it’s available here tonight. We were lucky enough to get copies of it already, which we’re super-stoked about. It’s the first release of a label that I’ve started with my longtime close friend and manager, Rich Egan. It’s called Folsom Records. It’s a label that’s going to be dedicated to only releasing vinyl. We want to do like a cool, punk rock label that only puts out vinyl, no CDs. There would be some downloads, but my intent is to keep the downloads off of iTunes. You’re only going to be able to get it in our store and they’re going to be high-quality downloads. I don’t want to kind of play the same games with all the other crap that’s out there, so it’s a little bit more like boutique-style. We recorded our cover of “The Good Left Undone” like two, three years ago. I think I wrote a tweet about it when we did it and everybody was like, “Oh, this is going to be so rad”. Then they were like, “I guess that’s not coming out, ever”. By the time Rise Against finally got around to it, it was maybe just a few months ago, which is great, I’m stoked that they did it. I’m really happy we were able to pull it off, because their schedule is crazy and they’re doing all kinds of stuff. They recorded a cover of our song “Blind” and they got that done during the sessions of their most recent record that just came out. That’s why it took so long. Anyway, it came out super-cool. They did a great version of “Blind”. We did kind of a crappy, okay version of “The Good Left Undone”. I don’t know. I hope people like it.

Bill – Of all the things that Face to Face has seen and done, what’s your proudest accomplishment as a member of the band?

Trever – Wow. That’s a hard one. That’s going to require me to think for a moment. I don’t know that there is any one thing. Maybe the fact that we’re out here 20 years later, doing yet another US tour and having it go off so flawlessly. The audiences have just been absolutely amazing and we’ve been having a great time out here. The new songs are very well-received. I do truly feel lucky that we have the support we’ve had from these people, our fans, for the past two decades. We can be allowed to continue to do this because of them and it keeps me out of having to work some crappy job. I truly love writing and performing music. It’s what defines me as a human being. It’s really amazing to be able to do that. It sounds a little cliché, but I don’t take that lightly at all. I would say that our longevity maybe is the thing that I would call our crowning achievement, at least to this point. I hope we can continue to do it, as long as our health is there and arthritis doesn’t set-in, and we’re still able to hold the guitars and do our thing.