"Enjoying the fuck out of life and what we've got."
I got to hang with half of the boys from Alive & Well - Matt & Mike! It started off as an unplanned Philly reunion. I found out they are also from the East Coast. Aren't I so good at researching? Clearly we talked about WOOD-er and Wawa for way longer then we should - but those are the only two "W" words that you can't help but talk about if you're from good ole Philly. After calming down from the excitement of being around some fellow gangsters, I got to know all about this pop punk band from San Diego.
I'm Matt Vernon. I play guitar and sing for Alive & Well. Also from Philly - proper, central Philly.
(I gave Matt a hard time because he isn't quite from Philly and I'm an asshole.)
I'm an East Coaster. From New Jersey - I went to school out there for music performance. I fled to the West Coast because I was miserable out there. Now I'm out here and I met Mike.
I'm Mike! I play bass and do stage tantrums/yells with Alive & Well. Funny enough I'm from Pennsylvania as well. I moved out with some buddies after college. Just kinda not knowing what I was doing.
I'm pretty sure that's almost everyone in California that wasn't born here.
It was more of like... they were telling our group of friends that they were leaving and I took it as an invitation. I latched on. They said, "No, you're not...that's not what this is." I just said, "Yeah, I'll see you out there!" And here we are. Six years later I ran into Matt at Underbelly wearing a Chariot hoodie.
*Fan-girling* UNDERBELLY IS THE SHIT I LOVE IT SO MUCH THERE.
Yep. That's where we met. We celebrate our anniversary there. It was the first of the year. He was wearing a Chariot hoodie. I was beyond hungover. I already have social anxiety where I don't want to meet anybody. I saw him wearing a Chariot hoodie. My girlfriend was like, "Aw you should talk to him. What are the chances of someone wearing a Chariot hoodie?" Chariot's my favorite band. I was like...."I don't care, I don't want to talk to anybody right now. I'd rather just concentrate on not dying." He turned around and we made eye contact. So then I'm just like, "Fuck. Now I'm locked into this thing." I said, "I like your hoodie!" and he got up and walked towards us. We started talking from there.
That sounds like real romance from a movie or something.
The kicker of it is after that - we exchanged information and he had a band. He told us that we should come check it out. When we were starting to talk about playing music together he sent me an email. When he emailed me, it picked up the thread from a year before that -- we had met on Craigslist where we had TRIED to start a band but we never met in person. So a year before we met we actually started talking on Craigslist.
We were both like, "You're that dude!"
AND you're both from "Philly". That's so bizarre. That is fate if that exists.
You weren't even that far from me in graduating.
Nope - only two years or so.
What did you go to school for?
Communications. Real easy to party with.
I took semesters off. I changed majors. I tried to do everything I could to STAY in college.
I wanted to. I was the last of my friends to go and the first to graduate. It was a fun time.
You met on Craigslist. That is so strange to say out loud. Like, through casual encounters or something that I never picture people actually following through with in real life.
I bet you didn't even chat through Craigslist first about forming a band. I think you never spoke at Underbelly and wrote an ad on Missed Connections on Craigslist.
You were wearing a Chariot hoodie. I was sweating tequila.
Matt was filling in for the band that I was in but then the drummer of the band left. Then we both knew that band wasn't for us - we weren't the ones that started it. The kid that did start it was from Pennsylvania.
What the heck?! PA too??
There were no original members in this band at this point.
This buddy of mine from college that moved out here -- we picked up his band. He went back to Pennsylvania. So then it was Matt & I but we didn't want to continue a band that wasn't ours. Matt had this pop punk thing going on the side and he asked me, "Do you play bass?" and I'm like, "Nah". Matt says, "Perfect! Come on in."
Yeah - bass is a pretty easy thing to pick up if you're lacking in talent. :)
Well I had no talent at guitar so this was perfect.
It was a weird transition for sure. The hardest part was not playing guitar on bass.
Where you've come now is leaps and bounds from when you picked it up. It was cool because when I originally moved in 2012, I ended the band I was in because everybody that I was playing with - we had developed some kind of local status. But then I was starting to get from everyone, "Oh I'm going to have a kid", "Oh I'm buying a house" -- all the signs that this was not going to go anywhere and also I was not ready to become an adult. So I flee to the land of misfit toys, Southern California. I had started writing just an acoustic thing. All the tunes we originally had were more like pop songs but the bands we were playing in sounded more like Dillinger's Escape Plan, Chariot kinda stuff. But I sing like a fourteen year old girl so I figured I should just embrace that so we will do something on a more melodic sense. We had the tunes put together but we just had to find people to play them at that point.
*Tangent talk about Matt's shitty goose tattoo - aka a Goose that reps the one and only WaWa! Also just more East coast nostalgia from WOOD-er ice to Tasteykakes*
It was Alive & Well's two year anniversary the day of this interview as far as when they played their first show at House of Blues in San Diego. They played the Blonde Bar last week to celebrate!
Yeah, it's a version of "Emo Night".
Yes! I love emo nights.
We played LA's version two weeks ago and it was AWESOME.
I went to San Diego's at The Casbah last Spring and it was so rad.
I was doing that one. I might have yelled at you. After two Tall Boys - you're just yellin'.
All I did that night was dance ridiculously to my high school anthems and scream the words off key at the top of my lungs.
I was probably next you doing the same thing.
I love that it's being done in so many areas right now. Stuff that didn't get that much mainstream success is getting played where people can enjoy it together.
When I went to The Casbah, it sold out. I was scared I wasn't going to get in at one point.
Usually I don't want to go to a bunch of different bars because the music you hear is not anything I want to listen to. (As far as local bars or clubs.) But not only is it what I want to listen to or what would be playing in my house - but there's a hundred people screaming along too.
**Interruption from a focused garbage man doing his duty. Mike loves the slogan of the trash company, "We'll Take Care of It. He definitely did take care of it."**
So I was at emo night at The Casbah - and I met this guy, Morgan. We were both.....
Definitely sober. I was like, "Yeah you should let me play!" and he had no idea what I was saying and just kind of nodded. I messaged him on Facebook later letting him know I was serious with wanting to help out. He was like, "Yeah! How about the 1st?!" I said, "Yeah! That's like a month. Perfect." Let alone it was like...October 28th so it was a few days later. I was all happy thinking I have plenty of time to call off work, get the covers set...then I looked at the calendar and realized that's like forty eight hours....
You had two days?!
It was like three days. We aren't a cover band either so we have heard from bands that do play emo nights that don't do covers usually that.....you know people are there.....
To hear the music done in its original style - no new takes.
You gotta give them something. As much as we aren't a cover band and don't wanna be a cover band - that's one of the instances that it's expected of you. So we didn't want to show up empty handed. We learned songs in the van on our way to emo night. We listened to them first and then we are all just going, "Open, open, open. 5, 5, 5,"
I effed it up because we didn't have a chance to practice. So, we picked the song we were gonna do but our tuning is a half step lower. Basically I learned how to play the song how it sounds on OUR tuning. On the way up, I asked, "So we are playing on 1, right?" Good thing I said something because if I hadn't we would have sounded HORRIBLE. So the whole way up we had to listen to the song -- and practice on air instruments because we didn't have ours on hand. Matt was just vocally instructing me on how to play it. It was crazy.
The problem with being a big music nerd is that we changed all of the tuning of the guitars and then just speak the transposition to each other which now only muddies the wooder (water). We can't just learn the song - we have to pick it apart as far as the key and such. Anyway - it worked out well for emo night in L.A.
Yeah! We played it - it went well.
You all seem to gel really fantastic together being that you're able to work under that pressure without killing one another. I know some people that the situation in the van would turn into a gigantic fight and nothing would be accomplished.
We get along real well.
As much as we aren't adults "properly", we very well handle stressful situations as adults.
That's the benefit of being an "older band". We are all in our late twenties and we've just been doing this for so long without success but we know the repetition. We know the steps. Like when we got in the van for our first tour we all made it clear where our boundaries were and when the joke was over, the joke was over. So, the chemistry is perfect.
A couple things pop up and you just wonder, "How are they gonna handle it??" and everyone's pretty calm the first time around just saying, "Okay. Don't do that again please." and we move on.
In the two years that you have been together as a band I feel like you're growing so quick -- fan wise.
We've been pushing.
Just looking at your Facebook I wouldn't guess you started only two years ago with the traffic you get.
That and the Instagram portion -- that's 100% Mike. Mike's addition to the band is that he runs all of the social media. We handle what is being posted together but when it comes to interactions, marketing, ect -- that's all Mike. What Mike does, which is INCREDIBLY time consuming but also incredibly effective, is he does a one to one basis. He will look at someone's profile and will learn a little bit about who they are based on their posts, messages them (not a copy and paste but a custom message to that person) and then that person realizes this band is a little different. They usually will respond.
When we were walking down the line to emo night, the line was two blocks long and every third person or so was like, "Mike? From Alive & Well! We talked online!"
I think you need that in this day and age to be honest. People don't want to be treated like robots.
Yeah people will move on from that.
They get that everyday. But when they get something, like what Mike sends them, they realize you took the time to learn a little about them & that they will take the time to learn a little about us. If they like it, they like it and if they don't - that's fine too.
The way I look at it is as much as I would like to do real flyer-ing, I don't have the time to anymore. With work - I work a couple of different jobs, and by the time I get out - I can't print out the flyers I would need. So I'm just using this as virtual flyer-ing. You do have to find out the way to do it properly too. I've had people yell at me.
It's fun. Other bands ask us what we are doing and I just tell them what I just told you so they'll ask, "Doesn't that take a while?" I'll show them our DM box for Instagram within the past hour and it's just ridiculous. I'm like, "If you have the time to do THIS..." and you don't even take Adderall, I don't know HOW you do it.
It's a lot of toilet time.
Is that where it all takes place?
That's my office.
You hear this all the time but you have to put effort into things if you want success or results. It's cheesy but honest.
Well, for me - none of this is work: the band, social media, ect. That's key too. You have to do something you want to do. As soon as it feels like work, you're doing something wrong.
The rest of everything in life is work but this is the escape.
That's what I love about the punk community too. I'm so new to me as far as actually interacting with people and such. It's not like I wasn't interested in the music - it was a mix of social anxiety and other things. But the support that exists in the punk community is outstanding. Everyone is so accepting and kind - for the most part. It's one of the most awesome scenes I've had the pleasure of getting involved in, hands down.
**After talking about my lack of depth perception and how I'd suck at bar tending but how that could also be what I'm known for...?..."
We like to throw around things too.
Yeah -- instruments, bodies, blood...
A lot of head injuries in the past couple of years with usually the band.
I hit you at emo night - that was the first time we made solid contact.
Usually when we are playing if you're looking at us - Matt's in the center, I'm on the right, Pat's on the left. I do a lot of stuff with the drummer - we have fun and look at each other or whatever. At emo night we switched it up. I'm not used to when Matt is on this other side. So I was headbanging and Matt's guitar just got me as he was pulling it up.
Ooooh this wasn't on purpose. For some reason I thought it was.
Oh no, definitely not malicious. We knew it was coming. I'm surprised it took this long for it to happen.
I didn't go down though - I finished.
Did you get stars?
I always have stars. I couldn't tell.
You're always fading out of conscienceness?
You know...yeah. But we just looked at each other and kept playing. I didn't miss a beat.
You know, I just forgot my childhood and half the letters are gone in the alphabet.
But you didn't miss a beat! That's all that matters.
That was one head injury. I got stitches recently.
As enthusiastic as we are about being in our own band - as you mentioned the punk community celebrates each other - so when we go to see our friend's bands...we are the most obnoxious fans in the world because we know we don't have to play so we don't have to save our voices or be sober at all. Our good friends, The Montell Jordans, who we just gone done touring with -- just did a show at Slidebar in Fullerton. Mike was on my back at one point and we were yelling and I went to turn and I lost my balance so I slammed his body into a keg and it split his head wide open. There was blood everywhere.
So worth it. The best part is - we came up in a party bus with The Montell Jordans. We are two hours from home. I get up and there's another buddy there and I just felt wet. I grabbed the top of my head and it was just soaked in blood. The buddy of mine is like 6'6" and he looks at me like, "Shit" I thought it was in the middle of my head so I'm thinking there is probably brains or something coming out. I ran into the bathroom and it was right at my hairline -- it looked like a second mouth. I was trying not to bleed everywhere.
That's kinda hard to do in that situation.
Yeah, just a little. I knew it was serious when the bartender comes into the bathroom with her own bar rags and just kinda shoves them into my head. I tied it shut with a bandanna that I traded a guy my hair tie with to have. I Charlie Kelly'd it.
OH! I meant to tell you! You remind me so much of Charlie Day.
EVERYDAY! I get that everyday.
Luckily, one of the guy's wives in The Montell Jordans is a nurse. We get in the van to go home and I pull her aside asking, "What do you think, stitches?" and she looks at it and takes a breath. She asks, "What is your insurance like?" and I said, "It's not good." so she hesitantly says, "You can get by without....but... you should definitely get that checked out."
Yeah, you definitely have a concussion and you should definitely get it checked out.
We get home - two hours later. My girlfriend is asleep on the couch. She's like..."Why is your face split open?" so I just go, "Ahhh...don't worry about it." So she makes us go to the emergency room and it turns out you can see my skull - which I didn't know. The doctor is like, "I see your skull right now. When did this happen? Midnight? It's 4:00 in the morning right now... why did it take you so long to get here?"
"CAUSE I WAS PARTYING DOCTOR, JEEZE."
"Yeah thanks MOM."
It ended it being like nine stitches though. Two inside and then the top. But you can't even tell now.
Oh, I can tell. I was pretty close to asking you what that deformity is on your head.
Yeah so lots of head injuries - mostly Mike. King Concussion.
I punch myself in the head sometimes when I'm playing.
Yeah..you're definitely working some thing out.
We have a fun time. Both on stage and off stage.
It seems like it! I haven't seen you guys live but I definitely need to after hearing all of these amazing stories.
Well thank you! You're definitely invited to any of our shows.
Oh, I thought I wasn't. Like - on our flyers I could of sworn it said in microscopic text at the bottom: "Everyone welcome - EXCEPT Julia Kennedy"
With the music you have available - I'd say your sound is pretty consistent. You have the same sound thoroughly. Is that on purpose? I know a lot of bands that like to experiment with all sorts of new styles and such. Do you want to stay in one field or do you see you guys expanding to other areas in music?
Those two albums...hm. Well the first one was a garage recording that we did ourselves. It's two songs and the acoustic one -- the guy isn't even in the band anymore. So the other two songs we carried over into this new EP. It's like a duplicate. The second one though, From Basements to Beaches, we put money, time and effort into it. We recorded it with Beau from Saosin who is like a hero of ours. The guy who mastered it also mastered Every Time I Die's discography pretty much. We really put our effort into this most recent one. The reason they both sound so similar is because they happened almost back to back. The first one was recorded solely because we didn't want to show up empty handed to shows. We don't want to show up to a gig and be like, "Hey! Listen to us.....nowhere." So we just got it out there into the world and then once we got our feet in the ground -- we got into the recording studio. There are three or four new songs that aren't on the newest EP too that are in circulation and those are a SLIGHT deviation. They are fairly consistent to the older songs but from here out it's the band writing everything rather then me directing everything. So yeah, everything will be an Alive & Well release rather then the tunes I had already written on an acoustic guitar.
I think the most successful bands definitely write in more of a collaborative style as opposed to a dictator style.
I'm egotistical to a certain extent but I'll never believe that I'm better then anyone or that I've stopped learning.
Well it's your job to be that way - you're the lead singer. It's in your contract to be egotistical.
Haha. Well, everyone in the band brings something that I'm not capable of. So if it benefits the song and if it's going to make better music - I'd much rather it be that way then me just writing it all.
We're at a point now, too, where we can be totally honest with each other. If I write something and it sucks - they will tell me.
Oh so that's why you hit yourself in the head onstage.
We are very honest about everything now.
We got all the right pieces we need.
How did you find the other two members of your band?
I had gone through three drummers. Originally I would just find drummers. Like if I can do everything else - I just need a drummer because that's the only thing I absolutely can't do. I'd gone through a couple and then a buddy of ours showed us a photo of Brozgold - not even a video of him playing - just a photo. He's sitting behind this bass build that's so obnoxious and over the top - it's bigger then he is. Our amps are as tall as us - we have a wall of giant amps. It's all about obnoxious, over sized things. So when I saw this photo I knew I wanted that guy. Then, thankfully, I heard him play and he was good too.
I love that criteria.
Pat, our lead guitar player, he's our most recent addition. We got him in July?
Just please keep talking about Pat like he's a new pet or something.
We went down to the pound. He had those big puppy dog eyes.
He was by himself in the corner. He was just looking up.
He moved from Boston. I saw some post about him about how he was looking for a band and that's how I got him.
We actually did an "It's Always Sunny" style introduction about how we got 'em.
WHAT??? (It's rad, click here)
You said you are all writing stuff right now? Are you planning your first full length album or anything special?
Yeah. The idea is that we want to tour and we want to put out a full length. We think it'd be a landmark to put out the full length at this time. We don't want to spare any expense either. We are just trying to pump out as much music as we can.
We have about two or three full songs done and then we are just bumping around ideas.
So in the near future?
Definitely - early 2017.
Who would you say are your influences with music? To me - listening to you guys - I get a lot of Say Anything, Jimmy Eat World, ect vibes.
I would say that between Mike and I we actually have a lot of common ground between us: Springsteen, Every Time I Die, Billy Joel.
Oooh! I saw him in May at Petco Park. It was....everything I ever dreamed.
I was supposed to go to that.
You don't seem bitter about that at all.
I'm a little bitter.
He was the first concert I ever saw.
Last May was the first time I got to see him!
So we have that commonground. But I also have always leaned towards Green Day -- they were the first band I ever found. At one point in time I only had Denis Leary's standup act on CD and Green Day's Dookie that I stole from my sister. So I had everything I could possibly need.
You definitely didn't need to open your mind anymore.
Definitely not. I was eight, to clarify. But then Blink-182...
Mine bounced around forever - radio rock for the longest time. I know a lot of Sugar Ray songs.
You REALLY do. We had to turn it off in the van.
It was between Sugar Ray and Smashmouth. I got one per day.
Smashmouth was more of a joke but you were dead serious about Sugar Ray.
Hey, I had their CD.
Everyone had their CD.
Yeah - so I had them, Third Eye Blind, Newfound Glory, Blink-182 and then I got into Sum 41. They are what did it for me because they did pop punk and like metal? Not really hardcore.
They definitely had their eighties metal kind of guitar playing.
And then I figured out you could listen to other things as well.
You're allowed to!
Like last week?
Yeah, pretty recently.
Even when I was getting into this stuff -- trombone was my first instrument. I still play it for my work band. I play trumbone and piano for them. I went to school for jazz and classical trombone performance....which is the nerdiest thing that anybody can do. And also - don't do it if any of your readers/listeners are thinking about it. It's a terrible idea to go to school for it.
It's so bizarre you mention that because I've been holding off on responding to a whole sack of fan mail asking me if they should pursue that dream or not but now I have the knowledge to pass along!
At one point in time I would play with a one hundred beats orchestra where I'm wearing a suit and then I'd get in my van and drive to some shithole place that should have been shut down by the fire marshall and I'm changing into some ridiculous tshirt to play with a hardcore band. Then I'd go back the next morning to rehearse with a black eye from the night before...
A black guy or a black eye? Or both?
Well - a black guy gave me a black eye.
And he was so apologetic about it that he took him to his rehearsal.
So I've always had these two worlds that just don't understand each other.
What's the nerdiest thing about each of you that most people wouldn't know?
I'm into power stones. I've got my crystals.
*pulls out crystals*
This is my Tiger's Eye - keeps me grounded and this is my Moon Stone - for new beginnings.
Okay I do have to say, thus far, of all my interviews - you just won that question ESPECIALLY pulling out some from your pocket.
I always have them on me!
Ooooh - tell her the bathroom story!
The most recent one that you were just telling me.
I'm at work and I had to change into slacks for an event. I had my stones in my pocket and they rolled out into the next stall. Some dude is in there so I'm crouched down making sure he doesn't take my Moon Stone and it's right next to his foot.
Like the guy in the stall will be like, "Oh a Moon Stone! Just what I've been waiting for!"
It's MY new beginning! He's gonna take it from me. I'm sitting there waiting forever and then I caught myself and asked myself..."What am I doing? If he crouched down he would definitely see me just staring at him." That would be a whole different story. So he walked it and I had to get out like I wasn't just waiting for him to finish.
How do you walk out like you weren't waiting for him? Did you let him know, "I definitely wasn't waiting for you in the stall."
Yes! So we are washing our hands and we finally finish and he leaves the bathroom. I SPRINT back into the stall, snatch my stone, and all was saved. And here it is, so you can believe me.
I'd believe you either way.
I can't even follow that.
I'm really into weird conspiracy theories. The work band I play with, we were out in Palm Springs together. There were like six people sitting behind me and I pull my phone out and type my password in to unlock it. They were like, "You still use your password? Why not use the fingerprint thing?" and I'm just like, "Well...because if I use my fingerprint it goes in the database and if it goes into the database and then I say something bad about Bank of America and then all of a sudden my fingerprint shows up on some dead girl's forehead...." The people were like, "Do you hear yourself...?"
You need a Grounding Stone.
Do you not think that government has your fingerprint already though?
I've been arrested so maybe certain counties but I don't give out my information. I am incredibly over the top about being terrified about things that I shouldn't be.
Yeah - those phone spiders the government sends for you are horrifying. Also, I forgot my tin foil hat today, FYI.
This was such a fun interview, nerds! I always know I had a really fantastic time when I have to listen to the interview over again while transcribing and I'm laughing just as much as when it all happened in real life. Say, "Happy Birthday" to Alive & Well - they are TWO YEARS OLD NOW. How cute. They will be performing this Tuesday the 29th at The Merrow to celebrate with The Montell Jordans and Plane Without a Pilot:
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! (OF THE YEAR)
This was such a cute Thanksgiving for me - it was Stephen & I's first together. We went to a cute lil bakery down near San Diego. I got a piece of the strawberry cream cake + it was to die for.
GRAND OPENING OF THE WEEK
The day has come! Perfect Humans is LIVE with our first, limited edition, pin - Saturn Heart. Up until the end of Cyber Monday you can get it for only $10 SHIPPED (Within the U.S.) Take advantage of not only owning our very first pin, but you're also helping in supporting us in making even more perfectly cute merchandise in the future!
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
The Weeknd dropped his third album on Black Friday this year! I've had it on repeat over the past 24 hours. I think it'll be number one in no time. The singles on this album are, "Starboy" and "False Alarm". There are killer contributors on this album from Daft Punk to Lana Del Rey and the entire CD tells a story. I suggest you give it a listen - it's on Spotify now!
NEW BEGINNING OF THE WEEK
I started a new job this week! All I can say is I'm very happy and am excited to see where this opportunity takes me.