In Chicago during the early millennium, pop punk and emo bands reigned supreme and helped produce heavy hitters like Fall Out Boy who left a massive mark on alternative rock and paved the way for similar bands to come along and fit into the mold. In 2007, before Spitalfield could break through completely to that level of mainstream fame, the still young band that formed in 1998 while they were still sophomores in high school parted ways. Before the break-up, however, they had enough time to release a seminal album that has since become a must-have for kids interested in understanding the history and origins of emo.
Ten years after the release of the album, Remember Right Now, the band’s line-up from that period has reunited for a ten-date tour that began in their hometown of Chicago. “I think it’s going to be a great time to have fun and play some songs that meant a lot to us,” says Mark Rose, Spitalfield’s lead singer who has since launched a successful solo career as a singer-songwriter and helps run the songwriting service Downwrite. As Spitalfield prepares for the NYC date of their reunion at the Studio at Webster Hall tonight, we spoke with Rose about the band’s past, present and possible future.
What led to the decision to reunite now?
J.D. [Romero] and I had just talked about it, realizing the decade mark [of Remember Right Now] approaching, and it was such a huge pivotal point for us as a band that we were thinking at the very least it would be fun to play a show in Chicago as a tribute to that record. More than anything else, we really wanted to try to get that line-up to play that record, and we weren’t really sure how that was going to go as far as reaching out to those guys and seeing what was going on. There has been some line-up changes and the most recent one did not feature two of the members who played on that album. Certain members keep better in touch than others, and we kind of talked about it and said that if we could get at least three-fourths from that line-up together, we should do a Chicago show. We ended up getting everybody and it sort of spiraled into “well, what if we added a weekend in New York or Philadelphia?” One of these cities that we loved playing. The ball started rolling and the next thing you know, we’re booking ten days straight. We would like to do more, maybe a full U.S. tour. The other guys have other commitments and jobs and things that they’re doing separate from me. I still do music full time so I’m like bring it on, let’s do it! Realistically there’s only so much we can do, but ten days in a row is crazy after having not played with this lineup since 2005 to jumping right in.
How do you feel about the Chicago scene in relation to the type of music you created with Spitalfield and your solo work, which is pretty different stylistically? How do you feel they both relate to that scene?
It’s tough because Chicago always has a music scene, and it’s always evolving and changing. There’s no shortage of great musicians and great bands and great venues. What we’re doing right now with this record in particular represents a certain time stamp of the Chicago scene that we came out of and having that crazy boom of bands that emerged during ’03, ’04, ’05, and some of which really propelled to much bigger things like Fall Out Boy and Plain White T’s. We were all friends and playing shows together at VFWs and church basements long before there was national level or international level touring. There’s really that throwback and that nostalgia thing more than anything. I don’t really know how we would fit if we were an active band right now. I don’t really know what we sound like or what we’d be doing. I do a different style now; singer-songwriter stuff is quite a bit different than what I did with Spitalfield. The one thing that really did carry over of course would be my voice and my songwriting style. As far as what I’m doing now in the city, I kind of love playing with all types of music because I like being flexible and doing things from just solo acoustic to a full band. Spitalfield was a set thing. We were two guitars, bass, and drums. That was us. That’s what we’re going to be doing again here for a little bit. I can put us in a place more now that I’m so far removed from it than I could at the time. It was like always pushing for the next thing to happen and you’re not as self-aware as maybe you should be.
You mentioned Fall Out Boy and the Plain White T’s. Are there any other bands either from Spitalfield’s time frame or currently that really stuck out to you?
Currently, there’s a band called Empires that was getting started right around the time that I was drifting into my solo stuff. They’ve been working hard at it now for about four or five years. I think Empires is great.
There were a lot of great Chicago bands. There was a bunch of other bands that had done alright for themselves, getting out there and touring. We did a lot of touring with other Chicago bands. You become closer friends with a band when you tour with them and start to enjoy the music even more because you have a connection to it. I’ve always been a fan of Mike Kinsella who has his project Owen. He’s got a new band called Their / They’re / There. That stuff sounds awesome. I really love most things Mike does.
See also: Fall Out Boy – Terminal 5 – 5/29/2013
What’s the difference between who you were when you released Remember Right Now and who you are now? Does playing those songs feel new and different or just like old times?
I think the biggest from when we were writing Remember Right Now, adding that into that part of my life, is that a lot of the subject matter was written about the question mark of the future and a little bit more about getting ready to make a big change and getting closer and closer to something that ultimately was the goal but it was a big unknown. The goals of “I want to be in a band. I want to play music. I want to tour.” Everything on that record was leading up to this moment that was about to happen. Since then, I guess there’s just been so many experiences that I’ve been through, just with highs and lows with band. Between when we signed and when we broke up, it was five years. Now another five years of solo singer-songwriting and all the things that have happened. The people that have come into your life that weren’t there. The people that have gone away. The emotional rollercoaster of trying to make things work as an artist. I still love doing it. I think now a lot of my songs are getting a little bit more personal for me in particular than maybe they were back then. It’s important to keep evolving and to reinvent regularly, and when I think about all the bands that have really hit me hard in some heavy ways, some of them are only around for a small period of time. They put out that one record or a couple of records that mean a lot to you, but then there are those career artists that keep putting out great music and really have different sounds from album to album. Hearing all the different things that they’ve been through and being able to hear that in their music is something I definitely aspire towards.
What are some of those bands that have hit you really hard?
For me it would be Jimmy Eat World, the Get-Up Kids, Foo Fighters. Then there’s some classic bands too that are just still pumping out music and touring. I really love Fleetwood Mac. Just to be at that level where you’re still writing music and still playing music that people care about is something that I’ve lived over the years since touring. I think the most important part of what you do as a performer is connecting with people. I feel like if I just shut myself away and work on my craft and didn’t really spend time out there touring and meeting people, I feel like maybe I wouldn’t feel like doing it as much. When someone says to you how a certain song affected them or representing a certain era [to them]. Like “oh my God, Spitalfield! That was my high school!” How many times do I hear stuff like that [laughs]. It’s almost overwhelming in a way to realize that you can have an impact on somebody, especially because I have felt that impact from other bands. To have been in a position to have ever done that for anybody else is just the most rewarding things.
In regards to that connection, how do you feel the rise of things like Facebook and Twitter or even Kickstarter and ways bands can raise money through fans would have affected Spitalfield if you were a band debuting this year rather than in the early millennium?
When we were getting ready to make this [reunion tour] announcement six weeks or so ago, that was something I was thinking about at the time. We were never a part of Facebook or Twitter as a band, and now it’s such a big deal. It’s amazing! I think social media is incredible because the amount of reach you can have and the way you can connect with people is just crazy. It’s a powerful tool, and when used well and appropriately, I think it’s phenomenal. The slightly jaded side of me thinks there’s more to being an artist than being just a Facebook page or numbers on a Twitter account. I do think that in some ways, while they are incredible tools, they may overshadow the value of some things I think are more important. Like anything else, you just have to sift through that and find what you do like and move forward. As somebody who always owned CDs, I can also think of an era where I bought cassette tapes. When that went away, I managed to survive and CDs were the best thing ever. Then it went to a digital format and that was sad at first to a person who enjoyed collecting CDs and going to CD stores. I’ve learned to appreciate how unbelievable iTunes is. Everything you could ever want is at your fingertips. Then, insert Spotify and here we go again! I’m kind of thinking, with all the modern technology and whatnot, I think it’s important to embrace it and hopefully don’t let it control you or affect your line of thinking on what makes an artist good.
If we were a band now, we wouldn’t be the band passing out demo CDs and handing out flyers. It would be Facebook events and links to Bandcamp. I don’t even know what we would look like as a current band or if we had started in a different era. I kind of like living and learning in each era of my life.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Since you’ve gone solo and have built a name for yourself, what’s next?
Hopefully five years from now, I’ll have another record or two under my belt, and I’ll still be able to tour and perform and do what I love doing. Songwriting is one of the most important things in my life aside from my family and friends at home, Chicago sports, and drinking coffee. I always keep that window open that I could start a band or another side project and juggle multiple projects. I’ve always been a one project kind of guy. There are a lot of musicians right now that are in so many different things. Maybe I’m a little jealous of that because I find it hard to subsidize my attention and my effort. If being a singer-songwriter has made me more flexible then maybe I should start trying some other things too. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep developing things like [Downwrite] and keep creating music. I’m at a very comfortable place in my life right now even though it’s always a challenge to think of how you can make things work and move forward if and when this part of your life is over. I kind of try to avoid thinking about things like and just focus on making things work.
Any plans to release new music with Spitalfield?
We’re playing it by ear with the tour. We haven’t really broached the subject. The last the time [this line-up] were on stage together was July of 2005, so I’m looking forward to cracking a beer with those guys and hanging out and catching up. I wouldn’t really speculate that there would be anything developing as far as new music. I guess you never know, but I haven’t really thought about that possibility.
If you guys did end up creating new music, how do you think it would sound? Would it sound similar or would it be vastly different than what you were doing back then?
Hopefully it would kind of pick up where we put it down, but as a band, each record was significantly different sounding and had a different approach. We definitely the benefit and the negative effects of reinventing ourselves every record because there would be everything form excitement to backlash. I kind of feel like in true Spitalfield fashion, our next record would sound different. And it was never being different just to be different, it was alway kind of grabbing hold of anything new in life, new influences, and letting them shine through. By the end, we were kind of taking our favorite things about all of our different records and starting to throw it in a blender. Maybe we were just hitting a stride as far as our actual sound. I think Remember Right Now is kind of the record that all records of ours is compared to, and that’s because that was the record that put us into the spotlight for the first time. Going from being a local band to going out on tour. We actually had a pretty hilarious tour with Fall Out Boy in the summer of ’02 that was just a disaster.
They actually recently mentioned that in an interview.
[Laughs]. Yeah, we were just…oh my God. But yeah, I would think we would pick up where we put it down and there’s just been so much life each of us has lived separate from the band now that I couldn’t even really tell you what it would sound like. It would sound like us because we’d all be there.
Is there a possibility of additional dates being added for the tour?
I feel like this calendar year is fair game for this 10 year anniversary. It’s just a matter of juggling people’s schedules, which is work and school and everyone’s own lives. T.J. [Milici] is living out in Portland and I haven’t seen him in so so long, so it’s not the easiest thing to plan more shows. But we are planning a short trip to the west coast, and we’ll see. Anything in 2013 is fair game for a 10 year anniversary.
Catch Spitalfield at Studio at Webster Hall tonight with support from Shane Henderson and the Future Perfect and Jon Walker.