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More For Your Money

(Interview with Scottie, Tim, Kyle and Mike taken from Black Velvet 40 - May 2004)

By Shari Black Velvet

Allister are a four-piece from Chicago, IL, or more specifically, the suburbs of Chicago, that play catchy, fun pop punk music. Tim Rogner (vox, guitar), Scott Murphy (bass, vox), Kyle Lewis (guitar) and Mike Leverance (drums) make up the band, although both Kyle and Mike are more recent to the equation. The band was originally formed back in 1995 by Tim and his classmate Johnny. They signed to Drive-Thru Records a couple of years later. With Scottie on board and a couple of bandmember changes later, Allister have now released two full length albums, 'Dead Ends & Girlfriends' at the tail-end of 1999 and the 2002 release 'Last Stop Suburbia'. Both albums kick ass, although 'Last Stop Suburbia' is Black Velvet's top recommendation, an absolute gem with superbly catchy, sing-along tracks such as 'Overrated' and 'Radio Player' as well as some pristine, from-the-heart, relatable numbers like 'Camouflage'.





Black Velvet caught up with the band in Birmingham when they flew over with Home Grown, The Early November and Hidden In Plain View as part of Drive-Thru's UK Invasion tour.

Black Velvet: How are you enjoying the UK Drive-Thru tour? There was a US version prior to this. How was that in comparison?
Kyle: The immediate differences are that the show sizes are a little smaller 'cause The Startling Line were on the American one. They're really blowing up over there, but the kids are just as fanatical. It's harder for us to understand when kids yell things at us! The accent's hard to hear when they're yelling.
Tim: It's exciting because it's the first time we've been over here doing a co-headlining sorta thing. It's cool to do a co-headlining tour for our first time and have the shows sold out or filled. It's awesome.

BV: Allister's been a part of your life for quite a while now. What does being in Allister mean to you? What would life be like without Allister?
T: It's kind of become a really big part of all of our lives now because obviously it's a job; it's what we do for a living. At the same time I still look at it as my favourite pastime. We started it in our garage, being a small punk band when we were 17, 16, and we still look at ourselves the same way. We're just four stupid kids who go out and have a good time.

BV: The band's had a few line-up changes since its formation. Do you think this has made Allister any less of a band in the public eye? Like when classic bands reform but only one member of the original band is involved.
T: I don't think so. It's cool because… I'd like to think before we had any major success we had the line-up changes. The line-up we have now is real solid and it's the best line-up we've ever had and it's gonna stay like this hopefully forever.
Scott: You get some kids who come up to you and say 'your new guitarist, what's his name? Is he going to be in the band for a while now? What's your deal? Why do you keep going through members?' but for the most part I think kids are cool.
T: I think the kids that have seen our previous line-ups, once they've seen this show they'll realise that this is by far the best.

Kyle or Mike - How hard was it stepping into the shoes of the ex-members? Did you feel much pressure to perform and were you worried if fans would accept you?
K: I went through the same process with my old band where I was joining a band that had already established themselves and everything went well with that one and I just figured everything would go good too with this one. But it's been super comfortable stepping in because I've been friends with these guys for a long time. My old band used to go on tour with them all the time.
Mike: For the most part kids were pretty cool about it. We'd play shows, first one or two tours I did they'd be like 'yeah, I was friends with Dave, the old drummer but you're pretty nice too' and I'm like 'thanks!' At least they gave me a chance and then they were like 'you're pretty good too'. They allowed me to be in the band, basically!
Kyle: it helps that he's better looking than the old drummer!
Mike laughs.

BV: Tim - what's it like having a brother who's in another band (Chris in August Premier). I know Chris was in Allister for a little while. What was it like after he left and how is it being in two different bands?
T: It was cool. It's funny because I never thought… like when we were younger, we were both in the music world and in bands, I was always like 'I don't wanna be in a band with my little brother, that's lame', but as we got older and I started hearing the things that he was doing, I was like 'fuck, this is one of the most amazing bands I've ever heard in my life. I wanna do something with him too'. So we had the chance to have him join the band and it worked out for a while, unfortunately he went back to August Premier. But things worked out for the best.

BV: I guess you can talk to each other. Like if you're stressed out with something band related you can talk to him about it and vice versa.
T: Yeah. And we have a lot of the same musical tastes and a lot of the same friends, so a lot of things we do back home are the same and we hang out with each other a lot now. It's nice to have a brother… or a friend who is a brother.

BV: What would you say are the band's strengths and weaknesses?
T: I think one of our strengths is definitely a pretty decent live show. I'd like to think that our live show's pretty good and we have a lot of energy.
K: The existence of this band is pretty much touring. It's not like we're on MTV or being played on major radio stations.

BV: You've released two full-length albums. Where did the actual titles 'Dead Ends & Girlfriends' and 'Last Stop Suburbia' come from?
T: Actually one of my friends came up with the idea for the first record. We were sitting around and he was shouting out ideas and he said 'how about 'Dead Ends & Girlfriends'? All your songs are about that.' And I was like 'that has a good ring to it'. And then our old guitar player John came up with 'Last Stop Suburbia'. It kind of has to do with… we do so much touring. When we tell people where we're from we always say Chicago. We're not really from the city of Chicago, we're from the suburbs. Sometimes people who live in suburbia get a lot of grief for not being blue-collar yuppies with mommy and daddy having a lot of money. That's not really the case where we live. It just happens to be the suburbs. And we kinda figured every time we come home from the tour, we always end up back in the suburbs…. In suburbia. And that's our lives, that's where we do everything. We've kinda grown to accept that.

BV: I like how you have 16 songs on your albums. A lot of bands don't give so much value for money. Was that Drive-Thru's idea or yours?
T: Nah, it was all ours.
S: The first record we had an abundance of songs as we hadn't put out a record yet so we were like 'let's put them all on' and the second one… it was a long period of time before our first and our second record so we figured we needed to give the kids something a little more since we had to wait so long.

BV: 16 tracks is good. Some bands and labels still only put 10 or 12 on a CD.
T: Growing up, all the bands that we used to listen to; Green Day, Screeching Weasel and The Ramones always used to put 20 songs on a record. It's more for your money.

BV: Do you write a lot? Do you find it easy to write songs?
T: No!
S: That's the problem - we don't write too much on the road. And we're on the road so much that it's hard to actually get time to sit down and actually write songs. So we're actually taking the next month when we get home to sit down and not tour and try and brainstorm ideas.

BV: So what do you want the average listener to get from your songs or your band?
T: An erection! A massive one!
Everyone laughs.
K: Nah. If kids can relate to what we're saying, 'cause we've been through the same shit that they've been going through. If we can get that message across I think that's pretty cool. We want people to have a good time.
S: To get the same stuff out of music that we used get out of it when we were younger and we do.

BV: Do you think some people might see you as a joke band because you did a cover of Back Street Boys 'I Want It That Way' and you've also done the 'Fraggle Rock' cover?
T: I'd like to think not so much anymore. I think maybe two or three years ago, yeah, that probably would have been the case. I think we've developed a little bit more of our own identity now. We still like to have a good time, we still like to clown around, but we do take it seriously.
S: Our next record I'm sure we'll push it further in seriousness.
T: Yeah.

BV: That reminds me of Blink-182's new album because that's more mature to what they've done in the past, toning down on the jokiness. What do you think of that album?
T: I haven't even heard it.
Kyle and Scottie laugh and say they haven't either.
M: I heard it once. I heard the first five songs. I was thinking about buying it… It was alright. Maybe I'll burn it from somebody.
K: Sorry Travis!
M: He's definitely an awesome drummer and it's kinda cool that they went in that direction. Obviously playing music for so long you can't play the same thing day after day. You've gotta do something different once in a while. Green Day did the same thing and I think that band kicks ass so… it's good for them.

BV: What do you think of the Back Street Boys since you covered them?
T: I think they're lame personally. I think all boy bands are lame.

BV: What do you think of the Pop Idol and American Idol shows? Do you think they're lame as well?
T: Absolutely.
S: Definitely.
M: Definitely. The lamest thing on TV right now.
T: Reality shows in general are just boring pieces of shit.
K: Force-fed marketing…
M: The way I was thinking about it, didn't they steal it from here first - the Idol show? And the US was like 'let's steal that' or whatever and it did really well so now they keep doing it and doing it and in five years there's going to be ten people selling all these records just from that stupid show and it's all this made-up bullshit. It's this made-up pseudo industry.
K: But if it's not them it'll be somebody else.
T: It's funny because society wants to see… they're so fascinated by celebrities and stardom and they want to see your average person blowing up and getting big because then they think it might happen to them. It's not reality.

BV: Don't you think it's good in a way though?
S: It gives people something to hope for.
T: Yeah, but you've gotta take it with a grain of salt.

BV: It's like the lottery. One person wins the lottery and that gives everyone else something to hope for.
T: Right.
Everyone agrees.
M: I dunno. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I guess. I'm just not a big fan.
K: Usually any group that does not write their own songs leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

BV: I read that you recorded 'Last Stop Suburbia' in California by the beach. Was it hard to knuckle down to work knowing that there's a cool beach outside?
T: It was a little difficult sometimes.
S: The novelty wore off. We were there for a week before we started recording so… We've been on tour a lot, we've seen a lot of beaches. It was cool for a while but it wasn't really a distraction.
T: But at the same time it would be nice not to have any distraction at all when we're working on a record - just to make sure you get it done.
S: I thought the other way. I like knowing that ok, I've got to sit down here and do all this but after that I can go and sit out in the sun for half an hour or so. It's nice to have some kind of reward.
T: And we only work eight or nine hours a day, it wasn't like long days, so it was nice.
K: The next record we might try more of a secluded approach and do something in the Mid West, 'cause that's where we're from.

BV: Do you take recording very seriously? Or do you have a lot of fun in the studio?
T: Oh yeah, we have fun, but we know we have a job to do, so we want to get it done, but we still have fun at the same time.

BV: Out of all the songs you've written which are your faves? I read that 'Somewhere On Fullerton' is a live favourite.
T: Yeah, that's probably my favourite only because, a lot of the songs I write mean a lot to me, but that means the most because it's about a club in Chicago that I went to growing up. It's where I saw my first punk show and we used to go see bands play there all the time and bands that actually inspired me to do this.
M: I like playing 'Overrated' a lot and 'Racecars'. Those are my two favourites I think.
K: I'm a 'Radio Player' man myself!
S: I think probably for me, 'Camouflage', which I wrote about being shy. A kid came up to me and I could tell he was really nervous to talk to me. And the thing is, playing in a band was what kind of got me out of my shell, having to be onstage in front of a lot of people. This kid came up to me and he didn't know how to talk to me and I just kept thinking 'if I wasn't doing this, I could be that kid' and he just told me how much the song meant to him, so that was pretty cool. So I'd probably say that song.

BV: So you used to be really shy?
S: I'm still pretty shy.

BV: If you could have written a song by any other artist, which would you have most liked to have written?
K: The entire Marvellous 3 CD - 'Ready Sex Go'.
S: I'd say for me it'd be Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. I cannot believe that song was written. It makes no sense to me how somebody could sit down and write that song.

BV: Maybe you should do something like that - write something so totally different that would blow everyone's minds.
S: I think nowadays if you do something like that, you just get more enemies. Saves The Day has done that a lot of times and even though the album's are good, people will not… if it's different, they'll be like 'oh, they totally changed!' yadda yadda yadda. Nowadays if you do it kids aren't as acceptable to it.
T: I think you have to know your limitations too. Bands like Queen and bands like Led Zeppelin, they can do that stuff.
K: They were making limitations.
T: Bands like us who aren't as talented, we stick with what we know and what we're halfway decent at doing, and I think if you stretch beyond those boundaries you're going to alienate a lot of fans and you're probably going to put out something that's not your best work. It's fun to try and do something like that but I don't think it would be a good idea.
K: Our next record comes out and we sound like Radiohead, it'll be 'woah, what happened here!?'

BV: Talking about Queen, that reminds me of The Darkness - have you heard them?
M: Haha, yeah.
K: Yeah, they've got the one song which is starting to get big in the US. I think it's crazy!
T: I think they have the right idea, as far as bringing back big arena rock, but I don't think they're pulling it off quite the right way.
K: It's almost like they're doing an Andrew WK thing.
T: I haven't heard the whole record, so…
M: I know a lot of people don't take it too seriously.

BV: Reading a lot of interviews with you and they're all mainly about your music and your band. If you had to get up on a soapbox and talk about a subject you really believe in, outside of the music industry, what would you most like to talk about? Are you interested in anything political or social at all?
T: Not really! We're not a very politically minded band.
M: I don't really know too much about politics so I kinda keep my mouth shut when the subject comes up - 'cause I have some friends that are really into that stuff. I'm not one to get into debates if I don't know what I'm talking about. I know people that do that. They're like 'the president does this and does that' and I'm like 'you just heard that. Somebody told you that he did that. You don't know he did it'. I just leave it alone because I really don't know.
K: You never know what to believe.
M: I have some friends who read up on this stuff, they're really interested and that's cool, but… I know people who go and do war protests and that stuff. I don't agree with war or anything but I don't know what to do about it.
K: It's hard because music is literally 95% of our lives because we're always on tour or working on songs or buying CDs and listening to music, so I don't think we have much of a life outside music!
T: I wouldn't mind getting up and giving a big history lecture.
K: I used to work in construction. I could tell you about the side of a house, hanging gutters.

BV: Finally, tell us something about the band that no-one knows.
K: Scottie tried out for a boyband once, called Remixt with a 't'.
T: I used to be on the diving team at high school!
M: Kyle, you go, I'm trying to think of something.
K: You guys should say something, bash on me.
T: He has a bad haircut!
K: Tell them something people DON'T know. They've seen pictures of me.
T: He's got a 1966 Thunderbird, which I think is pretty cool, even though I've never actually ridden in it.
M: I dye my hair red.
They all laugh.
M: I'm really not Irish. It's all a big lie.

One thing that's not a big lie is that Allister rock. Following the interview they put on an awesome live performance headlining the show, which further solidified the pleasure we had of interviewing them. Not only are Allister nice guys to talk to and interview but they're very talented, put on first class live shows and really impress you with their band performance. Black Velvet will definitely be back to see them next time they hit these shores - you should make sure you go too. Let's hope we don't have to wait too long. Visit www.allisterrock.com in the meantime for more info.



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