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Interview: Joe Ragosta

By | Published May 19, 2017

You are currently coming to the end of your Spring Break Headline tour around the UK, how has it been treating you?

Dude its been incredible. Because have you ever had something where it’s like you really like a restaurant but your friends have never been there, and you hype it up. And at a certain point you are like “oh my god I’ve hyped it up too much, there is no way it’s going to be that good”. And then you get there and you are like “oh my god it is that good!” So, in our heads we leave England every time like “that tour was so amazing, it was incredible!” Then we get back and we are like “man maybe we hyped this too much up to ourselves there is no way it was that good”. But then we go back and it’s even better than the last time! It’s because the fans here are so insane it’s been incredible every single night. And I can’t wait for tonight.

The band has just announced their new cover album, titled ‘Other People’s Greatest Hits’, which is out May 26. What made you decide to do a cover album?

First of all, can we talk about how funny the title ‘Other People’s Greatest Hits’ is? That’s hilarious! Anyway, we are a band that always loves doing covers. And when other bands do covers it’s great to hear pop songs, country songs, rap songs or even rock songs done a different way. So, we were thinking maybe we should record these and give people something new. And we came up with a list of 173 songs, the longest part of the whole process was figuring out which ten to do.

I was going to ask you how did you choose the songs?

I’m getting nauseous thinking about it! It was so painful – like how do you listen to ‘Mambo Number 5’ and decide you are not going to do a cover of it? I don’t know but we did. And we love all the songs that we did, we grew up listening to, and have personal connections to the songs. Except for one which I didn’t know existed until Boy Jumps Ship. We recorded 9 songs and we were about to do another song which I won’t say (because we might release it another time). We had one song left and I was on the phone with all of Boy Jumps Ship and they were like [mock Geordie accent]: “Joe, you know what would be a tune, do Little Mix, Little Mix Joe!”; So, I listened to Little Mix because I had never heard of them before and I love it. So, we did ‘Shout out to my Ex’. But the rest have just been songs that we’ve loved forever and always known.

The first feature track that you have released is ‘Spice Up Your Life’; (which you have performed before at live shows) why did you select this track to give people a sample of what you had in store?

Because it was brutal, it’s like a metal song! It’s the heaviest recording we’ve ever done and how funny is it that we’ve put out a Spice Girls track we’ve done heavy which I love. It was a happy coincidence that it came out the same day as Victoria Beckham’s Birthday. And third, much more seriously America is kind of a mess right now and women are facing issues where they are losing rights they’ve had for so many years. And that is insane to me, and quite an injustice. And there is very little that can be done about it immediately. All of us do our own part to do whatever we can, as anyone would. But, we thought an immediate thing would be to release a girl power song, sung by gentleman who support girl power. And who has more girl power than the people who invented it, the Spice Girls! It’s more an homage to Girl Power, than anything else.

I know that as a band previously you have said that part of the reason you write music is to take people out of and distract people “from the chaos of real life” – do you think that’s even more important now with as you said the political situation in the world today?

Absolutely I do. It’s way more important now for me. My sister made a great point about this, she is a DJ her name is Gina Bon Jersey and she is very good at predicting musical trends. And she thinks that hard music is going to make a come-back because people are angry and there must be an outlet. And the last time this happened where there was outrage in our country, Rage Against The Machine came out. And I think that that’s going to happen again and I think she’s right. It’s important that people have an outlet whether it be hard rock or comedy, or whatever that’s what entertainment is for. And it’s maybe even to spark people’s minds and imagination about things that are going on in the world. I think it’s more important than ever for sure.

If you could choose one artist that you covered on the album to cover one of your songs, who would it be and why?

That is an amazing question! All of them for different reasons. Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons because could you imagine the harmonies? Little Mix because could you imagine the music video that would go along with it – and the dancing at the award show that they would do? Spice Girls because it would be so much fun. Jon Bellion is an interesting one, I don’t even know if you guys know who he is, he did a song that just came out over here with Stormzy. He’s from our hometown and he’s a genius, I would love to hear anything he would do with one of our songs. Ricky Martin because could you imagine the Latin flair? Rick Astley because Rick Astley. And The Killers would be so much better than us. Miley Cyrus, Lord knows what she would do. She’s all over the place, it’d be really weird and cool. And finally, Avicii & Tiësto, two of the greatest DJs. Man, I don’t know, go with Rick Astley because I think the comedy of that would be great.

In terms of the creative process with a cover album rather than writing and releasing your own songs completely – how is that different?

It’s different because the songs are hits, they are already certified, bonafide, platinum status hits. There is no question as to whether or not that is a good song, where the creative side of it came in was how are we going to make it differently? It is much different, as you don’t second guess yourself so much. When you are doing your own song it’s more like “maybe this part would read better if we did it like this”. With a bonafide platinum smash this is a good song it really doesn’t matter if I don’t know about that part because it worked for Ricky Martin so it’ll probably work here. And usually Ricky Martin is right so what can you do.

So, you have a really passionate fanbase, how do fans respond to the music on tours, do they want big hits that you’ve already done or are they hungry for new music?

We are really lucky with our fans to the point where they know everything. We were going over the numbers just now I think we have released probably something like 225 something songs. That’s insane! We try to dive deep into the archives every show at least twice so old school fans are appeased in that way. We try and make everyone happy, it’s very difficult to do. We’ve been so lucky and I’m not just saying this (and I know other bands say this but I would disagree with them) as I know that we have the best fans. They are just so amazing about knowing the stuff and being into it and being excited, having opened ear and heart to it because we change our style quite often song to song, even in the middle of albums, so for them to accept that is a true blessing.

And in terms of your fans you refer to them as your second family; what kind of a role do you think social media plays in that in connecting you to your fans?

It does a couple of things, and I’m going to talk about other people for a second. Think about this there are no more rock stars, they don’t exist and they can’t because half of being a rock star is mystique. And there are all these legends about Mötley Crüe, half of which could not possibly be true because physically they’d be dead. With social media there is no mystery to people anymore – it’s ‘I know all about this person’ instead. It changes the band, you can’t live with the attitude of 80s hair metal bands in real life – you’d get the shit kicked out of you by everyone. But they were able to on stage have that life but off stage have a different life. Social media does not allow for this so even bands who wear masks on stage very few of them are able to pull that off because they get exposed on social media for who they are.

So, where it plays in for us we are constantly in touch which I think is a double-edged sword, it’s great that it gets the music out there and in the hands of the fans which is what the artists truly want but it’s also bad because it kind of makes you less of a commodity. I’m not bothered by it, if people want to talk to me about our music and be excited about it, that’s amazing. This is my whole life, that’s Christmas morning to me every day. What it does though is it lowers the need and lowers the demand because you know everything there is to know about [artists]. So, it’s both hyping music bigger than it’s ever been but it’s also killing music because there is no more mystery. You used to show up at a tour and not know what was going to happen. For us it’s great as we are a small band and it helps us build; for music in general I think it might not be the best.

Previously you have performed at Download but have you got any plans for festivals in the future?

Yes! I don’t know which ones and I don’t know when. We are a festival band and we are built for festivals. We grew up on Warped Tour and it’s a great way to meet new fans. So, we have plans to do more festivals as soon as we know, we’ll let you know.

Finally, in August you are set to tour the US with Simple Plan, how do you feel about that?

Stoked! Pumped! The best, cannot wait! Nicest people and so excited and humbled for the opportunity. So, excited it’s going to be awesome.

Hear the full interview here: