To say the least, it's been an eventful couple of years for None More Black. The band declared an indefinite hiatus in 2007 only to return to action again earlier this year. Now the band is writing for a new album that - finger's crossed - will come out next year. Scene Point Blank spoke with frontman Jason Shevchuk about None More Black's resurgence as well as The Fest and the future of On Guard.
Scene Point Blank: It's a comeback and not a reunion correct? A lot of bands seem to be cashing in on the latter term as of late.
Jason Shevchuk: Oh yeah. The word "comeback" puts a lot of pressure on it though. We used the term "indefinite hiatus" because we didn't want to address the fact that we weren't going to be playing anymore. Since we had to release a statement, I guess the label thought that "indefinite hiatus" was proper. So yeah, we're back. I guess we'll take the winter to write a record and play some shows. We'll start to play out more as things begin to snowball. It's not going to be like it used to with constant touring; we want to keep it at a comfortable level.
Scene Point Blank: I didn't really pay attention to the band until Loud About Loathing was released, was None More Black ever at full time status? Wasn't Paul still playing with Kill Your Idols at the beginning?
Jason Shevchuk: When Paul joined None More Black, Kill Your Idols was slowing down. We toured for a good part of 2003 when the first record came out, all Summer long and into the Fall. Then we did three months with Anti-Flag, Against Me!, and Rise Against.
Scene Point Blank: Oh yeah, I remember that. That was the Fat Wreck Tour wasn't it?
Jason Shevchuk: Yeah. We did Europe and a lot with Good Riddance. When "This Is Satire" came out we did a lot with Fifth Hour Hero. We've had our fair share of touring.
Scene Point Blank: So I would say it's obvious for anyone that has been, but why The Fest as your second round of comeback shows? CMJ is just wrapping up and I know Fat has done showcases before, which would be a nice place for the band to make their return.
Jason Shevchuk: No particular reason. When we decided we wanted to play again, the first thing we did was get in touch with Tony [Wienbender, Fest Organizer]. We thought that would be the best play. We were originally planning to have a little tour down there, which would have been good for me with work and everything but that didn't work out because our drummer Jared was on tour as a drum tech for Saosin. And he's always touring with Paint It Black. We got asked to play two CMJ showcases but we had to turn them down. So it just so happens that The Fest is our next show.
Scene Point Blank: Who are you psyched to see there?
Jason Shevchuk: New Mexican Disaster Squad, it will be their last show. Coalesce, who I was psyched to see on the list, but I was even more thrilled when I found out they are on the same show as us. I was really concerned we'd be playing at the same time. I'm also interested in seeing this band Witches. This is actually the first time where we'll be there the whole weekend to just hang out and goof around so I haven't looked at the whole list but I figured we'd just get there and roll with it, but those are three bands I will definitely be around for.
Scene Point Blank: Last year was my first time and it seemed like the talent was really spread out evenly, but this time around Saturday in particular looks really stacked, especially the show you're playing. It's very diverse in its own right but I want to get around and catch other acts, but I just might stay there the whole day.
Jason Shevchuk: That's the cool thing about it; you can leave a venue anytime and catch twenty minutes or so of so many great bands. Everything is so close; you can walk a couple blocks and see more great bands.
Scene Point Blank: Two shows during the Fourth of July and we're coming up on The Fest, what has None More Black been up to during the five months between?
Jason Shevchuk: We haven't played together since July 5th! (Laughs) Not for any reason but it's hard to get our schedules together. Paul is in other bands; Jared is always on tour. So I've been writing and making demos of new songs that I'll present to the other members very shortly. Then we'll start fleshing them out. I've got a bunch actually. That's what I've been up to. Colin's got his other band, Aneurysm Rats and works like crazy building amps. He keeps himself pretty busy.
Scene Point Blank: I only managed to see you once during your initial run, but there was a very warm camaraderie while you played, and in interviews the exchanges between members seems friendlier and less like business partners. What is it about the dynamics of this group that makes it easier to play together than other bands you've played it?
Jason Shevchuk: I know it's a cheesy thing to say, but there's a bond between us that is untouchable. We've known each other for ten years now and we really enjoy being around one another. We're best friends and that's reason enough to do the band again. We don't really get to see Colin that often because he's always working. The only way to see him is if we're playing in a band together; he'll drop anything to play music. It's one thing to say, "Hey, you wanna come hang out?" He'll tell us he has work. But if we say, "Wanna have band practice?" He'll say, "I'm there; just tell me when!" So it's just the fact that we really love each other.
Scene Point Blank: Upon your inception, None More Black appeared to be more like your project rather than a group effort. But since the chemistry seems tight and the songs are very well rounded I have to ask how collaborative the writing process is.
Jason Shevchuk: That's all me on those first releases. I guess I'm the only original member actually.
Scene Point Blank: There's a real progression between the first full-length and the EP that follows it. I wondered if that had something to do with the lineup changes. And then when This is Satire came out, it was just like "Whoa, how did they get this good so quickly?"
Jason Shevchuk: It all starts from the same point. I sit for a long period of time writing songs. I demo them once or twice with drum machines. I have Garage Band, but I have a drum set in my room now because programming drums is real tedious for something that's not going to end up anywhere but Paul's iPod. So now I just run through a rough, sloppy version of the song and then we all flesh them out. There is definitely a great progression from the first time I record the song to the final product. I think it's because we're getting better at what we do and we're getting better at doing it together. We all kind of know what everybody likes within our band so it just gets better as we play together more. I have definitely become a much better guitar player as a result from record to record and then when Colin joined the band I got way better because he so phenomenal. He's taught me so much about chords and how to add different accents to songs. We work very well together.
Scene Point Blank: Getting back to that idea of sound in an interview from the 4th of July weekend, you said, "Once we get into a venue, we don't fit in anywhere!" which I agree with to a point. It's hard to describe your band to someone who is either very pretentious or just knowledgeable about music simply because your sound has scope to it. There is a definite punk influence but I think a lot of bands start out like that because it's easy to play; still it can get real boring. Do you describe yourself as simply a rock band?
Jason Shevchuk: It's funny because I have to describe a lot to people whom I work with. I work in a big company too so when I have to take time off they ask me, "Your in a band? What kind of music do you play?" I just say melodic rock because if you say punk rock to the average person they think Green Day, but we're obviously rooted in hardcore and punk. I would never say were a rock band to shun roots. But I think if you say were punk band it definitely corners us into a sound. I feel that punk in general is not as a wide of a genre as it should be, or as it should be described. Even in my own sense I think there are certain bands that could classify as punk bands but they are so beyond it. Look at Fucked Up; they're a punk band but they are definitely much more than that. Though I think they would probably call themselves a punk band. What's a genre anyway?
Scene Point Blank: Exactly. There is punk as a style of music and there is punk as a theory. You'll go to The Fest, see some amazing bands that never really progress their skills or style and their great bands, but part could be to identify with the notion of punk. Three chords, maybe four, a Screeching Weasel or Ramones type melody and that's it. Your lyrics in None More Black and Kid Dynamite, and even a little bit in LaGrecia are very critical of the circles your bands fall in with.
Jason Shevchuk: I think that it affected me at a good point in my life where I was affected by great bands and I'm not affect by it anymore. Punk has affected me already. There is nothing more than the experience from a band that affects me anymore. And that's probably a jaded thing to say, but it's true. Punk had a great influence on me but it had its influence. That's where I'm coming from at least.
Scene Point Blank: I say the same things to friends of mine. There are certain bands I've seen over twenty times, but they just don't do it for me anymore.
Jason Shevchuk: I listened to a lot of bands that I used to love when I was younger and I can't put the records on anymore. Sometimes I can't believe that I used to like some of that stuff. It's about something you belong to even though it's not technically or musically fantastic now, but at the time it was powerful. It's that power supercedes talent.
Scene Point Blank: You're sound isn't pop per se but it's definitely not hardcore. Upbeat is a good word I think, but that's tonal. Lyrically you come off as critical and almost self-loathing, hence the EP's title, is this just how you tend to write?
Jason Shevchuk: Yeah. I don't like writing fiction because it feels fake, which it is. It's not personal to me to write songs about fake situations. I don't write love songs. In fact when I started None More Black, I said there would be no love songs. I hope I don't disappoint anybody if they misread any lyrics. I feel like there are millions if not billions of love songs that are better than anything I could ever write and it's just not something I feel passionate enough about to put into song. What drives us to play music is anger and the idea of having a good time with friends. It's about getting stuff out, being therapeutic.
Scene Point Blank: If I remember an older interview, the title This is Satire came from the idea that all the publicity and self-marketing takes away from the act of making and playing music?
Jason Shevchuk: You're dead right. That's why this band will never be a huge band. I can't speak for Colin and Paul if we could do this all the time. I cannot commit myself to it, the touring and the repeated cycle. I crave normalcy and I want a normal life, which makes it a lot easier for me to write music. The road does not inspire me nor does playing with so and so's band across the country.
Scene Point Blank: Did you ever feel like you were picking up too much momentum and that you should put None More Black on the backburner?
Jason Shevchuk: I didn't think we were picking up steam at all. I think that live we were getting better, but as far becoming popular, I don't think it was happening. We were getting really tight live, and that last show we played in Brooklyn two years ago was probably one of the tightest shows we've ever played until fourth of July. That show was great as well.
Scene Point Blank: Is it hard for you to go into a project and get excited about it only to be turned off by the excess that comes along with it?
Jason Shevchuk: Another thing is that we're terrible businessmen. We've been in merch debt since we started. And now, forget it; gas prices are insane. That's what people don't realize. We pay; we lose money to play shows. Almost every time we lose money. It cost money; gas is expensive and we have to take off work. We're in our thirties so it's not like we're eighteen and can still live at home then hit the road. In order to do a full-time band, you have to have that business sense; you have to sell yourself like a brand, as well a band.
Scene Point Blank: I had the same discussion with my friends. I'm doing this interview with you. I'm getting a press pass for The Fest, but I still have to pay for the flight, which is almost three hundred dollars. And they ask why I do it. And I say, "I dunno, I just can't help it."
Jason Shevchuk: That was the argument I always had with my parents. They'd ask if I was getting paid and I would say, "Well, a little bit, but that's not what it's about." And I would just have to hear it from them. Now they are a little nicer and say, "Oh you're playing in a band again? Okay, cool." They realize at this point that it's in me and it's not going away, even though I try. I try real hard to make it go away. Sometimes.
Scene Point Blank: Any chance you'll ever properly release the stuff you wrote under the moniker On Guard?
Jason Shevchuk: Actually the gentleman who did our last interview, Ollie from Skratch Magazine, has a free label that he does. Downloads only and it's demos only too. I'm spacing on the name, but I have all the files in my bedroom with the artwork and I think six songs. Some became LaGrecia songs, which you'll be able to tell. I also did that Johnny Cash comp, which I think just came out. I did a song for Generic Insight Radio's comp too. Those are the only songs I recorded.
Scene Point Blank: Anything else you want to add?
Jason Shevchuk: For anyone who's making this their first time for The Fest you have no idea how much fun you'll have. I know people talk about it, but the vibe is unreal. Fuck all those other fests; this is the real deal.
- Official Myspace Website: http://www.myspace.com/nmbmusic