Interview: A Loss For Words

Hitting up the UK for the first time, Faye caught up with A Loss For Words frontman Matty Arsenault, ahead of their Newcastle show. The pair got talking about  the tour so far, their debut album The Kids Can’t Lose – in particular, one ‘interesting’ response, the release of their forthcoming Motown cover record, coming from the Boston hardcore scene, and chavs.

Faye: How are things in the A Loss For Words camp today?
Matty: Good, this has been one of the coolest tours we’ve done, so I’m in a very good mood because I’m having such a good time.

Faye: You’ve been going for a while, and this is your first trip over, are you stoked?
Matty: Yeah, for an unsigned band like ourselves from America, and every night we’ve had a good lot of kids singing along and stuff, it’s been pretty unreal for us, so we’re very stoked.

Faye: Cool, so people have been familiar with you?
Matty: Yeah, some nights more than others, but there’s been some nights where there’s been like 10-20 kids that are going crazy for us and some nights there’s at least like 6 or something, so every night there’s been at least a few kids who know who we are, which is really cool.

Faye: How’s touring with All or Nothing and LYU?
Matty: Cool, I mean, basically, All or Nothing, they did a split with our friends The Wonder Years a while ago, so we were familiar with their music and stuff. When we got offered to do the tour with LYU and All or Nothing, we kind of knew that All or Nothing would be like our friends because we have mutual stuff, but LYU have really showed us such a good time, because me and our bass played ride with LYU, and the other guys ride with All or Nothing, so we all get the chance to get close and to know everybody. It’s been really fun. Great guys.

Faye: Did you have any expectations coming over to the UK?
Matty: I think we just came here with a clear mind, didn’t know what to expect and it’s definitely been better than what I could have ever dreamed of, it’s been great.

Faye: I thought you might have supported someone for your first time coming over, rather than headlining?
Matty: Yeah, basically, the politics of music, it’s so tough to get a favour from somebody, even though we’re friends with everybody, the business side of things always kind of gets in the way of stuff, but I think for our first headliner and tour, in general, over here, I think it’s been going really well. We’re trying to come back in September and do a follow-up. We’re trying to find another band to take us out, but probably it’s going to be us headlining again. I think we’re going to try do something with Not Advised and LYU, but we have to see what’s happening.

Faye: I noticed on your Twitter that you like British slang, what’s your favourite?
Matty: I like ‘chav’, I don’t even know what the equivalent would be in the US, but last night there was a chav at our show and we almost had to fight him, because he was drinking and was pushing all the 14-year-old kids and he was probably like 30-years-old, we just like, “Come on, man. Relax.” I don’t know, he was just the stereotype, and they’ve all been talking about chavs, like, “That’s a chav!” I understand now, I get it.

Faye: On All or Nothing’s Twitter they said last night in Bridlington was the best night of the tour?
Matty: That was the worst night, oh my God. Every night of the tours been awesome, but last night, there was just something really weird, I don’t know. Something about it just felt very awkward. Every other show has been amazing and fun, but last night just had a really weird vibe. I’m glad to be in Newcastle right now. Anything will be better than last night, I was so bummed out. [laughs] I went to sleep right after the show, I was so sad, that chav just pissed me off, because he was pushing all the young kids, just being a bully.

Faye: You’ve been going for like 10 years, but you only released your debut album The Kids Can’t Lose last year, what took you so long to release your first full-length?
Matty: That’s a good question actually, I think it’s because we tried so long to find a record label to put us out, and we kind of had some interest from certain labels, but nothing was really what we wanted. So we finally decided to do it and take out a big loan from the bank, and it cost us a lot of money to do it, and we’re still paying off a little bit of it, but it went really well, we got a really good response and it sounded a little bit better than what we thought. It’s been awesome.

Faye: So, is A Loss For Words a full-time thing for you guys?
Matty: A Loss For Words is definitely a full-time thing, we are all broke as hell right now, but we all take it very seriously and all want to make it a full-time career, so I think in order to take the right steps to get where we want to be, you have to tour full-time. You can’t really work and be on tour full-time, so 9-months of the year, we’re just on the road.

Faye: I read a review of The Kids Can’t Lose on AP.net and it turned into and 18-page thread of hate, bashing you guys, what the hell?
Matty: Aw, man, well, there was a lot of kids defending us too, it was like half and half. It’s funny because our acoustic CD got reviewed on there and it got a really good review, and kids were stoked on it. Then with the new record, the guy who reviewed it, he just like didn’t even make any points about the record, he just talked shit about our band, which was kind of a bummer, I guess, but who’s that one guy? There’s so many kids out there that are going to like or not like our band, so who’s that one person? I don’t care what that dude has to say about my band. It was cool seeing a lot of kids defending us too. We have a new record coming out, I want that dude to review our next record too.

Faye: Isn’t your new record an album of Motown covers?
Matty: Yeah, it’s all covers, so I’d like to see what he has to say about that.

Faye: In regards to releasing a Motown cover album, have people been like, ‘What the fuck?’
Matty: Yeah, it’s one of those things, with our band we listen to anything from hip-hop to pop music to hardcore, we listen to everything. We’re not one of those bands that goes, “We only listen to this kind of music.” We listen to everything. We’ve always wanted to do something with R’n’B songs, so we took all the classic fifties Motown songs, and give them our twist and have a good time with it. We had a blast with it, so whether or not some people like it or not, that’s their own problem, but I think people should respect it for what it is and have fun with it, because I think it’s a really fun record.

Faye: Isn’t their guest vocals from some of the dudes in Set Your Goals and Four Year Strong?
Matty: Yeah, we had Alan and Dan from Four Year Strong sing on I Want You Back by Jackson 5, and we had Jordan from Set Your Goals sing on Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. I’m stoked on it, the record’s going to be fun, I’ll tell you that right now.

Faye: You’re pretty much a pop-punk band, but you seem to get lumped in with these popcore bands, how do you feel about that?
Matty: It’s kind of like when I said before, our band listens to all types of music, we’re not one of those kids who try to stay in one category of music, we just like to have good fun with music and write the songs we like. If we feel like writing a punk song, we’ll write a punk song. If we want to write a song with screaming in it, we’ll have a song with screaming in it. We stay away from the breakdown thing, that’s not really our thing, but we like to keep it open and do what we want to do. Our band’s been around for a long time, probably about 10-years, and I feel like Set Your Goals and Four Year Strong really made the pop-hardcore thing really what it is now. I feel there’s a lot of bands trying to jump on that bandwagon, but we’ve always followed the vein of Saves The Day and New Found Glory, we take what they’re kind of doing, but give it our own twist and keep the old traditional pop-punk sound with no breakdowns, it’s not necessarily for us.

Faye: For a pop-punk band, you seem to have a good rep in the hardcore community, do you think that’s because of the scene you came from?
Matty: Yeah, I grew up on hardcore shows for years, going to see Bane, Converge, American Nightmare, The Hope Conspiracy, all Boston hardcore bands, and when we first started booking our first tours in 2005, all my contacts were from those bands, from the hardcore bands, so all the promoters that would put us on shows were hardcore promoters that only do hardcore shows, but just because of who I knew and mutual friends, they would put us on shows. The first few tours, we’d only play on hardcore tours, we were the only pop-punk band and we made lots of friends with different hardcore bands, so we got those core friends. I grew up on hardcore and I believe what hardcore stands for, and I’m glad that we’re part of it. We’re not a hardcore band at all, by any means, but I like that we get lumped in with our friends’ bands, it’s cool.

Faye: Doesn’t Sweet Pete from In My Eyes do guest vocals on your song Stamp of Approval?
Matty: Yeah, we’ve been on the hardcore scene for a long time and our first two EPs that we put out, we’re actually put out on a hardcore label called Rock Vegas Records and we made a lot of people through that. Basically, I looked up to Pete, he’s a dude I’ve always looked up to, he always has a positive message. I’m not straight edge myself, he is, he’s been straight edge since 1984 and vegan too, and everything he says is true, there’s no bullshit. I asked him to be on the record and he said yeah. He drove from Philly, he didn’t ask for gas money, we him offered gas money and he was like, “No, I have a full-time job, I really want to be a part of this record.” I just think he’s one of the most sincere dudes ever. I really, really appreciate everything he does for hardcore and our band and everything. He’s just a really good dude.

Faye: You seem to come from one of the strongest scenes in the US.
Matty: Yeah, of course! There’s all kinds of different stuff going on, you’ve got New York, who’s obviously had a great hardcore scene, like Sick of it All, H2O, Madball, Agnostic Front, it goes on and on. Boston’s had Blood For Blood, Hatebreed, Death Before Dishonor, we both have our different things going on, but I think Boston holds it down for sure. I think we have a lot more diverse styles of music, we have more positive music and we have a lot of angry hardcore music. I think New York has more of the tough guy thing going on.

Faye: You rep a lot of Massachusetts bands in your Hold Your Breath video.
Matty: Yeah, it’s one of those things, we repped Four Year Strong, Death Before Dishonor, Last Lights, we just wanted to put our friend’s bands in there, because we have fun, doing what we want to do and we want to make sure that we rep our friend’s bands, because they always rep up. If you watch a Four Year Strong video, they’re wearing our shirts too, we always give support to each other.

Faye: How was making the Hold Your Breath video?
Matty: It was fun. I mean, to be honest, we were going on tour, so we were only there for our shots, we weren’t there for all the other stuff that was going on, like with the girls and our friends who were playing skateboarders and stuff, so we missed out on that. It seemed that it was a really good time, we were kind of bummed, but we were so busy that we couldn’t get to both shoots.

Faye: People’s opinions on the video seem quite divided, I’ve read some negative comments on Last.fm about it, how does that make you feel?
Matty: I started going to shows about 12-years-ago and there was no such thing as internet with music, and I don’t care what anybody has to say about us on the internet. Obviously, positive things are cool, but I’ve never found what’s so cool about being negative on the computer. Like if you have a problem with me and my band, don’t listen to us, don’t go to our shows, or come say it to my face, who’s a little 13-year-old kid sitting behind a computer? It just really stresses me out, for anything, even when people talk shit about my friend’s bands, everything, it’s just like, who the fuck is that kid? Who does he think he is? He’s not in a band. His mom probably washes his fucking ass when he gets out the shower, he’s just a punk. That’s just how I feel, I don’t buy into all the negative stuff, and like you said earlier about the bad review on AbsolutePunk. I mean, we’re in the UK, we went to Japan, we tour the US all the time, we’re doing our thing, so if you don’t like us, just don’t listen to us.

Faye: You recently signed to Paper + Plastick, do you think it’s well-deserved after all this time as an unsigned band?
Matty: I don’t think we deserve anything, I’m just happy to be a part of that label, I believe in what that label stands for. There’s a lot of great bands, there’s a lot of great bands that nobody knows of, but they’re awesome punk bands, real punk bands. I can go ahead and say that we’re not a punk band, but I feel honoured to be on that label because we have the same values and mindset as some of those bands, but we don’t sound like them. I think it’s really cool that Vinnie took a chance on us, because he believes in what we do. We’re all big fans of Less Than Jake, so for us to be a part of his label is so awesome, so awesome.

Faye: We Are The Union [Paper + Plastick labelmates] played here a month ago.
Matty: That band, they’re just some of the nicest guys, they play some of the most fun music out there, I just love that band. The way I met them, I was on tour with Four Year Strong, selling merch, and it was on The Starting Line tour, when Rise or Die Trying first came out and they had a day off, and they played a show with We Are The Union, and I was just like, “I fucking love this band!” So I went up to them, and I was like, “Yo! What’s up? I’m Matt and I’m a huge fan.” Then we became really good friends, so even though they’re some of my best friends, I’m still a huge fan of their music. When we play shows on tour, I’ll go crazy for them, jump on people, sing-along, I’m still a huge fan of the band, even though they’re my friends.

Faye: Before you signed to Paper + Plastick, was it frustrating seeing other bands from your scene getting signed?
Matty: I’m happy for all my friends to succeed, but my whole thing is that we do what we do because we love it, and if some day we can make enough money to pay our bills and do stuff like that, that’s awesome. If we don’t, it’s whatever. I just think music has taken a turn for the worst. When I first started going to shows, shows were like $2/$3/$5, and it wasn’t about making money, it was just about having a good time, meeting friends. You’d go to shows, pass out flyers, because there was no internet, keep in mind, so the only way you knew about shows was to go to shows, and kids passing out flyers. It’s kind of like, there’s a lot of bands out there, and I’m not going to say anything names, but they just get signed for the wrong reasons, but then you have bands like Set Your Goals and Four Year Strong getting big and I’m not jealous at all, I’m more than happy. I’d do anything I could to support them and help them out any way they could.

Faye: As mentioned before, you’re releasing a Motown cover album, but what made you want to release a cover album as your first label release?
Matty: It’s just something we’ve always wanted to do, especially me, I’ve always loved R’n’B music, so I just wanted to recreate some of my favourite songs. When me and my friends do karaoke, I always sing The Temptations or Jackson 5 or something like that, so I think it was just the right time for us to do it. We had a little bit time off and we’re not ready to record our own record yet, we haven’t really been focusing on writing new stuff, so we thought we’d do a cover record, win people over, and then try to find a label that might want to put out the next record.

Faye: So, is this just a one record deal with Paper + Plastick?
Matty: Yeah! Vinnie’s a really cool dude, he’s a punk dude, he doesn’t give a shit about anything. The thing we have with him is, just do this record, there’s no contract, there’s no nothing, it’s all over handshake, and that’s what, to me, punk is. I trust him, he trusts us, maybe we’ll do another record with him, I have no idea. I’m not counting it out, because I really believe in what he believes in, I just want to see what else is out there too, and see if he wants to do another record with us, he might hate us, then he’ll not want to work with us. I think there’s a good chance we might do another record with Paper + Plastick, for sure.

Faye: What’s next for A Loss For Words after this UK tour?
Matty: After this, me and Marc are going on an acoustic tour with a band called Man Overboard and Balance and Composure, so we’re really excited about that. Then after that we’ll do a headliner, to promote the record, with a band called Transit and I think We Are The Union are on a few of those dates as well, so it should be cool. I want to come back here as much as possible, but I don’t want to overdo ourselves, we’ll try and come back at the right times.

Faye: Change the record, who should we be listening to?
Matty: Some bands that I think are a little underrated, that I think you should check out, are definitely Transit, I think they’re one of the best bands out right now in Boston, definitely check them out. A band called Lions Lions, they have more of a post-hardcore feel, not a type of band that we’d usually play with, but some of my best friends and I think they have some of the best live shows, so definitely check out them. There’s a young ska band called The Sheds from California, there’s three brothers in it, and one of the kids is 14-years-old, and it’s cool seeing young kids still playing ska music, it’s kind of a dying scene, it’s good to see kids trying to bring it back. Vanna’s awesome, those guys are some of my best friends too, we don’t hold music barriers, whether you’re a metalcore or a ska band or a pop band, we’re friends with everybody. Sometimes I feel like bands only stick with their kind, but us, Vanna, Four Year Strong, we’re all friends, it doesn’t matter what kind of music you play, so it’s good.

Faye: Is there anything else you want to say before we finish?
Matty: Just thank you for having us, we’re having a blast in the UK and we’re probably going to party real hard and hangout, so it’ll be fun.

Faye Turnbull.

Many thanks to Matty for the interview, and for more information on A Loss For Words, visit: www.myspace.com/alossforwords

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