by Meg Fair
Sick of It All has been taking the hardcore scene by storm since its inception in 1986. Twenty years since its last Warped Tour, the group sat down with CP to chat about how the scene has changed, what it’s like to tour with a family at home and why playing Europe is so damn cool.
When was the last time you played Warped Tour?
It was 20 years ago. Most of these people that are here today weren’t even born.
Does that feel strange?
It doesn’t feel weird at all, because our career just keeps going. We’re not fretting about, “Oh, what are we going to do next?” because after this tour there’s a tour in Southeast Asia, and after that it’s Europe, and after that, new record, world tour. It just keeps moving.
And this is your day job, so to speak, right?
Oh yeah, absolutely, for 26 years. In the beginning we would go on tour and get a shitty job when you came back home, go back on tour, quit that job. Now [playing music] is the job. As soon as Europe started opening up, that was the end of the workin’. [Laughs] Working JOBS, I should say, not too many people can do this.
How do you keep up with the constant traveling? Do you have a steady routine?
Like any job, it is a routine. I get up at 8:30, eat, go to the gym or whatever I can do, wait for the set time to get posted, get to some shaving before the time of the set. I’m not going out there with a five o’clock shadow! [Laughs]
Is it a battle to find a bathroom with enough space and comfort to get that kind of stuff done?
We don’t have a bus, we have one of those Bandwagons, and they come with a full sink and shower and everything, so it’s kind of better than the busses.
I feel like every non-Warped Tour band is sad during the summer because Warped has claimed all of the Bandwagons in the fleet.
Oh, absolutely. And they’re such a smart choice because it’s like a quarter of the price of a bus. And that’s my commercial for Bandwagon, so if they want to knock off any of the cost of our ride this summer, that’d be great.
Sick Of It All has been a part of the hardcore community since 1986, so what has changed in that time?
Popularity-wise it went through the growth, and then in the 90s all these hardcore bands were getting signed to major labels, everywhere you played was completely packed out. After that, it dropped off. But the thing is, to survive, you just have to leave the country. In Europe, hardcore got big and just gets bigger and bigger.
It’s strange, in America, people are like, “Well, I have kids now, this and that.” If I ever hear that again, and I know I will while I’m out here, that whole "I’m getting too old for this" spiel. Fuck you! That’s the difference. In Europe, those people are like, “I have four kids, and they are coming to the festival, and we’re gonna stay in a tent and see their bands and take them to see our bands.” That’s how the scene grows and stays that way. It sometimes seems like Europe has a little more heart in that way.
European festivals definitely just seem so huge, and it seems like everyone is so invested.
Exactly! And it could rain all four days, and they’re still at the front of the stage. It’s crazy.
Do you still live in New York [where SOIA was formed]?
Oh no, I moved to Florida. I live across the street from the beach, so I traded in my Manhattan apartment for beach livin’, so it’s pretty nice. [Laughs] And now that I have a daughter, if we moved back to the city, she’d be like, ‘Well, where’s the pool? Where’s the beach?’
How does Warped Tour change when you do have a family?
The first two weeks, my wife and daughter were on the tour with us. It was my daughter’s first tour, and my wife used to work for the band before our daughter came along. She worked for SOIA for 10 years. Then we had Lucy, and she’s five. This was her first tour, and she had a great time. She lived it like a five-year-old rock star, stayed up until 3 a.m., eating candy, watching the bands. [Laughs] It was pretty damn cool.
Everyone knows her name on the tour, but no one ever knows our band [Laughs]. I was just the guy carrying her around everywhere.
Do you all live in other cities then?
The rest of the guys live in the New York area.
How do you rehearse and prep for tours?
We don’t rehearse for tours at all. The first day of Warped Tour was the first day of rehearsal for the tour [laughs].
Does that get unnerving ever?!
My brother Lou hates it, the singer. [Laughs] He hates it, hates it. Because he’ll go to the studio and have the headphones and be listening to songs and be screaming, but it’s not the feel of the live show.
Do you know the set you’re going to play everyday?
We have four sets that we pick from, and now there’s a fifth set, mostly within the same songs. You’ve only got 30 minutes which usually gets cut to 25 or 20 minutes. All the people that are my age wanna hear the older stuff, and the newer kids, the newer stuff has more of an appeal to them because it’s got a groove to it. The set is a mix of both so we try to satisfy everyone.
In the time between your last Warped Tour and now, how has the experience changed?
The last time we did this tour, the bill was the Bosstones, Social Distortion, Pennywise. It was fun and everyone came from sort of the same scene, but even Sugar Ray and Limp Bizkit were on the tour before they got big. Everyone seemed to know each other.
I don’t know more than half the bands on this tour, and it’s like, you’re walking through and smiling at people and everyone’s like [makes a blank face]. They look the other way, it’s real strange.
For example, we had one big workout truck on the last Warped Tour we were on, and everyone would meet up there even if you weren’t doing anything, joke around. Everyone on this tour has their own little workout thing.
Who are the bands you are hanging out with?
Everybody on our stage mostly, the Hard Rock Stage. Bad Cop Bad Cop, Anti-Flag and all those guys. Valiant Thor. Great bands, great guys. It seems like our stage has really great unity.
In your free time, what’s the band watching or listening to?
We watch a lot of TV, whenever the satellite is working we just sit down and watch stuff together. We watched The Wanderers the other day, and we’ve already watched Easy Money twice, one of the best comedies ever. And we’ll probably watch it before the end of the tour again [laughs], maybe even today.
I also always forget that on a tour like this you all have phones and laptops so you can watch whatever on Hulu or Netflix.
Yeah! I watch stuff on my phone. I just watched the entire season of GLOW on Netflix, pretty cool.
Did you enjoy it?
Oh yeah, I didn’t want it to end. I was like, “Fuck, this is over already?!” It only took me two days.
Did you watch the original Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling?
Do you have any other words of wisdom for people coming to Warped Tour on the rest of the tour?
I just hope everyone comes out and checks out every band. The Hard Rock and Skullcandy stages are usually right next to each other, but Kevin noticed that some of the kids who watch bands on the main stage just stand there all day and don’t experience The Adolescents, they don’t experience Bad Cop, Bad Cop. So every once in a while, they put our stage next to the main stage and make the kids watch it, and a few times my brother Lou will be talking and say, “The band’s coming up right next to us, you don’t need to stand right in front of the main stage.” And kids come over and see that it’s fun, it’s not about being tough or whatever. They see us having fun and sometimes they’ll join in and jump around.