Alternative Press Tour 2011 Special – Title Fight Interview with Jamie Rhoden & Show Gallery with Four Year Strong, Gallows, Title Fight.
Interview and Pictures by Andy McNeil
In the world of fighting, getting a title shot often takes years of lessons-learned the hard way in a blood and sweat soaked ring. For the four young musicians behind Title Fight, it took the better part of a decade to clobber their way to the top, finally releasing their full length Shed earlier this year on SideOneDummy after putting out four 7-inches, four demos and a split.
To whip the album into shape, the guys turned to none other than hardcore demigod Walter Schreifels, who played in Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today, Quicksand and CIV, and had Philly-engineer Will Yip turn the knobs at Studio 4 in Conshohocken ¬– a joint that has recorded everything from Billy Joel to Blacklisted.
He says the label was supportive of the band’s vision and they rarely discussed business through the recording process.
“Of all the labels that we talked to, I’m going to say that SideOne was definitely the most real and down,” he says.
The effort has obviously paid off. The Kingston-based band just wrapped up the 36 city Alternative Press Tour with Boston’s own Four Year Strong and those pissed-off Brits in Gallows, who recently acquired vocalist Wade MacNeill, best known for his role in Canadian act Alexisonfire, after splitting with Frank Carter.
Outside of Altar Bar in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, during the second to last stop of the tour, the fresh-faced 21-year-old Rhoden doesn’t look like the stereotypical hard-boiled musician, fried from the road. He’s short, soft-spoken and quirky, but projects a much bolder, larger version of himself on stage, as do his bandmates.
Chalk that up to their roots. The group began to take shape not in the bar or club, but in the classroom when schoolmates Rhoden and bassist/vocalist Ned Russin sitting next to each other in Social Studies, talking about Blink 182 and other bands big on the minds of 12 and 13-year-olds in the early 2000s. Newly inspired, he was given a guitar for Christmas and the two started jamming with Ned’s brother Ben Russin behind the kit. Not long after they expanded to a four piece, adding Shane Moran on guitar.
The line-up has remained the same ever since as the group expanded from playing shows in the neighboring Wilkes-Barre scene to playing the farthest reaches of the globe, touring with hardcore legends H20 in Japan last year.
“It was awesome and there were a lot of kids in New York hardcore band shirts – they were super psyched,” he say, before shifting focus for a moment. “Another thing I thought was pretty interesting about Japan was, we’d be in the middle of Tokyo and there’d be a bunch of bicycles just set up but there’s no bike locks on them because no one was trying to steal them.”
Rhoden and company will return to the Land of the Rising Sun alongside Foundation for a five day stint in February. Of course, the lads aren’t going to sit idle until then. With only a one day break after the AP Tour, Title Fight was bound for an international flight headed to Paris to kick start a 21-day European tour with local pals Balance & Composure and Transit.
Rhoden says Belgium and England have greeted them with the wildest crowds on previously tours, aside from a particularly crazy night in Spain when they nearly doubled their set time because the audience kept demanding more songs, which they happily obliged.
Yet despite playing internationally a handful of times, traversing the U.S. with the likes of New Found Glory and Bayside and making a mark at hardcore festivals such as This Is Hardcore, United Blood and Sound and Fury – there’s no scene like home for Rhoden.
In the small city, at the foot of the Pocono Mountains and a stone’s throw from neighboring Scranton, home to the fictitious Dunder-Mifflin paper company, Rhoden and crew run a venue called Redwood Artspace, dedicated to bringing in bands from outside the area as well as supporting locals such as his younger brother’s band Train Wrecker.
Before heading back into the venue to cap off the night before the tour’s final stop, Rhoden offers this piece of advice to up-and-comers: “Do what you want because you’re probably not going to make money doing it – so do what you think is original or interesting.” A sound piece of reasoning from a band that’s had to go the distance touring before landing the knockout punch in the final round with their LP.
As for 2012, Rhoden says they are booked until next fall, but he couldn’t discuss the details. Not bad for what began as two kids daydreaming in class.