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Interview: Middle Class Rut - Unshackled Justice

Interview: Middle Class Rut - Unshackled Justice

Pick up Your Head has a very live feel to it. Do you write collectively in the studio or do you individually bring ideas to the sessions?
We do both. Anyway we can get a song down, we bring it in that way. The best ones are the ones that are already mapped out when we bring them in, because they come together fast. For the most part, if a song doesn’t come together super fast, we’ll just throw it in the back and work on something new. We’ve always felt that there are enough ideas floating around so we don’t have to get too strapped down to finishing every single thing. It’s like, “Why are we stressing on this? Why don’t we just write something better that comes together easier instead of forcing it?”

As songs start taking shape, do you impose limits on overdubbed parts so you don’t have to worry about duplicating them live?
No, but I knew the record we were making wasn’t a two-piece record. [Previously] I always had the thought in the back of my head, “Oh shit—eventually we’re going to have to figure out how to do this [live],” but I didn’t necessarily want to stop the way I was going about the songs. Some of the first songs for the record were written around bass lines that I had. Right away, that made it fresh to me. It was like, “Now I’m not stuck with just a guitar. Now I can write.”

It sounds like you still kept the album relatively straightforward, though. It wasn’t like you added an obscene amount of layers.
Not at all. You know, we’re still the kind of band where we’ll play a riff for like five minutes and I’ll sing 12 different melodies over it. We still stuck with the groove-based stuff, but a lot of the guitar and bass parts don’t go together in terms of having to sing and play—I didn’t want to think about it this time. I knew we’d figure it out when the time came, and we’re playing out now as a five-piece.

What led to that decision?
We have to, because this new record has a hell of a lot more going on and we had to find a way to do it live that wasn’t about using computers. In the past, there was literally no bass—it was just a guitar, drums, and vocals. We’ve just done our first round of shows with these extra dudes. The guitarist is Evan Ferro. He’s a super-good guitarist and also sings backup, so he can help me out with the harmonies. The bassist is a guy named Harris Pittman. He’s someone we found through our management. He’s the newest guy, and we didn’t have any association with him before. The other guys we’ve known. Then Adam Barker, the percussionist, is doing all the pots and pans and shit that you hear throughout the record.

He’s bringing pots and pans to the shows?
Yeah, anything clinky and metal. I sent him some songs off the record and told him that we needed someone to build a crazy percussion kit that sounded like what was on the tracks. He really ran with it. He showed up with this insane kit—it’s got, like, brake drums off a car, a keg, and trash can lids that are stuck together with a broken thimble. He was able to make a freestanding kit. It’s stuff that I could have never conceptualized, but I’m really glad we got a hold of this dude because it sounds exactly like the shit you hear on the record.

MC Rut guitarist Zack Lopez (left) and drummer Sean Stockham (right) have added three band members to flesh out their live sound for this tour. Shown here at Pub Rock in Scottsdale, AZ, on May 3. Photo by Jeffrey Olsen

There are enough ideas floating around so we don’t have to get too strapped down to finishing every single thing. It’s like, “Why are we stressing on this? Why don’t we just write something better that comes together easier instead of forcing it?”

But as you’ve experienced in the past, adding more people can complicate things.
If you’re trying to tell someone you want to hear something a certain way and they’re not on the same page, it’s never going to work. Sean and I have always clicked when working together. Once we started singing, we were like, “Oh shit, this is where it’s at.” It was way easier just to have two people to tour. Now it’s logistically a nightmare—all the extra gear and everything. But then you figure that’s how bands have done it forever. A traditional band is a four- or five-piece, so if everyone else can figure it out, certainly we could, too.

After this tour, will these additional guys be involved with the next album, or will you guys remain a duo writing music with the knowledge that even complex arrangements will be playable live?
It’s hard to say, man. Which way do you go? They weren’t involved in the writing process—Sean and I did everything by ourselves. I think it’s good because these guys were brought in after the record was done so we all have a goal and we know what it’s supposed to sound like. We finished the record and it was, like, “Okay, now let’s figure it out.” We don’t really have a plan in terms of going forward. It’s still relatively new.

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