INTERVIEW: Trever Keith of punk band Face To Face

Photo By: Ben Pier

LOS ANGELES, March 10, 2016 — Face To Face released a new record, Protection, March 4 on Fat Wreck Chords. The album is the band’s tenth studio album and comes in their 25th year of existence. Recently, Face To Face guitarist and singer Trever Keith spoke with Wells On Music regarding the break up, the new album, and some special vinyl plans to celebrate their 25th anniversary.


Interview transcribed by Rebecca Jean. Bob Enis contributed questions.

So you guys initially broke up and I was trying to find the article, I couldn’t find the article but it was something to do with the state of the punk scene back when you guys broke up having to do with you guys breaking up, is that accurate?

Not really no. I like to spin my own brand of revisionist history about that now and we refer to that as a hiatus. I’m kidding, I’m being a smart ass. We did bill it as a break up at the time and it really didn’t have as much to do with the state of punk rock as it just did with us feeling like we had a great run as a band, and we kind of wanted to go out on a high note. We weren’t really sure what the next step for the band would be, and I know Scott and I had a bunch of stuff we wanted to do that didn’t involve Face to Face, and we wanted the opportunity to pursue that. I think we’d like to think of it as a hiatus, although we didn’t call it one at the time, but that’s really all we needed. I think we would have been better served to just say, “Hey we’re gonna take a couple years off from Face to Face and go pursue some different projects.” What ended up happening is once we got those projects not out of our system, but once we had the time to realize those, we started going, “Man, Face to Face was something that was really special,” and not only for us, selfishly as people, but it meant something to a lot of the fans that had been sticking with us for so many years and it just didn’t make any sense at one point to not do it anymore because we all got along with each other. We all stayed in touch during the hiatus/break up and it just seemed natural to get back together and play songs again, but it happened incrementally. We didn’t intend to make records and go back into it full bore. Initially, it was like, “We’ll do a show, we’ll do two shows, we’ll do a tour and we’ll do a record.” So, it’s all kind of been organically progressing.

You have the new record coming out March 4, why did you name the album Protection?

Well, we didn’t start out with an album title when we wrote the record. I just wrote a series of lyrics for different songs and there wasn’t any real underlying theme that tied it together. So we kind of had to reverse engineer a theme for the record once it was finished and just kind of going back through all the songs and the energy and the general vibe, Protection seemed to be the one that made the most sense because a lot of the songs deal with either internal or external forces that we all deal with as individuals that put us under a lot of pressure and create drama in our lives and the concept of protection. I thought, was a good one because it speaks to that and it is a perceived value, protection is, because it’s something that we sort of tell ourselves to feel better about life, but truth of the matter is that you can only be so protected. So, I kind of like the false hope that goes behind the theme and that’s what I love about the artwork too. It’s like, on the cover you seem protected because you’re behind this door with all these padlocks and then you flip the back over and there’s an open window on the other part of the house. So, it’s a perception thing and I like that because a lot of the lyrics deal with personal struggle, and like I said internal and external things that we’re dealing with as people on a daily basis. So it’s really just about life, living, and what comes with it.

The response for your first two singles off the album, “Double Crossed” and “Bent But Not Broken,” have been pretty overwhelmingly positive. Is this something you guys anticipated or were you kind of surprised at how stoked people are getting on this?

That’s a loaded question because if I say that I was surprised, then i’m saying that I didn’t think people would like it, but if I say I wasn’t, then that’s not fair.

The first time I listened to “Bent But Not Broken,” it was like instantly, “Holy s**t, this is a f**king rad song.” Did you get that feeling when you were in the studio recording or even just rehearsing before the studio going like, “S**t, this is gonna be pretty rad?”

Yeah, that I can answer. There was a good energy making the record. I live in Nashville and the rest of the band is in California, so the process for writing a song, we weren’t all in the same room together so we weren’t able to capture that kind of lightening in a bottle feeling when everyone’s together and you just rip some ideas off each other. It was a little more slow, the progression, where I would demo up some stuff, send it to Scott, Scott would demo things and send them to me, and he would work on those ideas and I would work on my ideas, kind of independent of one another.

At one point we felt like we had enough ideas individually and that we each worked on that when we did finally all get in a room together and start playing these things. Yeah, everyone was elevated to a whole other level of excitement and enthusiasm for making the record, and going into The Blasting Room and being able to share all that again with Bill and having Bill get stoked about the songs too just took everything up to another level. So, I hope that, for the people, that ever liked our band, when they hear this record, it’s not surprising. I hope that they like it because I think it’s maybe the best punk rock record we’ve made in our career. So that part of it I really love and I love that people are feeling the same enthusiasm for it, but whenever there has been a negative comment here or there about it, it’s usually not anything about the song or the playing or anything. It’s something snide about someone’s beard in a picture or other sort of just irrelevant things so it feels good knowing that most people that are fans of punk rock or that are familiar with our band are stoked to have a record. We didn’t make a challenging record this time. We’ve made records in our catalogue that were outside of the scope of what people know us for doing, so this one is kind of back in a zone that feels very comfortable for everybody.

How did you end up in Nashville being from Southern California?

You know, I never really considered that I would move anywhere else besides California, but about seven or eight years ago, I started thinking about Nashville. Some friends of mine that already lived here were telling me about it and singing the praises of Nashville and I was a little skeptical, so I came out and visited. As a band, we never really played, I think we played Nashville once maybe around 2001 or 2002 something like that, but when I came out and saw it for myself, I think I came out here first maybe 2009 or 2010, and it was really really cool and I liked it a lot and I was a little bit burned on the traffic and some of the more negative stuff about living in Southern California with it as overcrowded as it is and we just thought we’d try a change of pace. So we came out here. Now Nashville is getting crowded, so you can’t go anywhere. I’m gonna have to go to Montana to beat the crowds.

Yeah, where do you go when Nashville gets crowded?

Yeah, but it’s been good. I’ve been here for about six years now and it’s great. It’s a great place to live. It’s really cool.

Going back to Face to Face, at the Triple Crown shows you had Dennis Hill playing guitar with you, does he play on Protection and is he an official fourth member of Face to Face?

He does play on Protection. In terms of him being an official fourth member, I don’t really see any need to make any official press release or anything about that. Part of the deal is this, right before the band ended up taking our hiatus, we were playing as a three piece mostly and we made “How to Ruin Everything” as a three piece and toured that record and that was kind of the last thing we did before we went on a break for awhile. So, when we reformed we were stoked to have Chad playing guitar back for us again, it felt great to be a four piece. Like I said, things happened incrementally for us. So, when we started playing shows again and there wasn’t a plan like, “Alright, the band is reformed and we’re gonna play shows and make a record.” It was kind of just like one thing at a time. So, before too long, we found ourselves having shows booked and Chad was like, “I can’t commit to the amount of shows that you guys are booking.” So we were like, “Well, f**k it, we’ll go play as a three piece again,” and it just felt like not the best version of the band, given our entire career, and we really wanted that kind of four piece band thing back. So, the fact that Chad wasn’t able to do as much of the touring as we wanted to do, we just started looking around for another guy and we found Dennis because he’s a buddy of Danny’s, the drummer that took over for Pete when we reformed. It was just sort of the idea that whenever Chad wasn’t gonna be able to, Dennis would play and over the years since we’ve been reformed, Chad has been less and less, and Dennis has been around more and more. It’s not unreasonable to expect Chad to potentially show up at a show here and there, but he’s not so much of an active member of the band currently, but he’s not fired and there’s no breakup or anything like that, It’s just Dennis is around and Chad’s not, and that’s why you’re seeing more and more of Dennis around.

On Protection, you worked with Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore, what was it like working with them and is there a chance you guys will work together in the future?

We would love to work with those guys again because we had such a great time both working with those two guys and just being at The Blasting Room with the whole environment, and the experience was like super super good. It was one of the most positive recording experiences I’ve ever had in the band. What it was like? It was different for us from any other record because most of the other records we made, I would say maybe starting around the self titled record, I took a producer role in the band and Scott jumped in there right with me, I think, on the self titled record and maybe the one after, but we worked as artist producers on most of our records, and Chad Blinman, who engineered and mixed all the records from “Ignorance is Bliss” through “How to Ruin Everything,” he would sort of contribute a little bit as a producer, but he never really got overly involved on that side of things. So, this was really the first record where we have someone sitting in the producer seat and Scott and I just backed away from our roles. As a matter of fact, we’re not even credited as producers on this album. We were like, “We’re just gonna be band members on this record,” and that’s something that was really different about this album and I think it was good because it allowed another creative input into the songs and in particularly the background vocals and some of those arrangements. Having Bill’s ear versus Scott and I, we tend to go to the same things a lot, so having a complete outside influence there, I think, brought a whole new range and depth to some of the vocal arrangements, for sure. Bill sat there and produced every single word I sang on the record, so it was cool having him work with me on that. Bill is a crazy dude and there is a lot of energy and it was certainly an intense experience, but I think the results show on this record, it came out super awesome and we’re all really, really happy with the record and the band.

You guys are back on Fat Wreck Chords, is it kinda like putting on an old shoe?

Yes and no. I think it’s a long time coming and I sort of wish that right after our hiatus that I was smart enough to just reach out to Erin and Mike, like right after we reformed, but for some reason I still didn’t see how clear of a good idea that would have been. It took me a couple of records to finally be like, “I should just reach out to these guys and see if they want to do our records again,” but when I finally did, it was kinda like a homecoming. I mean, Erin was really really cool about it and responded immediately to the demo and she was really into it and then Mike kind of just fell right in line behind her like, “Yeah, the songs are great. Let’s do a record,” and it was just so easy, like everything was very, very easy about it. There was no like negotiations or crazy business things to deal with. It’s just been like, “Hey, do you guys want to do this?” “Yeah.” “Alright cool let’s do it.” Of course, if we don’t want to do something, they don’t want us to do anything that we don’t want to do.

They’ve been doing it for so long and we’ve been doing it for so long, it was almost just like this unspoken way of doing business that just makes everything so much easier and to be on a label that’s a punk rock label and to be a band that has been a punk rock band and we’ve dealt with major labels and all their bulls**t and we’ve dealt with indies and it’s just so much more of an easy way of doing things. It’s bulls**t free and that’s what I love about it, just not having any of the additional nonsense that comes along with people on those high powered labels with lawyers and all the crap. It’s been easy, so we’re stoked and hopefully a lot of people will have the opportunity to hear the record and it will make it directly to that as a result of being on Fat Wreck Chords.

Word on the street is that there are four tracks left over from the Protection recording sessions that didn’t make it onto the album, is this true?

I think there’s only three.

Are there plans to release them as a 7” or otherwise?

Not at the moment, but they’ll definitely be released at some point. What Fat likes to do, other than release a single on a 7” before a record comes out, they’ll wait until the record’s been out for like nine months or something and then do a single to remind people that the record’s out and if you missed it, check it out. The band is still touring and all that good stuff. I think it’s a cool strategy. So yeah, I think you can expect to see at least one of those outtakes probably on the single that we’ll do maybe nine months or so from now after the record’s been out.

With the popularity of vinyl clearly on the rise and there’s a pretty strong demand for out of print Face to Face vinyl, are there any plans of repressing older albums on vinyl, as well as releasing albums that have never been released on vinyl?

Yeah, so this is the 25th anniversary of Face to Face and I’ve been planning for a long time for this year to start doing deluxe editions of the catalogue on vinyl to celebrate our 25th anniversary. I’m talking to Fat right now about doing a deluxe edition of Don’t Turn Away for the 25th anniversary because they still have that record and then my label Antagonist will start releasing Big Choice and Face to Face, at least those two this year, and then it will probably drag into 2017 for me to start releasing some of the other records on vinyl, but at least those first three are all planned to come out in 2016. We’re gonna do like ??? on 180 gram vinyl. Good, cool, audiophile vinyl head kind of stuff. I mean Big Choice, that record might have only been like 500 copies of that on vinyl ever made and it’s mastered poorly, it sounds like dog shit and it’s a really thin crappy vinyl record, if you can find it, and people are paying hundreds of dollars for it. It makes me crazy. I don’t blame them because it’s a collector’s item, I guess, just because of its scarcity, but it bums me out that it’s not a very good product because that record was made as a promo record by our record label at the time, which that label doesn’t even exist anymore. They ran out of business a long time ago. So yeah, I definitely want to make some good quality versions of those albums on vinyl and get them out there. I’m in the middle of it right now. I’m currently working on it. I will say this, if you want to print it, you can expect to find that stuff to be sold directly at Kings Road Merch. We’ll do bundles for those, so watch our Kings Road Merch store over the next few months for announcements about that.

Personally for you, what format do you currently listen to music in?

I listen to music on my computer and iTunes when i’m working and my phone. And then I listen to vinyl, I don’t even mess with CDs. I sold my CD collection off a long time ago, just traded it all into Second Spin or whatever. I just don’t see any real need to like drag around a bunch of CDs and, really, my vinyl collection is for stuff that’s rare and it’s a totally different catalogue of music than the stuff I have on digital, like my digital stuff is my punk rock stuff, my rock stuff and my 80s stuff. I don’t really have any of that on vinyl. Vinyl is like a jazz collection and just trippy weirder stuff because it’s more fun to go find records that are rare because you can get anything on digital.

What are some new bands that you are currently listening too?

I don’t know if they’re new to the world, but newer to me, like in the last year or so I discovered this band Radioactivity from Dallas that’s super rad. We had the opportunity to play with them last year in Dallas, which was great. I really like this band Western Settings that we actually just played a show with. Both of the bands that we’re playing with at Alex’s Bar are newer bands that I love, so that’s why I put them on the show. Western Settings from San Diego and The Attack from Orlando Florida. Those are a couple that come to mind off the top of my head. I hate when I get put on the spot because I never remember. Beach Slang is pretty cool, I think they’re good. I like Iron Chic a lot from New York. Those are some cool like newish bands that I think are great.

When you’re not touring or recording with Face to Face what do you find yourself doing?

Well, I run that Antagonist record label so that gives me a lot of work. I’ve also been dabbling in some television production a little bit for some food related type shows and what not. So, between the TV production and Face to Face and running the label, I stay pretty busy.

Is there anything else you want people to know about yourself or anything you’re working on?

Not at the moment

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