The Story Changes is yet another dynamic two-piece rock band to come out of the Buckeye State, the same state responsible for The Black Keys and Bad Veins. The Story Changes, unlike these other Ohio duos, wasn’t intended to be a two-piece. After using multiple bass players over the years, frontman and guitarist Mark McMillon, along with drummer Poppy, decided to keep it a duo despite having early recordings with a full band.
McMillon and Poppy perform live now with a laptop and loops to accompany the live drums and guitars. They make it work and audiences don’t seem to mind the minimal setup once they start performing. Their music resembles early Fueled By Ramen pop-punk, meaning pop with a little more of a rock element.
The band is currently on tour with their friends Hawthorne Heights in support of their recent release, a split with Let Go called Analogies. They’re set to record a new album later this year. A new music video for their song “Move Forward” was shot and is currently being edited.
We caught up with McMillon and Poppy during their stop in Austin recently and chatted with the guys about their early beginnings, the challenges of being a duo, their band name and a startling future invention from McMillon. Remember you read it on Red River Noise first!
What is the story (no pun intended) behind your band name?
Poppy: I’ll give you my answer as to what I think it means. Mark was in a band before this and he had a line in a song that said “the story changes everyday.” Then there was a record called The Story Changes Everyday. My thought is that when that band ran its course, that was the name that was suggested and it stuck. I wonder if that is even close?
Mark. Um, sure. Honestly I can’t really remember, but as he was saying that I thought “yes!” The name was actually suggested by a friend of mine. It was one of those things where we were going to use the name until we figured out a better name and we just never ended up changing it. Here we are years later.
Well thanks for being honest about it despite it not being that interesting of a story. It just goes to show people how the naming of a band can come about by accident or really simply.
Poppy: One of the things we did my old bands, and I guarantee other bands out the have done this, was look through the dictionary and pick out a word we like. I’d bet money new bands forming are doing this right now as we speak. “I like this word. Is it taken”? It’s the worst thing you could do.
What’s the formula for that? Do you just start with forest animals and go from there? I mean how many bands have “rabbits”, “wolves”, “deer” or “bear” in their name?
Poppy: Too fucking many.
Mark: You heard it here first. I’m going to start a phone app for naming bands. It will be able to tell you if the suggested name is taken or not. It will have like a five question formula that you enter answers to and then you’ll know if a name is taken or not.
Tell me about your sound. You could have been a metal band, an indie band, etc. How did you guys come to play this style of pop-punk I’m hearing?
Mark: One of the things I love about our band is that we are definitely a rock band, but because we’ve been doing this so long we have never been pigeonholed to a scene. Our records are diverse without being weirdly diverse. With anything we’ve ever written, we’ve never had the discussion about not being able to put this on our record. Also, branching off that, we’ve been able to tour with heavier bands like Hawthorne Heights but yet it still fits. We’ve toured with The Slackers, and they’re a straight-up reggae band.
Poppy: We don’t fit in a scene. We’re a rock band. I personally don’t care what’s cool or going on at the moment. I want to play whatever sounds right to me. It may change one day, who knows? We will never be a metal band or some disco-pop-tech band or anything like that. I am not knocking that, but I can’t ever see us doing that because it is not natural for us.
So how is the songwriting dynamic now that you are a two-piece?
Poppy: Since there’s not a bass player there, or even if it just some guy to help us write, it doesn’t change the feel. When we used to write before, Mark and I would do a lot of the writing and whoever was playing bass would just come in. Now that’s not even an option.
Is that one of the biggest challenges about being a two-piece?
Poppy: I don’t think it’s a challenge really. It just takes us a little bit longer.
Mark: It’s a little bit different. We typically don’t set up the loops right away because we write and rewrite a lot. Early on we figured out that if we come out of a writing session feeling like what we just did was awesome, we’ll then take the loops and take a few hours to get that all ready. Later we will come back to it and change the song dynamic the next practice. We’ve kind of learned to not set that stuff up until we are sure the song’s done.
Poppy: We’ll record basic drums for him to put bass down to. Once the bass is down, we’ll start practicing with a “full band,” if you will. Then we’ll see if we like the way it sounds. Basically we write a song, record it, rewrite it and record it just to get a song learned.
Mark: It’s what we call a “kick in the dick.” It takes a really long time but because we have been working together for so long now when get going it is like cooking grits. There is nobody else to show the part to so it all flows smoothly.
How long did it take you to get used to performing live as a two piece with the loops and all?
Mark: Luckily, not long at all.
Does it get lonely up there on stage?
Mark: [laughs] No. I will say on these tours, when we do our headlining tours with just local support, we’ll play rooms kind of the same size as the small room at Emo’s. It’s pretty easy to cover that ground. Some of the shows on the Hawthorne tour were big stages and I felt very obligated to cover some ground.
Poppy: There was a couple of shows where I didn’t play as hard as I normally do and where I was very timid. It wasn’t our full show and wasn’t as comfortable. I’d say we did about four or five shows before we felt like we could do this. Now, it’s fun and I’ll never look back.
What is different then, other than different members on the records, with your recent Analogies record?
Mark: It’s a split with a band called Let Go. We’re excited about that because the singer and bass player used to be in The Stereo, which I am huge fan of. We started touring with Let Go and had been talking about doing a split for a long time even before our second record came out. It was just finally a good time for both us to get in the studio. They didn’t owe a record to their label, so they were legally allowed to release something like this. We recorded at the same studio, used a lot of the same gear and had it mixed and mastered together so it would flow.
Poppy: Musically, I don’t think it is anything different but rather a continuation. Our first record everyone says is pop-punk, but it’s not. It’s just more pop. The second record is a little heavier and this one is a mix of both, I think.
Mark: No one is going to write the same record they did when they were 17.
Poppy: Doing the split was kind of a throwback to all the old vinyl releases we all grew up with. Split records are kind of hard to find now.
Now, splits are really a punk-rock thing to do.
Poppy: Oh, yeah. Hot Water and Alkaline Trio is one of my faves. I especially like Hot Water and Leatherface. They toured a lot and were always together. It was a natural thing.
This last tour with Hawthorne Heights was your second time out on the road with them. The first time was in the fall of 2009. What was it that made you want to tour with them again?
Poppy: Well they offered and we had a good time on the last one. They had a good time and they pulled for us. They did a lot to help get us on the tour. We are good friends and they respect what we do. It is the same for us to them. Touring with other bands can be a pain in the ass or a fucking blast.
Do their fans take to your music pretty well being so different from theirs?
Poppy: They seem to. Kids at that age aren’t jaded little craps yet. Actually I’ll just say it, jaded little shitheads. They were super cool.
Mark: The last time we were in Austin, we played with Cruiserweight. I love Cruiserweight. When I saw Urnie (Maxwell) down at Double Dave’s Pizza.
Poppy: It’s when you start going to the metal and the hardcore shows, that’s then they stand there with their arms crossed and go “fuck you.” I mean, your girlfriend will buy a t-shirt later. It kind of sucks. The older you get, the more open-minded you become about music. When you’re younger you get into a certain genre, you kind of stick with it.
What’s your plan for the rest of 2010?
Mark: After all the touring for the past year and half, I think when we get back home we are going to write a new record. That is, of course, if we get offered something really good.
Poppy: I am going on vacation for the first time in forever. After that, I want to go back out on the road. I want to go back when people will remember us. If we wait too long, they will not.
Mark: It’s really hard because some of these new songs, we’ve had for a year now. Since the never ending tour keeps going, we keep putting off going in the studio.
So people who saw you on the Hawthorne Heights tour heard you play music that you haven’t yet recorded?
Poppy: We were trying to play one new song on the tour every night. We were told by the powers up that we need to go record a few new songs just to have just to get it out there. So we probably will go and record at least what we have.
How many songs do you have ready to record right now?
Poppy: I think we have at least four songs that are recordable. We’ll start there and if we can get more done then we will definitely do more.