Brian Longway has been writing and performing his own songs for almost a decade. In that time, he’s seen bandmates come and go (and in one case, come-go-and-come-back). It’s tough keeping together a committed punk band when you live in Orange County. Sunshine, beaches and girls. Who wants to give that up to go touring through Michigan in January?
But in the last couple years, Longway seems to have hit its stride. A chance one-off gig in Alaska landed the band on last year’s Warped Tour after personal praise from Warped-founder Kevin Lyman himself. The band’s latest album, Junkie, is filled with riffs and shouts that pay homage to punk bands of the ’80s OC past.
I recently spoke with the band about crazy Warped stories involving booze, tasers and Jeffree Star, as well as the effects of drinking an entire bottle of Jameson and why you should never hang out too long at seedy gas stations.
Junkie sounds like old-school hardcore punk from the ’80s. When you guys formed the band, how did you decide that this is how you wanted to sound?
Brian (guitar/vocals): I think when I started the band, I kind of knew what I wanted to do. So I had already gone and written a bunch of songs and stuff before I actually made it a band and looked for players, and that kind of stuff. So I think it was just something that I always wanted to play. I always played in other bands, but I always wanted to play my own stuff, because I always wrote songs and stuff. So it was just a matter of saying, “I’m not going to play in these bands anymore. I’m going to start my own band and see how it goes.”
Did you play in other kinds of genres? What did you do before this band?
Brian: Yeah, a little bit. Not necessarily by choice, but I played in a chick band, well, minus me, but a chick band. I played drums. That was like a punk, kind of pop band. I played drums in, like, a gay Radiohead-sounding band. And that was it. I always had bands in high school and stuff, early high school, that were more like Nirvana-type bands.
So what made you want to start this band? Was it just being sick of playing in “gay Radiohead-sounding bands”?
Brian: While I was playing in those bands, I was always writing my own stuff, too. And, you know, I thought I’d give it a go. I’m not much of a singer or whatnot, but I thought, you know, if I started my own band, they can’t kick me out.
You guys played Warped Tour last year, right?
Trevor (guitar): Last two years.
How did that opportunity come up?
Trevor: We got asked to go out and play a show with Agent Orange in Alaska. And it happened to be that they were doing, like, a battle of the bands for Warped Tour. So we were one of the two bands that were going out there and playing it. Not in the battle, but for “entertainment.” And we got done with our set and they were supposed to announce the winner of the contest after we got done playing. And before they announced the winner, Kevin Lyman comes up and says something to the extent of, “Sometimes it takes going a long distance to find something that was in your own backyard. We really like Longway and we are going to ask them to do the entire 2009 Warped Tour.” So we were just kind of sitting there, just…
Mikey (drums): Jaws on the floor.
Trevor: Yeah. It just floored us. And then we came home from that tour and all went back to normal life. And I got a phone call on a Wednesday morning. The barbeque band for Warped Tour had broken down and Kevin called us and asked us if we would come up and pick up the rest of the tour, which they were about five days in. So we got off the phone, called each other. We quit our jobs, moved out of our places on Thursday, and we were in Salt Lake City by Saturday morning. And we were on tour for two months from there. It was amazing.
I got to cover Warped last year on the stop in San Antonio. It was the first day they did the barbeque and all that stuff.
Trevor: Yeah, that’s right. That was the first barbeque. That’s where that dude from Scary Kids Scaring Kids tried to steal a bottle of booze from us—a bottle of whiskey from us. This guy [points to Brian] chased him down to his bus and, like, went into his bunk and pulled the shit out.
Brian: I told him if he ever tried to steal from us again I was going to beat the shit out of him.
[laughs] Any other kind of crazy stuff like that?
Brian: I think he was the only guy I told I was going to beat up.
Trevor: Oh, Jeffree Starr!
Mikey: That was the same day!
Trevor: No, that was Las Cruces. He tased some kid in front of the stage and then like…
Jeffree Star | © Glenn Francis
Jeffree Star tased someone? Why the hell did he do that?
Mikey: Because the kid, like, sprayed him with water or something.
Brian: He got punched at one of the…
Trevor: Yeah, he got punched at one of the barbeques. That was Dallas, I think. So yeah, that was a rough week he had.
Brian: I’ll always be able to say I served Jeffree Star Diet Cokes. And that was the highlight of my Warped Tour.
Livin’ the dream, right there. So you guys are from Orange County, right?
There seems to be a lot of music from there. It’s not always good music, but there’s a lot of music from there.
Trevor: [laughs] I think you said it.
Brian: There’s not that many bands really coming out of there now.
So it’s probably changed then? Because I feel like the ‘90s, all I heard about was Orange County.
Mikey: I think some of those bands from the late ‘90s, like Lit and No Doubt, they gave the scene out there a big push. But since then there hasn’t been a whole lot. But because of how popular and what those bands accomplished, it’s like people flock to Orange County just to say they are from Orange County, so they try to push that angle.
Brian: But it’s also the punk bands of the ‘80s, too.
Mikey: No, I know. But I’m just saying, on the mainstream side of things, those two bands are like the first two bands that come to mind.
Brian: We don’t associate with Orange County because of No Doubt. It’s more the Agent Oranges.
Let’s talk about Junkie. What are some of your favorite songs off the album?
Brian: I really like “Rolling Wheels” and the way that “After Life” turned out.
Mikey: Yeah, I think those are my two favorite songs.
What about them? The music, the lyrics.
Mikey: For “After Life,” that’s a song that we had from the original lineup.
Brian: It’s an old song.
Mikey: Yeah. Brian wrote it years ago and we’ve played it before. But we just never did anything with it. And we worked with a producer for pre-production, and a couple changes were made in the studio. Brian came up with a solo for it and stuff, and it just turned it into a totally different song. I mean, it had meaning, personal meaning for Brian from the beginning when he wrote it. But after it came out, it just stepped it up.
Brian: But I don’t think it lost the meaning either.
Mikey: No, no, not at all.
Brian: It was a song I wrote when my grandma died two years ago. I think I just kind of updated it. Like it’s the same thing, it’s just, now it relates to now.
Do you tend to write about stuff that is actually happening in your personal life?
Brian: That’s actually about all I write about.
Brian: Yeah. It’s pretty limited, unfortunately. I know people that have heard love songs before and stuff, and we come up with anti-love songs. A little broken-hearted stuff; it’s nothing new, but that’s really all I have to relate to is whatever I go through, you know what I mean? And I’ve never been elected to office, so I don’t tend to write about political stuff.
Well, I feel like the politicians themselves don’t, half the time, know what they’re doing or talking about.
Brian: That could be. Yeah, it’s pretty much for the most part, it’s all personal stuff. I don’t usually write a song to be about a certain topic; I’ll just write something. And even at the time of writing something, the lyrics are just coming out and stuff, and I know what it means, usually by the time it’s done or when I hear it, all of a sudden, holy shit, it has meaning to me. And I hope it does the same thing for the people who listen to it. You know what I mean? They don’t need to know what I wrote it about. But when they hear it, maybe they go “That fucking totally fits something in my life.”
I think every song that I’ve related with, I don’t necessarily know what the band meant for it, but I know what it meant for me.
Brian: That’s all that matters. You’d go crazy trying to make your feelings be the same as somebody else’s feelings.
That explanation is more authentic than when a band say’s “It’s whatever you want it to mean.” But they say it in a weird, dismissive sort of a way. I think what you’re saying is different. It’s like, it means something for me, but it could mean something else for you. And that’s fine.
Brian: I know what it means for me: “Fuck that bitch.”
Brian: But I think everybody has a “fuck that bitch,” whether it’s a girl, a dude, or if it’s a job, or it’s a family member, or a friend—whatever it is. Everybody has a fuck-that-shit situation in their life. And you can probably take just about any Longway song, and it will fit with “fuck that shit.”
If life were easy, it wouldn’t be interesting.
Brian: Maybe it will make you cry. Maybe it will make you punch something. Maybe it will make you not want to punch something. If it does any of those things, that’s cool with me.
Cool, cool. Let’s talk about the lineup. This isn’t the four original lineup? Have you been through changes?
Mikey: Yeah. We’ve been through a few. Yeah.
A few? You say that with a little smile there, man.
Brian: We could fill this room with ex-Longway members.
Trevor: What was the count? Six guitar players. Four bass players. Two drummers.
And a partridge in a pear tree.
Mikey: I’ve quit once and come back.
It’s like a dysfunctional little family.
Mikey: Not really dysfunctional.
Trevor: Dude, it’s pretty dysfunctional.
Mikey: I wouldn’t say it’s dysfunctional. Brian has probably only fired one person. Everybody else just left on their own terms.
Brian: There’s been lots of people, but it has always been, like technically the past few years, it’s always been missing something. Like me and Mike, we’re tight, but this guitar player and bass player, they just don’t fit or something. You just don’t see them being there forever-ever.
Mikey: Like they would probably be good on their instrument but their personality just wouldn’t mesh. Or they weren’t as serious about the project as.
Like you guys said earlier about Warped Tour, it takes a lot of commitment to just, “Okay everybody, let’s quit our jobs and go do it.” It takes a certain personality to be able to actually commit to that.
Brian: Absolutely. It pretty much costs us money to go on tour.
Trevor: “Hey, do you want to go lose some money? Let’s do it!”
“Yeah, let’s do it. Fuck yeah!”
Brian: We’ve been able to tour and stuff for the past couple years without it coming out of our pocket. But we miss all that time at work and stuff too. So in the long run, you are not making as much money on tours as if you would be if you were working like a regular job, like normal people. But unfortunately, we’re not normal people.
Mikey: In the past three years I think Longway’s been the strongest it’s ever been. Maybe two of those years, our lineup was really, really, solid. About a year ago, around this time, our bass player at the time, didn’t want to make the commitment.
Brian: We were gonna go on tour with Horrorpops. And he didn’t want to lose his job. He decided he’d rather be a delivery guy.
Mikey: So we got Patrick.
Brian: So we got Patrick.
Trevor: He had known us for about a year. Patrick doesn’t mind not making money.
Brian: We tried out about 100 bass players. None of them wanted to do it, except for him.
Trevor: We found a guy and then he got a good job, so we got Patrick. [group laugher]
Well what kind of fit are you looking for when you look for somebody?
Brian: Just someone a little shorter than Patrick would be good for me.
Trevor: Personality, man. Like, at this point, anybody that comes in should be able to play their instrument, and be able to handle this kind of stuff. You have to look less at how well they play, and more like “Can I live with this dude in a van for two months and not shower, and is he going to smell worse than me?” I think personality is what it really ends up coming down to.
Brian: That’s the hardest part is finding who you can live with.
Mikey: Like at rehearsal, a guy could shred through material, and be awesome. But the thing is like, how do we know this guy isn’t going to piss us off and we’re going to leave him in Florida?
Brian: And you don’t know. You don’t know if the guy is going to be the kind of guy that we are all going to get into a fist fight with. Or if he’s going to be the kind of guy that gets drunk and gets kicked out of the venues and stuff. Because, it’s not only about us getting along, but we have to get along with the bands we go on tour with.
It almost sounds like dating.
Trevor: Dude, it is.
Brian: It’s like dating. It’s like having four girlfriends. And it’s hard being the only guy in the band.
[laughs] Mormon compound over here, being in a band or something.
Brian: So yeah, it’s hard. But if you get guys and that’s all they want to do, and somehow it clicks, and you guys can do it without hating each other, that’s a pretty good combination.
Yeah. Well, I want to talk about these video-of-the-week things. That’s a hilarious idea. Why did you decide to do that?
Trevor: Just bored.
Trevor: No. We’ve had a bunch of footage like from the last couple of tours. And we were trying to figure out a way, even if we are not on the road, to keep stuff up, and keep it interesting. I have a flip camera. I started going through all that, and these things just started popping out. I think the next one we got, this guy [points to Mikey] was hammered in Cleveland, and he was hanging out with some of the guys from Flogging Molly, and they gave him a bottle of Jameson, and he drank the whole bottle. And what you are going to see is basically his explanation of the party, and his life, and his plans. [group laughter] The audio quality is great, but it’s super-dark. So I am going to have to try and come up with some pictures that actually portray what he looked like.
Brian: And you are never going to see this guy drunk. He does it like twice a year. So to have it on video is amazing.
Patrick (bass): I just wanted to ask him a question. I don’t even know what it was. And he turned around and he’s all, “Yeaaaah!” And I’m like, Oh, fuck, this is the first time I’ll be seeing you drunk. Alright. Let’s get you ready for this.
Mikey: I was so drunk. And the next day was a drive day, right?
Trevor: Dude, we were actually crossing the border then. So we had to get rid of a bunch of booze and everything. And we are sitting at the border and we are trying to wake this guy up. He doesn’t move. He wouldn’t move. We finally get him up. And we are like, “Dude, just sit up, and we’ll curl up in the seat next to you, and we’ll look Okay? And he sits up, and doesn’t really open his eyes. And he was just shaking.
Mikey: Dude, I was shaking; I was freezing. I was just like, “Dude, why can’t I stop shaking. I’m so cold.” This guy put two blankets on me already. I’m still shaking. I think I was kind of nervous too. Because, Oh shit, I’m drunk, and we are about to cross. Whenever I get pulled over by cops or something, I always get nervous and I shake a little bit. But this was like 1000 times more. I was just like, “Oh, I’m freezing but it’s not that cold outside.” It was gross. I haven’t been that drunk since.
Trevor: Liar! I’ve got a voicemail that says you were.
Mikey: I wasn’t as drunk.
Not a whole bottle of Jameson drunk?
Mikey: No, it was a 12 pack of Stella and some honey mustard drink.
Trevor: Dude, so the video of the week, like, I always see a lot of bands, they’ll put stuff out, and it’s seem like it has some sort of ulterior motive, like promoting this, or we’re that cool. Like we’re cool, but we’re not that cool. And there is some funny shit that happened out there.
Brian: Makes the fans feel a part of it.
Trevor: Yeah. You’re able to bring people in and take off that whole, I’m on stage. I’m this. I’m that. And dude, we are a bunch of normal guys that are lucky enough to go out and play music, and we do stupid shit, and stupid shit happens to us. That’s it.
Brian: That’s what our life’s like. Dead people in the back of trucks. Picking up my guitar player on the side of the road.
Mikey: I don’t think any of this stuff that we are going to put on this video is staged, it’s all actual stuff.
Trevor: It’s all stuff that we get to see. Thank God Travis was in Therefore I Am, and not like in Attack! Attack! or something like that.
Brian: If he was in some band we didn’t like, we would have left him.
If that was Jeffree, you would have left him there.
Brian: We would have left him to die.
You would have given him a diet Coke and said, see ya.
Mikey: But the funniest part was he [Travis Alexander from Therefore I Am] got out of this Cadillac with this old black guy. He runs a red light. He gets out. And he’s, “Come on, let me in. Let me in.”
Trevor: I was driving and I just got done telling this guy [points to Patrick]. I was like “Dude, when we are in like these seedy gas stations, let’s not like walk around for 30 minutes, and check shit out.”
Patrick: I didn’t walk around. I had to take a big shit. I’m sorry. I had to take a big shit.
Trevor: Right as I get done saying that, this white Cadillac pulls up with this skinny white kid next to him, and he stars pointing at us. And, “See, look.” And we fucking drive away. And we got up to the light, and all of a sudden he comes running across the street knocking on the window. “Dude, I’m left here right now. You got to take me with you. I’m on the tour. I’m on the tour.” We’re like, “What band are you in?” He’s like, “I’m in Therefore I Am.” I’m like, “Get in.”
That was on the Warped Tour when that happened?
Trevor: Yeah. That was on Warped. That was in Detroit. He shouldn’t have been there. He’s too pretty to be left in Detroit. He’s too, like, fragile.
I’m gonna kick myself later if I don’t ask this: Dude, what’s with the eye patch?
Trevor: I lost an eye. It’s probably the easiest explanation. I woke up about five years ago with an eye infection. I went blind in 36 hours. They had to cut out my retina, my pupil, sever my optic nerve. I spent like two months in and out of the hospital. A couple of surgeries. They gave me an $80,000 doctor’s bill because I didn’t have insurance. There should be some sort of music health insurance.
Brian: It’s called benefit shows.
Yeah, yeah. That’s always the way to go.
Brian: It’s the only thing you can do. Have a benefit show and hope that people actually show up.
Trevor: I just didn’t pay my doctor bills.
Brian: That’s one way to do it, too.
Trevor: And they got tired of coming after me and they wrote it off. So thank you, State of California.
And now California is bankrupt.
Trevor: Yeah, well. $80,000 of that bankruptcy goes to me.
Longway is scheduled to play the western leg of this year’s Warped Tour in August. Visit them on MySpace for more tour dates.