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Face To Face | Shoot the Moon | The Essential Collection | interview | Trevor Keith | punk | Lollipop
Face To Face
Shoot the Moon: The Essential Collection (Antagonist)
An interview with ex-guitarist/vocalist Trevor Keith
By Tim Den
Even though I haven't been a Face To Face fan since Ignorance is Bliss, I - like many of their fans - felt an emptiness when the band announced their breakup last year. Not because I thought the trio - at the end consisting of members whose names are still new to me - were doing the band's moniker justice, but because Face To Face were one of my favorite punk bands in high school: One that grew with me, chronicling my formative years in song. As they bounced from label to label, putting out albums and EPs, I was there. Don't Turn Away (on Dr. Strange, no less) won over me and my small group of friends, then Big Choice romanced my first real relationship my senior year. As the first Warped Tour and the excellent self-titled album followed, they continued to soundtrack my memories and emotions, forever tying themselves to watershed moments in my life. Shoot the Moon honors such personal significance with dignity, skipping over Ignorance is Bliss (for continuity sake, not cuz of embarrassment) to preserve an impression of Face To Face's brightest moments. "I Want," "Don't Turn Away," "Velocity," "I Won't Lie Down," and (of course) "Disconnected" are all here, plus two unreleased tracks (newbie "Thick as a Brick" and a live version of "Disconnected" from one of the band's last ever performances) to boot. Listening and singing along to "You Lied," the loves and hates of my foolishly melodramatic teenage years come alive again, making me shake my head fondly and in disbelief, but more importantly, remember the power of Face To Face's songs.
At 19 songs and with a booklet full of detailed personal anecdotes from members past and present, Shoot the Moon: The Essential Collection is just that: Absolutely necessary punk rock that will connect with your life like it did mine.
Back in the late-'90s, didn't Face To Face have its own label/imprint (Lady Luck) within Vagrant?
Well, Vagrant is owned by Rich Eagan, who's my manager, but he had the label even before I met him. I think he's had it for about 15 years now. The initial idea was that Lady Luck would be an imprint within Vagrant, but eventually, the band would make it a "real" label. But that never happened. (laughs) I believe its logo is on the live album and Ignorance is Bliss, but it was never anything beyond that. It was never a real business. The new label that I started, Antagonist, is an actual label: We're an actual business.
So are you now solely concentrating on the label? Or do you plan to still make music with the likes of Viva Death?
Viva Death would not be released on Antagonist because it's a Vagrant band, but I think the second album will be self-released. Scott Shiflett (ex-Face To Face bassist/backup vocalist) is getting his own label together, and I think he's going to put it out. Viva Death was always more his thing anyway. Now that Face To Face is over, we've kinda gone our separate ways creatively.
Is the label and the business aspect of music what you're going to be doing from now on? Are you making new music of your own?
I have 11 songs written, some of which are already recorded. I plan to have an album out sometime next year. It's going to called Pablum, and hopefully, I'll be putting together a band and touring and doing all the great stuff that Face To Face did.
By "putting together a band," I'm guessing you don't have any members right now?
No, it's just me at the moment. I wrote and recorded everything in the studio.
Even though Face To Face officially broke up recently, were there any previous times that you thought about burying the band?
I played with the notion of breaking up the band as early as right after the live album. (laughs) But it was hard at the time because we'd already built up so much by '97, '98. It was really difficult to think about letting it go. So, for whatever reason - I shouldn't say it like that (laughs) - for a lot of reasons, we decided every time to keep going. But yeah, I was pretty much having doubts before every album. Finally, around 2003, we were all developing interests outside of the band. And those interests couldn't fully develop with Face To Face still in the picture, so Face To Face had to go. We all loved the band, had a great time touring, and got along as friends and band mates, but it was time.
You were having a lot of label problems right around then too, no?
We've always had label problems! (laughs) I don't think any of our albums came out on the same label. We started out on Dr. Strange, and he did a good job pressing the records and getting them into stores, but he had a hard time keeping them in print. I met Mike from NOFX around that time - he was giving us opening slots and stuff - and he told me he was starting his own label. We wanted him to re-release Don't Turn Away, but he wasn't sure if he wanted to get himself into a sticky situation over contracts, but thankfully, he was able to re-release it, and to this day Don't Turn Away is still on Fat Wreck Chords. When time came to do the second album, Fat Wreck Chords was still a small label at the time (believe it or not) - I think they only had us, NOFX's The Longest Line, and the first Lagwagon album - so they couldn't offer much in the way of advances. So we decided to sign with a label called Victory JVC, not to be confused with the Victory Records from Chicago. It was a small label owned by a Japanese company, and it had distribution in the U.S. through A&M. It was pretty bad, and it went bankrupt pretty soon after we released Big Choice. Our contract was moved over to A&M, where we did the self-titled record.
We worked on that, recording and touring and everything, for about three years, mostly because we didn't want to record new material for A&M. We hated being on that label. We were lucky enough to see the Seagram/Geffen/A&M merger coming, so we got ourselves out of the contract and were free to go wherever we wanted. Then we made the horrible mistake of signing to a terrible label called Beyond, which had good distribution in the States through BMG. We released Ignorance is Bliss on that label, but by the time Reactionary came out, we really wanted out of there too. (laughs) FINALLY, we were able to release How to Ruin Everything on Vagrant, which is where we should've been all along.
Ignorance is Bliss, of course, is a strange chapter in the band's history book.
Yeah, it was a very eye-opening experience for us. It taught us that people want Face To Face to sound like Face To Face. We were known for writing catchy, anthemic punk songs. That album was so different, some fans came along, some didn't, and it was definitely a dividing point.
I noticed that there are no songs from Ignorance is Bliss on Shoot the Moon, despite an earlier track listing that contained two entries.
Yeah, at one point, I wanted to include songs from every one of our releases, but whenever I listened to the Ignorance... songs in the context of the record, it just didn't feel right. It didn't flow cohesively. It was like a hiccup. So I called Scott and we talked about it, cuz I know what he cares about, and we both decided that it would be best to leave Ignorance... out of the thing.
Do you see it as Face To Face's Into the Unknown?
(laughs) I've never actually heard Into the Unknown, but the difference between us and Bad Religion is that we like Ignorance is Bliss. I think there are some great songs on it. It just has a completely different feel than the rest of our albums. It's really dark and melancholic, and in the context of "the essential collection," is it essential? No. But if you love Shoot the Moon and wanted to investigate the band's other albums, by all means, check out Ignorance... I plan on re-releasing all of our albums except Don't Turn Away through Antagonist next year: They'll all have bonus tracks and extras. It'll be a nice way to keep the records out there and under one roof.
How was getting back in touch with all of the ex-members? I know some didn't leave under the best of circumstances. In fact, around '96 when Matt (Riddle; ex-bassist/backup vocalist) first joined No Use For A Name, I remember seeing him get super pissed when a kid yelled "Face To Face!" from the crowd.
Yeah, he had a real problem with that for a few years. (laughs) Matt was easier than Rob (Kurth; drummer), because we shared a bill with No Use For A Name a while back. We hung out and he even came on stage to play a song with us, so there were no problems there. Rob, on the other hand, I hadn't spoken to since he left the band in '98. I called him out of the blue: "Hey! It's Trevor, remember? Uh, it's been, what, six years? How've you been?" He was a little standoff-ish at first, understandably, but we worked it out. He had some questions that he wanted to ask, but in the end, everything was cool. The important thing was that we all wanted to contribute what we loved and remember about Face To Face: I wanted everyone who participated on every record to have a say in the liner notes.
There's also going to be a DVD next year with interviews from all of the ex-members, producers, engineers, etc.
Now that Face To Face is behind you, what should fans expect from Pablum?
It's completely different from Face To Face. But then again, starting over should be about the freedom of doing whatever you want, right? Cuz if you're going to do the same thing, why bother changing the name? Anyone expecting to hear punk rock is going to be in for a shock!