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Interview: JuiceheaD

Chicago punk group JuiceheaD are back with a new album. How To Sail A Sinking Ship (released ealier this month via Misfits Records) features 20 tracks of good ol punk rock with special apperances from Melora Creager (Nirvana) and The Punk Pipers, which features NYC firefighters. Vocalist Rob Vannice took some time from the band's current tour with The Misfits to discuss the new record and current tour with the NJ punk legends.


1.) How excited is the band about the new album being released?

We are thrilled about the new album being released. I am very proud of all the hard work that everyone involved put in to make the album as amazing as it is. Between the musicianship, production, and artwork, this is a very special album.

2.) How does this album differ from The Devil Made Me Do It?

Aside from the vast difference in production quality, I think that How To Sail A Sinking Ship answers it's own questions and is more of a complete thought. I do, however, consider this album to be a refined continuation of the ideas set forth on The Devil Made Me Do It.

With the Devil Made Me Do It I was focusing on a relationship gone sour and the loss, anger, and confusion that followed. During the writing process for that album (“Devil”) I felt as though I had been isolated and projected on any subject that was unfortunate enough to get shoved my way, whether political (“Past Repeats Itself”, “Internal Bleeding”), personal (“Going Under”, “Lazy”), or other. “Long way Down” deals with issues of addiction and the way it affects everyone who has to deal with a loved one's downward spiral. “Covered In Blood” is a tongue in cheek rally against a cheating girlfriend, and “Never Say Goodbye” is a bittersweet number dealing with unresolved issues that cannot be put right.

The writing process for How To Sail Sinking Ship began immediately following the recording of "Devil" and further explores the subject of my long-term breakup. However, during the initial writing period my father passed away from cancer and this time around I isolated myself. I turned myself off completely and I never mourned the losses I incurred. 6 months later I woke up. The emotions and thoughts that followed did not trickle through, but rather flooded me all at once and I was left to face myself.

How To Sail A Sinking Ship is an audio account of how I spent my time trying to make sense of it all and in the end finding the answers that I needed to be able to move forward again with dignity and determination. "Sinking Ship" also explores themes touched on in The Devil Made Me Do It. Issues such as addiction (“Rick James”, “When I Fall From Grace”); political rants (“Death Of Democracy”, “A Fire that Always Burns”) that deal with living under the government’s shadow, and the reality of American ideals (“No Good Deed”, “American Dream”).

Aside from themes, the two albums drastically differ in the way they were recorded. The Devil Made Me Do It started out as a 4 song EP recorded out of necessity to be able to book shows around our home town of Chicago.  We liked what we got out of that 4 song EP so we decided to continue on with it and do the rest of album the same way. It was all very DIY. We just used whatever was available to us at the time. We recorded all of the drum tracks in a basement and recorded guitar and bass in an apartment. I recorded all of the vocals in a bathroom. It was our first shot at recording anything, and we really just felt it out as we went. The Devil Made Me Do It has a super low-fi edge to it as a result, and sounds almost as if it was recorded in the early 80's. It was this recording that ultimately caught the ear of John Cafiero and led to its worldwide release via Misfits Records. It really goes to show that anything is possible and the underdog can rise above with a little bit of luck.

How To Sail A Sinking Ship was recorded with a whole new approach for JuiceheaD. We tracked most of the album at Bennett studios, and with John Cafiero as producer we were able to improve the sonic quality of "How To" compared to "The Devil" and take things to the next level. John really helped us to enhance the potential of the album, both creatively and technically, while holding on to the raw grit that defines the JuiceheaD sound. John’s methods included recording the entire album on 2-inch analog tape to get a warm feel. We ended up recording 20 plus songs during the "Sinking Ship" sessions and I believe that this album has a lot to offer in terms of diversity. I think it’s an album that any music lover can appreciate.

3.) What was it like working with the punk pipers? How did the band get in touch with them?

John (Cafiero) suggested we add bagpipes to that song from the very start and we all loved the idea. It was a perfect fit. He knew of the punk pipers and contacted them to play on it. They’re based in NY, and John is too, so he arranged the whole thing while we were back in Chicago. I think it sounds incredible! I love it. There were 4 pipers playing in unison to give it a full sound. John had them track some subtle harmonies and blended them into the mix too. Some of the guys in the troop are NYC Firefighters. They did a great job and we’re hoping to have them appear with us to perform it live together sometime in the future.

4.) The band is currently on tour with the Misfits. How is the crowd reacting to the new material?

The new material is all very high energy and the crowds are responding with high energy. There has been a very positive reception.

5.) Any good (or bad) memories from playing at The Starland Ballroom in the past?

I love playing the Starland ballroom. I believe this is going to be our third time performing there, and I have nothing but good memories of playing Starland. I've met a lot of cool people there and I'm looking forward to seeing them all again.

6.) What bands are you currently listening to?

I've been rocking Johnny Cash a lot lately, and of course, the new Misfits album “The Devils Rain”.

7.) What's next for the band after the Misfits tour?

We’re going to do our first tour of the UK in February 2012 as primary support for the Misfits. It will be great to break new ground and play for audiences there; especially since the album was released worldwide. We plan to tour as much as possible to support the new album, whenever and wherever opportunity knocks. And in the Spring, a new standalone split single, a team-up between JuiceheaD and Osaka Popstar will be released. I can’t wait for people to hear that too. It really turned out great.