This article is due to appear in a future issue of the University of Nottingham's official music magazine The Mic. Many thanks are due to Natalie Passingham for helping hugely with the interview.
“I’ve been really frustrated the past couple of days. I feel everything’s changing musically. It’s sort of pushed onto us. People keep coming to us asking ‘what do you think of working with this producer/this songwriter?’ No one’s thinking for themselves anymore, everything’s being so mass produced.” Jordan Brown, one of Set Your Goals’ two vocalists, is pouring out his laments on the music industry in the dingy backstage area of Rock City. “At the same time, as much as that scene’s thriving and is dominant in the mainstream, there is always such a strong underground scene. I feel like it keeps me in a constant reality check, I really want to be such a part of that, it’s so much more real.” The band’s debut album Mutiny! is riddled with lyrical references to this strong independent ethic that they adhere to. “It’s important for bands to know they don’t need anyone, and that’s what the song ‘Mutiny’ is about - it’s about us taking over and doing it for ourselves. You need to be self-sufficient. Like the song says, people are telling you that you need to be their friend to get anywhere, which is not true.”
“There’s so many good bands out there” interjects Matt Wilson, vocalist number two. “If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from punk rock it’s that you don’t need that whole music industry, there are so many elements that don’t belong there. It’s not necessary - with the way things are now, bands releasing their CDs for free, anyone can get exposure. You can put it up on MySpace and if people react positively, you can press your own CDs.”
“It’s also true on a band-by-band basis. This tour is a perfect example of how punk you can be in the mainstream,” exclaims Jordan with more than a hint of excitement – “they [‘they’ being tour-mates Gallows] emailed all of us on this tour asking if we wanted to be on it. Obviously agents were involved in booking shows, but it wasn’t a case of ‘is this band going to help?’ It was more ‘these bands rule, these are bands we want people to know about’ and I think it’s important to have these bands in the mainstream that will bring others in.” “None of these bands give a shit about what people think of them”, explains Matt, “and Gallows are just interested in helping people out who they’re friends with that and that’s so awesome, all the bands deserve so much respect.”
Indeed, they’re no strangers themselves to the punk-rock touring schedule. Last year, they slogged it out on an enormous European tour – “7 and a half weeks with one off date” states Jordan, a figure that exhausts us just thinking about it. “We’ve learned our lesson as far as booking extensive tours go, you should take an off date every 3, 4 days. Especially to have time to see the locations you’re at.” Matt looks on the bright side, though – “It was amazing being able to go to places like Portugal, getting to experience their culture. I think it’s one of the best things of being in a touring band, getting to travel so much.” “I think it’s good to play in places outside of major cities, too” states Jordan. “Because obviously, France is not just Paris, not everyone can travel to Paris”.
Some major excitement has been coming their way as of late. On top of a support slot with Paramore and a coveted main stage appearance at Give It A Name this year, they have been approached by Vinnie Caruana to be his backing band playing songs by The Movielife at Bamboozle this year. Matt clarifies all: “We’d become friends with him through I am the Avalanche. Jordan met Vinnie back when he was in The Movielife, and we’ve been Movielife fans for a long time so it was an honour when he asked, it’s amazing.” “This is him giving closure to the Movielife so he can continue with I am the Avalanche and give back to the Movielife fans” beams Jordan, slightly bowled over by the whole thing. “We were thrilled when he asked. It was like ‘You didn’t even have to ask, you should have just booked it and told us ‘by the way’’…’’
Given the love they have for all things DIY and independent, we knew that SYG would have some bands that they would want give mention to. “I’ve been listening to a lot of A Wilhelm Scream recently, I think they’re awesome. I always try and plug The Swellers from Michigan, I think they’re doing something so amazing” says Jordan, eyes lighting up. “They’re really committed to touring and have a really good ethic. Even if you just go to our MySpace, we’re always switching up our MySpace friends so people can know who we think they should know about.”
So what is punk’s current situation in the midst of all this mainstream tomfoolery? Matt is confident about its relevance - “As long as the mainstream gets worse, there will be more revolt against it.” And as long as bands like Set Your Goals are around to affirm this, we couldn’t agree more.