Rival Schools - Reunited By Fate
The legendary post-hardcore pioneers are back, and hopefully this time for good.
Legendary post-hardcore pioneers Rival Schools first formed in 1999, with former Quicksand and Gorilla Biscuits man Walter Schreifels on guitar and vocals, Ian Love on guitar, Cache Tolman on bass and Sam Siegler on drums.
The quartet released their debut album United By Fate in 2001, toured heavily, had a couple of big alternative singles with Used For Glue and Good Things, and seemed to sell a lot of cool T-shirts.
In 2002 however, Love left to concentrate on his other band Cardia, with the remaining three bandmembers parting ways in 2003.
Before the split the band recorded an 11 track 'lost' second album, which currently remains unreleased, and while all four former members carried on making music under various guises, the 'legend' of Rival Schools only continued to grow in their absence.
The band reformed for some live dates in 2008, and in March this year finally released their long-awaited second official album Pedals.
MTV caught up with mainman Walter Schreifels (rhymes with 'rifles') to ask him what it's like when your band takes on a life of its own without you, what's next for the group, and made him promise not to leave it a decade before releasing a third Rival Schools album.
In the years between the band breaking up and reforming, were you aware of how much the reputation and influence of 'United By Fate' had been growing?
"I think it developed. I think at the time it definitely felt like we had made a record that connected with certain people and they just got the s**t out of it and that we had found an audience with it.
"I thought then that was a strong audience but as the years went by people kept feeling a closeness to it. We always wanted to leave it open and eventually, a couple of years ago and at Cache and Sam's insistence, we booked some shows, just to see what it would be like.
"We've managed to keep it fun, we might have made a couple of mistakes along the way but I think that's all part of the adventure."
Did you feel under a lot of pressure when you reformed in 2008, and was there ever any worry about living up to 'the legend' of Rival Schools?
"I think by the time we finally got around to it enough time had passed that i didn't care about the pressure. I think there would have been a lot more if we'd done this earlier, and maybe that's part of the reason we never just did another record at that time, because it was too much pressure to follow it (United By Fate) up.
"But now it feels like we have enough distance from it that it doesn't matter as long as we just do our best. That's more how we set out to make the first album in the first place. Obviously we wanted it to really good but we weren't like, "Let's set out to create a real history making album", we just made the best album we could make."
Did any of the songs that make up Pedals begin life before you reformed, or were they all written specifically as Rival Schools tracks?
"There are some that began life right after United By Fate, well not right after but as the cycle was finishing.
"Ian left the group first to work on his solo record and the rest of us carried on for six months or so, so we had some songs from then to start with.
"Then we'd talked about playing again over the years, so three or four years after the band first ended we wrote some more songs with Ian playing on those, and we'd written a bunch of demos so by the time we got together properly we had running start. We then wrote another five or six right before we went in to record and they all made it, so I think the mixture of tracks on Pedals has ended up representing the story of the last ten years for us nicely."
Presumably the process for writing and especially recording 'Pedals' was different to your debut as you'd had a lot more time playing together beforehand this time. Was this the case?
"In a way yes. The first album was me putting together a band as I had a record contract and they said 'You've got to make a record!' so I put a band of my friends together as a one-off project, where as his time around… it's like in our absence we've developed more of an identity. Our band had become this band who made one album and never made another one.
"So this time was different, we just decided to make some time and make a record ourselves, we didn't have a label or a manager, there was no one but ourselves pushing us to do it. It's obviously not like we came from nowhere, but we worked hard and made it important for ourselves for this to happen."
When you where writing the tracks that ended up on Pedals, where you consciously thinking of what each of the four members of Rival Schools could bring to a song? You all obviously have your very distinctive styles, were you writing for how you saw the four of you could play together as a whole this time?
"When I'm writing stuff for the band I'm definitely keeping in mind the kind of things I think each of them might do with it, but as we progress I'm getting more into us just doing things without so much planning.
"There's a little more spontaneity on this album but now we've kind of got the whole ship running I'd love to just make another album where we can just grow. This record makes sense with the first album, which is great, but it also points in a few new directions. I'd love to just launch into those directions, I think there's a lot of possibilities in that.
"Pedals was very much about us seeing if we could get back up to the bar again, and I think that we not only got back up to the bar but in many places we jumped it. For the next album though I want it very much to be a leap for us."
Do you think your time apart allowed you all to re-evaluate what Rival Schools meant to you, and what direction you want the band to take?
"I guess around the time of the first album I started to feel a bit constrained by the band, and obviously Ian felt that particularly to the point where he left.
"Now though no one has forced us into playing together, and these three guys are all great guys to play with. We understand each other, we're friends, and we have a good time. So in that way I've realised that it doesn't have to be anything we don't want it to be."
When you're playing shows now, and when you were putting the album together, in your mind do you think you have the same sort of audience as before, or do you think that by having a such large gap between albums you've in effect had to start over?
"Well, obviously we're never going to have too much of our original audience, as for a start everyone's really, literally ten years older.
"I think it's cool in the sense that some 15 year old - who maybe had some magic summer when they were really into our first album, and now they're out of school and they've got a job and they're in some other place in their lives - that we can hook up again.
"I've obviously been making music on my own in between playing as Rival Schools for so long that I have a multi-generational audience from that. The trick is always to try and get the high school audience involved to keep things flowing but now some of their parents are getting them into us - they're doing the work for me!
"We're out on tour with ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead and I sometimes look at them and envy the fact that they've been playing with each other all this time and making albums, so we've got a lot of catching up to do… but I consider what we're doing and where we're at right now to be very nice.
"We're very lucky, we get to make good music together and and people relate to it so it's win win. People say that our 'missing' album is really wonderful so I don't know, maybe we could have carried on as we were, but we didn't follow through with that.
"Instead I did a lot of other things I'm really wanted to do and am proud of and I wrote a lot of what I think are amazing songs in that time, so I don't think I'd be as comfortable doing Rival Schools now if I hadn't done all that."
You're all now fathers, presumably this has an impact on how much time you're willing to spend away from home, has this caused you to approach touring and promo differently this time around?
"It does obviously affect the way we work, but that fact that all four of us have daughters levels the playing field somewhat. No one has more troubles than the others and everyone has the same issues. To be honest I like the pace of things now. It does mean that we have to have a consensus now, if we're going to do something we've all really got to want to do it.
"I don't know that even if I didn't have a kid I'd want to be on the road all the time. I like it for two or three weeks and get really into it then I start wanting to be sleeping in my own bed, being back in my own neighbourhood."
'Shot After Shot' and 'Wring It Out' have been released as singles, will there be a third track taken from 'Pedals'?
"There's no plans at the moment, and the album's still quite new, but we might release a third single later in the year. To be honest I don't really understand how the music business works anymore. We like making videos and have a lot of fun with that, and it's good to put stuff out to say hey, these are tracks from the album that we think are particularly cool, but I don't know if we need to put out singles as such."
Any plans to ever give an official release to the 'lost' second album?
"We want to release it. Versions of two of the tracks from that album, Big Waves and parts of Shot After Shot, have made it onto Pedals. People do say they like it a lot so we may end up releasing it.
"Maybe if we come back and tour later in the year we'll bring it out then in conjunction with some Fall dates. We'd love to come back and do some festivals and our own headline shows. Touring with Trail has been great but we obviously don't have as much time on stage to really stretch out."
So the obvious closing question, do you guy have any plans to stay together this time, or will we have to wait another decade for a third album?
"We definitely want to do another one. We've got about ten songs all done - or at least the music if not the lyrics - that I think are really futuristic and fresh, really awesome and the best stuff we've done.
"There's obviously a journey that needs to take place in order to get from that stage to having everything recorded and ready to go. That'll take a lot of effort and will-power on everyone's part but that's what I'm shooting for.
"You know it's either going to be that, and soon… or it will be another ten years. Maybe that's our thing, that's what Rival Schools does. Every ten years we'll come around and just check in with everyone - or we'll just make a really cool soon, I don't know which I prefer actually!
"No, I'm really excited about this music, and now we've got some momentum artistically I don't want to waste it. I just want to make some better, cooler s**t for everyone..
Rival Schools' new album Pedals is out now.