The Starting Line


Guitarists Mike Golla and Matt Watts address the band’s upcoming hiatus, their unfortunate luck with record labels, and what they’ll be doing in the near future.

So is this going to be the last time you guys will be playing California, at least for right now?

Mike Golla: For a while, yeah.

Matt Watts: Yeah, for a while.

Mike: Hopefully not forever.

Has it been sad playing all these places for what could be the last time?

Mike: It’s sad in a sense, but it’s also some of the best shows we’ve ever played. There’s a lot of excitement. I’m more excited to play shows now than I was a couple years ago because I know this may be the last, so I’m not taking anything for granted.

How long are you going to keep touring for?

Matt: Until May 4th.

So the Bamboozle is going to be your last show?

Mike: Yeah, it’s the last one.

You’re doing a little DVD right now through this whole thing, right?

Matt: Yeah, we are.

How’s that going?

Matt: It’s going really well. It’s called Somebody’s Gonna Miss Us and basically just chronicles the start to finish of this tour and how we’re feeling throughout it. I feel like it’s going to be interesting for the fans to see how we feel about it. I think it’s going to really help everybody understand why we’re doing this.

Mike: Yeah, we’ve never done a DVD or anything, so it’s nice for people to see an inside of who we actually are, as opposed to just the guys in the Starting Line. What their feelings are and what their lives are like.

Is there a tentative release date for that?

Matt: Not yet. Hopefully sooner than later.

Regarding the whole break or whatever, what was your reasoning behind that?

Mike: Aside from just side projects and stuff, we kind of got shorthanded by the label again. They basically just told us after six months of our record being out that they were done working it. It was dead in the water, so it’s like, what are we supposed to do? We just recorded all these songs. I don’t think anybody is in the correct mindset to even make another Starting Line record right now, so I think we just need a break.

I thought “Island” was the perfect summer single.

Mike: Thanks, man.

Matt: You and everybody else, except for the people in charge, except for the people that have the money.

Did you have that feeling of like, “Oh no, here we go again?”

Mike: Yeah, basically. It’s like, “Goddamn it. Why can’t we be on a label that doesn’t shut down?” Even like an indie label that just does it and puts it out.

Matt: Just the luck of the draw, you know?

Obviously, you also had a really bad time at Geffen.

Mike: Yeah, we had a horrible time.

Was that the worse out of the bunch?

Mike: Yeah, for sure.

Matt: Yeah, absolutely.

Mike: We were just lied to straight up for so long there. There were a couple people there that really liked us, but everybody just sucked. That was typical, worse side of the industry kind of stuff we went through.

Matt: Nobody was interested in the band or the band’s interests. It was like being in a shitty relationship that you didn’t want to be in anymore but you couldn’t get out of it.

Mike: Virgin is cool. The people there really like us. It’s just they got bought out by a company. It has nothing to do with the music industry. The funds got frozen. All the bands on the label, from Capitol to EMI to Virgin, got stuck.

Yeah, it sucks right now because that whole business side of things is ruining a bunch of good bands.

Mike: Well, you’re stuck by contract, so you can’t really do anything. It’s like even if we do want to make another record on another label, I don’t think we’d be allowed.

Are you still bound by Virgin through this whole thing?

Mike: We’re still signed to them as of now.

I know you guys have a couple different bands in the works. What’s the latest on those?

Matt: I have a band called the Seventy Six with Tom. It’s very pop and R&B, so we’re writing and recording with that. I also have some film stuff going on. I’m filming the Starting Line DVD and a couple shows, so that’s going to take up a lot of my time.

Mike: I’ve been writing with one of my old friends that I kind of grew up writing with, so we’re going to see where that takes us. I also used to do computer design work, so I have a job if I need it.

Then I know Kenny’s going to be doing Person L.

Mike: Right.

Now I know yours isn’t really like Starting Line at all.

Matt: Yeah, definitely not.

How’s that been?

Matt: It’s cool to be writing and playing stuff that is completely new to me. It’s weird to have to find jazz voicings on a guitar to play certain shit, but it’s also a lot of fun. Our singer’s 18 years old, and it kind of reminds me of when we first started out in Starting Line and how hungry everybody was for it. I remember when Starting Line first started out, I would call Mike late at night because neither of us could sleep. We were so excited that we had signed a record deal. I find myself with that level of enthusiasm and madness, and I hope after this break when Starting Line comes back, we all have that same level of enthusiasm.

You were all pretty young when you first started out. What was it like growing up together as a band?

Mike: It’s kind of like a family. Everybody grew up together, but we’re all into different things and we all respect each other for it. I think that means a lot, to me especially, the fact that we can all do completely different things and still agree that that’s OK.

Do you have any idea at all on how long this break is going to last?

Mike: No idea. It hasn’t even been talked about.

Matt: Yeah, it’s nothing that we want to calculate or plan.

Mike: It’s just so far out of the reach right now.

Matt: It’s when someone calls up and they want to write a Starting Line song or record. Then we’ll do it. I think it has to be when all of us really want to do it. Right now in theory we all want there to be another Starting Line record, but we all need to physically want to be in a room together and just fucking crank out the songs.

Do you think there’s a chance that this might be the end?

Matt: Sure.

Mike: Yeah, there’s a chance.

Off the last record there was that song “Somebody’s Gonna Miss Us,” which is really kind of bittersweet now. When you were working on it, was something like this ever in the back of your head?

Mike: No. In all honesty, going into this we had such high expectations for this record. It was the greatest label we had been a part of at the time. We were just shooting for the stars and wrote the greatest record we felt we wrote. Then that was it. There was no thought of this being it.

Matt: I think we all knew after this album cycle we’d take some sort of a break, but we didn’t think it would come so abruptly.

With all three of your records, you’ve always been right on the edge of getting there and making it big. Then you’ve seen Fall Out Boy and Paramore and all these people get really huge. Was that frustrating at all?

Matt: Oh dude, absolutely.

Mike: It was completely frustrating. It’s not like a money hungry thing. It’s almost like I look at myself and go, “What are we doing wrong?” I like our stuff. We don’t try to write stuff to just appease the mass public. We write stuff that we like and we seem to be an inspiration to some bands that keep surpassing us. But at the same time, we’ve been lucky enough to do this for the last eight years.

Matt: Yeah, I didn’t think we’d come this far. So in hindsight, you know, it’s cool.

What are you guys going to miss most about being in the band?

Mike: Just the shows. We really don’t like much else. There’s so much down time on tour, that’s it’s like all day you look forward to playing the show.

What do you do to keep yourselves busy?

Matt: Internet takes up a lot of time.

Mike: Sleeping in, eating, movies.

Matt: Perfect pushups.

With your career, are there any regrets on the way things went?

Mike: You can always look back and say, “Well, you know if we did this different, what if?” At the time, the way we did everything. I thought we made all the right decisions.

Matt: With the Geffen thing, when you have a shot, you kind of have to take it and swing for the fences. I don’t regret us doing it and I think we’ve all learned a lot from it. If put in that situation, I think we’ll look at things more wisely, but all the chances we took – if I was in this and didn’t know anything about it, I probably would have done the same exact thing again.

Mike: I think next time we make a record, whenever that is, it will be totally different. I think the music will be good, but I really can’t see us just doing a normal major label thing again. There’s too much you have to sacrifice to a major label to not end up with much. To have a label tell you your record’s done after all the sweat and tears you put into something. We’d rather just do it ourselves and put it out ourselves if we have to.

It seems like a lot of bands are getting disillusioned with that system and going back to smaller labels or putting it out themselves.

Mike: I think a lot of bands are getting frustrated, too. The major labels expect so much, and then if you don’t sell a ton of records, they don’t care anymore and write you off.

Matt: They fail to adapt to what’s going on in the industry right now, which kind of hurts every band.

Mike: They spend three or four hundred thousand dollars on a record, and then if you don’t make it back in a month, you’re done.

It’s like the whole industry is going down and its taking down bands with it.

Matt: Exactly.

What do you want to leave and be remembered by as the Starting Line?

Mike: I hope we’re memorable. I hope if we don’t ever get back together, I hope our fans never forget us because there’s bands that I grew up with that I’ll never forget. Jimmy Eat World’s one of them. I’ve loved those guys forever, and now we’re kind of friends with them. It’s amazing. I hope we made a difference.

Do you think you guys will remain close friends for the rest of your lives?

Matt: I think a lot of us will. I personally will be friends with everybody in this band.

Do you guys have anything else you’d like to say?

Matt: Just thanks for taking the time out to do this. For anyone that reads this and cares, thank you.

Originally appeared on Mammoth Press