Guitarist Randy Strohmeyer talks about reuniting for Finch’s first album in over nine years, why he doesn’t like What It Is to Burn being referred to as nostalgic, and how the band always tries to keep things mysterious and tongue in cheek.
So this is your first album in nine years. Did you ever think this day would come?
Yeah, the early portion of my life thought it would always come, but when we broke up it kind of seemed like a fantasy. We found ourselves in this weird ditch. We always wanted to carry on being ourselves, but there was a big claw. I feel like the claw was being like a sand base, clawing into us and saying you can’t do what you want to do. It was kind of weird.
We made totally different records before that, so it was strange. I thought being in a band, and being a fan of music, we were supposed to change, and then people would grow around you and the change. It didn’t seem like that happened with us. It seemed like people were stuck in the same.
Even on the 10-year anniversary of What It Is to Burn, it seemed like, not the majority that came out, but a handful of people were vocal about it being nostalgic. We felt like that was a dirty word. I hated it. I don’t like referring to what I do now in the present tense as being nostalgic. I’d rather it be timeless, but I don’t really have a say in what other people think. We have to move on forward with it. We’re making music for ourselves, as we’ve always done.
It’s weird to be referred to as nostalgic. It seems like yesterday that I turned 30, exited my 20s and turned 30, and now last month I turned 31. I guess I was 29 when this whole thing started. It does seem a little weird, like we’ve exited something before we even started to become something new, but maybe that’s along the lines of what we wanted anyways.
I know initially you reformed back in 2007 and did that EP the following year. You planned on doing the third album then, but it never materialized. Why do you think this time when you reunited it stuck and the last time it didn’t?
I don’t know, maybe because the last time we were really working hard on it. For Finch, things that are easy, or not easy but more natural, I suppose, seem to materialize organically rather than trying so hard. We were like, “Oh, fuck. We need to release a new record because people are waiting for it. They’ve been waiting for years.”
Although we had a lot of fun writing it, it just didn’t work out. We weren’t really hitting the musical parts that we wanted to, so it ended up not working out. I’m really glad that we finally got together and united again as a band. When we’re the strongest is when we’re firing together on all cylinders. That’s where I feel like we are now.
When you first did the What It Is to Burn shows, it was supposed to only be a couple shows, and then it kept snowballing and you ended up touring for a year on that. What was the original plan behind that and why do you think it was able to keep on going for you guys?
The original plan was just to do two shows. We were going to do one at the Glass House and one in the U.K. We booked both of them and they both sold out really quickly. We were like, “Well, all right, let’s add another show to the U.S. one at the same venue.” We did, and it sold out again really quick. We just kept doing it.
Meanwhile, a whole tour developed out of that, which was really strange because we didn’t have any further aspirations, especially with Nate. He had this band, Reverend Crow. They’re still doing stuff, but at that point it was really active. He was really trying to pick up the pieces and move on with his life without us being a part of it. We kind of swooped in there. It seems now maybe it wasn’t that nice of a thing, but it felt right for us.
Were you surprised to find that people still cared about What It Is to Burn all these years later?
Yeah, of course. It was a thrill. We were so shocked. We didn’t have any expectations. The surprise was huge. We were just really happy. It seemed like a homecoming or something, where you’re gone for a long time and people invite you back into their arms and it feels warm.
We didn’t want to outstay our welcome, but it felt nice in the moment. I feel like people wanted to come back in and do this thing, so that’s what we did. When we were all playing together, it seemed right to go inside and start playing new songs, working out new ideas and stuff. It felt good to have that affirmation that you need in a band.
I really believe there’s a bunch of bands out there that act like they don’t give a shit about anything, but they do. They care a lot about what everyone says. That’s probably why they ended up in a band in the first place, because they were fucking misfits and rejects. That sort of thing takes a psychological toll on you and you want to make people happy. You want to bring people together, or else you’d probably be in a solo band or something. We’re a band that thrives to be together and do things together.
When you remember that album now is there anything that stands out about making it?
We were really excited. We did the EP first, right? It was an introductory to our band, doing the EP, and then we did the album. We toured a few times on the EP. This was probably right around 9/11. That brought back a lot of experiences of tragic shit, and happy times as well. It seemed like a whirlwind of everything that was going on around that time, especially when we were writing the songs. “Letters to You” and “Perfection” were the only ones that were on the album. Those were probably the only ones that were ready to be on the album at the time. Everything else seemed like a life experience.
It didn’t seem like a teenage perspective for us. It just seemed like a humanistic perspective. It resonates with our fans, I think, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. We were just all there at the same time, so I think timing was a lot of it, too. We were all there. We were all experiencing the same thing at the same time, which is why the nostalgia thing flies.
It wasn’t nice. There were a lot of terrible things that happened at that time. The things for me that made me happy were music and art. It was hard to escape anything because everything was so in your face and harsh. Those things made me feel better and made me get out of my head, like music. For our fans, maybe that was the case. It was a really weird time.
How much do you think playing What It Is to Burn live every night influenced the writing of the new album?
I don’t think it influenced it at all, actually. We’ve always played What It Is to Burn songs when we play live, so we don’t think about it that much. When we play live it’s a different feeling then when we go into the studio. When we go into the studio, we’re all futurists. We think of all the stuff that we haven’t done and we think of what we could do.
It’s something we cherish and don’t take for granted. It’s amazing we wrote a record that many people can connect with, but beyond that I don’t see it as being very influential. We’re always going to do what we want at that certain time, and what we want is always to remain pure. We don’t want to take away our innocence.
We all live in Temecula, which is a small little suburb out in the middle of nowhere. It’s the same place we grew up in. It sort of permeates this doubt and reason to get out. It’s nice to have that on your shoulders. It’s interesting for us, I suppose. I don’t think we think about that, though. That’s probably more subconscious. It’s like a nest. You don’t want to leave it, but you know you have to. That’s why we started touring.
I think this album has a good mix of both albums and the EP stuff, encompassing everything you have done before, as well as a little bit of something new.
Right, I hope it moves forward too at the same time. That was something that everyone felt really strongly about, a progression. It’s hard to listen to it outside of something without trying to compare it. That maybe is a handicap, but you can get outside of it. It’s OK to move forward. It’s OK to think of something differently. It’s OK to watch people change.
As far as the writing and recording process for the album, was there anything new or different that you did that you hadn’t done before?
Not really. We wrote a ton of songs and only a few of them made it onto the album. We recorded 47 demos, I think. There’s a lot out there that we wanted to feel it out ourselves.
The title Back to Oblivion is a little ironic, considering how long you’ve been away for. Was that supposed to be tongue in cheek?
Yeah, I think everything is supposed to be tongue in cheek with us. Say Hello to Sunshine was supposed to be tongue in cheek. They’re all factors of what we’re actually doing at the time. Anything that we say, aside from interviews where people are asking us serious questions, we’re probably fucking around or it seems like we’re just being silly. Especially with Nate, he feels comfortable in this medium of doing the things he wants to do, and for us we talk about the same stuff, so we get it.
For an outsider, there’s a little bit of mystery and intrigue. I never thought those were bad things, either. We like having that little bit of uncertainty. I think that always makes people question things a little more, especially when you don’t know everything.
Maybe not the last year, I haven’t really noticed it because I’ve been busy, but I would look at stuff and go, “Fuck, these bands are putting themselves out too much. They’re being way too forward with everything and it seems like they’re not being forward with the truth. It seems like a fiction type thing.”
That really rubbed me the wrong way. I always want people to be themselves and not a product. People shouldn’t know everything. They shouldn’t be so informed on social networking, or whatever, on everything about you.
This sounds stupid but think about other people in the past, like the Beatles or whoever. These are awful references, because it makes me sound like we’re comparing ourselves to them, which I’m not, but think about anybody that you liked a lot and wish you knew more of that you couldn’t. Since you don’t know everything about them, you’re left to your own conclusions, and that’s nice. It gives the listener a vantage point of themselves and it doesn’t deviate from what the point of everything is.
The point is not to be a personable superstar. The point is to be a band creating something together where people feel intrigued about what you’re doing. They ask questions because they want to know. I don’t know why you’re asking questions. I think it’s probably because you want to know [laughs], so I’m answering them because you want to know the answers to these questions.
The past few years when we weren’t a band I really noticed it a lot, that people were just giving up everything, and it seemed like they were whoring out. I don’t know. I was just never into bands like that. I never wanted to know them like that. In fact, some of my favorite bands I know too much and I don’t like them as much anymore. It’s a bummer.
It’s like, keep some mystery. It’s like what they say, and you’ve heard it before, that once I knew the band personally, I stopped liking their music and respecting them, and then everything went to shit. With us, I feel like there’s a similar interest in keeping it sort of private.
Looking back over your career, how much do you think the band has changed or stayed the same since when you first started out?
I don’t know if we have changed that much ethically. We’re the same band that we were when we started out. We’re still trying to do different stuff. We don’t really think about writing hits or not. We never had expectations when we were starting the band, and we don’t have any expectations now. There’s no blockade for us. We just write music and play it. That’s all. We’re just documenting the way that we feel.
If people grab onto that or gravitate towards that, it’s because it’s true. We’re not trying to hide from our feelings. Those are evident in the works that we do. I don’t know. It’s really real. There’s nothing unreal about what we do. It’s all true. If people get onto it, they can kind of see it, but if not then they’re looking for something else. If they don’t like it, then they don’t like it. That’s OK.
That kind of reminds me of Say Hello to Sunshine. I know when that record first came out it was really divisive for a lot of fans.
It’s hard to say now. We’re putting out a third record and I don’t know where people are going to stand with it. The people that didn’t like Say Hello to Sunshine, I think they abandoned our band a long time ago. The people that do like Say Hello to Sunshine are probably there with us. They’re like, “I don’t get it. Why don’t you like Finch?” Finch is a collaboration between the five of us and we make what we want to make. We all sort of agree on everything, and that gets us to that point.
This record feels a lot more of a natural progression, though, considering your past work, than Say Hello, which took a lot more people by surprise.
Yeah, I don’t know what people are expecting and expecting of us. I just hope that people like it. That’s all. If people don’t like it, that’s OK. It won’t stop us from making music. I don’t think that ever has. We’ve never stopped because we didn’t think that people mattered, it was just because we weren’t comfortable. We stop when things feel odd.
I mean, we had a third record possibly in the can, but we weren’t there yet. I’m glad that we didn’t release it. I’m glad we waited. It’s nice to be patient. It’s a testament to our fans, too, to be patient with us and wait for things to work themselves out, and also be content with what they have.
Say Hello to Sunshine is a great record and What It Is to Burn is a great record. If you like either one of those, either by themselves or together, that’s awesome. It was divisive, like you said. A lot of people will pick an album to like us and that’s all right. We never really wanted to be liked, we just wanted to do what we wanted to do. So that was OK with us.
As you’ve alluded to, Finch has had a lot of ups and downs throughout the years. What do you think the biggest lesson is that you can take away from all that?
People are fickle and you can’t let them get you down. You have to stay true to yourself. It’s like high school. The popular kid doesn’t always stay the popular kid. You can’t be quarterback forever. You have to move on.
The scene is what you make of it. It’s stupid to identify yourself as one thing or another anyways. You just have to be yourself. For a band like us, we identify with that a lot, but we don’t identify with other people’s music currently. We don’t try to do anybody else.
So the album comes out September 30 and then you have the headlining tour right after. Do you have plans for after that or is it still open-ended?
We’d love to tour this album and then record another record. There’s ideas floating around already for another record. We don’t really settle. It’s something that we constantly do, and that’s a factor in always being around each other. We’re never separated for a long time before we get together again. There’s always new ideas and it always seems like there’s more to it than just a timeline.
We just want to go out there and play music and feel happy about it. It’s fun. I don’t really know what to say. It’s really a pleasure to play with my bandmates and write music with them. We’ll continue to do that as long as we all stay friends, which we have over the years [laughs]. I imagine it will be a long time before Finch stops playing music together.
Originally appeared on Absolute Punk