INTERVIEW: Mom Jeans’ Eric Butler chats their time on Sad Summer Fest and more
Sad Summer Fest is already about ten days out from being completed yet it probably seems like it has been a year for the bands involved. Worcester’s date gave a good taste of it with the crowd surviving about ten hours in weather that topped out at about ninety degrees but the smiles on the faces in the crowd showed that they were living for it. One of the bands that is working hard 24/7 on the tour, be it with their own band, or even playing in other bands, are the guys in Mom Jeans who have made quite the name for themselves in the indie rock scene. But this tour definitely doesn’t scream indie rock in the tunes that are on stage, but it does scream it behind the scenes.
As I walked down the hill the buses and vans rest on at The Palladium in Worcester with vocalist Eric Butler prior to our sit down interview in their van, we talked about his set that day that had just gone down, his involvement in the other opening bands and how this was the biggest show so far for the band on the tour. Even on stage, he talked about the band had gotten some flack for doing this tour since it seems very different for them on the outside but he talked about on stage how it could be possibly be the most D.I.Y tour they’ve been on. There’s so much that went into this festival and it’s daily operations that most people don’t get to see when looking in from the outside. Find our chat below and keep your eyes peeled for a mentioned Mom Jeans run in the fall as well as a Just Friends tour, a band that shares members with Mom Jeans, including Butler himself! Read all about it below and hope you catch the tour if it’s still to come to your city, you won’t regret it!
From talking with you, obviously you’ve played Boston a bunch. You’ve played Once, you’ve played Sinclair. This is the first time that you’ve done a tour with a lot of pop punk bands or on this level of a tour.
We’ve always had the pop punk word thrown at our band a lot, but we’ve always identified early on as more of an emo indie type of band. It’s not that I don’t like pop punk music, it’s just kind of different worlds. Like the hardcore pop punk stuff and then the more D.I.Y, it’s just very different. But I like this tour a lot because it definitely feels that they’re kind of meshing together. A lot of these bigger pop punk bands, they’re rooted in D.I.Y., and they used to do D.I.Y tours back in the day. This is essentially still a D.I.Y tour on a really big scale. It’s our first time playing with pop punk bands for sure, like straight up pop punk bands. But it’s cool, we’re learning a lot. We’re all musicians at the end of the day and we’re all just trying to make a career out of touring and playing music so it’s kind of the same animal when you get down to it.
State Champs used to come down from like upstate New York to be the local opener at this venue.
Yeah and it’s funny now being that they’re one of the headlining bands.
Well speaking of that, just from seeing the day so far and talking to some of the guys in The Maine about how they really formed this tour. You talked on stage about how this is the biggest show you’ve played so far on the tour. I saw you guys all helping each other on stage, the first group of bands, like seeing you hold the screens for Stand Atlantic so they wouldn’t fall but clearly it’s a cooperative effort.
Obviously, there is a big separation between Mayday, The Maine and State Champs, like the bigger bands and us openers. That’s just the fact of the matter, they’re bigger bands then we are, but I think very early one. Day one, day two, everybody in all the bigger bands like Derek from Mayday and all the guys from The Maine and everybody from State Champs and Wonder Years especially, it feels like they went out of their way to make themselves really approachable and be the people that you can walk up to them and start a conversation or ask for help if you need it. With all the staff on the tour, all the stage managers and all the people TM’ing and stuff, everybody really went out of their way to establish a line of communication and learn everybody’s names. Be like, “if you need this, this or this, I’m the person to talk to’, and it felt really, really good because I think we were a little bit nervous, us and Just Friends really feeling like we were on our own little island. It definitely hasn’t been like that. Everybody has really gone out of their way to be approachable and to be inclusive. Like include the smaller bands and the openers into conversation and make sure that we’re taken care of. It feels really good, it’s not what we expected at all, it’s definitely a pleasant surprise, to be taken care of the way that we are.
Maybe then how did you being on the tour come about? I know from seeing Just Friends as well, you’re from the same area.
Yeah, we all grew up together.
And you’re sharing a merch tent out here.
Yeah, we share members too. It’s all the same thing. We’re essentially the same bands at this point. When you’re a band the size that you are and you get pitched something like this, you have to say yes. All you can try to do, is do the best job that you can. I know so many people that would kill to be on that stage and would love to be doing this thing. So, we’re really just trying to make the most of the opportunity and go as hard as we can.
Then I know from just looking at Spotify, I know from radio bands I get pitched they have like 2 million plays on Spotify, but you guys have like seven million, six million for some of the tracks. Obviously, you’ve made a bit of a name for yourselves in the indie music scene. “Puppy Love” is just about a year old so are you currently working on new music or is still something a little while away?Oh yeah, we have an album almost done. We’re really excited about it. I think that it’s going to put everything else that we’ve released to shame. From a songwriting perspective, the band has always been kind of my baby and my brainchild. I’ve been very reluctant, especially because we all play in so many bands together, like Graduating Life is Bart’s band but we all play in it, and then Just Friends is Sam’s band but we all play in it. Mom Jeans is my band and because of it I was a little territorial about collaborative songwriting. I was kind of like, Mom Jeans is my thing and you write the songs for that band I write the songs for this band. As of late, it’s been a very collaborative process. Austin and Bart and Sam have all been getting very involved in kind of pushing me outside of my comfort zone. Bart has been writing songs for Mom Jeans which has never happened before. It’s really exciting and I feel like we’re kind of breaking new ground and I’m just really excited to see what we can come up. Instead of me coming up with an idea and everybody else facilitating the vision when we come up with a vision together and execute it. It’s going to be even crazier then we’ve put out in the past, so I’m really excited to get those songs out and have a new album rocking and stuff. It’s very motivating and really fun.
How was that for you to kind of take that step back and have everyone else bring in their own ideas? How was that experience?
It was definitely scary. Any person in a band that, you’ve put out a few records, is still trying to still grow, you have to try and be self-aware. You have to be willing to go out of your comfort zone. I think the one size fits all formula of doing what we’ve always done doesn’t necessarily apply. “Best Buds” was written not really with the intent of being playing in front of anybody and it just kind of took off and we’re really grateful for that. Now it’s when you’re writing an album with the intention of hopefully a lot of people listening to it, you have to take a different approach and I think you have to be a little more conscious of what you’re doing. Be a little bit more self-aware. That’s scary and it’s definitely something that I’ve worried about before. I’ve always just kind of done my thing and whatever comes out, comes out. Trying to really think about every little thing you’re doing and every action is really new to me and it’s a little bit uncomfortable. But I trust these guys with my life. It’s scary but then you hear what it sounds like and you hear the results and then it’s like ‘Okay, well I just want to write songs like that now. I just want to keep doing this’. So we’ve just been writing songs and writing songs and we’re just going to start recording them when we feel like we got an album done and put it out.
You’re that close to having something done?
Yeah, we have seven or eight songs written. I don’t want to call it done. We’ve always been like, okay we have ten songs let’s go record them, and put it out as an album. I really want to make something that is cohesive. It’s more of a concept album really than anything in the past. That concept is ear candy, just straight radio hits. I’m trying to take it back to our roots. Like a lot of Green Day, Blink 182, just bands that could write really catchy hooks and songs that you could just imagine being blasted on the radio when you’re driving your car down the highway. That kind of stuff. So that’s the goal anyway, I’m hoping it comes off that way.
Then you only started this tour about a week ago. The tour is only a month but it’s an intense month.
Oh yeah, it feels like I’ve been on tour for a year honestly.
Well you’re outside all day it’s like a whole different animal.
We’ve been gone for ten days and it feels like ten years. I’ve aged. I’m going to look 40 when I get back from this tour but it’s super worth it though. It’s really, really stressful and it’s a lot of work but it’s really satisfying. Every day when we load the van and get out of here, we really feel like we’ve accomplished something cool. Which is dope.
Then maybe speaking of that, this tour ends on August 3rd.
Yeah, the 3rd in California.
So perfect for you!
Yeah, great for us! Definitely makes up for having to meet everyone up in Dallas.
It must be fun though and they spice it up with special guests, like today Four Year Strong.
No yeah, it’s definitely cool. It’s a very cool vibe getting to change it up a little so it’s not the same thing everyday. They rotate the openers, so sometimes Just Friends will play first and sometimes Stand Atlantic will play first. We get a nice mix so it’s not the exact same thing every single day. And then the headliners rotate too, so it’s always someone different ending the night. You never know what you’re going to get. It think it, as well as keeping things interesting for the audience, because I think they were hoping that a couple people would go to multiple dates, that it keeps it interesting for the bands too. Makes it not as monotonous for us. Wonder Years headlined last night in Philly and that was awesome. Hometown gig, they headlined, and it was bonkers. It was absolutely bonkers. It looked like Glastonbury from the stage, there were just so many people. So getting to be there and see that happen is awesome. And that doesn’t happen if they play at 3:30 in the afternoon. I think everybody’s putting a lot of thought into who closes. Like having State Champs headline today, this is really their territory. They’ve played here a lot, this is their fucking stomping grounds. I think they’re making an effort to making every band be as successful as possible and really paying attention to who does better in each market. Like, ‘Yo, this feels like a Mayday gig, so they’re going to play last tonight’. When we’re in the Southwest, The Maine is going to headline. When we’re on the East Coast, the pop punk world headquarters, State Champs or Mayday Parade is going to play last. When you’re in Philly, Wonder Years are going to play last. So they’re really putting a lot of thought into it which is super cool. Warped seemed more of like a copy and paste situation, where it was the same show every day, where here it feels like each day is very much catered to that city and to that area. The attention to detail is awesome. I didn’t think that people were thinking about that kind of stuff. You grow up thinking, there’s all these people making the decisions and the bands don’t have any say or whatever and that’s totally not true on this tour. Everybody feels really in control of it all.
You said something like that on stage right about always priding yourself on being on a D.I.Y band.
Yeah, I mean, people are going to talk shit because people like to talk shit obviously, and people are going to find things to complain about. I think you could definitely make the argument that what’s a band like Mom Jeans or Just Friends doing on a tour like that. It is important to recognize that all of the stuff and all the people working today, it’s Mayday’s crew, it’s their guitar techs. Mayday’s guitar tech is the stage manager for the entire tour. The guy who normally does FOH (front of house) and guitar techs for The Maine, he’s doing monitors for the opening bands. So each role and person playing them on tour, they are also just some guy who works for this band. It’s really, really cool to see how everybody is really doing double duty and it just makes it awesome. We feel like we’re working our asses of and it’s nice to see everybody else working their’ asses off too. It doesn’t feel unequal or whatever. It feels like everybody is really chipping in together a 110%. Which is just fucking awesome.
Yes, it’s just super motivating. It makes us want to kill it, it makes us want to work harder every day and that’s all you can ask for.
Well then to end it off, you talked about it before, you have a lot of songs written. So I’m sure that’s going to be a focus or goal for you, but maybe for you after you get off Sad Summer Fest, what your focuses or goals will be as a band? Is it going to be that album, touring again?
We’re going to chill for a little bit. Everybody needs to go on vacation a little bit and then also, Just Friends is doing a headlining tour so we’re taking some time off.
Yeah, you have to balance.
Just Friends and Grad Life, we’ve been really hitting it super hard with the Mom Jeans thing for the last couple years. You have to be conscious, when you share so many members, that only one band can go on tour and do things at a time. It’s important to me for Just Friends and Grad Life to really hit it hard right now. Because the rest of the guys in Mom Jeans, we really want to work hard at this album and write. I’m totally happy at taking a step back and spending a month just writing songs, practicing guitar, and letting them go off and do their thing. That’s the vibe. Letting Grad Life and Just Friends hit it for a little bit. Mom Jeans is going to do another tour in the fall that we haven’t announced yet, a support tour. Then after that, we’ve been throwing around the idea of going back to Europe again. Because we had a really good experience. We did it D.I.Y and we’re talking about maybe trying to do some festivals or something. Because we had such a great experience on this tour.
They were all singing the words. You definitely had a good part of the audience.
Doing a festival tour too sounds really fun. It sounds really baller. We’re really just trying to position ourselves to hit it really big next time that we go out and headline a tour. I just want to keep doing what we’re doing and we’ve been following the train of every tour just getting a little bit better and every show gets a little bit better. A little bit bigger, and we’ve always been about the slow burn. Just steady organic growth and if we just keep doing what we’re doing and focus on having fun and keeping ourselves healthy and happy, we don’t need to worry about what we’re doing next. Things find their way onto the calendar. You think you’re not busy, you think one month you’re going to be totally free and then next thing you know, you’re booked for the whole month.
You see that a lot recently. Like Nandi, this girl who plays in Pinegrove, she also has her own band, Half Waif, that some of the guys play in. You see it too with Pond and Tame Impala on a a larger scale, it’s a very collaborative effort.
Yeah, very, very collaborative. And I like that because, it definitely feels with, specifically Mom Jeans, Just Friends, and Grad Life we’ve all banded together. And what comes out is that we’re definitely greater than the sum of all of our parts without a doubt. When we all band together, everybody’s band is more successful. When something cool happens for Mom Jeans, inadvertently that means that cool shit is going to happen for Just Friends and Grad Life. When something cool happens for Just Friends or Grad Life, at the end of the day it means I still get to go and I still get to have fun. I still get to have that experience. When everybody’s pulling for everybody, you just get so much more done. And that’s true for the entire music scene in general. Especially in D.I.Y when you band together and you find people who want to see you succeed and want to see you have a good time and want to see things happen for their band, as much as they see for their own band. That’s when the sky’s the limit. You really can’t put a price on that and you really can’t put a ceiling on it.