RATHER THAN TRY AND DESCRIBE WHAT HURRY-UP OFFENSE SOUNDS LIKE, OR HOW COOL A MOTHERFUCKER BASSIST MAX LEAVITT WAS ON THE PHONE, I'LL JUST LET YOU READ THIS INTERVIEW I DID WITH HIM. WE TALK AMSTERDAM, THE ELEPHANT MAN, AND THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G. YOU FIGURE THAT ONE OUT.
Max: So, whatís up, man?
Vinnie: Nothiní much. I was just reading up on you guys today to learn a little more about you. Man, I hope I was reading about the right band. It was the most bizarre information Iíve ever seen.
V: There was just some stuff where I was like, ďWhat? Really?Ē
V: I guess Iíll just run through it.
M: Yeah. And if I feel like itís a different band, we can stop and figure it out.
V: Unless itís really fucking cool, and you want it to be your band.
M: Yeah, yeah! If itís a really cool gangsta rap thing with the bling and the bitches, letís just keep it, okay?
M: Yo, can you hold on one second? Iím going to wrap up this thing on my computer so I can give you my full attention.
V: Yeah, sure.
[MAX TAKES A MOMENT TO WRAP SOMETHING UP ON HIS COMPUTER.]
M: Cool. I got this iPod for Christmas, and Iím just having a good time with it; pulling shit from all my CDs. Even stuff I never listen to. Iím just like, ďWhatever.Ē
M: Fill this bitch up! (laughs)
V: Are you in Manhattan?
M: Iím in Manhattan right now.
V: Is it crazy living right in the city?
M: Itís awesome. I love it. I mean, with every place you live, it can get to you after awhile. It can get crazy on the subway, or with cabs and traffic and shit, but I miss it when Iím gone. I really like it.
V: Have you always lived there?
M: No. I came out to New York about eight years ago to go to college, and I just stuck around afterward.
V: Where did you come from?
M: San Francisco, California.
M: Yeah. Thatís where I met Nat, actually. Did you talk to Nat, the manager for my band?
M: I actually met him my freshman year of high school. He used to cheat off of me.
M: I am solely responsible-- and donít let him tell you any different-- he gets so pissed when I tell people this, but I am solely responsible for his high school diploma. No question.
V: I am so going to harass him.
M: Definitely! (laughs) He gets so annoyed. Heís like, ďDude!Ē And Iím just like, ďYeah, definitely. People should know that.Ē
V: So, the stuff I read today, there was something about Amsterdam.
M: Yeah, thatís the right band. Definitely.
V: Okay. Then, just for the people who donít know the little that I do, can you give a back story about the band, about Amsterdam, and about how you guys all met?
M: Sure. One summer I was studying abroad, and Jason and I met at a foam party.
V: A foam party?
M: Yeah. Have you never heard of a foam party? Because I had no idea what they were until I was actually in the middle of one. Itís this crazy shit they do in Europe and Ibiza, at raves, where they have this foam stuff, which is like really big bubbles from your bathtub. You know how when youíre in the bathtub with really big, sudsy bubbles, and you can play with it and shit?
M: Well, imagine a pool of that shit, up to your fucking chest. Itís no water, just the bubbles.
M: It was so weird. (laughs) I donít even like that kind of music or anything, but I was in Amsterdam, you know? (in mock Amsterdam accent) ďGo out and party! Dance!Ē
M: But Jason and I were in school together, out there in Amsterdam. We started fucking around on guitars and stuff, and thought it was really cool. When we got back to New York, we wanted to start a band. So we found Peter and corrupted him, and now itís all good. (laughs)
V: And your name-- Hurry-Up Offense-- am I right in thinking you named yourselves after how you would attack the stage?
M: Well, it was from our first show that we ever played. We went to this club in the village, and nobody knew about us. Weíd just been rehearsing for three months, and all we had were three songs, you know? So we walked in and were like, ďHey, can we play these three songs?Ē And the guy was like, ďUh,.. no way.Ē So we asked the bands, and finally we had harassed the owner of the club so much that he was like, ďYou can play your three songs, but hurry the fuck up.Ē (laughs) So we played a show, and someone was pretty much standing over us, timing us, thinking, ďGet the fuck off the stage right now!Ē And we were all, ďNo. Really quick, just let us play this song.Ē (laughs) It was actually exciting, and it pushed us in a direction-- a way of playing music-- that is now sort of our signature style: playing with a lot of energy, as fast as we can, packing a ten-song set into the length of three songs, with that kind of energy.
M: Now we actually legitimately book shows.
V: You know, the coolest thing about it, what I couldnít get over about the EP that I got, was that you guys donít really sacrifice quality for speed.
V: And I think thatís one of the most terrible things about a lot of new bands, especially bands that say, ďOh, weíre punk!Ē They play fast, but thereís no melody to it; no songwriting at all.
M: Yeah! I totally agree. We played this all-ages show in Coney Island right before the end of the year, and a couple kids came up to me and were like, ďWow! You guys really sing.Ē I always thought itís much more powerful to hear a tone, to hear a melody, a voice-- especially to even hear harmonies. Itís soulful, emotionally, much more so than screaming. You can scream as much as you possibly want, but itís so general. Itís not specific. Itís just general noise. It can only be interpreted one way. Whereas, when you hear melodies, itís just so much more powerful.
V: Lyrically, you guys donít suck, either.
M: (laughs) Yeah.
V: You sing, and youíre actually singing about something.
M: Well, thank you, dude. Thank you. I have good days and bad days when Iím writing. Iíll get to the end of writing a song, and I'll be like, ďOh, man. This shit is so gay. Let me throw this away.Ē The ones that we actually record and play live, yeah, thereís a lot of thought thatís going into it.
V: And-- this might sound like a stupid question-- but are you guys aware of how much your sound has evolved since the first record?
M: Um,.. yeah. A little bit. I think itís kind of like getting fat. If you start getting fat, you donít really notice it. But all of a sudden, lots of people will come up to you and be like, ďDude, you got fat!Ē
M: Or itís like the minute hand on a public school clock. It never fucking moves, but time still passes, and, thank God, class is actually over. But you never see it moving!
M: I think itís like that. I was so desperate to play shows-- and I still am-- but in the very beginning, I was so desperate to have a repertoire of some kind that I would write and write and write. And now that we have built up a lot of songs, it gets harder. You start writing better songs, but the more songs you write, the harder it is to write them, because you keep raising the bar.
M: So, I guess I donít know if Iím aware of us evolving. No. Itís hard to tell, really. But youíve looked at the new stuff, and you say, ďOh, shit. This is pretty good.Ē
V: Well, I think itís all good.
M: (laughs) Cool, man. Cool. Iím glad you liked it. And by the way, that review is so awesome. Thank you so much. I was so down in the dumps, and then Nat was like, ďIím sending you this link.Ē I saw it and was like, ďOh, yes!Ē
V: Dude, seriously, we get so much shit sent here. And itís almost a kiss of death when I hear, ďWeíre a punk band.Ē I grew up on the stuff, but thereís so much of it out there, so Iím very critical of it, you know? Thereís so much shit where itís some kids playing fast and singing: ďOh, I lost my socks today,Ē or something equally gay. I hear it, and Iím like, ďAw, hell no!Ē But I got your EP, and it was word.
M: Man, Iím so glad, because youíre right. This punk thing is hard. Itís very sensitive to a lot of people. And in the last four years, itís broken into so many subgenres. But we call ourselves "punk", because punk shows are the best. Thereís really no more to it than that. I love going to punk shows. I grew up going to punk shows. Those are the shows that I like to go to, that I want to be at, so thatís why I call myself "punk".
V: I think, too, that you guys are definitely doing your own thing with it, you know? Itís real hard to pigeonhole your sound.
M: We really try to make it original. Thatís one of the things we kept in our heads when we did Warped Tour these last few years. I love the tour, and I love all the bands on it. But just spending a full day at that tour, seeing 50 odd bands, everything kinda starts washing into each other. It really forces you every day to ask yourself, ďWhat are we going to do to stand out?Ē Not only is it fifty bands, but itís ten stages! I didnít want us to be different for the sake of being different, but I did want us to not be afraid of definitely doing our own thing.
V: On those tours, were there bands you looked up to who would come up to you at the end of the day and say, ďWow, man. Your set was awesome.Ē
M: Nobody knows we exist, really. There have been other bands there that are friends of ours who like us, and who we like. But in terms of, like, Tim from Rancid coming up to us, no. They have yet to have their "Hurry-Up Experience". Iím looking forward to the day that happens, though. (laughs)
V: See, thatís how small my scope of the world is. If I like a band, I just assume theyíre the biggest shit on Earth!
M: Well, thatís a good assumption for us.
M: Donít let me pull that curtain back.
V: Dude, Iíll just build up this illusion through tastes like chicken that Hurry-Up Offense is the biggest thing on Earth!
M: And you should! I think weíre the biggest shit on Earth. But in terms of radar, weíre working our asses off to push that.
V: Is it frustrating as hell, to work your ass off to try and get noticed, without instant results?
M: Oh,.. itís a worry. My personality, though, Iím a worried, nervous, anxious, stressed guy. Iím the opposite of laid back. Thatís how I operate. I think that the work is more and more about getting one more person a day to know about or hear about us. A while back, I sorta stopped waiting for things to happen, and I just started working my ass off. It became part of the process. I donít worry about, ďOh, itís not going to happen.Ē None of itís magic. None of itís luck. If you get in a van and drive everywhere you can and play for as many people as you can, people will start to notice you. Itís just a matter of working. What you put into it is what you get out.
V: You guys were Carson Dalyís house band, right?
V: How in the hell did that happen?
M: (laughs) Nat heard through the grapevine that they were looking to get a house band on Last Call, which is on after Conan.
V: Seems like a pretty big deal.
M: Oh, yeah! Itís been awesome to do. Weíve done it four times now. Everyone there is really nice, and itís a fun, fun day. But in terms of,.. itís not like the phones started to ring after that, you know? Not at all. Nothing really has changed by doing it. But thatís not why we do it. We do it because itís fun. We get to be on TV, and thatís exposure. But, mostly, itís a way for my mom to say, ďCheck it out,Ē to her friends. Touring and interacting with our fans has been a lot more effective.
V: See, and when I read about this, I was like, ďFuck! How in the hell did I not hear about these guys! Theyíre on national television!Ē I thought maybe Iíve been totally walking through life with my eyes closed.
M: No, no. (laughs)
V: I thought it was really cool, though. Iím sure somebody out there will be at your show one day and think, ďHoly shit! These are the guys from Carson Daly!Ē
M: Aw, that would be awesome. Every now and then, people on the street say it, and Iím just like, ďGreat! Now come to our shows!Ē
V: You guys are about to go on another tour, right?
M: Yeah, Wednesday. (sighs) And we have no van. (sighs) And this has been my life for the last two weeks.
M: Our van died when we were in Jacksonville. So, naturally, weíre like, ďWe need a new van.Ē And Iím real confident, you know: ďOh, when we get back to New York, weíll get a new van. No problem.Ē But itís not like buying a CD at a store, you know? Thereís so much bullshit that goes into it-- insurance, registration, all that stuff. Iím totally overwhelmed. But, weíll pull it off. Everything will fall into place, Iím sure. Itís been a stressful couple of weeks, though.
M: So, yeah, weíre going out on the road next week with Army Of Me, which Iím excited about. Theyíre an awesome band. Jason and Vince are good friends, and they booked this whole tour together. I love going out with other bands. Itís so much fun. Of course, the one time the tour is totally booked up and hyped and promoted and we get it all done ahead of time, of course, the van dies.
M: (laughs) One of these days, itíll just be us worrying about writing songs and playing great shows. Until then, weíre stuffing press kits and looking for vans,.. shit like that.
V: Okay. I have one other question about all the weird shit I read on you guys. There was something about an MTV show that I read, and two of you were in it?
M: Yeah. Actually, it was a commercial. Jason and I do commercial work sometimes to pay the bills. Itís sorta lame, but it pays well. Anyway, Jason and I were auditioning for this promo commercial for MTV. It has nothing to do with our band. There were tons of people there; three days of auditions. I got casted, and showed up on the set. Then, all of a sudden, Jason shows up on the set. We were randomly cast together in an MTV promo commercial!
V: Well, that answered my next question; whether or not you all were working jobs to pay the bills, or just playing music.
M: Almost. If it was sink or swim, we could probably swim. But Pete has catering work. I worked at a restaurant for three years. Jason does a lot of commercial and voice-over stuff, and he and Peter actually cater together. Just jobs like that when weíre home. But we tour so much that we canít commit to having big jobs. When we are home, itís time to make some money.
V: Itís kinda cool that you can work something other than a grunt job, you know? Doing commercials, itís not like you have to shovel horseshit.
M: Oh, yeah. I know. For the hours, it does pay really, really well. You know, you can still catch the commercial. Itís called ďElephant FreshmanĒ, and itĎs about this guy--
V: --HOLY SHIT! I saw that when I was home for Christmas!
M: Yeah! There are actually three spots. Jasonís in all of them. But the one that he and I are in together, I pull up in the red Camaro, and Iím lookiní all New Jersey, like Bon Jovi, with no sleeves, listening to some cock rock. Jason pulls up in this dorky blue Volvo, which is actually the directorís car, and all of his friends are in it. One of them is the Elephant Man, and he leans out the window and is like, ďExcuse me. Are you Starsky, or are you Hutch?Ē And then they peel out. You gotta check it out. Itís funny. And when we were on the set together, people were like, ďYou guys know each other?Ē And Iíd tell them, ďYeah. Weíre all in a band together.Ē
V: So, you guys are touring now. A few months ago, things seemed really politically volatile here. A lot of the bands I talk to would tell me that the overall feel of their shows would reflect that. When you guys go out, do you use the stage to share your politics?
M: Sometimes, in the scene, being political means being anti-establishment. When, in fact, being political is more like expressing your beliefs, whatever they are. In terms of that, Iíd say weíre definitely political. Itís open to a lot of different things. Iíve learned the most about that through touring. You get to see a lot of the country, and you realize how different a lot of places are. You see how people think differently, whether you believe in what they think or not. And I think our band is about standing up for what you believe in, regardless of what that is. I just finished a song that does have more of a political voice, but it comes from an everyday place. We are from New York City, and we lived through September 11th. People can spout off and debate about that, and talk politics and foreign policy and whatever they want, but that was my day. I woke up that morning, and that was a day for me. It involved my family and my friends. It was shit that really happened. I have this line in one of my songs that says: ďPolitics donít mean shit when youíve lost your son or your brother.Ē And I fully believe that. When youíre dealing with life or death, you canít rationalize anything. Itís about someone dying, and you loved that person. You had coffee with them. You had drinks with them. Those experiences of life have nothing to do with voting or politics or the economy or anything like that. That is something so deeply personal. And thatís what my songs reflect, because that day, all of a sudden, the headlines were happening right at my door, you know?
M: Thatís what our band is about, politically. When you read the paper, you just canít escape whatís happening in the world. Itís upsetting.
V: Tell me about it.
M: Itís like, what the fuck? It doesnít matter about agreeing or not. It just upsets you as a human being. Itís not about casting blame. Itís just the tide, and itís fucked up, and most of all, scary. Sorry for spouting off like that.
V: Oh, no.
M: Thatís what I think. There are a lot of bands I really like, like Anti-Flag. I really like them, and I agree with some of the things they say. But, for me, itís just more about having the balls to say whatever it is you say, no matter what, and feeling like you can do that.
V: I totally agree. I mean, for me, I'll listen to bands and wonder if they ever stop and think: ďHey-- weíre singing about a lot of political stuff, but what about the people that weíre singing to?Ē I think what youíre saying, I totally dig. Youíre singing about things that your audience, and people in general, can totally relate to. I grew up listening to Bad Religion, and thatís some pretty heavy shit. (laughs)
M: Yeah. (laughs)
V: Youíre sitting there with your dictionary,...
M: Theyíre Harvard graduates or something like that.
V: I grew up listening to that shit, you know? And once I managed to look up most of the words in the songs, I was all, ďYeah! Totally! Right on!Ē But after awhile, it hits me that a lot of this stuff is not a part of my everyday life. I understand politics. I read up on things. I know whatís going on in the world. But my day-to-day is, ďHow can I make the rent this month?Ē
V: Shit like that, you know? Or itís passing some homeless people on the street, or talking to my brother and sister if theyíre going through some shit. Thatís the stuff I do. Thatís the stuff I can relate to.
M: Yeah! Thatís totally how I feel about it, too. You have to be aware of what your audience is into. And some bands are into alienating their audiences. They want to speak out about something, and theyíre gonna speak out about it one way, and youíre either with them or youíre not. But, for me, itís the same way as meeting people. Some people are like, ďWhatever. This is how I am. Deal with it.Ē But thatís not me. I want to get to know a lot of people. I want to meet and be friends with a lot of people. Learn as much as I can. And I donít think you can do that holding fast to one belief and spreading it.
M: When youíre in a band it represents you and what you believe in, so you have to choose carefully. And itís like you said, you have to know who youíre talking to. Iíve seen some bands, and they start talking and Iím like, ďOkay,.. Iím gonna go to the bar and get a beer.Ē
M: Not to be a dick to them, but it can be a lot more effective if it were talked about in the right way.
V: Right on. Well, my fucking tape is running out. What else do you want people to know about? What else is going on that everyone in the world should read-- and trust me, everyone in the world will read this. (laughs)
M: Awesome! Um,.. weíre going to Japan in February.
M: Yeah. Itís awesome. We did the whole thing ourselves. And that means you never know what the fuck is going to happen.
M: Dude, itís just like, letís get there with our instruments and see what happens. Thatís a horrible way to be about it, to be honest, but how hard could it be? Iíve always wanted to go there. The guy who produced our last record is friends with a lot of Japanese bands, and heís kinda cashing in a favor for us to get some shows booked. So thatís cool. Iím also really psyched to be on tour with Army Of Me. I love them. And weíll be coming to a town near you very soon, 'cause it donít stop.
V: Then youíll be on the Bad Boy World Tour, and youíll open up for Jay-Z.
M: Yeah, what is it? The Smoke-A-Lot Tour? The Up In Smoke Tour? Man, Iíd love to do all that shit.
V: My dream, just because of the record collection I have, is to put together something like Lollapalooza, but cool.
M: (laughs) Aw,...
V: Someday, Iíll put on one show in the middle of America, and it will have the most retarded lineup on Earth. Iíll give you guys a big slot.
M: You have to stick us right before Dre.
V: Man, you should get him to produce a record for you!
M: You know what? I really want to get our song ďJuicyĒ to P. Diddy to see what he thinks about it. Heíll either really dig it, or he'll sue the shit out of me. Iíve either disgraced his best friendís memory, or heíll dig the shit out of it. Iíve always thought a rap producer would do really well producing a punk band.
V: I donít think Puffy would sue you, dude. Heís been stealing peopleís shit for years.
M: And anyway, that chorus is from another song. Biggie took it from a song from the Sixties called ďJuicy FruitĒ. So, Iím just building on the legacy!
HAVE YOUR OWN HURRY-UP EXPERIENCE HERE.