We interviewed Mark McMillon of The Story Changes on the new album Static and Trembling. We talked about his vinyl collection, some of his favorite record shops, and more! Check it out below!
We met up with Mark McMillon recently to interview him about his involvement with Hawthorne Heights, the new The Story Changes album Static and Trembling, and also to talk about all things vinyl. As a fellow vinyl collector, he gave us a lot of insight into some of his treasured pieces from his collection as well as info on his favorite shops and what’s currently on his wantlist!
So you just finished touring with Hawthorne Heights on Warped Tour. What’s your level of involvement with Hawthorne Heights?
I’m actually in the band now. I met those guys about a decade ago, when we both kind of got started in our hometown scene in Dayton, OH. We were out on tour with them and kind of rekindled our friendship and things were going well, and they approached me about playing guitar at some shows, as like a “hired gun” live show bassist when I was available. I said, “Sure! That would be cool”.
Next thing I knew, the following year after that, they ended up taking The Story Changes out on pretty much all of the tours, just to make sure I was available to do it. It was a lot of fun and it went well, so I played with them live for about 3 and a half years. At that point we kind of realized that it was able to work really well.
After we kind of realized it could work, after three and a half years, earlier this year when we did the new Hawthorne Heights record, we kind of sat down and had a discussion about it and it seemed like a really good time to join the band full time.
Since you’re with them [Hawthorne Heights] full time, how much time do you spend working on material for The Story Changes?
I do it when I’m home and kind of shift gears back and forth. The Story Changes record came out earlier this year and Hawthorne had a record come out earlier this year as well. So it’s kind of been a lot more juggling than normal.
It’s not as hard as one would think, it’s just a matter of really being on top of scheduling and double checking. Obviously Hawthorne is a much bigger beast, so we prioritize that with what’s going on because we have a lot more people involved. When we’re home we schedule out around the down time and, knock on wood, we’ve been able to still tour with The Story Changes as much as we want to.
Are you planning or have you toured for this newest album with The Story Changes?
We haven’t done a full tour yet, sadly, with everything getting pushed back. We finished the record the beginning of November of last year and then we took a break on it to kind of take some space on it. We went to Australia for Hawthorne Heights and then we came home and originally wanted to have the record out at the beginning of the year. We really wanted to have Jamie Woolford, who we’ve done two of our previous full lengths, we wanted to have him mix this record. It was just a matter of his availability and when he could do it, so it ended up coming out way later. It actually came out, 2 and a half weeks before I actually had to leave for warped tour with Hawthorne Heights, so unfortunately we didn’t get an actual full US tour, but we have our first The Story Changes show this weekend and we’ve got some regional Midwest stuff and I think there’s some US touring being planned for my off time for the rest of the year.
How would you say this album is different from the last two full-length albums you made with TSC?
I think it still sounds like our band quite a bit. I mean anyone who hears it who’s familiar with our band…it doesn’t sound like a curveball. I think people recognize what it is if they’re into our band already. But I think we took our time a lot more than with any other release. In the past we were touring a lot more then and we were kind of you know, looking at scheduling and we were like “Oh we have this much time off before we go on tour again so lets just crank out the record!” We never really had any time off when we did our first two records.
It always seems so forced with us just because we were pushing ourselves so hard to stay on the road, so with this new record we really took our time and wrote it leisurely and I think just naturally. It wasn’t a conscious effort but I think naturally some of the stuff that came out was a little more in line with some of the stuff we grew up on as opposed to the more aggressive kind of punker stuff that we’ve done on our previous records. This record reminds me more of, even though it sounds like our band, I hear hints to like Sunny Day Real Estate and Nirvana, Sam I Am, and things like that, that we didn’t really go too close to that sound before.
Are you going to try and stick to that process? It seems like you kind of liked how it turned out. Are you going to stick to it this way or try to jam and work on it that way?
I think so, we were really pleased with it. It definitely was the most fun writing the record and recording the record. As far as the overall process, it was the least amount of stress for any record we’ve ever done. I enjoy not having to rush, especially when it came to just the actual song writing. The recording is always a different experience wherever you go and we’ve always had really good luck with producers and location-wise as far as the studio. So that’s always been really good. But I really enjoy just the time that the two of us just spent writing the record, I really enjoyed it this time around just because it was so relaxed and stress free. I mean there were days when we got together when we were both in town and we get to the rehearsal space and start working on the stuff. If it wasn’t clicking we would just stop and go to the coffee shop. That was the rule, if it felt forced just stop, then we would get together later and just have fun.
Schedule permitting I’d really like to do that in the future, I think it shows on the recording. I think it’s really easy not to get on a tangent with it. From doing this so long with other bands, and even this summer with Warped Tour, we just see so many groups of bands from all sorts of genres. You realize that in the music industry less and less people are actually buying music, there seems to be this system to crank the album out and get back on tour to promote it and kind of make everybody money doing that way. I think its really easy with that mindset to lose sight that in the end it’s like no matter what kind of music you’re making, in the end it’s still kind of your art and all the touring and everything you do is another aspect and it’s really cool but in the end you’re promoting your art and that’s kind of what you’re leaving behind. So why not take your time with that and make sure it’s the very best that you can do it.
You mentioned being lucky with producers, and I read that you guys worked with Micah Carli from Hawthorne Heights. Did he really influence this album and how it sounds?
Yeah, I think so. Micah plays in Hawthorne Heights with me and he’s been and old friend. We knew going into it that we wanted to try something different with this record. In the past we’ve worked with Jamie Woolford who’s done a great job and he’s always kind of felt like the third member of our band. He’s all the way out in Arizona and we’re in Ohio. It’s something we’ve been able to do in the past with scheduling. We’ve been able to fly out there and spend a month out there to do a record and what not. This time around we just realized with doing this, when both me and my band mate were home, and everything else we have going on we were in a position where we felt like we needed to do it close to home.
Aside from being in a band with Micah, the year prior to doing the new record we recorded a cover for a tribute comp that we recorded with Micah. We really loved the way it turned out. We did it just because it was Micah and we needed to do it quick and we got in there and we didn’t know what to expect. It really turned out great and we were really happy with it. That was kind of, unknowingly to us, sort of the test. We were like “OK, we can work really well with him as a producer and it’s really close to home and we can do it this way”. So we decided to the record there and I think his general attitude to how he approaches making a record and recording, made us think outside of our box a little bit. We got a little braver and tried things that weren’t necessarily in our comfort zone but ended up being really cool.
What would you say is the theme of this album?
I think if I had to pick a theme for the whole thing, lyrically it’s pretty much about finding yourself and realizing who you are and being completely content with that. Trying to be the best you that you can be. Musically I think that if I had to sum it up with any adjective I would say Late 90s. I think it sounds like we went back in time in a good way, that’s my favorite part of it.
What bands really influenced you out of all those late 90s bands?
Between the two of us, we’re into some drastically different things. Nirvana’s a big one, Seaweed, Avail. Oddly enough, Faith No More is one of our favorite bands. We sound nothing like Faith No More but that was one of my favorite childhood bands and I found out very early on, in playing music with my band mate Poppy, that that was his favorite band growing up. We’re both huge Mike Patton fans.
What’s next for you and the band?
We’re just really excited with this record finally coming out to promote it and tour on it properly when we can. We spent probably a year, not consecutively but for the better part of a year that we were home we just wrote and re-wrote and scrapped songs and re recorded songs. We spent so much time on this record that when it came out earlier this year it was such a good feeling to finally get these songs out and the response has been so good so far with our fans and friends online that we’re just excited to finally play it live.
We’ve seen a sort of vinyl resurgence in the recent years. Why did you decide to release Static and Trembling on vinyl?
Both of us have been collecting vinyl for years. It definitely got easier the past 3 years than it was the 8-10 years prior with the resurgence. We were excited about the fact that vinyl was kind of hip again so we could use that to our advantage to put it out on the format that we wanted.
Do you think it’s something that’s going to die out again or do you think this is going be good for the long haul at least for the next 5, 10, 15 years?
It’s hard to say, but I have noticed from when I started touring it was obviously CD’s, and then you saw the MP3 kind of creeping in and then it seemed like everybody kind of joked about how the CD was dead but they still sold well and then out of nowhere, like overnight, nobody was buying CD’s. So MP3s then became hip and it was all about how much you can fit into your player. I think now from what I see with the kids and stuff and from talking to these kids at shows, especially the younger kids, I think the ones who are getting into it are newly into the vinyl so it’s kind of neat to see their initial reaction when they’re just starting their collection.
I think they’re really enjoying having something tangible that they can have and look at and read the lyrics. Which is something that all of us that are a little older you know, even on CDs growing up you didn’t really think about it because you’re so used to buying the record, open it up, read the words, and read the thank you list. You see who your favorite band thanks and you want to go check out that band. I got into so many late 90s punk rock bands when I was younger because a band thanked them on their CD. I had to go check those bands out because they thanked them, so they must be cool. I think that’s something that’s been lost in the digital age. I collect vinyl because I love the way it sounds but all that aside I think kids obviously are getting into that too, but I think there’s just something about actually owning something now and collecting something and being able to read it while you listen to it and collect the artwork and hold it.
How much say do you have into how the record looks? Do you get a say as to what colors you want?
We’ve been really lucky with the labels we work with in the past to have a lot of say with everything to that aspect of the artwork and everything. For Static and Trembling, we had pretty much all of the say, which was great. We were originally going to go with a third color. It was going to be a black, the burst (that matches the album artwork), and then the 3rd color option was going to be a two-color, half and half. We were looking into the options and this is our first full length on vinyl so we were kind of scared financially and how many options we should have and how much was too much. If we have too many options does it take away from that? So we ended up just going with the two. But it was 100% our decision, we picked the colors and our buddy Craig that does IAMSHARK, he did the layout for the whole thing but we were very involved. He kept sending us over proofs and he did a great job.
What are some of your “holy grails”?
I’d really like to get my hands on, and I had this once, I think I sold it around 2001, but I had Jawbreakers Dear You, on the original pressing and it was on a blue marble vinyl. I was just starting to tour back then with my first band and I kind of fell on hard times. I had to pay some bills and I sold it. I remember being so excited about the amount of money because I got this record at a shop for like 12 bucks or something back then. I had it for maybe 2 years. At the time I didn’t have a record player that worked very good so it was always kind of there. I remember I got a couple hundred dollars for this record. I remember being so excited but then after it hit me that I sold that record, I felt so dirty. I haven’t been able to find it since. The drummer of Jawbreaker runs this label I believe it’s called Blackball and they’ve since reissued it. I have the reissue and it’s great. I kind of get sad every time I put it on because I think about having that. So I’d love to find another version of that. I’ve also been on the hunt for a good copy of Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity. Like I can’t find that except for eBay and it’s always like 150 bucks or something and I can’t pay that for a record because I’m going to listen to it you know?
What are some of your favorite shops outside of your local shops?
I’m from Dayton, and about an hour from here is Shake It Records from Cincinnati. That’s always a treat. I got to go there actually last year for Record Store Day. We were on tour but we were crossing through, so we basically didn’t get any sleep. Me and our bass player got up early and went over there. There’s a rad store called Omega Music that’s awesome. Looney Tunes up in Long Island is a great, great store. We actually did an in-store performance there a couple months ago for Hawthorne. It was great to be back there. My favorite store that I’ve always had the best luck with is actually one in Grand Rapids, MI. The name is, Vertigo, but it’s right next to a venue called The Mixtape. Every time I’ve been to that store I’ve walked out with 7 or 8 records that I want for under $20 bucks for everything. Used gems that somebody didn’t want that I’ve been looking for. Last time I was there I got a record from this band The Ataris. It was their second record Blue Skies, Broken Hearts… Next 12 Exits . I’ve never seen it in a store on vinyl, and I don’t know if it’s rare or it’s just not in demand but I got that there for like 3 bucks and it’s in mint. That’s a record just from growing up. When I’m home I put that on like once a week for sure.
What’s currently on your wantlist?
For a while it was the version of In Utero that leaked, that kind of got out and had the two Albini mixes to it. I just got that recently, so that’s more bragging. I’m looking for a good copy of Faith No More’s Angel Dust, their second/third full length they did with Mike Patton. They recently reissued that, but it’s like a single, it’s not even a double, and it’s like 60 bucks. It’s like a direct-from-the-masters release. I’ve heard it sounds great. I just haven’t been able to move on it. I guess I’m looking for a decent cheaper copy, or an original. That’s one of those records I always look for, and because of that band sometimes it will be with the ‘Alternative’ stuff or sometimes it will be in the ‘Hair Metal’ or something.
Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity, that’s been a big one. Hey Mercedes is a band that I always really loved, and I was fortunate enough to do some touring with those guys. Vagrant Records put out two of their full lengths, and one of the full lengths, Everynight Fire Works, was pressed on vinyl originally and it was pretty limited. The band has since been inactive so the label hasn’t repressed it, but that’s definitely something that I look for. Save’s The Day Through Being Cool, I’ve been looking for that for a while and that’s something that I hope they reissue because every time it pops up on eBay it’s ridiculous how much money people want.
What is the one most treasured album in your collection? If there was a fire and you had to save one record, which would it be?
Man, super tough, I don’t think I could pick one. Today I had some down time at home and I made some coffee and I had to respond to a couple of emails and I haven’t been home very long from tour and I’ve been in and out, so today was one of the first days that I was actually going to get to put a record on. I probably sat and stared at the case for 15 minutes before I decided on something. I feel like if there was a fire, and my life depended on it and I had to grab a record, I would go down in flames staring at the case. I have an old original copy of Nirvana’s Nevermind. I think Faith No More was the first favorite band when I was kind of too young to figure out how to play an instrument. Nirvana was the first band that was like, you saw them, and I was like “Oh, I can do that”. Like that made me want to be a band, so that record in particular, is really important to me, so I would probably say that.
Any plans to release your first two albums on vinyl?
That’s something we’ve been talking about over the last year. I think we’re kind of putting all of our cards into the new one [Static and Trembling] so to speak right now. But that’s something that we would love to do. We did both of those records as well as an odds and ends release that ended up being a full lengths worth of stuff and a split full length with Let Go. We did all those on an awesome label, called Future Destination Records, who’s still a great friend of ours. I know between him, or somebody else that wanted to go through and license it, that there’s definitely room to do it. It’s something we’ve wanted to do even if it’s a real limited pressing.
We just kind of have to feel it out and see how this one does as far as vinyl. But the one thing I will say in that aspect is we didn’t really know if our fans if they would take to it, since we had never done this before, or if they buy vinyl. We offered it on our presale this year, we offered it in digital, CD, or vinyl. We actually sold more vinyl in the presale than any other package. It made me really happy.
The Story Changes is having a For The Love of Vinyl sale over at their website. You get a FREE This Is Your Moment 7 inch when you order their new album, Static and Trembling on limited edition vinyl. Check out our post about it here.