The boys from Orange County are back! Well, they've been back for a couple years, but now The Orange County Supertones are raising funds to record their first new studio album in 7 years. Resident Supertones trumpeteer recently spoke with JFH's Scott Fryberger about the initial break up, the return, and the band's potential future...
This interview took place on: 4/4/12.
Jesus freak Hideout (Scott Fryberger): First off, thank you. I know you guys have been really busy with all the press that's excited about your return. But thanks for giving me a call.
Darren "Chief" Mettler: Oh totally. Thank you for wanting to talk to us and get the word out.
JFH (Scott): So it was about 2005 that you guys officially ended your contract with BEC [Recordings] and decided to move on from the Supertones. What was the official reason for wanting to move on?
Chief: Well, I had left the band in 2004. I was one of the original guys, and I stepped out because, for me, it was feeling like it was just time to move on. I had been doing the band for almost nine years, and obviously ska had had its heyday, so things felt like they were kinda winding down stylistically, and for me personally. A couple of my closest friends in the band that I kinda grew up with had dropped out of the band earlier. It was Jason Carson, the original drummer, and then Tony Terusa, the original bass player. We had all grown up together in high school and youth groups and the band scene and stuff like that. So for me, it was just kind of a rundown, and I was at a church that I was super excited about, and they had an opening for a youth pastor. So I really felt like all those things were just kinda lining up; that God was calling me out of the band and into full-time ministry. So I did that, and then the band continued to go on for another year, and then they kinda started going through the same things. And they felt like it was just time to move on. And by then, a lot of the band members had changed. So there's no official reason. They just said, "well, let's end it in 2005, and we'll do a big farewell tour" and that's it. And then Tooth & Nail/BEC just kinda released them once they finished out and said they weren't gonna be a band anymore.
JFH (Scott): So then after that, what kept you busy besides being a pastor for the next few years?
Chief: Well, we all jumped into different ministries. Toward those later years, we all started getting married and having kids, so the road life isn't quite as attractive once all the familial responsibilites kick in. And that was part of that process; "Oh man, it would nice to be home with my family and not traveling so much." So a lot of the guys felt that. And then Matt, "Mojo" (Morginsky), the singer, he jumped into some social work, he oversaw a group home, and he continued writing, and doing some other music stuff. He really never stopped. He's the one guy who really kept doing his thing, writing songs for his own personal band. He continued to be pretty active playing over in Europe - not so much in the U.S. - for the past four years. And then for the other guys, the same things; ministry, worship leading, youth pastor, stuff like that.
JFH (Scott): And it wasn't much longer after that that you guys got back for another tour.
Chief: Yeah it was 2005 that it ended, and then about - I wanna say it was the summer of 2008 - so about 3 years after the band had finished, the original guys, like me, Jason and Tony - I was out in 2004, I think Tony was out in '03 or '02, and Jason was out in 2000. So in summer of 2008, the three of us were talking, and we thought "wouldn't it be fun to go out and do some shows again?" So at that point, summer of 2008, we contacted Mojo and asked if he would pray about it. It would be a one-time deal in the summer of 2009. Summer of 2009 would be it. And to be honest, with life going on, we talked about it and prayed about it, but time got away from us. Summer of 2009 happened and we didn't do anything. So we kinda looked back and said "You know, if we're serious about this, then we better do some stuff to actually make it happen." So it worked out for summer of 2010, and we were really only planning on doing about ten shows, at the most. And I think we ended up doing fourteen shows that summer. And then as we got out on the road and started talking to promoters again and talking to fans again and being back in the scene; it was really cool. People were saying things like, "Man it's so refreshing to have you guys back" and "Your band and ministry brings something that's missing." So it was really encouraging to us to hear the fan response, and [to have] new fans and all that. So we kinda thought "Well, okay. This isn't our life, this isn't our career, this isn't everything we do. So why shut the door? If God wants us to still be the Supertones, then great. If we can do a show, great, if we can't, then we'll just say "no." So we did some shows in 2010, and in summer of 2011, I think we only did two shows. And then this summer I believe we're doing seven shows. So yeah, that's kinda how it played out.
JFH (Scott): Are you just doing some festivals or is it a mini-tour?
Chief: Just some festivals this summer. A mini-tour is still way too hard, at least at this point. It's just too hard for us to get time off of work and all that kinda stuff. We're all working stiffs now! *laughs*
JFH (Scott): Haha, well somebody's gotta do it.
JFH (Scott): When did you guys realize that you wanted to do another record?
Chief: You know, that was something that just kinda spawned out of the fun of being back on stage again and playing. It was just really encouraging - you know how sometimes when you think of bands having reunion tours and things like that, you kinda worry a little bit. They're older, and are they gonna be all sloppy because they haven't been playing together? And what was kinda weird for us was that we got back and started playing again, and we were almost tighter than ever. It was kind of a weird thing and we were just having a lot of fun. So I think the process of just getting out on stage again, it ignited Matt and Tony, and those creative juices got flowing again. They said, "If we continue to do this every once in a while, we don't wanna be the band that just plays all their old stuff. We don't wanna be the constant reunion band. If we're gonna actually be out here and play shows, and maybe continue to play some shows throughout the years, it would be good to have some new material." And then God just kinda blessed those guys, and they started writing songs. And they've kinda been just popping them out. It's really cool.
JFH (Scott): And because of the jobs and families, is that why you chose to go independent instead of re-sign with BEC?
Chief: Yeah, I mean the world has just changed so much, as far as the music industry, since we were really in it. So yeah, we had seen some other bands doing Kickstarter campaigns, and we thought about that and thought "why not?" That's a great platform, and it's been successful, and it gives us a little more control artistically and over all the elements of producing it. And so that's why we decided to go the Kickstarter route. I mean, we loved BEC and Tooth & Nail, and we're still buddies with Brandon [Ebel] and Jimmy [Ryan] and all the people up there. And you know, we may do some kind of license deal with them. But I don't know, we're all still talking through all that stuff. But yeah, we're not like "Oh let's be independent! 'Cause we wanna be all artsy and stuff!" *laughter* It's just working out that way. We like the Kickstarter platform. It's kinda fun to be able to offer rewards, and it's fun because your fans fund it. Being able to interact with fans through the rewards and stuff like that; it's just kind of a fun way to do it. So that's kinda why we chose this route.
JFH (Scott): Your goal with Kickstarter is $30,000. For those who haven't seen it yet, or contributed or anything, what kind of cool rewards are you offering for pledges?
Chief: Well, it's good to check out anyway, 'cause we put some funny videos on there. Like with Jason's dad; we used to practice in their living room and Jason's dad would always kinda joke around with us. On the very first album [The Adventures of the Orange County Supertones], Jason's dad kicks off the whole thing, and says, "Alright Supertones, let's rock!" *Scott laughs* But on the Kickstarter, you just go to kickstarter.com and then search for "O.C. Supertones new album" and there's a video on there that Jason's dad does for us. It's kinda funny, he goes through a little history of the band, and members, and if nothing else, go check that out 'cause it's pretty funny. But yeah, some of the rewards we offer - some are simple, like stickers or a download of the album, and it goes way up to a bunch of signed things like drum sticks, vinyl, a special edition t-shirt for Kickstarter only, hoodies and sweatshirts. If somebody wants to do gang vocals and come in to the studio with us, that would be a great one. You'd get to come in and do gang vocals with us and actually be on the record. You can get your name in the record, you can join us for a beach party and we'll all go surfing together or teach somebody how to surf if you don't know how, we got a pool party in Jason's backyard with all the stuff to go with it (the shirts and the vinyl and all that kinda stuff). So, yeah it's fun to kinda work through that.
JFH (Scott): Sounds like it's worth checking out.
Chief: Yeah, definitely.
JFH (Scott): For the record, I always wondered who that was at the beginning of the album. I'm glad I got that little piece of trivia.
Chief: Haha yeah, it's Jason's dad! But yeah, go check [our Kickstarter campaign] out. We only have about two weeks left.
JFH (Scott): And where are you guys at right now?
Chief: I think we're close to about $22,000. So we've got about $8,000 to go to hit the goal. But honestly, we'd love to raise more than that, because Kickstarter takes their percentages, and Amazon Payments takes their percentages, and obviously we need to take some money out to produce the rewards - the hoodies and t-shirts and vinyls and stuff like that - so between all that, we need to actually raise a little bit more to cover all the album production and that kinda stuff.
JFH (Scott): Now with Ethan [Luck] playing full time for Relient K now, how did you guys find your replacement?
Chief: Well, in the Supertones Ethan played guitar, and we had Jason back on drums, Tony back on bass, me back on trumpet, and the guitar was the one thing that was open. And so with Ethan playing for Relient K full time, it wasn't doable for him to come back. And like I said, we were really only planning on doing like ten shows in summer 2010, and so we kinda thought about who else would be out there, and we ended up getting Jesse Craig from PAX217, if you remember that band. (Scott: I do.) He's a buddy of ours, and he's local, so it was easy to set up practices when we needed to. So he was just a great fit with all of us; spiritually, 'cause he's a worship pastor and he has a heart for ministry, which is what our band has always been. So he played with us that whole summer, and since then - actually, another guy from PAX, Josh Auer, has spotted in and plays shows with us every once in a while. So we're kinda "SuperPAX" or something. *laughter* And Josh is actually the one producing our new album too.
JFH (Scott): Oh cool! Now I think a lot of people would like to know, is this a full-fledged return, or a one-time album deal? Or have you guys even thought that far?
Chief: You know, we haven't. I guess some of that would depend on the response to the album. There is a point where supply and demand might kick in a little bit for us, you know? If it goes really well and people are really stoked on the music and the ministry, and God's using it, then certainly, we'd be willing to carve out more time for shows. But for us, we're definitely content to just play shows every once in a while, like seven or eight shows a year, or something like that. We'd be happy to continue as long as people wanna come see us and book us, as long as it's working for all of us. So it's definitely not, at least a right now, a full-fledged return by any means, because it would be hard on jobs and all that kinda stuff.
JFH (Scott): That's understandable. Have you guys decided on an album title?
Chief: No, not yet. We're kinda bouncing around some ideas, but we're not totally sure yet. Some of that has to do with how some of the songs shake down. You know, if there's one song that's really standing out as a good title track, then that can sway us a little bit. But no, not yet. Nothing's settled. And the song we have released, "On the Downbeat," that was just kinda the first song that we pumped out. It just came pretty naturally, so it wasn't like we intentionally, like "Oh 'On the Downbeat' is gonna be our first single," or anything. It was just the song that popped out the quickest and easiest. And we were so excited about it that we were like "Oh yeah, let's finish this up and let's put it out for free so people can see what we're doing and just bless people."
JFH (Scott): A lot of the feedback I've been hearing with that song is that it reminds fans a lot of the Supertones Strike Back era. Is that something that can be said for the rest of the new stuff?
Chief: Yeah, definitely. I mean, to be honest with you, "On the Downbeat" is, right now, probably fourth, fifth, sixth best song we have on the new album? I mean, we're pumping out some new songs that are really good, and "On the Downbeat" is good, we enjoy it, but we're having some songs that are coming out better that we're really liking. We're more excited about this album than we have been about any of the others. And as far as the style, we definitely intentionally wanted to go back closer to our roots and make it unabashed that we are a ska band, so let's make it ska. I mean, obviously the later albums started taking on a little more rock and different styles, with heavier production and things like that, but we just kinda wanted to get back to the roots again.
JFH (Scott): I had one more question for you. I was just curious if you guys knew when you were planning on having the album ready to go and out there for everybody.
Chief: Yeah, we're not totally sure about that. It kinda depends on if we're gonna do a licensing deal with a record company and how all the album artwork shakes down. With Kickstarter and the format it's in, you have to give a delivery date, so we set that as December 2012, so for sure we're gonna have it out by then, if not sooner. And of course we'd be aiming for sooner. But we'll just see how things shake down. So you know, probably December at the latest. But hopefully, maybe, October or November or something like that.
JFH (Scott): Well, I'm excited to hear it and I know that there are bunches and bunches of people who are excited to hear it.
Chief: Cool, yeah! We're excited.
JFH (Scott): It's gonna be great. Well that's all I had for you. If there's anything you would like to add, you can go ahead and do that.
Chief: Well, maybe just for people who don't know the Supertones, or maybe new fans - and let's be honest, these days maybe some of you are fans because your parents were fans *laughter* - so we've got the pretty wide range of audience now. It's cool to see people on Facebook saying "I became a fan after you guys were gone!" or "My parents got me into you!" and all this stuff. So, you know, just maybe for those people who aren't as familiar with us, I just wanna remind everybody that we are all about loving Jesus. We just want to, through our music and through our lyrics and our live show, everything we do, it's not about us, it's about God and putting Him out front. Recognizing that life is about Him, it's not about us. So we really hope this album just pushes people to glorify God and bless Him in worship and be encouraged in their faith. So that's who we are. We continue to take time out in every show we do to talk about the Lord and worship Him. That's something that we've always done and always will do, and we're hoping God uses this new album toward that end, too.
JFH (Scott): Awesome. Alright, well thanks for your time, and actually, I do have one more question for you.
JFH (Scott): Would you guys ever be opposed to doing a reunion tour with Five Iron Frenzy?
Chief: Would we be opposed? No, we would not be opposed. (Scott: Okay, good.) I imagine that there would be a lot of - I mean, between those guys; what are there, like twenty-five people in that band now? *laughter* (Scott: Something like that!) Haha, yeah, they've got a lot more than us. So yeah, between all of them and all of us - we all have jobs and everything, so that would be a miracle to pray for. *laughter* If that would ever coordinate, that would be a work of God. But I believe this summer we cross paths at two festivals. Joshua Fest in Sacramento, California, and then SoulFest in New Hampshire. So we will at least cross paths, so if somebody has just got to see Five Iron Frenzy and the Supertones, those would be the festivals to save up for.
Catch The O.C. Supertones live at select summer festivals this year and be sure to support them as they continue to work on their new studio album, due out later 2012!