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The Used Talk Their Anniversary Tour & Revisiting Their First Two Albums

Written by Sally McMullen on November 15, 2016

2001 was an interesting time. The turn of the millennium was still fresh, social media was virtually non-existent and the commercialisation of ’90s grunge had left an angst-ridden void for teens in the early 2000s. Meanwhile, in Orem Utah, Bert McCracken, Quinn Allman, Jeph Howard and Branden Steineckert were all looking for a way to escape their hometown. After bonding over their urge to rebel against their Mormon upbringings with some good ol’ fashion rock and roll, it turns out The Used would be the answer to both of these problems.

In 2002, the quartet released their debut self-titled album and things truly caught fire. In their early years, The Used toured the world relentlessly, quickly attracting a cult following with their unique hybrid of angst-ridden screamo. By the time they released their follow up album In Love and Death in 2004, The Used had well and truly established themselves as forerunners in the emo and post-hardcore scene of the early 2000s. Since the beginning, the band has released six studio albums, two EPs, three live albums and two DVDs that continue to enrapture their loyal fan base to this day.

The band has undergone some changes, though (and we’re not just talking about haircuts and the absence of cargo shorts). In 2006, Steineckert left The Used to join Rancid and was replaced by drummer Dan Whitesides. Then in 2015, lead guitarist Quinn Allman announced his indefinite hiatus from the band, with Justin Shekoski quickly filling in his shoes. But while the band may look different, their passion for the music they make and the fans they serve has only continued to grow.

With 2016 marking 15 years since the dawn of The Used, the rock n rollers are celebrating the only way they know how: with a massive worldwide tour. After hitting the US and Europe, they’ll be heading down under for 12 shows in 6 cities (including Bert’s now hometown, Sydney) in November and December. This won’t be any regular The Used tour, though. Playing two shows back-to-back in every city, the quartet will be treating fans to their self-titled debut on one night, and In Love and Death the next. In a trip down nostalgia lane, there has been no better time to grow out that emo fringe and dust off your black converse high tops than this.

In preparation for the forthcoming anniversary tour, we had a chat to Jeph about breathing life into old songs, working with a new dynamic and what we can expect from the next 15 years of The Used.

Music Feeds: So, you’re coming to Australia in late November and early December to kick off the 15-year anniversary tour. We’re all very excited!

Jeph Howard: Yes, we’re very, very excited about this. Australia has always been one of our favourite places to play and it’s exciting that we’re going to bring our first and second record down there live as well.

MF: Not many bands would commemorate an anniversary with a tour with two back to back nights in every city. What was it about these albums that made you want to celebrate them like this?

JH: These records kind of go together in a way, you know? They both came out during a specific time for everyone’s lives and in our lives and just in the time of music in general. It seems like they’re kind of stuck together. Our fans that love our first record love our second record. It’s sort of like one’s a right hand and one’s a left hand. They’re solidified together in a very interesting way. And to be able to play these back to back, it’s such an amazing feeling. Especially the way we’re doing it, I don’t want to ruin anything, but the first night we’re playing the first album, we’re playing it as is. Just like the first time you heard it, putting it in the CD player. And the next night we’re doing the same thing but it’s a completely different show and you’re going to come see the second record back to back.

MF: That sounds amazing. It’s pretty incredible to think that so many fans grew up with those records and would still consider them their favourites even after 10 or 15 years later as adults.

JH: I think it’s because it’s very relatable. Those records were about real things and real history. That was our life then. The first record is about escaping. It’s about getting up and getting away from everything whether that’s your parents or church if you’re into that or school or whatever is holding you back from being yourself. It’s about coming up and getting out of that. This is coming from my personal opinion, because I didn’t write the lyrics (laughs). So don’t fully go by what I’m saying.

MF: Yeah, you better watch out or I might have to tell Bert!

JH: (Laughs) Yes, please do!

But yeah, he wrote the second record for a completely different reason. The second record, as is in the title, is about love and loss. There are a lot of heavy themes about dying and leaving and being alone and almost the similar kind of emotions but in a different way through love. I mean, they’re very similar in a weird sense. They’re very strong themes and I think those went together so well in that period that’s why we wanted to tie it together into one tour.

MF: You mentioned that a lot of fans have a really strong bond with the records and they do tap into those universal themes of finding yourself as well as love and loss. What’s it been like looking back on some of those memories with the fans live?

JH: It’s very, very heavy. The best way to put it, I think, is it’s kind of like having a child and watching that child grow and go to school, go to high school, go to college and all of a sudden grow into a person. And then that person has all of these friends and all of these stories and all of this life that they’ve created for themselves. It’s kind of a similar way we look at all of our records actually. We birthed this record, you know? (laughs) And this record went on its own separate reality from us and has gained fans and helped people through hard times and done things in other people’s life. And maybe that record wasn’t intentionally meant to do that but it was just something that we were expressing and we were coming out with. So, to see how it’s grown and to see how both of those records have become something like this is very special to us.

MF: Yeah, that’s pretty crazy to think about. Did you guys ever feel any pressure bringing records back and putting on a tour like this considering how much both of the records mean to so many fans?

JH: I think there was pressure only in the sense that we haven’t played some of these songs in either 10 to 15 years. But really, we don’t worry too much. We’re OK with making mistakes. We’re OK with playing something wrong. Mistakes are very important. If you make a mistake live, you’re playing it live. So it’s very important for that to happen, but we’ve had a lot of luck with these songs and nothing terrible has happened, so it’s been great.

MF: You mentioned that you haven’t played some of these songs live in up to 15 years. Are there any songs that have you like “fuck yes, I can finally perform this live!”?

JH: Oh god, yeah. So many! Some of my favourite songs off the first two records we’ve never played live or we might’ve played once live. Let It Bleed from In Love in Death, we’d played that one time live after we recorded it and that’s my favourite song off that record since it came out. So it’s exciting to be able to play that every other night (laugh). Off the first record, it’s really fun to play Say Days Ago. We did a couple of tours in the beginning, playing that song everyday, but it kind of got, not lost, but it kind of got pushed out with how many other songs that we were playing. So it’s fun to be able to relive that song.

Poetic Tragedy is another one. Before that song was recorded, we had a demo CD that had 10 to 12 songs on it and Poetic Tragedy was on there and we used to play that when we had the demo. But when we actually recorded the album version of it, we stopped playing it for some reason. I think we played it only once after we recorded it.

We also change things up a tiny bit live, just to make it more fun and some stuff we tone it down a little bit. We add a little bit of production in but we wanted it to be a rock band, but we’re a rock band, so we want it so sound rock live and we try to make it feel as live as possible without taking away from how the record sounded.

MF: You guys haven’t been down under since Quinn announced his hiatus and Justin stepped in on lead guitar last year. Was there a lot of preparation considering there was a new dynamic in the band as well as the fact that you guys hadn’t played some of the songs in a decade or more?

JH: Not as much as you’d think, actually. Me and Dan went through the first two records a few times. We would practice the first four records together just when we had time. So it was pretty easy for us to get back into the swing of all of these songs. It did take a little bit of tweaking on some areas.

And with Justin, he’s a very talented guitar player and he really knows what he’s doing. So, it was actually pretty easy for him to get into it. Of course, it took a little bit of time and we had to play it together a few time at first and get past the first show jitters. But the idea of actually hearing it as a band again since it’s been recorded, it took a good two weeks of practice to really get solidified but now it feels like second nature to be playing all of these songs.

MF: So you guys released Live and Acoustic at The Palace earlier this year, but have you guys been working on any new material while you’ve been touring the old records?

JH: Yeah! Actually, we have had a bunch of writing sessions where we’ve been working on songs and ideas and I would say we have about 20-ish ideas, maybe even more, maybe even 30-ish ideas. They’re really loose when I’m saying “ideas”, though. So not songs yet, just ideas. But from there, it only takes a little bit to turn them into songs. So I think once we sit down and stop touring for long enough that we could relax on it and we could start jamming through them again, I think we’re going to have a pretty solid and awesome record that’s going to come. I’m actually really excited about these ideas, so it’s just awesome. It’s going to be a really cool and different record for The Used.

MF: That sounds awesome! I think the most recent record “Imaginary Enemy” (2014) took The Used into a different place with some of the themes. While some of the earlier records touched on quite intimate ideas, Imaginary Enemy was more of a commentary on wider political and social issues. Do you think the next album will follow that same trajectory?

JH: I’m not really sure what Bert is feeling on where he is going to go lyrically and vocally on this one, but our last record was definitely the most political record we’ve ever done. I think it had to come out. It’s all in us and it’s like you have a voice and you need to use it and I think things needed to be said at that time and that will always be in our hearts. But that’s the same with things that are just normal, everyday feelings are in our hearts too and Bert definitely has a lot to say about what’s happened in his life and what he thinks about things and how he feels about the planet and stuff like that. So, I think this next record is going to be very interesting to see what he comes up with lyrically.

The Used’s Aus tour kicks off next week in Melbourne. Catch dates and details here below.

The Used Australian Tour 2016
Supported by Storm The Sky and Corpus

Monday 21st November
170 Russell St, Melbourne – 18+
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Tuesday 22nd NovemberSOLD OUT
170 Russell St, Melbourne – 18+
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Friday, 25th NovemberNEW DATE
Metropolis, Fremantle
Tickets:Destroy All Lines

Saturday 26th November
Metropolis, Fremantle
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Tuesday 29th November
HQ, Adelaide
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Wednesday 30th November
HQ, Adelaide
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Friday 2nd December
Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Saturday 3rd December
Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Monday 5th December — SOLD OUT
170 Russell St, Melbourne – 18+
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Friday 9th DecemberNEW VENUE
Eatons Hill, Brisbane
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Saturday 10th DecemberNEW DATE & VENUE
Eatons Hill, Brisbane
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

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