This is one installment in a series of articles about Warped Tour Atlantic City, one of three official events commemorating the music festival’s 25-year-run. Stay tuned for more features about everyone’s favorite “punk rock summer camp.”
In 2004, The Pink Spiders crept onto the scene with their EP The Pink Spiders Are Taking Over. The title was a self-fulfilling prophecy: just a year later, after their debut album Hot Pink was released through an indie label, the gritty Nashville rockers found themselves in the middle of a bidding war and signed to Geffen Records. Soon, The Pink Spiders were living the dream. Their sophomore album, Teenage Graffiti, was produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars and praised by Billboard and Rolling Stone. Their single “Little Razorblade” got a high-budget music video with a magical laundromat, roller-skating girls, and neon effects. They also made an appearance on the Vans Warped Tour. Eventually, the band went on hiatus and experienced some lineup changes, but now they’re in the game again, and just as loud as they’ve ever been. This summer, they made their triumphant return to Warped for its 25th anniversary festival, playing both classic hits and songs from their comeback album, Mutations.
We were lucky enough to chat with Pink Spiders Matt Friction, JoCo, and Joey B-Side backstage at Warped Tour Atlantic City. We talked about everything from Warped Tour to near-death-experiences to the band’s appearance on Hell’s Kitchen.
TYF: So your first Warped Tour was in 2006. How is being at Warped Tour now similar to that experience? How is it different?
Matt Friction: The big difference is that [this year’s festival is] just one day. We’re used to spending a whole summer and traveling and tearing it down and rebuilding it every day, so this has been kind of nice. Also, there is an air-conditioned media and press area, air-conditioned catering. It’s a little more facilities for this one. This has been one of my favorites. The beach and the casinos and the whole vibe here is definitely much more of an experience.
TYF: What are some of your favorite Warped Tour memories from yesterday?
Joey B-Side: The storm was awesome. (Laughs)
TYF: Where did you guys go during the storm?
Friction: We hid under our merch tent. And then we packed our stuff up and put it underneath Anti-Flag’s merch tent, and then hid under their tent with them. And then we drank free booze.
TYF: When you guys started out, you had this very gritty rock-and-roll image. You say in your official bio that you’re famous for your “bad habits, dirty minds, and questionable life choices.” Would you say that this still applies to you as a band?
B-Side: 15 years later, yes.
Friction: I mean, to some degree. You’re different in your twenties than you are in your thirties, and nothing exemplifies that more than trying to do a Warped Tour. Like, every bone in my body is in pain. I can’t believe I used to do this for, like, 45 straight days. But you know, we still have a good time.
TYF: You have a cool video for your song “Capital F.” can you tell us about the making of that?
JocCo: It was just an idea. We wanted to hit up all of our favorite bars and capture what it would be like to hang out with the Pink Spiders. And that’s pretty much what it was. We were literally drinking all night. And we don’t remember much of the last two bars, but we definitely had a great time filming that.
Friction: A smarter band would have pretended to do all those shots, but we drank every last one of those shots.
TYF: Method acting. In another song, “Terribly Terrible Air,” you sing, “Trying to trace it from Voltaire back to Vonnegut.” What was the inspiration for that line?
Friction: That song actually was pretty old. The first version of it dates back to maybe 2010. I think I was reading Cat’s Cradle or something. I was just being super pretentious, mostly.
TYF: Since the album is called Mutations, if you guys were mutants, what kind of mutants would you want to be?
B-Side: I think that I am Raphael.
Friction: Yeah, I’m definitely a Ninja Turtle. I mean, I’d want to be able to fly or something too, though. Can I add that to my turtle?
B-Side: You can be Donatello. Or Michelangelo.
JoCo: I thought we were picking superpowers, but I’ll go with Ninja Turtles. That’s cool.
TYF: You guys recently did a Reddit AMA. You said you’d be discussing a variety of topics, including “almost dying a bunch of times.” Do you have stories about “almost dying a bunch of times”?
Friction: Actually, on Warped Tour in 2008, our van driver/merch guy fell asleep at the wheel. And we hit the guardrail going full speed, but we survived that. We were just talking about how I went to the hospital (laughs) on tour in, like, 2000, and I thought I was dying, and it turns out I was just very, very drunk. It wasn’t even alcohol poisoning, which is a serious thing. They were like, “No, you’re just drunk and scared.” That was a pretend near-death experience.
B-Side: We’ve had some bus drivers that seemed like they might kill us at some point.
TYF: You did a Weezer cover show recently with Matt [Thiessen] of Relient K. What was that like?
Friction: That was fun. That was actually incredibly easy for me.
B-Side: You rehearsed a couple times for it, but I didn’t even practice anything. (Laughs) We played The Blue Album, and I learned guitar on that album. I was like, “I’m sure I remember it from when I was 16,” and for the most part, I did.
TYF: How was that arranged? Where you chosen to do The Blue Album, or did you decide?
B-Side: The Blue Album chooses you.
Friction: JoCo’s a concert promoter in town.
JoCo: And Matt [Thiessen]’s a good friend of mine.
TYF: Oh, that’s awesome. Let’s go back in time a little. My favorite Pink Spiders song is “17 Candles.” What’s the inspiration behind that song?
Friction: It was such a long time ago. Probably trying to make money. (Laughs) We had just put out an album, and they were like, “Your songs are gonna cross over to Top 40.” I was like, “I can write a piano song.” (Laughs) That’s not really it. Ben Folds’ music influenced that song a lot. [I was] trying to write in that style and kind of get out of that Pink Spiders wheelhouse from the previous two albums.
TYF: In the “Modern Swinger,” video, there are people in animal suits. Is that you guys in the suits?
Friction: It’s different people at different times. If it’s really clumsy, it was us. If it was kind of sexy, it’s girls. So depending on the body movements, you can usually tell.
TYF: And can you take us behind the scenes of the “Little Razorblade” video?
Friction: Yeah. We did that in a Burbank soundstage. It was like a movie set—like, a full soundstage and different sets.
TYF: So not a real laundromat.
Matt: Nope. They built that laundromat. It was a crazy big budget video. Joseph Kahn did it. He had just done Britney Spears and a million other fake videos. But to make it cost-efficient, we did the whole thing in a day. So it was a 24-hour shoot on Super Bowl Sunday in 2005. And I remember getting up from a hotel in Hollywood around four or five in the morning, and getting back around four or five in the morning. The weird thing is, we’re in the video the entire time, but we were not doing stuff at the shoot hardly at all. We were mostly just sitting in a little trailer. I was like, “This is what movie stars complain about.” All the dead time… They’re just getting lighting right, and they’re making sure the equipment works right, and they’re getting B-roll of extras doing stuff. And we came out there for maybe three hours. It was fun. It’s fun when people make a fuss about you.
TYF: Recently on Twitter, you guys posted a photo of a floppy disk that said “tps tour 2.1.04.” Did you guys ever look at the floppy disc and see what was on it?
Friction: I don’t have any way of reading it, honestly.
TYF: Yeah, I was wondering about that.
Friction: I have a really old laptop that I think is broken that has a floppy disk drive. So that might be worth trying. That’s how data was stored when we were on tour. (Laughs) We were keeping, I dunno, PDFs of MapQuest directions to venues and stuff. I’m sure that’s probably what’s on it. Maybe it’s one high-res image in case I had to pass it onto someone, like, “This is our band photo.” (Laughs)
TYF: You guys were on Hell’s Kitchen, as well. What was that like?
Friction: That was cool. It was kind of out of nowhere they asked us to do it. They flew us out. I had a passing familiarity with the show. There was a show that Gordon Ramsey did before that, right? I knew that other one, and I was like, “Oh, he’s going to be so mean.” And he was the nicest guy. Came back and gave us hugs and said we were “bloody brilliant.”
TYF: That’s cool. Finally, why is your opinion on spiders?
Friction: Spiders in general?
TYF: Spiders in general.
Friction: I actually have a very awesome hardcore exterminator in my house. I live in East Nashville in a hundred-year-old house. Brown recluses in that neighborhood are no joke. I’ve been bitten by a brown recluse in the butt before. I had to go to the hospital. (Laughs)
TYF: Another almost-death experience.
Friction: Yeah. Me and John Decious, the old bass player, we were sharing a pull-out bed at some house show we played. We both got bit by probably the same spider. It was this nagging, kind of sore feeling. And then after three or four days, we were like, “This is something that needs to be looked at.” And I still have a little scar on my butt. I got bit a radioactive spider. I also have the superpowers.
TYF: You’re also Spider-Man.
Friction: Yeah, exactly. This is my big reveal to you. (Laughs) You got the scoop.
TYF: Amazing. Do you guys have anything else you’d like to say to the fans?
Friction: We have a new single coming out.
TYF: When can we expect that?
Matt: We’re very slow to finish, just ’cause of Warped Tour stuff. We usually try to either be in the studio or be touring, and right now, we’re juggling a little bit of both. So we’re not doing a full album, just two songs. I would say by the end of summer or fall it should be out.