UTG INTERVIEW: Tanner Jones of You Blew It! Discusses Hyper-Personal Songwriting & Getting Robbed on Tour

You Blew It Feat 2015

You Blew It! have certainly kicked things into high gear this past year and half. In the time that most bands put out an LP and rest on it, this Orlando, FL group decided to slap on a Weezer covers EP and  four-way split onto their discography. At the very beginning of 2014, they put out Pioneer of Nothing through the highly-revered Jade Tree Records, then embarked on their first ever headlining tour, taking their catchy version of the emo genre to the masses.

After seeing YBI! perform in two very unique settings on subsequent days — that being their hometown, and frontman Tanner Jones’ actual hometown of Cape Coral, FL — we knew that we had to chat about what’s been new with the band. So without further adieu, follow the jump for our full interview.

Like I was telling you earlier, before the interview, I personally came out to your Orlando and Cape Coral shows. Orlando just felt incredible, as you guys had sold out a venue in your own hometown. It was a really great experience to be a part of, and it just felt like this huge celebration of where the band is right now. How did it feel for you?

That’s exactly how we felt too! Selling out anything in general is something that we never expected, and I feel like you’d get that answer from any band if they were to sell something out. When we got the text from our friend promoting the show, that the show sold out on the day we were supposed to play, it was kind of a cliche moment. The van erupted, we slapped fives. You know, the whole “Yeah, dude, you guys rule!”

But yeah, it’s totally surreal. I was actually just talking about this earlier, but like, we used to beg to play Will’s Pub. When we got a gig [there], it felt like a once in a lifetime thing. We’d have a meeting before and we’d talk about how we cannot fuck this up. To sell out a venue that we used to pine over (and we still do pine over for that venue)- but to sell out a venue that we used to hope and pray for [the chance to get] shows at, is totally surreal and totally flattering.

After having seen a couple of the final shows from this tour, I noticed that there were a lot of young faces in the crowd, and that was so much more than I expected. That really made me realize that there are more and more people of all ages flocking towards this scene. How does it feel to notice that you and some of your peers have become a sort of jumping off point for this kind of music?

It feels awesome. We started out playing to people our age and people older than us, there was no one younger than us in the crowd, and almost everyone we played to were like, two to three, to even ten years older than us. So when we started seeing younger faces in the crowd, I don’t want to say we weren’t into it, but it was kind of a weird feeling. Not until recently have we kind of realized that this is pretty awesome. To be that kind of ambassador to some of these “younger faces” is a really good feeling.

Like when I was in high school, I was listening to bands like The Early November and Saves the Day. I would hold those guys up as like gods. Not to say that kids 13-14 are doing that about us, but to be the kind of band that’s going to introduce them to our friends’ bands that we respect so much is just a great feeling.

So about your opener, Rozwell Kid! They blew my mind the first night that I saw them perform. I looked around the room a couple times throughout their set, just to take it all in, and I would notice that you were completely tuned in, despite the fact that you’ve probably already seen them well over 20 times. What made you want to bring them along?

Plain and simple, we love that band. I don’t want to say that bands’ sets get dull and boring after a whole month on tour, but you start to learn what to expect. Things just become the norm, you know? “This song goes into this song, this song goes into that song…” But Rozwell Kid’s set is completely fresh every night.

I just love that band so much, they aren’t afraid to have fun on stage and I think that is such an alluring thing. I can’t get enough of it. Like if I could drive to Nashville to watch them tonight, I would. I think they’re just incredible.

That’s so awesome! Do you remember how you came across them to begin with?

Yeah! A couple of years ago, they put out their record, Unmacho. To be completely honest, I didn’t listen to it at the time, but I saw it floating around on my friends’ feeds. Recently, I started doing publicity for Broken World Media, and probably around June or July 2014, the owner of the label sent us Too Shabby to check out and wet our feet with. I fell in love with it, I played it for the guys in the band when we went on tour and they fell in love with it.

So you must have a unique perspective on getting a band up and running, considering how you’ve been in this band and have worked in publicity. Do you have any advice to offer today’s up and comers?

I think when I started doing publicity, I was kind of expecting “the magic” to die. I was imagining that I would get to the other side of the curtains and see all of these inner workings, and see that it’s rigged. You know? Like a band’s famous because they know the right people, or because they got covered on Pitchfork. But honestly, after having done this for a year, I think it’s only strengthened the magic for me. Because while bands do need publicity to get to a certain point, I don’t think that’s what makes a band. A band will forever and always be popular because they have talent. It’s the talent that makes it. Sure publicity, knowing the right people, and good press helps, but a good band will always be recognized. As long as a good band stays together, keeps writing good music, and stays true to who they are, I think that’s the most fool-proof plan.

I think Rozwell Kid is a great example of that, they’ve been writing good music for years and I really think that even if they were to have gotten zero publicity on this record, I think they would’ve been in the same exact spot. I know that’s kind of contradictory to what I do in music, but I really believe that they’re the ones that made that record as popular as it is and I think they’re the sole holders of their success.

Going back to the tour, at your Cape Coral show, I noticed a little bit of chit-chat amongst the crowd, remarking about how there were so many family members of yours that turned out. Do you ever feel a little weird about singing such personal lyrics to those that are so close to you?

It’s funny that you bring that up, because, yes. When I was writing lyrics for Grow Up, Dude, it was never something I thought about. But when we finally finished the record and started showing it around, my mom was like, “Can I listen?” [laughs]

The whole world zoomed out behind me, the camera zoomed in on me. I’m like “Oh, god.” Everything came crashing down. Essentially, I had to show my mom my diary. As any pre-teen would say, that’s the end-all. If your mom reads your diary, you burn it. You know? So yeah, that was kind of a weird hurdle to get over. By now, my parents definitely realize that they’re just songs that are written in moments. Everyone has moments of despair, moments of grief, sadness. It is just songwriting, and while I did have these feelings then, by the time they’ve heard the song, I’ve definitely dealt with them and have come to terms with those things.

So going into this interview I noticed how much ground you guys have covered as a band. You’ve got your debut, which is usually the culmination of years upon years of songwriting and ideas, the follow-up, which comes from a year or two of work, the Weezer covers EP, your split with Fake Problems, and Pioneer of Nothing, an EP you’ve reportedly “bent-over backwards” to write on short notice when you got signed to Jade Tree. What’s your opinion on concept albums? Is there ever a chance of one of those coming around?

My first thought was, “there’s no way.” But we could always be in a different place in a couple of years and feel like writing a concept album. I won’t rule it out. Some of my favorite records are concept albums, like Control, by Pedro the Lion. That’s essentially a concept album. I just don’t think that my writing — at least not right now — lends itself to storytelling. I feel confident in my lyricism, but not in my storytelling ability.

Maybe one day, I’ll feel a bit of interest and start to write that way, but for the time being, I wouldn’t hold your breath for a You Blew It! concept album.

So you guys are about to head out to Europe in April and it’s definitely not your first time. Are there any spots that you’d like to make a repeat visit to? Or are there any traditions that you guys already have for international travel?

I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking, but when we were in Berlin this last time, I was like “you know what? I’m tired, I’m just going to go to bed,” while everyone else was going to go to this place to go swimming, and then go see these WWII monuments. For some reason, I prioritized sleep over that. I prioritized wanting to hang out in an apartment over that. In the moment, it felt great, because I got to rest. But the second we got on the flight back, I was pounding my head up against the wall, regretting it. I was in a country, thousands of miles away, several time zones away. A place I could never go back to, ever again, and I chose to sit in an apartment. So that regret kind of sticks out. Like I want to go see that lake, and I want to go see that monument, but most of that is only because I missed that last time.

Well, hey, it’s probably an awesome experience. I’m sure the guys had some awesome stories about it.

Yeah, they talked about it the entire tour. They were all like, “That was a great night, man, you should’ve gone!”

Nearly a year ago, your van was broken into. I noticed on Instagram that you seemed to have this really optimistic outlook on the whole ordeal. Could you walk us through how everything went down?

So it was in the middle of the day, we parked our van in the Guitar Center parking lot for maybe about 10 minutes, 15 minutes tops. We have these locks for our van that make it almost impossible for somebody to get in, and we usually only put them on when we feel unsafe or when we feel like we’re in a bad neighborhood. We were like, “We’re going to run in for like 15 minutes during the day, there’s no need for them.” We locked the van, went right inside, and when we came back later, our things were gone.

I remember calling my parents and feeling totally violated, used, cheap. You know, just such a fool, such an idiot. We drove overnight to New Orleans, we got internet, posted about it, then went to sleep. Then when we woke up, there were hundreds and hundreds of dollars in donations and such an outpouring of support; just so many nice things being said. I remember waking up with everyone and being like, “Wow, people care! This is pretty cool!” By the time we got back to Florida, maybe eight hours later, it was just completely overwhelming. Things were coming in so fast that we couldn’t even keep up with it. There have been people that come up to me and said something that I’ve totally missed because things were happening so quickly.

We left San Antonio with such a negative outlook, and then we got home to Orlando 24 hours later, with such a positive outlook. We have no one to thank but the people that posted about it, donated, lent kind words and a helping hand. We just felt very, very lucky to get such a good response from people in that way. It’s really hard to hold a grudge against that kind of thing.

I still wish we had our things back, but if I could do it again, I honestly would. I’m not hoping our things get stolen, but it was such a negative experience turned very, very positive.

I feel like that sort of support is something that’s really unique to this corner of music. That’s really awesome to hear, I’m glad it worked out!

I gotta say, I know I said “If I could do it again, I would,” but now that I think about it, I totally wouldn’t. I don’t know why I said that [laughs].

Hey, it sounds good on paper! So as were finishing up, I have this question that was sent in from friend of mine: How many Andrew WK shirts does Matt [Nissley, drummer of YBI!] even own?

This one actually ties in really well to the last question, because he had one that he’d worn for years. It was his favorite shirt of all time (obviously), and it got stolen with the rest of our stuff. Andrew WK personally sent him the shirt that he has now. So just one!

Wow! Only one? That’s what made me wonder, because I noticed that he wore one shirt in your music video, and a different one entirely at your performances.

In his history, he’s had two. But ever at one time, he’s had one.

I guess that’s really all you need!

Yes. Wait, no. He needs more. It just smells bad.

Does he ever wear it around in the van? Or strictly performances?

He only wears it in performances, but there will be nights when he’ll get exceptionally sweaty and he’ll have to hang it up inside the van to let it dry and it just stinks up the whole thing. But, hey, whatever floats his boat, you know?

Interview written and conducted by Adrian Garza (@adriangarza_)

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