'We get this image put out there of us that we don't always have much control over.'Read more on Innerpartysystem Listen to Innerpartysystem on Spotify
Innerpartysystem are a fusion of industrial rock with electronica that belongs equally on stage as a live set-up, as it does on the dancefloor of any self-respecting, progressive club. Influences as diverse and powerful as NIN, Depeche Mode, The Prodigy and elements of hardcore and hip hop can be heard on their debut album, which came out last September.
The Pennsylvania four-piece have built up their reputation both through the old-fashioned route of amassing a fanbase by playing raucous live shows, as well as through the relatively recent innovation of posting songs through Myspace and being able to reach anyone with an internet connection, and are finally reaping some rewards. They've just completed a sold-out tour of the UK and re-released single 'Don't Stop' is out now. I caught up with Patrick (vocals), Jared (drums), Kris (guitar, keyboards) and Jesse (keyboards, samples) just before their Birmingham gig and asked them about the rigours of touring, the attitude of the music industry and unusual vinyl formats.
You've played the UK a few times now, is that right?
Patrick: This is our fourth time over here.
And have you found that you've been better received here than in the US?
Jared: Yeah, definitely. We've been more accepted in the UK than we have back home. People here 'get' us a little bit more and things have happened for us more quickly than they have in the States. This tour is in part a reaction to the success of the album, and is the reason why we're playing better venues this time around; most of our tour dates have sold out and one of our shows has been moved to a larger venue because of more interest. London is one of our most-played cities, and we always get an amazing response there.
Are you regarded as heroes in your hometown?
Jared: I wouldn't say we're heroes exactly, but we're well known and we get people who come along to our shows now who wouldn't have before because they've heard of us.
Kris: Have you heard of Taylor Swift, the country singer? She's from the same town as us.
Jared: We come from a really small town called Reading, and people over there really like going to see cover bands, they're really popular. What do you call them over here? Tribute bands? [laughs]. The guys in these bands make like a thousand bucks a night!
When it comes to the song composition process, do you all have equal input?
Jared: It's definitely a collective effort.
Patrick: I write most of the lyrics, so I'll show it to the others for guidance and suggestions and ask, "is this alright? What do you think of it?".
Kris: But a lot of the 'raw' music is done using programming, which we all do between us. It's very much a shared process, no one person has creative control.
Do you write new material while you're on tour?
Jared: You know, when we're on tour, we don't even have the time to do normal things, let alone write new songs. When you're in a van all day - not even a tour bus but a van - you get to where you're going and all you have time to do is set up and then play. Playing every night is like clubbing every night, so that takes it out of us. We get drunk... most of the time I end up eating crap 'cos I don't remember to eat properly. Weeks will go by before I'll remember to ring my parents and let them know I'm alive! People think that when you're in a band you have loads of money but it really isn't like that for us - I'll go back home and there'll be bills waiting to be paid, so there's that to worry about. Touring is for showing what we do and having a great time doing it, but it's just not the right environment to be writing any new stuff.
When you originally released 'Don't Stop' last year, the vinyl of it was made out of chocolate. How did you come up with that idea? Did it actually play?
Jared: We wanted to do something different for a vinyl design and to find the strangest, weirdest format possible. Someone on our UK label came up with the idea for this, he found a website specialising in making anything out of chocolate and we knew we had to do that! You have to really listen to hear it, but yeah, it does play.
Speaking of 'Don't Stop', how do you feel about the new version of the video for it?
Jared: It was our label's decision to re-release the song, and we were told we had to do a new video for it. The reaction of our label and TV networks to our original version was that it was too dark and edgy for them so it wasn't really getting played as a result. They wanted us to tone it down.
Jesse: Also, We didn't know this at the time, but there's a limit to the amount of flashing that can be shown in a given time frame, called the Harding Test, so we had to reduce the flashing. When we were making it, we didn't even think about it flashing too much and possibly giving people seizures.
Kris: Our manager Stephen Penta has made all our videos so far and the original 'Don't Stop' video was made for hardly anything: we filmed the newsroom footage at our local public access TV station on a day it wasn't being used by anyone and the actors worked for free.
Jared: We tried to negotiate with the record label for funding the new video, but in the end we pretty much had to absorb the costs ourselves. All we have to our names is our tour van, the band house and our equipment, so we had to use the money made from our merchandise to do it. Penta directed this video too and some of the cast from the original version as well as from the video to 'Die Tonight, Live Forever' are also in it. We consider them part of the Innerpartysystem 'family' now, and they wouldn't accept any money this time either. We managed to work in some similar subversive messages in the new video, though obviously not to the same degree as in version one. We don't really want to compare the two versions - we see them as two separate videos. It's just something we had to do in order to reach a wider audience, and didn't have much choice about it.
Do you think your next single will be a re-release of 'Die Tonight, Live Forever'?
Jared: Possibly. We don't have as much say as we'd like when it comes to what singles are chosen off our album, it's a label decision. The video for this one would have to be reshot too, or at the very least edited, because it shows drug-taking in the scene with the lines of coke. If it was down to us though, we'd probably choose a different song.
Your album defies expectations in some ways. From your single releases, people may expect it to be a non-stop, noise-heavy onslaught, but it's not. Were you trying to go for the element of surprise?
Kris: Well, we didn't intend to deliberately mislead people...
Jared: This is down to the label again. I don't want to talk too much shit about them, but it was their decision that 'Don't Stop' and 'Die Tonight, Live Forever' would be singles. They want to project the image of us as being a 'hard' band and then people get the idea that that's all we do. We get this image put out there of us that we don't always have much control over.
Any thoughts on what your next project will be?
Jared: We've actually started discussing in the last few days what we're going do. It'll most probably be an EP rather than an LP, something along the lines of 'The Download EP'.
Who have you toured with in the past that you'd like to tour with again? Who would you like to tour with in the future?
Kris: Definitely 3OH!3.
Jesse: That tour was the most fun ever.
Kris: They're a rock/hip hop/electronica band that we toured with in the US at the end of last year, and they're really something. Just two guys.
Jared: I think for all of us our dream would be to tour with Nine Inch Nails. To even be on the same bill as them would be beyond awesome.