Levi Macallister did an interview with Jonezetta for our November/December issue. Here is the raw, uncut, smelly, out-of-control interview as it happened. While telephone companies wrestle over who owns what phonelines were used, we will share the conversation with you, because we can.
Dude. How are things going?
Things are good, uh, just out playing some shows.
Cool. Cool. Is tour going good?
Um, yeah. It’s going well, we haven’t played shows in about ten months or something.
Dang dude. Are you excited to be back out on the road?
Cool man. Well, can I do a little interview with you really quick? Do some stuff on the new disc?
Ya. Let’s do it.
Right on man, um, well uh…first of all, I’ve got to say…and you’ll appreciate this – your get ready hot machete song, you know? Off the first album. Dude, I was up in Seattle, uh, like a while back and – I don’t know if you know Micah, but he works over at Tooth and Nail and he used to have dance parties all the time…and dude, that song is like the dance party song of the entire year. And everybody back where I live in Albuquerque always plays that at their like, little dance things they do and it’s so much fun, so I thought you guys would appreciate that.
That’s amazing man. That’s, that’s what it was made for…
That’s right – dude, it’s awesome. Cool man, well uh – I guess the first thing I wanted to ask is “What was it like when you guys first started out? Like, Jonezetta in the beginning – was it more of a behind the school hobby type of thing and was there any hesitancy with pursuing the band or did the push from Ryan pretty much give you the push you guys needed to pursue the project full time?”
Um, did you say “behind the school” what?
Just kind of like…Jonezetta…was it more like a hobby type of thing? Cause you guys were pretty into the schooling and stuff…
Ya, definitely. I’d say it was a hobby. I’d say music more so, was even a hobby. Not just Jonezetta. There’s just…where we grew up, it was kind of like music had to be a hobby – was the kind of mindset that I think all of us were accustomed to having. So whenever this record deal thing kind of came along and Ryan (Rado?) and his crazy world…um, ya, things started looking differently. And, uh, taking things more seriously I guess.
That’s cool, was it like, do you think it was difficult for you guys to like, think about pursuing it more full-time or was that pretty much all the encouragement you needed? Like, was it weird getting out of you r comfort zone with the whole school thing and all that?
Um, I never was one for school myself.
Um, it was I think, for Kyle and Ty. But um, ya, I don’t know. Getting out of Mississippi was always key.
For sure. Cool man,
But now that we’ve been out of Mississippi for a while we have a… way more of an appreciation for it.
That’s cool. I grew up in Albuquerque and it’s kind of the same deal – I’m out in Texas right now and uh, I think I appreciate it more but I’m not a huge Albuquerque buff, you know what I mean?
Totally. I um…Albuquerque’s a cool place though. But I guess it’s just like that for wherever you call your home.
For sure, for sure. Well man I’ve been listening to the new record and I totally dig it. Seems like you, musically, you’ve taken a different direction than you did with Popularity. What do you think about the differences between records and how that reflects your maturity as a band getting ready for the sophomore release?
Um. I don’t know…it just seems like the natural thing to do. We weren’t really trying to make it so much different or show certain aspects of our band more. It just seemed like the natural thing to do, make a record like this. It’s the kind of records that I always listen to. Popularity was more of a, uh, well I mean it’s called Popularity.
Well I’m, um, I’m a… shoot… what am I saying. What about, I mean, what do you think like…I mean by the this is all out in the magazine and stuff like that I think that kids will probably be close to being able to get the CD. What do you think that they can expect from that? Like, from your point of view…
Whenever they get the CD?
Ya, you know, just like, you know, like, just…
You mean “get” it or “get” it?
No I mean, just like, since it is – dude. I’m not sure exactly what I’m asking. We’re gonna come back to that one.
We’re gonna do something else really quick. What about artists that you guys love? That are, like, influences to your music and stuff like that. Do you think any of that…like what would they be? And do you think any of that comes across in the music that you guys create?
Ya, definitely man. It’s uh…yeah that was a big thing for this record. Kind of nodding certain artists that I respected for a long time. And uh…yeah The Beatles – like, Magical Mystery Tour, Sergeant Pepper’s, that kind of feel. Wilco, who I always thought was just ripping off The Beatles in the best possible way you could. Um, I don’t know, I just didn’t want the songs to be…I didn’t want there to be a formula. I didn’t want for anyone to be able to tell that there was a formula or what we’re doing. I think kids are kind of figuring out all the tricks that bands play – more and more – especially with what you can do at a home studio these days. I just wanted it to be surprising.
And uh, get surprising in a way that you don’t even know if it’s a good surprise or a bad.
Just more of a “Wow, what are they doing?” I don’t even understand this. Uh, Weezer, Pinkerton record was always a huge, huge influence for me. Just to watch him go from the Blue Album and get really famous, and he didn’t even know, you know, what he was doing and he just wrote this crazy record that sounds disgusting. It’s just amazing. You know? So uh, yeah.
That’s cool. I know a couple songs like, like “Valentine” and “Sick in the Teeth” really got to me. I’m like a big…I write a lot, like, creative writing and, you know, I’m just like a big lyrics person and not only interested in what the message is, but how it’s delivered and stuff…what do you think…
Very cool, ya, ya.
What do you think some of the major…
I’m glad that, that, to know that’s what you’re into…
Sorry, go ahead.
That, that would be…what was your question? I think you were about to get there. I think I interrupted you…
Oh no, no, no. It’s all good. I was just going to say, like, what were some of the major themes or ideas your tried to get across with the record. Or, like, the general tone that you’ve accomplished. I know, I know you weren’t trying to be formulaic about it, but…
Ya, but, each song, I think, has a different kind of character…in the sense of, they all kind of sound different. I think that was on purpose because, uh, you know, “Sick in the Teeth”, “Valentine” – those are more of the darker ones. But there’s also like, Sixties pop influence, kinda, within a bunch of…like “Busy Body”, uh, um, “Holding On To You”. It’s kind of a different…it’s kind of, in a way, all over the place, and that’s kind of why I called it Cruel To Be Young. It’s because everything is all over the place for me right now, especially pop-culture-wise. And that’s sort of what the last record was, was a play on pop culture and what people think is cool currently and it’s all kind of a joke. Cruel To Be Young kind of came from, just the idea of, I don’t even know what sells, what doesn’t sell, you do this, you do that. I don’t know, it’s just like, everywhere right now, I feel. Uh, there’s more bands in the middle than there ever have been. It used to be like, you know, you either made it or you were, you know, at home. Now it’s just like there’s so many bands just living in this middle stage of the recording and touring process. But…
But that really doesn’t have anything to do with um, the songs.
“Sick in the Teeth” would be about a dream.
That’s about all I got.
No man, that’s cool, that’s totally chill, like I said, like…I just think…I think sometimes, whenever I read, you know, like a lot of, uh, like interviews or things like that. I think a lot of people tend to focus only on the music. And that’s awesome because that’s like, you know, what the band is about but, like I said, I’m just like way into writing so I’m just really interested and pretty stoked to hear songs like those on the record. Cause like you said, it’s not necessarily what I expected. Like, when I listened to it, it wasn’t, it wasn’t really like Popularity at all, and I dug that, you know, because it was something like…it was cool…
Totally. We did a lot of different things. I think a reason why it sounds lot different is because we stopped using samples. You know I think the same kick drum and snare drum have been used on, like, the past five hundred records or something like that. You know? They just put in whatever the biggest, baddest… You know. It’s just pointless, really. So, you know, we tried to just use the real drums…which is, uh, weird. Which is different. Which is also weird. Why wouldn’t you just use the real drums?
But um, but guitar tones…we tried to, we tried to mix and match. We tried to make every song have it’s own character like I was saying. And the recording aspect of the whole thing…I think makes it a lot different from Popularity because we actually spent time on, you know…the way it sounds. You know, like how a guitar makes you feel. Rather than just it being really loud and loud in a bad way. Cause loud can be good, but uh, you know, I feel like the verses are quieter than the choruses, and that is an accomplishment in today’s music world, I think, because everythi ng is so compressed and it’s all the same. So I think it comes across a little bit differently because, you know, there’s actually some dynamic within the song.
Right, right. Cool, well, um. Well I’m wondering…like I don’t know how much this question really applies now since you guys have said you hadn’t been on the road for so long, but how much of the writing process happens for you out on the road and touring – and how has touring affected, you know…like how has the kind of relapse in the music biz and everybody a little bit less…
Touring definitely plays a huge part, you know. Because we had never really been out and played shows really before and been on tours…we just kind of made Popularity and hit the road. And, uh, that kind of shaped everything, man. Seeing what people are doing. Seeing, eh, different scenes, and all of this kind of thing…I mean, we’re just guys from Mississippi.
For sure man.
That really had a whole lot to do with it. And so once we got home…we did about two years straight. I think it was…I dunno, one year we did 275 shows.
And then the next we did something like it. I don’t know it was a lot of shows. And once we got home, I was kind of just sick of, everything really. But ya, touring had a whole lot to do with it. – the tone of the way the second record came out. The attitude and that kind of thing. But it was mostly written at home. Took a couple of months and put together pieces that were kind of being formed, put together, over a couple years of touring.
Right. I know for a lot of band there seems to be so much glamour involved with touring and going big and, and…and then the fame sort of side that people see becomes the fascination. What do you think…like, do you have any words of advice for artists struggling to make their way to the place that you and others have been at? Did signing and touring meet your expectations or, match up to the picture of what you thought it’d be like?
Ya, uh, ha. That’s a funny question. Um, ya you do have these expectations for touring, and um, ya, and people loving every bit of what you are doing, up on stage and all of that you know? Whatever, and I don’t know. I really don’t, I’m probably the worst guy to give any type of advice like this. I don’t know, man, it’s most likely a… I like all of that stuff, but mostly I just want to… I just want to keep making records. I don’t know. Maybe I mostly want to keep playing shows…but life’s a big contradiction, right?
Ya. True that, man, true that. That’s cool.
Good advice man, ha ha.
No, no, it’s fine though, you know? It’s honest. I think a lot of people get this big picture of, cool, I’m going to make it big. I’m going to tour and it’s going to be awesome and glamorous and stuff, you know? And then you read every interview with bands where it’s like “Man, you know, touring is hard work just like any other thing, you know? Like, it’s a job and stuff like that, too, you know?”
Definitely. And, uh, you don’t ever get to see anyone that you like being around. That’s the worst part. You’ve got all these people that you want to being around and, you know, they’re never around because you’re always gone. But uh, but it’s a lot of fun playing shows, especially when the crowd is happy to be there.
Ya, for sure. What are some of your favorite memories on the road – like, what would you say you love most about being out?
I like, uh, hmm. Traveling. I just really like to travel. And, that’s my favorite part.
Yeah, that’s cool. You guys have been everywhere, that’s cool.
Yeah, it’s fun. You know, it’s fun to watch things change in different places. They’re not the same as they were when you were there last time. Or they are the same, the exact thing. Some places never change, type thing. But um, I like traveling.
That’s cool man. Um, I don’t know…I was just looking into…I don’t really know like how many people, or millions of times you’ve been asked this, and, if it’s not a chill question that’s cool, you know. But I was wondering, like, how much of, if any, of Timothy’s stuff influenced any of the second CD since he was such a big part of the Popularity CD for you guys.
Uh, yeah. Um, ya it’s definitely an influence on this record. For sure. I’m still trying to put all of that together.
Cool man, that definitely makes sense, you know. Um, like I said, I, I don’t know. I figure, and maybe this is just me, and I probably shouldn’t say this as an interviewer – I don’t know what my criteria are…
It’s cool, man.
But, I read so many interviews of people just being like yeah man…you know, if you read an Underoath interview and it’s like – every single interview they ask about what happened at Warped Tour. You read “blah, blah, blah” and every single time they’re like, “Oh man I’ve been asked that a million times”. And I know that, that was a big part of Jonezetta’s history, I don’t know how many questions you get about that. It must get annoying…
Ya. No man, it’s definitely not annoying. It’s…I enjoy the acknowledgement from an interviewer asking that question, but I never really know exactly what to say to that. You know, like I said, I’m just really trying to wrap my head around the whole thing…
Are there any parts of the new record that you think, like, specifically apply to that situation or anything like that? Like, lyrically or anything like that? Or is it kind of just like, you know, like you were saying – the road, just seeing how things work, or life in general, you know?
Ya, um, it’s definitely in there. Uh, you can definitely find influence. I write all the lyrics and, uh, so ya. It’ll definitely make its way in there. It definitely did make its way in there, I guess I should say. I just always feel like I should say something positive about that situation. You know, the new record isn’t the most depressing thing ever, I should say that. But, um …
(Phone cuts out)
Thanks for giving me a call back.
Oh, no problem.
You were saying how you felt like you had to put in something positive about that whole situation…
I was gonna…all I was gonna say was that, uh, when we recorded Popularity, we basically drove from his funeral to – well, no, not basically – we literally drove from his funeral to the studio in Nashville and we immediately started recording this super, super pop, you know, dance record. And uh, I never could get my head around what I should be doing. I think this record came out of, not being able to spend any time… See I basically had to turn off the fact that he died while we were in the studio…
I mean, because it was so upbeat. And there was this vision there, and it couldn’t be done knowing that I had lived with the guy for, you know, months straight and then he was gone. So I kind of had to block that out of my mind and do that record and this was more of, trying to embrace, figure it out. Trying to get head around it in some kind of way.
I kind of just wanted to say that.
Yeah, for sure. Um, do you have time for just a couple more, would that be cool?
Oh yeah man, for sure.
Right on, right on. Um, just kind of talking more about, career wise, and all that, is there anything, like, you feel like, if you could go back you would change or do it differently? Why? Or, uh, yeah, I guess that’s it, just kind of open-ended…
Yeah, I…you always think of things that you could have done differently. But, I try not to think about it too much…
Ya, for sure that makes sense too.
I get stuck sometimes in that kind of thought process. I like where we are and what we’ve accomplished and it’s been an interesting ride so far.
Absolutely, man, that makes sense. Not thinking about it too much…what are you going to about it now, you know?
Sit in my room and cry.
Have you ever heard…I don’t know who does this song, but it’s just the most emo type thing that you could possibly get, and one of the lyrics is like, talking about how, uh, how the room smells like crying. Like “still smells like crying”, that what the lyric is…
Oh my god…
I know. Man, that should be your guy’s new motto. Man I hope you share that with people and just…you know, you gotta just like go up to somebody in your band and, you know, sniff and, “man, this room smells like crying – what’s with that?” O, dude, it’s horrible.
Great and also the worst thing ever.
I know, seriously. And like, those are the kind of things that, like you were talking about before, like formulaic stuff. Like, that’s the kind of crap that everybody’s like way into, and it’s just like – oh man, I can’t believe it.
Yeah, you just hope, you hope that there’s someone laughing somewhere that came up with that. You hope they’re laughing and they’re rich.
That’s right. Ha ha. That’s right.
But you’re also upset because there’s kids that just think that’s their high school prom or something.
I know. Dude, someday I hope… like, have you ever seen Garden State?
You know the dude I like, filthy rich because he came up with silent Velcro or whatever that is.
Oh god, yes.
You know, that’s what that is. It’s just like, man, I wish I could come up with something really stupid and just retire.
Yeah, I know. I thought that was hilarious how he wrote that into that movie…that was just him trying, uh, you know…the same thoughts we’re having now. He was just like, dude, he just though that would be hilarious. “Character: Guy who invents silent Velcro buys mansion with no furniture.” Absolutely perfect.
Yeah, for sure man. Well what do you, you know, as a “Christian band” – or as Christians in a band – you know, like, what do you think about the whole “music as ministry” or “music as art” aspect of things. Like, I know a lot of people are pretty quick to judge a bands motives if their motives aren’t on par with the person who’s doing the judging, you know? What do you guys think about that?
Man. I am frightened to the bone. Frightened. Scared as the ever-living… it scares me.
People who judge people based upon things that I’m supposed to be doing, and what they think I should be doing that I’m not. Scary thought, you know. Uh, I just try to do the best I can an I think we all just try to do the best we can and… I eat breakfast in the morning and lunch in the evening, possibly dinner after that.
Cool, well. Does it like, uh, I mean, would you say it’s more of a, you know, like, like living by example? Like, okay, so like I’m doing some work for HM right now you know? And I was just emailing a dude at a church that had emailed later on today saying that felt like, like…I was talking to him about it and suggesting something from HM and he was like “You know I’ve read HM before and I don’t really agree with it because I think that…” you know blah, blah, blah because it shows people that are “supposed” to be doing music. You know, like, “Christian” music, and their music should be to the glory of God and he said that he didn’t agree with bands that didn’t have the same viewpoint and I know that I’ve read a lot of interviews and talked to people that are like “Music doesn’t have a religion”. It’s art, or whatever. But I know that a lot of bands are really, super ministry focused, and that definitely comes out in their actual show. So where does Jonezetta kind of fall on that spectrum?
Um, ya. I don’t know. We uh, I was always the kid at those church camps that uh… terrified, man, ha ha, I’m just going to keep saying terrified. You know, and the “glory of God” – I find the glory of God in so many other things that the “Christian music industry.”
(Tape cut out. I’m an idiot. He goes on about how it’s a scary thing when people start to judge others. And more about how the whole Christian music industry is frightening and how he doesn’t really understand it… not much more to the reply.)
So what’s next on the agenda for you guys? You going crazy again with touring with this new record coming out? Gonna burn yourselves out again like before?
Ya I think so, man. It’s going to be busy. You definitely won’t miss your opportunity of seeing Jonezetta.
Ha ha, right on. Going crazy. Well, uh, one last question… and this is just for fun because I’ve been arguing a bunch of people about this. Do you like Creed?
Um, let’s see. It depends on…it depends on the circumstances. At some points, I absolutely love Creed. But it all depends on if you’re around a bunch of people that really love Creed.
That’s perfect. That’s probably the best answer anybody could give… well. Ha ha. Dude, any last words? Any last things that you want fans or people or anybody to hear about the record or life or God, what have you?
Cruel To Be Young. September 16th. It’s got a lot about life, God, and the what-have-yous.
Dude, thanks a lot Levi, I appreciate it man.
Thank you man. Thanks for dealing with my, uh, you know, just kind of sketchy questioning and stuff. This is uh, you got be my first interview so uh, so, lucky you.
Ha ha. It’s all good, definitely. I feel like we made it.
Ya man, thanks a lot. Well good luck with everything and I’ll catch you all on tour for sure.
Sounds good man.
Alright man, God bless.