There Is No Room for Cocky Bands

An Interview with New Found Glory's Ian Gruska

by Emily Zemler


Pop-punk gets a lot of flak these days. Haters cite the genre’s bands as being generic, derivative, and whiny. Once pop punk fans reach a certain age they have to start lying to their friends and pretending to prefer hipster indie-rock because pop-punk just ain’t cool when you are over 16. But the cynics are missing the big picture: Green Day, the original pop-punk band, rolled out an album that went number 1 and garnered them a slew of Grammy nominations. And Green Day’s album was anything but generic, derivative, and whiny. New Found Glory, a second-generation pop-punk band, were tapped by the godfathers of the genre to open their nationwide tour last fall. Assuming that Billie Joe’s got discerning taste, the same holds true for New Found Glory—a five-piece from Coral Springs, Florida, with a new album, a new record label, and an amazingly humbled attitude that suggests there just might be something to this frequently maligned sect of rock ‘n’ roll.

While on tour in Europe, New Found Glory’s bassist, Ian Grushka, offered genuine takes on the band’s album, upcoming U.S. tour, and role in the music.

PopMatters: How have you evolved as a band since the release of your first album?

Ian Grushka: As a band I will just state the obvious like all other bands—we are older and more mature. We know how to live with each other on tour, and we know exactly how to push each other’s buttons. Musically, I think we have grown as well. I think we started out just writing songs we loved and not thinking about anything and just recording them. Then on the self-titled CD and Sticks and Stones, we thought about what the fans were going to like while we were recording. We would say, “Well maybe that riffs too heavy, or maybe this part doesn’t really fit.” On Catalyst we went back to how we used to think. We recorded what we wanted, when we wanted. We added a mini choir, strings, lead keyboard parts, heavy metal/hardcore type riffs, and I like it better that way; just writing songs we love as a band.

PM: When you first started playing music did you ever think you would be headlining major tours and opening for Green Day?

IG: To be honest, no. Whenever we did interviews and they asked, “If you could tour with one band who would it be?” Ninety-nine percent of the time we answered Green Day. Now that we finally can check that off the list of goals, its time to start thinking of more bands we want to tour with. Or maybe we can keep saying Green Day so they will take us on tour in Japan and Australia. If they ever asked us to tour again, I would say yes in a heartbeat.

PM: What was opening for Green Day’s tour like?

IG: It was amazing. The fact that we grew up listening to them, and wanting to tour with them, and then actually getting to do it, was amazing. But besides that, just seeing that a band you love are awesome down-to-earth guys was even better. I was a bit nervous, plus I am anti social, so I didn’t talk to them as much as I wanted to, but it was quite an experience. They were super busy on these tours because their record was doing so well and they had so much press to do, but any free time they had they would try to come by our bus or dressing room to hang out for a bit. The best part for me I think was when their CD went to No. 1 and I saw how excited they were. To see a band who’s sold as many CDs as them still get excited about things was refreshing.

PM: What did you learn from the experience?

IG: Hard work and dedication pay off. Green Day has had their fair share of ups and downs, but they still bust their ass, and look where they are now ... the No. 1 punk band in the world, and they deserve it all.

PM: Do you prefer playing your own tours or playing Warped Tour?

IG: I just like being on tour. Warped Tour is amazing because I was a fan who paid to go see Warped in the beginning. I was at the first Warped Tour at The Edge (a club) in Ft. Lauderdale. The fact that the tickets are so cheap and there are so many bands to see, it’s all about the value for the fan. You get to tour with bands like NOFX and Bad Religion who we normally would not get to tour with. That’s definitely a great part about Warped. But also you have a ton of fans there, who might not be there to see your band, but they could end up watching and having a good time. Plus there are a ton of people to hang out with (if you’re not anti-social) and you can never be bored. But then again when you are on a headlining tour 95 percent of the fans are at the show to see you, so that’s also a blast.

PM: How have your experiences on Warped Tour contributed to your growth as a band?

IG: I think what I have learned from Warped Tour is there is no room for cocky bands, or bands with attitudes in this genre. You burn one bridge on Warped, you burned a million. Never complain about anything on Warped, have a great time, and show the same respect for people that you want to be shown to you.

PM: Will you be on Warped Tour this summer?

IG: No, we won’t. We are doing a US tour with Reggie and the Full Effect and Eisley from March 10 until May 21, so it’s kinda pointless to tour the U.S. for that long, then turn around and play the same cities back-to-back. Plus we have been on tour for so long if we don’t take a break we will either burn ourselves out or hang ourselves, whichever comes first.

PM: Who have been some of your favorite bands to play with and why?

IG: Less Than Jake, because they helped us so much starting out and they are fucking awesome guys, not to mention their live show. Hot Rod Circuit because they have amazing songs and they are fun to hang out with, and James [Dewees] from Reggie has been a blast to be around; he is quite the character. Touring with Blink 182 and Green Day was pretty dope. I can go on forever, so many bands we have toured with we’ve had great times with…

PM: Who influences you, musically or otherwise?

IG: I have so many. Starting out in music it was Alice Cooper and Warrant. Blink and Unwritten Law were huge influences on me—Rob the guitar player from UL had a big impact on me. And I also appreciate Buddy Holly and Michelle Branch’s music as well.

PM: How is your latest album different than your previous albums?

IG: Different artwork, different songs, different song titles, different label. As I said earlier we just tried things on this CD we would not have done in the past. Strings and a female singer on “I Don’t Wanna Know, a mini choir on “Doubt Full”, hardcore song “Intro,” metal riffs like on “At Least I’m Known for Something,” lead keyboard parts on “Failure’s Not Flattering” ... we just went all out this time around.

PM: How did you get James Dewees from Reggie and the Full Effect to play keyboards for you?

IG: I think [guitarist] Chad [Gilbert] asked him to do it. To be honest I was not even at the studio the day he recorded the part, so I’m not even sure how it went down.

PM: How has being on a major label affected you as a band?

IG: I don’t think it affected us at all. I think it helped in the fact that we had more people working for our band, more money to spend on advertising, more money for videos, and an easier chance to get on radio. But as a band and the way we run our band, it didn’t change much. We are just touring machines. With or without the major label we would tour just as hard.

PM: What are the merits of being on a major label?

IG: We have more people working to help our band, and more money to record with so we can get our CDs to sound as good as possible. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between Nothing Gold Can Stay, which cost us $1200, and From the Screen to Your Stereo, which cost us $2000, as compared to New Found Glory, Sticks and Stones, and Catalyst.

PM: Does anyone ever accuse you of selling out for being on Geffen?

IG: Yes, but those kids don’t have a clue. They do have a right to their own opinion, and I respect that, but they obviously don’t know us. For me, I learned to play guitar because I would watch Headbanger’s Ball on MTV and I dreamed of being on MTV from day one. I started a band because I wanted to get popular and be on radio and be on TV, and tour the world and play as many shows as possible. Obviously this was a far-fetched dream of mine, which I never though was going to come true, but I guess we got lucky. But to be honest, even if people hated NFG, and hated the fact that we are on a major label, doesn’t mean they would hate me as a person. I am, deep down, a good person, and in the end when this is all over, I don’t really care if people remember I was the bassist from NFG, I want to be remembered as a good person. I know that we are nothing without the fans. Any band is nothing without the fans. I appreciate everything that we have been given, and I take it one day at a time. I can’t tell people not to think we are sellouts, if that’s what they feel, but I had a dream and I set these goals for myself since day one. You gotta remember I grew up on heavy metal hair bands and pop, and in those genres, there is no such thing as sellouts.

PM: What is one thing you think people should know about NFG that they probably don’t already know?

IG: I can mention a few things, but I am sure some people may already know them: Chad used to sing in “shai hulud”, I am vegetarian and I’ve been sober for three months, [singer] Jordan [Pundik] is an impulse buyer and he buys the dumbest stuff sometimes, [drummer] Cyrus [Bolooki] is a computer whiz (very smart with computers and gadgets) and [guitarist] Steve [Klein] loves bacon.

PM: How did you end up touring with Eisley, whose sound is really not similar to your’s at all?

IG: The whole band listens to them, but they are one of Chad’s favorite bands and we wanted a three-band bill with three totally different bands, so they fit the bill perfectly. It’s what Chad really wanted, so we all said yes. The reason being, he loves their music, and the fact they are so different from NFG, you normally would not get a chance to tour with a band you love with such a different musical style, so we made it happen.

PM: Do you consider yourself a pop-punk band?

IG: I think it’s all rock ‘n’ roll. When I think punk I think of bands like the Clash, the Sex Pistols, and the Ramones. I think if you look far back at say Buddy Holly, add some distortion and he’s punk too. The mainstream for some odd reason has to put stuff in genres, so they call us pop-punk. We are influenced by some punk yes, but not the old punk stuff. The old punk stuff influenced the stuff that we are influenced by, like NOFX, Pennywise, Rancid, and Green Day. Stuff like that. I think we take all the music we like—punk, pop, emo, hardcore, metal, rock, alternative—throw it in a blender and that’s what we are. It’s easier just to say a rock band.

PM: Have most of your old fans stayed with you over the years or do you think they have grown out of your genre of music?

IG: To be honest I’m not sure. I am pretty sure we lost some fans along the way, all bands do. They hand the CDs off to their little brothers or sisters and they become fans. To be honest we have been so busy touring, sometimes you don’t get a chance to notice some of that stuff. Great question, but I don’t really know the right answer.

PM: What are some newer bands that you think people should know?

IG: Me and Chad have a record label, Broken Sounds and we signed some great bands so far: Righteous Jams, Suffocate Faster, Slowdance, the Getaway, and Breakdance Vietnam. We have some MP3s posted on our Web site. While I am at it I will plug my brother’s label JMB Record$; they signed two great bands so far—Fallen from the Sky and DBY. Also there is a band I like a lot called the Chemistry, whose CD I think comes out soon on Razor and Tie.

PM: If you had to persuade someone who had never heard of you to attend your show, what would you say?

IG: If you’re a guy and you want to get laid, come to our show. If you’re a girl and you want to see a sexy, chubby bass player with no shirt, come to our show. If you heard our CDs and don’t like us, come see us live before you judge us, and if you still don’t want to come to the show, come anyway PLEASE!

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