Oct. 17, 2003 marked the beginning of melodic-hardcore band Title Fight. That was the day 13-year-olds Ned Russin, Ben Russin, Jamie Rhoden played their first show at Café Metropolis in Wilkes-Barre, Penn.
Now on the cusp of their 10-year anniversary, Title Fight have released three full-length albums along with several EPs and singles, gained new member Shane Moran in 2005, signed to one of the most influential record labels in the hardcore scene, and toured the world.
After a successful sold-out show in November of last year, the Pennsylvania hardcore band decided to revisit Santa Cruz and repeat history this past Friday.
Hundreds gathered to watch the soon to be 10-year-old band, Title Fight, at the Catalyst Atrium on Sep. 27, 2013. The band and fans were not disappointed. The show sold out weeks ago and left some fans, like Seaside resident Melanie Freeborn, desperate enough to pay as much as $60 for a ticket off StubHub. Was it worth it? According to Melanie, yes.
“It was $60 well spent,” said Freeborn. “It’s a lie that money can’t buy happiness.”
Along with Title Fight, the lineup for the show featured two softer, more melodic bands which were the female-fronted Slingshot Dakota, and melodic yet calloused Balance and Composure, and the extensively aggressive Portland hardcore band Cruel Hand.
Though the lineup was on a soft-fast offset, the energy stayed high; peaking during Cruel Hand and Title Fight. Stage divers manifested left and right, flipped into the crowd and soared into a sea of hands as guttural vocals and hard-hitting drums filled the 350-person room.
Before the show kicked off, I was able to sit down with vocalist and bassist Ned Russin to discuss the band’s beginnings, his role in the band, their recent studio session and new music.
After meeting Jamie Rhoden (Guitar/Vocals) in middle school and all being novices to their instruments, Ned Russin (Vocals/Bass) and twin brother Ben Russin (Drums) decided to start a band.
Though literate in several different instruments –piano, trombone, guitar –Ned would not consider himself “fluent” in them, but he doesn’t mind. “I chose the bass at an early age and now at this point I’ve decided that’s the only thing I care about playing,” Russin said. “I’m happy and I’ll just stick to that.”
As for vocals, that was not necessarily his first choice. The band realized that the role needed to be filled in order to have lyrics in their songs and “It kind of just was by chance and by necessity that I had to do it,” said Russin.
“Honestly, I hate singing. It’s really hard, it’s stressful, [but] at the same time, I love it. It’s a very expressive thing. It’s probably the most expressive thing we do with music and I like that a lot.”
Although, he admits it’s the most stressful and complicated thing he does in the band. As a singer, Russin is required to be at the forefront —straight in the limelight— which was never something he craved.
“I’m very stand-offish and introverted. I don’t like attention at all,” Russin said.
When the band first started, this wasn’t really a problem because as 13-year-olds they just played local shows and “nobody gave a shit,” but ten years later they’re still on the incline as one of the more promising bands within the scene.
Though he enjoys thanking fans and acknowledging their admiration towards him and the band, he admits that it’s a little hard at times.
“I want nobody to like me, and I want nobody to care about me, and to be just another random face in the crowd, so it’s kind of hard to find a balance. Especially growing up not really seeking attention, ever.”
Though attention is not what he seeks, attention is what he –along with the rest of Title Fight—gets. Commended for their slicing and painfully honest lyrics, the band has built a devoted fan base, with fan favorites like “27,” “Symmetry,” and “Numb, But I Still Feel It” gaining the most interactive, emotional and intense reactions from the crowd.
Russin’s gritty, calloused, and guttural “My father said don’t be so scared” pierces your ear as “27” commences. Debatably one of their best songs, the track entraps the listener with perfectly paced drums, a wandering whiny guitar, and a terribly contagious chorus.
Consistently misconceived as a song about Russin’s father passing away, he clarifies that though the song is indeed about his father being in the hospital when Russin was a junior in high school, he is still alive and well.
“It [is] about going down to Philadelphia where they were doing the surgery, and when they do triple-bypass surgery there is a moment where you’re literally dead and your heart is done. Then they put those little paddles on you and they literally bring you back to life,” Russin said.
Russin, along with the rest of the band, has faced many trials throughout their time in the band, but they remain enthusiastic in regards to what the future holds. Russin was keen to discuss their recent switch to a new label, upcoming release of their Spring Songs EP on Nov. 12, and their South American show in January, as well as their long-time friendship with tour mates Balance and Composure.
Check out the rest of the interview below.
Patch: Right now you guys are signed to Revelation Records. They’ve been a pretty influential record label in the hardcore scene, how do you feel about being signed to them?
Russin: Growing up and getting into music and finding hardcore, there were few things that kind of defined me and Revelation was [in the] top three things that really defined me as a person, as a musician, as you know as the way I dress. It’s all traced back to that label and the bands that were on that label and the things that came out of that. It’s a dream come true, as cliche as that sounds. It’s really cool, and the people over there are really cool, really excited and they don’t really need to put out records. You know, they have a really successful distro and they’re at the point where they put out bands that they like and the fact that they came to us and they wanted to put out our record, that’s really cool to us.
Patch: You said you already finished recording for your record and it’s already out in a month or so, right?
Russin: Yeah, November.
Patch: How was the recording process different this time around compared to your previous albums?
Russin: We did this record to tape which basically is, you know, think of a big cassette, that’s what we recorded to instead of using a computer.
Patch: So everything had to be precise.
Russin: Yeah, yeah. That was the biggest change. We’ve done a couple records now and every time we’ve used a computer and it’s cool and we have no problems. And you know you hear a lot of people say ‘oh you’re not a real musician if you do that stuff’ and I don’t really believe that to be true, but it was fun, it was interesting, it was a challenge because you can’t hit a wrong note and go on the computer and fix it. We never did that to begin with, but it’s a completely different pressure.
Patch: Because now you really can’t mess up.
Russin: Yeah, and when you record something on a computer, you say ‘oh that sounds okay, but maybe we can beat it. Let’s save that and then we’ll try another one.’ With this, you record something you say ‘if we record over this, it’s gone forever. So if you think you can beat it, do it, but if you don’t you’re screwed because you ruined a good take.’
I kind of liked it because it made it like a challenge. It just kind of pushed us as musicians I think and at the same time we did that, but we had like two weeks to record four songs, and we’ve never had that luxury. Every time we record it’s always, really, we’re going up till the last minute. And this time we spent a day just getting everything right and the next day trying to record it. And if we didn’t get everything that day we would just wait till the next day and come back. Wait till we were well rested and everything, and I think that really helped us out. And even though the recording process should [have been] the most stressful we ever had, it was really relaxed and easy going because we had so much time and that was cool.
Patch: Where was that recorded?
Russin: We recorded the last three things all in the same place; it’s called Studio 4 in Conshohocken with our friend Will Yip.
Patch: Your last album had a more melodic-hardcore feel, and I listened to ‘Be A Toy’ and it had a kind of gritty pop-punk/pop melody, is Spring Songs going to be more towards that or is there just a lot of variety?
Russin: Spring Songs is, I think, more eclectic that anything we’ve ever done. Be a Toy is the first song we released and that’s very melodic and kind of pop influence. But not like pop radio. Pop music like The Beatles and stuff, but you know that song is kind of different. Then we have some more aggressive kind of [stuff], I guess what you would expect to hear from us. And then there’s some even MORE laid back stuff –more laid back then we’ve ever done, really. And then there’s a song that’s kind of somewhere in between.
We always try to push ourselves whenever we write new stuff, and we’re not really content doing the same thing over and over again. At this point, we wrote a bunch of songs, and they were all different. And we were trying to find some cohesiveness between all the songs and we just kind of decided that, you know, we picked four songs that we liked the best. And I think the cohesion was in the fact that we wrote the songs and that they were the emotions we were feeling at the time. And maybe they don’t fit together as well as our past efforts, but it’s a good time-base. It very much captures how we are at this point in time, which is really cool.
Patch: What was your favorite song to write on this new album?
Russin: I don’t know. It’s hard to say it’s my favorite song, but we did a song called “Receiving Line” and it was really hard to write because it’s about a very sad, horrible day in my life. We did it, and I’m really happy with how it came out. It’s one of, I think, my favorite songs we’ve ever done, but at the same time it kind of sucks that it’s my favorite because I had to go through a very terrible thing to get to that point.
But I think pushing myself to get to that point. Like I said, I’m an introverted person, I don’t like discussing things about myself and to feel like I can write a song and really open up, that’s really hard for me. I think I continually try to open up more and more, and this is easily the most open I’ve been, and it’s hard, but I think it was worth it.
Patch: In the entirety of your career, what has been the hardest song to write? Do you think that “Receiving Line” was the hardest?
Russin: Yeah, that was definitely the hardest. I mean, on the last couple records—the thing that sucks is the things that really influence me to write songs aren’t pretty things, as much as I’d like them to be. The stuff that I write songs about is stuff that is bothering, me for the most part. On each of our records there have been songs about death, and songs about losing people, and it sucks that’s a common theme through life for anybody. But, the only way I really know how to cope with it is writing about it, and again, the song is about going to a funeral. And about how uncomfortable and awkward and terrible it is.
On every record there’s been a song about losing somebody and I think this is the first time that I really put all literary devices aside and just put it out there. Whereas before, I knew what I was talking about but if you didn’t know, it kind of was like a secret thing for me. So this one is very out in the open.
Patch: You guys will be going to South America to do an album release, are you excited for that?
Russin: Yeah. That’s something that’s really crazy. You know, being in a band and being able to travel is really cool, and when we started the band I thought maybe we’ll get down to Richmond, VA [and] we’ll put out a record, and then it just kind of kept going from there. We went to Florida, then we went to California, then we went to Europe, and then to Japan. Every time we went further and further. South America is not only extremely different culturally and geographically; it’s just a new and exciting, crazy place that I never thought we’d have the chance to go. We’re very happy and very excited and I think it’s going to be a good show, so we’re just going to have a good time when we go down there.
Patch: Are you guys going to try and do any other shows, or is it just going to be that one?
Russin: It’s just that show.
Patch: That’s still fun. Will you be there just for a few days or will you stick around to explore?
Russin: Yeah, just like four days or something, but we only have one show so we’ll probably get to explore a little bit.
Patch: Right on. As for now, you guys are touring with Balance and Composure and you guys have all been friends for a while. Is this your first tour where it’s mainly you two?
Russin: Yeah, we did one tour together in Europe that was mainly us two but that was a different type of thing. I mean, it wasn’t a different type of thing but that was just smaller, and it wasn’t in the states. It was a little bit of a different environment. And we both opened a Bayside/Senses Fail tour and that was a couple of years back, but yeah this is our first time really touring together in the states on our own and it’s really cool. We’ve known those guys probably close to ten years now.
Patch: They’re from Pennsylvania too, right?
Russin: They’re from Doylestown which is about two hours south of Kingston. The first time we ever played out of the area, we played with their old band and we did a split record together and we did all this stuff. When they started Balance we continued to play shows with them and we’ve been friends forever, so it’s cool. You know, it’s cool to tour with your friend’s bands because we love those guys as people, but I really, really like their band a lot so that’s even cooler. We get to see them every night.
Patch: What did you think of their new album?
Russin: I loved it. It might be my favorite record of the year.
Russin: Yeah, it’s really good. I’m really happy for them, and I’m really proud. It’s a really, really good record.
Patch: What was your favorite song off of it?
Russin: My favorite song off the record is ‘Notice Me.’ It’s really good. John’s vocals on the end are crazy. The lyrics are awesome; great hook, great song-writing all together. I think that’s their most cohesive record; it makes the most sense. It’s just written the best and the lyrics are the best. I think everything about it is leaps and bounds above everything that they’ve written before and I couldn’t be happier for them.