Q: Hey Josh. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. How have you been doing?
A: No problem. I’m doing great. Very busy these days.
Q: Now that the new album is out, how are you feeling about it? Is it a weight lifted off your shoulder?
A: I wouldn’t describe it as a weight on my shoulders. It’s more like a pressure from within that finally gets relieved. Putting out a new album is like lancing a boil.
Q: Being the bands first album with the original lineup in 20 years, is that something that you thought would ever happen again after the initial breakup of the lineup?
A: After we initially broke up, I never thought the Popes would play again, with our without the original lineup. So the fact that we’re doing this at all is amazing to me. And after playing with other drummers for so many years, being back to the original lineup feels very natural. We’re all pretty energized by it.
Q: With this album being the most political thing the Popes have released, where did your desire come from to add politics into the mix for this one? Did you ever intentionally leave politics out of the mix before?
A: No, I was just never interested in politics before. In the old days, you could get away with not thinking about politics as much because the president wasn’t always dominating the news with a constant stream of scandals. Nowadays, it’s almost impossible not to be political, at least a little bit. Politics is not a huge part of the album, but I did feel compelled to address a couple political themes, hopefully not in an overbearing way.
Q: Coming from being on major labels and having that backing and push that such a large label would give, how is it now being back on a smaller one? Is the freedom and ease of mind a great trade off from what a major label might push on a band?
A: Being on a major label was good for promotion, but it was so difficult on so many levels. We feel much more at home on an indie. Mike Park at Asian Man is fantastic! We love working with him!
Q: Similar to the previous question, having the experience with labels of all sizes what would you say to newer bands who might believe that being on a major label is the be all end game for success?
A: It depends on what kind of band you are and what you want to accomplish. Maybe being on a major is the right thing for you, but for us it wasn’t the right fit. We want to be able to make records our own way, without an A&R guy breathing down our neck, without having to compromise with a big corporation to make our music. Some people might be good at dealing with the red tape involved with a major. For us, it was just a headache. I would never want to go back to that kind of situation.
Q: Let’s talk Judy Garland. Between songs including her, an album cover, and your known love of her where did it all come from and begin with her love of Judy Garland.
A: I grew up watching the Wizard Of Oz, and I liked it but wasn’t huge into Judy until later. When I got into my 20’s, I started exploring some of her other work, and I discovered a lot of incredible stuff. Her version of A Star Is Born is a masterpiece. And with her later recordings, after the drugs started to take their toll, there’s a depth of emotion to her voice that really breaks your heart. She was the best.
Q: Does it ever feel odd to you when bands or fans refer to you or the bands as legends and major influences? With bands like Alkaline Trio (Chicagos other little punk rockers), Green Day, Bayside, and more giving credit to Smoking Pope has that really affected your mindset when going out?
A: Not really. We just do what we do. It’s nice to receive compliments, but we don’t let it go to our heads.
Q: With the band finishing up a run of dates from Nov. how were those shows going? Are new songs going over well with fans?
A: The new songs are being very well received, which is fun. These songs seem to blend well into our set. They’re new, but they don’t feel out of place in our catalog.
Q: Speaking of shows, you recently played the legendary Aragon Ballroom for a one off with Jawbreaker and Naked Raygun. That’s one hell of a lineup, how did that show go?
A: It was amazing. I don’t usually get nervous before shows, but I had a few butterflies that night. As soon as we got out there, though, they went away and we just did our thing.
Q: What is 2019 looking like for the band? Album tour? Riot Fest 2019?
A: Lots of touring. We’ll be everywhere. Not sure about specific festivals yet, but everything is on the table.
Q: Is there any place or any festival that you haven’t had the chance to play yet that is still on the bucketlist?
A: We’d love to get back to Europe again. It’s been too long since we’ve been over there. Hopefully, we can make that happen in 2019.
Q: Having the band for 25+ years now, was that ever expected? Does it feel like its been that long and do you ever seen a final end coming for the band?
A: I do see a final end coming for all of us eventually, one way or another. But until that day comes, we’ll keep rocking as hard as we can. That’s our promise to you.