Kingston, Pennsylvania’s Title Fight started playing nearly twelve years ago. As teenagers, the 4-piece played a brash and earnest style of punk that hinged on hasty melody and emotive hooks. Over the course of ten EPs and two full-lengths, they made a name for themselves, touring with bands like Rise Against and New Found Glory.
In recent years, they’ve evolved, leaving the blunt energy of earlier records behind in favor of thoughtful songwriting that’s simultaneously more subtle and expansive. Title Fight’s new record, Hyperview, released yesterday on Anti, invokes the washy guitars of shoegaze stalwarts like My Bloody Valentine or Lilys, but constantly veers in and out of their native punk territory. Songs like “Trace Me Onto You” and “March” stick to the band’s usual snappy pace, but are colored by booming guitars and dreamy, melodic vocals rather than the technical mastery of earlier records like Shed and The Last Thing You Forget.
Hyperview is diverse, showcasing the band’s breadth of ability. The slow-burning “My Pain is Yours Now” has an air of somberness but surges forward under the direction of low, rumbling bass and serene vocal patterns. Singer/guitarist Jamie Rhoden’s voice coos more than it shouts and vibrates more than it howls. His style provides an anchor for the snarling yell of bass player Ned Russin, who we hear muffled under the reverb-heavy chorus of “Rose of Sharon.”
On the eve of Hyperview’s release and Title Fight’s forthcoming tour, we caught up with Russin and asked him a few questions about the new record and more.
What’s it been like to witness the popularity of your band grow, and was there ever a point when you knew that it was really starting to take off?
It’s a pretty weird thing, especially to experience from the vantage point of being in the band. I guess it moves a little bit slower than you would expect, because we’ve been touring for six months out of the year for like four or five years now. So it wasn’t like at one show all of a sudden it was kind of crazy. It was like each tour was a little bit better than the last. So it was a gradual increase of more people at our shows and more people being interested in us and us having a little bit more of a presence. It was definitely more gradual and I think because of that I wasn’t immediately shocked.
The first time we did a tour on our own was after Shed came out and we sold out the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia, and that was a crazy big deal to me. It was really cool. It was the kind of thing where you’re outside your hometown and people actually know who you are. That’s a pretty cool realization.
How long did it take you to go from a working band that toured like crazy to being a band that played huge venues, opening for bands like Rise Against?
We started our band in 2003 and we were a local band that would only play once or twice a month around home until about 2006 or 2007. And even then in 2007 we were still in high school and we still had two more years. We did a tour that summer (2007) and did another tour before that during spring break or something, and for about four years, it was that kind of a grind. The first tour we did that wasn’t like that was our tour with New Found (Glory) in October of 2009. But after that, every now and then we would get an offer from somebody that was substantially bigger than us. And it’s still kind of out of left field for me that somebody in another band really recognizes us.
What’s that feeling like when another band finds you out of the blue and extends the offer of going on tour with them?
I mean it’s cool. It’s very flattering. Because as a musician, I’m a fan of music. And when a band is not in our circle of friends or not in our genre and they come to us and want us to play with them, that’s a very flattering thing. So it’s also weird at the same time to be involved in that world. It’s also not like anything else. It’s hard to compare to a normal job where you get promoted–you know like we got this new great position in the company where we can do this great new stuff. It’s just like every experience is so completely different.
It used to be like all engines were firing all the time in our songs. Now we’ve been able to step back and assess things differently, but still keep the same energy and emotion.
Let’s talk about your newest record, Hyperview. You guys aren’t really playing the melodic hardcore of your early days but more of a textured shoegaze, post punk-infused thing. How did this evolution of your sound come about and when did it start to take course?
I think we’ve always been into a bunch of different stuff, whether it be an atypical punk band or whether it be something out of that range completely. So I think when we just started as a band we just wanted to play fast and loud and that was the only goal. And then as we got a little bit older we got into different stuff, we would start bringing in those influences.
There were moments very early on from our earliest seven-inches, where there’d be a more melodic and lighter part that would kind of find its way in there. I think we’ve just sort of expanded on that. There wasn’t a moment when all of us heard a certain record and completely changed how we wrote everything.
I think the big moment for most people was when we released “Head In The Ceiling Fan”. I think people look at that song as like, “wow I can’t believe they did that,” but to me it makes a lot of linear sense within our band.
Given the change in your sound, do you feel like you might be alienating some of your longer standing fans?
I don’t think so. We’ve been asked this question a couple times. We’re not trying to shock people, and we’re not trying to write a record that’s different to have people question us in any way. We’re trying to write a record that’s different because we are different people within the two years since our last release. I’ve seen so many bands, I’ve had so many more experiences, and if I didn’t reflect on that in the creative process, then I would be doing a disservice to myself. So there’s kind of that expectation to please everybody, but I think we’ve set ourselves up so people don’t think we need to do the same thing every time.
Are you guys more concerned with record sales than you used to be?
No, I don’t think we’re more concerned, but we are more aware. I’m intrigued by it and I’m interested and I would love to sell records and be on Billboard charts and whatever, or like in the back of Rolling Stone. But am I gonna kill myself if we don’t get there? No, that’s not important in my life really. I don’t judge my value off how many records we sell. I don’t judge whether we’re a success or a failure off selling records.
How would you describe Hyperview in comparison to the band’s previous records?
This is another question we’ve been asked a couple times and it’s so hard to step outside myself, you know? But the thing I try to get across is that I feel like the songs and the aesthetic and the overall vibe is more about being compact. The songs are a little bit more, I don’t want to say introspective because I don’t mean that lyrically, but I think they’re a little bit more self-sufficient. There’s less to the songs, they’re a little bit simpler. But at the same time they’re a little spacey and sound like they’re played through an echo-chamber. It used to be like all engines were firing all the time in our songs. Now we’ve been able to step back and assess things differently, but still keep the same energy and emotion.