There’s much that can be accomplished waiting on the catering line for Warped Tour. Until it’s your turn to fill up your plate at one of the most notable Warped fixtures, you can listen to bands play in the background and learn the life stories of those around you. Also fitting perfectly between moving from the end to the front of one of those lines, was time spent speaking to Devin Oliver, singer for pop/hardcore group I See Stars.
Beaming through the phone, Devin sounded like Charlie having just won the last Wonka Golden Ticket. This was the first time playing on Warped for he, guitarists Brent Allen and Jimmy Gregerson, bassist Jeff Valentine, brother and drummer Andrew Oliver and newly reinstated keyboardist Zach Johnson. Add in the success their first album 3-D has had since its release last year and it’s no wonder why he wouldn’t be this excited.
Before it was his turn to enjoy a hearty lunch, Devin gave an update on upcoming releases, Warped Tour going-ons, and how a minor lineup change was easily fixed by the friendship they all share.
How’s Warped Tour going?
Everything has just been amazing. Even one day in Kansas, it rained all day, and that was still really fun.
How did you guys prepare for a first run on Warped Tour?
I’ve kind of took what I knew from going and what I’ve heard from other bands and it just takes some common knowledge as to what we’re going to need. We’re going to be on our A-game because you’re running around all day. I slept in today and I got yelled at because I missed so many hours for doing things to promote our stage. Once night falls and the show’s over, all the bands have like an after party every single night.
You guys had yesterday off, so how did you celebrate your 4th of July?
We got a hotel with this band called Confide and we just hung out, barbequed and the fireworks were going off all around us, so instead of lighting stuff off, we just watched them.
Well, I’ve heard about the catering on Warped before —is the food really that good?
You know, surprisingly, the food is amazing. I think there was just one day that I was like, ‘Eh, it wasn’t that good.’ I mean you get breakfast and it’s really healthy, you have fruit, whole grain cereal, scrambled eggs and then you have lunch and dinner. The line is probably the worst part of catering—it’s so long. You have people cutting, but you don’t want to say anything because you’re just like whatever. So, slowly but surely, the line behind you gets shorter and the line in front of you gets longer and it’s like, ‘What is going on?’
Let’s get into how you guys came together. What’s a little history on I See Stars?
I’ve been in this band since I was 12-years-old. We started off doing cover songs, pretty much learning how to play our instruments together. I used to play guitar, Brent played bass, and Andrew’s on drums. Jeff was that guy that used to hang out with us, go to our practices and watch us play the same songs over and over again. We went to see our friend’s band play and they had two guitar players and he said, ‘You can really open a lot of doors by having two guitar players.’ We were like, ‘Jeff, do you want to be the bass player?’ So, he played bass and Brent went to lead guitar and we started writing songs. We got into Chiodos, who is also from Michigan, and they have keyboards and screaming and we thought, ‘Hey, that would be kind of cool.’ We brought our keyboard player Zach Johnson in the band and this whole band came together slowly but surely. The last band member was Jimmy Gregerson, who filled in my spot on guitar and I moved up front.
Jimmy had stated once that you guys never took lessons before starting up the band.
No one in our band has ever taken lessons. The most lessons that I ever got from a vocal standpoint is my dad, he showed me all the basics. Guitar-wise, everybody learned how to play their instruments pretty much on their own through the love and passion of just wanting to play the music. I think Brent, our guitar player, is probably one of the best guitar players I’ve ever seen and Andrew, the music he writes is just so different in its own unique way. It’s really truly incredible how they’ve progressed on their own.
So then you and your brother came from a musical family?
Yea, my dad was in a cover band; they did like Beatles covers and everything that was anything back in the day. He introduced us to music really. Obviously it’s every boy’s dream to follow in their father’s footsteps and we gave it a try.
You guys are getting ready to re-release 3-D. What brought that about?
I would say that we’re mainly re-releasing it just to re-introduce it and re-mix it to make it sound better sonically and get a new song up on there. There’s a lot of things that we’re talking about doing.
The next album is also in the works, so what can you tell me about it?
I can say that it is a step up from 3-D. We spent six weeks in the studio before Warped Tour doing nothing but tracking and literally just making sure every kick and every strum is just perfect. Just make it sound like the best it could possibly be. We have a lot of work to do on the album so after this, we’re only on half of Warped Tour, we get to go back and finish it. What I have to say is personally, what kids can expect is a new and improved I See Stars. These songs are still I See Stars in every shape and form, I just feel they have so much more potential and they have anything that any kid could want in the songs.
Do you have any producers lined up or that you’re talking with?
Well, our buddy from Rochester Hills, MI, Matt Dalton, he did our cover song for Punk Goes Classic Rock. He’s simply tracking it—he’s not going to mix it or master it. We’re definitely going to work with some really cool producers, nothing that I can really say right now, but I can say that there will be some really cool people helping us out with this record. It’ll make it just that much better, have different voices and different opinions on the record, it’ll be cool.
Before Warped you made the announcement that Chris Moore [synth/screamed vocals] parted ways with I See Stars and Zach Johnson returned to the band. How’s Zach holding up playing shows with you guys again?
He’s doing awesome. I mean seriously, he’s been away from the band for a year-and-a-half. He quit for his own personal reasons. He dropped the band, he ended up going to school and didn’t like going, so he stopped and ended up working at Del Taco. Even when he quit, I hung out with him every day when I was home —he’s my best friend. And he’d just tell me how much he regretted quitting the band and how he made a very quick decision in the heat of the moment. I See Stars and Chris had a different outlook on life in general and I feel that that just really disrupted our attitude on tour and so we parted ways, mutually of course. Zach was just like, ‘Dude, I want to be back in this band, I want to write music, this is what I want to do, I’ve made a mistake and I want to be back.’ He goes on stage and kids are just excited he’s back in the band. They want that screamer that was on 3-D on the next record and we couldn’t be happier, it’s like a blessing in disguise.
Will Zach add anything to the music that will surprise fans?
Definitely, I mean Zach was a big part of writing one of our biggest singles, ‘What This Means To Me.’ While Zach wasn’t in the band, he was writing beats and electronics for rap groups from Detroit. It’s kind of what he specializes in and it’s a fifth element that I See Stars is excited to get back.
Will fans be able to hear new material on Warped?
Not on the Warped Tour, but definitely this fall we’ve got some tours kicking off and they can expect new stuff pretty soon. I think they’re going to be blown away.
Catch I See Stars at one of three Warped Tour dates in the area: July 16 at Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ; July 17 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY; and July 18 at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, NJ.