Since 2008, Midwestern hardcore quartet Expire have remained true to their relentless touring ethics without any intentions to stop. Fresh off the release of their anticipated sophomore effort, Pretty Low, this past summer, the band recently started off the year by gearing up for a United States tour alongside the likes of Four Year Strong and Comeback Kid. While this lineup also provides concertgoers the best of both worlds with a unique mix of pop punk and hardcore acts to indulge in with support from groups like Handguns and Heart To Heart, diverse tour packages are nothing new for Expire at all.
While he was working on some new material from the comfort of his own home before the holidays, I talked with guitarist Zach Dear about the band’s supporting tour with Comeback Kid and Four Year Strong, how the band personally and musically embraced the opportunities and advantages that come from playing genre-mixed shows, and also talked about some of their upcoming plans for the new year ahead.
What’s it going to be like to start out the year touring in support with Four Year Strong and Comeback Kid? What are some things you are looking forward to the most?
Yeah, that will be sick. I met some of those Four Year Strong guys a couple of months ago when we were in Canada and they seemed like nice dudes. Comeback Kid have been my homies for a little while, so it will be sick to play with them. We’ve toured Canada with them last year—or a couple of years ago or something—and it was sick. We’re hitting a few spots that we haven’t hit in a while, or, you know, there’s a bunch of regulars on there that we’re really stoked to get back to, so it will be fun, for sure.
How excited are you to be sharing the stage with Comeback Kid? Did you or anyone else in the band look up to them as an influence when you were getting into hardcore and punk?
Yeah, I mean, Comeback Kid was always a cool band. Like, I remember going to see them when they were touring on Turn It Around and when they were touring on Wake The Dead. I remember seeing them a couple of times. I actually… I think I blew out my shoulder at a Comeback Kid show when I was 14 or 15. It was like, them and Terror and somebody else. But yeah, that’s always a memory of mine whenever my shoulder pops out of the socket, that it happened at a Comeback Kid show (laughs).
So yeah, it’s cool, I love those dudes—they’ve been nothing but cool to us and Turn It Around was a cool album. I love everything that they’ve been doing still too. Like, all of the new stuff is great, even with the lineup changes once, you know, Goose [Andrew Neufeld] started singing. It’s still great.
Nice. I’m pretty sure that shoulder story would always be something fun to bring up to the guys in Comeback Kid whenever you see them I bet.
Yeah, now that I think about it, I don’t know if we ever even talked about it, so I’ll have to say something to them when I see them. I totally forgot that happened at a Comeback Kid show (laughs).
The lineup of this tour will definitely draw out a lot of different kinds of crowds, whether it would be pop punk fans who are there for Four Year Strong and Handguns or the hardcore crowds who will be there to see both you guys, Comeback Kid and Heart To Heart. Do you think this tour will give you the chance to put yourselves out there and play to different crowds every night with the possibility of playing to kids who may not be familiar with Expire prior to the tour?
I mean, that’s kind of the point of a band like us doing tours like this, kind of going outside the comfort zone more or less. You know, doing a tour that’s kind of a “pop punk tour,” or doing tours that are more… on the metalcore side of things—like, we’ll play with anybody.
There are definitely bands out there that are kind of hesitant to get out of their comfort zone or who will rag on bands that don’t want to strictly play hardcore shows, but fuck that, man. Like, for us, we’ll play with anybody, and I always want to bring new kids into hardcore. Whether it’s, you know, seeing my band, maybe they don’t love it, but maybe they’ll go home and check it out and see other bands—like, that’s a cool thing for me.
I saw a few people get into hardcore because somebody handed them a Madball record or something like that, or somebody handed them a Judge record, or whatever. I mean, I got into hardcore through metalcore and punk rock, so being able to maybe be a band that some kid who has never heard anything like it, shows up to the show, sees it and fucks him up in a good way. Like, that’s a cool thing for me, and that makes the tour totally worth it.
It is a little… you know, “weird,” I guess, but for us, it’s kind of become the norm. We would bounce back and forth from doing “hardcore tours” and doing “outside of the box tours.” Like, I’m open to tour with anyone—it’s just got to make sense on many fronts, so we’re happy to do it and we’re happy to be a part of it.
With that being said, would you say that this is completely uncharted waters for the band?
Yeah, I mean, we’ve done our fair share of “mixed things.” All this year, we’re basically trying to make it every other. Like, it’s cool to be a band that’s able to play all kinds of shows and get received fairly well everywhere. That’s a thing we’re really happy about and don’t take for granted. But at the same time, we don’t want to be a band that is hardcore for “potentially greener pastures,” you know?
If you can make it all work and maintain the fact that you’re a hardcore band and maintain your ethics and maintain your morals when it comes to that, and the drive behind it while still being able to reach out to new kids and reach out different kinds of kids and different kind of tours, that is what’s important to me.
It hasn’t been until recently, I stumbled upon many unique tour announcements where you have pop punk bands touring with hardcore bands, and metal bands play with hardcore bands and vice-versa. Do you feel like genre-mixed shows and diverse tour packages are starting to make a comeback and continue to rise within the next few years?
I would say that it comes in cycles to me. Like, when I was introduced to everything, I was really into punk rock, but the only thing that was coming through our area, or had the opportunity to, I had to book the shows. So, I would book the metalcore bands, I brought through hardcore bands, I brought through indie bands. Like, whatever—I was 14 or 15 years old, renting out a VFW hall and booking shows in my tiny town in Iowa. So like, anyone who came through, it didn’t matter. When you’re that age, you’re in this fragile state of mind where you’re like, really open to everything, and it’s beautiful.
Being able to come full circle where I’m an adult now and I see why that worked so well… and I can look back and I can see why it was so accessible and why it was easy for me to get into the music—especially getting into hardcore, because, you know, the opportunity was there.
I definitely think mixed bills are becoming more of a thing, but at the same time, you do see bands who counteract that. With every give, there will be a take. There will be some more bands reaching out, doing different tours. Like, Cruel Hand does the Real Friends tour; Backtrack is on the Ghost Inside, Every Time I Die tour. You see all the kinds of bands that are doing that, but at the same time, you’ll see bands that will see that and they want to make it “strictly” hardcore tours. And that’s cool, you know, and that’s their thing—as long as there is a mutual respect. But for us, playing with all kinds of bands is where it’s at.
Do I think it’s coming back? Sure, maybe—I don’t think it ever went away. It just goes in waves like anything. You know, like, how a town’s scene where shows can bring out 500 kids and then a year later, there can be 100 kids. Everything goes in waves. And I think right now, hardcore is in a really, really cool place where there’s more accepting of mixing up genres because maybe for a minute, some scenes were on the low, and when it’s low, you need young faces… you know, a new crop basically to come in and get excited about things. And if that means my band doing mixed-bill tours, so be it, I’m cool with it.
On one final note, what are some plans you have lined up for 2015? You guys seem to have an extremely dedicated tour ethic with being out on the road nonstop. Is this a characteristic that you’d like to keep going for the new year?
February, we’re going to do a little overseas stuff and we have Fest here in the States that we’re playing that we’ve been waiting on to announce for a little bit. Then in March, we’re hitting the West Coast because the Four Year Strong tour is only East Coast and a little bit of the Midwest, so we’ll be doing some West Coast touring and a little more extensively some Midwest touring still yet to come in the spring.
It’s just kind of nonstop, man. We’ll be heading back to Canada after that and then we’ll be in Europe this summer—we got a really cool thing worked out for that. It’s hard to get into full detail, but vaguely, we got our stuff figured out basically up until like, October right now, so it’s going to be cool. It’s going to be the same as usual—it just doesn’t really stop.
Expire will be playing at Irving Plaza in Manhattan on Jan. 22 and at Union Transfer in Philadelphia on Jan. 23. Pretty Low is out now on Bridge Nine Records. For more information, go to expirehc.com.