Forming over 10 years ago in Kingston, PA, Title Fight has become a notable act in the post-punk scene, producing an impressive discography of EPs and splits before releasing their first studio album, Shed, in 2011. In February, the group released their third LP, Hyperview, on new label Anti- Records, making a departure from their hardcore roots and therefore marking a new era for the band.
Below, vocalist and bassist Ned Russin talks about the new album, handling criticism from fans, and the essential need to grow as artists.
The new album, Hyperview, just came out last month. Why choose that name as the title?
It was kind of a conceptual afterthought to set up the whole record. We were trying to do something that we had never done before, musically and aesthetically, so it felt only fitting that we had a title that also tried to achieve the same goals. I was toying around with the idea and trying to come up with a term that would explain what we felt the record was about, and “hyperview” was something that we were able to attach a definition to that I think was able to define the record, the sound, and the ideas behind all of the songs.
For Hyperview, the band worked with Will Yip, who had previously produced 2012’s Floral Green. How was working with him again?
It was great. Will is just a great guy and a really great friend of ours, and beyond that he is a really talented engineer, producer, and mixer; and all of those things together made it a really simple, smooth, and easy process for us. He understands our band, and he gets what we’re trying to achieve as well as what we’re not trying to achieve, which is just as important. He just does right by us and that’s why we keep coming back to him, because it’s like working with somebody who truly understands your aspirations and is able to achieve them.
This your first release off Anti- Records. Why choose to sign with them?
We had been free of a contract so we were talking to labels and pursuing some things when Anti- came along and it just clicked. It’s really as simple as that. We met with them, we agreed with them, we enjoyed what they had to say—and they have a really strong work ethic. So it just felt right, as well as a good fit sonically with their roster, though I would say we stick out a little bit. The bands on their label are very eclectic and interesting, and more so interested in doing their own thing, which is important for us. Plus, working with them has been really great. They’re all the things that they portrayed themselves as. Working with a label is a confusing thing, because every single one is different. Every single person on every single team is different, and they all bring different things to the table. When you have the right group of people it just works. We’ve seen both sides of the story and it’s great to be back on the good side of the fence again.
How has Title Fight grown with this album?
We put in a lot of work, especially with the recording process. We were able to get a big chunk of studio time, which for us was a big deal because the most we’ve ever spent in a studio before was like two or three weeks, which still is a lot for us, you know? The first couple times we recorded, we recorded for a day. And the longest time we had after that was like nine days and we did a whole album in that time. So we were kind of used to the idea of getting into the studio, having all these songs prepared, recording as fast as we possibly could and getting it out. But this time we were able to sit down and evaluate every single part, every single fill, every single drum hit to the point of figuring out how we wanted to present it. I think all of that paid off and made it so we were able to focus on our songs in a way we had never been able to before.
I think the only thing we ever really set out to accomplish was to write a record that represents the band at this current stage in our lives as well as doing something that we feel good about. That’s really all we ever try to do. There’s never like a specific goal; there’s never a thing we are trying to achieve other than just being true to ourselves creatively. I’d like to think we achieved that, and in my mind we did, but how other people view it and how other people receive it is completely their own thing. I’m happy to give people that power, but in my mind I think we did what we set out to achieve.
How do you handle fans who criticize the “new sound,” or those who want you to return to your more furious punk roots?
It’s a really conflicting thing, and at times it does hurt a little bit because the success and the failure of anything relies on its reception from an audience. Not that we do this to be received well by an audience by any means—it’s a form of personal expression for myself and for the other guys in the band—but if people were to not like it then that means we would not have the opportunities that we have now anymore and we would have to stop playing in a band as much as we do and go home and get a real job instead. So there’s that kind of pressure, and it’s very, very tough to deal with because you know that you have to perform to a certain level and at the same time you have to remain true to yourself. That’s always kind of a balancing act that I feel like every artist has to endure.
When we got in the studio, we had a couple batches of songs, and we went with the batch that we felt represented ourselves the best and the ones that we were most excited about. What’s most important to me specifically is doing something that you can truly get behind, because I think too often music is treated as a commodity rather than as a form of expression, and I think it’s important to get back to the idea of treating music as such. Taking risks, sure, it can lead to terrible, awful things (laughs). It could lead to bands breaking up and bands not being cared about, but it’s important to take those risks and try those things, otherwise everything stays in the same track and gets stale pretty quickly. That’s not really creative, that’s just kind of perpetuating the same style and idea you’ve tried time and time again.
Hyperview has very distinct album artwork which the band turned into a mural in Wilkes-Barre. Where did this idea come from?
Shane Moran, our guitar player, came up with the initial idea and it was just another means of trying something different. We had the same artist, John Slaby, do all of our album art since 2009. We always kind of used the same style of painting, which was always cool. I liked our past album art because he’s a great artist and he has a really unique, cool style, but when we were going in knowing our record was going to be such a departure, we figured that we might as well try something different aesthetically as well. So Shane thought of doing a mural and the idea of doing a simple, geometric shape came up. We met with John, and he would just come down to the studio every so often with a sketchbook and show us what he was working on. Then we set out to talk to city officials. We actually got the mural done at the last possible minute, which was really cool too, because it was hard to get people to sign on to the idea for some reason. We got it done the weekend before the art was due, and it was really a tough process to get everything together and to get these ideas out, but I think it created a new aspect for the record that really blends well with the whole album.
You come from a musical family, as your brother Alex is heavily involved in hardcore and Ben is the drummer of Title Fight. What were your first experiences with music? Do you feel they still influence you today?
I definitely feel like my early experience with music still affects me today. When I think about the musical stuff of my childhood that is still important to me now, it’s when my parents would have parties and there would be a record on. I think a huge part of my musical development were those parties and just listening to records. One I always remember hearing was The Beatles’ greatest hits. My parents weren’t too big on current music, but they did like The Beatles, and that completely set up the way that I thought about music and the way that I would later try to write music. They were a band that I wrote off because I thought they were lame because my parents liked them, but when I revisited them however many years later as an adult, I realized how much of my own writing and tastes were influenced by early Beatles’ stuff.
Title Fight will be performing at Union Transfer in Philadelphia on March 26 and Webster Hall in New York City on March 27 as part of co-headlining tour with La Dispute and The Hotelier. Hyperview is available now through Anti- Records. For more information, go to titlefight.tumblr.com.