It all started in 1999 when guitarist Matt Watts found vocalist/bassist Kenny Vasoli in an AOL chat room and asked him if he was interested in “jamming and shit.” A few weeks later, Vasoli found himself rehearsing with future bandmates, Watts, guitarist Mike Golla, and drummer Tom Gryskewicz. In 2005, the guys brought in Vasoli’s friend, Brian Schmutz, as a keyboardist to add something to their live performances. After almost a decade of success in the punk music scene, the band released a statement in March 2008 telling their fans about the hiatus they planned to take in order to focus on some other projects.
While still performing together here and there, the group did not release another studio project until this past February, when their EP Anyways came out. This was highly anticipated amongst their dedicated fan base, who hadn’t gotten any new music from The Starting Line in nine years!
I had the opportunity to speak with Matt about the new EP, how the band got started, and their holiday show at the Starland Ballroom this upcoming December.
You released your latest EP, Anyways, earlier this year. What kind of feedback have you been getting being that it’s the first new stuff you guys have released together in a while?
Feedback has been great! I mean, I feel like the feedback we’ve been getting, people feel like it’s an evolution from Direction to this record, sort of a natural progression. We’re just happy to have released new music!
Anyways was only released on vinyl and through digital media outlets. What made you guys want to release it that way?
We just thought it would be cool to release it as a 7” and that was always the intent for it, just 7” and digital. We feel like the means of music consumption in terms of CDs nowadays is minimal at best, so we thought for diehard fans it would be cool to have a nice simple piece. Then for people who like to download music, they could do that as well.
What made you guys choose now to release new music? It’s been around eight years since you’ve released something new.
It’s been a minute for sure! You know, everyone’s at different places in life. Kenny has Vacationer and he put out a couple of Vacationer records and has been touring with them. All of us have different, either creative ventures or professional ventures or families. We come together a couple of times a year to play a few shows and normally around the holidays we’ll spend a little more time together.
It just felt like a good time for all of us to start making music again and it just felt really natural to be in our rehearsal space and I think we all sort of got the itch for it. I think we’re fortunate enough that we’ve been one of those bands where we do things at our own pace and do things on our own time and when things feel right, and this just felt right.
That actually ties into my next question. I know that you guys all have other projects and bands that you’re a part of. What makes you keep coming back to The Starting Line?
I think it’s one of those things where it’s like your first love. We got really lucky early on and were able to create music and tour and see the world. It’s such an important part of all of our lives that we look back incredibly fondly over. I think we share that with our fans and people that like the band as well. For us, it’s a real honor to get back and do it. It brings us back to those times where everything was super exciting.
Since Anyways was released earlier this year, you guys have played a few shows, but everything is pretty spread out. Is there any specific reason you did this as opposed to a full-blown tour?
Like I said, we’re all at different places in life. I don’t think we would be able to commit to a full-on Starting Line tour in the traditional sense. For the 10-year anniversary, we toured the U.S. in the span of four different weekends, three shows every weekend and it covered, sort of, all your major markets I guess. I think if we were to ever tour again we would do something similar.
In regards to getting time off from work and everyone having jobs and families and other projects, it’s just not feasible to take weeks off and hit the road again. So, I think we would be open to doing it in a nontraditional sense.
So you guys basically got started when you found Kenny through an AOL chatroom in 1999?
Yeah, I did! It sounds so much creepier than it actually was.
Do you think something like that would still work out today?
Yeah. I mean, I think there are different mediums. I think it was the advent of social networking and people connecting through that medium. So yeah, I think people find friends and relationships and musical collaborators through those means all the time, whether it’s Facebook or others.
You guys have been a band for around 17 years now. How would you say your music has evolved, from your taste in music to what you play?
I didn’t realize it’s been that long! I think it’s been a natural progression. Our core influences still remain the same. I think when you’re a teenager getting into certain types of music, especially in the punk scene, that music stays with you forever and teaches you a lot of ethics and ideals and helps to shape who you are as a person. I think all of us love music discovery, especially Kenny.
I think we’re fortunate enough that Kenny has had success with Vacationer and kept his writing chops and his creativity on point. That’s definitely helped The Starting Line tremendously. That kid is like a sponge, anything he hears helps him to grow as a writer and as a person. So, I think, that’s been a big part of it and just helped us stay true to who we are.
You played at the Starland Ballroom for a holiday show last year as well, what made you guys decide to do it again?
That’s actually one of our favorite venues in the country. When we first started playing, there was just a tremendous amount of love for the band early on in New Jersey. So we would play elk lodges, moose lodges, Club Chrome, and I think there’s just a core base for our fans in that area. The staff at Starland has been nothing but supportive to us, it’s sort of like a second home. Anytime we have an opportunity to play there, we love to do it.
If you could choose one show that you guys have played over the years, which is most memorable and why?
I mean, I would have to say the last Skate And Surf Festival before we went on hiatus was just a crazy experience for all of us. It was sort of some bookend things, so to speak, even though it wasn’t the final bookend, but at the time, we all thought it was. It was in Asbury Park with so many people there, so many great bands and a lot of friends. It was just unreal watching that amount of people in the audience. Looking back on how far we’ve come as a band, it was a bittersweet moment that I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life.
You can catch The Starting Line at the Third Annual Holiday Spectacular, featuring Taking Back Sunday, at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on Dec. 16, and also at Union Transfer in Philadelphia on Dec. 17. Their newest EP, Anyways, is available through Downtown Records. For more information on the band, check out startinglinerock.com.