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Interview: Alien Ant Farm talk new album, Big Night Out tour

Alien Ant Farm has been on the scene for over ten years and isn’t slowing down yet.

Alien Ant Farm played a show at The Paramount in Huntington, NY on July 11, 2013 as part of the Big Night Out Tour.
Elise Yablon
Alien Ant Farm singer Dryden Mitchell on the Big Night Out tour at The Paramount in Huntington, NY on July 11, 2013.
Elise Yablon

Best known for their singles “Movies” and “Smooth Criminal,” Alien Ant Farm has released four albums to date, ‘Greatest Hits’ (1999), ‘Anthology’ (2001), ‘Truant’ (2003), and ‘Up in the Attic’ (2006). Earlier this year, the band set up a Pledge Music fund for their fifth studio album, ‘Always and Forever,’ which is up for pre-order on the site, and will be released within the next few months.

The band is currently on the Big Night Out tour with Hoobastank and Fuel.

I had the chance to speak with Alien Ant Farm lead singer Dryden Mitchell and guitarist Terry Corso during their tour stop on July 11 at The Paramount in Huntington, NY to discuss the tour, ‘Always and Forever,’ “Smooth Criminal,” and never giving up.

How is the tour going so far?

Dryden: This is probably only the fifth show, so… It’s good; we get along with the other bands. I mean, we kind of know each other from past festivals and…I think we took Hoobastank out, like, years ago in, like, 2001 maybe or something like that. We casual banter, everyone’s not extremely good buddies, but… It’s been good so far, yeah.

All of you guys are really from the late 90s/early 00s… There are a lot of tours like… 90s band tours lately…

Dryden: I haven’t been to any but… we’re actually…

Terry: I guess we’re technically a late 90s band…

Dryden: We got signed in 2000, but I guess we can call that 1999 plus one.

Terry: As far as the tours are concerned, I think that they’re kind of a…

Why do you think they are so popular?

Terry: Well, because back in those days, those are the days when record labels kind of had… There wasn’t all this internet impact the way things are now. Record labels actually had real marketing money behind bands and got them to where they were in everybody’s faces for so long and they reached such large amounts of fanbase that have stuck with them through the years. So now there’s good money in going around again and kind of playing for those people that you snatched up ten years ago or whatever, people that fell in love to your ballads or played high school football to, or heavy music.

You guys are recording or have recorded a new album…

Dryden: We have little bits to finish, but yeah. It’ll be out in probably about two months or so.

Is there anything you can tell me about the album? Or…

Dryden: I’m just as excited to hear it myself. I don’t even really remember what’s on it.

Terry: It’s been a process, so. It’s going to be like pushing out a really big baby, you know. There’s going to be a lot of relief involved in the outcome. We’ve gone outside of our box on the writing and stuff, which was a really cool and fun experience. Learning and… wrote some songs that are kind of… still Ant Farm but kind of new twists. We’ve always kind of been all over genres, so…We’re trying to keep that up, but it’s just kind of new genres these days.

Dryden: I heard s*** comes out sometimes when you push too hard for a baby. I’m having a baby in two months. I’m excited to see if my girl s***s when she’s pushing.

Terry: I think it’s probably going to happen. I mean…

Dryden: …crappin’…

Terry: Yeah… And depending on diet and scheduling…

Congratulations by the way then…

Dryden: Thank you.

You (Terry) were saying how you were writing/recorded some different stuff than you have in the past. How have your influences changed over the years?

Terry: We’ve always had wide influences. I think individually everyone goes in their own directions and their own parameters, you know, like, set their own parameters and it’s pretty vast.

Dryden: I think… I don’t know that our influences have changed so much, like… Just like anyone else you kind of fall in love with music around puberty, you know, when your just changing, you find those bands and they stay with you forever. Obviously it grows and you hear like… I was never into hip-hop and then I start hearing Kid Cudi’s spin on stuff and I’m like “wow, this could be so much more than what I thought it could be, you know…

Terry: It augments as you discover and, you know, you get older and you kind of just build upon the foundation that you created when you were young, you know. But always keep in touch with that stuff.

I heard that Pinkerton song last night, from Weezer, and it just made me want to go and listen to the whole record.

Dryden: …And I don’t know how, like, consciously anything like, you use an influence. Kind of maybe just seeps in a little bit, but when I’m writing a riff, I’m just trying to like, write the best rhyme I can and just fumble around on the guitar until it sounds good. I don’t know that I’m specifically trying to sequester any specific influence to write a specific song.

Terry: Writing this record, we did co-writes for the first time too, which is… and most of the people that we wrote with were all urban or hip-hop or R&B. We wanted to not write with rock producers too much, you know. We did, but it was cool to get really outside of our box and kind of just like, be in a writing relationship with someone who needs you for what you got and has what you need.

Dryden: **starts singing “Just A Friend”**

Terry: That would have been cool to write a song with Biz Markie.

Are there any new artists you’ve been into lately?

Dryden: Any new artists… I know Tye has been going to some shows like Lame Impala…Am I right?

Tye (standing at the bus entrance): Tame Impala

Terry: I like “lame” better…

Tye: Everything Everything

Terry: I really like Off!, but they’re kind of old new.

Dryden: What’s new? I’m so out of the loop. You’re right, I am a 90s band.

My sister, who is sitting in the background: You’re not missing much

Dryden: That’s probably… you could probably answer the question as to why a lot of these bands are circling around again, you know. She just kind of said it. You aren’t missing much. But, I think every era, if you dig deep enough, you’re going to find the rad stuff, you know. “The 80s were lame,” then you’re like “no they weren’t. It was like Hall & Oates, the Police, and Blondie,” you know.

Terry: I like New York’s Cerebral Ballzy, one of my favorite new punk rock bands. Trash Talk, I like Trash Talk a lot.

Your biggest single was probably “Smooth Criminal.” Were you surprised when you’re cover of that song hit it so big?

Dryden: I don’t know if I was surprised, not saying it in a bragging way, but I knew that the song was going to be big. I was a little surprised as to how big it was. But yeah, we didn’t know how… We had a single, “Movies,” that was doing quite well and then “Smooth Criminal,” the label chose to just throw it out there. I think we were a little surprised at that. We didn’t really want it to… We knew we wanted to release it, but not as soon as they released it. So, as far as being surprised that it was a big song, and not in like, again, to reiterate, not in any bragging way, but I wasn’t really surprised when I kind of knew that that song was gonna… Just from playing it live and seeing crowd’s reactions hearing it for the first time, I was like “when this goes on the radio it’s gonna be kind of cool,” you know.

Do you have any advice for bands that are just starting out?

Dryden: No.

Terry: It’s like, you don’t want to …

Dryden: I’ve got tons of stuff to say…

Terry: It’s like a loaded question because you don’t want to be blunt and brutal and discourage too much, but you want to be encouraging.

Dryden: I like what my dad always says. My dad always says “if you knew how hard something was, you probably wouldn’t have started in the first place,” which is kind of like the beauty of being young and naïve is you’re like “I can do whatever.” It seems harder now though, at least to make a living on it. When we got our record deal, it was the last of those “career opportunities” in a way, I guess. You know what I mean? And as far as young bands, I mean… I don’t know, we really… We ventured out of our own hometown, which I think was very important. Even though we had normal day jobs at that time, we could pick our spots and not just play your local… Like, how many times are your friends and family going to come see your band play, you know. After about three or four times they’re over it. So it’s like, you can saturate your own hometown and then it’s just kind of pointless. So, we made it a point to only visit our hometown as much as we go to Arizona, you know. It’s like every three-four months we play our hometown rather than every week. And that’s all I can really offer.

Terry: It’s an interesting landscape for new, young bands these days as the very thing that’s a blessing is also the undoing. It’s the day where you can manage a whole tour from the shotgun seat of a van from an iPhone, and think of the money that can be saved there, but at the same time there’s a way less success rate for bands that get picked up by a label nowadays and again, there’s not the marketing that there used to be behind it and it’s just all internet now, and so it’s tough. You either give up or you don’t, but, you know… We kinda never gave up and that’s how we got anything accomplished, just never giving up. I mean, there were the times when we were living on the Sunset Strip practically every day doing showcases for label after label that didn’t want us, but we just couldn’t give up.

‘Always and Forever’ is available for pre-order on Alien Ant Farm’s Pledge Music page. For more information about the band and to see where they will be playing next, visit the band’s website.

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