‘This entire album is based on The Outsiders. It’s a book that was written by a teenager (S.E. Hinton) in 1967 and has been a classic in American schools since the ’70s, and then there was a movie in 1983 with lots of young stars (Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, etc.) that has become a standard for many people as well.’, explains Mike Patton to a Dutch guy, who saw the film a long time ago and now wants to read the book but who especially enjoys listening to Vista Blue’s Stay Gold.
Friday Night has a lovely doo wop part. I can imagine that it is quite complicated to fit that into a song?
Those doo wop lines are lifted straight from “We Go Together” in Grease! I liked the idea of including a tribute to Grease on an album full of songs about greasers, and I thought it fit best in this song about going to the drive-in. In “We Go Together,” of course, they’re singing a bunch of different lines separately, but I thought it would be fun to combine some all at once, sort of showing characters each having their own lines.
We Turn In Up is big and solid. Is it easy to summon that energy that seems necessary to me to create such a drive?
A lot of what I do these days is try to write from someone else’s point of view. On this album, it’s mostly the greasers. The greasers are kind of rowdy, and in the book, it explains how Darry taught the boys gymnastics, so they’ll do back flips and stuff (which we barely get to see in the movie). But I just wanted a song to show the greasers being able to get a little wild, and I thought that if they were around today, they’d probably listen to music that’s a little louder than Vista Blue.
In the book, Ponyboy says that they love Elvis. Early on I thought an amped up song about liking Elvis would be funny. So I had the idea for this song pretty quickly, but I didn’t know if I was going to actually use it. I had probably 25 song ideas that I liked, and I was cutting that down to 10.
But then I realized this one could be a lot of fun if we had our drummer Reese sing it. He has a great voice, and I love to get him involved when I can. Once we got Reese’s vocals, we had our friend Chris record the lead guitars. They both knocked it out of the park. I love this track now.
Greasers or Socs?
I don’t think this answer is so black or white, which is really the whole point of the book/movie. I think going in, we’re supposed to pick a side, but we quickly learn that “things are rough all over.”
I think it’s pretty clear that a band like ours, our scene, our shows, will all cater to greasers and their lifestyle more than Socs. But have we seen “Socs” at DIY punk shows? Sure.
And when Ponyboy says the greasers like Elvis, he also points out that the Socs like the Beatles. So if you take a band like Vista Blue, we’re sort of influenced from both directions (maybe not so much Elvis in particular, but definitely some of the music the greasers would’ve liked). And the Beatles themselves were partially inspired by Elvis, right?
So the easy answer might be greasers, and I tried to make this whole album represent their side. In this story, things might be rough all over, but it’s definitely rougher for the greasers. I tried not to show any sympathy for the Socs. The song “So Tuff” does show the greasers admitting that the Socs’ cars are really cool. But that’s all we give them here.
Maybe one day we’ll do a set of songs from the Socs’ point of view. Ha!
You release a lot of music, how do you keep the standard so high?
I just try to constantly create. In addition to the music, I also have three podcasts and do two zines. One day I’ll stop, but until I do, I just want to do as much as I can do. I don’t want to look back someday and wish I’d done more, you know? And I’m really lucky to have a great family and some awesome friends who support me through all for this.
As for the standard, I guess that’s really up to the audience. I personally just try to only release songs that I would want to listen to myself. I’m constantly recording demos and ideas, and then when I sit down to start a new project, I grab the ideas that I like the best. As I said, for Stay Gold, I had probably 25 ideas. I narrowed it down to the 10 that I liked the best, and I worked on getting the lyrics and arrangements “right” for those.
This process involves a lot of re-writing sometimes. For example, “Paul Newman and a Ride Home” was completely re-written. I love the original version I wrote, but it didn’t feel like a good opener, which I wanted this song to be. So I wrote a song that I liked as an opener and just shifted the lyrics over to the new version. But later I’ll probably recycle that original version for something else. Similarly, “Cherry” had three versions!
Again, I just try to get the song to a place where I would listen to it myself if another band had written/recorded it.
Are pop culture and sports still the main sources of inspiration?
Yeah, that’s what I’m doing now. My life is all about things like baseball, horror movies, Christmas movies, etc. So it’s so easy for me to write about that stuff. I can’t sit here at my age in 2022 and write some random song about a boy and a girl. I mean, I could, I guess, but it wouldn’t come easily. On the other hand, I can definitely use characters from a movie or TV show that I like as inspiration and write a song about them.
Ultimately, the songs I write are just things that appeal to me and maybe some friends. It’s stuff that I think is fun, and I think some of my friends might think it’s fun too. Then if anyone else listens to it and digs it, that’s really cool too. But I don’t ever really think about writing songs for other people.
We have an EP that we’re going to record (as soon as we can get to it) with songs about little league sports, and Mark wrote a really fun soccer song for it, which is something I could never do.
But yeah, we’ll keep writing songs about sports, movies, books, and stuff like that. I currently have zero interest in doing it any other way.