Interview with: Jesse Vadala of With The Punches

Interview by: Samantha Purcell-Musgrave

The competitive music scene of the northeast has posed no threat to Newburgh, NY pop-punkers With The Punches. Jesse Vadala (Vocals), Dustin Wallace (Guitar), Shane Maziekien (Drums), Vinny Guzzardi (Guitar), and Mike Corvasce (Bass/Vocals), have made an impression on their ever-growing fan base and don’t plan on stopping their reign anytime soon. Our staff member, Samantha Purcell-Musgrave, caught up with Jesse to discuss WTP’s upcoming album, tour plans, and how they have a “Doctor” in the band.

Samantha Purcell-Musgrave: Hey! So, with whom am I speaking to and what do you do in the band?

Jesse Vadala: My name is Jesse and I sing in With The Punches.

SPM: So, how are you? You have to be pretty excited with your signing to Doghouse Records this past year and recording With The Punches’ first full-length album!

JV: Completely excited!

SPM: Now, this summer, specifically July 3, WTP will be releasing said full-length, Seams and Stitches. Did you guys have any expectations going in to record a full-length versus your experience with recording the past two EPs?

JV: It was definitely a first, in the sense that, it is a bigger project for us to do all at once. I mean, the idea behind a full-length is an opportunity to write all the songs that we kind of wish we could have in other attempts; other EPs. I’m sure if the right amount of time and money, and everything that goes into writing, was available we would have done it then, but the EPs kind of helped us learn how to write songs. The full-length was kind of an opportunity for us to not have as many limitations and just write the songs that we wanted to write. I am very pleased with the results and I think everyone [else] is going to be too. It definitely shows the sign of the time and space that we had to write it.

SPM: Was it any different recording the full-length under a record label than when you guys recorded the EPs independently?

JV: I would say that the way our situation with the label works does not make it that much different than an independent release, because they don’t get involved in the creative process, which is what I think some people’s misconception might be that when you work for a label that they have more say about what you write or what you plan to do with your album. Thankfully, Doghouse, and quite a few of the labels out there, look at it as more of an opportunity for them to put their stamp on something they enjoy. They seem to enjoy what we do. I’m glad for that. They like our music. They gave us this opportunity to go and record where we wanted with an engineer that we really liked. We got to take our time making the record. I think the album is definitely representative of the fact that we had some time and the freedom to actually write what we want.

SPM: Well, that’s nice that you guys have artistic freedom. [laughs]

JV: Yes, definitely! That is the biggest deal for most folks who are signing with labels. It is making sure you retain that and we are very lucky to have that for sure.

SPM: I am glad that you guys are succeeding. I was on WTP’s website and I saw that you have a real strong foundation with your fans. One connection that you guys have with the fans is through the band’s lyrics. I also found that the all of the band members have some type of lyric tattooed on them. My question is, who is the main songwriter in the band?

JV: As far as songwriting goes, the one really cool thing about this band is that I wouldn’t give anyone in particular an excessive amount of particular credit for writing. All five of us write parts for each song. More often than not, it starts with a riff idea guitar-wise or a feel of a song that we had maybe wanted to write at some point. That usually comes from Vin, Dustin, or Shane. With this record it kind of stretched out with the possibility of us writing songs based around some lyric ideas and then just some general direction. It’s definitely an equal sharing process as far as writing. Lyrically, Dustin and myself do probably 99% of that. I definitely like to have the back of the other guys in the band as far as what they like and what they don’t like. They kind of just run with what I think my ideals for the song will be and I use the guys at the soundboard to try to make sure that we’re writing songs that they are into. Then, Dustin kind of helps me finalize. He is really great at making sure that I have everything in a sensible, legible way as far as lyrics are concerned. Then, I go in and sing them. On this record, Vin, our new guitar player, sings quite a bit of the harmonies on the record. So, it is really neat to have another voice on it. It should be interesting.

SPM: Well, you guys have definitely found a way to take words and emotion and put it into music. WTP really created a form of therapy for all of your fans. I applaud you on that one. 

JV: Well, I appreciate it! That means a lot, actually. It is not something a lot of people can say in life, or in music, that something that you care about, something you said or expressed, whether it be written, verbal, or otherwise. It’s not very often that you get people who address to it that are as seriously and passionate about it like some our friends and fans we met are.

SPM: I know that three singles have been released off of Seams and Stitches. One in January, “Harvard on the Hudson,” in February, “I Told You Already,” and this month, “Don’t Panic.” What is the reception like for those releases?

JV: It is interesting how the songs came about. “Harvard” and “I Told You Already” were two songs that we had written after our last tour without any real direction for them. It was just “This is the band we are. We’re home, we want to write songs, and we know we’re going to make a full-length. So, let’s see how these come out.” Those were the first two songs we wrote and we spent time on each one individually not looking at it like a record, but just looking at as a song. So, we put the effort into both of those and it made two dynamically very different songs. As far as what was going to happen, we knew that we were recording them so that the label and other folks could hear what the new sound was like, but we didn’t know for sure if we were going to release them, or release them as singles per se. It really wasn’t a calculated thing where we were like “These songs are the first two songs that we want people to hear on the record,” but I would say in retrospect I am glad it went down that way.

SPM: So, kind of steering away from the music, in a sense. I know that WTP formed, in Newburgh, NY, but from what I can see is that you and Dustin aren’t from NY.

JV: Dustin and I are both from Newburgh. Dustin and myself graduated from high school here. As far as the rest of the guys in the band all [of them] are from different parts of New York and New Jersey. As far as the origin, basically after high school, about a year after I went to college, which would explain “Harvard on the Hudson,” I decided I was done living around here and kind of wanted to go somewhere and get a fresh start. Dustin and I played music together at the time. So, we both packed up and moved to Austin, Texas. We lived there for almost four years. Before that time I never sang in a band. I only played drums and when I was in Texas living in an apartment with Dustin I was adamant about it everyday. I was like “I’m done playing drums in bands where I don’t get a say as far as writing or anything like that. I want to sing my own songs. I think I can do it. I can find a way.” So, Dustin helped me get an audition with a band to sing and I got it. I sang in that band for about two years and by the time I was done, Dustin and I had been talking about what the next thing would be. So, With The Punches was kind of an idea before we were even in New York. Then, once we got back home, we made it a reality. We sat in a basement and wrote Burned at Both Ends and we had a band.

SPM: Determination will never stop anybody. [laughs] If that is what you want go for it! Now, Newburgh is just outside of New Jersey, about an hour or so. Did you find that the New York and New Jersey scene was more beneficial to the startup of WTP then it would have been in Austin?

JV: Definitely different scenes. Austin is very eclectic in the sense that there is a lot going on there independently within music. So, you can play anything style wise or genre wise. There are no limits in Texas, which is great. As for a home for people to play, Austin is great too. New York, the main reason for coming back and putting it all together is that I had a home base here and I was familiar with how the scene worked around here. I have seen bands come up from around here that were big. Well, big in my mind anyway. I would grow up and go see shows and stuff.  Stuff that happened around here was bands that became huge to me. Autopilot Off was a band called Cooter a long time ago. I don’t know if I should really say that because the bass player of that band is actually my boss. [laughs] Matchbook Romance is a pretty big band and they are from around here. Just Surrender is another pretty big band that all grew up five to ten minutes away from me. So, the scene around here had its own thing. The town of Poughkeepsie, which is really close to here, has our main home venue. So, we play here a lot. I would say that I know the lay of the land in New York versus Texas, which is an open free market, but can be a little bit oversaturated from time to time. New York is definitely a good base for this band. The Northeast is where this band belongs as far as a home base and I am happy that we do it all here.

SPM: A lot of bands that come out of the Northeast seem to be like a family. When I moved down to Florida it wasn’t as common to see.

JV: That happens a lot. Different scenes are different ways.

SPM: Last summer, WTP went on the Beyond the Blue Tour 2011. Then, this summer you guys will be returning to Japan on the Beyond the Blue Tour 2012. I was going through the band’s blog and was almost in tears from Dustin’s posts from laughing so hard. If he ever needs a side job, I vote for author. [laughs] Are you looking forward to touring with your buddies Mayday Parade again?

JV: Absolutely! Nothing against any of the other bands because they are new friends of ours and I have known William Beckett for a little bit. Other than that, we are pretty stoked to meet all of the other bands. Mayday we’re friends with and we did the tour with them last year. They were outstanding dudes. So, I mean, not only are they great musically, but it is nice to tour with guys that are so down to earth. Even though they are at a more successful point than a lot of bands, they don’t really act like it or give that appearance. They’re regular, regular dudes and it is really awesome.

SPM: What are you personally looking forward to the most when you go back to Japan?

JV: Sushi! I’m going to eat so much sushi! When we went last time I was notorious on the tour for trying to eat Japanese food everywhere we went. Even when folks were like “Give me a hamburger. I’m tired of weird food.” I was all about it and still trying to eat weird food everywhere I could go. I want to see all the sights. I want to go to temples and do all the stuff that we did last time. So, I would say sushi, temple, and friends. All those things I’m looking forward to in Japan.

SPM: My last question, before I let you take the floor, is something I found on Dustin’s Twitter biography. It says “Depending on who you ask I’m sort of a doctor.” He has also stated on the band’s blog that he works as a therapist at a psychiatric hospital with autistic children. Can you shed some light on that?

JV: [laughs] Dustin is incredibly talented in a lot of different aspects. He has been able to talk himself into maybe more illustrious career positions than you might think he should. So, that is how that happened. This being the second time of his impromptu “Doctorship,” I would say. I couldn’t be happier that he gets to work in a field that he loves. That is a rare thing to find and it is great to take care of a group of special needs that are often looked over. It is cool. Dustin is 110% a doctor. I would say as far as the drive and ability to help, he is that guy.

SPM: The floor is all yours!

JV: I am so thankful for the opportunity to make music with my friends, as simple as that is. This new album Seams and Stitches comes out July 3 and May 22 the pre-order comes up. I am really proud of the fact that this album is what it was intended to be. The title Seams and Stitches is about the realism that shows up in life whether you want it to or not. I made the analogy when I was coming up with the title for the record. The seams and the stitches of a $500 cashmere sweater are still not necessarily something that is visually attractive. So, the finest of garments, in the most beautiful pieces of construction and architecture are all held together by things that are not necessarily beautiful. Life is very much that way. This record is a timepiece, where we were and what we were going through lyrically, for myself. There are a lot of songs about accepting and trying to find ways to stay real and not overinflated with positivity as I may have lead myself to in the past. I hope it comes across as genuine and as real as it is for the five of us. With that in mind, I really hope friends enjoy this record as something to kind of share and grow with us. We’re all really proud of it. I want to take a minute to thank everybody who checks it out.

Check out With The Punches on tour this summer and look for “Seams & Stitches” on July 3, 2012!

Summer 2012 Tour Dates: 
07/13 – Poughkeepsie, NY @ The Loft
07/14 – Waterbury, CT @ Freight Street Gallery
07/15 – Stanhope, NJ @ Stanhope Hotel
07/17 – Pittsburgh, PA @ The Smiling Moose
07/18 – Columbus, OH @ TBD
07/19 – Lansing, MI @ Mac’s Bar
07/20 – Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
07/21 – Indianapolis, IN @ THMV
07/22 – Chicago, IL @ Mojoes
07/24 – St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
07/25 – Springfield, MO @ Rat Bastard Garage
07/26 – Tulsa, OK @ The Conservatory
07/27 – Southlake, TX @ Starwood Studios
07/28 – Austin, TX @ The Gypsy Lounge
07/29 – San Antonio, TX @ The Ten Eleven
07/30 – Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
08/01 – Decatur, AL @ Coffee & Playhouse
08/03 – Nashville, TN @ Rocketown
08/04 – Knoxville, TN @ Long Branch Saloon
08/05 – Richmond, VA @ Kingdom
08/07 – Mt. Airy, MD @ Mt. Airy Firehall
08/08 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Barbery
08/09 – Sicklerville, NJ @ Jumpzone
08/10 – Garden City, NY @ Ethical Humanist Society
08/11 – Albany, NY @ Bogies

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