We sat down for a chat with A Wilhelm Scream’s Trevor Reilly (guitar/vocals) before their headline show in Nottingham. We spoke about their roots in New Bedford, the ten year anniversary of their classic album Ruiner and their plans for their next record.
How’s this tour going so far?
Oh, it’s going awesome so far. My voice is a little scratchy right now, but I think that’s a good sign. Having tons of fun, it’s really cool. It’s rad to be playing the UK, like just the UK on a tour. It’s interesting. It’s a bit different, a different vibe than doing the full five-week European tour. It’s really cool.
Do you think it is much different to playing Europe?
Well the people are just as rad everywhere and stuff. Yeah, it’s just the history. Seeing the history and the culture and all that. It’s sister-city sorta style to where we come from in New England in the States. The history and architecture and all that, it all feels very familiar. We get along with everyone great, so it’s rad.
How was Hevy yesterday?
It was sick. Yeah Hevy was rad. Hevy was heavy. Yeah it was great, the turnout was awesome, the tent was full. We didn’t really know what to expect. We don’t really go into any tour ever with expectations. When you’ve been doing it as long as we have, you don’t really have any expectations, you just grip it and rip it. Yeah, it was cool. It seemed like everybody new the words and everybody new the words from songs from our newest album which is a great sign. It just kicks up the energy for us a lot.
Did you manage to catch any other bands?
I did, I saw The Dillinger Escape Plan. So great, oh my god, they were awesome. That was really rad to watch. Caught some of Ignite who are friends of ours, Teenage Bottlerocket who are awesome friends of ours. Great as usual. Had some pie which was sick. Mashed potatoes and stuff. Great day. We were the last ones there. We left at like 8 in the morning. I think we were the last ones partying at about 4 AM. The campers had to come over and say “excuse me, but there’s people trying to sleep about ten feet away from your bus and you guys are like screaming your lungs out.” We had a hip-hop barbecue party mix. We don’t act our age.
Russell from allaboutrecords asked me to ask how starting out in New Bedford influenced your sound?
Oh yeah. Russ promoted a lot of shows back then, and a lot of hardcore shows. A lot of the bands that came through were hardcore bands. Hardcore was so popular on the East Coast. I don’t mean the West Coast hardcore punk. It’s different on the East Coast. There’s a lot of subgenres which come from that, a lot of the most popular bands today come from that. So yeah, indie rock, hardcore, the shows were very eclectic, including the ones he put on at Reflections, an alcoholics anonymous recovery centre. Hot Water Music played there once. It was a room which was the size of this rec room.
There were always amazing shows. Smackin’ Isaiah, which was our band at the time, which I consider to be basically the same band, it’s the core members who founded Wilhelm. We were on the real pop-punk side back then. We were really influenced by NoFX and Screeching Weasel and bands like that. That was huge, along with the West Coast tech sound. Surprisingly we went over really well with all the hardcore bands. I think that is one thing our city is really well known for, at least to everyone who has played there. Our scene has always been very supportive of bands and what bands were trying to do, and people would always come out to the shows. As long as you believed in yourself, people would recognise that and believe in you as well. Pretty much the way it’s supposed to be.
So if it wasn’t the scene that we come from, we wouldn’t have the confidence to come out and play for strangers anywhere else. I think the New Bedford scene, and how eclectic it was, had a big influence on our sound. A lot of the stuff was an entry way to stuff which I wasn’t too familiar with in my formative years of playing music. A lot of it was just like “woah, these are cool chords!” When you’re at that young age you just absorb it all, all that cool music. You just absorb everything like a sponge. I was very lucky to have a scene like that and people that believed in the scene, working hard to put on shows and contact bands and keep the scene going. I don’t know if I answered the question [laughter]. I went off on a tangent, it kinda takes me back.
Do you know what it’s like there at the moment?
In the New Bedford scene, things always pop up, it’s like anywhere else. When you’re putting on DIY all ages shows, it’s easy to wear out your welcome at a venue, whether it be a VFW or a YWCA – those youth centre type places. Those opportunities don’t really last – there’s no 25 year anniversary of YWCA shows or anything like that. It’ll last as long as it’ll last, but there’s always people putting on shows. That’ll never die. The scene started long before Trevor Reilly did anything, and for long after I’m gone, it’ll still be kicking. It’ll be a vibrant place which bands will always come to.
Part of it is getting the laws back on track too. So you can have an all ages show at a proper venue and the proper venue can make their ends meet by selling liquor to old enough people of age. Unfortunately in Massachusetts we don’t have that opportunity to do that because of the way the laws are. We would have to go to Rhode Island and Providence, which is where we would all have to go when were in high school, to see shows. Descendants, Bad Religion were coming to town, they would play Providence. Not New Bedford. We’re a good city, just like Providence is. That’s something, hopefully as we get older we can make something more lasting, more of an institution.
Are the DIY spaces primarily just places you would find at put a show on at? Not so many purpose built DIY spaces?
Yeah, not really. A lot of it comes down to just finding the spot. A lot of them are just legion halls or social centres, that kinda thing. Sometimes all it takes is a bad night for some idiot to do something to ruin it for everybody. No like purpose built stuff. If I had a lot of money, some crazy money, that’s something I would definitely try. Who knows, maybe I can one day.
(Interview continues below…)
Because you guys kinda flit between genres, you must end up on a ton of different mixed bills. Is it much different playing with heavier bands compared to straight-up punk bands?
I don’t know, it’s weird. I think just because we’ve been playing so long, that when we play we’re so comfortable in our own skin and what we do. It’s kinda just like “here we are, let’s do this.” Music is music, but I do remember when I was younger, you could feel those delineations a lot more. Probably because we were young and we weren’t as commanding on stage. At this point we kinda go on stage and just… Be. We play our songs and it’s where we’re comfortable. But back in the day, yeah, we’d see a lot of blank faces, a lot of folded arms. That just makes you tougher. A good fifteen years after that and you’re just us. We were never the cool kids, or part of the cool crowd. We never rode a wave of anything. We were like those dudes that don’t give up. It’s like Nuno (vocalist) often says, five, fifty, or five-hundred people, you’re gonna get the same show. And going back to your question earlier about how the shows have been, we still have no idea, we just come out. Tonight even, I have no idea, I know it’s gonna be a great show, and I know the bands we’re playing with are awesome. I’m lucky enough that at my age, every day I see familiar faces everywhere, and we’re lucky enough that we have fans who come out repeatedly and they’re the reason I’m here right now talking to you.
Have you got any particular favourite songs to play live?
I’d say every now and again we throw in a song which we haven’t played for a while. Today actually happens to be the tenth anniversary of the release of our second album Ruiner.
Yeah, we put it out ten years ago today. Nitro put it out. We’re playing a few more songs from that, and the one we just soundchecked with, “God Loves a Liar”, that’s a good example of what I was saying. We’re the kinda people where if we haven’t played a song in forever, or we haven’t practiced it, we don’t care, we’ll just do it anyway. That’s part of the charm of it. Sometimes that’s a lot of the fun of it too. At Fest in Gainesville last year we did an all Twitter request set. I’m not on Twitter that much unfortunately, I wanna get into it, but I haven’t figured the ins and outs of it yet. But a lot of the stuff was completely random. Smackin’ Isaiah songs. “Bowling” or “Catharsis for Dummies”. But we told ourselves we had to do it. So yeah, we just did it. We had a few more beers before the set than we usually would and went out and did it. It was one of the most fun sets we’ve ever had. I’m not gonna say it was perfect by a long shot, but it was super fun. It’s good to stay on your toes and try to switch things up as much as you can.
With Ruiner being out for ten years today, how do you feel about it looking back on it?
Oh I love it. I’m really proud of that. I mean, I’m proud of everything we’ve done, but I’m really proud of that one. That one was the one, where around that time period, we got to check things off our bucket list. We got to do all this cool stuff. We went to Japan, we got to come to Europe. It was a record for us where we were in Best Buy and all of a sudden they’re playing our song in Best Buy. Our music video [The Soft Sell] was on television, they probably played it one time on MTV or something like that [laughter]. It was around that time that we got a big boost in attention, I think a lot of bands do with their second record, it was a big thing. Also the whole vibe around it was amazing. There was no pressure, we were all having a super fun vibe doing the record. You’d look over and see the look on Bill Stevenson’s face or Jason Livermore’s face while walking around the studio, and you could tell everyone thought we were doing some cool stuff.
What was it like to record with those guys?
It was great. The first time, it was a little intimidating, not because I was a huge fanboy or anything. I didn’t really come in it with that. But, it was more of knowing how proficient they were, and not wanting to disappoint them. You want to bring your a-game when you’re around Bill Stevenson. It was really cool. They were sorta like good cop/bad cop with us. So the guys who could take the abuse, we recorded with Jason. Where Bill more massaged his direction. It was a cool dynamic.
Have you started writing for the next record?
Yeah. Yeah. Before this tour, me and Nick did some jam sessions to get us up to speed on some stuff. As usually happens, we’ll start practicing a couple of songs and it’ll be like “oh, I’ve got this riff. Let’s jam!” So yeah, we’ve got a couple song ideas cooking, me and Nick. I’ve got a bunch of stuff on my phone all the time, I’m constantly jotting stuff down. I’m sure Brian and Mike also have some riffs ready to go. So yeah, we’re definitely getting ready to get together in a room and get recording again.