This year’s Warped Tour may have been a little short on punk quantity, but not quality and Street Dogs were among the best. I caught up with bassist Johnny Rioux to find out how the tour’s been going, the reaction to the new album, State of Grace, and what’s coming next for the band.
RnRnMN: How has the Warped Tour been treating you?
JR: Warped has been treating us really well. We’ve made a ton of new friends out here. We’ve also been able to play for people that generally wouldn’t know us, which was the goal, I guess. That isn’t to say that it hasn’t been hard, long hours, long drives, portapotties, and lack of sleep, but it’s been a blast.
RnRnMN: What made you decide to join the Warped Tour this year? Has it lived up to your expectations?
JR: The simple fact that we are putting out a record on a new label that knows how to promote bands on Warped. We were also offered main stage which was a first for us. We’ve been able to make new fans and set up for our fall tour and a 90 minute set (as opposed to the 30 minute warped set) nicely. A lot of our fans are older and work 9-5 so (they) can’t come to Warped Tour. It created a great opportunity to spread the message to new fans. I think it’s exceeded expectations.
RnRnMN: That gap between the stage and the barrier on the main stages inhibited a lot of fan/band interaction. You were one of the few bands to breach that gap and really connect. Do you find it difficult that the fans are a good ten feet back from the stage?
JR: You could put Mike on a skyscraper and he’d find a way to connect with fans on the ground. We are a “peoples band”, so we will always bring it to the people.
RnRnMN: The Warped Tour has been known as “punk rock summer camp,” but there aren’t as many punk bands this year. As one of the few punk bands on the bill, do you think the diversity is good or bad?
JR: I didn’t know 90% of the bands before Warped Tour. I’ve discovered a couple bands that I could listen to, but yeah very few. That said, we’ve had a posse of people we’ve been hanging out with every day: Aggrolites, Briggs, Bouncing Souls, Rise Against, Horrorpops, Broadway Calls, Pennywise, GBH and Against Me! (to name a few). We are out here! Kids are into different music nowadays, and Warped tour doesn’t have to have bands like us anymore to sell tickets, but the fact that we write real life lyrics with real melody, and the kids have responded so well to it makes the diversity worth while and interesting. I have discovered Ipods and noise cancelling headphones too!
RnRnMN: In the past, there has been tension between punk bands and others (NOFX versus Underoath a few years ago, for instance). Is that true this year or is there a good sense of community?
JR: No direct tension. If we see someone acting like rock stars or assholes we are the type of guys that will confront them ourselves. It’s in bad taste to air that stuff to music fans on a stage in front of thousands. No offense to Fat Mike of course! That was pretty funny.
RnRnMN: Who is the best band you’ve seen on the Warped Tour this year?
JR: Hands down, no competition, The Aggrolites are the best and most talented band on Warped Tour.
RnRnMN: There’s a lot of bands to choose from. It’s overwhelming when you get here and look at the schedule. Why should someone see you?
JR: Real songs. Every note and lyric at every performance in front of 5 or 5,000 is from the gut and soul and done with 100% conviction.
RnRnMN: The Warped Tour has corporate sponsors like AT&T. How do you feel about that? Is it a good thing, a necessary evil or a sellout?
JR: I trust Kevin Lyman and Warped that the corporate sponsors they choose are not part of an evil empire and are fair and just companies. Warped Tour is the longest running festival tour in history and has helped give many of my friends a career and made punk rock a house hold name, for better or worse. I honestly hope Kevin Lyman has the biggest house on his block. He deserves it.
RnRnMN: How has the reaction been to your newly released State of Grace album?
JR: So far so good! We have the best fans on the planet. So long as we are sincere they support us and vice versa.
RnRnMN: What are your plans after the Warped Tour?
JR: Headlining tour starting 9/11 in Houston with Time Again and Flatfoot 56. Then its off to Europe with Flogging Molly on the Eastpack tour. Its gonna be a busy year!
See all of my coverage from the Warped Tour in Columbia, MD on July 16, 2008 here.