INTERVIEW: Story Of The Year’s Ryan Phillips

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photoStory Of The Year’s 2003 debut album Page Avenue was a landmark of the post-hardcore genre. Three more albums followed before the band went on hiatus in 2011. Nobody quite knew when the lads would get back together again. Thankfully the break was short-lived and the band returned in 2013 with Page Avenue: 10 Years And Counting, which saw the debut reimagined with new, acoustic-based arrangements which revealed new layers of depth and emotional resonance without resorting to wimpy acoustic stereotypes: this was every bit a Story Of The Year creation, rather than a phoned-in strum-along. The band is returning to Australia in June to celebrate Page Avenue by performing the album in its entirety, including of course the hits “Until The Day I Die,” “Anthem Of Our Dying Day” and “Sidewalks” as well as a bunch of fan favourites and surprises. I caught up with guitarist Ryan Phillips to talk about the tour, the album and guitar nerd stuff.

Between the tenth-anniversary album and this tour, how does it feel to revisit Page Avenue so thoroughly over the past year? 

Dude, it’s actually been really awesome because this particular album kind of changed my life. This was our first record, our major label debut. We spent our whole lives getting to that moment, so all those songs are really personal and have a lot to do with life, being young, being hungry, living and breathing and being ready to die for your music. And revisiting these songs brought up a lot of those old feelings. I wasn’t prepared for that resurgence of emotional connection to the songs. While we were re-recording them I was like, ‘Holy s***,’ like I’d forgotten how much these songs meant to me.

photoWhat was that time like for you guys? You’d been slogging out out for quite a while and released several EPs before you did the album. 

Yeah. Dude, we had a dream and we were just really hardworking kids. We were the kind of people that were going to do everything we possibly could to make it happen. We moved across the country from California with no money, no jobs, nothing, and just lived off nothing. All we did was work on music and we just made it happen. It was crazy. That was all we did.

One thing I see a lot of bands do is they’ll self-release an EP and within a month of the release date they’re broken up. It’s like parenting: when you’re having a baby you’re focused on the pregnancy but then when that’s over you realise the real work begins.

Oh yeah. We’re children of the 90s and when we were just babies in the 80s you grew up with the assumption that you get a record deal and it’s all champagne and hot tubs and everything’s great. But the record deal is really just the start of the work. It’s all hard work and persevering.

So what’s something you wish you knew, going into this, that you couldn’t have foreseen before you were living it?

Oh my god. (Laughs) I could talk about this all day. Man. From a business standpoint… hahaha, I guess, and this is kinda personal stuff and I probably shouldn’t talk about personal stuff, but I kinda wish we had better advisors. I just thought, ‘Hey, we’re successful and this is gonna last forever and I’m always gonna make money. Awesome.’ But we just didn’t have much guidance. I wish someone would have told me ‘Hey, this isn’t going to last forever. You should probably save most of your money and you should probably think about the future a little bit more.’ But man, what it all comes down to is we all got into this because we love playing music and we live it and breathe it, and if you have that then I think you have 95% of what you need because you’re in it for the right reasons. As long as you have that passion and you work your ass off, that’s most of it right there.

So what guitars are you using? 

Paul Reed Smith. I’ve had three custom ones. One had a Floyd Rose routed into the body and they painted it lime green. It’s pretty awesome. From maybe 2004-08 I was in a real metal phase so all my PRS guitars had EMGs in it. I always wanted trem models, Floyd Roses. And my last one, they got the paint code from a ’57 Chevy Bel Air, this blue colour, with all gold hardware. I dunno, mostly it’s just cosmetic stuff, but the one with the Floyd Rose, they custom-did all that for me.

And what are you using for amplification? 

In one of my bands I use a modded Marshall JCM800, which is what I used for most of Story Of The Year’s career. I use that in my other group, Greek Fire. But for Story Of The Year now I use Blackstar. They sent us one to try out and I was like, ‘Dude, this is a really cool head.’ I like the break-up and I like the clean channel, surprisingly enough. That’s how I like it. So I’ve been using those ever since.

Do you use many pedals?

I used to. I was that dude who had all kinds of pedals and was on eBay and Pedalgeek.com every week buying and selling pedals all the time but every year that goes by I’m using less and less pedals and I’m realising that playing is more in my head and hands and heart and soul. No pedal’s gonna give me that, so I realise maybe I was playing kinda shitty and was expecting more gain or overdrive to fix that. Then I realised it was more in your hands. Like Eddie Van Halen can pick up any guitar and wail. Same with Dimebag. I thought maybe a pedal would do that, but no. Now I just use a delay and maybe a wah-wah sometimes, y’know.

STORY OF THE YEAR AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES

THURSDAY 26 JUNE – BRISBANE, THE HIFI – 18+
www.thehifi.com.au

FRIDAY 27 JUNE – SYDNEY, METRO THEATRE – Lic A/A
www.ticketek.com.au

SUNDAY 29 JUNE – MELBOURNE, 170 RUSSELL – 18+
www.oztix.com.au / www.170russell.com

Ryan Phillips