Vancouver’s Living With Lions officially exploded onto the pop-punk scene in 2009 with their loud, infectious Make Your Mark LP. Then in 2010 – while ramping up to their sophomore release – founding members Chase Brenneman (guitars/vocals), Landon Matz (guitar) and Loren Legare (drums) recruited new bassist, Bill Crook, and lead singer, Stu Ross. Now reformed and recharged, the band’s latest offering, Holy S—, will be released in Canada on Black Box and in the U.S. on Adeline Records – the label famously founded by Billie Joe Armstrong, lead singer of Green Day. Stu Ross talks about the album, performing live, and how it feels to be part of the Living With Lions pride.
You’ve been described as “tangibly different” from other pop-punk bands. How so?
We’re a pretty melodic band. I mean, there’s a lot of pop-y punk rock out there and it’s tends to be candy-ish. Our band is good at writing catchy, fun songs without cheating out of a genuine punk sound.
What’s the dynamic of the band like?
Everyone has a very positive attitude and they’re so genuine. Nobody’s interested in putting on a front. We enjoy playing live together and hanging out together and it makes it a lot of fun. I think that really comes through.
And you were recruited recently?
Yeah, I was playing guitar with another band that was metal and I was getting tired of playing such heavy music. I mean, I liked playing with them but that style of music was just never something I was really passionate about. I grew up on Epitaph Records bands and punk rock. When Living With Lions hit me up, I didn’t have to debate it at all.
Has it been difficult to earn the respect of existing fans?
The people that knew the band before say I sound similar to Matt. In a live setting I can see that but I don’t think on record we sound alike. I’m basically just trying to do my own thing and not make it sound like s— (laughs).
Speaking of s—, what inspired the album title?
(Laughs) When I joined, I asked what they might name the album and they were like, ‘The only thing we can come up with is Holy S—. It would just be really funny.’ I thought they were totally mental…but then a week later, I thought it was brilliant. So we talked and talked about it and eventually we went with it.
So the new album is on Black Box in Canada and Billie Joe Armstrong’s label, Adeline Records, in the U.S. Are you a fan of Green Day?
Huge. After Metallica, they’re the band that made me want to play music. The first time I heard Green Day it totally defined what I liked from that point forward and the kind of music I wanted to play. So it’s kind of a big deal to have that affiliation.
Angst and frustration are always hallmarks of good punk rock. Is that the vibe on Holy S—?
Well, it deals with some personal issues. I mean, as a musician and as a lyricist, it’s hard to steer away from the things that personally affect you – and that’s a lot of the content of the record. It’s about relationships and day-to-day problems but it never gets too heavy or dark.
What was the recording process like?
The guys had pretty much recorded everything before I joined and came in to track vocals. [Producer] Dan Weston was the best. We’d go in for hours and riff out vocals. He really wanted to make sure everything came out as good as it could possibly be. Like, we’d get one song done, move on to another, and then he’d go, ‘We can go back and do that other song better now.’
And the video for the track Honesty, Honestly will be released soon?
Yeah. We shot it in February and editing was quite a process because we basically based it on an ’80s video-dating service – so there were tons of cheesy characters and footage for each.
Describe your live show.
It’s pretty energetic. I get really caught up in the emotion of the songs, so it’s fun. I wouldn’t say, ‘Oh it’s so intense,’ because it’s not, but it is just really, really fun and so genuine. I can’t emphasize that enough about this band.
And that’s what makes it great for the crowd?
Absolutely. When a band believes in the songs they’re playing, you totally know it.
Holy S— is due out May 17. See Living With Lions play at Pouzza Fest in Montreal on May 21, Ottawa, May 22, and Barrie, May 23. For more tour dates, visit their Myspace profile.