Jonathan Spencer - Scarlet

May 16, 2004


Photo Credit: Angela M.

Tell me a little bit about your band.

The name is Scarlet and we're from Richmond, VA. Just had a record come out, Cult Classic, March 9th and we've been touring off of it since then.

You guys started out in high school together.

Yeah, actually the lead guitarist Randy and I played in Scarlet our senior year of high school. When we graduated, I think we were all indifferent to actually follow the group up. We were all going to different schools at the time so that's why we broke up originally. I guess about two years ago we started back up. Actually less than two years ago.

You were going to college.

Yeah, actually it was a really odd thing on how we got signed. We all just recorded different types of songs for fun and decided to record some heavy songs. I ended up giving a copy of some of the demo tracks to one of my friends who was in town on tour at the time. He gave it to the owner at Ferret and he called us the day after he got it. He asked where we were playing and I said we aren't actually a band yet. He asked if we could be and I said I guess so if we drop out of school. I think we were all sick of being in school. It was getting a little monotonous and we decided you get a chance at this once in a lifetime so let's follow up and see what happens.

Have you released any CDs prior to this one?

We haven't actually released a full length. This is our first full length.

Tell me a little about Cult Classic.

The record actually was written as we recorded it. Our drummer Andreas has his own little studio and that's where we recorded it at. Andreas, Randy, and I actually did the same thing with the EP we released right before this. We sat down and asked ourselves what we wanted to achieve from the record before we actually started writing it. Then we just started recording and writing at the same time. After we set down and set our objectives out, we basically agreed that we wanted to write a record that was moderately long for this type of music. It was well paced throughout and had a lot of dynamics. Then by the end of the record we just left the stories really shitty by themselves, really unresolved. It's definitely a concept album as far as the lyrical content and the actual images on the layout.

Who designed the album cover?

The graphic designer that I worked with is named Ryan and he works at Asterik Studio in Seattle. It was a fun process because I sat down and came up with very specific imagery that I wanted to have that would derive from the lyrics and it turned out really well. Ryan did a really good job with it.

What sparked your interest in music?

I think actually going to my first concert. It was a Fugazi show in the Virginia Beach area where I grew up. Just by the time I walked out of the show, I had this overwhelming mood come over me and just a feeling that I never really experienced before. Just the ability to transfer a mood or give someone a feeling like that seems like the strongest and most genuine art form to me. From then I pretty much just started playing music and I think that's how it's worth it though. The joy to be with my group.

You were talking about how you wanted to make a statement and turn people's heads. What inspires a lot of the lyrics you write?

There are a lot of different political and social comments on the record. I guess it's the bottom state of the world in different regards. It's not just a social or political record. There are also my own issues on there. It's mainly the thought of being able to impact the listener or someone. That's the main reason why I'm playing music and the reason why I'm in a band. That's what actually inspires me to stay on tour because obviously it's not something...it's enjoyable in some regards like getting that interaction with the crowd and it's gratifying but at the same time I'm still put out every night. Last night in general, specifically I slept two hours.

You were talking about the current state of modern music. How people use Pro-Tools to do their albums. Apparently that bothers you. I guess I can see why. You don't really need talent with Pro-Tools.

I think right now modern music is in the worst state that it's ever been in. To see something that I'm so passionate about be so shitty. It inspires me to actually contribute something to counteract that.

I grew up on KISS and Black Sabbath. They didn't have computers or Pro-Tools then.

It's not just studio tricks or anything like that. It's also the message behind the music right now. The fact that music is turning into an extension of the entertainment industry. This random actress that wants to make a record so we take her to the studio. She's on the Billboard Top 10 because of who she is.

You guys mentioned the American Idol thing. What comes to my mind is Kelly Clarkson who is from this area and she made it big on American Idol but she can't sing worth a shit. She's the big thing right now.

She doesn't have anything to offer to music. They're selling a product and not an artist.

Tell me about some of the tracks on the CD.

"Lie.Fake.Money-Make." was one of the demo tracks that we sent to Carl at Ferret at that time. It's a really fun song to play live. I like it. "My Black Hole Girl" is actually about a relationship that I was in that brought the worst out of me. I was in it for way too long. It turned me into someone I wasn't. I actually grew out of that.

Now you're who you should be.

That's exactly it. I'm exactly who I was meant to be. I feel better. "Dead America" was written a really, really long time ago. It's about terrorism invading our home ground and how Americans usually don't really care until it hits home. The song's intended to make people a little bit more conscious that there is stuff going on outside of America. The biggest problem with the American press is how isolated it is. That type of shit has been going on forever, not in reference to the Middle East but just in general. There aren't many global references to be picked up in the New York Times. You turn on the TV and Joe Average won the lottery. Some dog was stuck in a well today in Arizona when the most monumental things could be happening somewhere across the world but no one cares unless it's close to them.

A lot of it has to do with the government suppressing or keeping information from the American public and I see some of that going on currently. I don't think we're getting all the facts.

There's no doubt that's happening right now. I'm more annoyed about it because I make an effort to actually read other forms of press outside of the U.S. There's so much stuff that no one else that I talk to has even heard about. It's not on TV.

What I like about the Internet is that you can break out of that. It may change people's point of view. My eyes are definitely opened. Tell me about "Human Pollen".

It's about sexual spontaneity and all the worrying that can come from the uncertainty of whatever disease is out there.

Use latex always. You guys have been touring around with some cool bands such as Every Time I Die, Black Dahlia Murder, and As I Lay Dying.

That was the most fluid tear-free tour that we've ever been on. It was amazing in regards to the crowd response and just how well all the groups got along. It was a really good experience.

You guys did Metalfest.

That was fun. We actually got interviewed for Uranium and Headbanger's Ball which was really odd because I had friends from all around the country calling me and telling me they saw me on Headbanger's Ball. Never in my wildest dreams did I think hardcore would turn into this.

With MTV starting to pay more attention to hardcore, do you think it will become more commercialized?

It's already there. I have no problem with it becoming commercialized because obviously it's a meal ticket for me and even more important yet, I think it's awesome just because of the stuff we were talking about earlier. Actually having some music with integrity out there. At the same time with any commercialism or any type of music getting more exposed, there's going to be a lot more watered down stuff out there. A lot more groups that aren't as genuine as the groups that came right before them. Hopefully it won't turn into another punk rock movement because it's nowhere near what it was.

Tell me about the current tour.

We've been out with Zao, Twelve Tribes, and Misery Sickness for a little over two weeks now and we've got about four and a half weeks left. It's been going well. It hasn't really been that long but everyone in all of the groups get along really well. That usually has a lot to do with how much fun you have on tour. How well the groups get along.

Any other thoughts or comments?

It's good to be in Dallas again. The last time we played here it was actually enjoyable. Weird things always happen to us when we play in Dallas. The first time we played here, our van and trailer and all of our equipment got stolen. We had a week long process in Dallas trying to find it. We offhand found out where the thief lived from a contact of a contact. We went to his house and the initial plan was to take our van and leave him alive but barely alive. We ended up calling the police to make sure we got all of our stuff back just to be safe. We get to the guy's house and we waited for the cops there. We get up to the door and the guy's mom...they're all wearing Scarlet shirts and all our dirty clothes are strewn out across the living room floor.

They took your dirty laundry?

They took everything in the van. A white trash family. I've never seen little rats like this go running around. They're so genetically inbred. It was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen. We ended up getting the majority of our stuff back. It was a long process. Last time we played here there was actually a hostage situation at the hotel we stayed at. There were snipers on the rooftops and police officers with shotguns running around. On the way to get something to eat later on that day, we were at a gas station paying for gas or something when this lady was being held up at gunpoint. We were like let's get out of here please. Hopefully tonight will go without a hitch.

Scarlet