Off With Their Heads turns 10


Local punks Off With Their Heads reflect on a decade of road life.

Off With Their Heads
Photo by Tony Nelson

Just getting together last week to rehearse sounded like a punk-rock version of “The Amazing Race” for members of Off With Their Heads. Two of them had to fly from the East Coast to Los Angeles, where they met up with frontman Ryan Young and their van. From there, they drove to Minneapolis to rendez­vous with a new guitarist, who had to drive up from Chicago.

To further complicate things, I got hold of Young by phone in Las Vegas, where they spent the first night on their cross-country trek back to the city that the band somewhat erroneously still calls home.

“I was up until 5 a.m. losing money,” Young complained. “I feel as bad as I probably sound.”

A Forest Lake native, Young has essentially been losing money on the road for a decade now. Or at least he figures he could have made a lot more money staying home with a job instead of constantly touring with OWTH. That was the conclusion reached by his longest-running bandmate, drummer Justin Francis, who quit after the tumultuous making of their new album with punk-vet producer Bill Stevenson last summer. The record arrived this week on famed punk label Epitaph Records.

“People think getting signed to a label like Epitaph means you’re rolling in it,” Young said. “Even when you’re opening for bands like Bad Religion and the Dropkick Murphys in front of thousands of people, you aren’t making much.”

Obviously, though, that’s not much of a deterrent for Young. He’s bringing his reconfigured lineup to the Triple Rock on Friday, and he’s inviting many ex-members — and there are many — to join them to mark the band’s 10th anniversary. Then he’s hitting the road again for pretty much the rest of the year.

This road-hog lifestyle is partly dreaded but mostly celebrated throughout the new album, ironically titled “Home.” The harrowing first single, “Nightlife,” makes it sound as if Young fears the prospect of playing night after night (sample lyric: “I know I’m sick and I’m not right / I’m so fucking tired of living this life”).

Young explained by phone, though, that the song is actually more about when he’s not on the road.

“It can sort of freak you out when you go from playing 300 shows a year to being at home with someone who has to get up at 6 a.m. to go to work, and leads that normal kind of life,” Young explained, referring to his Los Angeles-based girlfriend of five years.

You would think that making the new album with Stevenson — a Los Angeles punk mainstay who drummed in the Descendents and ALL (and Black Flag briefly) — would have afforded Young more time at home in L.A. Instead, OWTH headed off to record in Fort Collins, Colo., home to the famed New Belgium Brewery (Fat Tire) and to Stevenson’s renowned studio, the Blasting Room, where he recently helmed records by NOFX and Rise Against.

In his band’s case, the setting was far from serene. Young admitted that he and Stevenson fought a lot. It was the band’s first time working with a producer who’s not already a friend.

“We butted heads pretty much the whole time,” Young said, describing several tense scenes, including a final one where Stevenson reportedly said, “I know you guys hate me, but I hate you, too.” But Young laughed off the rough patches, as did Stevenson, who called the sessions “a positive experience” via e-mail.

“Bill made me rethink things that I probably otherwise wouldn’t have,” Young said. “We are both stubborn in our ways, but at the end of the day, I walked out with a record that I’ve always wanted to make, and I got to spend a month working with a musical idol.”

As for his idea to call the album “Home,” Young said it’s more a reference to him constantly being away, but he does still consider the Twin Cities home.

“I know at some point, I’m probably going to settle back down there,” he said.

Off With Their Heads

When: 9 p.m. Fri.

Where: Triple Rock.

Tickets: $10-$12.