Versus The World Interview
Recently I caught up with Mike Davenport, who used to play in The Ataris, but now he rocks in a band called Versus The World, and they’re exactly that. When he came into the conference call, the first thing he mentioned was “I can’t wait for the holiday tomorrow” and who would have thought, Independence Day is a holiday and not a day when aliens blow shit up.
Mike lives in Santa Barbara which is a beach city, a little similar to Sydney. Versus The World are an interesting band with two albums that are 7 years apart. The first self-titled album was released in 2005 and “Drink Sing Live Love” will be released on August 3rd in Australia. The band was created by Mike Davenport and his mate Donald Spence from the back of record store “Down On Haley”, owned by The Ataris in Santa Barbara. Donald and their drummer Bryan worked at the record store which lead to some jamming on the side. After a while they started putting together some tracks, recorded them and released them on their self-titled album in 2005. They toured on that album for 2 years after that and then Mike had a break, which explains the massive gap between albums.
Mike had 13 years of touring with The Ataris, so all up that’s 15 years of non stop recording, touring and working. Mike took 3 years off after the touring from the self-titled album just to enjoy life and start working on side projects. It wasn’t until late 2009 they started working on their second album. “All the guys really wanted to make it extra special, because they really rushed the first one.” They now have Chris Flippin from Lagwagon who has jumped in on guitar and is a great mate of Mike. They spent 2 years in the recording studios creating what will be one of the best Pop-Punk Rock albums in 2012, as Mike as well as I think: “I’ve never spent so much time working on an album before and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever worked on”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a long time fan of The Ataris, but this album truly is something to have in the collection. Versus The World started laying down the tracks about 3 months ago and before they decided to do that, they listened to the songs, re-recorded some things, listened to them again and really got down to the core of the sound. I love that in a band, when they’re so passionate about what their music sounds like and spend a fuck load of time making things perfect. At first, they only recorded 6 songs and were going to release an EP. At that point it was 5 years before they released something, but they decided to do it right this time and released a full album. Thom Flowers, who is also producing the audio for Lagwagons upcoming live DVD and worked on The Ataris previous records as a co-producer, produced the record. He was the one who turned around and said “Mike, you know, we really should do a full album if you’re going to come back from all those years, not just throw out a new EP.”
Mike and Donald also did some acoustic shows on the side for a little while under the name Pencapchew, which is actually a Nirvana song and also the name of Mike’s publishing company. “I think every good song starts that way, even in The Ataris we did the same thing. Every good song should be able to be stripped down to acoustic and Donald does an amazing acoustic show. Chris also likes to do some funky stuff too which adds to it of course.” Mike said. Don’t get them wrong, the album is not about to bring you down with some acoustic stuff, that’s separate. The album is mainly a Pop-Punk Rock album with the usual flavours of distorted guitars and punk rhythm.
When I asked Mike why they didn’t stick with “Pencapchew” as the band name he started ranting on how he’s a Nirvana nerd, and how they’re the one band that sticks with him. He grew up with Nirvana and to him it’s the one band that really broke punk rock into the main stream. He even has “Punk Rock Is Freedom” tattooed across his chest, which he claims to be a big Kurt Cobain tribute. We eventually got back on the subject on the name change and when they first started out, Joe Escalante from The Vandals singed them up on Kung Fu Records, which is the same label all the early Ataris stuff was released on, and it was him who asked them to re-think the name “Pencapchew”. “Joe said, it’s a mouth full, nobody really knows it and kinda sounds like you’re saying Pikachu” according to Mike. They chose Versus The World because, in a time where there are a ton of bands out there, all different ranges from the best to the worst, they really wanted to get themselves out there. “Just to get people to listen to you in an electronic age is a tough thing to do, so Versus The World is how we take things on” Mike said, and they see themselves as a type of music gang ready to take on the world. Mike and Donald actually chose the name before they released the first album, so Joe saying that was inevitable.
“I love the name Versus The World, actually The Ataris was a tough one to live with for a long time because you have a love-hate relationship with a name like that. The name of a band is your identity, so when we started writing more mature songs in The Ataris, people started making fun of the band name and that can make you a little self-conscious, but Versus The World is such a strong name is hard to make fun of.” said Mike.
I’ve been thrashing the new album over the last couple of days and also listened to their previous album on spotify, and I must say this album is much more mature in sound, the lyrics and song structures. I can see the influence from The Ataris, I would put this CD right next to “So Long Astoria”.
Mike’s favourite track off the new album is “These Bones”. He says: “These Bones is an amazing mix of pop punk and rock. I actually love all the songs off the records but when I play that song, I give into it. It’s almost like I’m a fan in the crowd which is really hard to do after 15 years of touring.” He feels as though it’s a song about their hometown in Santa Barbara and having a relationship with the one you love. It’s a great representation of the band themselves.
We must not forget that their previous album was also released 7 years ago, the vocalist Donald was 23 back then, so a lot can happen between 23 and 30. As for Mike during his break, the passion was almost lost. He had some other things going on and the more I spoke to him about that, the more I wished he was in the same room and we were knocking down some beers. During the break Mike started building websites on the side and that got him out of music for a while, which I can relate to. It took him a couple of years to pull himself out of that, and another year from his 3 year break to pull the guys back together; kind of reminds me of the Blues Brothers.
The title “Drink Sing Live Love” is an anthem to the last track “We Were Alive” on the album, and with Donald being a bartender and Bryan the sound guy at The Rock Club in Santa Barbara, which is the first club bands hit when touring through town, a lot of the songs came from that environment.
Versus The World are planning to come to Australia and being signed to 3Wise Records. They’ll most likely be on the Soundwave line-up with some shows on the side, but no promises yet to be made.
Mike Davenport would also like to also give a big shout out to Shock Records for doing an awesome job with getting The Ataris going.
Versus The World – Drink. Sing. Live. Love will be out in Australia via 3Wise Records on August 3rd.
For the US, it will be released via Viking Funeral Records.