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Masked Intruders Wave Their Right To Remain Silent

Last Updated 11/1/2012 10:16:21 AM

By: John B. Moore

Masked Intruders First OffenseI realize I’m going out on a limb here, but the latest from Masked Intruders may just be the best pop punk album of the year released by a bunch of admitted criminals who cover their faces in ski masks (I’m only hedging because Christina Aguilera’s album doesn’t come out until November, and I’d hate to have to take away that laurel and hand it over to someone else).

But that doesn’t diminish the fact that these boys from Madison, Wisconsin can harmonize like the Beach Boys and play catchy punk rock like the Ramones. Though their self-titled release, their first for Red Scare Industries, is wildly addictive, and the songs – rife with their exploits about pulling out knives and breaking into homes – are catchy as hell, they will likely lead to the band’s downfall as those lyrics are being read out in courtrooms across the Midwest. But hell, a little jail time for the Masked Intruders is nothing new and would give them plenty of time to work on the follow-up record.  

Blue, who sings and plays guitar for the band and coincidentally wears the blue ski mask (they probably gave him that one ‘cause his name’s Blue), powered up his (allegedly) stolen laptop recently and answered some questions from AMP about that band, working with super producer Matt Allison and their time in the pokey.

Innocent Words:  How did the band first get together?

Blue:  We get asked this question a lot!  I guess people think it’s weird that four dudes who wear masks and like to allegedly do crimes would meet each other and just happen to get along and be really into love songs.  I guess it is weird. The story ain’t that interesting though.  We basically met in prison, which is really a pretty boring place. We all were, like, isolated from society and shit, so there wasn’t much to do except for share stories and talk about stuff you think is cool. After a while, you find the people who are like you – the people that share your interests. We all got along ’cause we have similar backgrounds. We were the boys who got kicked around and couldn’t work up the guts to talk to the pretty girls in school.  Naturally, we all got into pop punk at a young age. Not that pop punk dudes are all, like, sissies or nothing.  They aren’t.  Some of them are real tough and will stab you if it comes down to that. We ain’t too tough, but we would definitely stab a dude if we had to. Like, self-defense only. I mean, if you politely ask somebody for their wallet, and they attack you, what are you supposed do?

So, anyways, we met in prison and just became fast friends.  We were always pining over one girl or another, so we figured maybe we oughta start a band. 
Writing music is a great way to get out all the heartache.  Each song is like a load off your back – both when you’re writing it and then when you’re playing it.  And then, there’s also the whole thing about meeting girls. The main idea behind being in a band is to put your heart out there so chicks can see it.  So, in a way, it’s like talking to a bunch of girls at once.  All we really want is to be accepted, and loved.  Plus, we want money.  Being in a band isn’t a very good way to make money, but being in a band of criminals sure is. We are able to nicely supplement our income, if you know what I mean. Allegedly.

IW:  So were you guys arrested for B&E?

Blue:  Well, you know, yeah.  We’ve all had our run-ins with the law, but who hasn’t?  In our opinion, we never did nothing to deserve jail time. We were railroaded by the system.  It’s super hard to go up against the state ’cause they got all these lawyers and junk.  And the judges don’t care about our side of the story, you know?  They say innocent until proven guilty, but that’s not how it is.  The minute you get picked up wearing a ski mask, trying to pry open a door, you’re already guilty in their eyes.  But, you know, maybe I was just trying to fix the door.  Or, maybe I thought it was my house.  Plus, it wasn’t even me!  But then they bring in these so called “eye witnesses” to testify.  And we’re just like, hey, don’t testify.  It’s rude.  I just wish people would talk things over with us before calling the cops and stuff, ’cause it’s usually just a simple misunderstanding.  Like when someone finds us in their house taking their stuff.  We misunderstood when they were gonna be home.

IW:  What was it like working with Matt? Was it intimidating at all recording with him at Atlas?

Blue:  I think we were all pretty intimidated at first because of the catalogue of stuff he’s done before.  But, once we got together and started working, we got real comfortable real quick. That’s a big part of why the album came out as well as it did.  Matt is all about making bands feel comfortable. Then, once he’s got you relaxed… Boom!  He hits you with the production chops. He can really pull a good performance out of a dude, whether they like it or not. 

We like his style.  It was definitely a very enjoyable experience working with him, even though it was a lot of work.  So, it wasn’t too intimidating over all.  Part of that is that we aren’t very easily intimidated by dudes. Girls, now that’s another story.  Luckily, we didn’t have too many girls in the studio. We had Maura from Mixtapes in one day to sing on “Heart Shaped Guitar,” though.  Most of us were too nervous to talk that whole day; on account of she’s a dreamboat.  Red got so nervous, he just kept drinking and drinking until he barfed all over his mask and then just doused himself in Axe body spray to cover it up. Then he was relaxed, but his chances were probably shot ’cause he smelled like a frat party. I doubt any of us had much of a chance with her anyways.  I kinda got the impression that she thought we were really creepy, sketchy dudes, and she would never date any of us in a million years.  Mostly because she pretty much said those exact words to us.

Masked Intruders First OffenseShe was cool, though, and she really nailed the vocal part. She was the first one to really sing on the record, since all the other vocals were just scratch tracks or whatever at that point.  It definitely set a bar for the vocal performances – we knew we had to do a good job.  But, yeah, Matt was cool.

IW:  How did you end up connecting with Toby [Jeg, founder of Red Scare]?

Blue:  The music business is a real racket, so music industry dudes and criminals travel in a lot of the same circles. We crossed paths with Toby first as shady dudes, then as musicians. I doubt he really wanted to work with a bunch of mooks like us, but we brought him around. He first saw us play at a club in Madison called the Frequency. We were opening up for Nothington and Cobra Skulls, and he was there selling merch for them and hanging out.  He was into our set, so we got to talking about working together. We ended up talking to him about putting out a record on Red Scare for months before we knew if it was gonna happen or not. He kept us on the fence, all confused and stuff.  I think it’s some kinda negotiating tactic.

Then, one day, we played in Chicago and stayed at his place. It was real trusting of him to let four dudes that advertise the fact that they like stealing shit stay at his house. We didn’t steal nothing, though.  Mostly ’cause he really didn’t have anything of value.  I mean, he had a couple dogs, but stealing dogs is for teenagers. The next day, he took us out to brunch and got us wasted and then had us sign a bunch of stuff.  It was pretty great. 

This was right before our debut EP First Offense was released on Hang Up Records, so Toby did the digital release for First Offense as, like, a way to welcome us to the family.  Now we work for him, and I’m pretty sure we couldn’t leave even if we wanted to.  I’m not saying he would stab us for trying to leave, but I’m pretty sure he would at least pay a dude to rough us up.  Don’t matter though, ’cause we love where we’re at.  Toby is the best.

IW:  Do you guys have any musical influences that would surprise people?

Blue:  It’s hard to say what would surprise people, but we like a lot of different stuff.  We all really like classic pop and Motown and doo-wop, but I think those influences might be kinda obvious in our music.  We have a lot of ’70s arena rock influences too, like Queen and Boston. There were moments during recording when Matt kinda called us out on trying to sound like Boston. He was into it, though, so it was cool.

I think we really like all kinds of old pop. I think Billy Joel is probably my favorite songwriter of all time.  We like some modern pop too, like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.  Katy Perry is so beautiful, and her eyes are huge.  Her boobs too. She’s a definite influence on us, because we want to write good songs and get famous so maybe we could meet her.  I also really like a lot of old jazz, especially really sad sounding stuff.  I think it’s really cool how a melody can capture the feeling of being blue.  I was listening to a lot of Chet Baker when I was writing for the record.  I don’t know how much that comes through as an influence, but it’s true.  Plus, I feel fancy talking about it.  People probably think that just because we’re a buncha goons we don’t know nothing about culture.  False.  We are real sophisticated and shit.

IW:  You guys are getting ready to tour with Teenage Bottlerocket. Have you met them yet? Know what to expect?

Masked Intruders First OffenseBlue:  We just finished a couple-week tour with those dudes, and are looking forward to another one in October. They are pretty much the raddest band around, so it was awesome.  We got along real well with them too. They aren’t career criminals, but they do like to get rowdy.  It was a pretty wild group.  If the next tour picks up where the last one left off, we might all end up in jail come November.  If we had to go to jail with a band, though, they would definitely be our pick.  We could show them the ropes on the inside, kinda like how they show us the ropes on the outside.  It would be nice to be able to return the favor, though it would really suck to get locked up again. Fingers crossed, we can just repay them with stolen jewelry or something.

One of the coolest things about getting to tour with them is to see how much work they put into what they do. They are very fucking serious about making sure that their live show rules. It does, too.  It takes a lot to deliver the intensity they do for as long as they do every single night.  You can practically see the brains of the kids in the audience just melting from all the awesome.  It’s like an inspiration to us.

IW:  What's next for the band? 

Blue:  We are having an awesome time doing what we’re doing.  More touring is definitely on the radar – both to places we’ve already been and to places we ain’t never been. We just want to keep the party rolling.  Response to the record has been so great, and we are always writing songs, so we will be releasing more in the near future, for sure. Our fans can probably expect another EP and maybe another split or something before the next full-length. Could be we got a cool surprise or two in store.  We aren’t rushing into the next full-length, but we don’t wanna wait too long neither. Our approach with the first record was to make the best record we possibly could at the time.  We wanna take the same approach to the second record and see if we can do even better this time around.  Just like a heist, planning is everything.  Well, execution is half of it, actually.  And there’s also an element of luck.  It’s half planning, half execution, and the rest luck.

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