The alt-punk band Victims of Circumstance released their new album ‘FIVE’ on January 24th via Financial Records. Their drummer Glenn Stewart took the time to answer some of my questions about the record, the music that has influenced him, and more.
The album straddles the lines of the American punk paradigm. From ska to reggae to pop-punk to swing to pop-rock, ‘FIVE’ traipses through each of the genres seamlessly and effortlessly while tackling such topics as missed opportunities, the pros and cons of alcohol, and death. These reflections on life and where it leads us has been something the band often ruminates about, and this album is no different.
The band was founded in 2005 in Clearwater, Florida and consists of Mike Smyth (vocals & guitar), Glenn Stewart (drums), Lindsey Pittard (bass), Jason Atheney (saxophone), and Devin Johnson (trumpet). They built a name for themselves by blending pop hooks and ska in a fashion that had alternative and punk magazines raving and cut their teeth touring with the likes of Less Than Jake, Big D and the Kids Table, The Pietasters, The Aquabats, Mustard Plug, Whole Wheat Bread, and The Toasters. Their biggest early supporters have been The Mighty Mighty Bosstones whose saxophonist Tim “Johnny Vegas” Burton produced their first full-length album in 2007, Do It Yourself, and Steve Foote of Big D and the Kids Table who produced their second album in 2009.
Now on their fifth album ‘FIVE’, Victims of Circumstance may be getting older but that’s not stopping them.
All questions were answered by Glenn Stewart, drummer of Victims of Circumstance.
Q: To start things out, who are some artists and bands that you grew up listening to that have influenced you as a musician today?
A: I was always a rock guy growing up. My Father influenced me a lot with Elvis, CCR, The Ventures, just a lot of 50’s to 70’s rock. That pushed me in the direction of bands like Cheap Trick, The Cars, and Rush. It wasn’t until I got my hands on Social Distortions first album “Mommy’s Little Monster” That really changed the direction of my music choices. That album led into all kinds of punk groups, The Ramones (of course), Mad Parade, Pegboy, Suicidal Tendencies, etc. Punk became my style. In 1991 I heard my first taste of The Bosstones and I was hooked on ska ever since. Rancid, Suicide Machines, Goldfinger, Pietasters, Mustard Plug, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, The Aquabats and the list goes on and on.
Q: Your new album is entitled ‘FIVE’, and you have previously stated that you didn’t have a specific direction going into it. What made you want to branch out and experiment?
A: I guess it wasn’t so much of an experiment as it was probably just being a little lazy at first. We always had such a strong direction of where we wanted to go with our sound and this time around we just kind of winged it. Whatever ideas we came up with, no matter how different or strange, we worked them until they became the songs for “Five” while still maintaining somewhat of the traditional VOC Sound.
Q: What was your writing process like for this album? How did it compare and contrast to that of your previous releases?
A: Oops, kind of answered that in the previous question, with the exception that we didn’t really put a time frame on writing this album. Hence the name of the album – “FIVE”. Five band members, Five original albums, and it took us Five years to put out!!
Q: How did you decide which songs you were going to release as singles ahead of the album’s release?
A: That was probably by trial and error of playing them live and trying them out. We kind of went with some of the stronger reactions from the crowd. Although we always like to use our own favorites as well.
Q: Are there any lyrics off the record that you would like to highlight? If so, why do you choose them specifically?
A: I don’t think anything specific. We have kind of joked that there are some really heavy lyrics on this album, but they’re all set to really happy music.
Q: Do you have any interesting or funny stories from the recording of the album that you can share with me?
A: One thing that kind of put some pressure on us once we finally started recording was that we knew we were going to be moving our studio in the near future. We built our own studio – “Audio Impact Studios” back in 2006 and have recorded all of our albums there as well as many other artists. We had to be out of our old studio by October 1st 2019. We literally just finished the final mastering of “FIVE” on September 28th, two days before the move. We knew if we didn’t finish it in time, it would be another several months before we had the opportunity to finalize everything in the new studio. So to say we were sweating it would be an understatement.
Q: What are some of your hometown local bands that you would suggest checking out?
A: I wish that was an easier question to answer. If you asked me 10 years ago I could have given you a great list. A lot of music venues and the bands we came up with are all but gone from the Tampa Bay area. There were a lot of great Punk and Ska bands around back then. It’s weird to say that at 15 years, we are a dinosaur in this area.
Q: Is there any advice that you would give new up-and-coming bands that you wish you would have known when you were just starting your career?
A: If you’re in it to make money, quit now!! I guess you just need to make sure you really love the music you play because you are going to play those songs thousands of times over your career. Also, if at all possible, try to form your band with people that you truly like. We have been very lucky because we are all really good friends and even if we aren’t playing music, we still hang out together. I think that’s very important and really makes the whole band experience that much better. Also, take every bit of advice with a grain of salt. What worked for one band doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you.
Q: Do you guys have any plans for touring in the near future?
A: We definitely don’t hit the road as much as we did years ago, but we will still be playing a bunch of random dates throughout the year for this release. We are also kicking around the idea of returning to the UK and Europe for a fourth time late in the summer to celebrate our 15 year anniversary.
Q: At the core, what do you hope people gain from listening to your music, whether they stream one song or come out to a show?
A: Overall that these are good songs. We try to put together tunes that will stick in your head so you remember to tell your friends about us too. Our philosophy with this band is that we live to play the live shows. We don’t care if it’s 5,000 people at a festival or 25 sweaty people in the back of a bar in Belgium as long as the crowd is into the music and enjoys the songs. Feeding off of people’s energy and emotion is one of the greatest things about being a musician and playing live shows.