Vans Warped Tour’s two best-kept secrets: After Midnight Project and Riverboat Gamblers

The Vans Warped Tour has become known for being able to bring together some of the best acts from across the punk, rock, and metal spectra – think Andrew W.K. and The Dillinger Escape Plan (who we recently covered) – slap them all onto one bill, and create an unforgettable (and mad) full-day live music extravaganza. But perhaps what’s even greater is all of the up-and-coming bands it introduces attendees to. Case in point, if it wasn’t for VWT 2010, I would have never stumbled across the following two bands, and my iPod’s repertoire would have been a lot less rockin’. The two standout gems of this year’s Warped Tour, which I discovered at the festival’s Montreal stop, are (drumroll, please): After Midnight Project and Riverboat Gamblers.

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Hollywood, California’s After Midnight Project released their debut full-length album, Let’s Build Something to Break, last summer and were immediately embraced by (alt) rock fans across the country as they toured with Vans Warped Tour, Papa Roach, and Chevelle in 2009. Now on his third Warped Tour, singer Jason Evigan took time to talk about touring, being produced by John Feldmann, and some (very!) last minute line-up changes.

Q: You’ve been part of Warped Tour a few times now; have you seen it change over the years?

A: It always changes musically. You know, what’s popular now wasn’t popular in, say, the ‘90s, so it’s always changing.

Q: Is it tiring doing so many shows back-to-back?

A: It’s brutal, yeah. I woke up yesterday and my throat was all messed up – you really have to take care of yourself. Party, party, party – it’ll get the best of you. The best thing to do when you’re in a new city is to try and enjoy it as much as you can: go for a run, a walk, and actually go in a city and try to see it. Otherwise you’re in a bus, you play a show, and you waste your life away.

Q: How was the experience of putting together your debut album, Let’s Build Something to Break?

A: We worked with John Feldmann, the singer of Goldfinger, and it was really cool to have his producing style with our music. The process was great and we had fun. We pretty much moved into his house in Bel-Air – where Fresh Prince is from [laughs].

Q: I heard you recently had some very last minute line-up changes?

A: Yeah. Ryan and Travis, this is their 12th/13th day in the band. Our drummer quit, he has three kids, and our buddies in Papa Roach immediately said, “We have a guy for you,” and it was Ryan. And then our buddies in Chevelle recommended Travis when our bass player pretty much couldn’t come back to the band because of some legal issues.

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The Riverboat Gamblers are Texan punk rockers who hit the road as part of the Warped Tour for the second time this year. Singer Mike Wiebe ‘relaxed’ before the band’s set by talking about their latest release, Underneath the Owl, playing in front of Bruce Springsteen, and why hearing your own music in a bar is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Q: How has Warped Tour been treating you so far?

A: Like a pimp that treats a hooker that brings in, you know, just enough money. Slaps me around a little bit, but then strokes my hair and says, “You pretty girl, you just keep making daddy that effin’ money!” [Laughs] Not the worst, but not the best either.

Q: What are the downsides of doing the Warped Tour?

A: Not only is it back-to-back, it’s like the whole process of having an outside field and dragging equipment all over the place, and there’s a million other bands. And we’re not the biggest band, so we have to do a little bit of shuckin’ and jivin’ to get some attention.

Q: What’s been the best gig Riverboat Gamblers have played to date?

A: We were out with Against Me! and we played in New Jersey and Bruce Springsteen came out to the show. It was a super surreal moment. Hanging with Bruce Springsteen and his kid, because Bruce Springsteen’s kid was really into Against Me!, and we’re just standing there, with our mouths open, staring. And Bruce Springsteen’s son is staring, with his mouth open, at Against Me! Bizarre.

Q: What’s the music scene like back home in Texas?

A: In Texas, as a whole, it’s pretty bad, but in Austin … it’s a pretty awesome place for artists, filmmakers, comedians, and musicians. It’s a little Liberal town in the middle of a giant Conservative state and it weirds people out, in a good way.

Q: How critical are you of your own music and do you ever listen to it?

A: When I get an actually copy of the record, I’ll usually give it one listen and then I never hear it again. It’s the worst thing ever to be in a bar or a club and some asshole will go and play a bunch of our songs while I’m there. I can’t stand it. I want it to get played all the time, but I don’t wanna be there ‘cause I’ll just sit there and look at everyone’s reaction. There’s no reaction short of like, 1969 Beatlemania – with girls crying and screaming – that you can get that’s not like, “Ugh, they don’t like it!” I have horrible self-esteem in general and especially about music.

Let’s Build Something to Break

Underneath The Owl