Four Year Strong and the Pure Noise Records tour hit London last night, and they brought labelmates Hit The Lights and Forever Came Calling (plus outsiders Light You Up) along for the ride. Our man Ben Gibson was there to soak in the pop-punk.
“I finished my beer and we all shook hands” - the first interview with the band’s former keyboardist.
As you’ll no doubt know, Four Year Strong parted way with Josh Lyford at the beginning of the week. While his former band are touring with Rise Against and Bad Religion Lyford is focusing on writing with his hardcore band Foxfires [their first self-titled EP is available for free here] who will be releasing new music later this year; as a side note, it's going to totally rip.
It's worth noting that throughout the interview Lyford was never anything less than gracious towards his former bandmates, mirroring guitarist Alan Day's sentiments. On with the Q&A:
Okay – give me a play-by-play of what happened to you as regards your situation with Four Year Strong. In the statements that have been released both from the band and from Alan’s blog, it seemed the musical direction of the band was changing to the point where the instrument you play wasn’t part of their future. Had that been brought up before?
Josh Lyford: “I think it had been kind of in the back of everyone’s heads for a while. It had never really been addressed and we had never talked about it, so a few weeks ago we had a month off and those guys were recording the album. I’d been trying to get down to the studio and it had been more of a pain than it should have been…”
Why were you having trouble getting down there?
“Just like, missed phone calls and unreturned calls and stuff like that. We’re all pretty flighty people so I didn’t think too much into it, I just figured everyone’s too busy. And then a couple of days before we were supposed to head out for rehearsal and then this tour we were meant to be doing with Rise Against and Bad Religion, Dan [O’Connor, guitar] called me and asked me to go to dinner with everybody, because everyone was home and they wanted to get together before we left.
“So we met up at a pretty nice restaurant and almost immediately they just laid it out on the table for me and said they’ve been recording new songs and there’s not really any place for the keyboards or for the kind of vocals I do. And so that was kind of that. It was a surprise at the time but looking back it wasn’t as much of a surprise as I think it probably could have been. In the back of my head and in the back of their heads everybody knew that it coming.”
Was it just the five of you at the table?
“Yeah. As I know this wasn’t any sort of management decision or label decision. I guess the four members of the band stepped up and decided it was time to go in a different direction. And that direction didn’t include what I do so. I mean, I guess I’d prefer that over being dragged along for the next couple of records without really any place. I’m definitely disappointed by the decision, I would have liked to stick around for a while. But’y’know, now it’s time for phase two and I’m excited for that.”
What was your reaction when they told you? I’d have been devastated.
“I just finished my beer and we all shook hands and parted ways and that’s the last time I’ve seen them or spoken to them in person. I wouldn’t say devastated, I was just really bummed. I think the thing I’m bummed most about is just, it was said and now its like ‘Okay… woah, what do I do now?!’ Y’know, the last six years of my life have been touring constantly and devoted to the band so it’s kind of like, what kind of marketable skills do I possess at this point? To be honest with you, I think it was handled as well as it could have been. Y’know, it wasn’t like I got a random phone call or an email - we all went out and talked about it. So I definitely appreciate the way that it was done, as maturely as it possibly could have been.”
It’s weird, because your role in the band, especially during live shows, wasn’t just about playing keyboards. Would you agree with that?
“I definitely do. I guess I didn’t see it that way while I was doing it; I think I had my purpose and maybe that purpose has expired but, y’know, I’m proud of the weird shenanigans I got involved in with them over the last few years. If nothing else it’s a pretty cool thing to look back on – travelling all over the world, looking like a jerk all over the universe.”
You seem to be handling this all very nobly…
“Well, not to get into any sort of weird, self-centred nonsense, before this I was working as a truck driver for a carnival company and before that I was a cemetery caretaker and before that I was taking school photography. Weird things would fall into my lap and this band was the same – Joe [Weiss, bass] I had met through his girlfriend who was really good friends with a girl I dated many, many years ago and we ended up meeting together. And he jokingly over whisky [asked me to join FYS on keyboards]; I’d played guitar and bass my whole life and keyboards was fairly easy to translate so I said sure. I ended up getting fired about a month into my time with Four Year Strong and so I started touring full-time with them and that’s kinda when things all started taking off and we got signed and all that kinda stuff.
“I’m not really the kind of person to sit and dwell on it and have a little pity party for myself. I guess it’s an opportunity to at least try and do some of the other things I’ve wanted to do, and if that doesn’t work out I can always go back to driving trucks!”
Do you think you’ll talk to them again any time soon? Would you want to?
“I don’t know how to answer that. It was so sudden that I feel I don’t know exactly how to feel about it sometimes. Joe and Jake [Massucco, drums] were some of my best friends for many, many years, for as long as I’ve been in the band – Alan [Day, guitar] and Dan as well, but me, Joe and Jake were pretty much inseparable so it’s strange for me right now, but in the long run I’m sure we’ll always go back to hanging out and it’ll be fine.”
Do you think your time with Four Year Strong will help you with Foxfires?
“Maybe. All of my friends play music and any time I’m home we would always go to my friend’s basement and jam out, and we force each other to swap instruments all the time and, just see where it goes – usually it’s just for fun and now we have a little bit more structure than that. But it’s still the same idea… a lot of the time I’ll get behind the drums and hack my way through something while our drummer plays bass or something.
So it’s all done in the spirit of fun?
“Exactly. If tomorrow it’s all over and done with that’s fine. And if it goes on for another ten years then great.”
You can find Josh tweeting at @joshachusetts and blogging at Does A Wolf Shave Its Tail?
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