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[Interview] The Used

By Nikki Russian

It’s been 15 years since The Used broke free from Utah with the success of songs like The Taste of Ink and Box Full Of Sharp Objects, and by no means has anyone forgotten their influence. Their upcoming Australian tour has expanded with extra dates and venue changes to accommodate ticket demand.

The release of their first record, 2002’s self-titled The Used, and their second release In Love and Death, both received gold status in the US and Australia, giving The Used a devoted fan base over the world.

The Used are in the middle of their 15 Year Anniversary American Tour, with the two remaining founding members, Jeph Howard (bass) and Bert McCracken (vocals) still holding the pillars of the band strong.

We spoke with Jeph before the band headed for the stage. They were in Ohio at the time of interview, before heading over to us in November to celebrate their anniversary with their Australian fans. The tour is a two-night exclusive performance of their first two records in full.

“It seems like the first and second records sort of tie in together in many ways to our fans.” Howard says. “It seems like a double album almost – it just makes way more sense [to play both].”

The band have always included old fan-favourites into the mix of their live setlist, but how does it feel playing every song from those first two albums, in album order – a set that would probably date back to their very first shows?

“You know what – playing those songs feels more natural now than they have in years.” Howard says. “Being able to play some of these songs that we haven’t played in 10-15 years that are some of my personal favourites from those records, like Let It Bleed and Say Days Ago – is so, so awesome. So magical.”

“The way I look at it – any kind of art you can imagine is not just the artist; the viewer is actually putting their energy into it as well. So when kids are coming to the show and they love the songs more than anything and they’re singing along – it’s so loud every night from the kids singing – sometimes you can’t hear Bert. It’s pretty intense, and so to re-live these records in that sense is some of the most powerful, strongest, incredible shows that we’ve had in a long time.”

After years of pushing the hidden gems to the shadows and tuning his bass to new tracks, Howard needed to dust off the old song notes. “We definitely had to go back and touch up on some of them. When we recorded those songs we were different back then, and we’ve grown and changed as musicians.”

“We put a little bit of a different flare into it, and Dan (Whitesides, drums) and Justin (Shekoski, ex-Saosin guitarist) didn’t record on those records, so it’s nice for them to go back and learn the parts, and add their flare to it or their playing style.”

It’s a fickle thing to put a finger to the ‘sound’ or genre of a band when they’re constantly growing and changing over the years, and that’s exactly what Howard believes every band should do. With their last release, 2014’s Imaginary Enemy, the band took a look at politics and the current state of the world with a cleaner production and a more ‘radio friendly’ sound. “You need to change, you need to evolve.” Howard says. “If you’re not changing as a musician, you’re cheating yourself. Coming up with the same old ideas and just regurgitating over and over again is going to get you nowhere.”

It’s hard to keep a band of founding members together when their career spans over a decade, but Howard has bright eyes for the band’s future. The Used are planning a new album, which they’re hoping to record sometime this year.

“I know it’s been a long time since we released a record,” Howard says, “but we’ve been pretty busy. We put out the live DVD (Live & Acoustic at The Palace), and we took some time off. We currently have 20-30 ideas – not songs yet, but ideas that we’re working on.”

With a new guitarist and the freedom to continue to experiment, do the band have an idea of what the new record will sound like? “It’s always gonna be us. That’s the best way to say it.”

“Bert will always sound like Bert. Bert’s personality shines through his voice, so no matter what we’re going to sound like The Used. But we have such different ideas coming out musically [this time] – a little more adventurous in some ways.”

Bert and Jeph have been working together since the inception of the band, essentially growing up together while navigating the ways of the music business and juggling different ideas. “We all used to butt heads in the beginning; it was for a good reason. We all just knew our own way and knew how to work with ourselves, and as time goes you sort of merge together and change your way of thinking. We’ve evolved into working together a lot better.”

“We have a very family based crew and touring life. So on tour when one of us makes a mistake – if somebody plays a note wrong or if somebody plays the wrong part, everybody will laugh, you know, it’s supposed to be a good time. It’s not supposed to be so serious – we’re playing a show, we’re not working a show.”

For listeners who have forgotten The Used’s records at the back of their CD shelf, the 15 Year Anniversary Tour is big reason to reminisce and enjoy a screaming blast from the past. For those of us who haven’t missed a beat, this tour is gonna be one for history.

Limited tickets available via destroyalllines.com.au

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