What started out as a side project has evolved into something much greater for Minnesota’s Somerset. After several line-up changes, they have finally found the right members to get things moving. On August 9th, the band released their debut full-length album, Pandora on Punknews Records, an up-start label that believed in the band from the beginning. The band recently took some time to answer some questions about the friendship they forged with Punknews Records, their politically inspired lyrics, and what is next in line for a band just getting their feet wet.
In being the first band signed to Punknews Records, do you guys feel you are setting any type of standard for their label?
Claudio Rivera: Well, we’re just extremely grateful that they picked us to be their first release and whatever standards there are, that’s for the label to determine. We’re excited for papa Punknews to birth us some siblings real soon.
How did the band form a relationship with Punknews Records [Punknews.org]?
JT Viele: Claudio met Scott [Heisel] when their bands played a show together. We’ve all been fans of the site for a long time and we just kept in contact with Scott and formed a really close bond, especially after he gave us a super nice review of our first EP. We’ve spent Thanksgiving and Easter with his family and it’s just really sweet that he’s cared for us like family, from the start. When they [Punknews.org] told us that Epitaph wanted them to start a label that they would distribute, we were super stoked for them, and when they followed it with “and they want Somerset to be our first release” we could hardly believe it. We’re happy to be a part of something new, yet aligned with such an established powerhouse, like Epitaph.
Was having Punknews distributed by Epitaph a huge selling point in you guys signing with them?
JT Viele: It wasn’t so much that we had to be sold on them, as it was that they were the only label that stuck with us after we went through some rough stuff with band member changes. Distro by Epitaph is just a shitload of icing on an already tasty cake!
So with your debut full-length, Pandora, out in-stores, what should those unfamiliar with your music be excited about?
Matt Broadbent: We’re always excited to hear about new music. Hopefully, there are others out there that have an equally open mind. Lyrically and musically, we feel like we stand out from the pack.
Speaking of the lyrics, I personally think a lot of Pandora has a very political and even religious undertone to it; a fair assessment?
Forrest Olsen: We’re not a religious band, but I use religious archetypes metaphorically and satirically. We are strongly opposed to the Bush agenda and we hope that the lyrics will stir political thought and conversation and raise awareness to the real problems in the world.
So when your not pulling inspiration from politics and religion, where else does the inspiration come from?
Forrest Olsen: Inspiration for the lyrics comes from personal and global struggle and the desire and frustration of trying to remedy them. Musically, there are thousands of bands that give us advice, through their sound.
Is there an underlying theme to Pandora?
Forrest Olsen: I wrote the lyrics to be open to the interpretation of the listener, so that they could finish the art themselves. However, there are definitely recurring themes that were laid out intentionally so.
You worked with acclaimed producer Chris Fudurich on Pandora.
Claudio Rivera: Chris is a great engineer and he got us the exact sounds that we wanted for this album. He’s super easy to work with and doesn’t mind letting you literally take control of the session. However, he won’t hesitate to call you on mediocrity that might slip in there.
What kind of touring plans do you guys have lined up for the rest of the year?
JT Viele: We have a pretty long tour coming up from August 12th until October 2nd, if our van can make it, that is. Basically, we love to play any kind of show and our motto has always kind of been if you book it, we will play it. There are a couple really cool, bigger possibilities for the winter, but it is way up in the air.
If you could tour with any band right now, what band would that be and why?
Matt Broadbent: I think we’d all pick a different band. Anything from Bad Religion to Jimmy Eat World, but there are so many great bands from the past that would be incredible to reincarnate in full rock glory.
Are there any areas where you feel that band needs to improve on to get exactly where you guys want the band to be?
Claudio Rivera: We will always try to be better in any way we can. We also want huge pectoral muscles.
So besides building up those muscles, what are the long-term goals for Somerset?
Claudio Rivera: The long-term goal is to not have to come home to regular jobs, when we go broke from touring. Ideally, we’d be on the road for as long as we possibly could. The only way to get there is to continue to let ourselves be heard and keep our fingers crossed.