We recently sat down with Austin Jeffers and Adam Blasco of local pop punk band Last Call to talk about Mightier Than Sword Records stiffing them on the bill for their new full length, their disappointment in the Vegas music scene, their opinion on Avengers vs. X-Men and more.
So you’re in the middle of recording a full-length with Paul Miner. For anyone who doesn’t know, who is Paul Miner?
Austin: Paul Miner is the ex bassist for Death by Stereo, and actually the current bassist because he recorded on their new album and did some shows with them. He has also recorded a bunch of bands that we love like New Found Glory, Eisley, Set Your Goals, and then in the more obscure area, he did all the Suicide File records, Curl Up and Die, Faded Grey, stuff that makes old dudes happy.
How did the recording go?
Austin: The recording went really well, as far as we got. We got about a third of the way through vocals and had to stop and come back home.
Why did you have to stop recording?
Austin: We didn’t know how we were going to break this to a lot of people, but our relationship with Mightier Than Sword records is over. RJ [RJ Crowder-Schaefer, Founder of MTS] is obviously falling upon some difficult times. I’m sure anybody who reads this interview or knows anything about Mightier Than Sword or likes Blink 182 will want to shank him on the streets of Brooklyn. He’s having hard times and he couldn’t accommodate us and left us a bit in the lurch.
Without divulging too much or being too cruel because he has his own problems, now we have our own problems because we have to fund our record by ourselves. By the time we found out that we had to fund it ourselves, we had dug a pretty deep debt that we didn’t think we were going to have to pay. So, we came home. We’re recollecting ourselves. It’s actually turning out to be a more positive thing. We’ve got to focus on the future and what’s going on. We’ve already got some stuff in the wings and we’re talking to people and doing what we need to do. We won’t slow down but we definitely did have to take a break and recollect ourselves.
So is Mightier Than Sword Records done?
Austin: We don’t want to speculate, but I don’t think RJ has much left to stand on as far as MTS goes. And seeing as how there were only a few acts on MTS that were actually touring, us being probably the number one act on there, I don’t think there’s much left for Mightier Than Sword. I don’t think it will keep going. Hopefully everybody gets their money’s worth and gets their records and RJ can get his stuff straight. In the end, even with the difficulty that we’ve come under, he’s still somebody that was a big part of our career for these last 2 years and he got us into some places where we didn’t think we’d go. We have love for him. We hope that everything works out for him, but we’ve got to focus on ourselves. And with the way he left us in the lurch, it’s kind of hard to give him any sympathy. The debt is a big thing. Another thing is that he was our manager at the time too, and now we’ve cut ties all around, so we kind of feel like a fresh new band.
Adam: In our mentality, it’s like we’re back at square one. It’s kind of shitty, but when you step back and look at the big picture, it’s not bad. We still have all of the connections and fans that we’ve made. Everything that we had going at that time is still going. It’s back to just the members of our band with no outside influence or outside help really. It’s stressful to think about, but it’s not a bad situation.
Austin: Before we started writing this full length, there was a lot of speculation about whether our former guitar player, Tim Desagun, would help us write the record. It ended up that I started predominantly writing the second guitar parts and working with Ryan Stokke on writing this album. And for three months while working on it, I wasn’t really focusing on what I do, which is sing. So I was getting stressed out going into recording because I only had little tidbits for every song. I didn’t feel like I had much of a leg to stand on as far as where each song was going. And it was going really well, working on each song with everybody, but now that we have some time off, Adam and I can sit down and beat the lyrics and vocal melodies into where we really want it to be. I get to concentrate on singing again.
Adam: Through all of the shit that happened, it is helping us put out the best possible record we can. That’s the upside that I see to everything that’s been pouring down on us right now.
Austin: Instrumentally, because of Paul and the dedication and time he took, it got as strong as it possibly could. We’re doing things on this record that we didn’t ever do on any other recordings, like six rhythm tracks for each song, like using different kinds of weird amps and stuff. Paul really pulled out all the stops. Sonically, we’re happy with it. Lyrically we just have to get it there which is coming together quicker than we thought it could. Hopefully this ends up making this record a thousand times better.
So when are you planning on going back into the studio to finish up the record?
Adam: Well, we’re doing a West Coast tour with Maker that’s going to be about 3 and a half weeks. So our goal initially was to get down and finish a few songs before we leave. I don’t think that’s going to happen now. But pretty much immediately after that tour, we’re going to go in and finish at least the handful of songs that people are wanting to hear already, in terms of labels. I don’t really know when we’re going to finish the entire thing. I’d like to say sometime in May, but realistically, probably June.
Austin: It’s hard for us because when it comes down to it, Last Call built itself on being a touring band. We love to put out records, and we’re excited to get this record out to people but ultimately we don’t want our touring to suffer. And because of the debt, we’ve had to pull back on stuff that we really didn’t want to pull back on for the summer. That’s really what is pissing us off the most. We try to focus on touring. Money-wise, we can’t joke around with this Maker tour. We have to batten down the hatches. But I think that May will be a reasonable idea. We have a couple of goals, and they’re all really easy as long as we focus.
What is the new record sounding like? Will there be any surprises?
Austin: I think a couple of the songs will pull people back in terms of what they were expecting, and then there will be a lot of people who will hear things that they cared about from the previous records. Vocally, I’d say I’ve gotten a little bit more aggressive. I’m being a little grungier.
Adam: I think there is a good mix. Like he said, there is stuff that people will relate back to the two EPs and there is other stuff that is a little darker sounding. I think it’s a really good culmination of everything that we are and everything that we came from. It’s so cliché, but I think it’s the best record we’ve done.
Austin: That’s what you have to shoot for. We went in with no preconceived notions about what this record was going to do. And at the time, it was just the three of us, Ryan Stokke, Adam and I.
Adam: Pretty much 95 percent of the writing process was a 3-piece band.
Austin: Kyle [Kyle Peterson, Last Call’s new bass player] came in later and he helped with some of the stuff we were having trouble with. The fact that it’s us, it will always be Last Call, but we weren’t trying to write Stay on the Outside’s bigger brother. I tried to get the whole record to sound like Hit the Ground Running, [the first Last Call record, with previous singer Cody Kettner], but the guys weren’t into it. [laughs]
Adam: Let’s not talk about that record.
Austin: Adam gives that record out for free in internet orders. We have like 500 copies of it.
Adam: We have 460 left. We had to press 1000. I’m more surprised that we’ve gotten rid of 540.
Austin: I’m impressed. I’m sure there are a lot of people who open the package and are like “what is this?” They never talk about it.
Adam: They’re not confused until they listen to it. On everything that I send out, I started writing “2009” across the front of it so they don’t think it’s a new record.
Austin: We joke about it, but I don’t shun that record. Cody was my friend in high school and he’s always been a really good guy. I was stoked on Last Call when it happened, but when he left and I came in, it was something that we knew we had to get away from right away.
You guys have had a lot of lineup changes over the years. Can you give us a brief history of Last Call?
Adam: I’m the only original member. Our old guitarist Fidel Romero and I started the band in late 2008 and we solidified the lineup with a bunch of our friends. Fidel had a friend, Emmy Garibay, who played guitar and I was friends with Cody Kettner who sang and Andrew Dwyer who played bass so we got them. Then we recorded Hit the Ground Running, did one tour and kicked Emmy out. Ryan Stokke replaced him. Then Andrew and Cody both quit which is when Austin and Tim Desagun came in.
Austin: So right after Tim joined, Fidel left and Tim went from bass to guitar. We started writing Stay on the Outside, kind of keeping in turn members as far as bass went. After Stay on the Outside, we did a few more tours and Tim decided to leave. Now we’ve just been keeping it as a three piece while we write and Kyle has come in to play bass. Because we’re not really sure what we want to go with, we’re keeping it with fill-in members on guitar. It’s a little turbulent.
Adam: Our trailer got stolen. The van transmission blew out. And now we’re here. Then we got dropped by our booking agent, and two days later, our label went to dust. I like to think that we deal with it better than a lot of people would.
Austin: I think a lot of bands would have given up, especially here in Vegas where you can have a nice career without going to school. We never look at each other and think we want to stop. It’s really not that bad. We’ve got a lot of good stuff coming up.
How have all the lineup changes impacted your sound?
Austin: There was obviously a change from 12:57 to Stay on the Outside just because of Tim Desagun’s style. But Ryan Stokke really sets what Last Call’s tone is. He can take any song or structure you give him and turn it into something that has a Last Call kind of melody. He’s an integral part of what we do and he always keeps it grounded. But we did change from Fidel to Tim, and that gave Stay on the Outside a little bit more of a polished pop thing to it. Now that Tim is gone, I just tend to write a little bit more mid tempo and depressing because I’m a depressing, boring human being.
How did Kyle Peterson become the new bass player?
Austin: Kyle has been my best friend for about 13 years and we’ve been in a bunch of bands together before. That’s really what Last Call is, a bunch of friends. The first band that we were in together was a screamo band called Halfway. It was funny because half of the band wanted to be like Unearth and the other half wanted to be like Hot Cross and Saetia so there would be these metal riffs and then all of a sudden there would be a screamo part. Kyle has always been a great musician. He played drums in Off With His Head for a while. He played guitar in A Phoenix Forever. He’s always been a tremendous bassist and we couldn’t think of anybody who would be more fun to fill in especially because we all know him and have a good time with him. He’s somebody who is going to be successful regardless of what he does.
Austin, you’ve been in a lot of local bands over the years. Can you talk about them a little bit?
Austin: I’ve tried to be in every genre of music that has ever existed. Like I said, I started with Halfway which was really fun to be in. I still love screamo. I was in a metal band called I the Plague which got relatively popular in the metal scene, like when they were doing shows at that Mexican restaurant La Posta. I was in a pop rock band called These Vacant Arms. Unfortunately, it was a lot like A Day to Remember. Then I got into Beacon and I was their 2nd guitarist for a very long time. I still think Beacon was one of the best bands that ever came out of Vegas and I had a fucking great time being in that band.
In the middle of Beacon, I got hit up by CJ who was the drummer for Off With His Head. He had heard me doing backup vocals for Beacon and wanted me to be in his band. I’d never done that before, I’d always played guitar. I tried out and CJ got excited because I could partially sing and scream so I got into Off With His Head. That was one of the longest running bands I’ve ever been in.
During that, I was in Panther Arms with some Beacon and Curl Up and Die alumni. After Panther Arms convinced me to leave, they became Black Panther Arms, and then that was it. When I was doing it, it was a lot of fun but you could tell that Minnick [Mike Minnick, former singer for Curl Up and Die and Panther Arms] didn’t really want to be in the band.
Off With His Head did a Puerto Rico tour and then it just all slowed down and I was making music by myself. One day I went to Last Call’s last show with Cody and my friends in A Phoenix Forever told me I should try out for Last Call. I auditioned and tried to swagger it out the best I could and I guess it stuck. I tricked them enough to let me stay.
Adam: We settled. I don’t remember when Cody said he was quitting, but Austin only came in like 3 or 4 days after that show. I don’t think we even tried anyone else out after that.
How do you feel about the Vegas music scene?
Austin: I’m super sad about it. We have to go to desperate measures now just to give a band a show in Las Vegas. Come on, you have to offer a band a free show at a taco shop? Don’t get me wrong, Yayo is dope, but the scene just isn’t what it was. You used to be able to book somebody at the Hammer House and it would be really simple. They would drive in and set up their merch in a dirt lot, sit in a shanty shack and play to 50 kids or even more.
Adam: It’s weird because when I was younger all the local shows I went to were huge. There were hundreds of people at each one.
Austin: Now, it’s unbelievable. It’s like that Aesop Rock line. You have to be a bear jumping through flaming hoops for someone to buy your record. I’ve mentioned this before, but Las Vegas is all borrowed culture, and we’ve been that way forever. But we used to have our own culture of music that was very small and that small thing kept a lot of people happy and interested in good things. We watched it slowly deteriorate into nothing. Now Adam has to book shows at a VFW hall, which isn’t a bad thing, but shows used to have a real place in Vegas. It just sucks because Vegas will never be what it was.
Adam: And it sucks because you don’t want to say that about your music scene. But we can go to somewhere on the other side of the country and get 50 kids and have a blast but we can play here with The Swellers and we might get 50 kids. Or something like Oskaloosa, Iowa where we had like 100 kids, and they don’t care about our band in particular or the style of music. They’re going because music unites people. We don’t have that. And it sucks to say that about Vegas.
Austin: What’s worse is that we sound ungrateful because we’ve had shows in Vegas where people have blown our minds. Like the Stay on the Outside release show. It was unbelievable and we had a great time. Everybody really meant it and was excited about music.
Adam: Everyone that was there wanted to be there and was there to have fun.
Austin: I have kind of a harsh take on music in general nowadays because I feel like there are so many musicians that are making songs that don’t really mean anything to them. It’s like that Dead to Fall song. “I’ll sit in my room and write about some brutal shit that I know I’ll never do.” You know? They’re making fun of metal. I don’t think any of the kids in these death metal bands ever fucked a girl with a chain saw. Kids are writing unrequited love songs about girls who never existed. Jonny Craig is a drug addict but I don’t think he’s had as many dramatic metaphorical moments in his life as he’s letting on.
It’s like Brand New. I don’t think that Jesse Lacey is a god. Type in Jesse Lacey in Tumblr and it’s nothing but “Jesse Lacey is my lord and savior!” He’s selling them a sexuality that he has. On the records, he essentially says “I’m going to fuck you and leave you and you’re going to like it.” And then he stays away from everyone so they think it’s true. It sucks. It doesn’t mean anything.
Bands like Of Mice and Men bum me out. They sell bullshit and who buys it? These 13 year old girls, who for the same reason they like Twilight, connect with this pseudo-sexual, pseudo-intellectual attack that doesn’t really mean anything. When Of Mice and Men sells out the House of Blues and Set Your Goals gets 100 kids, it’s a pretty sad environment. And there’s nothing you can do except hope that these new kids age better and figure out that some of this extreme sexuality, depression and overcompensation has been ridiculous and they start to listen to a record’s message and connect.
And until that happens, bands that really mean it like Transit and Title Fight won’t sell out venues in Las Vegas. These bands are getting big and they’re bringing back honesty in music but not in Las Vegas. All the hardcore kids and post hardcore kids have moved in. We all have jobs, wives and kids and are just jacking off to fill our time. And that’s fine. Listen, On Broken Wings is touring again? I don’t care. I liked them when I was a kid. I don’t want to go to the show and have some 15 year old kick me in the face. I don’t want to stand for two hours because it hurts my back which is something that never happened when I was a kid. And unfortunately, just like every adult, I ask if there is going to be a bar because I cannot stomach some of the stuff that comes out unless I’m a little sookie.
David Bazaan came here and got 200 people at his show at the Beauty Bar and then told the crowd that they brought terrorists here before 9/11 to reinvigorate them about how much they should hate America. David, you’re my hero and I have a tattoo of your band, but fuck you. The crowd was good that night. He should probably learn to shut the fuck up and enjoy it. Or at least appreciate it. I’ve had a bad day on tour but I’ve never taken it out on a crowd. And if I ever get to a level where when I go to a place, I feel like they owe me, I should quit. Because I owe them. They pay me money to hang out with my best friends, drink beer, do the most entertaining thing you can do while you’re somewhere and then go visit their city. I’ll write you a record that I mean, and I hope you love it. The record is for me, but the touring is all for you. I love it and I do it honestly and I’ve never met another person who feels as strongly about it as me and Adam do.
You’ve got the tour with Maker coming up. Do you have anything else planned?
Adam: We did. When all the shit happened with RJ and Mightier Than Sword and we took on almost $7,000 in debt, we dropped a bunch of shit.
Austin: We had to.
Adam: Paul is one of our best friends and he got fucked more than we did. He agreed to everything assuming that he was going to get paid. We just have to find a way to get a record out. He has to figure out a way to live. So our entire priority set changed. So we’re working on getting him taken care of first and foremost. We dropped almost 40 days off of a full U.S. tour.
Austin: But we’re still doing some of it. We refuse to not tour. Money is not an excuse. But we have to finish this record now. It’s not the money, it’s the record. The record has to get done.
Adam: So we dropped it because we can’t afford to tour because we need the money to finish the record. Our priorities didn’t go away, they just shifted. This Maker tour was actually supposed to be like a month long, not all with Maker, but Maker was a part of it and then we were going out by ourselves before another leg.
Austin: The third leg was supposed to be with Mixtapes, but I think they got a bigger offer which we can’t blame them for taking. But it sucks because we were really excited about touring with them. It has bummed out our summer because summer tours are so much more fun. We love to go into cities and do new things. We don’t have money to really do much, but like when we were in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania we went to the most haunted cemetery in the world.
How do they quantify that?
Adam: I don’t know. Screams per second? It’s so rad that we’ve already gotten to go places that we never thought we would because of playing music. When you go there and get to play a show that people give as shit about, it’s amazing. Or when you get to hang out in New York City for three days and then play a show where people actually know your band and you’ve never come within 2,000 miles of the place, it’s the best feeling in the world.
Austin: I’ve never done drugs. But I can assume that touring is like being high all the time because I’m always happy. Nothing gets me off more than playing a show. Just like anything else, there are days when I want to punch Adam in the face on tour and I’m sure Adam wants to strangle me to death, but that’s what happens. This summer got burnt out a little bit, but we’re doing a short run with Heart to Heart and we’re doing It’s Been a Summer Fest in Washington which is going to be so much fun. So when we get back from that tour, we’ll do a little bit of reassessment for the record, but the second we have that under control, it is hardcore tour time. This year, we’re trying to stay away from our houses.
Austin, you’re a noted nerd and player of Warhammer 40K. What, if any, influence does that have on Last Call?
Austin: I’m a geeky ass nerd. I collect classic video game systems and comic books. I build, paint and play a collectable tabletop figurine game that takes hours and hours and thousands of dollars to get right. I love to read. I have a huge library. But those things don’t define me as a person who can’t talk to people or talk to girls or be truthful about myself. My nerdiness defines me as a happy person and that in turn probably does influence Last Call in a lot of ways. I’ve never written a song about 40K and I don’t want to, but I can tell you right now that there is probably stuff in the fiction that I’ve read and in the video games that I’ve played that dictate how I feel about the world. And when I write a song, I definitely tell you the truth about what I think and feel in my head and heart.
Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo?
Austin: First of all, the Sega Genesis is one of the worst systems that has ever been made. It was supposed to be on par with Super Nintendo but it ran slower, had a worse frame rate, and it just paled in comparison. There was Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Sega 32X, Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, every single one of them plagued by the same problem. They had no launch titles and any title that came out later was a copy of a Super Nintendo game at lower par because they couldn’t handle what Super Nintendo did. Mortal Kombat was the only thing that kept Sega ahead. They tried to jump into the CD market with the Sega CD, but they made it too complicated. You had to take off the bottom of your Sega Genesis, hook it into a giant CD thing and you had to have two different power sources that ran into two different video sources. It was too complicated and it sucked.
I was a Nintendo guy until they tried to screw Sony over. Nintendo’s original intent was to go to CD format, and they teamed up with Sony as the distributer for their systems and when Sony wanted to make sure the content they had was specific to them as a brand, Nintendo went back to cartridges and announced it without telling Sony. Sony got so mad that they invented the PlayStation. And the PlayStation 1, 2 and 3 are the greatest video game systems that have ever existed in mankind’s history. I know Xbox is all about shooting your friends on the internet, but my PlayStation 3 is one of the best things I’ve ever owned in my entire life. I use it every day.
Avengers vs. X-Men?
Austin: There shouldn’t be an Avengers vs. Xmen at all. Avengers is a unilateral team of super heroes that have had 38 alumni, and who can all be called on at any time to fight the handful of X-Men that are left, not to mention that the X-Men that are left are usually the lamest ones that exist. I don’t care who you are. Scott Summers [Cyclops] is a badass now, but he doesn’t have the gusto to take out a single member of the Avengers.
But he has a jet pack now. He still can’t take on Thor?
No. Thor would laugh him off. I was pro-registration during Civil War [A Mark Miller comic book series that featured a storyline about mutant registration]. I’m sorry, but if you can blow up and then reconfigure yourself, I want to know if you’re on my plane. I’m not trying to be rude to you. Just give me the choice not to risk that. Or at least give me the comfort that I know you’ve been trained, understand how to use your powers and that I can always rely on you as a hero. It’s a very simple concept to me. Like Spider-Man. With great power, comes great responsibility, and that responsibility should be trained.
Favorite Ninja Turtle?
Austin: I wish Ryan Stokke was here. He’s a Ninja Turtles guy. It depends, are you talking about the Ninja Turtles that were murderous mutants when they first started? Are you talking about television continuity? Comic book continuity?
All of them.
Austin: If I had to choose for murderous reasons, I’d choose Raphael. But I’ve always had a soft spot for Donatello because he’s somebody who always took his time. But he’s a little too wise for his own good. Which is why I love Leonardo, because he’s wise with a strategic understanding. But yeah, if we’re talking about for murder, definitely Raph.
Yeah, he was the Wolverine of the team.
Austin: He was a huge asshole.
Jason [Red Power Ranger] vs Tommy [Green Power Ranger, later the White Power Ranger]?
Austin: Jason’s real name is my name, so he has a soft spot in my heart. I was the red ranger for a lot of Halloweens.
Adam: I was blue. That explains a lot.
Austin: It really does. I would dress up like the red ranger for Halloween, but I also would dress up like him just to do karate.
Adam: My brother and I did that all the time!
Transcriber note: From here, the interview devolved into a very intense conversation about Terminator Salvation, and the moral culpability of Skynet.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Austin: Please keep your hopes up for the records. Keep thinking about it and remember that we don’t get to do anything without you. Thank you.
Interview by Tom Monahan and Steven Matview
Transcribed by Ashleigh Thompson
Photos of Adam Blasco, Austin Jeffers & Tom Monahan by Steven Matview
Get more Last Call on their Facebook page: facebook.com/lastcallnv