Spitalfield: The metamorphosis of a pop-punk-rock band

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113338487213186.jpg’, ‘Photo by Jonathon Hicks’, ‘Chicago pop-punk-rock group Spitalfield perform Saturday, Nov. 26 at Chubby Rain House of Tunes in Poplar Grove. Spitalfield teamed with The Audition and Daylight Dropping to open for the Plain White T’s.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113338492513275.jpg’, ‘Photo by Jonathon Hicks’, ‘“We weren’t expecting that it would go through the roof, we just wanted to make sure that we didn’t slow down—and we really haven’t," said Spitalfield lead singer Mark Rose (pictured) about the group’s latest album, Stop Doing Bad Things. ‘);

Lead singer of Chicago group sits down with TRRT to discuss life as a pop-punk rocker

A tour bus can teach you a lot about a band. The van that Chicago punks Spitalfield travel the country in was no exception. The worn tires and messy-but-organized interior reveal a simple fact: Spitalfield is one of the hardest-touring bands you’ll ever see.

Mark Rose (vocals), Dan Lowder (guitar), T.J. Minich (bass) and J.D. Romero (drums) are living proof that even the toughest jobs aren’t work if you love what you do. They have spent the bulk of the last four years either in their touring van or in a recording studio.

During their stop at Chubby Rain House of Tunes in Poplar Grove Saturday, Nov. 26—the second night of their Midwest/East Coast tour with the Plain White T’s—Rose invited us aboard that well-traveled white van for a chat.

With a unique potpourri flooding our nostrils, Rose, a die-hard Bears fan, wore his heart on his sleeve and allowed us a rarely seen view of a band that’s journeyed a long way but knows that progress isn’t always measured by an odometer.

Jonathan Hicks, The Rock River Times (TRRT): You and the Plain White T’s have both been around a while. You’ve obviously played shows with these guys before, but how cool is it to go and spend a month with them on the road?

Mark Rose, Spitalfield (MR): It’s going to be great. We’ve played with them countless times in the Chicagoland or Midwest area, but it’s fun to finally be out and have a good time with them and play with them everywhere.

TRRT: You’ve played tours with countless bands, everyone from Fall Out Boy, to Poison the Well and The Early November. You were on the road for almost two years leading up to the release of the last record, and have been there constantly since. What is the best part about being on the road?

MR: For starters, performing every night is still exciting to us. We’re not burnt out on that at all. It’s still fun. The opportunity to be in different cities with different kids, and then to be able to come back to cities and come back to those kids—it’s one of those things you hope to be able to do. Then, when you’re actually able to do it, it’s a good feeling. You’re doing your best to build a fan base and to carry yourself financially. But past all that, we’re still just four guys who used to play in basements and VFW halls on the weekends. Now, we get to do this all the time. School’s on hold, jobs are on hold—this is what we do. That’s something that we’ve all wanted to do for a while, and we’ve been able to do it now for a few years straight.

TRRT: To dedicate yourself to it like this… To say “Look, this is what we’re going to do.” What is that decision-making process like when you decide everything else is going to be secondary?

MR: We’ve gotten to that point where it’s easier for us to stay on tour, and not be paying rent on an apartment and not be working part-time jobs on the side. It’s easier for us to focus on the band all of the time. And we’re still young enough that we can do that. None of us have families yet. None of us are at that point, where our parents are like “You’re out of here.” Everyone’s still pretty supportive, and we’re at a label that we know can make things happen. We’ve seen bands go from point A to point B. We’re somewhere in the middle of all that, and I think the decision-making process was just us saying “Let’s do it.” Week by week, the record is still selling on some level, and we’re doing a show in Rockford tonight that looks like it’s going to be pretty good. And that’s enough fuel for us to say “sweet.” Because who knows how many people would love to be in this situation and how many young bands there are that just really want to break to that next level? That’s where we’re at, and there’s so many more levels to go, so we’ll see what happens.

TRRT: Another Chicago band that is certainly pushing up to different levels is Fall Out Boy. They’re getting Chicago talked about for the first time in a while, even though bands like yours and the T’s and Allister have been around forever. Does their blowing up have an impact on the Chicago scene?

MR: Yeah, it does. It’s like a double-sided sword, but the positives outweigh the negatives. On the negative side, of course, a lot of people who are part of a scene when it becomes more commercialized have really ill feelings to something that was theirs, or it was something that they were part of exclusively. Then, to hear your favorite band on MTV and to see them with hundreds of thousands of other fans, you feel like you’ve lost something. But from a musician’s standpoint, it’s really unfortunate that a lot of kids are like that. And I can see when a band legitimately “sells out,” or really changes who they are or what they sound like, but a band like Fall Out Boy, they’re still the same guys spinning around and playing music. And if anything, we’re more inspired by the fact that they did make it as far as they have, and they’ve opened the door for a lot of bands to get some exposure from them and to play shows with them and be associated with them in different ways.

TRRT: Is that level of popularity something that you aspire to reach?

MR: Honestly, the level they’re at, I don’t even dream about it. They’re at a whole new level. I definitely aspire to draw more kids and have more sway and be heard by more people, but the level they’re at is so far out there…they’ve surpassed every expectation, I think. And they’re still going.

TRRT: AP (Alternative Press magazine) called your latest record Stop Doing Bad Things “an 11-song melting pot.” What do you call it?

MR: I call it Spitalfield two years later, two years more mature, two years wiser (laughs). You’ve got to learn something while you’re out there. From our first record to this record, the main difference is that we’d spent two years together on the road. We’d been out with a countless number of bands, and we’ve picked up on a lot of things and learned a lot about ourselves. There’s nothing better than playing with each other every night to really help develop your sound and help read each other better than you have ever before. There’s a lot of different feelings and emotions going into it, and we took a different approach, worked with a different producer, strived for a slightly different sound, and I think it came together for us. We weren’t expecting that it would go through the roof, we just wanted to make sure that we didn’t slow down—and we really haven’t. I think that for every window that we close, we open a couple of new doors with it.

TRRT: Are you guys writing while you’re on the road?

MR: Yeah, we’re always writing. By nature, I know that I am a songwriter. I do solo stuff all the time that’s just for me, and I do tons of stuff that I would never even think about actually recording for Spitalfield. Music is always on my mind. I was actually going to school for music composition, specifically for films, score writing. I love all types of music. I love orchestral, I love jazz, I love rock, I love metal, I love pop—you give me a genre, and I’ll name you a band I like. I don’t limit myself to what we do.

TRRT: You mention the way that people group things into genres. It’s fans, it’s writers like me—we’re always looking for a way to group bands together. I see it all the time with punk bands, and even more specifically with Chicago punk bands. What separates you guys from everybody else?

MR: It’s kind of a tough call, because we know that we have influences. We can’t argue that, and we never would. We know that at the core of everything we’re a rock/pop band. We know that we’re not breaking new boundaries, but we like to think that at least the blend that we’ve come up with is unique to us. We try to have a lot of energy, but so do a lot of bands. We try to convey a positive message and t

ry to stay focused. I think a lot of bands have done that, and I think a lot of bands will do that. We’re just happy to be a part of it.

TRRT: Have you come to terms with the idea that you’ve been around for seven years, and you’re starting to influence the next generation of musicians coming up?

MR: That’s something I’ve real recently had to come to terms with, and it’s really flattering more than anything else. It’s a little bit scary. I remember early on for us, the bands that we looked up to and that really impacted us to make us do what we want to do. And to think that was in ’97 and ’98 when we were looking up to these bands. Here we are in 2005, and there are bands that are starting every day that when they think of what influences them, they think of bands from our era. And I’m kind of shocked by that. It’s almost like I don’t want to accept that. We’re still learning, so how can they be taking stuff from us? But I guess it’s like that for everybody, for every generation.

TRRT: This tour takes you up until Christmas. What’s going on after that?

MR: We’re going to be home for most of January, just taking some time off and working on some demos and furthering the writing process that we’ve already started since the last record came out. Our goal is to be out in February, in March, be back in the studio by late spring and tour all summer long with a new record in the fall.

TRRT: Anything I left out? Anything that people in the Rockford area should know about your band?

MR: If they’ve read this far, I appreciate them taking the time, and I’m flattered that anyone cares what I have to say. If anyone has heard us, that’s awesome. If they haven’t, there are definitely outlets for music all over the place: PureVolume, MySpace, VictoryRecords.com. We appreciate anyone who takes the time to listen.

Stop Doing Bad Things is available now on Victory Records. For more information about Spitalfield, including upcoming tour dates, visit www.spitalfield.net.

From the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2005, issue

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