“Our Eyes Are Definitely Set Towards What’s to Come Rather Than Where We’ve Been.”
There’s a reason why wanting to leave your small town behind is a cliché so potent it can fuel a thousand pop-punk albums. We’ve all lost friends or family to the traps of poverty, substance abuse, and general hopelessness that litter our hometowns. We’ve seen the dangers that come along when apathy mixes with complacency so the first thing many of us want to do is leave, thinking our problem is unique to Southern Illinois. Just getting out will save me.
Then when you do get out, you find that these issues are everywhere. At that point, you either keep searching or you return home, knowing that the place you’ve carved out there among friends and family is something that can’t be found just anywhere, it’s something sacred and pure, something to be protected.
On their new EP, One Eighteen, Trophy Shop explores some of these themes. Absent are any triumphant anthems about leaving this town in the dust. What we fortunately get instead are six tracks ruminating on what it means to continue growing in a place that remains the same.
Or at least that’s what I got from it. Each listen through One Eighteen, is like rounding the corner of a familiar neighborhood.
“Trace” calls to mind the many times I’ve ran into old friends from high school, friends that I used to sleep on their bedroom floor when we were kids, but now it’s obvious that they haven’t been as lucky to avoid our hometown traps as I have been. Sure, we’ll still make idle small talk on the sidewalk, they’ll assure me that they’re okay, they’re clean now. While I’m left wondering, “What happened to you? You scream for help but I can’t make out the sound.” Whatever connection we once had was lost and there’s no reclaiming that.
On “Freeze Rain,” I’m reminded that I’m not immune to the hopelessness of this place either. No matter how hard I try, there are still (so many) days where I relate too hard to the lyrics of the chorus: “Define sane, what’s okay? How do I get up to face this day? I can’t tell you all the reasons why I feel half-asleep when I’m wide awake. What did you say?”
Still, I keep trying, and ultimately it’s the sentiment found in the lyrics of “Sideways” that I cling to the hardest: “For the first time in my entire life. I won’t let you down. I won’t leave you now. I swear I’ll make it right.” Failure lurks around nearly every corner of adulthood. It’s the anxieties that keep me awake at night. It’s the struggle to put my feet on the floor in the morning. At this point in my life though, I have people depending on me and I won’t give up on them for anything.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve gotten to exchange emails with Trophy Shop as we discussed the recording process of One Eighteen, the friendship that forms the foundation of their band, and a certain beloved, checkered floor venue in Herrin.
Our conversation follows:
Dane wrote on 9/1 at 4:40pm:
I've been listening to One Eighteen all weekend and I love it. Every snare hit, every delayed guitar riff, every shouted line, it all sounds so good. There's a visceral quality to it that captures the basement-show intimacy of everything you all have done so far too. It's awesome.
What was the process like for making One Eighteen? When did the songwriting start? Was there a conscious effort to push yourselves into new directions or did the songs just come together naturally?
Trophy Shop replied on 9/1 at 8:20pm:
Thanks for taking the time to listen and say all those kind things Dane!
Songwriting for some of these tracks go back about 2 years. Namely Metric, which was really the start of us finding our current sound. Freeze Rain probably came around then, too.
I don’t think we’d say there was a conscious vision for what the EP would be. Around a year ago we noticed a vibe with several tracks, and those were the tracks that ended up staying on our sets, while others we got bored of and stopped playing. This CD is a good snapshot of what we’ve sounded like for the last couple years.
Dane wrote back on 9/2 at 3:46pm:
Who all did you work with in the studio for making One Eighteen? What was the overall vibe like during your recording sessions?
And then, now that you’re less than a week away from it being out, how are you all feeling? Like, is the mood more “Hey, here’s some songs we wrote, whatever, hope you like them,” or “These songs mean the world to us and that's all that matters" ?
Over the years, I've had bandmates and met plenty of musicians who fell in one of these categories, or a healthy mix of the two, so I wondered how you all feel as you release your hard work and heartfelt songs out into the wild.
Trophy Shop replied on 9/3 at 4:41pm:
Basically a year ago we started seeking out recording options and getting serious about what we wanted to lay down. There was a bit of trial and error there, and in March of this year (‘19) Adam Fletcher (frontman of The Copyrights) reached out to us a few days after playing a Lost Cross show. He had just finished producing Bedspin’s full length, who are super good friends and their CD turned out great.
Adam already knew we were looking to find a producer and it just kinda went from there; we started tracking at Lost Cross where his studio was set up in April, and we worked around everyone’s busy schedules until the beginning of August with tracking, mixing, and mastering (which was done by Luke McNeill, also of The Copyrights). Adam is a huge inspiration, being a local musician in an amazing band that produces their own stuff. Having him bring this together, for him to give time and effort and his opinions into this project, that’s just humbling. He had to mediate quite a few arguments between Connor and Jon, who fight like a married couple sometimes.
When it comes to finally releasing this, we’re happy that these are finally out there for everyone to enjoy and listen. They’ve only existed in our live sets and now they get to be appreciated whenever. That being said, we want to move on to the next “snapshot” of the band. Our influences, our attitudes and lives are changing, we’re ready to try and bring the music alongside those changes. Maybe focus on a bigger project. Our eyes are definitely set towards what’s to come rather then where we’ve been.
Dane replied on 9/4 at 3:03pm:
That’s a good approach. I’m excited for whatever is still to come from you all. Also, anytime I ask anyone about their recording process, what I’m really asking is—did you guys come close to killing each other? Because plenty of recording projects I’ve been a part of have felt like that at times. So thank you for giving the little mention of arguments that needed mediating. That’s an honest insight that most people don’t know about when it comes to band dynamics and trying to create something with those you’re close to. If everyone’s passionate about getting it right then conflict is bound to happen.
As I listen to One Eighteen, I really find myself connecting to the lyrics more and more. They all feel really personal while allowing room for interpretation so the listener can apply their own meaning. Do the lyrics come together as a collaborative effort or do you all discuss what each song is about? Is there a song that particularly means something more to you all on One Eighteen because of the lyrics?
Trophy Shop wrote back on 9/5/19 at 4:39pm:
If there’s one honest insight about us as a band, it’s that Connor and Jon don’t look like they get along sometimes (if you don’t know them) . But we’ve all been close friends for over a decade now; we tend not to hold back when we get frustrated. Adam caught a couple glimpses of that for sure, and a bit of our picky nature.
All the songs are pretty personal as you point out. Most of them are linked to family related things. Some stuff about relationships. Usually lyrics are started by somebody individually and they bring them to practice. Depending on the subject matter it’s kind of like “hey, you have something you wanna say, that’s you” and we’ll only make suggestions and minor changes. Other songs have started like that and ended up totally collaborative because we all related to what the words were about. But a couple of these songs were definitely just one of us getting something personal off of our chests.
Glad that you can also say you connect to them as well - and that you find them open to interpret. We didn’t sing about anything on this record that’s not been felt before. It’s our little musical version of the things life throws at us, just as it’s throwing things at everyone else.
Dane wrote back on 9/7 at 12:14pm:
You mentioned you all being friends for over a decade now, what’s the origin story of Trophy Shop and how you all came to start playing shows? Did you ever think when you all first started out that you’d still be playing together today?
Also, since you all are playing your album release show tonight, what’s your general feeling on playing shows? I know some musicians that write songs just so they have new stuff to play live. While others have the exact opposite feeling with shows being a necessary thing they have to do to promote their music.
Trophy Shop replied on October 16that 8:49am:
Well it all started for us in high school when we started a metalcore band Oh, Treason. I think Andrew had just graduated when we brought him in for vocals. That only lasted about a year and a half or so but we played a ton of shows and had a lot of fun with that. TS kinda came about after a period of not playing for a few years, Connor had joined another metal act and Andrew & Harry had moved to Denver, we were all just doing our own things.
Title Fight came out with a new record in 2015 called “Hyperview” and at the time Jon had never really listened to/liked them. But that was a different sound even for them and Jon was super motivated to play alternative after that and hit Connor up to play some guitar together. Andrew had just moved back from San Diego shortly after and it was just a no-brainer to get him and Harry involved in the band since we had all stayed close friends. The only place we had to practice that made sense was Jon’s mom’s business Carbondale Trophy Company after closing time and the name “Trophy Shop” was just an obvious product of that haha.
If you told us in 2010 that we’d still be jamming and playing shows in 2019, we can’t say we’d believe it but I think it’s our close ties as friends that have helped make that a reality.
Shows are some of our favorite things about being in the band, it’s where we get to show everyone what we’ve worked on and connect with other bands in a real-life physical way. We never play songs that we don’t feel are ready to show people. And we’re pretty quick to drop some from our set when newer/better ones are written. Like most bands. I mean yea we definitely want to write great songs and have a good product to promote, but we definitely wouldn’t use the word “necessary” to refer to shows, something more enthusiastic would fit better.
Dane replied on October 22ndat 11:16am:
Man! I didn’t know you all were in Oh, Treason, I’m pretty sure we played some shows together at some point. Long live HITTS.
You mention in an earlier response that you all have your eyes set on what’s to come rather than where you’ve been. What’s something you all still want to accomplish? A full-length album? Touring plans?
This will be my last question. Thanks for taking the time to do this, guys. I look forward to seeing you guys play this weekend at Burg’s.
Trophy Shop replied at 9:16am on October 23rd:
We definitely did Dane! We were tempered on those checkered floors haha. HITTS forever (RIP).
So far as what’s to come, we just want to write more music. It took awhile for these songs on the EP to finally come together just with the fact that we all have full time jobs (and Andrew is a father), and we’d like to be able to churn out some newer relevant material. We’ve been wanting to release some out-of-left-field covers too. Been working with our good friends in Maewyn out of Murray to try and get some weekend dates in Kentucky in the near future, too. Just as much writing and playing as our schedules will allow.
Thank you for reaching out to us for this Dane! We’ll see y’all on Saturday
Trophy Shop’s new EP, One Eighteen, is available to stream/download on their bandcamp now. It’s also available on AppleMusic, Spotify, Tidal (sure), and probably wherever else you stream music.
Honestly, I don’t know which band member I was talking to most the time here (I assume Jon), but I’m okay with that. In fact, I think it’s awesome that these dudes are tight enough that they can answer questions honestly as a group. It really speaks to their whole vibe as a band so I went with it. If you go to Carbondale and run into one member of Trophy Shop, you’re very likely to run into at least another one of them.