It’s still hard to believe that The Movielife are back and with a new record after splitting up in 2003. Cities In Search of A Heart marks the band’s return to form and it’s just an impressive and bold record. We had the pleasure to talk with Vinnie Caruana about the band’s comeback, what led them to get back together and how it was like to work on their highly anticipated record.
It’s been 20 years since The Movielife started. How do you feel about looking back to when everything started?
Never thought I would still be doing it. I’ve never said I would be in a band and I didn’t plan on being in a band. I was never in a band in high school and so I just kind of fell into it a little bit and realized how important it was to me to have music in my life and be able to make music. 20 years down the line I don’t know what to do without it. It really completes me as a person and it allows me to be a happy person, even though a lot that I write about isn’t particularly happy and I think that’s why it gives me really an outlet. The fact that I forged the career out of that is something that I’m very proud of, but also very grateful for it.
2003 was the year that The Movielife broke up. Personally, I’ve always kept in my mind that you guys just took some time off, because I always felt that you guys have always left a door open to something over the years after the break up… How do you guys feel now that you’re back in 2017?
It feels amazing. Just coming back playing some reunion shows was a really nice feeling and it’s been two and half years and we have this new record coming out. It’s a whole new feeling. A lot has changed… We’re on our 30s and when we started I was 18 or 19. It feels great to be a band, to have people that still remember us and care about us and sing along to all of our older songs. It’s very special.
A bunch of bands such as Four Year Strong, Hit The Lights and Set Your Goals saw you as their main reference for their music. How do you guys take that now?
For us to be an influence on bands, especially incredible bands like the ones you mentioned, it’s very gratifying for us. The way that we regard the bands that we would call our influences and our inspirations, bands that we grew up on, for us to be that for somebody else is very flattering because if we’re that important or that pivotal band to someone, whether it would be a fan or a band, to know how much I care about the bands that were an influence to me and to be that for somebody else, it’s really special. It’s the highest compliment you can really get as a
Aside from a brief reunion in 2010, The Movielife had been almost totally off since 2003, calling it a day in September that year, after seven months of the release of your third record, Forty Hour Train Back To Penn. It was unthinkable for you guys to get together, but somehow in 2014 things changed. How did this reunion come to be?
It was very simple. Brendan Reilly [guitarist] and myself have always been very good friends. We are the creative force of the band and we write music together, and that doesn’t change with the new record. Brendan and I wrote the whole thing together, so we hadn’t seen each other very much because after The Movielife broke up we were roommates. We were always very supportive of each other, like he with I Am The Avalanche and myself with Nightmare of You. We’re really big fans of each other’s music and we’re just kind of musical piers even though that we’re in a band together, we always shared music with each other. Brendan started a family and sometimes life goes that way where you don’t see your friends as much. Brendan and I kind of fell off of each other’s lives a little bit. We kept in touch, but we wouldn’t see each other very much. We kind of realized that and we made it a point to get together more often, be in each other’s lives and be part of each other’s families. When that started to happen, almost immediately we started to write music together and discuss that possibility of playing together again. And that was really it! When Brendan and I rebuilt our friendship, the music followed very quickly after.
How was it like to be back together and play live shows again now you’re in your mid-thirties?
I have to stretch a little more before we play. [laughs] Not that much has changed. It’s that same feeling singing these songs. I’m enjoying singing the old songs and at the same time I’m very happy to have new songs to sing as well. The crowd has grown with us. There’s a lot of the same faces from back in the day and a lot of newer people coming to see us as well, people that maybe got into us after we had broken up and now they have the opportunity to see us. This will be the first US tour since 2003. We played shows here and there in the reunion shows and now that we’re doing the whole United States there’s a lot of cities that we haven’t played since 2002/2003, so we’re gonna get to see what the rest of the country thinks and the rest of the world as well as we continued this record’s cycle. We’re gonna try to get everywhere.
Cities In Search of A Heart marks the band’s return to form and your first album since 2003’s Forty Hour Train Back To Penn. How did it feel to get back in writing together and brainstorm ideas for the new songs?
It felt like I was 19 again and it felt very natural. We weren’t writing with any sort of pressure and nobody knew we were writing. We didn’t feel the need to speak about it until we were ready to show it to people and until we knew we were prepared. I think it’s some of our best work. I know how it is to be a music fan and sometimes our ears aren’t ready to hear new music from bands, especially records that we’ve been listening to for 15 years, and I think that’s really our job to get out there, play shows – obviously we will always play the older songs as well as the new songs – play in front of our crowd, show them some new music and show them like “Hey guys, you know what? There’s a new The Movielife record here for you.” We really think that’s some of our best work. We understand at the same time how nostalgia works and nostalgia is a very powerful thing, so we just did our best to write a record that we knew we were proud of and just make it as strong as humanly possible.
“The racists and the bigots are certainly letting themselves be known and they’re been given a voice and they don’t have to hide anymore, so the good people and righteous people need to do the same.”
Cities In Search Of A Heart has a bunch of big pop punk melodies with some of the fury of hardcore. What was the inspiration behind the writing process for the new record?
We didn’t use any of the stuff that we began writing. Our original songs from probably 2 years ago when we started, we didn’t use any of it. We just needed to find our way. We didn’t know how to make it to not sound like when we were kids, we wanted it to come from a very natural place. In the beginning, we were just working on a lot of chords and melodies and things like that. Trying to find out how to be The Movielife in 2017 is not easy, that was the hardest part. I remember asking Brendan to write a punk song while I was away because I was going on a solo tour, and we weren’t really writing songs, we were just playing around with different chords and melodies. I remember Brendan kind of being confused like “What kind of punk song? Do you mean like something that we used to write?” and I was like “No! Just a punk song in 2017 from the mind of Brendan Rilley who’s written many great punk songs.” I could see that he was stressed out. [laughs] I went away and I wrote a song that was actually the song that starts the record [“Ski Mask”]. When I showed him that song, he was like “I think this is my favorite thing we’ve done so far.” I basically wanted to get the point across like “It doesn’t need replicate anything we’ve ever done. The important thing is that it has the heart that The Movielife has and it has that energy and that sincerity.” When I showed him that song, it changed everything. When I say we didn’t use a lot of the stuff that we wrote in the beginning, I would say that probably 90% of the record was written after I wrote that song and showed him the kind of directions we could go and where we could both be happy with what we were doing. I know that Brendan is very intent on not trying to recreate the past and I’m in complete agreement with him. At the same time, making a record that we’re proud of and that our fans will love is not an easy thing to do, but I think we achieved it.
What led you to title this album as Cities In Search Of A Heart?
It has a lot to do with the way we feel in America right now. Things are very strange over here. Being an American is not an easy thing to do these days. I don’t identify with many of my country man and with their views… Our country and our government is trying to go back to Stone Age and all the progress that we’ve made and how progressive society has become, they’re trying to cut it all down and make America “white” again and make it racist again. The title is really about the good people coming together and letting their true colors show and letting everybody know who you are. The racists and the bigots are certainly letting themselves be known and they’re been given a voice and they don’t have to hide anymore, so the good people and righteous people need to do the same.
Lyrically, it’s obvious that you got inspired by everything that’s going on our society right now, which is all very uncertain and overwhelming. How was it like to write these lyrics for the new album?
A lot of older The Movielife records is me being a young man and trying to figure out relationships and love, you know what I mean? I’m an happily married man who’s 37 years old and I can’t write about things like that, I have to write what’s real now and I don’t think that anybody wants to hear that either, I certainly don’t. There’s more pressing matters at hand. There was no doubt that I was going to be writing from a very real place in 2017 as a person and as an American and who’s disillusion with calling himself American. At the same time to not be making it an overly political record because that certainly is not the spirit of The Movielife, so to find that place in between where I can do an accurate social commentary at least coming from my point of view and Brendan’s point of view and write from that place that we are in without making just political anthems. It’s just not something that I’m interested in doing, but I am interested in touching on these things in a way that’s not directly on the nose.
The latest single “Ghost in the Photographs” is a true pop-punk anthem and it’s one of my favorite of the album. Tell me a little bit about the story behind it.
The line in the song that says “Such a struggle to be true and have a pulse” is really about being a human being knowing that we all have those things that we’re not proud of that we did. We all have major mistakes that we’ve made, things I hope we’ve learned from and I certainly have. The whole point of it is like, I’m human, you’re human. We know that we haven’t always done the right thing or done things in the right way, but even for the terrible people out there there’s still time to make right the things that you’ve done wrong and there’s still time to learn from it and to grow as a human, and that’s really where the chorus comes from. I’m not there anymore, I’m not trying to live in the past and wallow in my own kind of misery. I’m trying to make sure I grow, I’m trying to make sure that I am making a positive impact and trying to make sure that I live a positive life.
You had quite a team working with you guys on the recording process and it was recorded at Barber Shop Studios in northern New Jersey. Tell me more about the whole process.
It was hard working but very easy going process. We started very early each morning until 10 or 11 at night each day. It was me, Brendan, Brett Romnes – who played drums and produced the record as well – and our friend Joe Cannetti – who was kind of a sound engineer and tech for us in the studio. Brett and Joe are an incredible team and got some really great sounds for us. The four of us just sat at the same room together for about a month and just constantly worked with joy the entire time and it never felt like work. Working from 9 in the morning until 5 just making music and just having sound being blasted into my head all day, around 5 o’clock in the afternoon I would enjoy a nice cold beer and then it would give me my second wind and then we would get back to work at night. [laughs] Usually after I had a drink or two, I would say “Alright, I want to sing” and then I would sing a song or two. Around 10 or 11 pm when we finished, we would have like a movie time. We would have wine and watch a movie all together and we would play the movie through the speakers in the studio that are worth god knows how much money and it would be like a theatrical movie experience every night after we would wrapped tracking.
How has been like to work with Rise Records?
They’re really cool! The record hasn’t even come out yet and I have very high opinion of them. They are extremely supportive, a label that in regards to each of their bands it seems like the most important thing is for the band to be happy and the band to have resources to make the record they want to make the way they want to make it and not getting in the way of the creative process whatsoever. If you don’t trust a band to make a great record and something that they believe in and that means something, then why would you ever signed them to your label in the first place? I think that Rise Records understands that. We have a very long career and dealt with many great labels, Rise is absolutely no different. They believe in us, they know that we know what we’re doing, we know that they know what they’re doing, we both have our own success. Now it’s just putting our heads together and we all know how to be successful and we all know how to do what we do best, so they’re leaving it to us to make great records and go play great shows, and we’re leaving to them to promote the record and do everything that they can do to get behind us. It’s been really great.
Last year you released your first solo album, Survivor’s Guilt, an album that showcased your perseverance and talentas a musician and individual. Are you planning on releasing new solo material soon?
I’m always writing music. I hadn’t thought of a solo record for a while now just because this record with The Movielife hasn’t come out, but actually just recently I definitely broke some ground. I started writing a song that feels to me that it can be the start of that project. The last solo record I went on a really full band kind of experience and we toured that way as well with the full band. I don’t want to do that again, not that I don’t want to do that again, but for this next solo record I would like to pull it back a little bit and to be a lot more intimate than the rock band experience. I’m in a rock band again [laughs] and so I’m getting my kicks that way with The Movielife, I don’t need to make another rock record on the side. I think my next solo stuff will be a lot more intimate and I’m just starting to kind of break the ice with that and I have plenty of time. There’s a lot of time on tour to just mess around and so I just don’t want sit around and look at my phone, I want to create and make sure I’ll keep busy and stay on top of my writing. I Am The Avalanche took about a six year break in between records and I think since that this has been my most prolific era of my career. I would like to be even more prolific and I would like to keep releasing as much music as possible and be able to look back as an old man and just be proud of what I did. This is what I’m supposed to do, I’m supposed to be writing music and I know I need to keep doing that and I know I want to keep doing that. I just want to keep doing solo records, make The Movielife records… With I Am The Avalanche we only just play a show every once in a while, but if we were able to do some stuff like that, it would be great… There’s a lot of other projects that I tour around with too and maybe I’ll show some people that, so I just want to keep releasing music in any possible way.