I’m speaking with You Blew It frontman Tanner Jones in Greenwood Cemetery on a warm Tuesday morning in February. This isn’t the first time we’ve met or even the first time we’ve had a long conversation together. No, that day was almost five years ago in a Subway parking lot across the street from the University of Central Florida. We had been in two conjoining car accidents — I collided with the guy in front of me, and he was hit by the girl in front of him — and struck up a conversation about our shared advertising/public relations major, music, and his band, who had just released their debut album Grow Up, Dude via Massachusetts emo-revivalists, Topshelf Records.
Present day, the two of us — sitting on a small bench feet away from the grave of Orlando pioneer Joseph Bumby — are evolved forms of the people who met that day. Tanner and lot released their third full-length Abendrot this past November and have tremendously expanded their fanbase with continuous touring, both as headliners and support for rock icons like Taking Back Sunday and Coheed and Cambria. (And I’m interviewing him for Orlando Weekly. Our Advertising Copywriting professor Joan McCain would be proud.) Enjoy.
matthew warhol: I wanted to start with talking about how we met because I think that’s pretty interesting. That was four, five years ago? I was a Sophmore in college so that was like four years ago.
Tanner Jones (You Blew It): Yeah, because it was right when I started dating the girl I’m still dating.
matthew warhol: And we were in a car accident together, two conjoining car accidents. I hit someone, and then there was a gap, and someone hit you, right?
Tanner Jones: Yeah, yeah.
matthew warhol: We were talking because we were both into music. I don’t know if I’d started the blog at that point.
Tanner Jones: I don’t think so. You definitely didn’t mention it.
matthew warhol: But we were talking about You Blew It. I hadn’t heard of you at the time. But that was right after Grow Up, Dude came out. A lot has changed since then.
Tanner Jones: I remember being really h-angry. I was so close to going to that Subway.
matthew warhol: I did get the Subway.
Tanner Jones: Did I too?
matthew warhol: I think we all did. It was almost like a movie where people are stranded on an island together, so they start to bond. No one was angry with each other.
Tanner Jones: Everyone was really nice.
matthew warhol: That was probably the best car accident I’ve ever been in.
matthew warhol: And we met so that was cool. Since then, You Blew It has gone to a completely different level. The second album came out. And personally, I thought the second album tightened everything from the first album. The production was better. The songwriting was better. But it was very much on the same path. Then going from there, a friend of mine had said something like, “I really like this new album, but I’m afraid that with the next one … if they don’t do something different, they’re going to disappear as a band.” Was that something that you were aware of?
Tanner Jones: Yeah, but it wasn’t so much a conscious conversation. You put out two records that sound mostly the same; then at that point, a certain boredom or type of anxiety starts to set in. We could have written that record four times, you know? And it would have been easy because it’s what we were used to. But at the time of writing Keep Doing What You’re Doing, it was hard and it was challenging. You want to keep challenging yourself. Naturally, to challenge yourself you want to go to new directions, through new creative processes. So yeah, that’s the long answer but in short, we knew we had to do something different.
matthew warhol: What do you mean by challenging yourself? How did you do that, specifically?
Tanner Jones: One crutch we have as a band is that we like to use alternate tunings and time signatures. So if a part isn’t there yet, instead of changing it around and maybe putting it through a different instrument, we’ll just put it in 7/4 and it’ll be fine. Instead of doing that — this record we just put out — it was more of a struggle to try to do new things and to try to solve problems in different ways we haven’t before. For example, putting a guitar part on a vibraphone. Or maybe even scrapping a song altogether because it wasn’t up to par.
matthew warhol: And when you say that, do you mean that you were sinking back to the older music? Were you consciously trying to make it new? Because to me, it sounds like to push forward, you were pulling back a little bit. You guys were restraining yourselves from doing these really heavy songs.
Tanner Jones: Yeah, yeah for sure. Previously we were very maximalists. It was always three guitars playing different parts all at once. So yeah, that’s another big hurtle we had to get over, trying to scale the mountain with less equipment — if that makes sense. And it just ended up being really fun. It’s kind of one of those things where you hate doing it until you grasp how to do it the right way. Then it becomes rewarding.
matthew warhol: On the new one … it’s weird because I was reading what you were saying in another interview. You were saying that was about a very difficult time in your life. Can you go into detail about that — as much as you want of course?
Tanner Jones: A lot of it was self-induced as I’m realizing now. Having the whole third record looming, it’s kind of like a big. There’s a lot of pressure … I guess that’s just an easy way to put it. So I kind of stopped taking care of myself, physically and mentally. I let things kind of bore into my skin and stay there. And then the door opened for a lot of mental issues and past problems that I had never solved. They all kind of came out at once. So the writing was both the therapy and the cause, you know? So yeah, I guess that’s pretty much the brunt of it. For example, the song “Greenwood,” a lot of times to calm myself I’d come ride around here on my bike and take time to let everything sink in. As you know, it’s just quiet here. You can hear the birds chirping. There’s no one yelling, no on talking. It’s just a nice place to be alone. And that’s how that song came about, just coming hear and letting everything overtake. And those lyrics just came out.
matthew warhol: So the songs are coming from the issues that you’re dealing with, but in this case, how you’re dealing with them. That’s interesting. Was there anything else inspired by the healing process?
Tanner Jones: Not necessarily in the same way “Greenwood” was written, but there’s a certain thing that a lot of the songs tap that’s dealing with mental issues and whether or not they’re self-induced. I’d say “Greenwood” is the unique one, in the way it was written. The other ones are just kind of … more confessional.
matthew warhol: You’re very much looking in on the entire record. Where like, the previous albums were definitely pushing out. When I listen to it, it just sounds like you’re getting older. Where things that bother you when you’re younger, you’re just pushing it onto other things and other people. Saying, “You’re the problem. You’re the problem. You’re the problem.”
Tanner Jones: Exactly. I’m sure you feel the same way where it’s like, you’re 18 to 22 and it’s like, “Aw, I hate my classes; it’s got to be because of my classmates. Look at these jocks and these weirdos! Fuck them!” But really it’s just, you’re looking at it from the wrong perspective. I guess getting older is gaining perspective.
matthew warhol: Was that a conscious thing in your writing?
Tanner Jones: It was one of those things where I realized it, but I wasn’t aware of it until after the record came out. After a record, I’ll listen to our stuff before it and see how it transitions into what we’re about to release. And I think that’s when I realized it. There’s definitely a perspective shift.
matthew warhol: Do you think you’re happier?
Tanner Jones: Yeah, for sure. It’s a weird solace knowing that you’re the problem, ya know? Because then you can fix it. Where as, othertimes, putting blame on other people for things is just so unhealthy and terrorizing for the mind.
matthew warhol: That’s deep. [laughs] That’s a real one. So … you guys have been very supportive of Orlando. You haven’t strayed away from being an “Orlando band,” and so thank you for doing that. Because I feel like there have been other bands that have gotten big and ditched Orlando for LA …
Tanner Jones: … for bigger ponds.
matthew warhol: Did you ever think about doing moving?
Tanner Jones: No, we kind of always expected to stay here just because I don’t think that the place that you’re from should have that kind of hold, or that kind of baring, on your art. I feel like a lot of people assume that if they go to New York or LA that there are more opportunities and therefore, there are more chances to get bigger. When really, the big opportunity is that you’re doing it. And Orlando is an incredible place for culture, for people, for art. So just being here and having this base to build on just seemed like the perfect spot.
matthew warhol: Do you feel embraced by Orlando?
Tanner Jones: Sometimes it’s hot and cold. But I feel like that’s kind of a good thing. Sometimes we feel like outsiders, but I think that’s just a product of where we are now. New artists come in and new people come in so the focus is going to be on them. We can’t expect to have the spotlight on us the entire time.
matthew warhol: What do you mean by hot and cold, specifically?
Tanner Jones: The Orlando Weekly one is a really good one. We weren’t in the “Here are bands that represent Orlando of 2016” list. And it’s completely reasonable to not be in there, since we were there before. But in the moment, that’s one of those things that’s like, “Oh man, I didn’t win the popularity contest this time.”
matthew warhol: But you have to think you’ve outgrown it to an extent, don’t you? Because there is no band in that list that is on the same level as you guys — not that that’s a slight to anyone.
Tanner Jones: I always hate to say that we have outgrown Orlando because I never want to outgrow Orlando. But sometimes, I think feeling like outsiders is a good thing because we’ll always strive to be better. It can only be good for us. It can only be good for our art. And it can only be good for the city. Because as soon as we get comfortable, why put out a Pulse EP or why thank Orlando or why even live here?
matthew warhol: So like, talking about the Pulse EP, was that an immediate thing where you just knew that you had to help in some way?
Tanner Jones: It was very immediate. It happened … and I’m sure you woke up to helicopters too. I live in Delaney Park. Not only was it a global thing, but it was something happening around the corner. So we felt like we were in a really unique position where we had these masters that weren’t owned by anyone. And I think that anyone in our position would have done the same thing — and others did — but we were fortunate enough to have a bigger platform for people to see it and donate.
matthew warhol: It’s strange. You see the city continuing honoring it; you see the memorials and the murals, and to think it’s been close to a year.
Tanner Jones: The number one interview question I get asked in cities outside of here is “How did things change after Orlando?” And my answer never gets printed because I feel like it’s not what they want to hear. My answer is like, “Nothing changed.” Because before, I feel like Orlando was already very uplifting for the LGBTQA+ community and minorities, and that happened and that feeling just came out. Everyone showed it a little bit more. I didn’t feel like there was more love or more acceptance because that was already there. It was just televised. and I think that’s an incredible thing. It’s just not a great answer for people trying to write a really good piece.
matthew warhol: That’s definitely something we’ll include [laughs] that was a good answer.