The Starting Line Biography
Tom Gryskiewicz : Drums
Kenny Vasoli : Bass/Vocals
Matt Watts : Guitar
Simultaneous youth and experience is a cocktail rarely captured. So check Pennsylvania quartet the Starting Line: still in their early 20s, but already with a successful album behind them, a much-matured follow-up imminent, and four years of international touring under their belts.
"Because we're so young, the kids that listen to our music can identify with us, because what I'm talking about is the same things they're going through," considers vocalist/bassist Kenny Vasoli. "But we've seen so much of the world that we feel like we have a more mature grasp on life."
Children of the internet explosion and the Warped Tour, the Starting Line initially met and marketed themselves through the web and were originally influenced by the likes of Get Up Kids, Lagwagon and NOFX.
Snapped-up by trailblazing taste-shapers Drive-Thru Records, The Staring Line began building a vast fan-base through relentless touring (including Warped Tour stints in 2002 and 2003). All that road-work paid off when their super-melodic, buoyant-yet-poignant debut, Say It Like You Mean It, dropped in 2002, earning them a #1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart and selling over 300,000 units without airplay anywhere but Y100 in their hometown. Comfortably straddling the worlds of punk, pop and emo with their famously frenetic live show, the Starting Line toured with everyone from Taking Back Sunday and Brand New, to Yellowcard and Sum 41.
Fast-forward to 2005, and the Starting Line are set to release their much-anticipated sophomore collection, Based On A True Story (due in May). Existing fans can rest easy - the Starting Line have retained their sixth-sense for hooks, harmonies and that signature optimism - while new converts are inevitable, as the band have stretched their stylistic range and display a confidence and chemistry born of hundreds of shows together.
"I'd like to think we've retained that [optimistic] quality," says Vasoli. "There's a lot of bands out there that are complaining and kinda give up hope, when really music should be something that gets people excited and makes them feel good about who they are."
The Starting Line have broadened their reach - embracing influences from Glassjaw and Jimmy eat World to Sigur Rios and the Beach Boys - but preserved their anthemic, built-for-the-stage arrangements. "That's something we really think about," Vasoli stresses. "Can people sing along to this? How will they move to it?"
The album’s title is more fact than metaphor: “It symbolizes that there are things in the songs that I’ve taken from my own life but, like it was a movie, I had to go in and add some more drama,” Vasoli explains.
Based On A True Story revisits the timeless themes of love (“Photography”, “Stay Where I Can See You”), and loss (“Surprise, Surprise”), while also mulling over the public’s fascination with celebrity (“Making Love to The Camera”, “B-List”) and the cynicism of the music industry (“Ready”, “Inspired By The Dollar Sign”), which are now everyday considerations for the Starting Line.
“’Surprise, Surprise’ is kind of an f*** you to a girl who really snubbed me,” Vasoli admits. “’Stay Where I Can See You’ is about my current girlfriend – we live in opposite ends of the country and its just about wanting to be together. ‘Photography’ is as much of a love song as I could write, like an old classic: I wanted to paint a picture of a guy standing outside in a rainstorm and swinging around a street light just because something great just happened!”
“Ready” documents Vasoli reclaiming his artistic integrity in the face of the industry’s demand for ‘product’: “I wanted to get back to music and lay myself down on the line, as uncomfortable as that is and as vulnerable as I am.”
Their ever-more-honed musical and lyrical skills have allowed the Starting Line - always an accessible and unpretentious outfit - to further open the channel between band and listener: "I feel like we're a little bit more honest and a little bit more blatant about things on this new album," Vasoli mulls. And, like all great acts, the Starting Line's growth as musicians is allowing them to shake the shackles of genre pigeonholes, establishing themselves as simply a first-class rock band.
Based On A True Story brilliantly blends the fresh and the familiar: "The World" summons visions of thousands of fists in the air, while "Surprise, Surprise" displays the Starting Line's uncanny ability to be at once pacey and contemplative, its bass-driven verses deep in thought, enmeshed in deftly arranged backing vocals. The off-kilter verse of "Inspired By The Dollar Sign" flaunts the new flavors the Starting Line are exploring, as does the twinkling guitar treatment and bubbling bassline of "Stay Where I Can See You".
Vasoli identifies the album's two slower tracks, the introspective "Photography" and the mantra-like "Ready", as particularly enjoyable new directions: "They carry such emotion and such build - I'm just really proud of them. They're a departure from the rest of our stuff and definitely from the earlier record - I feel like I'm in a different band when I play those songs!"
Producers Tim O'Heir (All American Rejects, Sebodah, Say Anything), Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Head Automatica) and Eric Rachell (Atreyu, Every Time I Die) bring depth-of-field and tasteful muscle to Based On A True Story without compromising the band's to-the-point charm and stage-chiseled dynamics.
The 'True Story' now: The Starting Line will be returning to their second home, the road, for much of the next couple of years, including playing the entire 2005 U.S. Warped Tour.