In case you didn’t know yet, Direct Hit! has a new album called “Wasted Mind” and it will be out tomorrow. And yeah, just like “Brainless God”, this one’s another concept album. No wait, come back! It doesn’t have ten-minute freakouts and pan flute solos. It’s just a really good Midwestern pop-punk album that you need to listen to. Here’s an interview we did with vocalist/guitarist Nick Woods
PRT: First of all… congrats on the new album! It’s great!
Nick: Thanks! We’re really proud of it.
PRT: Just like “Brainless God”, “Wasted Mind” is a concept album. Do you find it easier to write around a certain theme?
Nick: I find it easier to write stories rather than poems. Lyrically, it makes sense to me to write albums as if they’re longer books, with each song as a given chapter. I’d call “Wasted Mind” more of an anthology of short stories than a single narrative, but I think there’s enough overlap between characters and topics that it would be easy to see as a single tale if you want to listen to it that way.
PRT: Is this something you would like to keep on doing in the future? Or can the next album just as well be a collection of songs that aren’t linked together thematically?
Nick: I don’t honestly know – I’ll do whatever I can to get a good song written with as little stress as possible. The last two album have been easier to write because I’ve had a specific focus, lyrically, and a story to tell. So it wouldn’t surprise me if the next record turns out to be a concept album too.
PRT: The theme that runs through “Wasted Mind” is your experimentation with drugs, something you are very open about. Nothing wrong with that, but did you feel a certain responsibility towards some of your younger fans while writing the lyrics?
Nick: Of course. That’s why I took an ambiguous approach – I don’t recommend anyone take or not take a particular substance on this album. It’s a “cautionary tale,” if you will. But I think it’s important to be honest with younger folks. It’s hilarious looking back on the D.A.R.E. classes I had to take when I was a kid – We were really made to believe that one day, someone in a trenchcoat was gonna jump out of the bushes and force us to smoke drugs. You might as well admit to kids that drugs are dangerous because they make you feel good, because it’s the only way to prepare them adequately to deal with the pressure.
PRT: You were also inspired by Naked Lunch and Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and a movie called A Field in England. Being in a band that releases concept albums and has made quite a lot of videos, do you see yourself branching out and write a book or a screenplay at some point?
Nick: I love to write. So yeah, I’d like to think that as I get older and look more and more ridiculous playing in a pop punk band that working on stories might be a good outlet for my creative energy. I actually wrote a manuscript that went for more than a hundred pages when I was maybe 10 or 11, but got embarrassed when I came across it as a teenager and threw it away. I don’t really remember what it was about, and it probably sucked.
PRT: The songs on “Wasted Mind” are very much still pop-punk songs. It’s a genre I absolutely love, but I can imagine it can feel constraining at times. Yet you managed to give every song a different vibe, adding horns and keys along the way to make things even more diverse. Do you push yourself that way in order to keep it interesting for yourself? And do you think Direct Hit! will at some point shy away from pop-punk in order to keep being able to challenge yourself as a writer?
Nick: Yeah, I feel like it just gets boring playing the same three-chord songs about girls and drinking over and over again – Like most people who talk shit on the genre. So we try not to think of ourselves as a pop punk band, even though we totally are. Adding new parts and getting creative with arrangement just keeps us interested. It’s not that it’s challenging – cause we’re all about doing whatever’s fun and easy – but there’s come a time while writing every album that we’ve gone, ‘well, that’s the same song as the last one.’ And then we try a little bit harder.
PRT: You recorded the new album once again with Mike Kennerty from All-American Rejects. What is it that he brings to the table that you wanted to work with him again?
Nick: Mike pulls our best out of us, kicking and screaming. He does a great job at motivating you to try harder. Like it’s not even a choice. And he’s so positive and frank about it. Like this time around, we sent over the first 12 demos we wrote for this album thinking the whole thing was ready to go, and dude just told us, “Hey! There’s three really good songs in here!” and then left it at that. And we were like, “well, what about the other nine?” And he goes, “Yeah man, those three songs are cool! You should write some more!” So even though he was basically telling us that the majority of the shit we’d just sent him sucked, it made us want to go back to work without thinking that we’d failed. In the studio it’s the same thing – You’ll fuck up a part, or something won’t sound right, and he does a great job of guiding without telling you what to do.
PRT: You’ve recently been on tour with NOFX. Fat Mike is someone else who’s been known to dabble with drugs… will there be a lot of stories about that tour in Hepatitis Bathtub II if it would ever be written?
Nick: Nah man, I work a day job when I’m on tour. I only get wasted on the weekends, which makes me look like a baby.
PRT: Any summer plans you’d like to share?
Nick: Two tours dude! One out to NYC in July with Problem Daughter and PKEW PKEW PKEW, and then another out on the West Coast in August with Pears.