Slick Shoes - Joe and Jeremiah
Interview by: Luke Harlow
Photos by: Nate Bailey

Slick Shoes
I had the opportunity to speak with Joe and Jeremiah from Slick Shoes after their set on April 21, 2001 at 328 Performance Hall in Nashville, TN. The band was opening for MxPx and Good Charlotte at the time, so I decided to talk with them about a few things. Having no prior dealings with the band, I was not only pleasantly surprised with their attitudes and personalities; I was extremely impressed with them as individuals. Their perception of reality and responsibility came through in way that, after doing a number of interviews, is undoubtedly unique. This was not the most fun or the most prepared interview that I have ever done, but it certainly ranks as one of the most enjoyable. Though I was never a huge fan of Slick Shoes prior to this interview, it is safe to say that I am definitely interested in them now and will keep a watchful eye on them as their future continues to develop.

Luke: How long have you been on this tour?

Joe: Well, we were on this tour for about three and a half weeks and then we had a thirteen or fourteen day break. Then we went with these guys for about thirteen more days, this being one of our last shows, I think we have two more shows with them and then we play Uproar Festival and then we go on the Tooth and Nail tour with Ace Troubleshooter, Calibretto 13 and Rod Laver.

Luke: How did you get set up with this tour?

Joe: I pretty much just emailed Mike (Herrera). They'd wanted to take us out for a while, but Ryan was still in school and we couldn't do that much touring except for the summer. As soon as they found out we had a chance to tour fulltime, I emailed (Mike), and he said, yeah, we'll see what we can do. So there you go.

Luke: This may be old news by now, but the latest record, "Wake Up Screaming," seems to have a different twist to it than the first two and the ep. Do you think this? What is different about the record?

Joe: It just came down to where we are going in a direction where we're writing a little more poppy, we're still going to be technical and everything, and we're still probably going to be fast. We always kind of wrote poppy stuff and then it just kind of turned into metal sounding (laughter). But now, this record, especially with the producers we had, Bill (Stevenson) and Stephen (Egerton), they were shooting for a poppier sound, more listener-friendly, I guess.

Luke: How has that been received by your audience?

Joe: A lot of kids still like the last album ("Burn Out"), to be honest with you. But, new fans, just from this album, and people who hear us live definitely like the new stuff better.

Luke: Your live show has really come a long way in the last few years. You are definitely more exciting to watch, and a good band to watch. Can you describe your progress as a band?

Joe: A lot of it came from touring. We wouldn't tour year-round, but we would tour all summer. This will be our eleventh national tour, probably. I mean, when you're playing every night, you can nit-pick what's cool and what's not. I think especially on this tour, only having a half-hour, we can come up with a set that blows kids away and we don't have to pick, say twenty songs or so to play in an hour. We just pick the really good, really catchy, songs that the fans really like. It came from that, and then Greg, our new guitar player is just psycho. He's just crazy, his stage show… When he joined the band, I think it made everybody else on stage want to kind of excel to keep up with him. That's kind of where it came from.

Luke: Can you talk a little bit about the process of Jackson leaving the band and then acquiring Greg?

Joe: Jackson left the band about two years ago. He came to us and told us that he just wanted to pursue family life and just be a husband and work because he had a pretty good job. Honestly, we thought we were pretty much done at that point because Jackson and I had been playing in bands for years and I knew nothing other than Jackson. It was kind of likewise, we had been playing together so long. The rest of the guys, Ryan, Jeremiah and I sat down and we talked about it and prayed about it. We kind of left our hearts open to whatever God wanted us to do. We felt like He kind of put this here for us and we should probably just try to pursue it. I think about a week later we had a fill-in guitarist playing for us in a show in Corona, California. After the show little Greggy comes up (laughter) and just introduces himself and says he plays guitar and asks if we were looking for someone. We usually don't do that, we kind of like to look for friends, but for some reason I just had the feeling to take his number and give him a shot. We did and he learned all of Jackson's parts in less than a week and came on tour with us two weeks later. We didn't really tell him he was in because we didn't know him, but he turned out to be the coolest guy. Definitely a Godsend, I think. We overcame that one and definitely writing styles changed a little bit, but it was a direction we were going in anyway with Jackson, so it hasn't really changed much. Greg has been with us almost two years now and he's one of our best friends now. We're all kind of best friends, because you really lose friends when you go on the road so much, so we're all kind of our only friends.

Slick Shoes
Luke: It seems like you were one of the first Tooth and Nail bands to go work with Bill Stevenson and Stephen Egerton. What did Bill and Stephen bring to your music, you mentioned poppiness, but what was it like to work with them?

Joe: The Descendents are a huge influence on my playing and just punk in general. They were one of the first punk bands that I really, really liked. I probably wouldn't be playing punk now if it weren't for them. They had the punk with the pop vocals and just real poppy-sounding stuff. It was the punk that wasn't so aggressive, not that there's anything wrong with that, but they really appealed to me. They were a huge influence and being able to record with them… I just called Bill one day out of the blue, I got his number, and he was willing to work with us. When we were in the studio, I was intimidated the whole time, pretty much. But they were such cool guys, it made us really comfortable and it brought out a lot in our music, I think.

(enter Jeremiah)

Luke: What can we expect out of Slick Shoes in the next year?

Jeremiah: A new record.

Joe: After this Tooth and Nail tour, which ends May 19, we're going to go into the studio for a couple weeks to do pre-production for the new album and then probably start recording in June.

Luke: Same place, same guys?

Joe: No, actually. We don't know exactly who were doing it with, but we got a couple guys lined up. Brandon and our manager thought it would be cool to go with someone of a higher caliber. Obviously we wanted to go wanted to go back with Bill and Stephen, but usually managers and people like that know best. Other than that just rest, play Nintendo, and enjoy family life.

Luke: How is it being married and being on the road?

Joe: I'm married and I have three kids. It's obviously really hard on the family and on me, but for some reason, when I'm on tour I really feel like I'm doing what I should be doing. That consoles me in a way. Also, we may be gone for two or three months, but God's kind of blessed us to where we don't really have to work anymore, so when we're home, we're home. We don't have to go to work, so we can just hang out with our families and that will be for two or three months in a row, too. Some families could have the dad with the 9 to 5 job, and after work he comes home and spends a few hours with the kids and then goes to bed. I'll go to work for three months and then come home for three months and do nothing but hang out for three months. It kind of weighs out, and I don't know f that's me trying to delude myself or what that is, but it works for me. (laughter)

Jeremiah: I'm married as well and my wife kind of new the situation coming into it. It's not easy for her, but at least she knew coming in what I do and she supports me one hundred percent. We just had a kid four months ago and it makes it a little harder to go on tour. I know that I'll get to see her, like Joe was saying, for a couple months at a time.

Luke: So the band is at the point where you are making money?

Joe: Not a wealthy life, but we can get by (laughter).

Luke: What was it like before you were at this point?

Joe: It was super tough. Honestly, for a while there, we just didn't know. All of us, in the back of our heads, didn't know what was going to happen with the band because we had to take care of our God-given responsibility first. Jeremiah and I talked about it tons of times before we actually got to this point and we decided if it didn't get to where it is now, we would just have to hang up the hat and take care of our responsibilities. Like I said, thanks to God, we've been able to get by and hopefully it will just get better.

Slick Shoes
Jeremiah: Ever since we brought our manager on, things have kind of--. We knew nothing about even where we stood as a band. We didn't even know what our contract said, how far we were in debt, we just didn't know. We knew different things, but we didn't really know how bad it was.

Joe: It is really hard to manage a band on your own.

Jeremiah: Bringing in somebody who knows more about these things, who knows the business, who knows what it takes to get us on tours like this, negotiating contracts and all this stuff--.

Joe: It shows you the potential of your band, too. With no professional outside input, you really don't know the potential of the band. You don't really know what you could do. You know that you play shows and you write albums, but when we brought him on, he showed us that there are endless possibilities with the industry. He has shown us that we are just as capable of any other band to make it, maybe not huge like Green Day status, but we have the ability to live a pretty good life and do what we like to do for a living. He's definitely been a great addition to the roster.

Luke: Who are you managed by?

Joe: Heath Bibby. He's just a guy we knew. He owned a label, used to work for Death Row—(laughter). You probably shouldn't print that.

Luke: Is Suge Knight after him?

Joe: Yeah, shh shh. No, seriously. He is just a really good guy. He is very knowledgeable about the industry.

Jeremiah: We kind of knew him before we decided to have him as a manager. He is a friend of ours, so he takes care of us more in a personal way, more so than if we would have hired a management agency and gone with someone we didn't know. They probably would have only gone so far. He's gone as far as pulling money out of his own pocket for stuff that we needed, if he knows we need money for our families or whatever.

Joe: He got into when we were in a really bad situation and he probably didn't know how bad of a situation. He's told us, and we've realized, that it is more than a business thing, it is a friendship thing. He seriously cares about us as people, we're not just money prospects to him. He's a really good guy.

Luke: Is this it career-wise for you? Compared to other bands out there, you sound pretty serious. A lot of other bands are younger, don't have families to think about, very little responsibility, and here you are with all of that. It just seems different than your average punk rockers.

Jeremiah: As far as that goes, we are going to take this as far as it will go. As long as we feel like this is our calling and we are able to do it and make money--.

Joe: Until we see that it jeopardizes our family or gets to the point where we can't support our family--. I mean, I've been to college for like three different things, I'm a school junkie. When we're off tour, I go to school, so I've definitely got things lined up if the band were to end.

Jeremiah: Whereas I would work at Taco Bell (laughter).

Joe: But, you just can't think that way really. You have to keep a positive mind and know that there are endless possibilities. If it does happen, whether it is tomorrow or whether it is two years from now, I've had a blast and I've enjoyed it so much. I've gotten to do things that not too many people get to do.

Jeremiah: Exactly. And, I don't see us ending anytime soon anyway. Our manager has set it up to where we can't fail. We just go out and do our thing--.

Joe: We say that now, and then tomorrow— (laughter). You have to enjoy it while it lasts. It is a finicky business. One minute, you're popular, the next minute the kids are moving on to the next thing. The thing with our fans that I've noticed is that they are very loyal. I mean, I see the same kids every tour. You recognize the faces and they come to every show.

Jeremiah: And we love every one of them. (laughter) Seriously, that is a big reason--.

Joe: Seriously, that is a big reason why we do it. The kids are so awesome and we appreciate them so much. Without them, we wouldn't be able to do what we do.

Luke: What opportunities have you gotten that you consider to be "big breaks"?

Joe: I think they started with this tour. This tour has done so much good for us. We didn't really know how big Good Charlotte was. Then we realized that they're on MTV and everything. We've got so much cool stuff lined up, I'm really stoked and humbled by it at the same time. Everything's happened so fast. We came from such a low to such a high in a short time.

Jeremiah: A year. It is funny thinking about that stuff, though. I think about the day I called Joe and said I didn't know if I was going to do this tour. He was like, well, let me know. I just prayed about it. It was funny because I went from working 48 hours down to 16 hours a week, which was the minimum they could give me. To me, that was kind of God just saying that I need to stick with this for a while because I am going to make just as much money take care of my family better if I do this.

Joe: I think every one of us has sacrificed pretty good opportunities to do what we do. I had an opportunity right out of school to work for DreamWorks doing post-production for movies. I still have my connection there, but you never know if that opportunity is gone or not and that is really good money. Every time I think about it I get this nagging feeling, and I don't know if it's just selfishness, but I really try to pray about it with an open heart, but I just always come back to doing this. We've just done it for so long.

Jeremiah: I can't believe we've lasted this long.

Joe: Yeah, totally. We've seen the work of God, for sure, on a personal level and as a band. I know most bands get to the point where we've been: no money, nothing's going right, the van's breaking down. Nothing's going right. I think every band has that, but the fact is that a lot of band's don't endure those trials and that is where I see God stepping in and kind of kicking us around a little bit and saying, "I'm gonna hook this up for you and make things better." The position we were in before this tour, I just didn't know what we were going to do at all.

Jeremiah: We basically got merchandise on credit and that paid for our tour and we didn't have any money to pay for that, so we were in debt big time.

Joe: I was pretty close to filing bankruptcy and it was an all-time low. God definitely stepped in.

Jeremiah: It wasn't just financial, it was our morale. It was gone.

Joe: It goes hand-in-hand, really. Like I said earlier, nothing was going right. You just know in the back of your head, "this is it". I really want to try to make it work, but I don't think it is going to happen." For some reason, Jeremiah and I hooked up with our manager at the Greenhouse Café, and just kind of chatting we asked him if he would be interested in taking us on. He said yes, and two days later he had us paying bills or getting cars fixed or things like that. I didn't know where the money was coming from.

Luke: This was last summer?

Joe: This was last year pretty much. He's, for lack of a better term, polished a turd, because we were really horrible.

Jeremiah: I don't think he polished it. I think he molded it, and--.

Joe: God was in control of it, but Heath has definitely had a hand in all of this. He took us and cleared up the finances. He showed us that we have to work it as a business if we want it to work. He showed us how to do that. He hired a merch guy that actually takes inventory. We don't run out of merch like we used to. We have a whole business system down: business accounts, federal tax ID numbers, everything like that.

Jeremiah: And it's not just that stuff. He also calls us to make sure that everything's ok.

Joe: Everyday. He tells us to check in at 10 o'clock. He seriously cares about us.

Jeremiah: Even when we're home he calls to see what's going on and make sure everything's cool.

Joe: I feel like we're trying to sell you something. So, "Buy the Heath Bibby, it clears up all your problems!"

Luke: I don't have much else to say. Do you have anything to add?

Joe: For bands that have to go through the same struggles as us, don't give up hope. It may not be the end of the road for them. By the same token, you can't be selfish. You can't think the band is the only thing you have to do. You can't jeopardize your family or your future. If you have school and band pending and the band's not working, you really have to weigh the options and be a responsible person. I would just advise kids who are in bands to take it as seriously as possible and jump in with both feet. But, if things aren't working out, look on to other things, because if it doesn't work out, it can really screw your life up.

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