For the first time in 11 years, Valient Thorr hit the road to conquer dozens of cities across the country on the Vans Warped Tour. These guys have grown from being MySpace-generation newbies to rock’n’roll veterans that show the new kids on tour how it’s done. We had the chance to catch up with them at their Mansfield, Massachusetts stop on the tour at the Xfinity Theater.
Check out our incredible conversation below where we dive into the evolution of Warped Tour, punk’s role in resisting far-right political movements, and some of their favorite bands they’ve toured with this summer.
The Daily Slice: Could you introduce yourself, tell us what you do in the band, and tell us the best place to get a slice of pizza in your hometown?
Valient Thorr: This is Valient himself. I sing words for Valient Thorr. I live currently in Richmond, Virginia and I like to get the pizza that is called everything without anchovies–but I like to include anchovies–from Sontag’s in Richmond. But I can also can tell you my favorite pizza that I’ve ever had in the whole country that I look forward to. That’s called Hound Dogs Pizza in Columbus, Ohio. I’ll give them a shout out because I really like their fiery sauce and buttery garlic crust. There’s a lot of places to eat pizza in Richmond but I don’t know if any of them stand out as good as Hound Dogs. Full disclosure, I have been–for my health–eating vegan for the past, I guess August 10th will be two years. I’ve been eating vegan pizzas from this place called Belly timber in Richmond.
TDS: Is it hard being vegan on Warped Tour?
VT: No, they prepare. We have catering and they prepare three meals for you a day, so it’s not hard at all. I’m getting married on September 30th and my friend is going to cook a pig so I probably will eat that. Like I said, I didn’t do it for the same reason that a lot of people do it. I gave my old man a kidney a long time ago, and my one kidney that’s left is overworking my liver so my liver enzymes are messed up. So I asked, how do I fix that? I want to be healthy. I don’t want to know. And [doctors] said honestly the best thing you could do is cut down drinking and meat. And so that’s what I did.
TDS: How’s Warped Tour been so far?
VT: I mean we haven’t done this tour since 2006, it’s obviously 11 years later, so it’s different. We still rip the way we rip but we’re also a hell of a lot older, and I feel like that throwback band, this band that like all the parents and all the old dudes knew of when when we played, and now I feel like that’s who knows us. The kids have no idea who we are, we look like a bunch of rock and roll freaks, and we have to work hard every day like get our crowd to like us. It starts out where they’re unsure, like “Who the fuck is this?” But then all of a sudden they’re like “whoa.” And at the end when they’re all rocking in front of you and you have just as big a crowd as anybody else, it makes you feel good makes you feel like you did what you set out to do. But it’s hard. We have to work hard. It’s just different.
TDS: What in particular is different about playing Warped in 2017 versus 2006?
VT: We were from the MySpace generation, and one day we got like 50,0000 followers. I’ll think about that stuff because with Facebook, now I don’t think we even have 35000 followers and we’ve been a band for 17 years. You know it’s not like we’re new cats, and we’re not a band that travels the world once or twice or a couple times a year. So it’s very strange and frustrating sometimes but you just keep on rocking. We just have to keep winning them over.
TDS: Whose sets are you checking out on the tour?
VT: I have lots of friends on this tour. From Richmond, Municipal Waste is out here. Really good buds. Bad Cop Bad Cop, I didn’t know them but they’re great to hang out with. The Adolescents have become really, really good friends. War On Women is great. I didn’t know them, but I check them out every day if I can. I saw Hatebreed, I had never seen them before. As I became older, hardcore stuff like at one time I was definitely into, but I was never a victory records kid or whatever. Like early Victory style, all the hardcore heads will know what I’m talking about. But I know who some of those dudes are you know. Frank and all those guys are really nice too. But a lot of the new stuff, I don’t know if I’m too old or just don’t give a shit. I like the Everly Brothers and Orbison. I like rock ‘n roll, and I like old stuff, and I like to also be contrary. I’m just trying to sound like a contrarian right now. I’m sure there’s lots of stuff out there that I don’t know about. But just like I said back in the day there’s also stuff that I think sucks but that’s just my opinion. It would be very immature to think that my opinion counts for more than it does because everybody has their own opinion. It doesn’t matter at all what I like. I’m just glad that there are lots of things out here that I do.
TDS: How does the current political landscape influence your music?
VT: It’s the catalyst that drives our music, at least for the lyrics, anyway. I think that other people in the band would have different opinions about this, but this is what I’ve always done was look at the political landscape and what’s happening, looking at socially how it’s affected, and trying to usurp some of that negative energy and turn it into something positive, and say you can be a part. You can treat people the way you want to be treated. You don’t have to get psyched out. You don’t have to be bummed when bummer things are going on. We’re in a regime right now that’s just insane. It’s too it’s too easy to say it’s despicable. I mean, we all know that. If you if you talk to anybody who’s an educated person you can see no matter where their politics lie on both sides of the field, things are pretty nuts. To me, politics is not a football game. Politics is not a sport. You can’t just root for a team, or know the other side sucks. If you’re saying that kind of shit, then you don’t know anything about what’s going on at all in politics. So it’s very easy to throw politics and religion away and get on a human level with people. Because a lot of people, especially now in this day and age, it’s like very black and white, it’s very my team or your team, and that that gets us nowhere. That’s just like, us yelling and them yelling. And that helps no one. What you have to do is point out smaller issues and see what’s wrong and how we can help and how can we figure those things out. And that’s what we tackle song by song.
TDS: How do you incorporate this into your live set?
VT: You know, there’s other bands out there that do that thing too like Anti-Flag and War On Women, I’m sure I hear a lot of them talking about those things, and sometimes it’s like you can be a fire and brimstone preacher if you want to. And I’m not I’m not saying that’s what they do. I’m just saying like for me, I retreated from naming names and point fingers, and going from George Bush and all this stuff to more along the lines of, we all know fucking Donald Trump’s a dickhead. What can I do to make you laugh and make you think on a different level? It’s like in the early day George Carlin and Bill Hicks and people like that did it. And now you have guys like Jon Stewart and a lot of the the comedians who sit behind a desk and do news comedy are the ones who are actually laying it down how it really is. They’re not just being funny. There’s a lot of truth in their message. A lot of truth.
TDS: And what do you hope your fans and the people who see your set every day get out of that?
VT: We try to affect some kind of change no matter what. It’s cool that there are a lot more people paying attention a lot more people saying things you feel. We had a lot to say during the eight years that George Bush Jr. was in office and then Obama came in and, not that I think everything he did was right, but he was a guy who said “let’s come together and try to work these problems out.” And Donald Trump has been nothing but disparaging since he’s cutting people off, pointing out our differences, and dividing us all along all these different lines. That’s been his whole strategy. I don’t think that’s very smart. Our role is to bring people together, whether it’s with music, art, poetry, talking to each other, being friends with everybody, and also saying you don’t have to think politically like I do to be my friend and to help me out, and I don’t have to think religiously like you do or any of that stuff. As long as we realize that we’re both humans, then we should help each other out no matter what color our skin is, no matter where we’re from, no matter what we believe in. Throw all that shit to the side and look at how you can help somebody else. That’s the only real thing that’s going to move not just this country, but the whole world forward. That’s what matters, not this country. I don’t give a shit about this country. That’s why I’m telling you we’re from another planet.
TDS: But you give a shit enough to try to heal and bring people together.
VT: This is the planet that we have to take care of. There’s a lot of people proud to be from one state. They’re very proud to be from this country. I’m proud to be human. I’m proud to be alive. I’m excited to be alive and I want everybody else to feel that’s worthy of their time. That’s worth me saying something and not doing other jobs to do this job, to tell people that they’re worthy of my time, like you as a person. And we all are. Even as far as me like trying to point out that it doesn’t matter what kind of music I like.
TDS: What are your plans once Warped Tour ends?
VT: We’ve got a couple of different bands asking if we want to go out with them. The timing has to be right because I’m getting hitched up on September 30th. I’ve got that going on. So thank you. We might come up and do something around the city with Sick Of It All, we might do like a boat thing. I’m not sure what that’s all about. But, yeah we might do this cruise thing with him. C.K. wild wants to do some stuff. I’m not sure. I’d love to tour with him. We’ll see what happens. It’s just kind of up in the air.
TDS: Bringing this full circle with the pizza theme, tell me, if Valient Thorr was a pizza special, what would it have on it?
VT: I think we would be like a French bread crust a pizza like a piece of a baguette, something you can hold in your hand like that. I’d make really long ones and chop them up. Not like a piece of bread with cheese and sauce on it, but a good hearty one, like the shit spilling over the sides. Cheese, veggies and banana peppers and shit spilling off of it. That’s what we would be.