Face to Face may forever be thought of as a pop-punk band, but they’re not afraid to show other sides that sound nothing like the genre. The band has been together since the early 1990s, and today they're a band that plays full-on punk rock shows in addition to acoustic/country-tinged shows.
Last year saw the release of Hold Fast, on which the band reworked songs from their catalog into folk- and country-leaning tunes. As they head to Three Links on Sunday for an all-acoustic set, frontman Trever Keith looks at the flexibility the band has now and where they play in North Texas.
For the last few years, Face to Face has played either Gas Monkey Bar & Grill or Gas Monkey Live! instead of a venue in Deep Ellum. Smaller audiences are more likely to be game for a set of slower, country takes on “AOK,” “All For Nothing” and “Disconnected,” so it makes sense the show will be at a small punk rock bar instead of a cavernous venue.
“It’s not like we necessarily have alliances one way or the other,” Keith says from his home in Las Vegas. “When we look at booking in a certain city, we survey the landscape and see what’s going on, who’s gonna make a good offer, if it will be a good venue to play, and all that sort of stuff.”
One thing that makes any visit to North Texas special is the chance that former longtime guitarist Chad Yaro will make an appearance, as he resides in Lewisville.
“We love Chad,” Keith says. “We were sad that circumstances of life went the way they did that he no longer could be in the band full time. He’s our bro. Anytime he wants to jump onstage and play a song, he’s welcome.”
The flexibility of the band’s shows and recording is not like it was 20 years ago, when the band wanted to show a different side to their sound with the album Ignorance Is Bliss. With a sound similar to the Cure and Foo Fighters, the record has always had its fans, but more people preferred the pop-punk side and vehemently hated it. Showing another side of the band’s sound is a lot different in 2019.
“I guess maybe enough time has passed,” Keith says. “The ’90s were a very close-minded time for punk rock. Like, extremely close-minded. We always struggled with that with our music. But by the time we released the Live album and were looking at what was going to come next ... we just didn’t want to keep making skate-punk music. We felt like it was played out.”
The band wanted to make a record that was them, but challenged them, too.
“We did not become successful because of it, and that was not the aim,” Keith says.
Keith has no regrets about making Ignorance is Bliss or showing other sides to what he and his bandmates want to do.
“I still think of it as one of my best accomplishments as a recording artist and a songwriter,” he says. “I haven’t done much since then that I think really holds up to that. Making the punk rock records is great and fun and there’s definitely a fan base for it, and I love playing the music from it, but making Ignorance is Bliss was a lot more challenging.”
For these Hold Fast shows, the band has included a few extra songs not on the release. “Everyone Hates a Know-It-All,” a standout from Ignorance is Bliss, is a regular in these sets.
Doing acoustic sets now makes more sense, as compared with the 1990s. These days, it’s acceptable for bands other than Social Distortion or X to play country-tinged music. Keith was against acoustic sets in the '90s, because they were more defined as a punk band. A few years ago, when they started doing four- or five-song acoustic sets for VIP ticket holders in addition to meet-and-greets, they came up with the idea to do entire acoustic shows.
The band is older and so are the people who got into them back in the day. They gained more perspective on life and don’t live for getting into a mosh pit at a punk rock show.
“What was important for us — and what’s important for any band who attempts this — is that you find a version of it that’s authentic to the band you’ve established,” Keith says. “And also what you think your fan base is going to find authentic.”
Country music and punk share a similar vibe of wanting to get to a raw truth of life, especially outlaw country. Fighting against injustice, for example.
“Punk rock has been associated with various political and ethical movements throughout time, but you’d be hard-pressed to find everyone who makes punk rock music to agree on all of the same things,” Keith says.
Universal truths in punk and country, Face to Face plans to record some full-on punk shows for another live album, as well as record more songs in the vein of Hold Fast.
“Even though we’ve been together for so long that this new acoustic version of the band that we also do now is yet another way of reaching more people,” Keith says.
This is where the band is now, with much more roads to go down.
“We’re trying to think of new ways to stay engaging and keep the shows interesting for our fans that have been following us for all these years,” Keith says.
Face to Face and Ray Rocket from Teenage Bottlerocket play Sunday, Feb. 17. Tickets are $25.