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The Movielife Return for a Sequel

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By Mischa Pearlman

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Aside from a brief reunion in 2011, The Movielife have been defunct since 2003, calling it a day in September that year, some seven months after the release of their third and final record, Forty Hour Train Back To Penn. Until now, that is. Because the seminal Long Island melodic punk band is back, and has announced a show at New York’s Irving Plaza on Friday February 7. Yes, there have been times when singer Vinnie Caruana, who formed I Am The Avalanche after The Movielife’s demise, said that this event you’re reading about right now would never happen, but hey—things change, people change, minds change. Noisey spoke to Caruana and guitarist Brandon Reilly, who started Nightmare Of You after the break-up, about the reunion, what it means and what the future may hold. At the time of speaking, the five-piece hadn’t even had its first practice, but their enthusiasm and excitement for what they’re about to do is undeniable. To be corny and use the title of their first record, it’s go time!  

 

Noisey: So you’re getting back together! Why did you decide to do that?
Vinnie Caruana: Well, it was because me and Brandon spent time together. When we spend time together, sometimes The Movielife comes up and sometimes it doesn’t, but this time it did. And I think me and Brandon have reached this point in our lives where we can be at peace and be happy with playing Movielife shows and we feel right about it at the same time for the first time in a very long time. So we just poked around with the other guys to see if they felt the same way and it seems as though everybody is feeling really positive and confident and happy about us being together and playing some shows.

Brandon Reilly: Yeah, Vinnie and I just met up at the park. We were just chatting and I realized that I missed playing shows. I haven’t played music in so long and we started reminiscing about the old days and thought it would be really fun. So we kind of sat on it for, actually not a long time, because I’ve been hanging out with Phil [Navetta, bass] a little bit as well and I ran it by him and asked if he’d want to play shows again and he said “Absolutely!” It was very easy and everyone thought it would be really fun, so it came together very organically and very fast.

Are there any surprises in the line-up?
Caruana:
No. It’s the same line-up as when the band ended, which is the same line-up that reunited four years ago. Which is myself on vocals, Brandon on guitar, Dan Navetta on guitar, Phil on bass and Evan Baken on drums.

After you guys reunited in 2011, did you think you would never do that again? Is it a surprise that you wanted to do it again this time?
Caruana:
I thought we’d never do it again. We were pretty definitive that the last show that we played would be the last show that we played, and I think I’ve learned my lesson. Now that I’m in my mid-thirties, which sounds really fucking weird to me, I know that no doors really ever close. I mean, you could make examples of doors that are definitely closed, or should be closed, forever, but I don’t think that things like this are one of them. You never know how you’re going to feel five or ten years later. I know how it is to be in a band, and it’s tough. When bands break up, it’s always in such a heat of the moment or it’s because of your mental space that week or that day, so when my friends’ bands get in situations like this I’m always, “Listen—just keep the door open. Why are you going to break up and announce it to the world? Just keep the door open and don’t say anything.” Obviously, we did that with The Movielife, but nowadays that’s my whole thing and that’s what I told the guys when we met to talk about this. I started the conversation with basically: “I don’t want to do this and then disappear. I’d like to keep the door cracked for any possibilities from here until the distant future.” And that’s obviously an extremely vague thing for someone reading this, but that’s what it is. We’re not planning on doing anything but playing some shows, and when we’ve played those shows, maybe we’ll play some more. Brandon and I talk about playing music together all the time, and if nothing more, to keep the door open on this means we get to play together and we get to play with the other guys.

How will this affect the other things you’re doing musically?
Reilly:
For me, musically and artistically, this is a very easy thing for me to do. As far as Nightmare Of You goes, what we’ve done is what Vinnie is talking about right now. We never officially broke up. We were kind of like, “We’re going to take some time” and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since we stopped touring full-time and putting out albums. What we do now with Nightmare Of You is if we feel like putting a song out, we just do it in a quiet fashion. So there’s plenty of room for me. I’m kind of not doing any music right now other than doing some Movielife shows. My true challenge is balancing out my family and work life with this, so it’s not so much other band projects as my life projects. That’s where I’m at.

Caruana: As far as I go, I’m writing an I Am The Avalanche full-length right now and we’re going to record it throughout the winter. We don’t have a set schedule. We don’t have a record label right now, which is exciting, so we’re kind of poking around, seeing who’s going to put out the next record. And at the same time I’m concentrating on making these Movielife shows really awesome for everybody, including us. It’s important for us to have a really good time when we do it.

And what are your plans for the shows?
Caruana:
Our plan is to start at Irving Plaza and go from there. There are pieces of land on this planet that we want to bring our gear onto and play on. I don’t think the UK would allow us to reunite and not come visit them. I think the hatred and frustration would implode the whole country, so we’re definitely going to come over there, I think. I mean, I’d like to. Brandon and I are the two biggest Anglophiles in the band, so the two of us definitely want to visit.

Reilly: That’s my biggest personal priority outside of the States.

Caruana: We’re going to try to visit people around the world and around the United States when we can, but since we’re five dudes with five completely different lives and different careers, it’s not going to happen instantly the way people might want it to. We’re going to have to do what we can when we can. We’re basically just making decisions as far as playing shows in the future on what would make us happy and what we’d enjoy doing. The main goal for me with keeping The Movielife alive and playing shows for years to come is just to be happy doing it with all these guys.        

In terms of playing Movielife songs, Vinnie, when Avalanche played St. Vitus here in Brooklyn a while ago, didn’t someone shout out for a Movielife song and you got quite irate about it?
Caruana:
So many years have gone by and I Am The Avalanche has played so many shows—I Am The Avalanche has probably played more shows than The Movielife at this point and has been around for almost twice as long as The Movielife, which is crazy to say—but that hadn’t happened in like five years. So when somebody yells a Movielife song out, you really just want to strangle them. Like, are you that ignorant and stupid? It’s not like, “How dare you! I hate that band!” It’s more, “Are you fucking kidding me? You came here to yell that band at me?”

Fair enough! Talking about going back so many years, how do you think you’re going to relate to these songs now when you play them? As you said, you’re in your mid-thirties now. How does that change things?
Reilly:
I think for me, there’s a nostalgia to it, so it’s actually a very sweet feeling. Playing it back then, it’s your present moment, and for me now I think I almost enjoy it even more because I’m a very nostalgic person and it brings me back to a very happy, free time in my life and my youth.

Caruana: I’m probably going to wonder at the first practice about the girls I’m singing about and what they’re up to. Like, “I wonder what her story is now!” I’m extremely nostalgic, too. Someone will walk by me and I’ll smell a perfume or I’ll smell a food or something and it’ll cripple me for like an hour. I just have this deep connection with the past and I’m very aware of the past, so when it revisits me, it gives me the tingles. I told the guys when we met, I listened to the last Movielife record we put out on the way to the meeting and I was like, “It’s really good!” I hadn’t listened to it in a long time. If I’m remembering correctly, Brandon and I vibed the heaviest and wrote the most on that record and I think it shows in the structures and stuff. I’ve never believed or noticed when people compare the younger generation of bands to us, but when I listened to the record I was like, “Oh, okay. I think what we were doing is a thing that has influenced people.” And that’s all part of it, where it feels like we’re coming back and being like, “This is how we did it back then.” It’s obviously stood the test of time and people care. People are going to be singing their balls off at the shows and it’s going to feel nostalgic for everybody. It’ll probably feel more nostalgic for the fans, because a lot of them were in high school and high school records are so important, and I think The Movielife was a high school record for a lot of people.

Do you have any idea what you’re going to play?
Caruana:
I think we’ll probably play something from every album. A lot of people forget about an album we put out before This Time Next Year called It’s Go Time, which is kind of our very awkward years, but there’s a few songs on that that are really cool that I’d like to revisit. But that’s the thing—you’re not going to go and see The Movielife and be like, “What the fuck?! They played all new songs! That was so messed up! I wish I’d heard this and this.” I don’t think anyone’s going to be leaving wishing they heard anything. I think we’ll pretty much nail it as far as playing the songs that people are going to want to hear.

Speaking of new songs, you said you’re not writing any. Do you have plans to do so in the future?   
Caruana:
We have no plans. The thought of writing or recording music together hasn’t even entered our minds at all.

Does that make this easier? More fun? Less pressurized?
Reilly:
Yes to all of that! It’s a challenge enough getting the five of us free for the same three hours on the same day of the week to work on old songs.

Vinnie: But I’m not going to say you’ll never hear a new Movielife song, because if I said that and then we did it, I would have my foot in my mouth again. I’m completely leaving that door cracked for any possibilities now and in the future, but right now I don’t think our brains or lives can handle anything but us playing a few shows.

Beyond New York and any other shows, do you have any aims and ambitions for this reunion?
Caruana:
Aside from the joy of playing crazy shows to smiling crowds, which is always a great feeling, and making people happy and making ourselves happy, we’re going to travel together. And that’s another thing. I’ve been traveling my ass off. Everyone else in the band has different lives. I think it’s going to be extremely recreational—it’s not just going to be, “Hey, let’s go to the airport.” I’d love to experience traveling together again. Our goals are very simple—let’s go play kick-ass shows and enjoy each other’s company, enjoy the crowd and enjoy the old tunes.

Everyone seems to be reuniting at the moment. Do you fear people are going to be cynical and think you’re just cashing in?
Caruana:
We don’t have anything to prove to anybody. For us to do this solely for financial gain and not derive any happiness out of it, for me as an individual, that would last a day. I wouldn’t be able to do something like that. I’m speaking for myself, but everyone’s heart is completely in it and that’s just something that’ll be proven with the shows. I don’t know what you have to say about that, Reilly.

Reilly: Well, none of us need to play a Movielife show. We all have our own careers now where we’re all probably making more money and steadier money than The Movielife has ever provided us, so there’s no pressure. No one’s in danger of living on the street if we don’t play these shows. It’s purely pleasure. It’s just going to be a lot of fun.

Being so nostalgic, does being together again and having so much fun make you regret that the Movielife stopped when it did?
Caruana:
I don’t think it even applies. When we stopped, I was 23 and Brandon, you were like 21 or…

Reilly: I think I was 23 [laughs]. Not that it really matters.

Caruana: My point is that back then, we were a band for six years. We had no idea that we were even going to get to the point that we got to. We were only getting popular for the last two years of our existence, but there’s no way it could have kept going. We were young and we ran into a wall. We’re different people now. I think we broke up when we should have broken up and it all made perfect sense up until now.

Is there one song each of you is looking forward to playing the most?
Caruana:
I think my favorite right now is “Jamaica Next.” That’s one we didn’t play that much as a band, but I think I’m going to try to force them to play it every time.

Reilly: I actually second that song as well. And I have a really big fondness of “Takin’ It Out And Choppin’ It Up.”

Caruana: We didn’t really play that one a whole lot either back when we were a band. That’s a good one too! We’re practicing on Sunday for the first time, so we’re going to start slow.

Do you have any final grand statements or declarations?
Caruana:
I hope this news makes everyone happy and we’ll try to get to your city as fast as humanly possible, but that may be very slowly. That’s not a grand statement at all. You know what? I wrote something to Brandon last night and I feel that was a grand statement. Let me read it. Okay. This is my grand statement: “We, as friends and lovers of music, have found that we would all like to play shows together again as The Movielife. We bear no news of a new record nor are we planning a six-month world tour. But I’ll tell you one thing: The Movielife is alive.” There. That’s my grand statement.

Perfect. We didn’t even have to have this conversation. We should have just put that online and that would be it. We’ve just wasted 35 minutes!
Caruana:
I should have recited that. That’s 35 minutes packed into one sentence. Forget the whole interview!

The internet barely existed when The Movielife broke up. You can find the band’s website at www.themovielife.nyc. They’re on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, too. Oh, and tickets for the Irving Plaza show go on sale at 12 PM on Friday, December 19.