By Adam Lovinus
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By Mike Seeley
When he first formed Face to Face in 1991, Trevor Keith wanted the band to be his full-time project. Outside a break between 2004 and 2008, it has been. The punk veterans are now more than 20 years into their career, and the front man says they have no intention of stopping any time soon. In fact, Keith says, the band have tentative plans to keep the train moving through their 25th anniversary in 2016, with a tour and reissues coming. But until then, an appearance at the Hootenanny—OC's annual sun-soaked celebration of psychobilly and redneck mayhem at Oak Canyon Ranch—will have to suffice.
OC WEEKLY: Considering you're more of a straight-ahead punk band, what made you guys want to sign on for Hootenanny?
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TREVOR KEITH: We've actually never played Hootenanny before. But I love how Hootenanny combines rockabilly's custom culture and vibe with punk rock bands like us, which clearly don't play rockabilly. I definitely think we dress and have the look, the vibe and the feel, so I like how it ties together, even though it's maybe a little bit loose. But it all comes together in a really cool way there. There's a really vibrant rockabilly culture in Europe, too. Same with the custom culture of fixing up old hot rods and all that kind of cool stuff that goes along with that world. We opened for Social Distortion in Sweden at this festival a few years back, and it very much had that vibe. I'm really looking forward to having that environment again.
Do you think the roots of punk are entrenched in rockabilly?
Absolutely. I would go even a little further and say that although rockabilly is a form of American music, it stems from roots country, really. I think punk rock and roots country, to go back a little bit further, have so much in common because American punk rock is folk-based. It's real people talking about real life, not entrenched in a bunch of fanfare and bullshit. It's regular people making music with a voice that has something to say, talking about real-world things.
What were some of the motivations that went into making Three Chords and a Half Truth?
It's our eighth studio album, so we're trying to keep stuff fresh with every new record we make. [Bassist] Scott [Shiflett] and I did an acoustic tour last year, so we spent a lot of time in the car together. It was very low-key; we just rented a car and drove ourselves from show to show. It was fun and different. We spent a lot of time listening to music and talking about what we wanted our next record to be like. We wanted something varied with different styles and influences, but was a good, solid record, whether it was punk rock or not. We didn't want to limit ourselves creatively, so we wrote a bunch of songs and tried to pick music we thought was different and eclectic and went well together, and we ended up with a good mixture of songs. It ended up being a cool eclectic mix that didn't rely on old tricks.
Did the time between band activities reinvigorate you guys? Could these past two albums have happened without a break?
That's hard to say. I don't know. In a way, I guess, we might have made different records had we not taken a break. But we needed it. We were burned out and weren't very inspired, and it felt like we were spinning our wheels a little bit. I think the break was a great opportunity for us to take time off from Face to Face and explore new projects. Once we had the opportunity to do stuff, to experiment with different genres, it made us realize we had something in Face to Face that was special. Since we were doing other stuff, putting Face to Face back together was just really something to do for fun. Initially, we were just going to play a couple of shows, and it turned into a tour, and then two records. We feel liberated that we don't have to set any goals in terms of record sales or radio airplay or any of that nonsense.