The division between fans and musicians during a concert is self-explanatory: There’s the audience, there’s the band and what separates the two is the stage. But what do you do after the show, when that barrier is no longer there, and you have the chance to meet your idols in person? What do you say—and what shouldn’t you say? We asked members of LESS THAN JAKE, A DAY TO REMEMBER, RELIENT K, SIMPLE PLAN, RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS and others what they want to hear—and what they don’t want to hear—when chatting with fans.

What is the one question that a fan should not ask you?

If they can have free merch.

What one question do you like hearing from a fan?
If someone had really thought about a song and wanted more information or clarification about a lyric or how something was played or recorded, [they should ask]. It’s nice when someone has a real interest in what you do.

What question are you never asked, but you wish you were?
Do you want to play SNL next week or the week after?

What is your best meeting-a-fan experience?
We [were] flown out to do a surprise birthday party, and it was [a] really great thing. Now we are really good friends with [him] and stay at his place when in Santa Cruz.  It’s great, and we never would have [met] him and some of the other folks if we weren’t in this band.

What is your worst experience dealing with fans in person?
Anytime someone is really, really drunk and won’t stop repeating themselves.

Is there a specific time when fans should “back off” and not approach you?
Immediately after a show is kind of bad because usually the band is really sweaty and panting and just needs some time to change and catch their breath and get out of being [in] “on-stage mode.” Also if someone is on a cell phone—you would think that this is an obvious time to avoid striking up a conversation, but…

What’s the number one piece of advice a fan should remember when approaching a band?
Be cool and respectful. Maybe don’t grab me.

What is the one question that a fan should not ask you?
Don’t ask me to tweet you happy birthday for two reasons: 1. No one should have to ask for someone else to wish them happy birthday and 2. If I do say happy birthday to you, the floodgates open and everyone and their mother wants a birthday tweet

What is one question you like to hear from a fan?
I think it’s really funny when girls ask me to their prom.

What question are you never asked, but you wish you were?
Why are you so tall?

What is your best meeting-a-fan experience?
A lot of our fans are amazing artists, and we get lots of drawings and paintings. This one guy made us the most amazing oil painting of the entire band. It’s hanging at my parents’ house.

What is your worst experience dealing with fans in person?
One time a fan was so excited that she jumped and somehow accidentally cut my face with a magazine she was holding. I definitely didn’t see that one comin’!

Is there a specific time when fans should “back off” and not approach you?
Nope, always down to meet a fan. Fuck rock stars that think they’re too good to hang, I’ve been on too many tours with guys like that.

What’s the number one piece of advice a fan should remember when approaching a band?
Just remember that if you’re soaking in sweat from the pit, don’t go in for the bear hug.

What questions do you not like to hear from fans?
None of them. Ask away, I don’t give a shit. They might not like the answer. [Laughs.]

What questions do you like hearing from fans?
I like when they ask us what our name means, because I can make it up every time. It’s pretty cool, pretty fun.

Have you ever had a bad experience with a fan?
No. Our fans are pretty awesome. They just want to come up and take a picture and sign autographs. They’re cool with that and that’s awesome. They really just want to say hey, and they know that we’re people too.

Is there ever a bad time to approach you guys?
Maybe when we’re eating. Other than that, we’re pretty good and nice people that are just easy to talk to. We’re fine with whatever. It doesn’t matter.

Last piece of advice to fans?
Ask for forgiveness, not permission.

What questions do you really like to hear from fans after a show?
It’s “How’d you like the show?” A lot of people take that for granted. Like, okay, they had a good time, but did the band have a good time playing? So I always like when someone goes, “Did you like the show tonight?” Even if it’s weirdly specific, like, “Did you like the club?” Because sometimes kids have more insight on to what club is better for watching. I don’t—I know what’s better for playing. Anytime it’s just regular questions that I can get information from and can then sort of humanize what we do—that’s a cool vibe to be able to sort of have that moment with a fan.

Are there any questions you do not want to hear from fans?
“Where’s the party?” is the one I cringe about. You’re seventeen, I don’t know where the party is. At your dad’s? Your parents’ [house]? I don’t know. That’s a weird question. [Also the question] “Do you have a girlfriend, do you have a wife?”—or they know you do and they get that personal and try to bring it in there and discuss that with you. I don’t necessarily mind it, but there’s some people that I know that go, “This is who I am, and I’ve given you everything up to a point of playing live and writing songs, but this other part, that’s not for you, this is for me.”

I’ve heard that from some other bands. “Stay away from my personal life.”
Well, personal life is a rough thing. We’ve been together just shy of twenty years, and so the line of personal and band is so blurred, because I’ve known some fans for literally half their life. Some I met at fifteen and [they’re] now thirty and still a fan. So it can’t just be, “Well, I really liked your last CD or I hated your last record.”

Do you have any experiences that stick out with you in meeting a fan?
It was in Pittsburgh, this kid came up—and when I say kid I mean twenty-five, and [he] says, “I had back surgery, do you mind if I stand on the side of the stage?” I went, “No, I don’t mind at all,” and so I got our tech and got him up, got him in a corner, [asked him if he] wanted a water [or] a beer. [We] go play the show. Our tech guy helps him down the stairs and gets him outside, and then two other kids go, “Hey, is that guy’s name so-and-so that was on your stage?” I go, “Yeah, why?” [They say] “Why was he on there? He’s always on stage.” I go, “Well he had back [surgery].” [It turns out he] never had back surgery, that’s a thing he tells bands so he can stand on stage. So, here you have a guy who’s willing to absolutely lie to you about having a disability, and I felt cheated.

To flip that back over, the best thing is when someone comes up and you hear the story, “I was thirteen and I found your band. I was going through a hard time, my mom was in the hospital or my dad had left my mom and I played your songs on repeat and that’s what got me over the hump.” That’s a humbling moment, when someone says that to you, I don’t know what to say. It’s what keeps the gas in the engine for me to continue to do what I do.

Is there a specific time when fans should “back off”?
This is my pet peeve: You’re about to go on stage and someone wants to talk to you. It drives me crazy. You know I’m getting ready to go on stage like in two minutes, yet you’re still prodding me with questions. As a fan, you have to back off at that moment. Talk to them after the show.

Last piece of advice to fans?
I think [you should] respect the people that make you happy with the music that they’re producing. Different bands have different lives. I think if you respect whatever boundary that a band sets up, the band will be much happier. You’ll be much happier, too, because as a fan you don’t want to go to somebody that you love and respect as a musician and cross that line, and then they have that sort of weird moment that band dudes always hate where you have to go, “You have to back off.” Once you cross that line of lashing out at a fan, it’s not a good look anywhere. Nineteen years ago if a fan crossed the line, it wouldn’t be automatically online. So if everyone respects each other’s boundaries, everyone will be a little happier.

What is the one question that a fan should not ask you?
Can I have a hug? For me, that is the most annoying thing. [Laughs.] Nothing against hugs, but I think those words next to each other repeated to you over and over again is like someone punching you in the face.

What is one question you like to hear from fans?
I love when fans ask what specific lyrics mean and what I was thinking when I wrote them. Lyrics can be taken so many different ways, so it’s always interesting to hear what they may mean to someone else.

What question are you never asked, but you wish you were?
Do you want me to buy you dinner?

What is your best meeting-a-fan experience?
The coolest thing ever is to meet someone that has something to do with your band tattooed on them. I’ve seen a few Drive A tattoos recently [and] a couple of people with lyrics. It’s such an amazing thing and a huge compliment.

What is your worst experience dealing with fans in person?
The worst is getting fans that have been in the pit the whole concert and are all sweaty. Those are the people that always want hugs the most, of course.

Is there a specific time when fans should “back off” and not approach you?
Not really, I always love talking to fans and making friends—it really never gets old.

What’s the number one piece of advice a fan should remember when approaching a band?
Just be yourself! They’re not superheroes, just musicians. Don’t get mad if someone in a band you like isn’t super-talkative. You don’t know what’s going on in their personal lives. Just be thoughtful.

What is the one question fans should not ask you?
“Will you sign my boobs?”  “Do you get a lot of groupies?”  “Can I be your groupie?”  Those questions are all pretty awkward.

What is one question that you like to hear from fans?
When someone comes up and says, “I’ve always wanted to ask you…” and their eyes sort of light up while they’re asking.  You can tell it’s sincere, and they really care.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the most obvious question or the most complex. It’s great to see someone super-excited about finally getting to know something straight from their favorite band.

What question are you never asked–but you wish you were?
People almost never ask about specific songs, their meaning or specific lyrics in songs and how I came up with them.  I like talking about that stuff with the fans and wouldn't mind discussing it at all.

What is your best meeting-a-fan experience?
Any time someone tells me that our music and lyrics saved their life, it’s a truly amazing thing.  To be able to create something that actually makes a real difference in someone’s life is what keeps me going when times are tough on the road. 

What is your worst experience dealing with fans in person?
We played in Peru and there were about four thousand people waiting outside the venue when we showed up in a shuttle van. There was security everywhere and cops holding batons.  I thought this was completely over-the-top and ridiculous, but the promoter told us to make sure we just walked straight backstage and didn’t stop to talk to anyone.  Well, I was excited to meet some Peruvian fans so I started taking pictures and signing stuff.  After about twenty seconds the entire crowd was grabbing me, pulling me in and was about to rip me into shreds until the cops started hitting kids off me with their batons.  It was messed up.

Is there a specific time when fans should “back off” and not approach you?
I’d say if you see a band member on his phone out behind the bus in a heated conversation with his girlfriend, it’s probably best to leave them alone.  It’s hard having to deal with relationships only over the phone, and everyone needs a few minutes to themselves sometimes.

What’s the number one piece of advice a fan should remember when approaching a band?
They are regular people, and the more you treat them that way, the better.  There’s a fine line between being too cool and acting like you don't even care, and being way too over-the-top about it.  I’d say the people we enjoy talking to the most are the people who engage us like we’re their old friends, try to make conversation and make us feel welcome.  We try to do the same.