Named after a track by emo quirk kings Cap’n Jazz, Scary Kids Scaring Kids released two albums of keyboard-nuanced post-hardcore before calling it a day in 2009.
Earlier this fall, guitarist Chad Crawford put out a new track, “Loved Forever,” crediting it to the band. Not long afterward, a booking agent approached the members to see if they were willing to reconvene. Soon the agent told the band he was ready to book shows if they were ready to play them.
A list of vocalists were presented to the members as potential lead singers, but it was all for nought. The band felt the only guy they would want to be onstage with was Cove Reber, the former Saosin frontman who was currently in his new outfit, Dead American.
Reber and the Kids go way back to the late 2000s when both bands were on Warped Tour. Reber was hitching on their bus on the 2009 Warped campaign and was always ready to jump onstage when frontman Tyson Stevens couldn’t make a show.
Listening to Reber and keyboardist Pouyan Afkary explain things, it feels like their agenda is threefold. They are there to keep the level of their musicianship high, rekindle their bromance and, most importantly, pay tribute to their fallen frontman after Stevens passed from a drug overdose five years ago. To do this, they are teaming up with To Write Love On Her Arms to provide professional help for people who are troubled and need assistance.
Reber and Afkary talked with Jason Pettigrew about their longtime friendship, their continued love and respect for Stevens and how paying it forward with help and great songs will make for a quite awesome 2020.
Have all of you been in a room with no windows to bang out some music? Is there a sense of taking the rust off things?
POUYAN AFKARY: We still have to. I haven’t touched a keyboard since the band broke up, to be honest. It’s relearning all that stuff. It’s like putting on a whole different persona or identity that I completely shed 10 years ago. None of us ever thought we’d be doing a reunion tour. It’s going to be a trip, and it’s taken me a moment to get my head around it.
As far as the live performance is going to be, to be honest, I think that’s been one of our biggest thought processes and concerns. If we do this, it’s got to be done the absolute right way. We’ve established that it has to be as good as what people remember, because we obviously remember things if they were good experiences and a better life than they actually were. We’re gonna have to come above and beyond what people’s expectations are. We really wouldn’t want to come back and just strap on instruments, ties and bang it out just because the money was there. We wanted to do it in a way that honors people’s memory of what Scary Kids were.
By the time you made the second album, it sounded like you were getting out from under a lot of post-hardcore signifiers with different arrangements. There were textural preludes and fade outs and things like that.
AFKARY: I have great memories of making the self-titled. We love it. We love that. There was a very conscious decision on our part to break away from the teen angst. We were a band that were fortunate enough to be really close friends in high school that grew up together. And songs that we wrote when we were 17 and 18 started becoming less interesting [from] growing out of the previous song. You’re probably also right that there was maybe a stigma about post-hardcore, and with the self-titled LP, maybe we were subconsciously trying to show that we could be a band that surpassed that.
OK, fair enough… [Reber joins the call.]
COVE REBER: You better fucking believe it’s fair enough! [Laughs.]
Cove, is that a chip on your shoulder? Or is that your head?
REBER: Well, I’m definitely wearing a hat right now. So we’re good. [Laughs.] Pouyan! What’s up? It’s good to hear your voice. Dude, I was listening to you now, and I was just like, “I fucking miss this guy.” I cannot wait to fucking hang for this fucking tour. It’s gonna be awesome.
AFKARY: It’s gonna be such a blast, man. I was getting sick of hearing myself talk. I’m really happy you chimed in.
Cove, how did you get involved with these characters?
REBER: What was it, like…2005, 2006? We spent many, many hours playing Geometry Wars on their bus.
AFKARY: I think it was like five bucks, a P2P game. Yes. Boredom played play for endless hours, mind numbingly in about a month between shows.
REBER: And it was freaking awesome. I love these dudes. Ever since I’ve met the Scary Kids guys, I instantly fell in love with all [of] their personalities and everybody in the band. So, you know, any time there was a chance, I’d always go see those dudes. So that’s my mentality and my love for these guys.
Over here, we reminisce nostalgically about the concept of 20ninescene. But 2009 was the end of Scary Kids and not really a wonderful time to look back on. The band signed a new deal with RCA after escaping the evil clutches Immortal Records. But everything fell apart.
AFKARY: To clarify a point, we did come to a mutual agreement that Scary Kids weren’t really working anymore. And for whatever reason, we thought it would be best to just disband. I think the lifestyle on the road wasn’t really best for everybody’s personal well-being. We were so fortunate to be like these high school kids that, you know, just want to play music and live that story where you play your homecoming dance and your high school talent show. And then you travel the country and then travel the world and really are just able to have so much fun with it. And that was so real to us for so many years. And then that stopped being the case.
It was really difficult. I think every show that we played, we put our hearts on the stage, every song that we recorded. We really wanted to make a real impact and do something special.
REBER: [To Afkary] You are being honest. What you said was one of the most beautiful things. From the outside, from my perspective, when I saw you guys, you guys looked like a band that had been playing together since high school that have played their fucking homecoming dances and just got this opportunity as these five or six dudes that were all from this area and grew up together, you know? I got that vibe from you guys. I was always, always a little envious of that. You know, it was so much fun.
And then even here, you mention and bring up a little bit of the pain. I knew stuff about Tyson and what was going on with his life and from all [of] your perspectives. What you guys did night in, night out, even when I was going through some tough shit in Saosin, and I always felt like when I watched you guys, y’all were having the fucking best time of your life because [there’s] nothing shittier than [getting] stuck in the middle of the desert for the rest of your life. I used to live in the high desert of California where all the earthquakes in California seem to happen. And every kid that grows up there, I feel like it’s similar to the kids that grew up in like the Mesa/Phoenix/Tucson [area]: All we want to do is get the fuck out of here, see the world and experience life. And you guys always delivered on the best time. You were fucking incredible. All I ever wanted was what I was seeing onstage with you guys. I was still getting to live out that same dream that you guys were living.
AFKARY: Like on Warped Tour, we’d be like, “Who can we swap out today so we can bring Cove on the bus with us?” Like asking parents permission for a sleepover. [Laughs.]
REBER: You guys were on tour with me when the drama that went down in Saosin between the dudes and myself. You guys were with me when that happened. I feel like I saw that lead to all those adventures. You know what I mean? Like, it was straight brotherhood because I felt like I fit in line with you guys, maybe a little more so as individuals than I did [with] my actual band.
What was the take on the band in 2009? By the end of Warped, Tyson had bailed on some dates, and you and Craig Mabbitt and Vic Fuentes took turns singing for Scary Kids.
AFKARY: I really don’t know where Tyson went. He was gone. He’s gone for a few days or however long it was. And the rest of your tour [is where] the brothers and friends really stepped in and learned the songs within hours and made a potentially really, really terrible few days for us, something very different. And to this day, we remember that.
And that’s why when the booking hit us after the song was released and there was a little bit of interest for the tour, he was like, “Who do you want to sing?” We were throwing around a few names, and it draws some names of some really good vocalists. But we don’t know who these people are. It’s going to be really tough to do this anyway. And we don’t want to do anything that feels wrong or [something] we don’t know [if] Tyson would be into. This [band] are his identity as much or more than anybody else’s. So we’re like, “We want Cove.”
I think it’s a delicate, very difficult scenario that we’re dealing with. And we want to be respectful toward our brother who is not with us anymore.
I think you can sense some of that hesitancy I have in discussing that kind of stuff. I think it’s important to acknowledge struggles and challenges that people have. Those kinds of issues certainly are why we decided to disband. I don’t want to be the one that tells his story for him. I think [it’d] just be unfair of me to do so.
I think one of the things that’s causing a little bit of anxiety about the tour is [Tyson] had a lot of sides. We started a band with an amazing person that just had a lot of problems. And we want to be honest about those problems, because that’s how people acknowledge their own issues and maybe can get help and don’t have to go down the same path that Tyson did.
REBER: I feel like this is a conversation that needs to be had. It needs to be out in the open because we’re talking about it. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do other than love that person. You know, the reason I went to that party with him in Australia… I know where he was. I knew what he was going to do.
I love that dude more than anything. I don’t want his name to be dragged through the mud in any way, shape or form. He might not have been able to be honest with us and allow us to help him, but he showed us who he was on paper and through melody and through his lyrics. We’ll never drag his name because what he gave us was himself. I feel like something like this is an opportunity for people who might need help will get something huge out of this.
AFKARY: I think you’re exactly right. I don’t think I’ve figured out how to acknowledge things delicately, like making sure he’s not painted with a single brush. But you’re right. We have to acknowledge it.
And that’s the whole reason we do so. So for context, we’re going to have To Write Love On Her Arms on tour. They’re going to have a representative near the merch area for people to come and speak with [them[. If they’re having an issue, there are resources. If you’re in the world and you’re struggling, there’s a professional right there. Not just Joe Band Member that has not dealt with addiction, but like a real human over there to deal with this every day of their lives.
REBER: All we could do is be there and love that dude—none of us knew what the fuck to do. Because he wasn’t like that all the fucking time. And that’s something we don’t understand: Only people who do that understand what it’s like. I think we could take a break in the set and talk about it, just explain to people that this was who this man was.
AFKARY: I obviously come to that conclusion that, yes, we want and we should acknowledge it. [We’re] bringing out a really great nonprofit to help people after acknowledging it. I think my fear is any journalist sensationalizing or overly dramatizing someone’s pain or their struggle.
Is there a certain kind of consciousness one can only obtain by getting older?
AFKARY: I don’t know, man. That’s a good question. I think one big difference specific to a reunion tour is that it’s less precious now. Whereas the band weren’t about that show today, [but] it’s about who the band become tomorrow. That was so important in constantly progressing. But I think now revisiting a reunion tour, that level of preciousness, what we ought to respect, the level of pressure that’s gone and put in the box and put away on a shelf in the back of our memory.
REBER: It’s freaking awesome because it just means that when we play, both Pouyans are coming out. It’s going to be a blast.
Wait a second. What’s Pouyan like versus “new” Pouyan?
REBER: Back in the day, he was a complete animal, a truly savage human being. He looks like the sexiest guy, though, like the Geico sexy caveman.
AFKARY: [Laughs.] I look like I have no fucking chill whatsoever. Every girlfriend that I’ve had has asked me if I’m going to grow my hair out again. And this is my very boring answer: I couldn’t sit in an investor meeting with long hair.
We want this to be better, to be honest, than any other Scary Kids show we played, because people are going to remember their memories maybe even better than they were today. So we need to be a step above that. And we’re taking a lot of precautions to make sure that it is ideally the most memorable Scary Kids show for any fans.
REBER: I lost a lot of faith in music after Saosin. And I stopped listening to heavy music. This is one of those moments where I feel like everybody, even if they’re 34 or 30, are going to be that 21- or 22-year-old kid that they were when they went to see Scary Kids. And the whole place is just going to explode.
The tour kicks off in January with dates below and tickets here.
THE CITY SLEEPS IN FLAMES 15 YEAR ANNIVERSARY TOUR
— SCARY KIDS SCARING KIDS (@SKSKofficial) November 18, 2019
01/13 – Orangevale, CA @ Boardwalk
01/14 – Fresno, CA @ Strummers
01/15 – Los Angeles, CA @ 1720
01/16 – Anaheim, CA @ Chain Reaction
01/17 – Phoenix, AZ @ Press Room
01/18 – Las Vegas, NV @ Fremont Country Club
01/20 – El Paso, TX @ The Green Door
01/21 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
01/22 – Lubbock, TX @ Jake’s Cafe
01/23 – San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
01/24 – Houston, TX @ Scout Bar