Pushing it Forward:
Climbing Out of Basements with Title Fight
Words by Alex Napoliello — Philadelphia, PA
The human heart on average beats over 100,000 times and pumps roughly 2,000 gallons of blood daily. But the heart doesn’t work alone – it has thousands of veins and four main arteries that help distribute blood throughout the body. In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is the heart of the Keystone state, and a breeding ground for punk music. Offshoot cities like Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and Title Fight’s hometown of Kingston serve as veins or arteries, appeasing fans who aren’t always up for a trip to the city of Brotherly Love.
Brothers Ned and Ben Russin, Jamie Rhoden and Shane Moran, members of the post-hardcore band Title Fight, are more than just a local act in their hometown; they help maintain the punk scene there, and continue to help it grow despite their new-found success.
“Wilkes-Barre is a lot smaller of a city to begin with, so we’ll never have the great turn out that Philly or New York or L.A. would have,” said bassist Ned Russin. “But the kids that come out to the shows are excited, and they are excited to see bands and they’re excited to support bands. That’s all we can really ask for. I’m really happy with it,” he continued.
Title Fight began in the basements and backrooms of D.I.Y venues, climbed their way out, but left a rope behind to help others get out too. When Russin first started going to shows in the Kingston/Wilkes-Barre area (the two are literally five minutes apart), his brother Ben and his friends were the ones throwing the shows. Now, eight years later, Ned and his friends have inherited the family business, booking gigs at their own venue in town.
“The first big tour we did was with New Found (Glory). They were a band we literally grew up listening to, so it’s just weird. These people we used to see only on CD covers and magazine covers, now we go on tour with. It’s a funny transition,” offered Russin.
New Found Glory is just a small sprout in a garden of talent Title Fight has played alongside. This past December, they scored an opening spot on the first night of the Bouncing Souls’ ‘Home for the Holidays’ series of shows in Asbury Park. They recently finished up the AP tour with Four Years Strong and the Gallows, and even landed a cover shot on the alternative magazine. Title Fight has also opened for hardcore legends H20 and New Jersey’s Lifetime, and will hit the road with Rise Against in mid-April. But, like any band, the road to get to where they are now wasn’t easy.
“We started Title Fight in 2003 when we were 12-years-old,” said Russin. “We played locally for the longest time, maybe traveling to Doylestown, PA or New Jersey the farthest.” Russin and his band mates put out three or four demos on their own, two EPs and a split 7”.
“It’s easy to write EPs, especially when you’re 16-years-old. We didn’t want to sit down and write 12 songs, we just wanted to write three songs, put it out, and then go play shows. We didn’t have the attention span,” he laughs, “to sit down and write anything more than three or four songs.”
As the members of Title Fight grew older and started to mature, along came SideOneDummy Records (Gaslight Anthem, 7 Seconds, Anti-Flag) at just the right time. SideOneDummy released Title Fight’s debut full-length, Shed, in May 2011. “We had a lot of pressure on us and we didn’t want to let anyone down, so we really took our time with writing and it took us a year to finish Shed. But we’re really happy with how it came out, so I’m glad we did what we did.”
There was a two-year break in between the release of Shed and Title Fight’s previous record The Last Thing You Forget, a compilation released in 2009. In that time, a lot of things happened to Ned Russin. “A lot of good and bad stuff had happened in the year or two between those records, mainly bad, but now things are on the upswing. But there was a lot of stuff to choose from when we were writing that record,” explained Russin.
The bad: Ned’s grandmother passed away and his dad had triple bypass surgery, along with a diagnosis for cancer. The good: touring the United States, Europe and Japan while his friends hit the books in college, and the maturity that comes along with being out on your own.
The different events in Russin’s life are evident in the dynamic of Shed. “Crescent-Shaped Depression”, “Safe In Your Skin” and “Where Am I?” are somber, heavier songs filled with personal angst. Meanwhile, the Hot Water Music-esque “27”, “Coxton-Yard” and “You Can’t Say Kingston Doesn’t Love You” are more melodic and focus on breaking free from youthful ignorance, and adequately dealing with what life throws at you.
With the success of Shed, the members of Title Fight have become much more than hometown heroes – they are now a national act, garnering much deserved attention from their fellow punk rock peers. When asked how the state of the music scene nationwide is, Russin responds, “I think there’s a lot of great things going on – there’s a lot of good current bands, a lot of bands that are putting out records that are interesting and unique, pushing the genre whatever it may be. Whether it’s a punk or hardcore record or an indie record, they’re pushing it forward, and that’s always what music needs.”
While Russin speaks highly of the music that’s being released these days, he still has reservations about the process. “The convenience of the computer has made it so people don’t need to go to shows and people don’t need to buy records. Instead of going to a record store, checking out a new band, you can literally go to YouTube and watch a live video of a band. Or you can go to their Myspace or Facebook (page) and hear the music for free.”
Russin continued, “The cool thing about music was that there was such a connection between you and the band…and now with the Internet, even though there’s supposed to be a stronger connection because you can literally put something up on the Internet and everybody in the entire world can read it, it feels like it’s less personal.”
Like anything, there are positives and negatives. Russin acknowledges that a positive of the Internet is that anyone can start a band, and have their music heard. For a band just starting out, it’s also a useful tool to network with other groups and book tours. “We booked our first tour using Myspace. We looked up bands and venues – we didn’t know what else to do because we were 16 and 17-years-old,” Russin explained.
The days of booking their own tours, and scrounging through Myspace pages are pretty much over for Title Fight. But the Kingston natives continue to do the same things that got them to where they are today. They plan to hit the studio in early summer and have a record out by the end of the year. In the meantime, Russin concludes, “We’re going to be writing and touring, and that’s all we’ve been doing for the last three years anyway so there’s not really much of a change.”
TheWaster.com | Kingston