Defenders of Pop Punk
An Interview with Justin Collier of Man Overboard

Words by Brett Bodner
Photo by Alex Henery

In 2008, five men from New Jersey burst onto the scene armed with fast guitars, powerful drums, and blink-182-like rotating vocals. With a battle cry of “Defend Pop Punk” and a logo with a heart and crossing machine guns, Man Overboard have come to show the world that the music they grew up loving is still alive and well.

After three albums, countless tours, and consecutive stints on Warped Tour, Man Overboard have become one of the biggest bands in the pop punk scene. With lyrics like “And my heart caves in when I look at you/This is so hard, this is so hard,” and “Got a hole in my heart that stretches from coast to coast/constantly ripped apart from what I want the most,” they wear their hearts on their sleeve and fans have responded in a positive way.

As their time on All Time Low’s “A lot Like Love” tour begins to wind down, rhythm guitarist Justin Collier took time out of his busy schedule to talk with us about what’s next for Man Overboard, the current state of the pop punk scene, their upcoming headline tour, and how they’ve grown as band.

Are you ready for the headlining Heart Attack tour?

JUSTIN: Yeah definitely. We’re on this tour with All Time Low for another two weeks and then we have like three weeks off, and we’ll be going off on the tour. We haven’t done a real headline tour in like two years. Last year we had a co-headlining tour with The Story So Far, but it’s cool to go out and have a headline set and not have to fit a time constraint of 30 minutes or so. We can play as long as we want.

What can fans expect from the tour starting in May?

JUSTIN: Since the last time we headlined, we had another record come out. We’re going to play a lot of the new stuff from Heart Attack and a lot of old songs. For fans who came to see us with All Time Low, Mayday Parade, and on Warped Tour, you’ll see some of the songs you heard like “Where I Left You” and “Montrose.” We’re going to try to play some stuff where fans will be like “Damn, it’s cool I came to this show and got to hear a song I’ve never heard live before.” The one really old song we’ll be playing on this tour is “Dylan’s Song” which is off of Human Highlight Reel, and we haven’t played that song live in forever, so that was sort of like our reward if you’re a die-hard Man-O fan and you came out to this tour. But we’ll be playing a lot of stuff like that.

What inspires the band when you go to write songs or a new album?

JUSTIN: I think a lot of the songs are written from when the previous record was recorded up until the time we go to make the new record. It’s a lot of different stuff like being on the road and being away from people. It’s not really a writing process where we write everything at once, it’s kind of like a plethora of different things. Whenever we go into the studio or the day before we go into the studio there’s always like one song where we’re like, ‘Oh damn, that song is sick, we gotta record that,” but the process is always different.

Have a lot of you gone through some rough times with love over the years? Seems like that on some of the songs.

JUSTIN: I guess that’s probably true, but that’s with anybody but some of it is real and some is an interpretation of other things, but we’re pop punk kids so I guess we all had some bullshit happen.

Do fans come up to you and say how your lyrics helped them in similar situations?

JUSTIN: For sure, kids say stuff like that all the time. This song helped them with that or they relate to a song because of this or whatever. It’s cool that people respond to the music. If people said nothing at all I feel like we’d have a problem, so the fact people respond to it is always cool and you can’t get mad at that.

Recently you released a music video for “How to Hide Your Feelings.” How do you guys approach making a music video?

JUSTIN: We’ve done videos where we’ve come up with a concept and we’ve gone up to a director and said “Hey this is what we’re thinking, can you do it?” With the ‘How to Hide Your Feelings’ video, we just picked the song and then we picked the director and asked him for an idea. Now his idea isn’t even necessarily a direct correlation of what the song is about, it was more of his interpretation. Eric Teti was the director and we wanted to make a video but we didn’t have time, so we asked him to make a video
that we’re not going to be in, and he came up with the idea. We didn’t even see it until it was done so that was a little different, but it came out awesome in the end and I love it.

How do you guys feel you’ve grown as a band through the years?

JUSTIN: Musically, I feel we’ve gotten a little more in depth as people. We learned how to be a band from touring, to writing, to existing as musicians and as friends. It’s funny when we read a review of a record and we see “This is their best work to date” and then another one says “This is their worst work.” Other people are like “They barely even wrote this song and they didn’t think about it.” Well we spent a lot more time writing that than “Love Your Friends, Die Laughing” or some other song. At the end of the day you can’t please all those people, but I feel like we’ve grown in a number of different ways.

Where did your logo and the idea of ‘defend pop punk’ come from?

JUSTIN: It’s a parody of a Most Precious Blood t-shirt that said ‘defend hardcore’ and people got super into it so we turned it into our website and all that other stuff. With the heart and guns logo, we were looking for album art when we did Real Talk and Wayne (Wildrick) came up with the idea. We had a friend of ours put it together for us and it’s been used on all the album covers since then. That logo is synonymous with our band, just like how the Wonder Years have the pigeon, All Time Low’s skull, and
Mayday Parade has keys all over their shit. I feel like different bands have their different logos that people associate with them, so the heart and guns is definitely our thing.

What drew you guys to pop punk originally? What do you believe the future is for pop punk?

JUSTIN: We were in punk rock bands, hardcore bands, and melodic punk bands so we were always into some of the classics like New Found Glory, Taking Back Sunday, and Saves the Day so it just kind of led that way. When I listen to our band and I listen to the songs and then I go listen to bands like Modern Baseball or Real Friends, I don’t think it necessarily sounds the same, but we have similar fans. Our band is just going to keep evolving in the way we evolve, as I’m sure those bands are going to change a bit over the next couple of years. In terms of the scene, I think there’s a lot of good bands and a lot of bands people like and I think it’s going good. If there was a lack of bands I think we’d be in trouble, but there’s definitely not a lack of bands right now.

What’s next for Man Overboard following the headlining tour?

JUSTIN: We’re going to do this headline tour which we’re all pretty stoked about and then we’re going to take the summer off from touring. Nik (Bruzzese) has a studio, and in our off time we always go there and start tinkering with news ideas. We’ll be back at it in the fall and in the next couple of months we’ll have to record another record, but we don’t have a definite plan yet. What we’re working towards is do some more touring, do another record, do more touring, which is pretty much the cycle we’ve been on over the last few years. The new album won’t be made over the summer, but it will be recorded in the near future. We’re going to start working on songs after touring.

Is this summer going to be weird without being out on Warped Tour, I know you guys have played the tour the last two summers?

JUSTIN: We’ve been on tour every summer since 2009 so it’ll be nice to have July and August off without any shows. Not that we don’t like playing shows, but we’ve been on tour quite a bit so it will be cool to have a summer and go to the beach or whatever. It’ll be nice to have a summer off for once, but we’ll definitely be out on tour again in the fall, just not sure which one yet.

Anything else going on aside from the tour?

JUSTIN: The Heart Attack tour is the big thing right now, but if people want to check out the label that we do it’s called Lost Tape Collective. All the releases on our website and we just don’t do cassette, we do some vinyl, CD’s and digital stuff, but we do a lot of cassette re-releases. We have a lot of things coming up and a couple of vinyl releases coming out so definitely check those out. They’ll be out this summer and it’s something that’s never been pressed to vinyl, but it’ll be sick, I can promise you that.

Last year, Man Overboard released their third full length album, Heart Attack. Next month, the band will head out on their first headlining tour in over two years to support the album. Joining them will be Transit, Forever Came Calling, and Knuckle Puck. The Heart Attack Tour will kick off in Montreal on May 20 and will run through June 21. | Tour