It’s been 30 long years since Trever Keith founded Face to Face, and although he’s technically been the only original member since 1998, the band’s consistent punk rock sound has won over fans young enough to be his children — and possibly now grandchildren.
With the release of their upcoming album No Way Out But Through (via Fat Wreck Chords) officially on the horizon, the California natives aren’t dwelling in the past more than they have to. They’re not going to sit around and pretend like people don’t want to hear the fan favorites from their first 10 albums, but Keith and the band are ready to show what they’ve got in 2021 after the longest break in the band’s history between new releases (if you don’t include the 2018 acoustic album or 4-year breakup in the mid-2000s).
SPIN caught up with the punk frontman to chat about the new album, the band’s history, and more. Oh, and here’s an exclusive first look at the whole album as well.
SPIN: What should fans new and old expect from the new album?
Trever Keith: For anyone who is a previous Face to Face fan, it should meet their expectations because it sounds like a Face to Face record — but I also think it should exceed their expectations. Not only did we want to stay true to form with the sound that we’ve established over the last 30 years, but we also took a few chances and pushed ourselves a little bit to make a record that is different and stands on its own.
As you mentioned, you’ve been in Face to Face for 30 years now — and for most of that, you’ve been working with Scott Shiflett. What’s it been like to collaborate with him for pretty much your entire adult life?
He joined the band in ‘95, and we became fast friends. Now, 25 years later, we’re really more like family than anything else. We live in different cities. We don’t talk on the phone constantly. But every time we need to do a tour or a recording session or whatever, we pick up exactly from where we left off. There’s a mutual understanding and a camaraderie that’s stronger than friendship, even to the extent that we bicker like brothers sometimes — which we definitely did on this album. But the things that challenge you also help you rise to the occasion.
In addition to the new album and 30 year anniversary, I’m pretty sure this year marks the moment when you’ve been together for longer post-breakup than you were before you split the first time…
Oh my gosh, I hadn’t even realized that was a thing, but you’re right. We came back with [former guitarist Chad Yaro] on board, and then we pretty quickly got [current guitarist Dennis Hill] to fill in for Chad when he wasn’t available. Then it just kind of morphed into a situation where Dennis became full time, and it’s been evolving in this organic way ever since. I said this a long time ago, but when we first got [drummer Danny Thompson] in the band and started playing with Dennis, it was really my favorite lineup that we’ve ever had. The four of us get along so well, and we love playing music together. We genuinely love hanging out together. We all look forward to touring so much because we enjoy each other’s company as friends. It’s such a pleasure on the back half of our career to have this fantastic lineup and be able to hang out with my bros whenever I go out on tour — rather than having problems or worries about attitudes and relationships and those kinds of things.
We established the sound of this band around ‘96 — right around our self-titled record — and from there, we challenged ourselves to make records that were different, but we always returned to this core punk rock thing that got us going. I think this new album gives you a little bit of a look into some of the best parts of what we’ve done in previous years, so it’s sort of a highlights record, even though it doesn’t really borrow too much from anything we’ve ever done before. I mention that because when we needed to find replacements for band members in the past, we tried to find replacements that sort of fit that archetype of the previous guys. For example, not only is Danny a great drummer on his own, but he was sensitive to the fact that people were familiar with the previous records and that we had following, so he didn’t come in the band and try to do everything his way. To me, he’s the best combination of what Rob and Pete both did and none of the worst parts. I think Dennis is the same way, because he was very aware of the fact that Chad had been in the band for a number of years and he wanted to stay true to that. I think in many ways he does, and he finds ways to enhance it and push it even further. So even though there have been member changes in the band throughout the years, I think there’s a pretty consistent and recognizable Face to Face sound that we’ve been conscious of preserving through the years.
Is there anything else that you want people to know about the new album?
I think this record is something that isn’t deeply rooted in the ‘90s, because I think it’s relevant today. I tried to be real aware and cognizant of writing lyrics that were important to me so that I could have an emotional stake in the performances and give it some fire and attitude and energy rather than writing lyrics that I thought people might be interested in. But I also think that there are lyrics that relate to the human experience, so I think that even though it’s a record that was made by a bunch of guys in their 50s, it should appeal to people in their 20s and everywhere in between. If you’ve ever been a fan of punk rock or Face to Face, I think this record is the best version of us.