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Salad Days Magazine | March 29, 2023

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Versus The World interview

Versus The World interview
Salad Days

Versus The World is a punk rock band formed by Donald Spence and Mike Davenport in Santa Barbara in 2005.

One of the most underrated bands nowadays, their sound reflects the music that some of its members played in their previous/other careers (Mike Davenport in The Ataris and Chris Flippin in Lagwagon). Salad Days Mag had the honor of sharing a bottle of Cabernet with Versus The World’s lead singer Donald Spence during their New York City tour stop on Thursday, June 30th at the Gramercy Theatre, after a great performance featuring songs from “Versus the World” (2005, Kung Fu Records) and “Drink. Sing. Live. Love” (2012, Viking Funeral Records).

SD: I feel you guys have really the potential for being huge. You are one of my favorite bands, both in terms of music and lyrics. I particularly love the second album.
VTW: Thanks, man. I also really love our last album

SD: So why do you think the band has not reached its full potential in terms of recognition yet?
VTW: We are trying, man. We have been touring non-stop all year. It’s all about working, you know. You gotta keep playing shows, you gotta keep getting tours. We put this record out last year and we have been trying to tour non-stop. We have been to Europe twice now, and we have been to Japan, US, Canada. We are really trying to work it.

SD: Where do you feel that your music has been better received?
VTW: Europe and Australia

SD: Why would you say that is?
VTW: You know, you have been to European festivals. These people live music. They go to festivals that are 2-3 days long, like Groezrock and the Deconstruction. Europe loves rock and roll music. They just love music. They are awesome. I don’t know why it’s different, but it’s just the way it is. It’s better. Australia is very similar, since they really, really love rock and roll. Just different spots, man.

SD: Can you tell us a little bit about how the band got started in Santa Barbara?
VTW: Santa Barbara is a really small town, so we are all really buddies. Me and Mike (Davenport, old bassist of the Ataris until 2004) have been friends for half of my life. So we have a lot of history with the Ataris. It took us a couple of different renditions of people before we found a band that we knew we were going to stick with. Right now Chris Flippin is on tour with Lagwagon, so we have Gavin from Senses Fail. Chris comes back on the 2nd. Everyone’s schedule is so gnarly, with Senses Fail, Lagwagon, Ataris. We are lucky to have some good fill-in guys.

SD: So is Mike still with the Ataris?
VTW: He is not, but they are getting together to release a box set, and he is going to do some touring with that. This is why Gavin is starting to work with us now, since he does bass with Senses Fail, so he will help us out if Mike will be too busy with the Ataris. They are going to do a 10-year anniversary of ‘So Long Astoria’.

SD: With all these people coming from different bands, do you see Versus The World a full-time band or a just a side gig?
VTW: Definitely a full-time band. Actually, more than full-time. I am gone all the time, I am just touring. My poor wife, by poor dog…

SD: So you have been busy for 8 years with Versus The World since it started in 2005. Why so much time passed by between the two records, 2005 and 2012?
VTW: We have been essentially broken up. Right after the first record we toured really hard. It broke Mike’s marriage up at the time. It ruined him. His wife left him. She sold all this stuff. It was a really nasty divorce. With the Ataris and us he toured pretty much straight for 13 years. So he just said “I gotta take a minute, I gotta deal with divorce and wife”. So during that time I started this country band called Crooks and Liars with Bryan (Charlson), and we just gave up. We thought we were done. We took different roads. Mike got a divorce, then got a kid, then he married again. It was not until 2 years ago when Chris Flippin approached me during some down time with Lagwagon and he said “Let’s make songs, let’s do this record”. Chris was what started the band again. Me and Chris are really good buddies and had some down time with Lagwagon and wanted to start the band with me, so we just did it. It’s Chris’s fault (laughs)


SD: So you released two albums so far. When do you feel you might be releasing a third one?
VTW: We are going to record one this next year. We have two months off. We have September and December off. I will be releasing some acoustic, well, folk-style stuff with Bryan. We are going to do a proper Crooks And Liars record and we are going to do another Versus The World record next year.

SD: It’s interesting you say acoustic/folk-style stuff. Maybe it is just my personal opinion, but I feel that more and more punk rock bands are turning that way as they age a little bit.
VTW: Well, I grew up in Texas. I have always listened to those mellow voices, I have always had a passion for it. That’s how Bryan and I started playing music together, since that was our deal. So essentially I have to write 30 songs this year. 15 for the mellow band and 15 for the punk band, and we will do that after we come back from Europe this next time.

SD: What is your process of writing music?
VTW: I do everything as far as the base of the song. I can’t write solo. Chris Flippin is a maniac. He is one of the best guitarists I have ever played with in my life. Everyone has their niche. You know, I write melodies and guitar parts. I am not a guitar player, I just play the guitar. I am a song writer. So I do the little stuff. I do the melodies, and the base of the song. Then I show the buds the songs, and then we work on them. Usually it just starts with me on my porch. Me, my guitar and a bottle of wine.

SD: I think you have one of the best voices out there right now. Very melodic.
VTW: Thanks, man! My mom had my singing in choirs, playing piano, playing guitar. My mom loves music. She had me singing from a young age. I was in church choirs when I was 5 or 6, then I was in traveling choirs between 8 and 12, then I started bands. I have been in singing and music since I was a baby. My mom loves rock and roll, my mom loves music.

SD: Without being too much into religious stuff I assume (Doland is wearing a necklace with a cross upside down…)
VTW: My family is really religious. I am not. My family is from Spain, they are very catholic. My mom remarried and met a Mormon guy that raised me. So I have two different big time religions. So a lot of my songs question faith. I am not anti god, I am just pro questions. Everyone can be as religious, as atheist as they want, but the bottom line is, you don’t fucking know. So, let’s ask questions and work together.

SD: What are the songs you are the most attached to?
VTW: ‘These Bones’ is my favorite one, and ‘She Sang The Blues’ (respectively the 6th and 1st song of ‘Drink. Sing. Live. Love’)

SD: I would have thought ‘Crooks And Liars’, but you did not even play it tonight…
VTW: Fuck, I forgot about that one. You see, we only had half hour to play. ‘Crooks And Liar’ is probably the most honest song I have ever written. That’s just a story. A girl that I had things for. We would travel together when I was touring. We have known each other since we were in sixth grade, in a love affair than was on and off. Then she called me one day and she said “I’m done. I‘m getting married”. Hahhh, I forgot about that song.


SD: What about you now? Are you married? Any kids?
VTW: Yes, I am married. No kids.

SD: What about that kid? (pointing at a kid hanging out back stage)
VTW: Oh, that is Sean Sellers’ from Good Riddance/Authority Zero. He has been with us for the last two weeks. He is like, everyone’s kid. He plays with my iPad, he hangs out. It is really fun to tour if you are an adult. There’s friends, alcohol, food. But – if you are a kid – you are like “This is fucking boring”! You just want to be with your buddies playing video games or outside on a bike. We are just trying to make an effort to make the kid feel welcome, so that he does not miss home. He is here visiting his dad.

SD: How do you feel being in a band now, at 31, versus in your early twenties?
VTW: There is actually a huge difference. I had no responsibilities when I was 21 and I was touring. I was a kid, I was an asshole. I was just drinking and doing drugs. I am so much happier touring now. It’s harder now. I have a family. I have a life, but I am old enough to appreciate it, you know? It is more about seeing the world instead of being wasted. It’s more about making real friends. When you are a kid, you are really not thinking about consequences, it is all about having a good fucking time. Now I am really about meeting people, seeing cities – like New York – for the first time, even though I have been here before. I prefer to be 31 than 21 any day. You are smarter now, you are better.

SD: What bands do you listen to these days?
VTW: I love Chuck Ragan, I love the new Hot Water Music. I have always loved Superdrag, The Refreshments, Masked Intruder…they are super nerdy and awesome. I listen to old Weezer all the time, Lucero. And then just punk rock like The Bouncing Souls.

SD: How old were you when you started listening to punk rock?
VTW: I started touring when I was 15 and 16, listening to punk rock when I was 12 or 13. That was the first music that I clung to. I listened to metal for a little while and rock and roll, but – as soon as I found punk rock – I thought “this is it”.

SD: What band was it that it really made you think that?
VTW: Bad Religion, old Millencolin. Green Day’s Kerplunk was one of my first punk records. Lagwagon’s ‘Duh’ and ‘Trashed’. I was raised on 90’s punk rock and to me – I know a lot a people who don’t agree – I think 90’s punk rock was the best era. 80’s were dirtier, more political, but 90’s were all about melody. I am melodic guy and so I was very lucky to grow up during that era of punk rock. The bands I listened to are now my peers, like Lagwagon, The Bouncing Souls, The Descendents and All. These bands changed my life.

SD: Do you feel more and more people are getting into or away from this kind of music as they get older?
VTW: It’s hard to say, because when you are out at shows the people that are out are usually younger, so I do sign autographs for kids, but I have a lot of drinks with people our age. It all depends. Right now I think DJs are really big, but it comes and goes, you know. There will be shitty music as long as there will be good music. I feel there is still a lot of kids coming to shows these days still, it makes me happy.

SD: Where do you see the band in 5, 10 years?
VTW: Making records. We are making another one right now. We took time off and it almost killed us. No more time off. We gotta tour. It is all about balance. How well you work musician life as well your family life, because both – for me – are my life. I can’t live without my family, but I can’t live without the music that I make. How do you keep both of them happy? That’s the balance. It takes a lot of fucking honesty and a lot of compromise, on both parts. The band has to be willing to accommodate wives and girlfriends on tours or time off, and you always have to be willing to give up some band’s stuff to make your family happy. You know what is right and what is wrong. It takes some honesty and hard work. My family supports me. They know that this is what I wanna do and this is my life. You have to be honest with everyone. The lies will break a band and a family apart. Be honest. That’s all I can say.


(Txt & live pics by Stefano Campagnolo – Salad Days Mag NYC – All Rights Reserved)


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