“Why so serious?”, the Joker once queried. But local punk trio Take-Off isn’t a bunch of depraved sociopaths. Frontman-guitarist Bob, drummer Isaac and bassist Parthiban would sooner treat you to their devilishly catchy, tongue-crammed-in-cheek songs, which they deliver with all the subtlety and speed of a jet engine, than give you a Chelsea smile. Pick any one of the seven songs off their recent album This Won’t Save the World, and you’ll experience a concentrated dose of pleasure-center-exploding energy with a brain-battering payload of suggestive humour that is too bold to wink. Simply put, Take-Off offers the listener the keys to catharsis – emotional and musical – at a time when the world is collapsing in on itself. Want to be saved? Heed the words of the three below.
What was the purpose and vision behind this release?
Bob: As with our other releases, we record music that’s amusing to us and that we hope amuses other people too. We were going for something more polished and cleaned-up than This is Punk Rock. This is For You. That was our first release, out in 2015, and it was very much just us wanting to record and get out the six tracks as quick as possible. But for this one, we really tried to think about how we wanted to approach the songs and did a lot of revisions.
What’s the story behind the title?
B: We initially really wanted to call it The Jack-Off EP, with a picture of a girl and a showerhead but we rethought that. We live in a weird time, where all these things are happening in the world. One day, Parthiban was just, like, “You know what? This won’t save the world.” We found that apt and stuck with it. It’s nice to have something to take you away from all the craziness going on and that gives you a reason to smile or laugh.
Does your album art reflect that same sensibility?
B: A lot of the artwork for our first album was very DIY and designed with Microsoft Paint. I make no apologies for that, but with this one, we really wanted to have artwork that went along with the music thematically. Parthiban’s friend Zachary did the artwork and understood that we were trying to communicate the feelings of alienation and social dislocation in an accessible way. It’s evident in the cover art, where you see a disgruntled guy – who, by the way, is meant to be me – amidst a homogenous crowd of people. It’s reminiscent of ’90s punk rock, with social commentary. That’s basically what we wanted to show with the album; we’re dislocated and alienated, but we’re not going to come out and shout about it in your face – because after shouting for so long, the screams will eventually become noise. We decided to convey our message with humour instead.
Do you think pop punk is a genre that requires the people making it to be young in order for it to be meaningful?
B: Bands like Blink-182 and Green Day still getting nominated for Grammys and scaling the Billboard charts. That proves that you don’t have to be young in age, as long as you stay young in spirit. Pop punk can be perceived as childish because it’s light-hearted, but Nietzsche said humour is one of the best ways to deal with the tragedies of life. The medium of humour manages to communicate universal truths in a way that doesn’t require extreme emotional involvement in the subject matter. That’s how pop punk can still be meaningful.
I: Pop punk is upbeat and jumpy. It can make you happy. It’s a great combination. I’ve met people who’re, like, 50 and still love it. Who’s to say that’s wrong? If you like the music, you like the music; it doesn’t matter what age you are. My dad likes Green Day. He’s 65.
Parthiban: Trends change. Pop punk was big when I was 14. Now it’s pretty much dead to people that age. We enjoy and play what we grew up listening to – what was significant to us in our youth. You don’t have to be young for it to be meaningful. It just has to be relevant to you. Bands like The Descendents, Sum 41 and Screeching Weasel have been doing what they’re doing for over 20 years because it means something to them.
Has your music helped you deal with any kind of relationship that you’ve gone through in your own life?
B: 130% yes. There’re great songs written out there, like “Mr. Brightside”, “What’s My Age Again?” and “Story of a Lonely Guy”. As listeners, hearing these songs speaks volumes to experiences in our lives. As artists, crystallising our experiences into a song and having people tell us that it made them cry is a new level of amazing. We never expected it. We just make music for our own enjoyment. To have someone else relate to it or experience it in their own way feels humbling. You might’ve written a song for something – but just because you are the vessel for the music, it doesn’t mean the music is about you. A song’s meaning can transcend so many levels and mean so many different things to different people. That’s how music works, with all its universality. It’s extremely rewarding.
I: I had a friend I’ve known since I was a teen, who told me he wanted to cry when he listened to one of our songs, “Stupid Things”. As an artist, you have no idea how what you’re creating might make someone else feel. You just play it because it feels right. It’s amazing when someone feels the impact too. We’ve all felt that way about the music we listen to, of course, but it’s different when you hear someone else feeling that way about your music.
“After shouting for so long, the screams will eventually become noise. We decided to convey our message with humour instead.”
Why are you guys called Take-Off?
B: A magical, spirited alien came to me one day in a dream and told me, “You will do things with this band and you should call it ‘Take-Off’ because it will be a vessel into the recesses of outer space.” Nah. Someone wanted to put the band up at a gig back when we didn’t have a band name and everyone was pestering us about giving ourselves one. One day, we were sitting at Blu Jazz with our old bass player and he was like, “We should name the band ‘Take-Off’. I was on this flight and the pilot kept saying it.” Obviously, we thought it was the stupidest name ever, but we were like, whatever, let’s go with it. I mean, ‘Foo Fighters’ and ‘Sum 41’ are dumb names but look at the bands! It’s always nice when you start off with a name that’s simple and not too try-hard – something that’s easily recognisable without being pretentious – and then give it meaning through your music and reputation. So we stuck to it. A stupid name for a stupid band.
I: We are a stupid band!
B: Also, people sometimes think ‘Take-Off’ is a homage to take off your pants and jacket.
All: (Chorusing.) It’s not.
I: When we went on tour we made a bet that whenever someone says ‘take off’, we’d all have to drink.
B: “Hey man, gotta take off!”
I: We were quite drunk by the end. So, bonus: It’s a good way to stay drunk!