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A Dirty Dozen with TOP TIER – January 2021

| 28 January 2021 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “One of the main responses to the year 2020 is “Over It.” Miami-based pop punk band Top Tier (for fans of Story So Far, Get Up Kids, State Champs, All Time Low, and Neck Deep) have shared their new song “Over It,” which examines the strength it takes to just move on. “‘Over It’ is about letting go of a toxic relationship when you feel trapped but don’t have the guts to speak up,” says lead vocalist-bassist Chris Tamez. “It’s that tiny voice of reason in your head screaming to get out and the fear of tough love. Lots of people can relate to that. Separate emotion from reality, the rose-colored glasses come flying off, and you find the strength to say all the things you wish you could have said.” We get the band to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Felix: Over it is kind of an amalgamation of all the feelings and fights you have in a shitty relationship. All the “Is it me? Or is it you?” That you struggle with when trying to resolve issues and the gaslighting of changing the story up a thousand times. As far as Easter eggs go marvel fans might recognize the last line of the chorus as one of Daredevil’s lines from the second season.

Tamez: Another fun fact, the lyrics were written for a completely different song by Felix and me a few years ago when the band was just getting off its feet. We decided to revisit some of our old work and found that the lyrics fit the vibe of the song perfectly.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Felix: System of a Down’s Mesmerize album is what really got me into music. My older sister had a burned version she got from one of her friends and I asked to hear it kind of on a whim one day. The moment I realized I wanted to be a musician was the moment I learned my first little riff on guitar in seventh grade! It was on some Hal Leonard book but when I played it right the first time, I got this insane wave of excitement and I knew it was for me.

Tamez: I grew up in a family surrounded by musicians, so I was raised on classic rock bands like The Who, Cream, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. However my love for live music truly began with my interest in music photography. I bought my first DSLR camera in 2011 and took every opportunity I could to go out and photograph local shows. I was mesmerized by the way the bands I shot hand the energy of the crowd in their hands. I knew deep down that I wanted to be on the other side of the camera lens.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Bry: When I first started playing, it was all about pop punk, and the first song I actually learned was Four Year Strong’s “Catastrophe.” It wasn’t until 12th grade where I played in an experimental/alt band and was introduced to that sub-universe of music, and their amazing drummers. I am also fortunate overall that I’ve seen all of my favorite artists live!

Tamez: Young Chris was always begging his parents for iTunes gift cards to purchase live performances.  I have the likes of Green Day’s “Bullet in a Bible,” MCR’s “The Black Parade is Dead!,” And All Time Low’s “Straight to DVD” committed to memory from how many times I’ve watched them.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Felix: It’s really hard for me to pick specific people, so I’m gonna tell you my five all time albums in no specific order: Streetlight Manifesto – Everything Went Numb, New Found Glory – Not Without A Fight, Four Year Strong – Rise Or Die Trying, Blink 182 – Take Off Your Pants And Jacket, and Fireworks – All I Have To Offer Is My Own Confusion.

Tamez: Green Day, A Day To Remember, My Chemical Romance, Mayday Parade, and All Time Low

Bry: New Found Glory, The Story So Far, Knuckle Puck, Chon, and Tony Royster Jr.

Nico: The Story So Far, Four Year Strong, Forests, Joyce Manor, and Belmont.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Felix: If I had to pick from this era, I’d probably say Sam Pura. They produced The Story So Far’s most recent album Proper Dose and that album is a MASTERPIECE.

Tamez: I would love the opportunity to collaborate with A Day To Remember. They are the textbook definition of success within the Alt Rock/Pop-Punk community in my eyes. They’ve created their own unique sound while still staying ahead of the curve by putting out banger after banger after all these years.

Bry: Don’t laugh at me, but I would absolutely love to record with a K-pop group like BTS (they don’t miss)!

Nico: Probably either Alan Day or Dan O’Conner from Four Year Strong. The way that they both approach guitar and riffs is insane to me. They have a way to write these very chuggy riffs without it ever getting scrambled with the melody and harmony of the vocals and it’s is stuff of legends to me. So I’d love to be able to sit there and pick their brains.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Felix: I just tell people we sound like 2003. The year. Someone once told me we sounded like Yellowcard, but none of us can backflip on stage, or at all, so I don’t really get it.

Tamez: We sound like the official soundtrack from your favorite American Pie movie. I wouldn’t call it cringe worthy, but we’ve definitely had fans tell us our music belongs in an anime intro.

Bry: We are a pop punk band with no boundaries to hold us. We want to make you get into your middle/high school emo phase while jumping around the whole time! We are not the typical sad pop punk band, and our lyrics come from the heart, not just the broken heart from 5 years ago. Our early sounds have been compared to New Found Glory, which is the best compliment ever! The cringe comparison that has been made would be Green Day (which I personally don’t love, but our bass player will melt when he hears that).

Nico: Good ole reliable pop punk! A couple people have told me that we sound like a band that makes anime intros. I didn’t really cringe or entirely disagree, but I thought it was pretty funny.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Felix: I am definitely the BEST cook in Top Tier, but Tamez can make a MEAN deep-fried garlic parm ramen (the first thing I ever ate at his place). As far as the drinks it’s a tie between Tamez and I. And Tamez is ABSOLUTELY the type to bring out the acoustic at a party.

Tamez: If only we were that band! Most of our hangouts end up with drinks, Uber Eats, and video games. We had fun over the quarantine when Felix purchased a modded Nintendo GameCube full of classic staples like Tony Hawk Underground, Fire Emblem, and Kirby Air Ride pre-installed. Best purchase ever.

Bry: We get cooking on the Uber eats app, and I may have some type of healthy snack or CLIF bar if I’m on a diet. Felix and Tamez are definitely the ones to start pounding down beer, while also taking turns between who will bust out the acoustic guitar (but not to play “Wonderwall”).

Nico: Chances are, Felix is the one to throw it down in the kitchen or we just Uber eats something. If the vibe is right, we’re all getting the drinks in ha-ha. I wouldn’t say any of us bust out the guitar for singalongs, but one of us would probably be like “YO check out this thing I wrote” and then attempt to remember what it was.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Felix: The last time I was sincerely starstruck and left speechless was at the first concert I ever went to. It was Four Year Strong, Set Your Goals, Fireworks, and Polar Bear Club. I was 15 years old, so I was waiting for my momma to come pick me up after the show. I look over to my right and the entirety of Four Year Strong is just chilling outside their trailer, like the normal humans they are. I remember being so overwhelmed I couldn’t really say anything besides “omfg you guys were so sick; can I get a picture??” I never did get that picture, my camera died as I was handing it to someone for the shot. But I’ll never forget how relaxed they were about lil ol’ me freaking out about breathing the same air as them.

Tamez: Parker Cannon (The Story So Far) during Warped 2018. I just happened to bump into him while browsing for band merch and killing time before a We The King set. We had a brief conversation about the constantly changing music industry and writing relatable lyrics.

Bry: The last time would be meeting an EDM DJ collab by the name of GTA, because my friend casually went to high school with them and helps them sell merch at shows. Not rock music, but oh well!

Nico: I don’t really get starstuck but the one that jumps out to me is when I met all of Set Your Goals! at Backbooth in Orlando when me, Felix, and Tamez saw them for the Munity! 10 year tour. I was like 18 and it was pretty gnarly. I still have the set list signed by all of ’em.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Felix: I think the best part of being a musician is being able to create something real from something as abstract as an idea, and on top of that be able to see people relate to it emotionally the same way I felt when I was writing. If I could no longer be a musician, I’d definitely fall back on my career choice, which is audio engineering!

Tamez: My favorite part of being a musician is the networking process and watching ideas come to life. It’s very important nowadays to know how to wear different hats and know when to separate fun from business. I believe that mentality is what has allowed us to grow the way we have. My dream job outside of music would be to own my own venue. Felix and I have been talking about owning and operating our own venue that doubles as a bed & breakfast. Band & Breakfast! Coming soon to a city near you…? Ha-ha

Bry: The best part of being a musician is playing shows and stopping at Wawa in between tour destinations. My dream job would be a boxing / kickboxing gym owner / coach. It will happen down the line once my music career finishes!

Nico: The satisfaction of having the song in your head fully materialized in a recording, or having it be even better than what you had in your head. If I couldn’t be a musician, I’d probably still try to go on as a producer or a luthier. If those don’t count, probably try to be an electrician and learn how to build electronics. There’s also a version of me that would LOVE to be a sponsored skateboarder, but I’m so trash that it’s not probable ha-ha.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Felix: I wish someone would ask me if it’s all worth it. To which I say ABSOLUTELY. What we’re doing is not a crazy pipe dream, anyone can set their mind to writing fire music and release it into the world. What matters is how bad you want it, and how hard you work for it. I hate being asked how much money I’ve spent on equipment, I don’t wanna think about it ha-ha.

Tamez: Would like to be asked: Why music? Why take the risk of putting in time and effort in an industry where everyone else is trying to make it? I want to leave this world a better place than it was when I came into it. If that means our music touched the hearts of people and made their day better than when it started, then I feel like I’ve done my part. I want our fans to have as much fun listening to our music as it was for us writing and performing it. Tired of answering: “OMG do you guys know you sound like *insert band?!?!” No, we sound like Top Tier, though I appreciate the kind words.

Nico: I’ve never really been interviewed but I guess it would be what’s your dream trick to have down on a skateboard? And it would be Lazer Flips. If I can have them so good that I can do them downstairs and over gaps, I’d LOSE my mind. I use to play bass and I’d be pretty annoying when someone asks, “iS bAsS eASieR tHan gUiTAr???” Cause it’s such a level 1 question.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Felix: Yeah, I wish we could have recorded our first EP in better quality. They’re some great songs but it definitely sounds like a bedroom recording, which is exactly what it is ha-ha. Not to talk bad about our engineer at the time but it’d be nice to go back and hear those songs without having to think “man I wish this sounded better.”

Tamez: I don’t feel like I do have any regrets or “do-over” moments. Every blunder, mishap, and hiccup has helped shape us into the musicians and brotherhood that Top Tier is now.

Bry: Everything happens for a reason. We are still fairly young in this game, but I wish we can have a whole do-over of 2020 or skip the whole pandemic arc of this anime.

Nico: I just wish I played more shows. I don’t know, I’m not really someone to be like I wish I could go back cause everything that’s happened has made me how I am, and I still got lots of mistakes to make ha-ha.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Felix: I feel like everyone answers “Bohemian Rhapsody” for this question ha-ha. Honestly, I’d like to be in the room when blink-182 recorded “I Miss You” or “Feeling This.” Here’s my answer, the entirety of blink 182’s self-title. That album really helped me get through some awful times in middle and high school and to witness it first-hand would be indescribable. Plus I’d want to see if they know “I miss you” was gonna be such a BANGER when they were recording it.

Tamez: I would love to sit in during the recording sessions for A Day To Remember’s What Separates Me From You.  Not only does that album have some of the catchiest melodies and heaviest breakdowns I’ve heard in the world of rock music, but features a STACKED lineup of talented producers and engineers including Ted Jenson, who has done mastering work for Top Tier’s music during our time with our record label.

Bry: Justin Timberlake – Justified. He’s the goat (and Pharrell produced it)! That record means a lot because any song on it can change my mood to get up and start dancing even if I just lost everything in life.

Nico: I would just about die if I ever got to just be a fly on the wall for the recording sessions of Under Soil and Dirt from The Story So Far. Just to see how they approached an album that they had no idea how successful it was gonna be would be incredible. It would also answer so many questions I have regarding tone and signal flow and have it basically be a Sam Pura clinic for me ha-ha.

BONUS QUESTION – Due to the current world situation with COVID-19 / quarantine / shelter in place, what have you discovered you miss the most from your life before the pandemic struck?

Felix: I REALLY MISS SHOWS. GODS DO I MISS SHOWS. Playing them, going to them, even cringing at less than good music. I really miss shows so bad. And I miss going out on dates with my significant other.

Tamez: This pandemic made me take shows for granted. I miss hauling ass from work barely making it in time for sound check, breaking my back loading gear up flights of stairs and hearing every musician’s favorite phrase, “sick set bro!” *fist bump* I feel confident that we’ll be back to playing shows as vaccines are distributed. In the meantime, the best thing we can do is social distance, wear our masks, and go out only when necessary. Everyone has a responsibility to keep themselves and others safe during this crisis.

Bry: I really miss being able to exercise at the gym without a mask, but most of all, I MISS PLAYING SHOWS!

Nico: Honestly, I just miss the homies so much. I miss being able to just go to a show and have a good time without worrying about how anything is going to turn out. Just being careless and free with all of my friends is something I took for granted and now I miss it more than ever.




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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