Gabe Saporta Reveals How Midtown’s Reunion Came to Be
UPDATE: Midtown have added more headline shows to their schedule. See the itinerary below.
While My Chemical Romance just announced their rescheduled, pandemic-delayed North American reunion tour dates, it should not be lost that one of the bands opening on the run for them will be Midtown, who themselves are back after disbanding in 2005 and reuniting for a one-off performance at the 2014 Skate and Surf Festival.
The four-piece of Gabe Saporta, Tyler Rann, Heath Saraceno and Rob Hitt will open five shows for My Chemical Romance while also staging their own home state headline show at Sayreville, New Jersey's Starland Ballroom on Dec. 2. The exact dates of their "Resurrection Tour" can be viewed below.
In advance of their reunion announcement, we spoke with Midtown vocalist Gabe Saporta and got the details of how their reunion came together, how they ended up pairing up with My Chemical Romance on shows and got some insight on how it feels to see the renewed interest in the bands of the late '90s and early 2000s coming around again.
Plus, with it being the 20th anniversary of Living Well Is the Best Revenge, Saporta offered his reflections on that highly-regarded record in the band's history. Check out the chat below the tour dates. Ticketing info can be found via their website.
Midtown "Resurrection Tour 2022" Dates
Sept. 21 – Newark, N.J. @ Prudential Center
Sept. 24 – Sunrise, Fla. @ BB&T Center
Sept. 27 – Houston, Texas @ Toyota Center
Sept. 28 – Dallas, Texas @ American Airlines Center
Oct. 17 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ The Forum
Dec. 2 – Sayreville, N.J. @ Starland Ballroom *
Dec. 3 - Sayreville, N.J. @ Starland Ballroom *
Dec. 9 - Wantagh, N.Y. @ Mulcahy's *
Dec. 10 - Worcester, Mass. @ The Palladium *
* - Indicates Midtown headline show
Why now and why Midtown as opposed to Cobra Starship? Can you give me some background on how this came together?
Good question. I think the Midtown/Cobra thing is interesting, but in the Cobra situation it’s a little more difficult because for me I feel it’s important that everyone wants to do it and is excited about it and on the Cobra side, not everyone is excited about that idea. So, if everyone one day gets excited about that then maybe one day we do it, who knows? I predict it would be awesome.
But Midtown, it was great because the Midtown guys …. Well Cobra, I did more as an adult cause I started Cobra when I was 25 after Midtown, but Midtown were kids I grew up with. These were kids where we were in high school together, played shows together and we were all in other high school bands, which is how we met, but it’s kind of nice. I feel like it’s a little bit different when you have people you’ve grown up with. You grow up, you talk and everyone goes their different directions and has kids. But it came about from the having kids situation.
What happened with Midtown is in 2014, right at the height of Cobra Starship and the third wave of emo that came after Midtown was a band, a lot of the fans, the scene had this huge moment in the mainstream, and I feel like a lot of those fans really started digging in. Where do these bands come from? Who did they listen to and what was the genesis? And I think a lot of people started to discover Midtown in that era. And there was a demand for Midtown in the late 2010s.
But in New Jersey, there was this festival that was the first of its kind to bring these bands together called the Skate and Surf Festival. That turned into what is called the Bamboozle Festival and Bamboozle ended up being huge and ran for years, but then it went away and the guy who started it wanted to do a resurgence of it and he wanted Midtown to headline one of the nights. That kind of came up organically, and we did it and it was awesome back in 2014. Cobra was still happening then, but it was a really cool thing.
But one of the things that came out of that time was that Tyler [Rann] at the time was the only one in Midtown who had kids. So as his kids were growing, the kids were like, “Dad, I wanna see you play a show.” So a couple of years ago, Tyler was saying, “Man, I’d love to get back together and my kid is asking if he can see us play onstage before we get too old.” But I was like, “Meh, sounds like a lot of work.” (Laughs).
But we were actually talking about it and then the pandemic happened and everything just stopped. But then my kid, who I guess was 3 when the pandemic started, something happened where he got a little older and was able to watch videos and he was like, “Dad, do a show NOW!” And I told him, “I don’t do shows anymore.” But he was like, "No, do a show!” So I understood what Ty was saying and he’s had kids since, and it was like, "Yeah, so we’re literally doing it for the kids.” (Laughs)
So how did we get to where we are now with Midtown opening dates for My Chemical Romance?
What happened was kind of interesting. So we were talking and decided that toward the end of lockdown would be cool. It looks like by the end of 2022 we should start having shows so let’s start booking shows. So a few months ago I reached out to the people at Starland [Ballroom] who were talking about it, but then what happened was Mikey Way [of My Chemical Romance] hit me up and he was like, “Whoa, is Midtown getting back together to do a show?” And I was like, “How in the world would you know that?” And he was like, “Oh shit, I’m sorry. Am I not supposed to know?,” but it turned out that Tyler had called him and they were catching up and he mentioned it. And I was like, “Oh yeah, that’s awesome. I’m glad you connected with Tyler. That’s great.” And he was like, “So yeah, I was just wondering, would you like to do some shows with My Chem?”” And I’m like, “Yeah” (laughs) I mean if there’s any reason to get back together, it’d be for that, you know.
So I did a really funny thing. I’m kind of a prankster and I keep pranks going for a long time, so Mikey had called me and I told him we’re cool, we’re totally down, but I also know how this stuff goes where an artist will say something but then you have to talk to the manager or booking agent and it doesn’t happen, so I told him, “Let me know when it’s an official sure thing and I’ll tell the guys.”
So I sat on it for a month. So then I hit the Midtown guys and said, “Guys, we gotta talk.” So we all get on the phone and I’m like, “Listen guys, I got good news and bad news. The bad news is we’re not going to be able to do this headline show at Starland like we were planning.” And they were like, “Why? What’s going on?” And then I was like, “Well the reason for that is the good news, which is we’re going to be playing with My Chem at the PNC Bank Center instead.” So they were like, “You fucking asshole.” (Laughs)
(Laughs) Just only the biggest reunion show of the year. That’s all. You couldn’t get a better stage for a return.
Yeah, it’s crazy. Our kids are gonna get to see us and I think they’re going to have the wrong impression that we are much bigger than we are. Unless all the My Chem fans boo us (laughs).
Midtown, "Give It Up"
I don’t know how often you kept in touch with the guys over the years, but can you talk a bit about the conversations had from the studio and the first time dusting off the instruments and getting a chance to play together again?
To be honest with you, we haven’t started yet. I’m in L.A. and they’re all still on the East Coast and they had one rehearsal the other day. But I’ll tell you because we did it in 2014 after not having done it in forever and part of it is muscle memory, because it comes back, but part of it is “Oh shit! I’ve gotta play this thing again!” And don’t forget, Cobra Starship, I just sang. I didn’t play bass. So I had to play bass and sing, but it does really come back. Some of the lyrics you might forget here and there but we do have to whittle down three albums worth into a 25-30 minute set and also figure out what songs we’re gonna play on My Chem [tour]. It’s gonna be work.
By the way, at first I thought we weren’t going to be able to do the Jersey show [at Starland Ballroom], and then I was told, “Well these [My Chemical Romance] shows are already sold out so it doesn’t matter if you’re selling another show or not. Because usually when you’re playing, you can’t play same market for a while, but I was like, “Oh yeah, that makes sense.” So we are doing the Jersey show and that’s going to be a much bigger set.
But it is going to be work, and I think we’re the kind of people that want to make sure that something’s great. So we’re going to work really hard at it. And I think this spring and summer I’m gonna go out there a bunch and rehearse with the guys.
After Cobra, you still remained in entertainment, but more on the management side. Was just curious what you miss most about the band life?
The thing I used to say when I was an artist was, “The music industry sucks except for the 45 minutes you’re on the stage.” I just love playing music, even just jamming, and I get why people do dad bands, because playing music is just fun. So I do miss that aspect of it. I’m glad I’m going to get to go back and play music with my friends onstage again. That’s cool.
But other than that, I really have enjoyed having my private life back. I feel like now having a label and working with artists, we’re always pressuring them now to be on social media and do stuff, and I’m glad I don’t get that pressure (laughs). Life is hard enough as it is without trying to figure out how to get people excited about your life.
And I enjoy getting a chance to be creative with my artists in a different way. It’s more about getting feedback and buy-ins with less pressure, which is nice. It’s a good role for me as I’m growing up and trying to be an adult.
As things tend to be circular in the music industry, the scene bands of the late ‘90s / early 2000s are coming around again. I wanted to get your thoughts on seeing things like Emo Nite take off, and this year one of the most buzzed about festivals is When We Were Young. What’s it like to see not only the interest in your band, but just the scene of music you came up in back at the forefront?
I think it’s amazing. I’ve been waiting on this moment to be honest. I knew it was going to come back. When the whole Soundcloud thing was happening, people were talking about it coming back because kids were doing Soundclouds with beats and emo riffs. But it was interesting because they were taking that thing, but it was more borrowing from a different scene. And now it feels like there were kids who grew up listening to that and making that music, which I really like.
I’m excited about it, and I think that it’s great. And I think that’s where I can be the most helpful is on the business side now. It was interesting because I grew up in Midtown, but then Cobra came from the scene and had some pop success, so I understand the pop world. But my heart is definitely in the band world.
In your bands, there’s a little bit of emo and a little bit of pop punk. But for you, what makes a good emo or pop-punk band these days and is it different from what it was when you first came up?
To me, it’s all about the energy. What does emo mean? It’s emotion. The difference with pop is you’re trying to get it perfect and with the right vocal tone and you get the right take and the right runs. You are showing your talent as a vocalist. But with emo, you’re showing your raw emotion. To me, you’re feeling that energy. You’re capturing someone’s pain or their positive energy on the record and how perfect it is is more secondary. It’s sometimes even better when it’s not perfect.
Midtown, "Just Rock and Roll"
Taking a look at the scene and where things are, are there bands that you’re super excited about what they’re doing? Who would you shout out as some of your current favorites?
My head is so immersed in our label and the artists we manage, so I’m really excited about that. Having a label and being able to sign and nurture and invest in artists that I’m really excited about is great.
Tessa Violet has been killing it. She’s not from the scene, but she’s scene-adjacent. She has a scene that she’s in and she’s got this new song that is just awesome that’s crushing right now. We also work with Lil’ Lotus and there’s Lil’ Aaron who we don’t represent but we do work with. And we just signed a new artist called 44 Blonde who we’re really excited about. There’s a new band from Vancouver called Days or May that we just signed that are unbelievable.
I just feel really lucky that I get to work on things that are really exciting. We go to work everyday and it’s just fun to work on all these projects. I hate to answer that question cause it feels like I’m just plugging our own bands, but that’s where my head is at.
Tessa Violet, "Yes Mom"
You mentioned being in that space of working with so many different acts. What are the things you’re able to give to your artists that maybe you wish someone would’ve done for you when you were coming up?
I think I give them patience. I think the hardest thing I dealt with as an artist is the pressure. You have your whole life to write this first record and then all of as sudden the machine comes in and you’ve gotta do this, you’ve gotta do that, let’s go, let’s go. And my philosophy is that art only works when the artist is inspired. If the artist isn’t inspired and you force it, it’s going to backfire.
So it’s not in my interest to push anyone. I’m going to go as fast as an artist wants. And when they’re not going fast, they’re living life to gain experiences to be inspired and write something authentic that’s going to come to them. So, you have to give people space and I think that’s the thing I didn’t have as an artist to where I try to protect my artists.
And I’m a dad now too, so when your kid does something wrong and not what you want, you express disappointment. That’s really hard on a kid and it’s very hard on an artist as well. The business side is very callous. They’re often, “I’m trying to help you, I’m trying to help you. Let’s go, go, go,” and it actually doesn’t help.
So you have to get out of that perspective, and for me, having been an artist for 20 years, that gives me that perspective. And with my business hat on, I have to sit there and go, “You know what, this artists doesn’t want to work right now, but it’ll work out. It’ll wait.” And I think that’s a really important life lesson and I have to remind myself of that every day.
Just doing a feature recently on albums turning 20 this year and it did not escape me that Living Well turns 20 in 2022.
Wow, that actually escaped my radar. Wow, oh my god!
So I just wanted to get your reflection on the 20th anniversary of that album, and what stands out to you as favorite moments from that period for the band?
Well, Mark Trombino was our idol as a producer. He did all the Jimmy Eat World stuff and we loved Jimmy Eat World and he was in Drive Like Jehu and he was just the guy. It was like mythology stuff when he worked with Jimmy Eat World cause they did things that nobody had done and from what they told us, he had become like a member of their band. That’s what you want as a producer.
We worked with him for two albums and on our first album, he kind of agreed to work with us and Drive-Thru brought him to our rehearsal and he was like, “Yeah, these guys are cool. It’s like a cool punk record and we’ll make a quick punk record, seven days, in and out.” And that was the vibe. It was raw, but it wasn’t perfect.
So on the second record, Living Well, we had a budget and that’s when Drive-Thru did a deal with MCA/Universal, so we had a real budget and we spent a couple of months making that record. So it was awesome being in a real studio and making records and watching Mark work and that’s really the most memorable thing that sticks with me about making that record.
Midtown, "Like a Movie"
Obviously time has passed and songs will always continue to evolve. How do you relate to that album now? Do you feel like the same guy who wrote those songs and do they hold the same meaning for you now as back then?
It’s really like looking at an old photo. That’s the guy I was 20 years ago. That’s half my life. But it’s great because being an artist is such a privilege and you get to document your growth in a way through song.
That’s why when people ask, “Are you going to make new music?” I’m like, “I don’t know. It’s kind of an impossible choice to make because the two options are, if I want to do something authentic, I have to do something that is true to who I am today and who I am today is not really on brand to who I was when I was 20, right?” I’m more responsible, I’m less angry. Those are things that you want for a person. You hope that a person becomes that and honestly if I didn’t have music, I don’t know that I would have become so well adjusted. It was a great outlet to deal with whatever anger I had and mental struggles I had. So that’s the first choice.
Or, I could try to push myself to be in that place where I was 20 years ago and put on that hat, but then I just feel like that meme of Steve Buscemi where he’s like, “Hello, fellow kids.” (Laughs).
The prospect of it isn’t enticing but the cool thing is that I have that to look back on and if you listen to the music, it’s more than a photo in that it really takes you back in a way that nothing else can. I think everyone experiences that. You listen to an old record and it takes you back, and you remember the smells. I remember the smells come back to me when I hear certain records, you know?
Circling back, you mentioned doing this for your kids. What are your kids' favorite songs from what you’ve done?
I used to not show them stuff … and I didn’t want them to feel like, “Oh my dad was a rock star, so I can be a rock star.” You hear all these terrible things of being the kids of artists. At worst they’re kind of messed up and at best they have this impossible image to live up to.
First of all, doing music is very rare and the success rate is one in a gazillion. I got very lucky in my life, but I don’t want my kids to follow that. I don’t want to put that pressure on them. So I never showed it to them.
But then, one of our babysitters just blew up my spot and played this in her car. (Laughs). So then they come home and my 2-year-old loves “The City Is at War.” He just loves the Cobra song, and he makes me sing it to him to go to bed. And I have to change the lyrics of it all the time. So instead of “designer drugs” it’s “designer trucks,” and I say, “These are my trucks and these are my friends.” (Laughs).
Cobra Starship, "The City Is At War"
We are doing these dates with Midtown later this year, but does this lead to more down the road?
We’ll see how the Jersey thing goes. I’d like to make it a regular thing that once a year we can play in Jersey with our hometown friends and just have it be no pressure. It’d just be almost like a family reunion. Because growing up with the Midtown guys, it’s more like family than anything else. We’ve known each other for so long. But just seeing our family and friends and giving me a reason to fly out and see my actual family that still lives in Jersey, so yeah, I’d love to maybe do a “once a year” thing.
Our thanks to Midtown's Gabe Saporta for the interview. As stated, the band will be returning to the road in September to kick off their fall tour dates. Visit their website for ticketing info.