The Used bassist Jepha on Toxic Positivity ahead of Uptown show Sept. 20
The Used has been a big name in the emo world for over 20 years, entering the charts back in 2002 with hits “Blue and Yellow” and “The Taste of Ink.”
Now, they’re hitting the road this month with Sleeping with Sirens and Dead American to tour their ninth studio album Toxic Positivity which just dropped last May, and they’re not planning on stopping anytime soon.
The band will be playing at Uptown Theater Sept. 20, and you can purchase tickets here.
Though several band members have come and gone, The Used has stayed true to their original sound while incorporating newer ones as well. The Pitch sat down with bassist Jepha, one of two original members of the band—the other being lead singer Bert McCracken. We discussed their new album, touring more than 20 years in, their current choice in video game RPGs, and so much more.
The Pitch: What sets Toxic Positivity apart from the rest of The Used’s musical catalogue?
Jepha: Some of the songs branch more off of our older records than they do off the newer, but some also fit the newer. It’s hard because no matter what, the more you write, and the more you jam, and the more you progress as a musician and an artist writing together, the more change is inevitable, and so we’re just evolving constantly and turning into whatever we are now. And all we can do is carry the influences that we’ve had, and we brought along with each one of us.
As far as Toxic Positivity goes, it was recorded in two separate sections.
The backstory of that is that the record before that Heartwork was released a couple months into COVID, which is really unfortunate for us because we couldn’t tour on it. We did all that press and publicity, and we’re pushing it to release at a certain time, so we couldn’t hold it off. But we did that, everybody waited, did the COVID thing, and waited. And finally, Bert said, “Hey, why don’t we go back in the studio.” And this is like, a year and a half, maybe two years after our record release where it was, like, “Let’s just go back in the studio and let’s start writing a new record,” because we couldn’t do anything else.
So we did that—we went back in the studio, and in 10 days, we tried to do it really quick, because luckily, we’ve been with this producer off and on for 23, 24 years. So we know him really well, he knows how to work with each one of us really well, so we have like a family bond with him. So when we went back in the studio and recorded the first section, these 10 songs, we were doing a song a day, maybe sometimes two songs a day, fully recording all the parts to it and everything, which was kind of a lot, it was like 14 hour days, at least. Like, I’d get there super early in the morning, and I leave early in the morning, get a couple hours of sleep, and then go back in the studio. And at that time, Bert was kind of going through some serious depression and some serious addiction at that moment in time. So there’s a lot of negativity from that first section of the recording, right?
So we thought that was gonna be the entire record, and then a couple of months before the record release, Bert wanted to go back in the studio again. So Instead of having a record release, we went back in the studio, and we did the same thing. We did 10 more songs or a song per day. And this was in a completely different mood, so vocally, lyrics changed a lot. They went from really dark to a lot more positive, kind of hence the name Toxic Positivity. You can see, if you listen to the record, there’s some really dark anger going on, but if you also get a little bit farther and [listen to] other songs like, “Giving Up,” you can see that there’s some positive, there’s some light coming out of it.
Not all the songs made the album, so how did you guys choose which ones you wanted to include?
It’s really tough. We probably have another 10 songs that didn’t make the record, which kind of happens to us often—we always have a lot of B sides that don’t get released. It’s really tough because everyone has their favorite song that wants to make the record, you know? Sometimes when songs don’t make the record, they don’t get as much of a push.
Are there any other bands that influenced the sound of the album?
I think we’re really influenced off each other at this moment in time. We’re our best friends, you know. So COVID was hard on everyone for every different reason, we’re all in therapy right now, because of many reasons. But not being able to see any of my friends, because we live all over the place, like none of us live anywhere close to each other—the only time we see each other is on tour because that’s the only time we can, so not being able to see my best friends for, like, years, it was kind of tough. So we all got together to record the record. And we were pretty much just hanging out the whole time, like just vibing off each other, throwing out ideas, and I was cool about it. Like I was saying, we’re in the studio for like 13-14 hours every single day, and everyone would roll out whatever kind of influence that worked.
What’s coming up for the band after you guys are done with this tour?
This tour just started—today’s the second show, actually—but after this tour, we’re going to the UK, which we haven’t been in, like, eight years, probably. It’s just really hard to get over there for us. So that’s going to be fun. I’m hoping next year, there’s talk of more international tours. There’s talk of something really special that I can’t say yet because it’s not totally confirmed, except that it’s going to be really exciting, and every Used fan that’s going to hear about it is going to lose their shit. I don’t know if it’s going to be next year or the year after, but it’s going to be fucking awesome.
Totally random question—What are some of your must-haves on tour?
Bert has a fun backpack that he brings on every tour, I think it’s Pokemon right now. He had, whatever the car Disney movie, he had that on a backpack—he had a Ninja Turtle backpack for a minute. He always has some kind of random backpack for a while. We’re all a bunch of nerds, really.
What’s the nerdiest thing that you’re into?
Me and Bert are really into Baldur’s Gate 3 right now. It’s pretty nerdy. Mostly, what we do, we just play music and play games sometimes—that’s our extreme nerdy stuff.
The Used will be playing at Uptown Theater Sept. 20, and you can purchase tickets here.