Headed in a new ‘Direction’

Brittany Moseley

Pennsylvania quartet The Starting Line returns with a new record label and its third full-length album

The Starting Line (left to right): Mike Golla, Ken Vasoli, Matt Watts and Tom Gryskiewicz. The band plays the Vans Warped Tour for the fourth time this summer. PHOTO COURTESY OF JUSTIN BORUKI | THE STARTING LINE/VIRGIN RECORDS

Credit: DKS Editors

It started with a group of teenage boys who dreamed of leaving home (suburban Pennsylvania) and becoming rock stars. They wrote catchy pop melodies kids could relate to. (We got older but we’re still young / we never grew out of this feeling that we won’t give up).

After that, things started to happen.

The band signed with indie label Drive-Thru Records and made a name for itself through endless touring and countless MySpace friend requests. Its first full-length album, Say It Like You Mean It, created a buzz, and the quartet was labeled “a band you need to know.”

This formula has worked for many bands, and The Starting Line is no different.

Of course, there are differences in every story. In The Starting Line’s case, problems with its former record label threatened to tear the band apart. But this is where the story changes.

Instead of falling apart, the members of The Starting Line came together to write their third full-length record, Direction, an album unlike anything they had done six years ago.

“It’s just a positive record,” guitarist Matt Watts said. “I think a lot of people right now are focusing on the negative. Everybody goes through a lot of shit in their life and it’s nice to embrace the positive things.”

A positive album is just what The Starting Line needed. Watts said the last album, Based On A True Story, didn’t get the kind of attention the band hoped for from its former label, Geffen Records.

“I think a lot of people didn’t know we had a second record come out because our record label just dropped the ball,” Watts said. “(Fans) were out of the loop for a bit.”

When things didn’t go well with Geffen, the band ended up in a long debate with the label in order to be released from its contract. The band signed to Virgin Records in late 2006, and the new album will be released July 31.

It sounds clich‚ to say Direction is a new, mature sound for the band, but it’s the best way to describe the album. The Starting Line is no longer just singing about getting/losing a girl.

“This CD is the best of the two full-length records,” Watts said.

For old fans who may worry that the new album will be too different for them to handle, Watts promises this won’t be the case.

“We don’t want people to put on this record and be like, ‘Holy shit I don’t know who this band is.’ We want them to know it’s still The Starting Line.”

Fans can judge the band’s new sound for themselves when The Starting Line plays the Vans Warped Tour for the fourth time this summer. When talking about the 13-year-old music festival, Watts sounds like an excited teenage fan.

“Warped Tour is about being in the sun all day, sweating, being thirsty and not being able to shower,” he said with a hint of longing. “If you obsess about the heat and being smelly, you’re not going to have fun. Playing that half hour set is the best part of the summer.”

After the record label trouble and the long process of putting together an album, The Starting Line has the summer filled with performances and promotion for Direction.

The Starting Line became popular at a time when every band sounded like New Found Glory and Midtown. These four guys from Pennsylvania could have turned into another band that became semi-famous and eventually faded away. But just like the band sings in its new song “Island,” it seems like things are only getting better.

Contact features correspondent Brittany Moseley at [email protected].