Posted October 3, 2013 by Jeff in Tunes

Drummer Josh Wills: Story of the Year 10 years later

Story of the Year
Story of the Year

Ten years ago, the emo-punk band Story of the Year delivered its breakthrough album, Page Avenue. Alternating between screaming and singing, Dan Marsala sang about teen angst with as much conviction as anyone out there. The St. Louis band had a good run that ended in 2011 when it went on hiatus. But last year, the guys reconvened to record Ten Years and Counting, an acoustic version of Page Avenue. They’ve now lined up tour dates for Scream It Like You Mean It to coincide with the album’s digital-only release. Drummer Josh Wills recently phoned in from his St. Louis home to talk about the band’s rebirth.

Talk about what made you want to reimagine Page Avenue as an acoustic album.
With it being the ten-year anniversary, we wanted to do something special for our fans. We didn’t want to do the standard remix or remaster with a couple of extra songs. Generally speaking — and I know a couple of other guys feel the same way — it’s cool to hear but you don’t go back and listen to it. I bought Pearl Jam’s anniversary box set for Ten and I listened to the remastered versions and I put it back in the box and I haven’t taken it out since. It generally is like that. With that record in particular, it has such a unique sound that changing it would make it worse and people wouldn’t like it. We went a little further and did a lot of piano work and orchestra and strings. We did programming and percussion. We did everything you could do. We wanted to make it something special that our fans could listen to that was a different take on the original album.

What challenges did that pose?
A big challenge was breaking down the heavier songs. For instance, “Divide and Conquer” or “And the Hero Will Drown” were difficult to do. When we recorded the original album, we did pre-production with [producer John] Feldmann on acoustics. He taught us a great lesson. He said, “Every song should be able to be played on an acoustic and sound good too.” That made it easier. To be honest, the hardest part was finding time to do it. Everyone has lives and families and things they do other than band stuff so finding the time was difficult. We worked on it for a long time. It was self-funded. We had a friend in St. Louis who has a studio here and finding time between his schedule and our schedule was hard.

It was just being young and having the world in front of you. 

What was the overall mindset when the band was working on the album originally?
It was just being young and having the world in front of you. We were all 22 years old and didn’t really have a care in the world. We wanted to play music. We moved to California and were living out there away from everything here. We were in California for not even ten months before we had a record deal. A lot of it came from being homesick. We were missing our friends. A lot of that played into the way the record sounds and lyrically how it is. Working with Feldmann was mind blowing for us. Being that young as songwriters, you think you know everything. You go into the studio and find out you don’t know anything. Back then, it wasn’t as easy to put out a record as it is now. We knew it was a blessing. We worked our ass off, don’t get me wrong. Luck played into it as well. We wanted to grab the bull by the horns. It was awesome. I have fond memories. That record changed our lives forever.

Why do you think fans liked it so much?
Lyrically, you could take one song and look at it from ten different points of view. You could look at “Until the Day I Die” as a best friend song or as a boyfriend and girlfriend song. That song is about us as a band and our friendship. I think the best songs are when you can take lyrics and apply them to what you’re feeling at the time, whether they’re about that or not A lot of it is lyrics, melody and rhythm. For that point in time, being able to mesh good, big choruses with a harder feel to it was what was going on at the time and what we wrote lent itself perfectly to that time period.

The tour is called Scream It Like You Mean It. Are you screaming unplugged?
No. We’ll play the full-on songs. We’ve been doing the new acoustic version of “Razorblades.” That’s my favorite on the new record. We have gone back and forth. We don’t’ know if we’ll play it front to back. We’ll play the whole album in its entirely. We just don’t know what order yet.

Have you been writing new songs?
Not yet. We’re planning on writing toward the end of the year. We want to do touring this year before we take time to write a new record. I’m anxious to write new music because it’s been so long. It’s just a matter of finding the time to do it. As we get older, we have kids and homes and wives.

Sounds like you’re all on the same page.
It’s a good vibe. I wouldn’t say that when we stopped touring three years ago that anything was bad. We were all still friends. I don’t think anyone was burnt out. With the climate of the music industry and how everything was going, it was better for us to take a break. We just had to stop. As time went by, we thought the ten-year anniversary was the right time to come back and it all worked out well in that sense.

 Upcoming 2013 Tour Dates 

Oct 8

Oct 9

Oct 10

Oct 11

Oct 12

Oct 14

Oct 16

Oct 17

Oct 18

Oct 19

Oct 20

Oct 22

Oct 23

Oct 26

Oct 27

Oct 29

Oct 30

Oct 31

Nov 1

Nov 2

Nov 3

Nov 5

Nov 6

Nov 7

Nov 8

Nov 9

Cincinnati, OH – Bogarts

Cleveland, OH – House of Blues

Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot

Joliet, IL – Mojoes

Milwaukee, WI – The Rave II

Denver, CO – Cervantes Ballroom

San Francisco, CA – Regency Ballroom

Sacramento, CA – Ace of Spades

Anaheim, CA – House of Blues

San Diego, CA – Soma

West Hollywood, CA – House of Blues

Henderson, NV – Henderson Events Plaza

Mesa, AZ – Nile Theater

San Antonio, TX – White Rabbit

Houston, TX – Warehouse Live

Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Revolution

Orlando, FL – The Beacham

Tampa, FL – The Orpheum

Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade

Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Soundstage

Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts

New York, NY – Irving Plaza

Hartford, CT – Webster Theatre

Worcester, MA – The Palladium

Montreal, QC – Club Soda

Toronto, ON – Phoenix Concert Theatre


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].