WORDS: ROB KENT
Way back in early 2016, Man Overboard collectively decided to go on a hiatus. Bass player and co-vocalist Nik Bruzzese reflects back to the end of the band’s then-final chapter, which also saw him see his idols from a different perspective. “I remember when Saves The Day split originally and thinking, ‘Why on earth would this happen? They have it so good!’. But every band has taken a step back, and our time came too. The spinning-wheel lifestyle of a record cycle makes a band so accessible for fans for one thing, and furthermore, we needed a break”.
After several years away from the touring lifestyle however, Man Overboard are back with their first new music in five years with comeback single ‘Lifeline’. “How long is too long? That was the constant question regarding the absence of new music. We wrote Lifeline in December and a substantial amount of demos have also been recorded – around twenty songs. But this one was the stand out track and the perfect choice for a comeback song. We started writing again because of the enjoyment we get out of it. We didn’t feel like we needed to do it for any other reason.” Sentiments like that make it clear that after 12 years, the heart and ethos of the band has endured.
Nik speaks happily about the new atmosphere surrounding new music: “There is no pressure anymore. I’m not writing thinking about if people will jump, move or clap. We are back playing because we are friends, and doing Man Overboard allows us to have fun and the fact we can still do this 12 years after starting the band is amazing”.
“WE STARTED WRITING AGAIN BECAUSE OF THE ENJOYMENT WE GET OUT OF IT. WE DIDN’T FEEL LIKE WE NEEDED TO DO IT FOR ANY OTHER REASON.”
The desire to produce new music is something Bruzzese could not put to rest in his mind. When he put his impulse to practice, the result was Lifeline – a track Nik and the band are overly thrilled with. “After the Warped Tour performances last summer, I was waking up every day asking myself if the band should make a new album. Lifeline is one of the best songs we’ve written. When we wrote that in December, the spark was reignited and I and Zak just kept writing.”
Since entering the studio late last year, Nik also gained some new personal perspective in the sense of how he wished himself, the band and their music to be viewed as an influence in 2020. “In 2015, we absolutely wanted to be at the level our friends The Wonder Years are at now and be mentioned in every pop-punk conversation. But when I took a step back, those thoughts left. I saw other bands hitting the road relentlessly – like Knuckle Puck – and it’s amazing that we can pass the torch in that way. Now when we play shows, we also put small bands on, giving them a platform. Without bands such as Senses Fail and New Found Glory, we would never have got to the level we did. So we do the same, treating newer bands how we were treated.”
The music industry can change so much in such a short space of time, and bands approach their growth differently from year to year. Coming back in 2020, Bruzzese also contends that the touring ethic has died down due to online impact. “Man Overboard toured for eight years, seven months a year, we ground it out on the road and didn’t stop. The internet has changed things so much, you don’t have to hit the road to build a fan base these days. The only way Man Overboard used the internet to expand was adding people on Myspace back in 2008. But us putting that work in means we’ve gained a loyal fanbase. The mentality always was to have 10,000 dedicated fans rather than 100,000 who would eventually end up not caring.” It’s years of hard work that has allowed the band to return, and even after a three-year hiatus, fans have remained loyal.
“WE DIDN’T WANT TO BE THE NEW TAKING BACK SUNDAY OR BLINK-182. WE WANTED TO BE MAN OVERBOARD.”
The concept of a humble beginning is true in every sense of the word for the band. When the pop-punk scene had its late-00’s resurgence, Man Overboard rose above so many of the other bands that were relevant at the time – a success that Bruzzese puts down to the band simply being themselves: ”If I knew why we got bigger than so many bands, I would be rich. Overall, I feel it comes down to our work ethic and the songs. We didn’t want to be the new Taking Back Sunday or Blink-182. We wanted to be Man Overboard.”
Man Overboard has returned. A space that felt missing is finally back, and the pop-punk scene has regained a name that made things feel slightly strange when it left. The band have evolved and are feeling more positive than ever: about the future, their songwriting and playing shows in a genre they helped evolve twelve years ago. That trademark merchandise and people stage diving is something that will never change. “When the band started I had a full head of hair, now I have none”, Bruzzese jokingly concludes; it has been twelve years, after all.