RC: Really, this is probably the biggest year for you guys yet, with a new album on a major label and a slot on the Warped Tour. How're you feeling about it?
KV: We're feeling really good and really confident. Our morale is high right now. We feel really good all around.
RC: And how's the Warped Tour? What's it like touring with that many bands in that big of a production?
KV: It's pretty crazy. It still boggles my mind how they get that thing up and running every day at 11 o'clock after such a long drive. It's an amazing thing that happens. As far as being on it, it can be a little wearing, a little tiring. It's basically just a fight to beat the clock and kill some time until it's time to play. But once we play, any show on the Warped Tour is a great time for us. Plus, being with all the bands on the tour, it's a great opportunity to make friends with a lot of people that we ordinarily wouldn't meet. I really love it.
RC: Who've been some of your favorite bands on the tour? To see and to hang out with?
KV: Definitely Circa Survive, Bayside, Spill Canvas... Paramore have been great. And there was a band called Family Force 5 that was incredible.
RC: And how's it feel to be on Virgin? Do you feel like you have more or less opportunities and freedoms than you did with Drive-Thru?
KV: To be honest, it's kind of like being on Drive Thru again, in the sense that those people really know who our bands are. They have a sense of history: they know where we've been, and they know what we're trying to do, exactly. I kind of feel like we have a little more of an opportunity there just because they have so many people working over there, so many people that work their heart for us and for the other bands, which you don't see everywhere. We're lucky to have people who really care about us.
RC: And how about Geffen? I know that wasn't the best experience.
KV: It was kind of like having a sort of hot girlfriend that never talks to you. You say, "Oh yeah, I 'm dating this supermodel, but she's been in France for three years and doesn't really call me... but she promises that when she gets back we're REALLY gonna start to get serious." (Laughs) It was always an imaginary relationship.
RC: For a long time, you guys were labeled as a "young band" simply based on how young you started as the singer. Did that ever affect you, and are you happy that enough time has finally passed that you've outgrown it?
KV: At the time I kind of dug being a young singer, just because I know that there were a lot of great artists that were cutting edge and really young, like Conor Oberst and Bob Dylan. I was a little bit younger than that so I had time to grow up and get myself established. I had a chance to get as good as those guys, and so I kind of felt lucky that I started that early.
RC: How has growing up with the band affected you? Anything drastic that your average teen doesn't go through without being in a touring band?
KV: I'm sure I've gone through so much stuff that 99.9 percent of the people my age didn't go through. It's hard to tell how my life would have been different without that, because I know that had I not been in the band, I still would be trying to pursue music. I probably would just be failed musician stuck in my hometown, trying to do as many shows as I could. As far as being on the road, I'd like to think it built my character a little bit, because I had to grow up and fend for myself a lot more than I would have if I had stayed home.
RC: Your sound (personally as a band) has evolved over the years, too, and there seem like there could be about a million factors that affected that, from growing up, to switching labels, to the simple evolutions of a band that's been together for a few years. What would you say have been key?
KV: I'd say just time in general, and aging. We just always try to take the next natural step and progression of our sound. We always try to master our art as much as we can, and if not, get comfortable in the place where we are. It's kind of the urge to improve.
RC: This next album has definitely evolved a bit, with some harder stuff on it. Like "Direction", there's definitely some serious crunch to it. Is this harder edge going to be something we're going to hear more from you?
KV: I don't think so. To me, the only song that's really heavy would be "Direction", and it's not really all that heavy. There were songs like "Inspired by the $" from the CD before this, Based on a True Story. and "This Ride" on the CD before that, Say It Like You Mean It. We've always tried to throw a little more edge in our music, just so it's not like listening to a Wilco CD all the time. We always try to take inspiration from whatever kind of music we like, like Refused, or Every Time I Die, or Radiohead, or Green Day, or New Found Glory. We try to do everything that we have fun with.
RC: What's next for the Starting Line?
KV: We're just going to tour the hell out of this CD, and start to visit a lot of places around the world that we haven't been before, and just keep rocking - keep rocking in the free world - and hopefully make newer, better music after this.
Direction is out now on Virgin Records.