Rank Your Records: Ari Katz Rates Lifetime’s Four Studio Albums
The frontman of the seminal melodic hardcore act puts the band's four albums in order, from least favorite to most favorite.
In Rank Your Records, we talk to members of bands who have amassed substantial discographies over the years and ask them to rate their releases in order of personal preference
Lifetime is the seed from which much of the late 90s and early 2000s melodic hardcore and pop punk germinates from. The group released three seminal LPs in four short years, and quietly disbanded in 1997. Bands formed in their wake that would go on to become stratospherically successful within the genre. Acts such as Saves The Day, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday and Fall Out Boy would shout from the rooftops that, had this tiny band from the New Brunswick basement show scene not existed, neither would they. A full decade later, Lifetime reformed to clamoring excitement from longtime devotees, as well as a new, younger audience that may have missed them the first time around, and released a self-titled reunion album in 2007.
Since the band’s initial incarnation ended, its members have splintered off into new projects. Guitarist Dan Yemin went on to form both Kid Dynamite and Paint It Black to much success within the punk and hardcore communities. Vocalist Ari Katz has continued with various musical projects, but has been further removed from the genre of hardcore than Lifetime’s other members. Playing in experimental pop and synth projects with various collaborators, he has utilized his knack for creating a catchy-as-hell melody in a more chilled out, less aggressive style. Projects such as Zero Zero and Miss TK and the Revenge emerged from his love of a danceable beat and classic AM radio melodicism. More recently, Katz released his first solo effort titled Nite Flite, under the moniker Mity Lion in late 2015.
Though its members have grown separately from each other in taste and artistic output since disbanding, the records Lifetime made together still have a lasting impact. Fans have impassioned disagreements on which album is its most fertile, and therefore responsible for spawning the most influence on melodic hardcore. We sat down with Ari Katz to get his two cents on his favorite and his not-so-favorite albums in Lifetime’s back catalog.
4. Background (1993)
Noisey: Why is the first Lifetime album your least favorite?
Ari Katz: It’s the one I kinda wish was just a weird demo tape that some dude gave you in high school that you ended up losing, so it would only exist in your memory. Some folks like it, but I can’t say I’m too stoked. We were full of ideas and tried to push them, but I think I was just listening to too much bad music.
Does the fact that your first album is the least enjoyable for you mean that you’re pleased with the growth the band experienced as it continued on?
Our direction wasn’t wholly agreed on at the time. I was fighting for one thing, Dan was going for another thing. Our drummer was doing his own thing. It took us a long time, and a few lineup changes to all arrive at the point where we all together played to our strengths rather than trying to only please ourselves.
3. Lifetime (2007)
What made you decide to get back together and do a new album after a decade of relative inactivity for the band?
We had so much fun playing [our reunion shows], but didn’t want to play a greatest hits set forever. We thought, “If we’re going to be a band, we should make records.” Pete [Wentz, of Fall Out Boy] was a fan and reached out to us. We met him and chatted a bit. All we wanted was to make another record, with our original producer [Steve Evettes] in our old studio [Trax East]. Pete and his label made it happen, helped out when we needed it, and left us alone when we needed to be. They were super respectful of us.
The self-titled record hasn't had as long to sit with me, but it has some of my favorite Lifetime songs ever. I love everyone in Lifetime and we took that shit seriously!
2. Jersey’s Best Dancers (1997)
This was the last album in the band’s original lifespan. Why does it get second place?Jersey’s Best was hard to do. We recorded it in two different sessions that were separated by a long tour, and there was other real-life stuff creeping in. I was totally burnt out, having been on tour in bands since I was 16. I was filled with panic and anxiety about life. I saw what it would take to keep going, as other bands around us were getting bigger. Selling T-shirts, having great on-stage banter… I had zero self-esteem and thought I should just be home and figure out how to get a job. I thought at some point you were just supposed to stop playing hardcore and be a normal person. The band was about to break up, but we sort of hit our stride, and had the music aspect of it down by that point. And we wrote some of our best songs.
1. Hello Bastards (1995)
Was it difficult for you choose this record as your favorite?
No, Hello Bastards is my favorite for sure.
What was the reason for such a dramatic shift from Background being your least favorite, to two years later, Hello Bastards being your absolute favorite?
After the first album, we had a bunch of songs still, but realized they sucked, so we scrapped them. I was listening to a lot of melodic stuff, and really wanted to get better at writing hooks. The band went through some lineup changes, and it felt like we had a new burst of energy. We rediscovered some of the bands that originally got us excited about punk. At the time in the 90s, there was a clear line drawn between hardcore and punk. We started going back to the punk side [with Hello Bastards], but brought with us what we loved about hardcore.
Hello Bastards was the first time we made something I was really personally proud of. It was magical hearing it for the first time mixed and sequenced up, it was so natural. By then we had refined our ideas and were busting with them! It sounded like a proper LP start to finish and that was always the dream.
Mike Campbell is on Twitter - @mikedcampbell