As of now, the documentary has interviews with many of the people who made that scene happen, including Chris Conley (Saves the Day), Geoff Rickley (Thursday), Mark Rose (Spitalfield), JT Woodruff (Hawthorne Heights), and two of Pittsburgh's own: Chris Dos (Anti-Flag) and Steve Soboslai (Punchline).
Pittsburgh City Paper reached out to Soboslai to get some more details on the film and discuss Club Laga, Punchline, and emo/punk scenes from that era.
How did you get involved in this documentary?
Besides playing in Punchline, I help folks run Kickstarter projects via a small business called Craft Services that I started with my friend who used to work at Kickstarter. In 2018, we helped a filmmaker organize a project that made $118,000 to make a documentary called Pick It Up about third-wave ska music. It was a hit. Shortly after that project ended, a mutual friend connected me to L.A.-based filmmaker Kyle Kilday. He wanted to make a documentary about the emo and punk scene of the late '90s/early '00s. Since this is the world I grew up in, I’ve been helping set up interviews in addition to helping run the Kickstarter project. It’s been a blast being there from day one, watching people come aboard and share their stories.
I went to the premiere of the ska documentary. Many of the bands who were in the film were there and cheering when they saw their friends come on screen. It was a moment in third-wave ska history that I did not expect to see. I want that for this punk and emo scene - for the bands and fans of that era to come together in theaters and watch a documentary about this scene we all grew up in.
The description of the film says it aims to "chronicle of what many believe is the LAST underground, DIY music scene." In your opinion, what does the "last" part mean?
Things felt a lot more personal back then without as much influence from the internet/social media. You found your people because you were in a room with them, brushing shoulders while you walked through the crowd to the front of the stage. These halls and DIY spaces where we came together had few rules, which made them feel like they belonged to everyone in the crowd. Does that exist anymore? The film is in part an exploration into that very question.
What, if any, misconceptions do you think people have about punk from this era?
There’s a lot of heart in this scene and these songs. It’s more than “Myspace hair” and Blink 182 running naked down a beach!
Many of these bands, including yours, are still very active and successful and touring and releasing music. Why do you think these specific 10 years ('97-'07) are being focused on?
These are the years that led up to the mainstream explosion of bands like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy and so on. The Last Scene intends to tell the story from the beginning, when crowds started brewing in DIY spaces. Who doesn’t love a good origin story?
What's something about Punchline's early years that current fans might not know?
We decided early on to not solicit record labels on the notion that if we were doing it right, they would come to us. This worked out really well. I think a lot of times bands think that signing to a label means you’ll get scooped up and handed success. This is very much not the case. Labels work for you and, if you don’t know who you are, they certainly will not either. Obviously there are plenty of cases where artists have teamed up with labels to form unstoppable partnerships. I’m not discounting that. One other thing people might not know - we took Fall Out Boy on their first tour ever. That’s pretty wild.
I arrived in Pittsburgh in 2005, so Laga has always been an apartment complex to me, though I've heard many stories. What would you tell someone like me about Laga?
What comes to mind first is what happened when Laga closed. Their capacity was somewhere between 1200-1400. When Laga closed, there was no other club to accommodate a crowd of this size. Lots of tours began to skip over Pittsburgh. Bands who drew 1000 people at Laga were forced to play rooms that held 600 people, nearly cutting their crowd in half. I think it really hurt the scene. Things are better now, but it was a punch in the gut when that place closed. The last show there was a Berlin Project show. I love that a local show was the last show. Also, it was the 4th floor of The Strand building in Oakland, which made parents haaaate it for it being a ‘fire trap’. One more fun fact while we’re on the subject - Laga had a very unique checkerboard tile stage!
Lastly, is there someone who's not in this doc (yet!) that you'd want to talk to, and what would you ask them?
100 percent. James Adkins from Jimmy Eat World. I never knew their band to be anything but a big band. I would love to hear their stories about the early days of touring and playing hall shows. Can you make that happen? Please??
To get more information or donate to The Last Scene's Kickstarter, go here.