Autopilot Off
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Biography
MEMBERS:
Chris Johnson (vocals/guitar)
Chris Hughes (guitar)
Rob Kucharek (bass)
Phil Robinson (drums)

Nothing good comes easy. Many of the best artistic works are forged in hardship, and Make A Sound, the searing major label debut from Autopilot Off, is no exception. Fierce and finely made, Make A Sound is an indelible mixture of anthemic, classic alternative stylings and tight, uncompromising punk rock. Not only is it one of the year's most promising debuts, it's an album that almost wasn't. Beset by the usual major label debut jitters, still grappling with the after-effects of September 11, Make A Sound, produced by Greig Nori (Sum 41), was made during a time of great personal and political upheaval. "The only reason the record even exists is because of the support of the band and the crew around us," says singer/guitarist Chris Johnson. "As low as things got, we stuck together and we were able to pull through. In a way the record was a lifesaver, because we were able to purge all that fear and see some sort of light on the other side of all that uncertainty. And I think our record really reflects that." Besides critical raves for the band's Island debut EP, 2002's Autopilot Off, their uncompromising sound, lyrical ingenuity and unrelenting DIY ethos have earned them the respect of their peers as well: Good Charlotte, AFI and Sum 41 all handpicked Autopilot Off to open for them on recent tours. Most notably, Rancid's Tim Armstrong connected with Autopilot Off to contribute to Make A Sound, co-writing two songs including the first single, "What I Want." Though Autopilot Off appreciates the high-caliber help, they're wary of being lumped in with any particular scene. "We really respect those bands, but we're doing our own thing," Johnson says. "I hope there's some kind of discerning public that'll hear us and realize that we're different from other bands out there. We're a tight-knit band that's worked hard to get where we are. We're not the flavor of the minute. We're not a niche band, we're not emo or hardcore. We're harder to categorize. I guess you could say we're a melodic rock band, but our roots are in punk. The word 'punk' has lost a lot of its meaning recently, but that's where we came from." Autopilot Off formed in Orange County, New York in the late 1990s, an area with a thriving D.I.Y. punk scene. Raised on a steady diet of Green Day, U2 and the Smashing Pumpkins, Autopilot Off set off playing anywhere and everywhere they could. "We're all from blue collar families," says guitarist Chris Hughes. "We all come from that background, and we were raised with a sense of dignity about working hard." They came up the old-fashioned way, playing bars and Elks Lodges and American Legion halls, and selling tapes out of the back of their van. "We'd play three weeks out of the month, and there'd always be a core group of people that would show up," Johnson remembers. "And it just kept getting bigger and bigger." Autopilot Off got their first real break courtesy of MxPx, who took the band on the road with them in 1998. They've been touring steadily ever since, playing the Warped Tour in 2002 and eventually graduating from traveling in Johnson's Nissan Sentra to touring in a van to, more recently, a van with air conditioning. ("And a trailer on the back!" Make A Sound Johnson marvels. "Slowly but surely.") The band quickly developed a reputation for self-sufficiency, making all their own art, running their website, and handling much of their own business affairs. After releasing a split EP on Fueled By Ramen, Autopilot Off signed to Island in 2001. "Nobody wanted us to dress up and jump around or be anything we're not, and that appealed to us," notes Johnson. "We're still doing things ourselves, and we're still us. We haven't become trendy or anything. Though we can afford a guitar tech now." The group released the Island EP Autopilot Off and the all-covers Regenerator before retreating to the studio to record Make A Sound. "Making the record wasn't exactly easy," says Johnson. "But a lot of what brought this record into existence illustrates perfectly why our band was able to survive for so long on our own. It's our character that makes us different. That shows in our lyrics, I think. Rather than write about failed relationships and distrust like so many of our counterparts, we contrast feelings of uncertainty with feelings of hope." The album's deft mixture of aggression and melody, its combination of lyrical insight and musical brawn, is one most bands spend their careers trying to get just right, and that few ever do: "The 12thDay" is a searing look at the first hours of the post-9/11 world; "Cicada's Song" finds an abused child fantasizing about revenge; "Divine Intervention" raises questions of faith, and "What I Want" traffics in self-reflection and regret. "An album has to be some kind of a journey," figures Hughes. "This one has peaks and valleys, the way a good album should. When you listen to it, you feel like you went somewhere. We always say that the Autopilot Off EP is what everyone expected of us, and Make A Sound is what no one expected." Armed with Make A Sound and filled with pride, their work ethic, and their friendship, Autopilot Off are ready to do what they do best; play their music and show the world what they're all about.