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’90s Emo Heroes Knapsack Discuss Upcoming Reunion Tour

Jonathan Weiner

This Thursday (Oct. 24), ‘90s emo heroes Knapsack kick off a string of tour dates, their first live appearances since breaking up in early 1999. The shows mark the 15th anniversary of the influential California band’s final U.S. tour, which featured openers At the Drive-In.

Knapsack released three albums before going their separate ways, and Spin magazine called 1998’s ‘This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now’ “a minor classic of twenty something despair.” For the upcoming tour, Knapsack heads out with three original members — guitarist/vocalist Blair Shehan (also of the Jealous Sound), drummer Colby Mancasola and guitarist Sergie Loobkoff (also of Samiam) — as well as former Thrice bassist Ed Breckenridge. chatted with Mancasola about the tour and what brought on Knapsack’s original breakup in the first place.

First off, were you aware that this year was going to be an anniversary for the band?

There was no master plan. The idea would come up when Blair and I would see each other once a year in our hometown or at a show. It didn’t really feel like something that would actually happen until Tom – an old friend and the Jealous Sound’s manager – got involved and Sergie said he was into it. That was spring. Then it was like, “Oh, if we do it in the fall it will be the 15th anniversary of our last tour.”

Your last tour was in1998, and you had At the Drive-In opening. What do you remember most about that tour, and did you know at the time that it was going to be your last one?

The shows were hit-and-miss, as they always had been. As romantic as it might sound to go back in time and see some combination of Knapsack, At the Drive-In, Jimmy Eat World, Mineral, Christie Front Drive, etc., the reality on a Tuesday night outside a major city was sometimes less than magical or well attended. With that said, the ATDI guys were super fun and an absolute force as a live band. We didn’t know it was going to be the last tour, but there was a general feeling of it ending.

I remember there were a lot of folks in the music industry that thought ‘This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now’ was going to commercially break Knapsack. What was the feeling like within the band around that time?

There was some momentum coming off ‘Day Three of My New Life,’ and we actually talked to Interscope. But interest in indie rock was waning after a big post-Nirvana run, and things like rap-rock were hitting, so it wasn’t really in the cards for us. In hindsight, JEW was about to have a no. 1 single, and ATDI would sell a million records, but there weren’t a lot of people in the industry predicting that.

Knapsack’s breakup seemed to come out of nowhere for a lot of people who loved the band. What brought on the split?

I had moved to San Francisco and was ready to start a career and family. Blair and I had a conversation and agreed to schedule a handful of final shows in California. We played S.F., Orange County and L.A. in January of ‘99, and that was it.

Everyone knows Blair went on to form The Jealous Sound, but what did you end up doing after Knapsack broke up?

I was involved in the early days of digital music then worked at a handful of ad agencies. More recently, I’ve gotten really into food culture and worked to connect that passion with my online background. I’m married with two kids and a mortgage — but it is S.F., so the other dads at school are Joey [Cape] from Lagwagon, Kent who does sound for NOFX and Descendents and a principal who skates and has all our records.

What can we expect from these upcoming shows in terms of the set list?

We’re doing two songs from ‘Silver Sweepstakes’ and most of the last two records. No covers, B-sides or anything. Most of the people coming out will be seeing us for the first time, and we’re happy to give them what they came for. ‘Please Shut Off the Lights’ is the one song we’re doing live for the first time. It has been a great experience relearning those songs and getting to hang out together again.

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