Trying to make it as a pop punk band in the land of tiki tiki music is not the easiest thing to do. However, TopTier is fueled by pizza, angst, video games and coladas-to add a little Miami flare.
Through lineup changes, name changes and backyard shows, TopTier has been making a name for themselves around South Florida playing with bands like Fighting Season and a documentary made by Full Sail University student Cory Narder released last week.
I met up with them at Choice Blend Studio, the location where the documentary was filmed which serves as the practice location for a lot of bands coming out of Kendall. We talked about many things and something that was true testament to the friendship in this band was how our interview kept trailing on into side conversations, inside jokes and memories.
(incoherent conversations on Cici’s Pizza and Felix’s vegetarianism)
Let’s start off with what are your names and what do you play?
CT: My name is Christopher Tamez and I play bass and I make noise.
CN: I’m Charlie Naranjo and I play guitar.
FM: I’m Felix and I play guitar.
B-RY: I’m B-Ry and I play drums
How long have you guys been playing together?
CT: About a year and a half now.
B-RY: But me and Tamez for like two years now.
FM: So this band started off in December 2014 as Heroes & Traitors, one of the founding members left the band and I auditioned and I made it. So we went on as Heroes & Traitors but with me in it, then one of the other founding members left so we found another guitarist and then he left and now we have our good buddy Charlie here.
CT: We hope it’s our last guitarist.
B-RY: So it’s been like two years total but 6 months [with Charlie].
FM: Our first show [as TopTier] was in January and our first show with Charlie was in February. So we’re relatively young.
Why the name change from Heroes & Traitors to TopTier?
CT: We just wanted a re-fresh like a do over.
B-RY: The ex-band member that left to make his own band and the other guy that left had thought of that name, so I thought since they’re not in the band at all anymore I figured we needed to change it. It felt like we were playing for them under their name. And since I’m the biggest video game nerd here and TopTier is what they say.
(Two minutes of Smash Bros and XBOX conversations later…)
You guys self-describe your genre as ‘easycore’, what would you describe that as?
FM: To put it simply, it’s hardcore played in a major key.
CT: Think Four Year Strong or A Day To Remember.
B-RY: It’s just pop punk with some breakdowns.
FM: New Found Glory was actually the ones who coined the term way early on into their career, as a joke.
Speaking of A Day To Remember, they’re coming here with blink-182, are you guys gonna go?
(incoherent excitement from all members)
FM: Catch me there crying my soul out.
CT: I got the GroupOn for it!
FM: That’s the day I become a man. It’s gonna be super sick.
(Somehow the subject of blink-182 brought up Tom DeLonge’s departure, which sparked conversation about synths because of Angels and Airwaves which sparked a band debate in which Felix and B-Ry strongly oppose getting a synth while Tamez and Charlie strongly believe some 8-bit synth would be much needed…)
What would say are some of your biggest influences as a band?
FM: Tamez and I write most of the lyrics and that generally happens after we listen to Freshman 15 for like half an hour straight.
CT: I’s when we get sad. Even though we say we’re promise we’re not gonna write sad song anymore they just end up like sad.
FM: We all have our metalcore side too. We all listen to the heavy stuff so that’s where the [breakdowns] come from. Mostly Charlie, Charlie’s a beast.
CN: I played in a progressive metal band called Eros.
FM: But yeah that’s where it comes from We all listen to the same music. We all blast the same pop punk in the car. We go to shows together, we’re going to blink-182 together, we’re going to Warped Tour together. Condensed to three, it’ll be New Found Glory, Four Year Strong and NOFX.
So what’s your favorite pizza?
CN: Eyes up there, we just ate pizza. (Note: it’s true, they offered me some once I came in)
FM: My absolute favorite is mushroom and pineapple with alfredo sauce. From Domino’s. Anything with mushroom and pineapple I’ll eat.
B-RY: Papa John’s Meat Lovers.
CN: Papa John’s Meat Lovers, too.
CT: Papa John’s Bacon Chicken Ranch.
B-RY: But a quick shout out to Lazy Moon in Orlando. We will meet again.
CT: Let me guess, do we love our friends? Yes we love our friends.
Do you hate your hometown?
FM: I kinda have too.
CN: I absolutely do.
B-RY: I hate Kendall, but I wouldn’t mind living in Brickell.
CT: I would settle for Broward.
FM: As for me, I’d love to live in Seattle.
Do you think Miami’s pop punk scene has been affect by the closing down of the Talent Farm?
FM: Oh my God, has it.
CT: If you want a pop punk scene though, you have to look at Broward. There is so much comradery and they are just in each other’s faces screaming back the lyrics.
B-Ry: I don’t even know all our lyrics, that’s how crazy that is to me. Talent Farm, I was there twice a month on Saturday from like 9th to 12th grade.
CN: I was able to play there a couple of times, I’m happy.
B-RY: It had a certain smell to it, and I’d do anything to get that smell back.
What’s the songwriting process like?
FM: A lot of Cuban coffee.
Cortaditos, cafecitos, what exactly are we talking about here?
FM: Straight up, can’t have it cut with anything else. Tamez’ll give me a Cuban coffe, step into the shower and I’ll have a song written. The week after I went to Charlie’s and tracked the guitar parts.
CT: A lot of bands will pass the tabs around, we kinda just fuck around.
(This somehow lead to conversations went back to how they play Smash Bros for hours and how it’s more than a game to Charlie, it’s a way of life. B-Ry, however, is a Melee megafan…)
So, what are you guys planning?
FM: Short term, is get our EP out.
CT: I just really want us to tour.
FM: Long term is of course, tour, tour, tour. To play Back Booth, to play Fest, just be on the other side of the circle pit.
Any last word or shout-outs you wanna give?
CT: Shout out to the Revive Easycore group on Facebook.
FM: Shout to T-Reg.
B-Ry: Shout to Choice Blend.
CN: Shoutout to SunGhosts.
That shout out was partly due to the fact Arminio A.K.A Crocodile Deathspin from SunGhosts was hanging out there. Before I left, I saw a preview of this documentary before it premiered, which I am stoked to present to you here on Tropicult.