Hand-me-downs and brotherly nuisances aren’t the only things that 22-year-old Ben Russin grew up being accustomed to.
The familial tradition between twin brothers Ned and Ben Russin was that of the underground house shows and music in Kingston, Pa., a small town in “the Valley,” also known as “Wyoming Valley” and “Wilkes-Barre Valley,” which includes Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and the towns surrounding the cities.
This prompted the creation of the Russin boys’ and company’s brainchild, Title Fight, an alternative punk musical act that packs a punch — a surprisingly pleasant punch of teenage wonder years.
Formed in 2003, originally with just Ned Russin on bass, Ben Russin on drums and childhood friend Jamie Rhoden on lead vocals and guitar, Title Fight started performing its music at local shows throughout the valley. Fast forward to 2007, when it added Shane Moran on second guitar, and the band became a force to be reckoned with, creating an undeniable resonance of teen angst and simple melodies that pumps up the crowd.
It took five and a half years, four guys, three albums — including the band’s newest album “Floral Green” in 2012 — and one underground music scene to make Title Fight a name in Pennsylvania house show subculture. Not only did the band gain a huge fan base in its native Kingston and the U.S. — being part of major festivals like playing the main stage of the Vans Warped Tour in 2012 — but also has gone on European and North American tours.
As part of its “Floral Green” tour, the band will play a show at Union Transfer in Philadelphia on Nov. 30.
THE TEMPLE NEWS: Do you think that Kingston and the surrounding area has influenced your music and lyrics?
BEN RUSSIN: Yeah, absolutely. Where we’re from, we grew up going to shows in Wilkes-Barre, it’s a really thriving music scene, and when we were teenagers we would go to the [Positive Numbers Youth Crew Festival in Wilkes-Barre]…Kingston and Wilkes-Barre had a large impact on our music and lives. The way that people treat it, how you get out of the valley and see everything beyond rural Pennsylvania, it’s a huge thing also, if you were to tell me when I was younger that I would be doing this, I would say “shut up” and I wouldn’t believe you.
TTN: Is there a certain audience that you guys are trying to reach with your music?
BR: We don’t try to reach only one audience, obviously now our audience is relatively young — a young demographic, I guess, but you know we’ve had 55-year-old guys come up with us and say, “We really like your music, you know, it’s really cool,” and it’s really an honor to hear. We try to reach out to people who may have never heard of us, and also bands that sound like us.
TTN: A common misconception with your band is that many kids either label you guys as post-hardcore, pop-punk or other genres. So, straight from the source, what would you guys call your sound?
BR: You know, I don’t think any of us have an answer for that, we just kind of roll our eyes and say punk or rock n’ roll. We have so many influences from all over, and I think the problem with music nowadays is that people don’t check out music when it’s categorized in certain genres. I think it takes away from [the music]. Our sound has really progressed over the years that we don’t put a label on it anymore.
TTN: Do you guys feel pigeon-holed in certain genres?
BR: Yeah I think people’s perceptions can be a little skewed sometimes, [but] as long as people have an open mind and check out our music and like it for what it is, you know that’s all that matters to us.
TTN: You guys will be performing with Tigers Jaw from Scranton, along with other bands in Philadelphia on Nov. 30. What’s your favorite thing about Philly?
BR: I like cheesesteaks a lot — that was delicious, a good late night snack, Fishtown, shows in Philly are really cool. We’ve played during the summer for the past four years, the Rocky steps and all that stuff. I’m sure there’s cooler stuff, but that’s what mostly comes to mind.
TTN: After being a part of Vans Warped Tour and tours in Europe, what would you say would be the best thing while performing a live set?
BR: First of all being able to play your music live, and seeing people’s reaction when you’re playing your music, and when you’re in a room full of people going off and going crazy to your music, it’s extremely gratifying and worth it.
Indira Jimenez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.