We first met the pop-punk/hardcore band Four Year Strong from Worcester, Massachusetts, (which, FYI, is pronounced “Wuss-ter”) when the band joined peta2 on 2009’s Rockstar Taste of Chaos tour. Not only are they cool guys (who will no doubt keep us laughing), but they will always be down to eat with us as well. Did you know that the band’s keyboardist, Josh Lyford, is a proud vegetarian and has been one for 11 years? Check out his interview below to find out more.

Here he is in his own words:

What made you choose to become vegetarian?
I was turned on to vegetarianism by a childhood friend. He had seen a video; actually, I think it was the “Meet Your Meat” video …. He had been telling me about it for a while, and one day I went to his house, and we watched the video, and it really just changed my perspective completely. I think, for a lot of people (myself included), it’s really easy to justify the cruelty when it’s not in front of them. Seeing what actually [goes] on, it was too hard to lie to myself anymore. I grew up in rural New England, and we always had pets, and we all spent a lot of time in the woods—we learned at a young age to respect everything. I think the choice to be vegetarian was made up as soon as I was introduced to what eating meat really meant.

I’ve also ridden BMX since I was in elementary school, and a lot of the people I looked up to spoke up about animal rights and vegetarianism, and that meant a lot to me. One quote stood out—it might have been Taj Mihelich in an interview or something—about how there’s really something to feel good about when murder isn’t a part of your diet. I’ve heard a lot of people say they’re not vegetarian or vegan because it won’t change anything, and you know what? I like to think that we could change something for the better, but not even in that worldly a perspective. I really just like to think that even if nothing ever changes, I’m at least not adding to [the abuse], or making it worse.

Are there any resources you’d recommend to people interested in going vegetarian?
The Internet has everything you could ever want resource-wise. I think really, though, the best resource is your mind—just think about what it means to be vegetarian. I still eat really good food all the time; I never feel left out or hungry. It’s such a small commitment … to make the world a little friendlier. I would definitely recommend seeing for yourself what goes on to get your meal. If you’re honest with yourself, I think anyone with a heart would make the right decision.

Four Year Strong is always on the road. Do you have any tips for finding places to eat while traveling?
We definitely spend plenty of time on the road; we’re rarely home for more than a week at a time. Any major city usually has good spots to eat: Philadelphia in particular has some really good vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Our home town in Worcester, Massachusetts, has some really good spots. Any time I’m home I cruise down to Tortilla Sam’s on Highland Street and get vegan buffalo wings or a wrap. After going to a show, there’s a bar close to my old apartment called Ralph’s that cook[s] up veggie burgers [that] go really well with a beer. Honestly, when you’re on the road you just have to keep an open mind when looking for new spots to munch. Everywhere has some hidden gems, but, yeah, sometimes you might end up at the grocery store looking for food.

Do you feel there’s any relation between hardcore/punk music and animal rights?
I think hardcore music and animal rights can, and sometimes do, go together. I remember when I was younger and first getting into hardcore and going to shows, I think there used to be a little more unity about these things. I think the reason hardcore and punk rock used to go hand in hand with animal rights is because, as scenes, hardcore and punk used to be all about new ideas and bettering yourself and your friends. I think a lot of times now, hardcore music has kind of become an “in” thing, and maybe it’s lost some of that magic and open-mindedness it used to have. There’s definitely hope though; whenever I’m home I go to shows and [see that] the next generation of kids has a good head on their shoulders. Just go to shows, and spread the love. Like I said before, I think when people are faced with what eating meat really means they can be receptive to some new ideas. Most people hate animal cruelty—they just seem to forget that the slice of bacon on their plate came from something that was living.

Where can people go online to learn more about your band?
We have our MySpace page and our Web site. We constantly update our tour itinerary, and we literally tour year round, so come out to a show, and check it out. We’re all definitely wicked proud of our full length, Rise or Die Trying, but I think you need to come see us play live to really understand. We like to have a lot of fun, and the more kids that come out and have a blast with us, the better!

Any words of advice?
Everybody be good to each other out there! Listen to music, have fun, love life, and just keep an open mind about everything. Just because something is established doesn’t mean it’s right … sometimes there’s more to life than the status quo. I’ve had a video on my MySpace that’s narrated by Alec Baldwin for a couple years, and I get more people interested through that than almost anything else, so little things like that can maybe help. If nothing else, get people in tune with what’s going on.

While you’re digesting Josh’s sound advice, take the pledge to be vegetarian!