Four Year Strong

author TL date 14/02/12

When you talk to pop-punk bands today about the success of their genre, it isn't ucommon to hear them appreciate the success of Massachusetts quartet Four Year Strong as something that has helped pave the way for bands of their kind. However, a few months prior to Four Year Strong's first ever headline show on Danish soil, they released a new album that doesn't quite respect the boundaries of the sort of pop-punk the band had previously been known for. Hence we seized the opportunity to sit down and have a talk with Alan Day - one of the band's two singer/guitarists - to hear his thoughts on the decisions and progress the band has made over the years: Obviously you've been touring quite a while at the moment. How's it been going and how are you doing right now?
Alan: It's going great. All the shows have been really good. We were in the UK to start and those shows were all crazy. There were tons of people and a few of the shows were sold out, and it was a lot of fun. Then we started the European mainland and the shows have been better than any other time we've been there, and actually every time we come is always better than the last, and that's all we can ask for. Before you set out on this tour, you released your fifth album "In Some Way, Shape Or Form" back in November. How do you feel like it's been received and how do you yourselves feel about the way the album turned out?
Alan: We're really proud of the work that we did and everything that went into making that record. Playing the songs is super fun and we've started playing more songs from the new album on this tour, and they've actually gone over really well. The reaction's been - like the more single-ish songs like "Stuck In The Middle" and "Just Drive" have gone over really well - but we've played other tracks too, like "Sweet Kerosene" and "The Affected" and they've all been recieved really well. Before the release of the new album you guys were known as a band that sat pretty much right in the middle between pop-punk and positive hardcore, and yet on this new record those two records seem to be a little less dominant. Can you tell us about what kind of stuff inspired you on the new record as opposed to the earlier ones? It definitely sounds like there's a little bit of Foo Fighters in there?
Alan: Yeah, I guess there is a little bit of Foo Fighters but it's not really Foo Fighters specific, it's more like.. When we started the band and we were making our first record we were directly inspired by New Found Glory, Saves The Day, The Get Up Kids and bands like that we we're listening to at the time.. And then we kind of created our identity and we were just making records with that identity..

But making this record we realised that there were so many other places to take inspiration from that was sort of outside of those "walls" that we'd created. So as opposed to taking influence from bands that made us start this band, we we're taking influence from musicians and artists that made us get into music in the first place. The ones that got us interested in picking up a guitar for the first time. We realised that there are ways that we can do that without being a completely different band and rather try to do it in a way that our fans would understand - so it would still be energetic, fun and heavy. I think that's what we did. Do you want to maybe name drop a few of those influences?
Alan: Hmm.. We were listening to like Nirvana, Green Day, The Beatles, Foo Fighters, Queen.. I remember I was reading an interview with you guys in Rock Sound magazine before the new record came out, in which you were talking about how; on "Enemy Of The World" you had tried to cram as much stuff as possible into the songs, making them sound really busy - and then on this new record you wanted to sort of ease up on the gas and give each individual part more room to breathe. So what sort of advantages do you feel like it gives the band with this new approach?
Alan: Well like you said, it gives everything a little room to breathe.. Instead of everything being on 10 all the time, bass doing God knows what, drums doing God knows what and guitars harmonising some riffs and then me and Dan spitting a thousand vocals all at the same time - doing these tongue-twister harmonies - instead of that we think we found a way to give everything its moment..

I think it works to our advantage because our songs actually sound more like songs. Not that our other music didn't sound like songs. We're proud of everything we've done and we wouldn't be were we are without those songs that we'd written in that specific way. We just felt like there was more to songwriting that we hadn't explored yet, and different ways of doing it that we wanted to experience. We wanted to figure out - I don't want to say a 'science' to it because music is an art, not a science - but sort of a craft of making music. As opposed to just spitting everything out and piling it all on top of each other, we wanted to create something that had like a motion or a movement. As I said before, you guys have been aligned a lot with happy hardcore and pop-punk - and especially pop-punk seems to be doing great right now with bands like The Wonder Years, Man Overboard and Living With Lions all getting attention - but after this new album, do you feel like you still belong within those genres, or did you maybe even intentionally try to set yourself apart from them?
Alan: I think we weren't trying to set ourselves apart totally from our peers and all the bands that we grew up with, but we were trying to separate ourselves as a band that wasn't just that. As songwriters and musicians we just wanted more out of the creative side of it. Like I said we wanted to go outside those walls that we had built creatively.

So yeah in a way we wanted to separate ourselves from a lot of other bands. No bands specifically, we just wanted to be more than another one of those bands. We wanted to be our own band with our own identity. And when we make our next record I definitely definitely don't think that we would take steps backwards towards the same things that we used to do. But then I also don't think that we'd take like 30 more steps into being an even weirder band. We just want to do what we want to do. I guess what I'm thinking is that fans could be wondering if you guys got sick of pop-punk, but that's not the case then?
Alan: Not completely. Like I said, we grew up in that scene and our band was created in that scene and we wouldn't be where we are without it. But in a way we were sick of it creatively. We felt like we could only do this pop-punk riff and then this breakdown and then this gang vocal, and there's only so many combinations of those things that you can do before it becomes old. And so many other people were doing it. When we first started the band, not a lot of people were doing it and back then it felt unique and it felt real. But the more we did and the more other bands started coming out and doing it, the more 'gimmick' everyone was making out of it, it started feeling less real to us. We wanted to keep doing something that was real. So speaking of these changes you've been making, have you actually also started thinking about new music or are you still immersed in touring for the moment?
Alan: We haven't really had time to write or anything like that. I know I've personally started thinking about it, but it's only in the back of my head and not anything serious yet. While you were recording the new album, it came out that you were parting ways with long time keyboardist Josh Lyford. Can you elaborate on the reasons behind not wanting to keep keyboard in the band's music?
Alan: I think, like I said about stuff feeling real or.. not 'organic', but.. There was something about the keyboard in the band.. It wasn't anything with Josh personally at all. There was just something about the keyboard that we never really took seriously and he never really took it seriously. We had a great time on tour and he was a funny guy and he really added a personality to the band, but on a musical and artistic level, the keyboard wasn't really ever a big part of the band.

We realised when we started writing music for this new record that there really wasn't a place for it like there had been. We actually do have a few keyboards on the recording, but it's more like an organ here or a piano here and he wasn't interested in doing that kind of stuff. Like I said, musically and artistically, he wasn't in it for the long haul. I think on the surface he wanted to be in the band because it was a lot of fun and we were making a career out of it, but I think at the end of the day he didn't necessarily want the same things out of it that we want. And you know.. It was just this little keyboard that sounds like a toy.. Your work on "In Some Way, Shape Or Form" was split in two by you having to go on tour with Rise Against. How do you feel it affected your work having to split up the recording process like that?
Alan: Actually it was very beneficial. We got to have a little bit of time to reflect on what we had done and think about what was missing, and while we were on tour we did like a little bit of writing.. But after the tour we went full-on into writing again and we wrote some of the best songs on the record like "Stuck In The Middle", "Just Drive" and "Sweet Kerosene" and those are some of the biggest songs of the record so far. Like I said, there was something missing from the record and we really got to pinpoint what it was and then create it. You guys started breaking through with your second album "Rise Or Die Trying" - and it seemed for a while like a lot of people thought it was your first album - and then, having to follow up on that first bit of success, you guys chose to put out an all covers album in "Explains It All", which is kind of an interesting choice...
Alan: It was an interesting choice, and it wasn't exactly supported by all the fans, but we just weren't ready to make a record yet. We didn't have the material and we weren't in the right mindset to really devote that time to a real record. We had done so much touring - touring was our main focus at that time - but we wanted to release something and we'd always talked about doing a cover record for fun. Then we thought about it and it just seemed like a cool time to do that, because we hadn't released anything in a while and weren't quite ready to make a new record. But we could take two weeks and make a cover record that would be super fun - which it was.. And it didn't turn out so bad either, did it? And also you see with a lot of other bands, they break through and then they're suddenly under all this pressure to quickly come up with something new to keep they hype going..
Alan: Yeah, exactly, and for us, it was a good thing that we did that, because we ended up working with Machine, who produced the cover record, and we had such a great time doing it that we knew that we wanted to make our next record with him. So we made "Enemy Of The World" with him, and that record did more for our carreer than anything in the past, so it's a good thing we did things that way. The last time I saw you guys were when you played at Hevy Festival last year, and you appeared to be very jet lagged and you were throwing food all over the place.. What was the experience of that show like for you?
Alan: It was a very interesting day. We flew in and the we hadn't slept in probably 35 hours because of the flights. We were just very, very tired, and because we were headlining we had to be there all day. We couldn't just play and then go to a hotel and go to sleep. We had to wait around until the very end of the night, play, and then go to the airport. To be honest that day was like a complete blur.

What I do remember is that it was one of the most fun shows we ever played, and I think it was because we were so.. like.. delusional.. and didn't care whether we sounded bad.. We just ended up having a lot of fun. I mean we did play the whole first song in the completely wrong tuning.. But other than that I don't think we played that bad. We had a lot of fun and we threw all of our food from our dressing room out into the crowd. It was just fun. Right, those were all of our questions for now - We'll leave the final word for you if you want to shout anything out to our readers?
Alan: Yeah, come see us in Copenhagen next time! Because hopefully tonight will be really fun, and if history repeats itself, next time we come here, it'll be even better than this time.

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