Since they returned from a touring stint in the U.K. last spring, Phoenix quintet THE SUMMER SET have kept busy. With their third album, Legendary, completed and awaiting release April 16, the band are back on the road, headlining the Wake Up And Be Awesome Tour all this month. AP caught up with frontman Brian Dales and guitarist John Gomez to chat about the new album, sharing a house together and their clothing-optional stance on swimming.
When you guys returned home after being on the road for 13 months, I can only assume all of you were feeling pretty burnt out. How did you find the motivation to move in together and focus on writing the next album?
JOHN GOMEZ: We kind of realized when we moved into the house—first of all, a house that is full of the Summer Set is a crazy, crazy house. At first, Fearless was like, “Hey, where are the songs?” And we were all like, “[We] have no idea.” I feel like I haven’t lived in this slow of an environment—in this, like, normal, homey environment—in so long, surrounded by all our friends and people who are getting married and moving away. Really kind of seeing that life has to continue moving on with or without us was kind of a big thing. So it was kind of a two-month-long end-of-the-world party.
It kind of made [us] realize, we go on the road and we’ve made our entire life out of trying to be as successful as possible. Every person your surrounded by is trying, in one way or another, to become legendary. To get out of that world, that constant ladder, that constant climb—go up two steps go down two steps—and just sit in limbo for a second, [we realized] there’s more to this life than us being big as a band. We gotta be legendary ourselves as individuals. That in itself started lyrically transforming into “Legendary.”
Brian, when you were in AP 295’s Most-Anticipated special, you said you were having some trouble narrowing down the songs. How did you get the final list?
DALES: That was the hardest part, for sure. We got to spend a lot longer than normal recording this record, like, seven or eight months. We [wrote] a lot of songs I was really proud of… It got a little easier when we took a wide look at our record and kind of looked at it like, “Okay, what songs feel like this? What are we missing?” There's always a place for a song if it's a great song. Even if I don't use it, I can try to find it a home. As long as I have that mentality, it makes it a little easier to cut something from our record.
The Summer Set have always been a pop band, but you’ve said the goal with this album is to get a song on the radio. How do you balance that and still write an album that’s true to the band’s vision?
DALES: I think it's important as a band to make a full record that maybe has three or four songs that have the familiarity and immediacy that pop radio kind of deserves, but we've always liked writing slow songs. I'm a very honest lyricist, certain songs like “Legendary” are some of the truest and most honest things I've ever written. I think it was important for our fans to know that our lyrical integrity and energy was still there, but that we also could maybe try to write songs that could compete on the radio.
Brian, you also mentioned in the Most Anticipated special that “Maybe Tonight” is your favorite song from the record. What about it stuck out for you?
DALES: There was just a certain feeling I was overcome with when we wrote “Maybe Tonight.” Sometimes the song comes in two hours and you know immediately, and sometimes you got to write it four different ways before you finally get to it. The minute that “Maybe Tonight” chorus came to us after four different versions, it was just one of the most natural feelings I ever experienced. We go into a room, and we create something that didn't exist before we went in there, and I think to me that's the closest and coolest form of magic I'll ever get to experience.
When you weren’t writing, you were definitely living it up and making up for lost time in the house you shared. Do you have any safe-for-work stories?
DALES: For starters, just imagine a house of The Real World in Tempe, Arizona. We had a hot tub, an addition with a pool table, upright piano, games, a giant pool. We set up a recording studio in the house—
GOMEZ: That wasn’t used as much as it should have been.
DALES: It was a pretty fucking crazy house; we had an open-door policy. Every single night turned into some sort of party—even if we didn’t want it to.
GOMEZ: There was a weekend at some point where we all sat down in the kitchen and said, “Hey, who’s that guy who has been sleeping on the couch for the past three days?” That happened a few times… There was a rule at the two-week point, we had signs taped all around the backyard saying, “If the sun is down and you’re in the pool, you aren’t allowed to have clothes on.” And I followed the rule. Actually, a lot of us followed the rule. There was a lot of nudity.