Silverstein, Four Year Strong from Myspace to touring 20 years later
After Silverstein and Four Year Strong effortlessly dominated all of our Myspace profile players, filling us with enough angst that our teenage bullshit had a body count and survived the trenches of Warped Tour, we still have one question: How have they never toured together?
In what seems like 20 years in the making, Silverstein vocalist/Lead Singer Syndrome podcast host Shane Told and Four Year Strong frontman Alan Day reflect on their respective band anniversaries, embarking on tour together for the first time and their upcoming albums, A Beautiful Place To Drown (UNFD, March 6) and Brain Pain (Pure Noise, Feb. 28).
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SHANE TOLD: So let’s talk about this new record, Brain Pain. You released two new songs, and they’re both really good. But [it’s] your first work in a long time, almost five years. How does it feel when you come back after such a long period of time? So much new shit has come out that has changed people’s direction of where [they’re at] musically. And you come back with two songs, and they might have an indication of what you are or what you were five years ago. But that could be completely different from where you’re at in your mind today. So how is it reconciling those things and how nerve-wracking is that?
ALAN DAY: It’s terrifying. And honestly, that was one of our biggest challenges with this new album. But it’s almost exactly what you just described: People have these expectations of us. People knowing who or what we were like musically. And that really was the key. That was when we conceived that sound that people still associate us with. And that long ago, I was completely different. I’m the same person, but my life has changed so drastically; my musical interests have so drastically evolved and broadened. Our biggest goal making this new album was to accurately and authentically write music that we love that feels like who we are today without getting rid of all the bits and pieces of what we were. We basically broke up for a couple of years and had a lot of time to think about what that meant and what we did when we alienated our fans by completely changing our musical DNA. But we learned a lot from that. We built a foundation that we need to continue building and not tear it down and start over.
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It’s so much pressure that you’re putting on yourself because your band mean so much to people. And when you’re on the inside looking out, you don’t always understand that. There are people that just like it, every note you’ve ever sang. And now that they’ve been waiting five years to hear more notes—unless you write verbatim Enemy Of The World—those people are always going to be disappointed unless they’re very open-minded. It’s just the brutal truth.
And we’ve struggled with always being that band that people just want to hear their favorite old songs. Even when we put out our self-titled record five years ago, which are now some of our most popular songs in our live sets and on Spotify. But it took a long time for it to catch on because people just want to hear stuff that they know and love.
I’m sure you guys struggle with the same kind of thing being around for as long as you have. Especially now. You just put out new music as well. I heard those two songs. They sound fucking great. I looked the other day on Spotify, [and] you had millions of plays on one of your newest songs.
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People have been really supportive of us and our new music. And every time we’ve managed to [take] a risk in some way in our music—like our new song, “Infinite,” is pretty different. When that starts, it sounds like it could be a dance song or a pop song. I think we talk about change and how much we’ve grown and evolved in, you know, 19 and 20 years, musically. I’m a completely different person, just like you said. I would have never believed you if you told me that we would start a song like that, and my former self wouldn’t have liked it. So I give a lot of credit to our fans for having that open mind when they hear some instrumentation that’s different. But I think once I sing over something, it inevitably sounds like Silverstein.
Let me ask you something: So one thing that I think is really envious about your band is that you tend to do a lot of the shit you want to do. You do the tours you want to do, you do albums when you want and you seem to have a really great balance between your home life. You have all these things in your life that are really great. Does that make something like the tour we’re going to do in a couple [of] months a little more exciting than when it was your first couple of years as a band? Do you feel like balance is really a great thing?
Absolutely. It sounds like a bad thing, but I believe we were really fortunate in our early years of touring of how terrible it was. I don’t think I would have traded those first couple [of] tours where we were losing insane amounts of money and breaking down all the time and showing up to shows where there were literally zero people [who] paid to get in. But we’d play anyway. One time we showed up to a venue, and it was literally boarded up. Like, somehow there was a show booked at this place, and no one realized that it was shut down, and it was boarded up. But I don’t think at all that [it] was a bad thing.
At the time, maybe I did, but in hindsight, you look back at it, and you see what we have now and that we’re able to make a living doing this. I don’t think we’d be able to appreciate it as much if we didn’t have to work as hard as we did to get where we are and to be able to have other things in our lives. I think the ebb and flow of the two things is what keeps it all really exciting.
How is it working with other bands and producing records? Do you find that you take a lot [of what you do and put it] into Four Year Strong’s production now? Or does it feel like separate entities when you're working on your own music versus when you’re helping other bands with their own?
It’s definitely a different thing, but the crossover is just exercising those creative muscles. It’s really just like anything else. If you practice and you work on it and you’re constantly thinking and you’re constantly in the music mindset, greater things can come out of it as opposed to just working on the farm every day, and a month goes by, and I haven’t touched a guitar, and I’m like, “I’m gonna go write a song.”
But constantly being involved in music [is] thinking about it and seeing how different artists work and [how] different types of music [work] because I work with artists in all different genres. It definitely keeps my musical mind sharp. But I don’t really like to wear the producer hat when I’m doing Four Year Strong stuff because I think literally 90% of our producer’s job is to be an outside ear to help you take the good songs you wrote and make them great. When Dan [O’Connor, guitarist] and I are writing Four Year Strong songs, we’re in songwriting mode. Having a studio now makes songwriting a little nicer because you can end the day with a demo that almost sounds like a record. So now it’s not just in your head anymore. You can create something tangible and listen to it afterward and show somebody or whatever.
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How crazy is it that we’ve been running in the same circles for so long and we’ve never toured together?
That is really crazy because we have been. I know you’re celebrating your 20 years this year, and technically, we’re celebrating our 20 years next year. But the 20 years for us is literally from the year we started this band. That is actually when I was a freshman in high school. So people didn’t really know about us until 2005 when we put out a five-song EP. That’s where we started touring almost full time.
It’s hard for you to put a date on that, right? I remember the emails and the Myspace messages of people [saying], “Have you guys heard of Four Year Strong? They’re this awesome band from Massachusetts, and you guys would make so much sense [together].”
Yeah, 20 years later. [Laughs.]
20 years later.
The full interview originally appeared in AP #379 with cover star Oliver Tree, which is available here.