A Day To Remember’s New Album Is The Soundtrack To These Dark Times
When A Day To Remember first announced details of their new album You’re Welcome in August last year, they had no idea that, by the time it would eventually see the light of day, the world around them would have changed substantially. Originally slated for a November 2019 release, the Ocala titans’ seventh full-length would initially be moved to “early 2020”, before coronavirus struck and even their touring plans were thrown into the air entirely.
Despite the uncertainty that we’re all feeling right now, one thing is for sure: You’re Welcome is absolutely on the way. And, as guitarist Neil Westfall tells Kerrang!, the band – completed by frontman Jeremy McKinnon, bassist Josh Woodard, guitarist Kevin Skaff and drummer Alex Shelnutt – have been using their time in lockdown to finalise the follow-up to 2016’s Bad Vibrations, as well as planning out what else is to come…
With the world changing around us so much since you first announced the album, has that changed your feelings about the music you’ve all been working on? It feels like the album title, You’re Welcome, is actually quite appropriate now for these times – like, ‘Here’s this new album for you to get excited about, you’re welcome…’
“It’s kinda crazy, because as time has gone by, a lot of the subject matter that was written about, and a lot of the themes and different lyrical content, fit perfectly. It’s almost as if we knew this was going to happen, which is really weird, because obviously we couldn’t have known that (laughs). We were just writing based on what was being felt at the time, and it just seems to fit perfectly now with what’s going on, which is amazing and unfortunate all at the same time – because if I could choose to make this go away, I obviously would.”
In what sense does it fit so perfectly?
“It’s hard to say without you hearing it for reference, but knowing this going into listening to it, you’ll hear it and be like, ‘Oh, okay, that’s what he was talking about.’ (Laughs) It’s kinda crazy how that happens. And it’s exactly what you were saying with the album title: You’re Welcome. It just fits perfectly now, and that’s how a lot of the themes have been as well. It’s weird how this stuff happens to us – it’s kinda happened to us our whole career, and maybe by design a little bit. You know [the lyrics from 2007 song A Shot In The Dark], ‘Mark my words, we’re taking over the world’ started to make sense whenever we started to do really well all around the world! And this is the same sort of thing: just small things that, when you listen, you’re like, ‘Wow, I know Jeremy didn’t know this was going to happen, but that really fits perfectly, and resonates with what’s going on.’ It’s going to be awesome, and I’m really excited for people to hear it.”
The latest song that fans have heard from the album is Mindreader. How have you found people’s reactions to it?
“It’s all over the place, and I think it’s actually really hard when you’re a band that represents multiple genres. You have people that want something specific from you, or want a little bit of a more broad spectrum from you. We’ve made music that we’ve been interested in making for ourselves, you know? That’s why all these songs are super-different, and it’ll always be that way, really. I guess my long story short is that someone will always be disappointed, but with Mindreader, the numbers have been great, people are listening to it, and it’s incredible to see how it’s affected people. Again, in this time, this is perfect because they’ve been stuck inside with their significant other having these little arguments (laughs). Everyone is like, ‘This song is perfect; this was written about me and my significant other!’”
Jeremy said that it was the first song he’s sent to the band which you all unanimously loved. Why do you think that is?
“It was a very early song in the process, but also it’s just a great song. I think all of us relate to those lyrics very well, the guitar parts are catchy, and all that kinda stuff! It was really easy for us to like, you know? Especially early on; when you’re writing an album, you need those anchors and those tracks that makes everyone go, ‘Oh, rad, we have that feeling.’ It pushes you to be more creative and do other things, because you know you always have that other stuff to go back to.”
The three songs we’ve heard from You’re Welcome – Mindreader, Resentment and Degenerates – are all so different, which is very typical of A Day To Remember. Is there any one of them that is maybe the best reflection of the record?
“Honestly, no! I mean, this thing is all over the place. I think this album probably touches more genres than any other A Day To Remember album, and I feel like every song could live in its own world, which is kind of amazing. I don’t know if any one [song] that has been released represents the album as a whole, but I think that if you take a step back and look at all three of them – and maybe even a little bit of [Marshmello collaboration] Rescue Me as well – and combine all of those elements into one song, then that kind of could do it. But, even still, there are things that will come out that everyone’s just going to be like, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know that they did that.’”
It sounds like the creative process behind this new music was very collaborative and free-thinking. What inspired that approach?
“Honestly, I think it was how we made Bad Vibrations – that album was us locked in a room, and we wrote, like, 40 songs, and then the best ones became Bad Vibrations. But with this one, it was more like, ‘Let’s work with as many people as we can and then bring it together and make it A Day To Remember.’ And so it was very collaborative, and written all over the place with a ton of different people, and a ton of different inputs. And I think it really shows: it’s a very diverse album that still feels like A Day To Remember, which is what our goal was. We wanted to push the boundaries as much as we can with it still feeling like us.”
So it wasn’t necessarily that you’d had a bad experience with the way that you did Bad Vibrations, but you just wanted to change it up?
“Yeah, and maybe we would do it that way again, but this just happened to be how we were creative, and I think that it was because of Bad Vibrations. I think you nailed it: it wasn’t a bad experience, but we just wanted to try something different and new, and to be inspired in a different way.”
How have you changed as a musician from Bad Vibrations to You’re Welcome?
“Personally, I learned a lot working in Colorado with [producers] Bill [Stevenson] and Jason [Livermore] at The Blasting Room when we did Bad Vibrations, from the recording side of things, and also as a guitar player and a songwriter. Working with those guys, they just had such a different approach to what we’d ever done before, and I got to learn a lot. And so, going into this one, we were able to use that knowledge and build upon it, and take it in new directions, and spin it in ways that we wouldn’t have even thought to do during Bad Vibrations. I think it gave us a good foundation to build on.”
Jeremy said that you ended up with 42 demos for this album, and the hard part was going to be making the cut. How far into that process are you now?
“We definitely have the songs that will be You’re Welcome done and finished now, and we’re just finishing artwork, and making small tweaks to make everything feel and flow the way we want it to. And I feel like that’s the hardest part; you do a lot of the heavy lifting in the beginning, and then at the end of the process it’s these small things that can make a really big difference. This is something we do every record: everybody will bring stuff that we’ve been working on, and it all comes together and we end up with, like, 50 demo ideas, and 60 parts, and all this stuff. It’s really hard, because there’s so much good stuff on here, and so much stuff that’s also good that isn’t quite done yet… there’s a lot of material, as always!”
When it comes to that cutting-back process, is the focus on picking out all the songs that fans will love the most, or trying to make a cohesive body of work?
“In our process, it’s like, ‘What is the best?’ And then we step back and go, ‘Okay, how does this feel and how does this flow? Does it cover all of the things that we want to happen on this album? Is it heavy? Is it poppy?’ Just all the things that are us. And if we feel like it does, then we’ll keep moving. And if maybe we feel like there’s not enough of something represented then we’ll go back and look at what we have and mess with some of those songs, trying to push them further and get them a little bit more finished. And then once those are finished, it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, this is great – it’s exactly what was missing.’ It’s really tough with our band especially, because I feel like we cover so many things, and you have to feel like everything is represented. But I really believe that this album has something for everybody.”
Can you elaborate on that? Is that in terms of genres, lyrics…?
“Just all across the board! And that’s kind of like the beauty of the way Jeremy writes his lyrics: it can fit in any situation, but it’s something that you need, and you find something in each of these situations. I feel like you could listen to this entire body of work, and any type of fan that you are – whether you like us for our heavy stuff, or you like us because of the acoustic songs like If It Means A Lot To You – it’s all represented in this album. And that’s in every sense of the word: genre, lyrically, themes… it’s all there.”
Is that something that you think You’re Welcome has achieved that past albums maybe haven’t?
“As we get older, and get better at being us, and are more able to translate the ideas that we have in our heads to something that’s a physical thing that you can listen to, I think we get better at doing that. And that’s what we aim to do every time. Maybe we weren’t as good at it on earlier albums (laughs), but with each process you get a little bit better. And that doesn’t make it easier, because as you get better you also start to get more ambitious, and you start to try new things and different sounds. It opens doors and makes it more interesting.”
Whether it’s been a challenge or not, has the whole process of making You’re Welcome been a positive one for the band? Have you enjoyed making this album?
“Oh yeah. Working with Colin Brittain, who kinda took charge and is the making producer on everything, he just thinks about things so differently to us. He’s offered this fresh new perspective on what we do, and it was really cool. It’s always interesting making an A Day To Remember album because of how different each of the songs are; it’s almost like it’s a new band with every song! To find someone that understands all of those genres, and is able to bring those to the level at which we want to operate, is a really hard thing to do. But the whole thing has just been amazing. It’s been a learning process, it’s been fun, it’s been challenging, and I’m just excited to have it out – and hopefully be able to go and play some shows sometime (laughs). I think everyone is really missing that.”
What’s it been like having all this new music in the bag, but having this stop-start build – and even more so now with coronavirus and everything feeling so uncertain?
“It’s like you’re keeping a secret! You have this little secret, this little thing that you can listen to and nobody else has it yet (laughs). It’s pretty cool. But I’m excited for people to hear it – I really want that to happen, and it will soon.”
So is the message to fans right now just, ‘Stay tuned, the album is coming’?
“Stay tuned – a lot of things are coming! We’re gonna utilise this time to make a bunch of things and put them out there. We’ve got a lot of stuff in the works, and I can’t talk about it too much, but just keep your eyes on what we’re doing, because there’s gonna be a lot of stuff that’s coming…”
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