Why A Day To Remember’s New Album Is Their Most Creative Yet
This has been a year of firsts for A Day To Remember. Back in June, the Ocala, Florida quintet joined forces with EDM producer Marshmello for a surprising collaborative single, Rescue Me – the band’s first new music since 2016 album Bad Vibrations. Then, last month, they unveiled another track, Degenerates, during a live performance in the Netherlands, before releasing the full studio version the next day. It was a whole new experience for a band now 16 years into their career – and it perfectly sets up what will come next.
“It was awesome,” grins Jeremy McKinnon as Kerrang! catch up with the frontman. “We grew up going to shows and we would always hate it when bands played a new song – it’s like, ‘Ah, come on! You’ve got so many songs I do know!’ But something just came over us that night and we were like, ‘Let’s just do it and get it under our belts.’ I just made everybody crowd-surf, and they did it! And then on release day I would see in the comments all these kids that went to the show and they’re like, ‘This song’s great, man! It sounded great live the other night!’ It was really cool to see that.”
The song’s debut also came with the news that A Day To Remember have signed with mega label Fueled By Ramen – and it’s a partnership that will see them release new album You’re Welcome on November 15. A creatively freeing and intensely productive record, album number seven will not only bring a “new twist” to ADTR’s spot-on pop-punk-meets-metalcore formula of the past, it also serves as their first-ever “truly happy” full-length. Jeremy tells us more…
Back in June you released Marshmello collab Rescue Me, your first new music since 2016. How did you guys meet?
“He was a fan, and he actually came to one of my favourite shows of all time when I met him. I had no idea, but he told me he came to Warped Tour in Camden, New Jersey. You can look it up on YouTube, because that show was absolutely insane! There was this little kid side stage who intros us and then gets nervous and runs off, there were people tossing trash cans, somebody jumped off this little shed that was in the middle of the place. It was one of the most memorable shows for me on that whole tour, so it was just crazy that he went to that one. It was like, ‘Of course you like us – that was a fucking awesome show!’”
And how did you come to work together?
“He had been hitting us up for years, and he finally had some music which he sent to me. I didn’t know what to expect, because I’ve never written something like that before – I’m going over all these things in my head, like, ‘What if I can’t think of what to write over the top of it?’ I was getting all nervous about it, but then I opened up the file and it immediately came to me. I wrote it that night and got Andrew Wade – the guy we’ve done a lot of our stuff with – to come over to my place the next day and we tracked it and sent it back to him. Actually, I recorded it with a little less gravel than I usually do, because it’s a little bit more of a chilled song, and he goes, ‘Could you do another pass where you have that grit that you usually have on your records?’ And I was like, ‘Wow!’ Like, he wasn’t just saying that he liked A Day To Remember; he really knew that I didn’t push my voice when I recorded it. I thought that was very impressive, that he legitimately really knows our band. So I did that, sent it back, and he said he loved it. Funny story: Neil [Westfall, guitar] writes us in the group message, ‘Guys, what’s going on? I didn’t even know that we were doing this song?!’ And we’re like, ‘What are you talking about? You’re going to love it when you hear it!’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I know, I’ve already heard it!’ Mello posted the entire chorus online within an hour of me sending it to him, and as a rock band that sits on songs for, like, a year, we were like, ‘Oh God!’ He obviously loved it that much, and then a year later we actually put it out with the full band and a video.”
That more instant approach to releasing a song is much less common in the rock world. What was that like for you?
“It’s such a cool way of being creative and making music. It’s like, ‘We just did this today – get excited!’ It’s so freeing, and I just love how the rap and EDM worlds are all so collaborative. I really feel like that’s why the output of material can be that extreme and that quick – because all they’re doing is writing together. It’s like these individual little teams, and that’s such an inspiring thing. We tried to do a lot of that on this record: just getting in a room going, ‘What do you think? What do I think?’ And then just compiling our favourites. It’s been the most inspiring musical thing of my whole life. I’m really excited.”
What’s the balance like on this album of sticking to the ‘classic’ A Day To Remember sound, but then also expanding with these other styles and influences?
“The whole point of this, for me, was like, ‘Let’s use the A Day To Remember formula – the same thing that everyone has always known and loved about us – but let’s take on modern influences.’ Let’s take on modern structure with the small chorus into the big drop part, and let’s do that as a band, instead of electronic stuff. Let’s use some of those elements to make cool sounding stuff as we go, but keep it that A Day To Remember sound here, and let’s mess around with new song structure, and a modern production take, but keep that heaviness that is us. It’s just crazy.”
What made now the time to go in this direction? Was it just an urge?
“It wasn’t on purpose, you know. I wanted to collaborate with as many people as I possibly could. There was just something about that, and I just wanted to start writing. That’s a world I want to get into more: writing for other people, writing for other genres, whatever. I just love the process of actually making new material. And in the process of that, working with a lot of very fucking cool, creative people, we would get in a room and it was like there was no rule book. It’s just, ‘Let’s write what we’re inspired to write today, and we’ll worry about what we’re going to use it for later.’ Whether it was for A Day To Remember, or something else, the goal was to just write good songs. That’s where everything started, and we ended up with something like 42 demos, fully fleshed out, that all sounded great. For the first time in our lives, we were actually prepared to go in and track a new record! And then the real hard part – and still to this day – is what actually makes the cut. It’s very painful to make some of these cuts because of how far along they were, and how strong the material feels. We’ll see what happens! But it was a very creative and inspiring record.”
How many songs do you expect will make the final cut?
“That is a point of contention right now! You can imagine going from 40 to one album. It’s hard. We’re trying to figure that out still.”
Were your influences all musical on You’re Welcome, or did you take inspiration from anything else?
“Anything and everything. There are songs on this record that make me feel like it could be a Tom Petty song. Tom Petty’s a massive influence on me and [guitarist Kevin] Skaff, too. We all grew up listening to classic rock – and I know how that sounds here! – but there’s all sorts of stuff that’s all over the place when it comes to influences. It’s crazy. You’ll see (laughs).”
What was your headspace like going into the album?
“It was just, ‘Let’s just write good songs.’ That was it. Making sure that we wrote the best songs that we could was all I cared about. After the fact, it was like, ‘How do we make them fit within the formula that people expect and want from us?’ Of course we’re going to have those songs where it feels like it’s just a rock song, and then we’re going to have the songs that have punk and a little bit of heaviness – like Degenerates – and then we’re going to have the songs that go full-tilt heavy. It’s going to have a mix of everything.”
Did you feel restricted in any way? If you were being so creative in the studio, did you then have to rein things in to meet the expectations of your core fan base?
“Not at all. We just wanted to write good songs and then worry about all that later. And because of that, some of my favourite tracks that were written through that time period aren’t on this record, because they don’t make sense. It was like, ‘This doesn’t make sense for A Day To Remember right now.’ There would be things that were a little too far in the indie world or something, so that was that – maybe it would be used for someone else, or maybe we can use it somewhere down the road. When the whole thing got compiled, there were those natural A Day To Remember songs that would have been no-brainers, and those are all there, but then we also got to pick and choose, ‘Which ones do we feel like are a step that make sense away from where we were?’ It’s not the same thing rewritten, it’s something fresh.”
Is there an overarching theme, or did you have all these separate songs that you then just pieced together to form the album?
“Kind of, yeah. We just picked our favourites – and had a lot of heated conversations about that, obviously (laughs). It’s just all over the place, as every A Day To Remember record is.”
Where did the album title, You’re Welcome, come from?
“Well, I needed a hoodie for a show. It was our first show back from this massive time that we took off. Me and my wife had our first kid, the band was cool, and we pretty much took the whole year off to just be home, so I could be a part of that first year and help out. In the downtime, whenever I could, I’d be writing. So that’s really why we’ve been gone for so long. But for the first show back, I put on this outfit and was like, ‘Oooh, I need a white hoodie with this.’ So I went to the store and bought a white hoodie, and it said in red, ‘You’re Welcome,’ and the colour matched my shoes that I was wearing, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is perfect!’ There was a photo that was taken of me at this festival that we’d played in Mexico where I’m singing, and I pull my hoodie and it says, ‘You’re Welcome’. I got tagged in the photo the next day, and the first comment said, ‘Calling it now: the new A Day To Remember album is called You’re Welcome!’ And because I read it online, completely unguarded, it kind of hit me like I was told the A Day To Remember record name for the first time. I sat there, and it kind of had me stunned (laughs). I was like, ‘I think I fucking love that.’ So it was named by a fan.”
Surely you’re going to have to message them and say thank you?!
“Yeah, I’ve got a screenshot of it (laughs). It’s crazy. I just put it in my notes, and we had a bunch of other names that kept getting thrown around, but we felt like nothing was better than that. It fit. And it’s our whole brand: not taking ourselves too seriously. It’s also a gift, you know what I mean? We wrote so many songs for this record, and we’re so excited and proud of it, that it’s like, ‘Here, you’re welcome!’”
It was ADTR’s 15th anniversary last year and you went on a huge U.S. tour to celebrate. Did that inspire or influence you at all?
“I don’t know that I’d say it inspired anything, but it was actually the biggest and best tour we’ve ever done. For us, it was just like, ‘Man, it really does feel like what we’ve done here matters more than just the band that wrote that cool record one time.’ It really feels like now we might be that band who wrote some records that will matter to people for a long time. And that was the tour where it really hit us, like, ‘Maybe this is a thing? Maybe we’re a lifer band now?’ It was the first time where we really felt that we might have crossed that point where it’s not, ‘This record has got to be the one or else it’s all gonna come fucking crashing down!’ You have that stress, every time, as an artist, putting everything for that long into it. But that was the first tour where it was like, ‘Man, they’re still here after all these years.’ It’s exciting.”
Did it feel like the pressure was off, then?
“It definitely felt like the pressure was off, 100 per cent. But that was also just because it was such an inspiring time. And then making the album, literally like day two or three of collaborating with people where it was like, ‘Okay, now that song is special.’ In my experience, it’s those lightning-in-a-bottle moments where the song writes itself, and it just comes from this very personal place, and the words write themselves – almost like you’re remembering it, rather than writing it for the first time. Almost every song that’s mattered in our career has happened that way. Actually, I’ve never had one that was meticulously put together that ever did that. It was cool, and there was a lot of them on this record that happened that way.”
Did having a daughter for the first time between albums make a difference, too? Almost giving you a new perspective on life, and the band not needing to be this stressful thing?
“Urgh… I’m gonna weep! Yes. Yes! It’s just like, ‘Okay, this is a new part of my life.’ It’s like a switch that was turned on in me that I didn’t even know was there. I’m a new person because of her. I haven’t talked about this publicly yet, but that’s actually what Rescue Me is about. I’m talking about her and my wife. Nobody knows that, but that’s what it’s about. It definitely affected me, and I would say that this is the first truly happy A Day To Remember record, which is another thing that makes me so excited about it – and also why that title makes so much sense! I’m not in a bad place – I’m in a great place, and the vibe has never been stronger.”
A Day To Remember’s new album You’re Welcome is out on November 15 via Fueled By Ramen.
A Day To Remember’s live dates in Leeds, Hatfield, Nottingham and Cardiff will no longer be happening.
Watch twenty one pilots’ incredibly old-school lyric video for Level Of Concern.