ADTR On Their New Album: “It’s More Heavy Than The Last Three Put Together”
After A Day To Remember announced their new album, Bad Vibrations, due out August 19, we thought it only right to get frontman Jeremy McKinnon on the blower to tell us everything!
Pre-order the album here, and check out our super in-depth interview below…
HI JEREMY! SO WHAT’S THE THEME OF THIS RECORD?
JEREMY MCKINNON (VOCALS): “The theme of this record is kind of going outside our comfort zone and outside our box. We’ve never set up an album properly before. It’s been a really long time since we’ve just sat down in a room and written as a band – not since For Those Who Have Heart. In the past we’ve written records on the road – and some of our best material came about that way – but just because I work well that way doesn’t mean everybody [in the band] can. Different people need different things to be inspired. So it was important to me and the rest of the band to get everybody involved in a room, properly involved and just write a record together. And that record is Bad Vibrations.”
WHAT WAS THE IMPETUS TO SET THAT TIME ASIDE FOR THIS PROCESS?
“We’ve done three albums in a row writing [on the move]. Common Courtesy wasn’t written per se on the road, but even with that album we didn’t have a room set up where we could just go and play as a band. And over those three albums I think we can feel that in some areas. Some songs you don’t know about until you play them live, and when we got to do that I don’t think some of [those songs] translated in some areas. The band have gotten tired of that feeling. Everybody just wanted to get in a room, play the songs, feel attached to them, and feel like a band again. So it was really important to live and breathe this as a group, rather than just a couple of us in a room and then having to learn the song later. We wanted to feel attached to this record on a deeper level.”
HOW DID THAT PROCESS AFFECT THE RECORDING AND FEEL OF THE RECORD?
“It’s a more raw approach, definitely more of a real band approach. Even with the mix. Everything was written and demoed live with Bill Stephenson (Alkaline Trio, NOFX, Descendents) and Jason Livermore (Rise Against, Less Than Jake) at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado. We literally just rented a cabin at some reservoir on top of a mountain and wrote an album. We wrote something like 40 songs and just kinda picked through them. I didn’t have any material going in. I normally like to have a lot of stuff saved up that I’m really amped on so that I can bring it to the table and not let the guys down. But this situation was very different for all of us. We even got the legendary Andy Wallace [Nirvana, Disturbed, blink-182] mix our record and it’s just ended up completely different!”
IS THIS RECORD IS THE TRUEST REPRESENTATION OF A DAY TO REMEMBER AS A BAND?
“This is definitely the truest representation of us as the band we are right now. In fact, there hasn’t been a truer representation of us – as a whole – since For Those Who Have Heart. That was the last record where we were in a room together and wrote as a band. So that’s this record and this time in our lives.”
IT’S AN ALBUM THAT FEELS LIKE IT APPEARED OUT OF NOWHERE SOMEWHAT – YOU EVEN TOLD ZANE LOWE ON PARANOIA’S FIRST PLAY THAT THERE WERE NO PLANS FOR AN ALBUM. WAS THAT SECRECY PRE-PLANNED?
“Yes. We just wanted the album to come out. We wanted to hit [the fans] with a wave of AWESOME. It seems that that’s just the way people respond to things these days. With Netflix and all these shows with the whole season being streamed at once and people just kinda diving in in their own time. I think that’s cool. I get excited about that stuff too. And even bigger artists are starting to do that stuff now. Beyonce put out two records in a row where she just dropped the damn things out of nowhere. I think people love that whole anticipation thing. That’s just how people digest their music these days.”
PARANOIA CERTAINLY WHET OUR APPETITES, CAN WE EXPECT THAT KIND OF RIFF-FUELLED AGGRESSION THROUGHOUT OR A BROADER, MORE ECLECTIC EXPERIENCE?
“I think it’s gonna be quite a lot more eclectic than that. I don’t think that you can listen to Paranoia and take that as an indication of the album as a whole. It’s like any ADTR record. There’re some songs that you could consider completely different genres of music. We just sat in a room, wrote a bunch of songs and – as a team – picked the ones we thought were the best.”
HOW DOES A SONG AS DISTINCTIVE AS PARANOIA COME OUT OF THAT PROCESS?
“That song could not have come about any more organically. We were actually working on a different song we had worked on in the past but never got right. We had hit a roadblock, everyone was frustrated and we were about to shut down for the day. Then I remember Kevin [Skaff, guitar] just randomly stated riffing on this guitar part. Then I immediately heard the first half of Paranoia. I immediately showed everybody in the room how to play it, then we wrote the breakdown as a group and the song was finished within 30 minutes. I sat in a room and bounced lyrics off Kevin and Neil [Westfall, guitar] that night and the next morning I tracked the whole song on demo. Nothing changed from that point. In my experience, those were the songs that did the best for us over the years. Those lightning-in-a-bottle/wrote-themselves moments. It was like remembering a song rather than writing it.”
DID THE OTHER TRACKS COME TOGETHER AS EASILY?
“None as organically as that. A song called Justified came together pretty organically, but it was a previous idea that Neil had worked out before we showed up. Then we just played around with it. The lyrics to that song just kinda wrote themselves. I wasn’t trying to write, I was just sitting mumbling and vibing the song.”
HOW DO THE OTHER SONGS FIT INTO THE ALBUM?
“In the past it’s been [about balance]. We’ve sometimes had trouble writing enough heavy songs. That was an issue on Common Courtesy and What Separates… It just wasn’t happening naturally on those records. And we’re never the sort of guys who’ll just throw a heavy song together. We’re always 100 per cent behind every song that we put on the record. Every song is put together meticulously. Regardless of what people think when they hear it, for us there is no filler. But on this record, however, it’s more heavy than the last three put together. There’re a lot of heavy songs on there. And we branch out in a bunch of ways, too. This record is like a rollercoaster ride to me when you’re looking at it. There’re hills. There’re valleys. And they bounce off of each other. It’s kind of like you’re listening to a radio station that’s playing metal, then punk, then rock, then pop-punk. It just kinda’ bounces back and forth and it’s got a flow.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL YOU’VE “BRANCHED-OUT?”
“On a song like Bullfight the chorus is like a punk chorus, then the bridge is like our version of a Viking-metal breakdown. Then to mix that with the verses which have this almost Spanish feeling. That is definitely something ADTR has never done. It’s not super-new, maybe, but it’s new for us (laughs)! Exposed was a new sound for us too. It’s a heavy song, but it’s less 2000s hardcore than a riffier, modern-heavy sound.”
SPEAKING OF VIKING METAL, HAVE YOU GOT ANY OTHER DIFFERENT INFLUENCES SEEPING IN HERE?
“I love Amon Amarth! I wouldn’t say they [expressly] influenced the part because, again, that was just something that came about naturally and just made me feel like I was on a ship with waves crashing around me. And then I just pictured Amon Amarth because I don’t think you can picture Viking metal without that band. But that’s a perfect example of how ADTR records come together. We’re not trying to do anything; they just come together.”
WAS THERE ANY DIFFICULTY OR AWKWARDNESS RETURNING TO A WRITING PROCESS YOU’D NOT USED SINCE YOUR FIRST ALBUM?
“It felt natural to be in a room together, yeah! But we did get a little bit of cabin fever. We spent a month and a half writing 40 songs. And we new we were coming back to spend another month recording. So tensions were high. That’s where the album title – Bad Vibrations – came from. It was trying and by the end of it after we put so much time and thought into it. We’re a band who do well and we want to please our fanbase. So there was a lot of pressure, a lot of stress. And when you’re away from home, working with people you’ve not worked with before and trying to get out of your comfort-zone, that all plays into it. Thankfully, other people in the band came to the table with ideas. I did not. That was stressful for me because I like to be prepared, but that was part of stepping out of the comfort zone. Also, I’m usually a little bit more “in control” of the whole album. But on this one we worked with Bill and Jason. I took a step back and let Bill steer the ship. He really did produce this album. I remember the first day we were there I sat down with him and showed him every single song idea I hadn’t finished since I started saving them. I was there with an acoustic guitar and sang him probably a hundred songs that I thought were great but just couldn’t finish. Ninety percent of that stuff no other person had ever heard before. And, yeah, he hated most of it (laughs)! It really set the tone. But I think we’re better friends and a better band because of that process.”
WAS IT FREEING, ARTISTICALLY, TO RELINQUISH SOME OF THOSE LEADERSHIP RESPONSIBILITIES?
“It was terrifying! That’s all it was for me. I wasn’t prepared and the whole thing seemed very foreign to me. But I’m very happy with how it came together. I think it’s a great record for where we are in our lives. It’s as good as it could be… even if I do wish I had a little more time to prepare. But, again, that was the point.”
HOW DID THE ISOLATION OF THE LOCATION YOU RECORDED IN AFFECT THE PROCESS?
“We were on the top of a mountain at a reservoir – I can’t remember the name – near Fort Collins. It took 30 minutes to drive out to the studio each day, but that actually helped the writing process. It was so snowy, and we were going up the mountains in these shitty cars thinking we were gonna’ slide off in the ice. That could’ve really happened! But it was cool. We’d wake up days off and go walking on trails through the mountains that overlooked that whole section of the ridge. There was this big driveway up to a house on a cliff we weren’t supposed to walk up, but we did! It really let us get away from everything and be isolated. I think that allowed us all to get away from everything and onto the same page. I think that needed to happen. This record needed to happen for A Day To Remember to still be a band in 2016.”
YOU’VE ALREADY ALLUDED TO THE ‘BAD VIBRATIONS’ AS TENSIONS IN THE STUDIO. WAS THE BEACH BOYS REFERENCE INTENTIONAL?
“Yes, I love the Beach Boys. It was probably from listening to them growing-up that that was what we wanted to call the album as a sort of spin-off. But it was more about that stress and weight of leaving your comfort zone.”
WERE ANY OTHER POSSIBLE TITLES DSCUSSED?
“Honestly, the band didn’t discuss any others. When I told management it made some of them nervous. I think they were terrified of it all going a bit Spinal Tap with a two-word album review that just says “Bad Vibrations: bad album.” For us, though, it just summarised the whole vibe, the whole feeling, the whole thing. It just took a little time to convince the suits.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR ARTWORK YET? HOW MIGHT IT RELATE TO THE MUSIC?
“We’ve discussed some ideas, but – fittingly for this album – it’s coming along really really slowly. We’re not even close to finalising it. It’s been a real struggle. Do I have any idea what it might be? No. We’ve given people themes and ideas but no-one’s nailed it. If you look back at our past catalogue, our artwork is something that means a lot to us. It’s got to be a continuation, and it’s got to be right otherwise it’s not an ADTR record. Honestly, the artwork is holding up the whole release of the album because we can’t put up a pre-order! But as of right now, it’s not done and I have no idea. That’s the problem (laughs)!”
WHAT WAS YOUR DEFINING MEMORY OF THE RECORDING PROCESS?
“Other than Paranoia coming together? It was hard work. I’ll really remember this record as something that we just put a lot of hard work into. The positives were the location, the scenery, the people we were getting to work with. It was so great being in a place that was involved in the making of so many albums we grew up listening to. Every album we’ve ever made we’ve gone into the studio and told them “this is the bass tone we’re looking for” and showed them Talk Is Cheap from Comeback Kid’s Wake The Dead album. But The Blasting Room actually did that record! They did a bunch of other records we love, too. All the Rise Against records. All the Descendents’ records. They did Audio Karate[‘s Lady Melody], which is one of the best records ever. There’s so many. And when you walk into that place you wouldn’t even know it was a studio from the outside. Then you walk in and there’s just this hallway full of the albums they’ve done. I was just like ‘Man, this is my whole damn childhood!’”
WHERE WAS YOUR MINSET, PERSONALLY, GOING IN? YOU’VE MENTIONED YOU FELT WORK NEEDED TO BE PUT IN TO KEEP THE BAND TOGETHER…
“It was bad. I just like being prepared and I wasn’t at all. I just didn’t want to let people down. I was aware we were spending a lot of money making that album and it was scary for me. Honestly, that was just my mindset until we walked out the door again. It was a high-stress thing. But we had to do it that way to be able to get out for another 2-3 year touring cycle. And I think [the band] are more excited to play these songs than any since the first record.”
WHEN IT CAME TO PICKING A LEAD-SINGLE, WAS PARANOIA THE OBVIOUS CHOICE?
“Yeah, that was my thing. I really dug it. It’s my favourite song on the album, but I also feel like there’s just something special about that song. So that was always the first single.”
WHICH ARE YOUR OTHER FAVOURITES?
“We Got This. Reassemble. Justified. Same About You. Those are the songs I listen to when I put this record on. What is it I like about them? I dunno! I love the chorus in Reassemble, all the lyrics in that song. I love how Justified feels organic, like your on a trip while you’re listening to it – it’s got such a pretty bridge, and guitar lead, and strings!”
THERE’S ALWAYS SWEET A BALLAD ON ADTR RECORDS LIKE THE STRAWBERRY FONDANT IN A BOX OF CHOCOLATES. WHICH IS IT HERE?
“(Laughs)! It’s We Got This, I think. That’s really the only straight-up pop-punk song on the record. It was a record we had for Common Courtesy but we just couldn’t seem to get it to come together in a way we were happy with, but we were able to totally fix those problems with the help of Bill Stephenson. I think people who’re fans of that side of our band will really dig that song.”
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THAT TRACK?
“It’s about being a kid in a music scene people don’t really understand or respect, but then going to these shows and realising this is something you love. It was one of the songs we showed Bill and he totally connected with it. He was like ‘I used to go to High School every day and people in the halls would be yell at me ‘PUNK IS BUNK’ I wanted to put that – ‘PUNK IS BUNK’ – in parentheses as part of the title of the song. It was cool to have him say that was what it was like at the beginning of punk, too, because he was there with Black Flag. It’s about growing up in the punk/hardcore world with that close-knit bunch of people who came together at these shows and then went out into the world. Luckily, ADTR are still fortunate enough to be a band. Even more so, it’s about finding something you love and diving headfirst into it. There’s a bridge that goes ‘You’re just like me/I was your age/It’ll get better/Trust me, I’ve been there’ I’m not saying that everybody has the same experience – I think I explain that in the second verse – I’m just saying that I do think there is something out there for everybody and if you put your time in, you’ll fall in love with it. That just happened to be music for us – music was the only thing that brought us five together when we might never otherwise have met!”
HAVING RECORDED 40 TRACKS, DID ANY TRACKS YOU LIKE END UP ON THE CUTTING FLOOR?
“Absolutely. There were actually a few that didn’t get recorded that all of us liked. There were even a few we did record that didn’t make the cut. There was one that I’d probably want to re-track, but there were two others that didn’t make it but that I actually thought were pretty good.”
IS IT GOOD, FOR FUTURE, TO HAVE THOSE SONGS SQUIRRELED AWAY?
“Oh, God, I don’t know. We’ve got songs from all sorts of different periods of our band that, for whatever reason, weren’t finished correctly or just stayed demos. I think we’ve got an EP’s worth of those songs, but [for now] they don’t feel right. But I’m always down to re-hash those ideas. We Got This was one of those ideas that would’ve been on that lust, but we got it right on this session. We’re never opposed to finishing old ideas we liked!”
WHAT MAKES THIS RECORD SIT APART FROM ALL YOUR OTHERS?
“It’s gonna sound different, sonically. It’s a different approach and a different kind of recording to what fans are used to hearing. It’s not digital. And it’s the whole band playing rather than people just edited together. And, with the mix, there’s Andy Wallace so it’s not digital stuff happening. It’s just him and this big-ass SSL. It’ll also sound really fresh when it comes to the writing style because it’s not the normal people handling that. It’s Bill. It’s Jason. It’s the rest of the band having a huge say rather than me going ‘Here’s a song I finished, let’s record it!’ This really is a record from all five of us. Nobody had any more say than anybody else. That’s gonna feel a little bit different whenever you hear it!”
AND, AS A CLOSING STATEMENT, DESCRIBE THE ALBUM IN ONE SOUNDBITE!
“(Laughs)! A rollercoaster of high-stress tension!”
IN A GOOD WAY?
“That’ll be for the fans to decide (laughs)!”
WORDS: SAM LAW