A Day to Remember: “We’re not even half of what we’re going to be”
Last year was full of trials and tribulations for pop-punk juggernauts A Day To Remember, after a dispute with Victory Records, they put out their fifth album – Common Courtesy – by themselves and they haven’t looked back since.
What will 2014 hold for the five Floridians? Needless to say, things are looking up. I sat down with Jeremy McKinnon, Neil Westfall and Kevin Skaff to talk ambition, spontaneity mobile-potties, Bring Me The Horizon, a career in sports and much more.
How are you enjoying London?
Neil Westfall: I think this is the most time we’ve ever spent in London.
Jeremy McKinnon: Yeah, it is.
Kevin Skaff: It’s so big, and it’s funny because the taxi drivers don’t know where anything is either. You give them an address and they’re like “It says it’s around here somewhere!” and you never get there.
How was the surprise set at Warped UK?
JM: Being so spontaneous is what was so cool about it. It was so random. We weren’t prepared at all, we were running around on stage and everybody could see us and thinking “what’s going on?” It had such a good vibe.
NW: The greats never practice Jeremy…
JM: Yes they do!
Warped UK is a lot different to its US counterpart.
JM: Oh yeah, it was totally different. It’s a lot cooler here. Warped US is so hot.
NW: There were actual toilets!
KS: No mobile potties
NW: I hate that part about Warped.
JM: You never get proper toilets. You guys have got it good here!
You even had to move stage, didn’t you?
KS: Yeah, we wanted to play the 500-capacity venue, but the fire marshal wouldn’t let us, because they thought there was going to be hazardous to people, or something. We met in the middle and played the Jagermeister stage.
NW: I think we’re the first band in history who has complained about playing for too many people.
That’s like the opposite of selling-out.
JM: Yeah, that’s what we wanted! They forced us to.
NW: I mean, we just wanted to be special, cool and intimate and make it something for those who got to see it in time. We don’t get to do that all the time. In fact, we’ve never done that. Because before that, we’ve never played just an acoustic set, so we wanted to make it special for the people that got to see it.
JM: Kevin Lyman [Creator of Warped] really came through for us on that. Security was trying to make us play the main stage, and we were like “we can’t do that”. Kevin Lyman made it happen. Big props to Warped Tour for helping us out!
What actually happened with Victory?
NW: They couldn’t stop us from putting out an album, so we did it anyway. That’s what happened.
JM: In a nutshell, yeah. That was actually a great summary.
So how important actually is it to have record label backing?
NW: I think if you’re making music and it’s good, I don’t even think you need a record label! I think people will find out about it.
KS: I answered this a while ago, but I wanted to add to it. I said that the best music is spread by word of mouth, and I think that’s very true because record labels try to shove some pretty stupid s**t down people’s throats. I mean, they try to make a profit, so it’s all about money. A lot of times, bands that aren’t doing it for the right reasons get more of an opportunity and a bigger audience than people who are doing it for the right reasons that make amazing music, yet you’ll never hear about it, because there’s no money. I think you don’t even need it.
You’re becoming a really good example for that.
JM: Well, we’ll let you know how this goes when it’s over! That’s pretty much it. Right now, everything’s going great. We’ve had a great response to the album; everyone’s spread it with word of mouth pretty well. We had a crazy response and support from our fan base, and now all is left is to see how well the record actually resonated with people; when we play it live over the next two years. So we’ll see what happens!
In Common Courtesy, there’s a big over-arching theme of moving on and entering a new chapter. Is that intentional?
JM: Yes actually, now that you say that. There was a lot of things in our lives that we’re moving on from. A few of us had some serious relationships end, obviously what happened with Victory and just generally what’s been going on over the past three years. So yeah, that is the overall theme! I didn’t even realise it until you pointed it out. Thank you!
Jeremy, you seem – compared to What Separates Me From You and Homesick – to be in a better state of mind. There seems to be a much more positive outlook. Is that what you were trying to get across?
JM: Yes. Both Homesick and WSMFY were way darker; especially the last album. This one had much of a better feel, especially because we got to do things our way; the way we wanted it to happen. That was really free and really inspiring. We had something like 40 songs when we went in to record the album and the whole process was genuine, we took our time and we made the record the way we wanted to – the right way – and we’ve never been closer as a group of friends and as a band!
A lot more organic.
JM: Absolutely. It’s just a good vibe. Everyone got the amount of time off that they needed. So we’re ready to do this damned thing!
Is spontaneity something that what we can expect from this new chapter?
JM: I’d like to think so! Yeah.
NW: There’s nothing stopping us.
JM: Exactly. We’ve been bouncing around a lot of cool ideas that we plan on doing throughout this cycle that I think fans are going to be really in to.
NW: It’s so exciting for us too, because it doesn’t have to be the norm anymore. We can take what we’ve done in the past – or for as long as music has been a thing – and be like “well, we don’t like this, but we do like this and we want to do this”, so we can just do it!
JM: There’s nobody controlling any part of what we’re doing, other than us, which is awesome.
With this album and WSMFY, you’ve done a lot of online videos to partner the incoming album. Is there a need to show a lighter side?
JM: It actually started during For Those Who Have Heart, we did a DVD – and it wasn’t planned at the time – and these guys just did segments where they were joking around and being ridiculous on the DVD, and it was just sprinkled throughout the entire thing when Drew Russ put it together. We watched it and we thought that it was great, and we went with it. When it came to Homesick, we thought “We have to do studio updates!” well, turns out we didn’t want to do this, so we thought “let’s do funny ones and do stupid stuff”, so we started there and have done it each album since! Just tried to roll with it, I guess.
Bring Me The Horizon did a similar thing. You count yourselves among their fan base; or so I’ve heard.
NW: They’re amazing! I remember being in the studio when we recording FTWHH and it was like the first time we heard them and the song that has “b***h” in the breakdown and we were sat in the front room thinking “this is so cool!” and ever since then, I’ve been a fan. It’s kind of cool, because they’re our age and they’re doing what we’re doing but from a completely different point on earth, which is so cool to see. Not only a band that you like, but people who are growing, writing music and doing exactly what we’re doing. It’s awesome.
JM: Plus, have you heard that song ‘Can You Feel My Heart’? Can you write a better song than that, especially in this style of music? That’s undeniable!
Your song I’m Made of Wax Larry, What Are You Made Of? is inspired from a line from Night at the Museum. How did that come about?
JM: I thought it was cool. That whole thing pretty much summed up what he was really telling the guy at the time. This guy is crying, whining and complaining; so he says ‘Do something about it’. At the end of the day, it’s all up to you. You choose to be happy or not. That’s what it meant to me.
How self-critical are you guys of your shows and your records?
NW: The saying “you’re your own worst critic” could not be more true for us.
JM: We are very hard on ourselves. We care about this! We go out there and we have a goal. We’ve had shows where it’s like “this is it, this is what we’re trying to do and we met it tonight”. That’s what you work towards every night. When you’re away from home and you’re trying to entertain, you want that and you want that to happen as much as possible. So it’s hard to take when you don’t get there.
What do your friends outside the band think of what you’re doing now?
NW: A lot of our friends come see us in Orlando. But our closest friends are the people actually in the band. I don’t think they really understand. Since we haven’t put out a real DVD yet, it seems that they don’t really understand what’s happening.
JM: We got a photographer out with us and he came to Europe doing all these festivals. He photographed all of them. We went home and my entire family were like “Oh my god! You guys have really made it”. I’ve been trying to tell them we’ve been doing this for four years in a row now!
Was there a definitive point where you realised that ADTR is now a big deal?
JM: I never look at it like that. We’re still the same! I’m always just worried about tomorrow. It’s never about right now. When you’re worried about what’s happening right now, that’s when it’s going to stop. You’ve got to be planning for the next two or three years, that’s what it’s about. It’s about lasting, it’s not about thinking ‘I’m s**t right now’. We’re not even half of what we’re going to be. That’s the outlook you should have.
NW: And if or when that happens, we’re going to be the same people!
JM: Exactly. It’s when you think that you’ve made it, it turns out that you’ve actually lost it.
NW: That’s when you fall.
I looked into Ocala and a lot of the town’s alumni are sports stars.
NW: We do have [American] football players. We have John Brantley, he’s from there.
KS: John Travolta lives there!
JM: He’s not from there, but he does live there.
NW: Neil Westfall; are you familiar with him?
Was there ever a career in sports for any of the ADTR crew?
JM: Sports was huge with my family. I thought about this earlier, I played almost every sport on a team in a league. Almost every single one, and I didn’t ask to do any of them! My family just signed me up. They were like “play Soccer! Play American Football! Play basketball!”, so I did all of that.
NW: I played baseball until I was in high school. My dad wanted me to play baseball so bad. I loved playing it, but the high school that I went to had the worst baseball program, like legitimately the worst. They did not win one game the entire time I went to school there.
Any last words?
JM: Check out Common Courtesy!
NW: Don’t wear white underwear.
JM: That too.
Common Courtesy is out now. A Day To Remember are set to tour the UK in February, full details here.
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