s far as genre restrictions go, pop-punk and metalcore don’t exactly seem like they’d be the best of friends. While the former is characterised by upbeat melodies and spirited lyricisms, its counterpart is a stark polar opposite. Differences aside, the pair reign in tandem as the arguable two biggest niches in alternative music, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that A Day To Remember essentially rule the circuit. Fusing together the sprightliness of pop-punk with metalcore’s off-beat grit, they’ve spawned an unusual but spellbinding brand of salty-sweetness.
It’s worked pretty damn well for them over the span of 12 years – the band have sold over 1,000,000 records internationally, and you’d be hard pressed to find a fanbase more dedicated than the droves that swoon for Ocala’s finest. This is especially true for us lil’ Vegemites, as shown by our constant demand for sold out tours and Soundwave check-ins year in, year out. The quintet are set to embark on the suitably-titled Big Ass Tour in less than a month, where they’ll be kicking it to crowds as enormous as 20,000 alongside our boys in The Amity Affliction.
Though he certainly isn’t any stranger to the ear-bursting roars of a packed out arena, frontman Jeremy McKinnon is still blown away by the support he’s amassed Down Under. “Australia is one of our… Actually, it’s our favourite place to play on Earth, so it’s awesome that the people there have supported us for this long,” he enthuses.
|What makes the band’s recent success all the more impressive is their current status as an independent entity, with no funding or promotion from a record label to back them. This is more a case of circumstance than decision, following a particularly brutal dummy spit with former label Victory Records in 2011. The label swears that McKinnon and co. refused to meet their contractual agreements, however the band maintain that fists were flung when the label made their own breach of trust. Whatever the case, it’s been a solid four years since shit hit the fan, and we’ve been holding out for a word of closure ever since. As have A Day To Remember themselves, it appears.
“It’s actually been a long time since we ourselves have had an update. We’ve just been waiting for a court date, pretty much for years now,” admits McKinnon. There’s a slither of hesitation in his voice, but despite his plight being one no doubt slathered with stress, the vocalist is remaining distinctly optimistic. “I feel fortunate,” he says of the band’s achievements post-fallout. “I’m really happy that we’re this far into our career and this is still happening for us, so I’m just thankful for it all.”
To some extent, one might argue that record labels themselves have become a redundancy in recent times. Digital platforms like BandCamp, Soundcloud and YouTube are all incredible (and have proved to be successful) ways for a band to find an audience, and it’s easier now more than ever to rack up a club show or two. So we ask McKinnon: should record labels still be a “thing” in 2015?
“I mean, yes and no,” he considers. “There are different applications where labels are great for people. What if you don’t have the money to put into your recordings? What if you don’t have the money to go on tour? If somebody’s interested in trying to help you build your brand with their bank account, that’s rad! But at the same time, we’re living in a world where you can do it yourself, and you don’t really need anything more than the internet and word of mouth to grow – but y’know, I think those stories are just as rare as people who sign to a label and are successful with that.”
|A Day To Remember have stood victorious on both sides of the fence; 2013’s Common Courtesy has sold over 190,000 copies in the US alone, so there’s clearly no worry over whether or not they can pull off this whole “indie act” thing. McKinnon is keeping an open mind on how the band might release their next LP, however.
“This last record worked out really well for us so it’s definitely something that we’d be interested in doing again,” he offers. “But at the same time, it’s not like that’s the only route – we’re open to a lot of different options, so we’re just going to see what presents itself to us and try to make the best decision when that comes around.”
Speaking of their next LP – yes, I know you’ve been reading up to this point desperate for some juicy new info – don’t hold your breath for any immediate announcements or Beyoncé-esque surprise releases. When asked for an ETA on album #5, McKinnon offers, “Y’know, I’m not sure. We’re always working on stuff here and there, but I’ve got no idea when we’ll have a new album out. We’ll have to see what happens.”
It’s still up in the air how the band will approach recording for whatever comes next, but one thing is for certain – it’ll be a far cry from the tumultuous mess that resulted, through tension, frustration, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool of legal drama, in Common Courtesy. “We were kind of forced to make that record in the back room of my house, in like, a bedroom,” says McKinnon. With the tantrums over at Victory in full effect at that stage, the band were forced to forego the studio set-up in favour of a more ‘DIY’ approach.
“There wasn’t a place where we could set up as a full band, and we pretty much wrote everything in that small room without being able to vibe through things,” he continues. “I love that record for what it was, and it was the best we could absolutely do at that time in our lives. I’ll always remember it for that, I’ll remember it for the feeling I had when we put it out, how triumphant that moment was for us as a group.”
The vocalist is also adamant that recording an album in the midst of a tour is well and truly off the cards – “I don’t want to make records on the go anymore,” he says – as is another album cycle where the band aren’t completely immersed in the adventure. Whether it be the mental strain that touring inflicts, the schoolyard bullshit that Victory did, or simply a disconnect from what brought them together in the first place, McKinnon confesses that A Day To Remember have slipped into the pitfalls of a band unfazed by their own work.
“Honestly, when it comes to being excited and wanting to work as a group, we haven’t been as motivated to do that in years, since For Those That Have Heart,” he divulges. “That’s definitely going to be different. When [the record] does end up getting finished, it’ll be something that came from all of us, together, which I think is a cool thing. It’s been a while since we’ve had a big enough break to get into an actual room and play songs together.”
|The three-year gap between Common Courtesy and its predecessor – What Separates Me From You (2010) – was one that had fans in an understandable flurry. When we finally did get our hands on that record two summers ago, however, its delays made perfect sense. From the passionate eruption of lyrical opulence in “Sometimes You’re The Hammer, Sometimes You’re the Nail” to the musical tsunami of rhythm and drums in “Violence (Enough Is Enough)”, the record’s songwriting showed an absolutely jaw-dropping evolution, even by the band’s already colossal standards.
As McKinnon proclaims, penning the lyrics to a heartfelt love-song or scribbling out the riffs for a pit-splitting banger isn’t just something that the band can sit down and write in an hour. Like an earthy bottle of red, A Day To Remember tunes have a specific process in which they must ferment naturally.
“I like to wait for that moment where a song kind of writes itself, or when someone plays something that inspires a song to just… exist,” McKinnon rhapsodises. “In my experience, it’s those songs that are the lasting ones. That’s why it takes a lot of time for us to put a record together – we’re not just pumping music for the sake of pumping it out. We collect everything we do across the course of two or three years, and then we only release the best of the best. And I think that’s also why it always sounds different and feels fresh, because it’s what we’re inspired by in that very moment. That’s what A Day To Remember has always been about. It’s not about being this specific band all the time, it’s just what we’re feeling at that point. Everything else just sort of falls into place.”