Alter The Press!


Interview: Four Year Strong

Just before taking the stage at their sold out show at London's O2 Islington Academy, front man Dan O'Connor of Four Year Strong sat down with Alter The Press! for an in-depth interview.

Dan spoke to ATP about the band's new album, 'Enemy Of The World' and it's recent success, playing the 2010 Slam Dunk Festival, signing to Universal Motown, the recent issues with the music video for 'Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)' and more.

Alter The Press: How is it, being back in the UK?
Dan O'Connor (vocals/guitar): Awesome. This time has been so much more insane than any other time we have been here. I know we are on a major label now, and we have this new record that came out, but I never thought that the shows would be as insane as they are. The kids are awesome; it's great. We're having a great time.

ATP: How was this year's Slam Dunk Festival?
Dan: Slam Dunk was awesome. The first day was a little weird because, basically, there were 5,000 tickets but only 3,000 people were allowed in the main room. So, there were 2,000 people who couldn't get into the main room, which was pretty shitty. Other than that, the shows were awesome. The kids were amazing. Leeds was amazing. I've never heard the kids sing as loud as the kids in Leeds did. It was crazy.

ATP: 'Enemy Of The World' dropped March 9th. How has the response been?
Dan: It's been awesome. When we finished the record, and were about to put it out, we were stoked on the record. We were confident that we accomplished what we wanted to, but there is always this little glimmer in the back of your head, saying that people might not like it. In the end, we put together the best record we could. Kids have been stoked and have received it so well. We couldn't be happier with the way people have been reacting to it.

ATP: It's a lot darker than 'Rise Or Die Trying'. Was this intentional?
Dan: It wasn't necessarily intentional, to make it darker. A lot of the lyrical content has much to do with what we have been through in the last two and half years, between 'Rise Or Die Trying' and 'Enemy'. We've done a lot of touring; we've met a lot of people, we went through a lot of things, which I'm sure anyone in a band has gone through. We met a lot of people who weren't the best people. But, we met others who are the best people ever and we still work with. There were also times where I would freak out that the band was going down and not up. Eventually though, we were like, 'Fuck it, we don't care'. We did what we wanted to do and kept doing that. That's what a lot of the lyrical content on the record is like. As far as the music being darker, we just tried to go naturally where the band wanted to go. We didn't go into the studio saying ‘we want to be like this.’ We just all came to the same kind of conclusion, of what we wanted the next record to be like.

ATP: What made you want to put out your first single, 'It Must Really Suck To Be Four Year Strong Right Now', 3/4 months before the album was released?
Dan: There were a lot of kids who wanted to hear the new songs really badly. When we had that song, we thought it was a great song to put out first, as it would put to rest the people who thought we were going to go soft, or change our formula too much or go the wrong way. We thought it was a good representation of what the record was going to be. When that song was done, we wanted to put it out to see what we were working with, and see if kids would like it. Right off the bat, kids were stoked on it. The response was awesome.

ATP: The album got to 40 on the Billboard Chart. What was the band's reaction to the news?
Dan: It was insane. I remember where we were, I think it was in Dallas, Texas, and we were loading out after we played a show. It wasn’t really a good show, because we had confrontation with one of the guys who worked at the club (one of the stage guys). The kids were good, but the show went south, so we weren't in such a good mood. We got an e-mail from our management, saying we had sold so many records in the first week, and that we were going to hit 40. We were hoping to break 100, that was our goal, but we got to 40, which was way more than we thought it would do.

ATP: That's amazing, especially with the sad reality that the majority of people don’t buy music anymore.
Dan: For sure. Our band has always taken the stance that this is the way it is. We know our CD is going to be pirated and kids are going to download it. Anyway kids can get our music, we are cool with it. If you want to download it illegally, or buy it, that's awesome. As long as you guys come out to the show and have a good time. If you want to support us, go buy the record; but if you don't want to, or are strapped for cash, then it’s there for you to do that.

ATP: You've now signed to Universal Motown. What made you want to switch to a different label?
Dan: We talked a lot about it over the last two and half years. The one thing about Universal is that they were talking to us very quickly after the release of 'Rise Or Die Trying'. They started talking to us, but we said that weren't ready to make that move yet, we were really happy with where we were. We wanted to keep things going the way they were, and didn't want to jump on that boat too early. After we did 'Explains It All,' and it was time for this, we thought maybe it was time to explore those options, and we met with the people at Universal. Every stereotype that we had in our brain, that all these guys would be in suits, snobby, not give a shit, kiss our ass the whole time etc; it wasn't like that. Everyone at the label is so awesome, and so stoked to work with our band. It's always been our band's motto; that we only want to work with people who are overly excited to work with our band. There's no point in going after what our dream-booking agent is going to be, if they don't really give a shit about our band. That's the way our band has approached labels, producers, booking agents, anyone who wants to work with out band. The number one rule is, if somebody is passionate about our band, really gets and likes our band, that's the person who we'll really put most of our faith it. That was the way it was with Universal. It wasn't a weird break from I Surrender/Decaydance; we are still on Decaydance. The guy, Rob (Hitt, ex Midtown), who runs I Surrender, is still our manager. We have all our family from before, plus all these new members, which is really cool; we never really lost anyone.

ATP: The platinum pre-order packages you did for the new album. Did anyone actually buy any of them?
Dan: No one actually bought any of them. We had a couple of people who e-mailed us that were interested in us shaving our beards; and there was some who were interested in, I think, smoking weed with the non-straight edge members of Four Year Strong; and some who were interested in the record deal one. We were serious though. If people want any of these things, let's make it work. We did it as a joke, to make fun of all those types of things that happen, we wanted to see how many kids would go for them. No one went for it, but it was received the way we wanted it.

ATP: No one even spent $15 on the new album?
Dan: Nope.

ATP: Who came up with the ideas?
Dan: The band. We spoke to our manager, and he thought it was a funny idea to do it. He sent out an e-mail to everyone, because I think we were on tour at the time, and said for us to send him our ideas. So we sent them in, compiled all of our ideas together and put them out.

ATP: What is going on with the music video for 'Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)'?
Dan: We wanted to do a video for 'Wasting Time' but we didn't have anything planned or anything to go on. It was two days before the day we had to do it, we needed to figure something out, and said we should do something in front of a green screen so we could do stuff with it afterwards. So we shot everything in front of the green screen and it was great. The problem is, that it's not progressing the way we want. We've gotten a couple of versions of it that we didn't like and it's been going weird. We are still actively trying to work on it, but everybody who we've given it to, when we get it back, it's not tight. The problem is with budgets and stuff like that. It's a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. It's taking a lot longer then we wanted it to take because it got really unorganized at first and kind of fell apart; which is our fault, because we wanted to get this video done and we only had one day to do it. We literally had a day off in LA, and that was the last opportunity we were going to have to do a video at all. We said we should just do it on that day and make it work. We kind of bit off more than we could chew; but we are trying to rectify that, and put out the best video we can with it.

ATP: When do you think the video will see the light of day?
Dan: I don't know. I actually had a conversation about it yesterday. When we get home from Europe, after this tour, we are going to get everything happening with that again. We have a couple of ideas for it, but we are actually shooting another video tomorrow, and another video a couple weeks after we are home, for 'On A Saturday'.

ATP: Is that going to be the next single, 'On A Saturday'?
Dan: I think so. That's the one that has been going out in the US right now. That's the one they are pushing, but, over here, they are pushing 'It Must Really Suck To Be Four Year Strong'.

ATP: Will 'Wasting Time' be up before the video for 'On A Saturday'?
Dan: I think so.

ATP: What made you want to shoot a music video in London? It's rare to get an overseas band doing that.
Dan: They’re pushing a different single over here for radio, and stuff like that, so we needed to get a video for it; and, if it's going to be a video primarily for the UK, why not have some of the UK fans in it. We've done videos in the US, we've done videos on the east coast and west coast, and this is our chance to get some of our overseas fans in on it. That was our main goal with it.

ATP: What can we expect, in terms of content, from it?
Dan: I can honestly not give you a solid answer at all. I know kinda what it is, but even then, some of the kids have told me what they were told they were going to be doing. I don't know what's it's going to end up being, so I think it'll be a surprise for everybody. Instead of us trying to be in-depth and push all these ideas and be let down, like with 'Wasting Time', we gave a lot of creative control to the directors with this one. I think it's going to be awesome, from what I know about it, but I don't want to let the cat out of the bag.

ATP: Is it the same with 'On A Saturday'?
Dan: Again, I don't want to let the cat out of the bag because it's going to be really cool, but it's going to be a very different video for Four Year Strong. I don't believe it's going to have the normal live performance that we have. It's going to be more story based, which is exciting because we've never really done a video based around a story; especially where we act, which is going hilarious because we are not good actors. It's going to be pretty funny.

ATP: What's the plan after this?
Dan: We go to Europe; then we go home, shoot the video for 'On A Saturday', and then Warped Tour for the entire summer.

ATP: Do you know when you are coming back to the UK next?
Dan: We don't know for sure, we're talking about doing something right after Warped Tour, or I think we'll do a tour of the US in the fall. Hopefully we would come after that, in the late fall.

ATP: Thanks Dan. Anything else you want to add?
Dan: Follow me on Twitter. @DanFYS. Follow me; don't follow the band. Fuck the band!

'Enemy Of The World' is out now via Universal Motown/Decaydance in the US and Defacto Records in the UK.

- Jon Ableson

Alter The Press!