A large number of young bands has contributed to a recent surge of pop-rock. If you plan on reading on in hopes of hearing about the next rising pop-rock sensation, go ahead and turn the page because Drop Dead, Gorgeous are not one of those bands. While many young bands are pairing light, catchy melodies with saccharine vocals, Drop Dead, Gorgeous are combining power-screaming with a rampage of rapid-fire drumming and a frenzy of guitars out for blood. As other young bands sing about puppy love and endless summer days (or whatever), Drop Dead, Gorgeous screech about murder. I think you get the picture.
The post-hardcore band from Colorado was discovered through the Internet, quickly acquired a deal from Rise Records, and then later signed with Suretone Records. Though half of the members were in high school when the band got its start, their progress doesn’t seem stunted at all. They will be adding on to the list of festivals they’ve played with a performance at South by Southwest this year, and although their second full-length album came out last August, they are already eager to get back into the studio.
I spoke with bassist Jake Hansen about the restrictions of the band’s young age, their tours and their latest album. Though Hansen talked about having the original line-up back, (now former) keyboardist / vocalist Aaron Rothe announced on his MySpace page that same day that he was leaving the band to take music in a different direction from Drop Dead, Gorgeous.
A little over year ago, some of the members of Drop Dead, Gorgeous were still in high school. How did restrictions like that and other ones that come with being so young affect touring and your work as a band?
Well, we just waited. It was Kyle [Browning, guitar] and Danny Cooper [drums] and Dan [Gustavson, guitar]; Kyle and Danny Cooper were juniors, and Dan was a senior so we waited until that summer to start touring. We went and did our first CD – our full-length, In Vogue – during their Christmas break, and then Dan finished out high school because he was a senior, and Kyle and Danny Cooper just stopped going, I guess, for their senior year. But Danny Cooper went back to finish high school; he took off from touring for a little bit, and we had another drummer. And Kyle has still not graduated from high school, but that’s about it. We just waited a little bit and started touring.
Weren’t there lineup changes due to conflicts with some of the members’ schedules and schooling for your tours?
Well, we had Danny Cooper, the drummer, like I said, went back to school. We had a fill-in drummer, I guess, for a little when he was back in school, but now he’s back. Then Dan also went back to school for a little. He went to college. He graduated, but then he went to college for a year…but now he’s back also so it’s the original line-up from In Vogue.
Did you guys find it difficult? Did it kind of throw you off at times?
Well, it’s mostly Kyle, our guitarist, is the main writer. It was different because everyone adds their own stuff of course, but we got through it. We couldn’t find a guitarist or a drummer that we were comfortable with, which is why they’re back because we just kept going through different people. So it’s nice to have the original line-up back.
A few months ago, your latest album Worse Than A Fairy Tale came out, and that’s a concept album about a fictional series of murders that you guys call “The Saylor Lake Murders.”
So why did you guys decide to base an album on this?
That was our singer, Danny Stillman. It was just his concept that he came up with, and then we just kind of worked off that. It was all his idea, like the concept and everything, and all the lyrics are his, but we just tried to make the music kind of go along with it, like how it was dark and kind of chaotic; just make the music to that, but it was mostly just him making it all up.
It’s cool because people kind of think it’s real sometimes. People who aren’t from Colorado think that Saylor Lake, Colorado, is real and it’s a true story. It’s cool. [Laughs]
Did you anticipate that fans would be confused about that and not sure if it was real or not?
We thought that that might happen. It’s cool that some kids do think that. All the murders have been revealed on worsethanafairytale.com now so kids can figure it out. It was fun. It was cool to get that into more than just writing the music of the CD, and have all that other stuff to do with it.
So is each song on the album about a different murder?
Can you just talk about that a little?
Yeah, well, it’s our singer again. Each song is a different murder, but on the website, it explains and shows pictures of the murders, like what it looked like and all this stuff. Pretty much, each song just describes the murder, like what the killer was doing and what he was thinking. It’s not in any specific order really, but each track is a different murder.
Do you think you’ll make concept albums in the future?
Yes, we’re actually planning on doing a concept album for our next album also.
Oh, really? Do you have a concept?
It’s probably going to be a prequel to this one sort of. It’s not for sure yet. We’re just kind of throwing ideas around, but we’re thinking of going back to before all the killings happened and what made the killer the way he is.
Okay, that’s interesting. And you wrote the last album between tours so are you planning on that writing pace again?
We’re actually writing already for the next record. We like to get records out quick. Worse Than A Fairy Tale was our second record in a year and a half, and then we also had our EP out before that in the same year and a half, so we’re writing right now. We’re going out on the Haste the Day / Scary Kids Scaring Kids tour next, and then we’re coming back and writing some more. We’re hopefully going to be in the studio as soon as we can.
Ross Robinson kind of discovered the band and brought you guys over to Suretone so what was it like working with him on this latest album?
It was interesting. There was some tension actually now with him. Musically, he’s really great… It’s just personal conflicts with the band. I don’t want to get really into it, but all the music he’s done is awesome; it’s just some personal things that happened while we were doing the record that, you know, created tension.
Was it that the label was trying to steer you guys one way musically?
Oh no, our label was awesome. Interscope never tries to take creative control of bands. They let us do exactly what we wanted. Worse Than A Fairy Tale is a lot different from our previous style, and they just let us do whatever we want, which was really cool of them.
So would you work with Ross Robinson again, or is that something that wouldn’t happen?
We don’t have any plans to. I don’t think that we would, but maybe someday, but probably not. Probably not.
And this year, you guys got to play some big-name festivals like Warped Tour and the Australian leg of Taste of Chaos. So what are the most striking differences for you guys between playing just Drop Dead, Gorgeous shows and playing at festivals?
Well, our shows are a lot more personable. Festival shows are fun because it’s fun to play in front of a ton of people. It was with The Used and Rise Against out in Australia so there were huge venues with a ton of people, and those shows are fun. But our shows –the smaller, interactive shows – are a lot of fun too just because the kids are right there, they’re all singing along with you, and you can see them. It’s fun. It’s fun doing shows like that. I kind of like that more almost.
Did you find that a lot of fans made it out to your shows or were you attracting a lot of new people who had never heard you before?
For Taste of Chaos?
Yeah, Taste of Chaos or Warped Tour.
Well, Warped Tour, I think there were more of our fans. I’m sure there were new people hearing us too who would walk by, but Warped Tour was a lot of fun. There were a lot of kids everyday. It was a blast.
Then Taste of Chaos was a little different, I think, because it was in Australia, and that was our first time there. We haven’t had much marketing or anything out there so it was a lot more for the other bands, but that’s good because it gets our band out there and our name out, and it was fun playing for new people. All the shows were super positive, and all the feedback was great when we were out there. It was a lot of fun.
You guys used to be restricted in your touring because of members still being in school, but this past year you’ve been on a lot of tours. Have you found that it’s more tiring than you thought it would be or are you just happy to be out there now?
I think it was more tiring when we first started and we weren’t doing it all the time just because we weren’t used to it; we weren’t used to being away from home and away from our girlfriends. Now, it’s more like the way we live just because we’re used to it, but it’s not as hard. It’s not as tiring, and we’ve been doing it in a bus, which is a lot more relaxing.
At first, it was hard on everyone. We weren’t making any money. We were in an eight-passenger conversion van with no air conditioning touring in the summer. I remember one night we were driving from LA to Phoenix I think it was, and it was like one in the morning, we were in the desert, and it was like 105 at night, at night. So that was not very much fun with no air conditioning.