Interview with Dan O’Connor and Josh Lyford of Four Year Strong: It Definitely Doesn’t Suck To Be Four Year Strong Right Now

A lot of walking had to happen before speaking with guitarist and vocalist Dan O’Connor and keyboardist Josh Lyford—well, for them anyway. Amidst their current touring schedule for pop punk/hardcore band Four Year Strong, today was a day for filming the video for their next single “Wasting Time (Eternal Summer).”

Their upcoming release, Enemy Of The World, comes after the momentum built since their previous album, Rise Or Die Trying, and last year’s ‘90s cover album, Explains It All. After a journey to a quiet niche apart from band mates, vocalist and guitarist Alan Day, bassist Joe Weiss and drummer Jake Massucco, O’Connor and Lyford were set to talk about the new record and give their secret to choosing perfect song names.

Your first single is titled ‘It Must Really Suck To Be Four Year Strong Right Now.’ So I have to ask, why does it suck to be you guys right now?

O’Connor: Well, for many reasons. (laughs) The song title actually, AP Magazine did a review of the new Set Your Goals record, they’re friends of ours, and at the bottom of their review it said, ‘It must really suck to be Four Year Strong right now.’ So we had to name a song out of that.

Well then if it sucks to be you guys, what band would you want to trade places with?

O’Connor: I don’t know. That’s a really hard question. Maybe the Rolling Stones…

Lyford: But then you’d be really old.

O’Connor: Yea, you would be really old. Maybe a band that was really cool back in the day and broke up and they could return now in a really big way, maybe like The Smiths.

That song, along with ‘Cavalier,’ is available as a 7” at your shows which offers a download of the new album for really cheap. Was this to deter illegal downloading? What was the reasoning behind it?

O’Connor: We just like to get our records out to as many people as possible. If it’s an expensive record, yea, people are more likely to go ahead and download it, but I mean, there’s cool artwork on it to look at also. So we realized, let’s put it out there, but we wanted to go as cheap as possible.

Lyford: The more people the record can get out there to, the more they can hear it and get into it. It’s a kind of win-win situation.

You had Ken Kelly (Kiss, Manowar) design the album’s cover. How did you guys come about having him do it?

O’Connor: We had this idea of what we wanted to do for the cover for a really long time. When it came down to, ‘All right, let’s actually get a name,’ we listed the 10 people we wanted to do it and we had our top three choices, Ken Kelly being one of them. He was just like, ‘Yea, let’s do it, I’m stoked on it.’ All the stars aligned and he did a great job on it.

How would you sum up the sound of the new album for us?

O’Connor: I think what we tried to do here is, we know what FYS is and we know what kind of band we are and we’re not going to randomly change it for no reason. We wanted to, on this record, get better at songwriting, really make cohesive songs. I think on Rise Or Die Trying, one of the things was we really concentrated on writing really cool parts followed by other really cool parts. On this record, we concentrated on having like one cohesive song from start to finish that really sounded like it belonged together.

Besides the songwriting, were you trying anything new musically?

Lyford: We jammed together a lot more on this one. Like we played together and two seconds later if we wanted to, we’d just track something.

O’Connor: We did a lot of writing in the studio, which is really cool and different for us because normally we write and then we go to the studio like, ‘Here’s what we have so far.’ But while we were writing, we got influenced by everybody and then recorded stuff right away and then listened back to it and be like, ‘It would be so cool if we did this.’ It was probably a different way of writing and it was also really awesome at the end of the day to have a song that you could go and listen to it.

You had the Machine produce this album. Why did you decide to work with him again?

O’Connor: Because the Machine’s awesome.

Lyford: He’s wonderful to work with. You’ll see him bouncing off the walls, screaming at anything and being a maniac.

O’Connor: Recording vocals with him is extremely fun because he yells at you and gets all in your face and it’s just like a crazy, intense moment while we were recording vocals. Working with Machine, it came so naturally with Explains It All, we were just like, ‘Why fight it, might as well just go back with him for our actual record.’

Were there any horror stories that happened during the recording session with him since he likes yelling?

O’Connor: Not really, I mean, he almost burned the place down a couple times because he tried making these ping pong shooters that we saw in. You take a tube from a paper towel and fill it up with hair spray and ping pong balls and light the other end with a match. It got pretty extreme at times. I mean all together everything was pretty chill, nobody got hurt, and everybody got along well.

Did you think about another producer?

O’Connor: I mean we thought about all our options, but we didn’t want to dive into something that we weren’t fully stoked on it. It just ended up working out so well with the Machine, especially because it was so close to where we were.

Lyford: Plus he has one of the coolest nicknames of all time.

Do you guys have nicknames for each other?

Lyford: Cowbell.

O’Connor: Yea, that’s Alan. Do you have any names for me, Josh?

Lyford: Baby.

O’Connor: Yea, he calls me Baby sometimes. (laughs)

What’s the meaning behind the new album’s title?

O’Connor: We chose Enemy Of The World because one of the songs is ‘Enemy Of The World.’ A lot of the subject matter in the lyrics is about the past couple of years when we started to tour and get involved in the music industry and get this feeling that the world is against you sometimes. That’s what a lot of the lyrics on the record are about.

Lyford: It seemed like a really fitting title for the record as to, you look at the cover art and the title Enemy Of The World —the cover art is so hilarious. You look at Alan as Pegasus and think Enemy Of The World is just kind of like…

O’Connor: An oxymoron?

Lyford: Yea, with Jake flying with butterfly wings and a banana hammock to battle the world.

How do your songs titles relate to the song’s meaning? You have some pretty interesting titles here.

O’Connor: Some of them relate well. Some songs, like ‘Enemy Of The World’ is one of our songs that that’s exactly what the lyrics are about. Then we have some songs that are just funny things. Funny story about how we named all the songs on the album was we were in Finland on tour and we’re all sitting in the back lounge of the tour bus; all power was off, so we’re just sitting in the dark and Alan got a call from our manager that said, ‘We need all the song titles like now.’ So we sat in the dark, in Finland, and came up with the names of all of the songs on the record in about five minutes. That’s what makes them so funny is that we literally had no thought put into them whatsoever. It was kind of like the first thing that came to mind when we talked about the song.

Lyford: Like, ‘That’s hilarious! Write it down!’

O’Connor: Yea, because typical Four Year Strong fashion is we wait till the last minute and then do things like with the least amount of thought and they’ll probably end up being pretty funny.

What song on the album do you feel really stands out?

O’Connor: There’s a song on the record called ‘Find My Way Back.’ It’s a cool song especially on this record because it’s really a step forward for us in songwriting. That song, lyrically, it’s a stand out track because it sums up from Rise Or Die Trying to Enemy Of The World just how I and Alan and everybody felt.

I heard about your recent performance down in Philadelphia where you had to wing an acoustic set outside because a fire alarm was pulled at the venue.

O’Connor: We’ve never had a show shut down and then to actually do something like that for the kids, which was really, really cool, I had a fun time at that show because it ended up turning a really strange situation into a really cool situation for the kids. I know I’ll remember it for a long time and I’m sure they will too.

You guys seem to try and go above and beyond for fans then?

O’Connor: They go above and beyond for us and supporting us in what we’ve always wanted to do. You know, not everybody gets to do the thing that they set out to do when they were in junior high school. Anything we can give to them I think is not only our responsibility but like our duty to those kids who are out there.

Lyford: I like to feel that we earned fans. Every person that comes to the show I feel like we try to have a connection.

Enemy Of The World is out in March. Catch FYS at the Gramercy Theatre in NYC on Feb. 12. For more,