Throughout the last couple of months, there has been more activity in the Four Year Strong camp than ever before. Disheartened from the excessive amounts of criticism the band received from their 2011 full-length effort, In Some Way, Shape Or Form, due to its lack of momentum, the Worcester, Massachusetts-based pop punk quartet have taken the time to reevaluate their priorities by bringing back their highly praised energetic sound through the release of their forthcoming Pure Noise Records debut, Go Down In History. Before they geared up for the Vans Warped Tour this summer, I had the opportunity to talk to guitarist and lead vocalist Alan Day about the band’s excitement to share their new material as they hit the road once again.
What are you guys going to be looking forward to the most about playing Warped Tour?
Well, we’re definitely looking forward to just playing the shows because we haven’t really been touring all that much lately, and we’re really getting excited to get back on the road, especially because we just released a new song and we got a new EP coming out. We really can’t wait for the fans to hear the new songs live and to play them, so there’s a lot of excitement in the Four Year Strong camp.
You have a lot of friends and former tour mates joining on you on the road for Warped Tour. Who are some other bands and performers that you guys are going to be looking forward to checking out this summer?
I can’t wait to see Every Time I Die because every year that we’ve done Warped Tour, they’ve also done it as well, and we’ve done some other tours with them and they are some of the best dudes ever and they fucking rip live, so they’re really fun to watch.
Since you guys have played Warped before, what do you think this year will be like compared to the other years in the past?
This will be our fourth year playing the Warped Tour and what makes it different for us this time around is definitely us having new material out. And with the new material, there is a different attitude that comes with the band. Like, we’re really inspired like the way used to be when we were on our first couple of records, like Rise Or Die Trying or Enemy Of The World, you know? We’re really psyched to have that energy live again because we took enough time off.
In past years, you know, I feel like we were a little burnt out, and maybe it was becoming more of a job and things like that. I know fans don’t really like to hear that stuff, but that’s life.
Recently, you guys announced that you signed to Pure Noise Records. What was your relationship with the label and what made you want you put out this new release with them?
Honestly, it was through a lot of mutual friends. We have talked to a few labels here and there about putting stuff out and then we thought about doing it on our own and you know, whatever; a lot of ideas went through. But we ended up talking to Jake Round [founder of Pure Noise Records] and he had a lot of cool ideas. Then, we ended up talking about it with a lot of our friends and everyone only had great things to say about Jake, his label and how he runs his business, and it’s been great because every interaction that I’ve had with working together with him has been amazing. He seems like he runs a really cool label, so we’re just happy to be a part of it.
Do you think working with Jake and Pure Noise definitely gave your band enough control to write natural sounding material with more of a DIY type of approach?
Yeah, absolutely. That’s kind of how he runs his label for us, anyway. He kind of just said, “What do you guys want to do? Because I’ll make it happen.” Which is perfect for us because we don’t like doing things that we don’t like to do.
What is the inspiration behind the name Go Down In History? Would you say that this title suggests that you guys have reevaluated yourselves and are ready to embark on a new chapter in your lives from a musical standpoint?
Absolutely. Musically and creatively, we had this realization where we knew what we needed to do, you know? When we first started as a band, the difference between then and now was back then, we were just doing exactly what we wanted because no one had heard of us before, so instead of trying to please of everyone, we were just doing what we thought was cool.
And then as time went on, we were learning that people liked what we did and we did what they didn’t like, so we were going through different directions to keep our fans happy. And then, we put out our last record [In Some Way, Shape Or Form] and we kind of went even further with that and did what we thought our fans would like, but in a kind of new way.
It was a little disheartening for us when it turned out that a lot people didn’t really like that record. But I think in a way, we kind of realized at that point, there were some elements that we’ve lost making that last record that we needed to get back. And a huge part of that was just the fun and the energy that was in our older records, and when decided to write for this new album, or this new EP or whatever, that we really needed to like, really focus on the live energy.
That’s what we did in the past. We didn’t think about what will it sound like with these studio tricks and this and that, and people popping a CD into a car or hearing it on the radio. What we would always think about was, “What will this be like live? Are kids going to be singing along to this? Are kids going to be jumping around? Are kids going to go fucking crazy?” So that’s what we always thought about a lot in making this most recent EP. I definitely think that this is a new chapter and a new version of Four Year Strong.
When Four Year Strong put out In Some Way, you wanted to give your fans something completely different in a new sounding way. Was there a lot of momentum into putting together this record? Was the writing process a lot more experimental compared to your past material?
It was probably experimental in way. Like, we knew we were throwing curveballs, but at the time I think we kind of had blinders up and we were kind of sick of doing the same-old-same-old, so we wanted to do something new and in our eyes, we sincerely did think we were doing things that our fans would like. Like, we thought of the elements that people liked about Four Year Strong; the heavy guitars, catchy melodies, fast songs and things like that. We were thinking about it very simple, you know, and we tried to incorporate all of those elements into a new way of writing songs because we actually wrote songs differently.
Like, we had a different approach and kind of experimented with our writing style. We were writing in the studio as opposed to writing on the road or writing at home and having band practice and really playing something live. We definitely hoped that our fans would attach to the album the way we did. Of course, things didn’t really go that way, but it kind of made us realize what we should be doing. We didn’t really want to go too far backwards and make something that sounded like our old music, like on our first record, because I am sure people say things all of the time like, “You should make it sound like Rise Or Die Trying,” but I know in my heart if we did do that, people would just say, “Oh, it just sounds like the worst version of Rise Or Die Trying, so I am not going to listen to that. I am just going to listen to the good one.”
To me, it’s not fun to go all the way backwards to just do something that doesn’t feel natural just because the fans want it, you know? It just doesn’t feel good to move backwards as an artist and as a business and all of that.
With that in mind, what has the reaction been like to your latest single, “Tread Lightly?”
Actually, we’ve only put it out online, so I can only read so many YouTube comments or whatever, but the reaction seems to be exactly what we hoped for. People are excited about this new version of Four Year Strong and it seems to be going well, especially compared to when we released the first single for In Some Way, Shape Or Form; the online reaction was very negative at first. I think since then, a lot of people have changed their minds and they like the songs [off of In Some Way], but regardless, the reaction instantly from the new track has been really good. I can’t wait to see how the crowds react to it live because we wrote it as a live song, you know?
Do you anticipate that Go Down In History will be a release that will put to rest all of the remarks and criticisms that have been made after you released In Some Way?
I don’t know if it will make it all completely disappear because it was very disappointing to put something out and have it just be a total shit show, but you know, like I said, I think since then, a lot of people have really turned around and can really appreciate that record, so it’s not like we’re pretending that chapter didn’t happen because we’re still playing songs from In Some Way live, and people still seem to love them live, which is great. If we start playing the [new] songs live, and people love it, I don’t [think] it necessarily makes everything else go away. And we’re kind of over it. We’re just so excited about the new music that whatever people thought about the last record, it just really isn’t in our minds anymore.
Four Year Strong will be playing on the Vans Warped Tour at PNC Bank Arts Center on July 6, Susquehanna Bank Center on July 11 and Nikon At Jones Beach Theater on July 12. Their new EP, Go Down In History, will be released July 22. For more information, go to fouryearstrongmusic.com.
(Photo by Patrick Moore)