If I’m being totally honest, I think this was the early start of me taking interviews just to get paid. Nothing against Four Year Strong at all, they’re a fine band and they make good music. The reality is, however, that I really didn’t care much about them at the time. It wasn’t a matter of “Do you want to speak to this band you really like?” It was more a case of “Hey, do you want some money for a little bit of writing?” The answer was yes, yes I did. Hell, I still do. So, if you’re not reprehensible and you can hold a polite conversation about your music for 15 minutes, let’s talk!
I’ll be honest here, I had very little recollection of this interview. I can’t give you much insight on this one, but for a 21-year-old writer still figuring everything out, this isn’t half bad looking back at it.
The tour may be over, but Four Year Strong’s Alan Day is still buzzing from the success of their most recent U.S. headliner. “Man, it was a great response,” he says as he relaxes at his house. “Especially for the new songs. It was really cool, a tonne of fun for us. We’ve been playing the same songs for so long, so any time we get the opportunity to play something new, it’s always a lot of fun for us.”
The new material in question is the band’s fourth studio album, In Some Way, Shape or Form, which dropped in November just eighteen months after their previous record, Enemy of the World. The close proximity might suggest the band pushing themselves too hard or forcing themselves to a deadline, but Day wants to make it clear that the circumstances surrounding In Some Way were as natural as any of their other records.
“I think we were just excited to release more material,” he says. “That’s half the fun of being in a band – the creativity; and the ability to create something. I think all of us were dying to get back into the studio to make this record. We had so much fun making the last one; and we did wait a long time between our second and our third records. We didn’t want to wait two-and-a-half years again. We went with our gut and just made it.”
The sound of In Some Way, whilst retaining many of the core aspects that defined the band’s sound to begin with, certainly veers away from what many fans of the band have been used to. The alternative rock flavour of the album, as well as the straight-forward guitar-pop of songs like single “Just Drive,” has certainly divided listeners and perhaps generated more discussion than any FYS record before it. As Alan himself points out, though, the band felt they needed to make this record for themselves more than anybody else.
“It would be cheating ourselves – and cheating the fans – if we just kept doing the same thing over and over,” Day reasons. “We always like to challenge ourselves as songwriters. The goal is to always better ourselves. I think that we took a lot of chances on this record, and we tried a lot of things. We had a lot of fun doing it. I think the record came out great – I wouldn’t change anything.”
As one of the band’s core songwriters alongside fellow vocalist/guitarist Dan O’Connor, Day believes that the songwriting processes behind each of their records up to now were products of their environment – “When we were making the first record, we were listening to this music; and the second album we were listening to that music,” he says. Rather than what was inspiring them at the time of this record, however, Day notes that “this was more influenced by what got us to play music to begin with.” He elaborates by discussing his upbringing, and the music that lured him into playing guitar in the first place.
“When I was growing up, my dad was playing a lot of blues and The Beatles, Led Zeppelin – stuff like that,” Day recalls. “That lead me onto a lot of rock music, and by the time I was buying my own CDs I was buying stuff like Nirvana, Green Day and the Offspring, y’know? We knew we couldn’t make it sound exactly like that kind of stuff, but that’s not what it was about. It was about taking our inspirations and twisting it into something new.”
This discussion naturally leads to finding out what Day’s first musical purchase ever was. “I actually do remember the first CD I bought on my own, he says with a laugh. “It was…” – at this point, Day is audibly heard cringing – “…Blues Traveller. Not that cool of a first purchase, I know.” Although the naff blues-rock group are practically nowhere to be heard within the music of Four Year Strong, it goes to show that the paths towards becoming a musician, genre regardless, can always begin in the strangest of places.
Four Year Strong are now gearing up for another return to Australian shores as a part of the Soundwave Festival. Certainly, every international touring act talks about how much they love visiting down under, but few artists actually come across as though they truly mean it in the way that Alan does. “We are always treated so well whenever we come down there,” he enthuses. “The first time we came down there was amazing. It was just a small headlining thing – two to three hundred capacity rooms – and they all did really well. We were all just amazed that we could go to the complete opposite side of the world and actually have people there to see us.”
The excitement is palpable within the Four Year Strong camp, and certainly they’ll have a huge slew of fans, both old and new, checking them out come festival time. One last thing, though – if they could play with any other band on the bill, who would they want to share the stage with. “Oh, man, put us on a show with System of a Down!” laughs Day. “We love the music – and we’d love the challenge!”