For most teens fresh out of high school, their first steps usually include enjoying their impending summer vacations and then heading into the workforce or continuing on to higher education. But the members of The Dangerous Summer quickly realized that they weren’t like “most teens.” Three-fifths of the melodic indie rock act are graduates from the Class of 2007, and aren’t even legal adults, but these decidedly young professional musicians haven’t let their ages dissuade them from pursuing their dreams in making a living — and a difference — from their passion and artistry via the release of their Hopeless debut, If You Could Only Keep Me Alive.
Yet that’s been the Maryland-based band’s modus operandi from the beginning — AJ Perdomo, Cody Payne, Bryan Czap and Tyler Minsberg have all been staking their own claims and following through with any plans they’d devise. And though the band’s just completed its first year together, the history these members share run far deeper, allowing them to explore musical boundaries that are significantly further from the typical startup project.
“We’d been in bands since early in high school,” says founder Payne, who had later moved to Florida. “Florida wasn’t working out and I wanted to come back and start something that I was competent in. It was pretty much me just looking for something to do.”
Armed with a fresh-baked batch of material he’d penned in the Sunshine State, Payne quickly assembled his new band The Dangerous Summer (taken from a classic Hemingway novel) with longtime friends Perdomo, Minsberg and Czap. And this time, unlike the project he’d been a part of in the past, Payne arrived with a concrete plan. “I just wanted to make something more mature and mainstream, that wasn’t trendy,” he says. “Something that could appeal to a bigger audience.”
In an effort to broaden the band’s reach, Payne and company melded its influences, including the popular ‘90s-era radio-darlings — including Third Eye Blind and U2 — and contemporary bands of the indie scene (Name Taken, The Starting Line). “We were looking at creating more catchy, timeless music,” he says.
With both its sound and songs tightened for stage delivery, The Dangerous Summer began performing locally. “The scene’s really strong,” Payne says of their Maryland-area hometown. “Everyone goes to the same shows, it’s really benefited us. All we had to do is work our way in.”
After just a few local gigs, The Dangerous Summer quickly headed out of the state, performing in larger venues throughout the Northeast with bands like Cartel, All Time Low, The Ataris, and Hit The Lights. “We knew that if we wanted it to be successful, we had to do it professionally and do it 100 percent,” Payne says. The band was supporting its self-released debut EP, There Is No Such Thing As Science, which featured four songs that eventually found its way to Hopeless via friends All Time Low. The band — and primary lyricist Perdomo in particular — spent long days and nights arranging its material and lyrics, even up to the point of being in the studio. “Everything pulled together in the end, finally,” Perdomo recalls. “We were so stressed out.”
Content with There Is No Such Thing As Science and hoping to showcase its material to a larger audience, The Dangerous Summer decided against the re-recording of its earlier material, instead opting to add new tracks to its EP, which had now been rechristened If You Could Only Keep Me Alive. “The new songs are pretty different from the original four,” says Payne, “but they complement them quite well.”
The release launches with the progressive, powerful building of “I Would Stay,” of which Perdomo tags “a screwy love song.” The EP quickly meanders through newer tracks, including “Wake Up” and “Disconnect.”
“That’s about deciding to be in a band and go that route,” says Perdomo of “Disconnect.” “Before the band, I was planning to go to college and all that, but it’s just totally changed from where I was.”
The ever-hustling, melody-driven “The Permanent Rain” is about a death close to Perdomo. “People have said it really means a lot to them when they listen to that song,” he says.
“We just want to push the EP as much as we can so we can generate a good following,” says Payne, which will be aided and abetted this summer by the band’s first stint on the Vans Warped Tour where it will have an excellent chance of expanding its rapidly swelling fanbase.
And reaching out to its audience is something the members of The Dangerous Summer have made into a personal mission. “It’s cool the way people have perceived my lyrics,” says Perdomo. “I got a lot of great response. People are relating to my lyrics. Going to shows and people know the words and spreading that all around — we’re trying to make a career out of something that we love doing.”