We spoke with Alan Day (Four Year Strong) about his new project, The Here and Now, which is releasing an EP called Born To Make Believe, Part I via Black Numbers. The EP is available for name-your-own-price download right now. We talk about the writing and recording process for this side project, whether he'll be playing his upcoming tour dates solo or with a full band, and we get down to the details on the current state of Four Year Strong.
Tell me a bit about The Here and Now. When did you start writing these songs? Was it while Four Year Strong was on tour, or after the last record? Before that?
Kind of a bit of both, and more. I've been writing on the side for a long time now, just for fun. There's always stuff I want to write that Four Year Strong maybe...can't get away with. I've always done stuff on the side and this is just the first time since Four Year Strong started, really, that I had the time to pursue something like this. So yeah, when we were making the last Four Year Strong record, I definitely wrote a few songs that ended up being used for this. It's hard to say, because at this point in my life I've just been writing so often. I heard a quote, actually I don't know if it's a quote, but something that Tom Petty said once. And it was like, he's a songwriter, he wakes up in the morning and he writes songs. The more songs you write, the better chance you have of writing something great.
Have you been writing these for a while? How old are some of these songs? If it was a case where maybe you were doing Four Year stuff and then said, "Well this isn't something that's for us," and then pocketed the idea, some of them must be a little older.
Well, some of the stuff is a couple years older. Some of it I wrote two days before I wanted to go into the studio and record. There's actually a vast amount of time difference between the songs.
Are theses songs all you in terms of writing? Any other songwriters or collaborators?
No, all the writing was done my me. But I recorded it with Adam Rourke - he did some producing work on it, helped with the structure, ideas and things like that.
And in recording? All you, or any other studio musicians?
Adam played drums on the EP, and he did organ on one song. But I did all the other instruments on the songs, I did all the guitars, bass, vocals and some keyboard stuff. One other guy, Adam Mercer, he's from Fireworks, he did other keyboards on some of the songs.
The influences on this EP, I definitely hear some '90s alt-rock that was on the last Four Year Strong record, but also some Tom Petty who you just mentioned and Neil Young. Is that basically the gist here?
Oh yeah, absolutely. There are a lot more songs than just those five that will be coming out in the kinda-near future, there's more than those five. It spans pretty wide. On these five, I'd say that's pretty accurate, Petty and a like of '90s rock and grunge. I've been listening to The Beatles a lot too. It's kind of all over the place.
You announced some tour dates with What's Eating Gilbert, and this EP is called Born To Make Believe Part I...so can you tell us a bit about upcoming plans?
I recorded around 15 songs, most of them are all finished. The idea is to do a series of three EPs. There's no plan exactly on when the other EPs are coming out, but people should be looking out for that.
For this EP, Black Numbers put it up for name-your-own-price download on Bandcamp. Why go that route?
You can't expect too much out of people when it comes to buying music, it's just too easy to get it for free. So why not give into that and just be responsive to people wanting the music at all? If they want to help out and pay some money for it then that's great, because it helps me make more music or go on tour or make T-shirts or god knows what. But the idea is just to be able to let people get the music when they want it, and not ignore it because they don't want to pay the $5 to buy a record.
These tour dates coming up - are they just you alone or is it going to be with a full band?
These will be the first of the shows I've done with a full band.
Something else kids are wondering about, obviously, what's the state of Four Year Strong right now?
There's no real plans with Four Year Strong right now. Like...we are not breaking up, and that's what a lot of people seem to think. But, you know, just because we haven't been in your city three times this year already doesn't mean that we're not a band anymore. We've just been taking it easy for the first time in about five years. We've done 200-plus shows per year for so long that we just decided to take it easy for a bit. I'm sure things will pick up. We're going to the UK in May to do Slam Dunk Festival. There's no end in sight, really. We're just taking a...I don't wanna say we're taking a break, because people will think it's a hiatus. It's not even anything like that. We're all just hanging out.