First off, you're the only one in this project. Can you explain how you do it all on your own? (what you use, etc.)
For all of my self-recorded songs, I program in Logic Pro and Reason on a Mac Pro. I then record vocals and guitars in Pro Tools. I also recording some keys in Pro Tools with a Nord Lead 3, Moog Voyager, Moog Prodigy, a Fender Rhodes and some others. Now that I'm in the studio with producers, however, things are going on all over the place.
How did your interest in music done by your laptop come about, aside from forming a full band with other people?
I started programming music freshmen or sophomore year, I can't remember, in a Music Technology class at my High School. In that class I learned to use Fruity Loops and some other simple computer programs that make music. Most of the kids in it take it because it's easy, but I really started to like learning to make music on a computer. I bought Fruity Loops and started using it at home. I had been recording lots of songs by myself on a little Boss 16 track with just acoustic and electric guitars, and occasionally some VERY poorly recorded drums haha. I really was looking for a way to expand my music, and naturally, my new found skills in music programming started finding their way into my demos. I think the first song that had electronic sounds in it was called "Let It Shine." The first OFFICIAL PlayRadioPlay song was called "Jello."
How did being signed to Island/Stolen Transmissions happen?
I had been contacted by various record labels after my MySpace presence started to grow out of control. After flying out to New York to meet with some of the interested labels, it became pretty clear that Island was the only one that really had their stuff together. Other major record labels are in a bad spot right now. Island, however, is reaching a lot more kids with Fall Out Boy, The Killers, Thrice, The Bravery, all of those bands. The people that work there and the great job they're currently doing with other bands there are the reason they were the obvious choice. After signing with Island, we decided to release an EP through an Island sub label called Stolen Transmission. So that's how the EP came about.
Your new EP The Frequency is going to be out next week. How different is this going to be from your full length? (producing and mastering wise)
The Frequency EP was all recorded by me at my house. The full length is being recorded with Garret Lee (U2, Snow Patrol, Block Party, The Hives) and Lester Mendez (Santana, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira). That's a pretty big difference to start with haha. First of all, the songs are easier to follow. One of my main weaknesses as a song writer is laying out songs. I tend to make parts too long or too short, or go off on tangents. And both Garret and Lester helped me lay things out better so that the song stays interesting and fresh. Second, the production is a lot better. Obviously, working with producers of this caliber is never going to produce a bad sounding record, but I'm very picky about how things sound. So now that I have huge studios full of amazing equipment at my disposal, I've definitely sought after new and better sounds than the ones I get at my home studio. Lastly, there's a lot more instrumentation going on. I really got to explore lots of things I hadn't done before. Analog synths, glockenspiels, tons of stuff.
As far as the songs in general, people will be glad to know I haven't started writing rambling angry songs about how much I hate the music industry and the limelight quite yet haha. I'm writing about things that are close to me and people that like my music right now will find the song writing style still personal and familiar. People that DON'T like my music right now will find in this record that I'm not trying to sound like the Postal Service. Those references will be gone when they hear this record. It has it's own sound, and it's extremely diverse.
Also, this record is unique in the way that it flows. There's not a single strip of silence on the record. Every song goes somewhere that transitions into the next song, but not in a way that gets boring or tedious to listen to. It flows. It's a record that you listen to every song on without pressing the forward or back button. You can get lost in it. I don't like on records when there's 4 seconds of silence between two 3 and a half minute songs. Sometimes it really kills the buzz that listening to a great record gives you. This record is one piece of art, not 12 separate ones.
Do you have any future tour plans to support the EP?
Yes, I'm touring for almost 7 weeks starting April 27th. A few dates with Anberlin, Daphne Loves Derbie, and Jonezetta. A bunch of dates with Under The Influence of Giants and Young Love. Some warped tour dates. And even Cornerstone Florida and Bamboozle.
For people who haven't seen you live, what are the shows like? Do you have a full band or what?
Well the new live show is very different from any touring I've done in the past, so really no one has seen PRP the way that it's going to be on this upcoming tour. I'll have anywhere from 4 - 6 people in my backing band at a time. A drummer, a bassist, a guitarist (or two), and a keyboardist (for some of the tour). I'll also be playing some electric and acoustic guitar, maybe some keys, some glockenspiel, some handbells, etc. It's going to be an awesome experience. All of the people in the PRP live band, and me, can play multiple instruments, so we're looking forward to being all over the place and never sticking to one instrument for too long. Everyone in a band wants to play glock for a song or two right?? The live show will have a similar concept to the full length record. One piece of music. No awkward silent water breaks while the guitarist tunes. We'll be dancing during those.
You shot your music video for "Confines" a little while ago. What was the experience like shooting your first music video, and when can we plan on seeing it?
It was very cold haha. 0 degrees up in Vermont. I can't say it was the most pleasant experience, but it was still fun. It should be coming out next week.
How far along are you with your debut full length?
I have about 10 songs done. I'm planning on self producing 2 or 3, and I'm going back in the studio in July to do the rest.
How many of the tracks on the new record will be completely new songs, and how many will be re-done versions of old ones?
There will only be about 4 songs in the record that people have heard, and they're all the ones that kids wish were on the EP. Madi, Pirate, Decipher, etc. They've taken on new life and are going to blow people away whenever they're released. Hopefully sooner than later.
What's your favorite song you've ever written/recorded and why?
A few of my newest ones are probably my favorites. I have one called "Marla Singer Doesn't Take Standardized Tests" that I had a great time making. It's only a demo so far, and it's not recorded yet, so hopefully that will be one of the ones I self produce. It's like what you might expect if Thom Yorke and Billy Corgan did a diddy together, minus the amazingness. But still, it's pretty cool.
When can we expect the new full length to be out?
Early 2008, January or February.
Before you were signed, you didn't play that many shows outside your hometown. How are you preparing to go out on tour across the country for weeks and weeks after the release of your new album?
Yeah, the only touring I did before I signed outside of Texas was with Danger Radio and The Scene Aesthetic, which was from Georgia all the way to Arizona. It's definitely going to be different this time around. That first tour, I just hopped in TSA's van with my laptop and played shows by myself. This time, I'm hauling around in an old school RV with the live band and playing bigger shows with a much more interesting live performance.
What kind of things inspire the lyrics when you're writing music?
Experiences. Anything from my girlfriend Madi, to skipping school, to the death of my father and the drug addiction that followed. The full length album is more of the latter. All the new songs I've been writing have been more about my darker past and how I overcame it. So even the darker themes take on a brighter exterior that's more retrospective than sulking.
You're still a senior in high school, so how does recording full time and juggling school work out?
I graduated early, so I no longer have to worry about school! Thankfully. For a while though I was playing shows and traveling every weekend. It was exhausting.
Did you ever expect PlayRadioPlay to be as big as it's gotten as of now?
Never in my wildest dreams. I was always planning on going to a 4 year college after high school. I actually still had those plans until the day I signed my record deal half way through my Senior year. I'd love to go to college one day, but I want to go because I WANT to learn, not because I HAVE to go just to have a decent job. It would be awesome to study history or philosophy.
How has signing to a major label as apposed to an indie affect on what you're able to do music wise?
Majors definitely have their flaws, but it's a trade-off. It's funny to me how everyone thinks that major labels are these evil corporations. But when you ask them WHY they think that, they don't know. What they should tell you is that 9 out of 10 new bands that come out on a major label these days never even pay back their recording expenses. I think that's been happening because labels have been signing bands that kids don't want to listen to. Some majors are so far out of the loop in knowing what people want to hear.
I definitely think PlayRadioPlay is an exception, which is why major labels were so attracted to me. I had already proven that kids want to hear my music before they even came knocking on my door. So from an investment standpoint, it's easier for a record label to sign a band that they know kids like than trying to guess. That's the reason so many of the successful bands on majors start out on indie labels. If they do well on an indie, than they might do well on a major. Bands these days either have to prove themselves by signing to an indie and being successful, or they have to take their 1 in 10 percent chances in a label making them successful. I feel like I've proved myself in a different way, earning a huge fan base online.
What's been the main highlight in your life so far from when you were signed to right now?
Two things. First, reaching kids. It's been awesome to have so many kids tell me that my positive message has inspired them and gotten them through tough times. I remember a few years ago when I wasn't in a good place emotionally, the bands I listened to kept me sane. I'm glad that I can be that outlet for kids. I'm also glad I can be a source of danceable music for others haha. The second highlight from signing is traveling. I've been to London, Los Angeles, New York, all around the south. Soon I'll be touring all around the US. It's an amazing feeling to know you'll wake up in a different city every day, and I'm ready for it.
What's the story behind you and Luis of The Secret Handshake? Why all the hate from him towards you?
I don't know really. It's weird, because since I've posted in my blog about the whole situation, a few kids have came out and told me they've talked to Luis. Some people talked to him before the incident, some after. I hear from some kids that talk to him on the road or on the internet that he really doesn't like me simply because he thinks his music is superior to mine, or he's said "Let's just say, I've been doing this longer than he has." Or things like that. Other kids tell me that when they ask him about it, he'll act like "Dan just says that I said that stuff so people will hate me :(" trying to get sympathy and trying to not look like the bad guy. It's just a bummer I guess. Some people are like that, oh well. If people want the full story they can read it in my blog.
You seem like you're really cool over negative comments about your music. Does it really not affect you at all, or does it bother you somewhat? What's the real response you have towards people saying things on how you're a sell out, or you only signed to a label for the money?
It affected me more in the past than it does now. Obviously, people have their own taste in music, and some get caught up in spending time hating on the bands they don't like rather than supporting the bands they do like. You can't say someone is wrong when they don't like your band, you just have to handle it respectably and not give them any other reason to hate you, like telling them they're an idiot if they don't like your music, haha, which some bands do! I've found that the best way to handle people that hate you is to show them some respect and understanding for their opinion. When kids message me on MySpace and say "yOu'Re a ****!!11" or "your music is really gay" I simply respond "Sorry you don't like it dude :)". What else can you do?
As far as people that think I'm a sellout, it's the normal situation where people want to have a little local band in their back pocket forever. Ideally, your first fans would all want to see you succeed and reach your goals and do bigger and better things. But it's natural for people to feel ownership over a band that they found first. I'm trying to stay loyal to fans by still talking to them on MySpace, and staying late at all of my tour dates to meet every kid that's willing to stick around, and even go get iHop and stuff with some of them haha. So people shouldn't think I'm out of reach by any means.
I don't know what to say about people thinking I only did it for the money. I could say "I play music because I love it! Not for the money!", which is completely true, but so many artists abuse that phrase and it's become a cliche. I guess the only thing I can say to that is, I'm NOT making any money! Haha. Bands don't make money like they used to, which is why touring and publishing are important just to keep the boat floating. If you ever see me on Cribs with a Lambo or a Ferrari, or a gold plated shark tank bar, or a pool full of gold coins, THEN you can tell me I only did it for the money, but I assure you that won't happen.
Those are all the questions I got, thanks for your time. Any last words for the AP readers?
Words for the AP readers? Hmm... How about this: Use all of that energy you use to hate on bands to support the ones you love! We all liked Blink 182 back in junior high... right...? But seriously, thanks to everyone that read this far. God Bless, and I love you!
I read it. Pretty good interview. I'd really like to hear this new full length - he made it sound pretty amazing and I'm pretty interested in hearing how he broke away from the "Postal Service" sound. I made a comment on that (here on AP) with an exact comparison of two songs... No one ever responded. I'm really hoping he did break away from it and do a 'totally unique' record. I never said he wasn't talented, I just said all he has proven to me was that he can knock off Postal Service. I'd like to see where this new Full Length goes, I'm hoping for great things.
In my opinion Dan has the best attitude towards his popularity I have ever seen. I love how he uses his talents to reach out to kids and talk about issues that everyone has a problem with in a positive light. I've been listening forever and i still love this stuff.
you are an inspiration, to hold on, to know there are better things than the current situation. so glad that the pre-order has sold out, i pray blessings upon you, and have some wicked fun at the cd release show.