All questions answered by Socratic vocalist/guitarist Duane F. Okun
Your last proper release, Spread the Rumors, came out in 2008 while you were still a part of Drive-Thru Records. Where did this record end up taking Socratic and how did the eventual crumbling of Drive-Thru play out on your end?
Spread the Rumors, we did demos for the record in a little cottage-y kind of place in Ohio. The first record, Lunch for the Sky, was a long record. A lot of the songs were pretty epic and grand, kind of what we were going for. Everybody was asking for something really short and really, not putting them down, a simple pop record. So we decided to turn to Mark Hoppus, we basically got back with him two days after sending it to Drive-Thru and he said he wanted to do it. We really only had the five songs that we demoed at that point. We had a bunch of songs written, but none of them were really worked out as a group together. He told us that we’d have to leave to go out to California in two weeks, so we wrote the rest of the record very quickly. Most of the music and basically everything on it [was written] a week before recording. Which was crazy, because with Lunch for the Sky we took a long time to write it and Spread the Rumors was the complete opposite of that. That was the last record we put out with Drive-Thru, a couple years ago at this point.
For us, I had been on the record label since I was about 18, so it’s pretty much been my whole career in the industry or playing music has basically been with Drive-Thru. And we put out Spread the Rumors, and for whatever reason, I’m not even 100% completely sure what happened, it fizzled out and nothing has really been released since then. We stopped touring, we really didn’t have anymore tours going on. We were still writing songs, we had songs and we just said ‘Screw it, we’re gonna write another record’ and just push on through. Even if we don’t have a label. That was how we started playing music in the first place. It was kind of hard because we said, ‘Well, what’s the point of doing this?’, we didn’t feel like there was any way it was going to get out. We were used to having people do that for us – A) Recording and B) the promotion of the record. We never had anything to do with that and Drive-Thru was doing that. So it was kind of scary, but at this point the music’s gotta speak for itself. It doesn’t matter what label it’s on or how people label it.
This year will see a rejuvenation of Socratic of sorts with the new record coming out. Is it a relief to put something out after such a span since Spread the Rumors?
Yeah. Completely man. All the other records, we had producers that would be in the studio with us and basically they would have like the final word. ‘I feel like this word should be this word, or this chord should be this chord.’ It would divide up the band, and then we’d get into a fight, and then the producer comes in. And at that point you kind of listen to your producer because he’s kind of like a mediator. This time around we didn’t have that, we just had ourselves, going crazy. Which it’s finally coming out with how long we’ve been writing and recording it. I feel like I can sleep a little easier. My mind can settle a little tiny bit that it had been.
What can you tell us about the details of the new album?
We recorded the record [at Soundwaves] in Union, New Jersey. I live in Linden, New Jersey, it’s like like the next town over. Tom [Stratton], our drummer, who has been working at the studio since we’ve had time off from touring, learned how to track and how to use ProTools and all of that. So we slowly started tracking, maybe about two years ago with him at the studio and he’s gotten better as we’ve been going along. This is the first recorded we’ve recorded with three different drummers. Tom, who has always been in Socratic, Mike Neglia, who is in a band called The Embracers, who are really good, and our friend Ryan Mcnulty, who is in a band called The Ugly Club, who are also another really good band. So that was kind of strange, putting three different drummers on one record. Our friend Chris Badami, he did a lot of Early November stuff and he’s from New Jersey. So a bunch of songs we did from recording and we gave them to him to mix, so we had a fresh set of ears. We could have someone make the recording sound a little different than we thought. It was a good thing, I’ve been friends with him since I was probably... fifteen. Everyone played different instruments – bass, guitar, percussion, drums – everybody for the most part played a little bit of something. Which is something we’d never done before. Since we had so much time on our hands, we experimented a little bit.
What about the title and tracklisting?
We came to a conclusion that just self-titling it would be good. I think that the sound, it kind of brings all the sounds we’ve ever done in one record. So we thought, just to keep it simple for everybody, just call it Socratic. Some of the songs are longer than others. You’ve got the pop songs on it, you’ve got the songs that are a little more epic and weirdly developed. It has some of the hardest songs we’ve ever written on it, and it has some of our quiet, kind of peaceful sound to it. It’s exciting because I feel like I’ve been listening to records and a lot of times they are the same thing. Either really heavy all the time or acoustic and reverby. This record, we really just wanted to put everything on one record, hoping it’s not too boring or that people don’t understand what’s going on.
As far as the sound goes, how would you say this album relates to what the band did with Spread the Rumors?
For Spread the Rumors, we kind of just stuck to the bass, the drums, the guitar, the piano. That was kind of the way it was recorded, that’s what we were going for. This record has strings, it has different percussion. We have some synths – we never really got into synths or the electronic-ness of the music before – this one, the whole sound of it just sounds more wide, I guess. Like it was played in a concert hall place instead of coming out of a studio. Some parts of it sound like it was recorded live, like a really good live take of a band playing. I like the feel.
In a similar vein, how would you say this album is a reflection of your progression as a band since the start of your career?
It was written and recorded by pretty much everyone who has been in the band since Lunch for the Sky. This is our third record, this is our third time of putting a product out to a public that always has to judge. You have to have that judgement there with reviews and that makes you feel a return of what you put out. The first record, we were young. We just got into, whatever, smoking at that time. We kind of went over the deep end with Lunch for the Sky. We were kind of strict with the label, like ‘This is how the song order is gonna be, this is it.’ Of course, you can always look back and said maybe we could have done something different. Spread the Rumors, same thing. We went in with a similar mindset. We’re not gonna do what we did with Lunch for the Sky, we’re gonna do a quick record. The opposite of that. People thought that the first record was too long. This record, we almost subconsciously found the middle ground to that balance. Not being insanely grand all the time and not being completely cookie-cutter pop, which I mean we’re always pop because we all generally like pop music. This record, we just did a really good job at keeping what’s real to us and just transforming to the modern music industry and what people might like. Not that we have to think ‘What do people like?’, but there’s always that in your mind.
Vocally, how did you approach things this time around, and what was your goal in terms of lyrics and melodies?
There’s a song on this record that was written when I was 18. A lot of the songs were worked out, recorded and changing the next month and changing the melodies. There actually was a lot more melody on this record than on the other records. I’ve always been a huge Beatles fan, i tried to incorporate that into these songs. We also didn’t want to put all the songs in the same key. A lot of records are in the same key for the singer. We didn’t want to do that, we wanted every song to sound different and have its own life. we would show someone one song, and then show them another song and have it be a completely different world.
What are some things you are particularly proud of with this new release?
The thing that I’m most proud of as a band, I mean we kind of got thrown into the unknown place where you’re touring and putting out records. We had just done a record in California and this is when we get ours. We’re recording in California, and we’re gonna become famous and do it. Which it was a slap in the face kind of when it didn’t happen. We’ve had to really grow and change ourselves. It reflects in our music and how much we grew as friends as people who work together in some sort of business. I’m proud the record is done and it turned out as good as it did.
You’ve had a lineup change or two since Spread the Rumors. What was the environment like in the studio with this record?
Everything ran pretty smoothly. There were a lot of times it kinda felt like what’s the point? I mean everybody in the band felt like that while we were recording this record, like ‘How many times are we gonna play the song? We just played the song 20 times. It’s not gonna get any better.’ And then someone else would say, ‘Well, it has to get better.’ We just going to play it out until the song is down the way it should be. There were a lot of late nights where we were all working. It was a factor for us all to keep going, because we wouldn’t leave the studio until like three in the morning and then have to go to work the next morning at 9’o’clock. Really at that point too, people are short, people get tired when there’s not any positive feedback coming in. But like you said before, now I really have to take the weight off our back and we can reminisce about it.
Ultimately, what was the deciding factor in Socratic’s choice to record a new album?
I don’t really think we chose to do it. Like with me, there was no choice but to do another record. I would have felt really terrible about myself just letting other people at any time in your life make you stop doing something that you like or telling you it’s over if you don’t believe that it’s over. We always got together, we always practiced, even when we weren’t touring. There was never a super long break of us not getting together and doing something creative. I think one of the good things about all of us together is the way we worked well, we really do just like making up a song. It’s something that doesn’t exist until you make it exist. We just kept it going the way we were going. There were times we thought ‘Where are we even going?’, we just knew we had to keep going. Once we thought, it might have been over, but in everyone’s heart, nobody wanted it to be over. And I guess it’s not, at this point.
Word has spread in the last few days that A Day at the Fair will be playing your record release show. How did that come about, and what is your view on the current state of the old Drive-Thru roster and how connected it still might be?
They’re actually from New Jersey. I actually haven’t seen those guys in a long time. We booked a show in Hoboken, New Jersey and the guy that’s running the show asked ‘Do you mind if we put on A Day at the Fair?’, and I said yeah. I probably would have never thought of them because they haven’t played in a long time. Of course. I think that the negativity towards Drive-Thru comes from... you know I don’t know what it comes from. I know there’s some sort of negativeness towards it and really positive things from people that know the label. We really got along really good with every band that was on that label and honestly, even from my experience from touring with those bands and hanging out with them in California and stuff, the cool thing with Drive-Thru is there was a long time where everyone just got together. I don’t see it as negative, I don’t know whatever happened to them, and I wish them the best in whatever they’re doing. I mean it has to go down as some sort of history, I mean it existed. But I miss seeing my friends in other bands that stopped playing or do other things in their lives besides music. I definitely miss those years and I wish sometimes I’d get to see some of my friends that were associated with Drive-Thru again.
How extensively do you guys plan to tour now that you have a new record out?
I think we’re trying to tour as much as we possibly can. I miss being out on the road and having people coming out to shows. I think now we’ll be playing a little bit more since we took the time to stop and focus on our product. I’m looking forward to getting back out there, and hopefully people like the record and will pick it up and help us out. Whatever. It’s been around for awhile now with the Internet and Facebook you can really talk to individual people personally. I think people contact me all the time, like ‘When are you coming out to California?’ or ‘When are you coming back to Wisconsin?’, and it’s like, in twenty years from now we can just transport ourselves there in a minute and we can play. But really, it takes time and it takes money to play and be traveling around in the country and showing up to play for people who are a thousand miles away. Definitely thinking of getting out as much as we can and meet people in person.
Is there anything planned out at this point?
Nothing I would really want to put on document because I don’t want to say and have it not happen, but we’re hoping to get out there before Spring somewhere.
At this point in your career, what do you hope people will take from your music and similarly, what do you and the rest of the band take away from still creating music as Socratic?
I’d like people to enjoy our record. Whether you like it or you don’t like it, it’s real. Topics on the record, I feel like are not just about age or race. There’s some ideas that are universal. I feel like I can’t even turn on the radio or watch TV because everything is so insane. Everything is so one way, like things being put out there are nonsense anymore. Nonsense to me at least. Our record, not that it’s better than anything else, it is what it is. I think it’ll make you think a little bit better than, I guess the LMFAO record or the Rihanna record. I think we’re gonna take away... we’re just ready to hear what people have to say and feel like we’re doing good in society and our minds, our neighborhoods. – being good people, making good music and meeting new people. Just do something positive.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks to anyone who picks up the record and feel free to contact us on Facebook, we’ll be there to chat!
interesting comments about drive thru. I wish the whole story would come out... but great interview and im excited to hear new socratic. i remember loving the william jennings song from the drive thru samplers.