Senses Fail is embarking on its 5th Warped Tour and the band is releasing a new EP and 'Best Of' record around the tour. I sat down with Buddy and Dan to discuss their thoughts on everything.
You guys are putting out a ‘Best Of’ with a bonus EP. How did the idea of doing a record like that come about?
Buddy: We were originally going to do some sort of thing where we play Still Searching and Let It Enfold You with the first EP front to back for the ten year anniversary. The idea was ‘Ok, if we did that, what could we release around that? What could we put out?’ Nowadays it’s difficult to go on tour without promoting something. It just goes hand in hand, it helps. We were planning on doing an iTunes box set which we are actually doing which is where you can find all of our music in one place and they put up a nice picture of the band and so the idea kind of came from that since iTunes was interested so we thought ‘Why don’t we just put a collective CD together of songs that people tend to like more than other songs?’
Dan: I always say that when anyone asks to clarify it to just say ‘Best Of’ and not a ‘Greatest Hits’ because I think there’s a huge difference between the two. I think it made sense timing wise, the band has been around 10 years, we’ve got 4 full lengths and an EP out so why not take the handful of songs that seem to be the most popular from each record and put them on something and get all the best songs in one place.
Buddy: The other thing too is that just like with some other bands that we’ve been around with that have spanned a couple generations of teenagers so I think if you were a 14 or 15 year old kid getting into music these days and you heard us somehow you’re looking at a catalog of over 80, 90, or 100 songs. I definitely found out about bands and definitely got into bands through ‘Best Of’ or ‘Greatest Hits,’ that’s kind of where I started. That’s kind of why we did it. I know people can get offended by bands that put out ‘Best Of’ records but there’s no other reason for us to do it for any other reason except “What can we put out around some tours where we’d be playing our older records front to back?” That didn’t end up happening timing wise didn’t work out and it seems like a lot of bands are doing it but I’d still like to do it at some point but we kind of came to the conclusion that we could probably only do 1 or 2 shows like that. We didn’t want to turn it into an entire tour of us playing all around the country doing that. With the idea of only doing 1 or 2 shows, we said “Why don’t we wait?” but we had still already put into motion we’re going to do a ‘Best Of’ record and we already confirmed Warped Tour so we said “Ok, let’s just put it out with Warped Tour” and then we wanted to put some new music on it because I think any time you release something old or something that people might already have you need to give a reason for someone to buy it who already has it so we put a little EP with it.
How did you go about choosing the track listing? Was it fan generated, working things out with labels, your own input…?
Buddy: We pretty much knew what songs were going to get put on it.
Dan: It’s pretty much similar to picking a set sometimes and especially on a set like Warped Tour where you have a limited time you want to play the songs where people are going to have the most fun or know the most material. I think it’s the same concept for picking the record. Pretty much any song we ever made a video for, anything that’s been a considered a single, and then there’s a couple of fan favorites. We consulted with the label for opinions but I think we have a pretty good idea of what songs the fans like.
I personally find the EP to be very comprehensive and you span your sounds from the EP all the way up to The Fire. How did these songs come about considering you’re all far apart from one another?
Dan: We just bounced a lot of ideas back and forth to one another and thank god for the Internet. We would get together when we could. It’s not an easy feat writing with 5 guys living across the country. We went to Baltimore to work with Brian McTernan and that pretty much became our home base. We started writing about a year ago. Because we can’t just drive down the street and all be together, we have to do a little bit here and there.
Buddy: It’s a different process. Every record we’ve written we’ve had different members. I don’t see it is necessarily a bad thing because one thing I hope with our music is that it doesn’t become stale. I think at times we’ve treaded pretty lightly on how much of a change we’re willing to make as a band but that’s really hard to answer when you’re in the band. I sit around and think about my favorite bands “Do I want to hear more of the same thing from them or do I totally want them to change their sound?” It varies from band to band. From our standpoint, we’re trying to toe the line. We could write very different stuff and different styles, but is that self-serving to you as a musician?
Dan: I was going to say that. It’s like a meeting in the middle. On one hand you want to do different stuff and push yourself but you don’t want to alienate anyone. I think that we did this with the new songs and hopefully people agree, we do a pretty good job of making what people want to hear but at the same time I hope that you can hear the instance of having different people in the band. It’s cool to have different people writing and playing with us because it’s just a change of perspective. I always think it’s cool to have bands that do have these changes where you have a couple of guys that are consistent but a few new guys as well and it kind of lends itself to a fresh take on the band’s music. You don’t want to take a complete left turn and have people be like “What the fuck?” Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and more times than not I feel like it doesn’t work so I wouldn’t want to throw it in anybody’s face and be like “Fuck you we’re going to do what we want to do.” I think there’s a compromise of doing what we want to do and staying with our fans.
This one is for Buddy with the lyrics. Your lyrical content has been in the past pretty straightforward at times, well publicized and people know what you’re talking about. This one, I want to say this one is more poetic and not as dark. Is there any reason for that or is it more of you growing up and things falling into place?
Buddy: Yea, exactly. Just things falling into place and getting more comfortable with life in general. Things are definitely coming from a more positive perspective and I think that throughout the process of my life I’ve had to deal with whatever it is through music and I’ve gotten a lot of it out so I don’t have to deal with it anymore. A lot of these songs are definitely more positive and not necessarily looking at myself so much as “Ok, what can I say that’s going to be impactful and might make someone think about their own life?” rather than sitting here looking at my own life.
Regarding the imprint on Vagrant, how did that come about?
Buddy: Vagrant has become over the years more and more indie and it just kind of felt like there needed to be a new place for Senses Fail within Vagrant. That’s what Staple Records is. It’s Vagrant but just an imprint. A lot of the same people involved but just a different take on what Vagrant Records is. Not much has changed. It’s just a name and a logo. We’re definitely more involved because I’m working there so that definitely gives us a different angle as far as marketing and other opportunities and just way more control of what we’re putting out there.
Talking about Warped Tour, what are you on? Your 4th or 5th year?
Dan: I think this is going to be our 4th full year but we did half of 04, all of 05, 06, 09, and now this year. We’ve done it a lot.
Being that it has changed over the years, what are your expectations for this year?
Dan: I’m thinking it’ll be cool because it’s changed so much and Buddy touched on how younger kids are coming out that may have only heard of us and because there are a lot of newer bands particularly a lot of the bigger main stage bands that are newer that kids are listening to that they may discover us. It’s a familiar audience because it’s Warped Tour but in a lot of ways I think because of the change and climate and types of bands that are popular these days, you’re playing to a whole new group of people and I think it’ll be good for us.
Buddy: We don’t get a lot of opportunities to play in front of new people and Warped Tour is one of the only times that we get to play in front of people that might be different. We made a conscious decision 2 or 3 years ago after the Hollywood Undead/Brokencyde thing that “We just gotta stop.” At what point do we stop trying to get out in front of news kids? What is the cost of it? We’re getting older, we’re a band that’s trying to develop a long-term career and be around for 20 years. Do we sacrifice the audience that we’ve tried to build so we can go out with bands that we might not really want to be associated with? That was the only option a few years ago. We tried it and we didn’t like it. So we decided that we are only going to tour with bands that we want to tour with which is awesome but that also leaves us in a position or doing a co-headline tour with bands where their fans already know about Senses Fail. I’d rather tour like that but it leaves not a lot of opportunities to get in front of new people so with Warped Tour that’s our goal behind it. Especially with a lot of these newer bands that have a younger fan base, hopefully they’ve heard of Senses Fail and decide to check us out.
Are you worried about the younger fans and their lack of interest in previous generations of Warped Tour bands?
Buddy: I don’t think so. That’s something you’re always fighting against. The question always is “How do you get a younger person’s attention?” Usually it’s their friends tell them about it. I think there’s still a lot of word to mouth about older bands that are still in the scene whether it’s Taking Back Sunday or New Found Glory or Senses Fail or Bayside. I still think newer fans are discovering these bands and through word of mouth. I think the stage we’re playing on is really good for us.
Dan: It’s got a lot of newer bands. There will be kids at that stage watching the newer bands. They’re there. It’s a better chance for us to play to new fans.
Buddy: All of the bands on there are great and people may stay there all day.
Buddy, we all know you’re a fitness guru and you practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. How are you going to stay sharp and in shape?
Buddy: I’m going to bring some mats with me and I’m going to hopefully find some people that do jiu-jitsu and if not I’m going to offer some lessons if anybody wants to learn. Or I might completely bail on it and not do anything. But I think I’m going to be keeping up with.
Dan: And I will be sitting in the air conditioning while all of this is going on.
Buddy: I hit up Ronnie Radke from Falling In Reverse because he lifts a lot. So we’re flying so we can’t bring weights and he’s bringing weights so I’ll be lifting with him.
Any reasoning behind the limited pressing of the new record?
Buddy: Because nobody buys CDs? laughs
Dan: There’s no place to buy them really. If it runs out quick then great. A lot of people already have the music so it keeps cost down. I’m sure it’ll be a heavy digital release.
Buddy: It’s mainly put together so we can have a release that we can tour around. It’s something that people can buy for five dollars and get signed along with having new music since we do signings every day. There’s no point in doing 50 or 60 thousand records because we have nowhere to ship them to.
How are you picking the set for Warped Tour?
Dan: We’re going to just have a bunch of them ready to go. We’ve been discussing having a huge selection to pick from and see what will work the best for us on Warped. It’s pretty similar to how we picked the ‘Best Of’ record track listing. We have to play a bit of everything and keep everyone happy that will get to see us in a set time that is normally half of what we’re used to playing.
What is there left for Senses Fail? What’s the rest of the year looking like?
Dan: Pretty much the same kind of deal. We’re writing currently and have been for a while. We’re going to shoot to record in the fall hopefully. All of our records have always been between September and November. Maybe it’ll be cool to release a record in the spring.
Anything left to say?
Dan: Thanks to you guys. You’ve bought our records and continually come out to see us so we can’t thank you guys enough. And just check us out and come see us at Warped Tour.
Buddy: One thing before this is all done. I saw a comment about some of our song titles being like The Dangerous Summer. That was definitely NOT done on purpose. Just a little bit of shinfo for anyone that cares. But other than that, thank you!