HIS­TORY IN THE MAK­ING

MA­JOR LA­BEL WOES, UN­FAVOURABLE RE­VIEWS AND CA­REER SET­BACKS NEARLY BROKE FOUR YEAR STRONG, BUT CAN THE MAS­SACHUSETTS PUNKS TURN THINGS AROUND ON THEIR NEW SELF-TI­TLED LP?

Blunt - - Feature - WORDS BY EMILY SWAN­SON.

When we speak to Alan Day, he’s us­ing his soli­tary day at home to put up a backyard fence for his dogs be­fore leav­ing for tour in the morn­ing. Be­ing on the cusp of tour­ing is a familiar feel­ing for the singer/gui­tarist, par­tic­u­larly given the road miles he’s clocked up over the years with Four Year Strong. “I missed a ma­jor­ity of my fi­nal year of high school tour­ing with Four Year Strong,” Day re­calls. “From then un­til now, and it’s con­tin­u­ing, I’ve just al­ways been tour­ing. When we first started, we were tour­ing 10 months a year – two weeks off here, two weeks off there – but you’re just so busy and it stays that way for years. There was a long time where be­ing on tour was more com­fort­able than be­ing at home. It’s just what I knew.” It’s never fun los­ing your favourite act to the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of band life, and when artis­tic dif­fer­ences rear their ugly heads and the Real World beck­ons, things can look bleak. Back in 2013, spec­u­la­tions arose about whether or not Four Year Strong had called it quits. They’d been quiet since 2011’s In Some­Way, Shape Or Form, which Day ad­mits wasn’t well re­ceived by fans and crit­ics alike, and they’d been picked up by a ma­jor la­bel only to be dropped three months later. Throw in some gru­elling bouts of tour­ing and it’s a won­der we’re even here in­ter­view­ing Day at all. “In our ca­reer, we were very, very for­tu­nate when things first started to take off with our first ful­l­length,” be­gins Day. “Things were grad­u­ally get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter and [ In Some­Way, Shape or Form] was the first time in our ca­reer where things no­tice­ably got worse. That then re­ally mag­ni­fied our prob­lems within the band and it made be­ing on the road a lot harder – and it had al­ready been hard – so mak­ing it harder was not a good thing. It was just a no-brainer that we kind of all needed to get away from each other.” While the ru­mours of the quar­tet’s demise were only that, Day can­didly ex­plains how close the band came to chuck­ing in the towel and in­ad­ver­tently join­ing the ranks of beloved for­mer ‘00s al­ter­na­tive bands. You know, the kind that de­liver nos­tal­gia pangs when they pop up in lis­ti­cles, throw­back playlists, and when you shuf­fle that long-lost iPod you mis­placed sev­eral years ago. “There were times when we had talked about break­ing up, more out of anger with each other ‘cos there was a pe­riod of time where we weren’t all get­ting along very well,” of­fers the front­man openly. “We’d have th­ese long phone con­ver­sa­tions about where we wanted to take it, and it would end up like we were teenagers, boyfriend and girl­friend, be­ing like, ‘Fine! Well, maybe we should just break up then! Okay, bye!’ It was pretty stupid. But, none of it was real; we never ac­tu­ally did break up, we never as a band got to­gether and went, ‘Al­right, this is it’. Some­times we were afraid of that and we felt that, but at the end of the day, when it came down to it, we didn’t want to let it go. We worked so hard on some­thing for such a huge part of our lives, why were we just gonna throw it away?” The man makes a valid point. Lest we bum you out with all this talk of break-ups, it’s about time we men­tioned that it’s not all doom and gloom for the

bearded punks. Fol­low­ing their ma­jor la­bel grief, they were picked up by mod­ern punk pow­er­house Pure Noise Records (home to The Story So Far, State Champs, Hit The Lights et al.), who, to Day’s re­lief, seem more con­cerned with how they can rear a band’s ca­reer than in­stan­ta­neous al­bum sales. “My the­ory is that in­stead of putting all their eggs in one bas­ket, they [ma­jor la­bels] need a mil­lion bas­kets just in case,” Day ex­plains. “So we were just one of the many that they were like, ‘Oh, might as well pick them up just in case their al­bum blows up outta nowhere and sells five mil­lion records and they be­come the big­gest band ever. You know,

just in case.” Four years away may seem like an eter­nity when it comes to the life­span of your av­er­age al­ter­na­tive band, but re­turn­ing to what they know – and what they un­doubt­edly nail – saw the band’s fan­base swell. If their self-ti­tled LP sounds like four dudes in a room just bang­ing out melodic, meaty pop-punk, then that’s be­cause that’s ex­actly what it is. They shacked up with Con­verge gui­tarist Kurt Bal­lou, who’s usu­ally known for his hard­core pro­duc­tion cred­its, and re­hearsed like they’d never re­hearsed be­fore. “We kinda went out on a limb work­ing with him,” Day tells us. “We’d al­ways wanted to, so we got the chance and went for it and it was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent process to what we’re used to. Part of his process is he just kind of ex­pects you to play it, and play it well, ver­sus us­ing vices like the com­puter and edit­ing to make ev­ery­thing per­fect. We just re­ally had to be well re­hearsed, and at first we weren’t. It was very scary, es­pe­cially be­ing a bit un­der­pre­pared go­ing into it, but we worked through it and it came out fuckin’ awe­some. “When we de­cided to get back at it and make this EP [2014’s Go Down In His­tory], and make this ful­l­length, we got back to our old way. We were like, ‘You know what? Let’s cut all the fancy shit, let’s get back to what we know’. I think we’re in the best headspace we’ve been in for a long time as far as writ­ing goes.”

Go Down In His­tory served as a tasty pre­cur­sor to Four Year Strong, even if Day ad­mits that the band had their doubts about re­leas­ing new mu­sic af­ter such a long time away. Fans can be fickle with what they like, as can the mu­sic in­dus­try with what it favours, but once Day and the gang started to see peo­ple com­ing around to the band’s new ma­te­rial and Warped Tour came a-knock­ing, the re­sult­ing hype got their blood pump­ing again. Four Year Strong are back from the brink and they’ve got the self-ti­tled al­bum to prove it. “The more we kind of dis­cussed [self-ti­tling the record], the more we thought it was a re­ally good idea be­cause of how much we ac­tu­ally like this al­bum. We’re very proud of it as writ­ers, but also as lis­ten­ers. I feel like we re­ally en­joy the songs that we wrote and we re­ally felt happy with the work that we did and the way that it came out.” Guys... It’s time to get ex­cited about Four Year Strong again.

FOUR YEAR STRONG

IS OUT NOW ON PURE NOISE/SONY.

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