Four Year Strong

Sonisphere UK 2011 Interview: Four Year Strong – Dan O’Connor and Joe Weiss

Take some pop-punk and add a little bit of hardcore and you have yourself an American four-piece known as Four Year Strong, a band who have been rising up the ranks to become one of the most of notable bands of their genre today. Ever since the release of their debut album ‘It’s Our Time’ in 2005 the band made steady progress before stamping their foot down and leaving their mark with ‘Rise Or Die Trying’ in 2007. Fast forward to 2010 and the band released their highly rated third studio album ‘Enemy Of The World.’

Only a year later in 2011 the band parted ways with their keyboard player Josh Lyford to take a new direction with their fourth studio album which will be released later this year. With the band hard at work on their album I caught up with guitarist and vocalist Dan O’Connor and bassist Joe Weiss at Sonisphere to talk about their first tour without Josh and to find out the details regarding their brand new album.

Be sure to check out the bands official website and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Dan O’Connor: I’m sure we’ve met before.

No we haven’t, this is the first time.

Dan O’Connor: Could be the beard. We are one!

[Laughs] How are you guys doing?

Dan O’Connor: Pretty good man.
Joe Weiss: Yeah good.

It’s the Bohemia tent you are performing at later isn’t you?

Dan O’Connor: Yeah we go on at ten past eight.

The poster that they released for Sonisphere originally had you headlining the stage with The Answer being your direct support but the stage times seem to have changed and now you’re the direct support to them.

Dan O’Connor: I’m not sure, I think we’re still the last band on and after us it’s just some other things.
Joe Weiss: Yeah and the Cancer Bats are doing their Bat Sabbath covers set.
Dan O’Connor: Oh yeah I forgot about that.

Are you looking to playing either way no matter if you’re on last or not?

Dan O’Connor: Oh yeah it’s going to be fun.
Joe Weiss: I’m just glad we don’t need to play up against anyone too crazy as it’s Limp Bizkit then us then Slipknot.
Dan O’Connor: I think the only major person we’re against is Bill Bailey who is a comedian.

Yeah he is a comedian but that will prove tough as he will draw an incredibly large crowd.

Dan O’Connor: Oh right, will need to see how this goes then [laughs].

The band recently finished the first tour without Josh [Lyford] as a member so how did it go? Did it feel really strange not having him there after four/five years of touring?

Dan O’Connor: Yeah it was a lot different, the dynamic of having four people instead of five but we’re making it work. The band is definitely getting along a lot better than we ever have been and we’re a lot happier.
Joe Weiss: This was the band before Josh as well so it’s not like this is the first time we’ve performed as a four-piece.
Dan O’Connor: The core of the band is obviously still here and we’re definitely having a lot more fun doing things. There was a while were things in the band were weird and people were not getting along and all this stuff so we sat down and talked about it all and worked out the things had to be worked out and fixed the things that were broken and now we’re back together and we’re stronger.

How is your relationship with Josh now? Are you all still on good terms or are the ties a little broken now?

Joe Weiss: We’ve been pretty much gone most of the time.
Dan O’Connor: Yeah we’ve been away but the last time I talked to him things were good and he’s doing his own thing with his own band right now and we’re just kind of letting things happen. We don’t have anything against him.

As he left the band you got right into working on the new album so how is that coming along?

Dan O’Connor: Awesome man.
Joe Weiss: Yeah just awesome.
Dan O’Connor: We’re on the last five songs right now.
Joe Weiss: We’ll fly back and finish that off tomorrow.
Dan O’Connor: I’ve got guitars to do tomorrow in New Jersey.

Do you have your eyes set on a release for it if you’re just finishing up the last few songs?

Joe Weiss: We don’t have a date just yet.
Dan O’Connor: Fingers crossed, hopefully, I think somewhere around…
Joe Weiss: Late fall.
Dan O’Connor: I think somewhere between the middle of September to early October. Yeah somewhere in there is our hope but who the fuck knows [laughs].
Joe Weiss: That could be drastically changed.
Dan O’Connor: The way things happen it could be 2018.

Four Year Strong Band Picture

I know that the sound will not change drastically but with Josh no longer part of the band, I would imagine there will be some new twists that you will implement to fill the void that he is leaving.

Dan O’Connor: Yeah there is going to be some things, obviously less synth.
Joe Weiss: He didn’t write to the songs.
Dan O’Connor: Yeah he didn’t write many of the songs on the last album. Basically the progression we made from ‘Rise Or Die Trying’ to ‘Enemy Of The World’, I like to think that we just continued that with the same sort of jump. Some of the songs were a little darker but they are all still high energy and still very rock. I think one thing we’re trying to do with this record is that we’ve sort of trapped ourselves in this box of what our band should sound like and I think we’re getting rid of that full thing on this record. We’re going into it not being afraid to take a lot risks and be like ‘oh we probably would have done that on the last album which is why we should do it on this album’.

Will there be anything out of the ordinary?

Joe Weiss: I’d say a few things you wouldn’t expect.
Dan O’Connor: A lot of different things. There will be some things that you will expect but won’t be there but there will be things you expect that are there. It’s going to be a fun little ride.
Joe Weiss: We’re playing one new track today so people will get an idea of what we are doing.

This is quite a quick follow up to ‘Enemy Of The World’ because you had a two year break before releasing ‘Rise Or Die Trying’ and then a three year break before releasing ‘Enemy Of The World’ so was this just a case of natural progression in that you were ready to release new material or now Josh had left was it time to show everyone that the band are a well-oiled four-piece?

Dan O’Connor: We’re musicians man, I mean…
Joe Weiss: It’s always nice to play new stuff.
Dan O’Connor: We love writing songs and we love recording.
Joe Weiss: I feel like we would have done an album a lot sooner but we literally toured from when that record came out…
Dan O’Connor: ‘Rise Or Die Trying’.
Joe Weiss: To when we got back into the studio for our last record [‘Enemy Of The World’].
Dan O’Connor: Yeah we toured for three years straight and then we put out ‘Enemy [Of The World’] and then we toured all the way up until now. We just said that we don’t want that to happen again, let’s all get back into the studio and start working. The record will come out around a year and a half or slightly more than a year and a half after the last. When I was younger bands would release an album every year to two years and that’s what we would like to do to keep things fresh. We’re constantly writing and once we have a batch of songs then we’re going to go in and record them.

You said that you felt you were sort of trapped in a box as to how the band should sound and you were getting rid of that so to achieve that did you completely revamp your writing process to allow you to avoid repetition and keep going back to tried and trusted methods?

Joe Weiss: This last studio time we had with [our producer] David Bendeth and everyone who works at his studio, they pushed us more than we have ever pushed ourselves which is exactly what we needed. It changed our entire perspective on ourselves and how we do things and it was for the better.
Dan O’Connor: Yeah everyone is playing better and we are approaching the songs from a different angle. We used to write all the music and then put the lyrics on afterwards but now we’re approaching it by writing the music, the melodies and the lyrics all at the same time and making the music match what the lyrics are about. We’re just trying to write all round better songs and more cohesive one unit songs so it doesn’t sound like some bipolar thing all the way through.

Just on that focus of the lyrics, what is the lyrical content on this album going to cover?

Dan O’Connor: Some of it is a little darker with some of it being like an outsider looking in and dealing with social situations. Some of the stuff that Alan [Day] and I write about on this record isn’t 100% personal but a lot of the times it is things that we’ve seen and we try to write stories about things that we visualise.
Joe Weiss: Thing as well that our friends go through.
Dan O’Connor: Yeah we put ourselves in other people’s shoes and how it must feel to go through other situations. This record, obviously the band went through a lot of things so this record is therapy to a lot of us to work things out. The way we tried to cover this record was to kind of give it that feeling that as you listen to it, it is like someone telling you their story and how you can relate to it. I think that is probably the best way to put it in that we wrote it so that you can put yourself in the shoes of that person but still relate it to your own life.

Do you think even the personal tracks are still open enough that people can relate and interpret them to their own lives also or will they stand on their own?

Dan O’Connor: Yeah a lot of it is personal but a lot of the songs do go back and forth like that.
Joe Weiss: It’s the most dynamic record we’ve made.
Dan O’Connor: Sure is and hopefully people will feel that when it comes out.

I want to jump off what you were saying about your relentless touring schedule earlier because as we all know and everyone says it, making money can only be done by touring and that all comes down to the internet and how technology has taken over this industry. So how do you guys feel about the rise in technology which has shaped this industry when you can build like home studios now and release music whenever you want and things of that nature?

Joe Weiss: Ah yeah this. This record for us is way different too because honestly in the progression of newer music, there is so much bullshit because it’s a fucking computer, oh sorry your listeners.

Swear all want man [laughs].

Joe Weiss: [laughs] Cool, well it’s a fucking computer that is basically playing it because they aren’t fucking playing it and this record for us was all about getting the best real takes. Nothing is snapped to a grid, it’s not perfectly on the click track it is simply is as good as a human can do it. If you put a metronome up to it then you’re going to have points were it goes back and forth a little often, it’s close but it gives it a real feeling because it is really played by a real person.
Dan O’Connor: Yeah the songs actually sound like a person breathing and not just a computer going ‘brrr brrr brrr’ and that’s how I feel when I listen to a lot of new music that is coming out and I kind of get the feeling that there is not a lot of emotion in the record. It’s just people putting out songs that sound angry because the computer can actually make it sound angry and if you want your record to sound angry then be the person that makes it sound angry, not a fucking computer. That’s the approach we took and everybody played the fucking shit out of their instruments on this record and it definitely shows.

On the note of touring you are heading out to South America later this year with Sum 41. Have you ever been out that way before?

Joe Weiss: No we’ve never been down there.
Dan O’Connor: First time yeah and I love going to new places because you never know what to expect. We could show up and no-one could like our band or even know our band or everyone loves us or we show up and get kidnapped [laughs]. Who knows, there are just so many options to what could happen.

The question I’ve been asking bands all weekend to round off the interviews is if you could go back to when you first started as a musician, with all of the experience you have today about the industry and all the lessons you have learned, and you could give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Dan O’Connor: Don’t get tied into fads.
Joe Weiss: That’s actually a good question because you learn so much in a quick space of time not only about the business but about yourself.
Dan O’Connor: I think a lot of what happens in music these days, which frustrates me, is that one band does something that’s really cool and then everyone else just flocks to that thing and drags out the special thing that they had and they end up making it gimmicky. That is what was awesome about bands like Nirvana because they did something that no-one else could do and a lot of that came down to the song writing. Trust me I love live shows and I think a band being good live is like the coolest and best thing ever but I think nowadays it comes down to what a band sounds like at a show and if you can crowd surf to a song or not and a lot less is put into how good the actual songs are. I think that is another reason to why records don’t sell as much because people just buy the record to learn the songs then put it down and go to the shows instead of buying a record to listen to it a thousand times and have no other CDs in their car. I think a lot of passion is missing from a lot of music these days and if I could go back and see my little pudgy fifteen year old self I’d tell him ‘don’t give in’.


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Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

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