By Shandana Mufti
Straight off The Reunion Tour, Set It Off is back at work, this time in the studio instead of on stage. The band, featuring Cody Carson (vocals), Dan Clermont (guitar/vocals), Zach DeWall (guitar), Austin Kerr (bass) and Maxx Danziger (drums), is known for intense live shows featuring Cody walking over the audience and, most recently, a storyline filled with drama and a hint of murder.
Shandana Mufti got to talk to Maxx and Dan on one of the tour’s last shows in Boston – read on to learn how they stay entertained on long drives and why they can’t wait to work with John Feldmann.
ABScream Media: You’re nearly at the end of the tour – what moments have stood out the most?
Maxx Danziger: For me, I’d say Orlando. The Orlando show was cool just because I’m from there. We played a venue where I used to go to all the time as a kid. It sold out. Crazy show.
Dan Clermont: Chicago was pretty wild. Chicago’s always had a really strong music scene but to see a presence where people actually knew our songs and knew the words – it was the first time we’ve seen a full reaction from what Warped Tour had done for us.
ABS: What makes a show stand out?
MD: Obviously attendance, but there’s a certain amount of energy that a good crowd can bring. You can have a ton of people but if they’re just standing there looking at you, it’s not going to be a good show. In Chicago, it’s a great example – the kids went wild. It’s like this intangible feeling that everyone feels at the same time.
DC: I like to call it a battle. We’re the kind of band that feeds off the crowd’s energy, so the more the crowd gives us, the harder we’re going to go for our show. It’s fun. It goes back and forth – who’s going to push each other further?
ABS: Alternative Press just put out this great video of you and Cody talking about your classical training. That background isn’t usual for a band in this scene. Does that play into the theatrics of your music?
DC: Absolutely. Maxx as well has a really strong percussion background, we like to incorporate that, because as you said, it’s not a general thing that a lot of bands in our scene do and it makes the writing process as a whole work out better, and we get to do creative things that maybe a wind ensemble or marching band would do. It’s cool.
ABS: One of the things you touched upon was that knowing the theory can help you skip past some of the trying-to-figure-out-what-sounds-good part. Does that mean you’re bypassing some experimentation?
DC: Not at all. If I’m writing a guitar part and Maxx is writing a drum part, most of the time, it’s natural. It’s just organic. If we’re having trouble with the section, we know that we can revert to the theory to go back to say we’re going to have a major chorus or a minor key.
ABS: I heard you’re doing a story theme with your set. What’s the story?
MD: Well. I don’t want to spoil the whole thing for everyone, but essentially it follows a man, Darren Dawson. He is in a relationship with his wife who is not a very good person. She cheats and she’s terrible and eventually, he can’t take it, and he ends up killing her. It follows his saga of what happens after that. He meets a girl and they end up doing all these things – I don’t want to ruin too much of it. It essentially follows guy, Darren Dawson, and his slip into this dark world.
ABS: Is this something where you had the story in mind and went back and picked the songs that would fit, or the other way round?
MD: I think it was a little bit of both. The songs do go along with the story, but I think it was a little we had an idea and we had an idea like, “Oh cool, we can add this because of this song.”
ABS: You’re ending with “Partners in Crime.” Who’s doing the female vocals?
DC: It’s weird. Cody actually sings Ashley’s parts and I sing Cody’s parts. His vocal range is very exponential so he can sing up in that register. It’s very difficult for a guy to sing up there. It’s kind of cool to have two males doing it.
ABS: Are narratives something you might explore with the music you’re working on?
MD: We’ve talked about it. Maybe in the future? We’re always trying to experiment without alienating fans. It’s definitely a possibility that could happen in the future. We’ve always been big into theatric and over-the-top, so it’s definitely an option.
ABS: So it might just fall into place that way?
MD: There’s nothing concrete yet, but who knows?
DC: I feel like we’re such a growing band, and we don’t have to at the point peg ourselves to one kind of genre. We still have room to really grasp what Set It Off wants to be and what Set It Off is going to be. Once we get a hold of that, then maybe a concept album will come into the picture.
ABS: Do you have any idea of where you’re going to go with what Set It Off wants to be?
DC: I don’t want to give away too much, but I definitely know we’re going to be reaching into a lot of other elements that we personally as a band really enjoy doing. We’re still going to keep our dark, angsty vibe, but we’re going to reference bands like Maroon 5, the new Fall Out Boy, new Panic! At The Disco. We definitely want to incorporate that vibe into our music very heavily.
ABS: You’ve got a great producer for that. You’ve got John Feldmann who has done everyone from The Used to The Cab. Are you excited to work with him?
MD: One of the best.
DC: He’s perfect for us.
MD: Absolutely. Dream come true. You grow up listening to these record and you see in the little liner notes, “Produced by John Feldmann.” You think, “That guy is incredible, I’d love to work with him someday,” and it’s finally happening. I think he’s really going to help us develop our sound, help us become what we’re trying to be.
ABS: Have you heard anything about what working with him is life? We Are The In Crowd’s latest album is produced by him.
MD: Yes! We’ve talked to them a lot about that. And Dan and Cody actually went to write a little bit with him earlier – was it last spring?
DC: It was last April actually.
MD: So they got a chance to figure out how his brain works and things like that.
DC: It was great. Literally any record we’ve done – at least the past two or three records – we’ve always done songwriting with different people to get in a different vibe. Cody and I went in with John Feldmann. There is no other energy matchable to him in this world. The excitement in the room, just writing with this person – how he was just as passionate as we were about writing the album. I feel like there’s going to be a lot of yelling, points where I’m going to say “I can’t stand this guy,” points where I say, “I fucking hate this guy,” but I know the end result is going to be something magical.
AS: Have you been writing since last April for the new album? What sort of stuff – how much can you give away?
DC: It’s all over. Not to say that everything’s going to make it on the record, but we’ve written some of the darkest subjects we’ve ever talked about and we’ve written some of the happiest, poppiest, lightest stuff you would not see coming from Set It Off.
ABS: What’s the writing process like?
DC: It’s all over. When we were at home, we basically just locked ourselves in a room and got together and wrote. As far as being on the road, if we hear a melody – we make up joke songs all the time. I think we were doing one the other day. Cody’s like, “I really like that melody.” We hear something that catches our ear – whether it’s a guitar riff somebody’s soundchecking with or a cool beat that he’s [Maxx] playing on the drums and we just go from there and make it work. Take it from that primitive state to an actual song.
ABS: I saw an interview with the band from Warped Tour last year where you talked about making up random jingles – is that still a thing?
MD: That’s all we do all day. I think we’ve lost our minds being in the van for so long. It’s just melodies and joke songs all day.
ABS: What’s your favorite album that John Feldmann’s produced?
MD: I would have to say…that Story of the Year record’s really good. Page Avenue, that’s the one.
ABS: What was touring with them like?
MD: Incredible. Dan’s always been a huge Story of the Year fan.
DC: My favorite band. There’s a scary theory that goes between touring bands: Don’t meet your heroes. Nobody is going to live up to expectations that are in your head. That band was actually legitimately one of the kindest and sweetest bands on the tour. They were very cool to us. I don’t think we ever had any issues with them or anything like that. I feel like it was cool because we’re a very energetic live band and that’s one of the few time we’ve been on tour and been like, “Wow, we really need to fucking step our game up.”
MD: I think that, and any time The Used has worked with John Feldmann – something about the two of them is just [DC: Mhmm]…all those records come out great.
DC: I love those Cab records. Symphony Soldier is amazing.
ABS: On stage, you guys are one of the best-dressed bands out there. Is that something you sat down and decided to do?
MD: Like a slow evolution. As the style of the music changed, we figured we need something to match this. Slowly but surely, I think everyone has found their own style, but together, we look like a cohesive unit. It wasn’t anything we sat down and “This is what I’m going to wear, this is what he’s going to wear.” It kind of happened naturally.
DC: We had this situation with Maxx and I. We have our set up, which you’ll see when the show starts. Most of the time, we don’t know what each other are wearing anyway. When we took our jackets off, Maxx and I were wearing the same exact shirt on stage one night.
MD: So funny.
DC: When you spend so much time together, you kind of become each other to an extent, but still being unique like he said.
ABS: Do you get tired of each other?
DC: That’s anybody. We love each other. We’ll literally have a screaming match and then start laughing about it 40 seconds later.
MD: Usually, I’ll get a week home and go, “Man, it’s so great to be alone,” and then after that week, I’m like, “I miss my friends. I want to get back out there.”
ABS: Are you guys all close to each other when you’re home?
DC: He’s the furthest.
MD: I’m far away. I live about two hours away. We still keep in touch and all that. We need a little time to detox every now and then.
ABS: So are you looking forward to detoxing at the end of this tour?
MD: Honestly, this has been a really long tour, but I’m not ready for it to be over. And we’re going straight from this tour to recording, so we’re not going to get any time off, which I mean is great for me, I don’t like being home.
ABS: Are you hoping to get this new record out this year, early next year?
DC: We’re shooting for fall. If everything works out in our favor, we’re going to try and have a new single out this summer.
ABS: So recording aside, are you taking time off? Any tours planned?
DC: Not that we’ve announced. We’re working on something that we’re pretty excited about right now. if it happens, it will probably be somewhere toward later this summer.
ABS: What’s been your biggest “We made it” moment so far?
MD: Playing main stage at Warped Tour. That feeling of, “Oh. This is happening.” I’ve seen so many bands play this stage and now we’re finally doing it – like, “Oh, things are happening. We’re making it.”
DC: A real cool one for me was, we recently had an off day at Universal Studios. We were standing in line for the Transformers ride of all places – there’s like 3,000 people there everyday – and some kid turned around and recognized us.
MD: It’s the little things.