After a late night, Pete. frontman Dave is sounding a little hoarse, but still up to chatting. And we did a lot of that. What was supposed to be fifteen minutes ended up being an hour.
You sound a little hoarse.
I am. I was out drinking and talking a little late, so I’m a little hoarse. I blew it all out last night. We’re doing a show tomorrow and I’m thinking I better relax.
I don’t know a lot about you guys and I’m not sure if I’m in this boat alone.
You’re not, no one really knows anything about us. Don’t sweat it. Everyone is trying to figure us out. It’s a good thing.
As a band, how did you go from being a garage band to getting signed?
It’s so funny you ask that, last night a lot of former members were at the show. It was the first time we played in New York in two years. We’ve been on tour and recording so it was like a coming home. I started to think of how the fuck did we get from there to here and someone asked, ‘How did you do it?’ and I was like ‘I don’t know.’ What happened was that we got the right team together. Members came and gone, but Rich, the guitar player, and I have always stayed together. No matter who the bass player or drummer was, we stayed together. Then we found the right bass player in Lars and then we found Scott five years ago, our drummer. He came from Minnesota to join us. When we all got together, it really clicked. And we still had to struggle for four years to get a record deal. It was a lot of persistence. You have to continue to write new music and sharpen your writing skills. Once we became more song oriented, people started taking note.
The one thing you always hear is you have to be persistent. Some people think they can only go for it for a year and if they don’t make it they give up. But that isn’t enough unless you are the luckiest band in the world.
It’s not enough. Honestly, it would be deceiving to say to a band not go for it for years, like four years. You have to get your songs down, your tour down. We were touring the Midwest on our own without a label in a van. We’d get on the road for four or five weeks, sleeping in the van or on friends’ floors. Four or five years, it may even take eight or more years. You just don’t know.
Being originally from Buffalo, I know what you are saying since we had the Goo Goo Dolls who were around forever without anything happening for them.
Of course. They paid their fucking dues, man. It’s amazing when you think about.
We’ve both have probably seen hundreds or more talented bands, but the greatest guitar player in the world doesn’t get it done if he doesn’t have a good song around it. It’s how the market works.
Right. That’s the thing. We are very lyric and melody driven. We don’t do the rap-rock thing, and everyone told us if we weren’t doing that then we weren’t going to make it. I think it’s coming around again.
You are right.
There is a place for all of us. There is a place for Limp Bizkit, Tool, Radiohead, and us.
The one thing I noticed is that you guys are very melodic. How do you write?
It’s always different. Sometimes I bring something in and sometimes Rich does. Sometimes we collaborate and sometimes it comes a song comes out of us jamming. Like “Sweet Daze” is one of the last things we did for the record and came out of Rich and Scott jamming a riff. It just happened within like twenty minutes. That is why a lot of the songs are complete collaborations. Regardless, if I write a song and bring it to the band, it filters through the band and becomes us. It’s always a different scenario so I think it makes the songs different. When you have one writer in a band, it tends to be that thing he does. Our songs are different.
How conscious are you of making the songs different?
Not really conscious. We are always trying to expand. We always wonder if a song like “Bury Me” could exist on an album with harder songs.
“Bury Me” is pretty sinister though.
It is sinister. It has these strings and beautiful melodies and it’s hard at one point, but really brought back and stripped down at another point. We throw all these things in a pile. What we want to be is eclectic, but the same. We don’t want to do all sorts of different styles.
Yeah, because that doesn’t work.
Right. You need to decide who you are. Everything we do is Pete. Like a song like “Bury Me” is one of our oldest songs. We did an acoustic version of that originally.
You do a good job of keeping your sound yours, even when the songs take on a different vibe. It reminds me of what Buckcherry does, not because you sound like them, but because you keep their feel.
Wow. We opened for them once.
They can do a ballad without sounding like some weak ass boy band. Their ballads still have balls.
Right! That is exactly what I mean. There are different places where the band can go and still sound the same. When Buckcherry does a song, whether slow or not, it’s still Buckcherry.
See, I don’t know why they are overlooked so much. They are the real return to rock.
I totally agree.
Recently we got an album in and the band was a rock band, but they threw in like three rap-rock songs and you can tell it wasn’t true to them. It sounded like something they did on the fly and it was embarrassing.
That is the pitfall bands fall into. You have to be able to see it. It’s not bad to reinvent yourself, but you have to stay true. It is the funniest thing because a guy in the industry just told me that that rap-rock was on its way out. I told him that two years ago they told us if we didn’t do that then we’d never make it. Now we’re part of a scene that is rock driven with guitars and melody. It’s so fickle.
I think it’s only because it’s the twelve to seventeen age group. I think once you get to your twenties you’ve found the music you love. You can expand, but your tastes aren’t going to just flip-flop like that.
All of the sudden one day you don’t go from Metallica then the next day DMX when you are in your twenties or older.
You’re right on the money with that. You’re so right. I’m always talking to friends of mine or family members who have kids and I’ll talk to the kids about what they like. And they’ll be like, ‘We like this and this,’ and six months later they hate the same bands. I’m like, ‘Holy shit, you guys are fickle.’
The thing that bothers me the most is that it’s MTV’s demographics yet they define most of what is big in the country based on such a small group of the population.
I listen to different things, but it has to be something I really enjoy if it’s not rock. And I guess this brings me to the question of what bands molded you growing up?
I came up through listening to a lot of different stuff, like Zeppelin, The Ramones, and a lot of different rock like The Clash, Black Sabbath. I got into so many different things.
All very melodic bands.
Very melodic. And then I found U2. They really changed it all for me. That was really the reason I tried to play music. I got into U2 and some of their earlier records and couldn’t believe how beautiful their music was. It changed me.
All those bands write timeless, good songs.
I know. We play with hardcore bands on the road, you know those weird mismatched shows, and we’ll be on the bill with two bands that we call the Cookie Monster band (Dave begins to growl and imitate and we both begin to laugh) and I’m like ‘What the fuck is going on?’ I love heavy music, and Tool is heavy, but there is amazing melody in there. I just can’t get into it. Give me something to sing. It’s funny.
If you think about it, there are some McDonald’s commercials you can’t get out of your head, but this they call music and you can’t figure it out.
How funny is that when a McDonald’s commercial is easier to grab onto.
I just need music with a chorus that I will always remember. Some people I think just want the aggression and don’t even care that it’s music. I mean, in a year they won’t even care about it.
They’re more into smacking into somebody in the pit. And that is cool, I understand that, but for me I loved Rage Against The Machine because they were real. I can feel getting into the pit for those guys, but not this hardcore stuff.
Is there anything today that blows your mind, that makes you think, ‘Damn, should I even be out here?’
Radiohead and Tool. I like a lot of different stuff, like I really like Live, but their last record didn’t leave me with much.
Actually I’ve been like that for the last two.
Honestly, me too, but I wanted to be polite. I think Tool and Radiohead humble me. I can’t stand myself after listening to them. I suck. They are just amazing. They are two completely different kinds of bands who say fuck you to everything. I just think they raise the bar.
U2 still has to humble a lot of people.
I know. They’re like super freaks. You don’t find those kinds of bands that come by and constantly get good stuff out of themselves. I think they are trying to get back to where they once were. Things got a little funky for me around Zooropa. I tried to embrace it, but it didn’t work.
I think they wrote hits and they got tired of playing the hits and lost themselves.
Those guys write great fucking songs. And when I was first starting out, my feeling about being a singer was to look at what Bono was doing. I wanted to say something and go to a different level with myself. They are the reason why I am who I am. I’m so inspired by them. Becoming a singer, Bono was the man for me, and he still is.
Was singing natural?
It seemed to be natural, it is still a craft I’ve developed over the years. People who’ve known me say I’m singing better now than I ever had in my life. For me, I’ve never been afraid of letting go when I sing. You have to open up emotions and I felt okay about that. So singing became natural. I listen back to stuff five or six years ago and I’m like, ‘Oh shit, what the fuck was I thinking?’ It has gotten better. I hope two years from now I’m a better singer than I am now.
I’m not a singer, not good at least, but I wonder do you feel like you have a grasp on it? I mean, as a guitar player you know what your limitations are, can you know something like that with your voice?
No. I don’t know really because I’m finding that I can still go to these different places. Note range, there are some limitations. I’ve found I can sing with different expressions. It’s bizarre to think of your body as an instrument. It’s always changing, but I think you can push yourself. Do you sing?
No, well, in the car. And believe me, no one wants to hear it.
But I play guitar and I understand limitations. I was listening to Donavon the other day and the song “The Hurdy Gurdy” man and his voice does these crazy things and I wonder how in the hell he did that or how he even knew he could.
I think it’s one of these things that is a happy accident.
How much can you push?
Well, as you can hear, I have to figure that out better. I can go six nights on the road and be fine. Last night was weird because I hit it hard and we were out all night talking to friends and stuff. Every singer is different because it is their body, some singers have to baby themselves and some can abuse themselves.
I know! Think that guy does vocal warm-ups? Maybe he does, I don’t know. I know I do. I do them more now because we have more on the line.
If you kill your voice then your career is over. If you lose it…
…I’m fucked. You have to keep your instrument well. I’ve learned to buckle down over the years. I don’t smoke, well, occasionally, I try not to drink as much on tour, but there are times where there are certain shows where you are celebrating.
+ charlie craine