Dave Spills his Guts (and Saves the Day)
Interview with David Soloway
Dave Spills his Guts (and Saves the Day)
Saves the Day shows always turn into an adventure. So I had no qualms about traveling an hour and a half to attend a sold out show I didn't even have a ticket to. And it was no surprise to me when guitarist David Soloway agreed to an interview with just one small bribe.
"You'll buy me a beer? Yeah I'll do an interview for a beer."
And so we did. On the first night of the highly anticipated B Sides tour, in a trendy Boston bar, with a background soundtrack that assured us that someone's milkshake was better than ours.
And the night's adventures had only just begun.
KP: First off, this tour. Your website indicated that part of the motivation for this tour was to please your fans, many of whom were disappointed by the Grandaddy tour [which featured mostly new material]. Is it frustrating to you that many of your fans are unreceptive to your new direction?
D: It is, yes, for obvious reasons. It's frustrating to be as proud of a record as we've been of all of them, and to not have that necessarily be reciprocated, but at the same time, when we make records we make them to make whatever music we think is good, you know, and whatever we all like. And the rest of it we try to look at as, well if people like it then that's a nice coincidence. And with this record it was a much different kind of response then we've had in the past. In the past it's always been like we were working to catch up with the momentum, and now it feels like it's a little bit more like it was humbling basically, you know? We recognized that we really need people to come see our shows if we're gonna be a band, or else it just won't happen. And we've all been having a lot of conversations recently about the difference between artists and entertainers, and how up until the sixties, people were entertainers, the musicians, and they played what people wanted to hear. And that was it. And then all of a sudden in the sixties, rock and roll started happening, and folk music, and all of a sudden the artists were the ones that decided the way the shots should be called, but I'm sort of rambling It was a very educational experience, and it helped us recognize well obviously if we have a new record, we're gonna promote it and we're gonna play those songs, you know, that's what you do. So we did that. But if people don't necessarily catch on, then we're gonna play what people want to hear. And that's the idea behind this tour. So it was that, and a big part of it also was the ticket price. The tickets on that tour were, I think, between 23 and 27 dollars, and we didn't know that they were gonna be that high until we got on the tour. And we wouldn't have agreed to have done the tour for ticket prices that were that high. So that was the other idea; to do ticket prices that people could really afford. I think it's 15 in a few cities and most of the time it's 12.50 or 13 dollars. We're not making any money on this tour. We're just doing this because we know that we have to. And it's sort of like not a thank you, but you know, a reminder that we really do care about people that come to see us a lot, and we know how important it is that they enjoy what we're doing.
KP: Ok, this might be a bad example, but I know that Chris Martin of Coldplay will no longer play the song "Green Eyes" because it is not about Gwyneth Paltrow. Are there any songs in your repertoire, I know that you'll be taking requests, is there anything that you wouldn't want to play?
D: Me personally, no. A song's a song. Once it's done, the emotional part is sort of detached. It's something to play.
KP: Will there be any acoustic songs on this tour?
D: We're gonna be playing some of the songs from the acoustic record, but we're doing them electric.
KP: And can you tell me a little bit about the upcoming B-sides release?
D: Yeah! B-sides is sort of a misnomer, it's more accurately an 'early recordings' album. Like, we went back and found the seven inch that we did before the band was even called Saves the Day, so it's a lot of recordings from like, 1995 through 2000? That's about what it is. There's all the songs that were demo-ed for Can't Slow Down but weren't on the album, so there's like four of those songs, and there's a lot of really early stuff that doesn't even sound like Saves the Day, and up through, you know, "Ups and Downs" and "Drag in D Flat", and the songs that were Stay What You Are B-sides. So I think it's 19 or 20 songs?
D: And I think it's out on August 23rd.
KP: And what record label is that going to be released on?
D: That's gonna be on Vagrant.
KP: While we're on the subject of older music, I've always been curious as to who Casey and Anna are, and if you're still in touch with them? [Casey is mentioned once, and Anna twice on Saves the Day's acoustic EP, I'm Sorry I'm Leaving]
D: Anna's my sister
KP: Oh, really? Oh!
D: And Casey was her boyfriend at the time the song was written. So yes, I am still in touch with Anna [laughter]. But Casey I don't see so much.
[Later on in the interview, David's phone rang. It was Anna!]
KP: Chris is actually the only band member remaining from the recording of Can't Slow Down. Is it strange to revisit that old material with new band members?
D: Yes, especially now. This is the first time we're going to be playing Can't Slow Down songs with our new drummer, Pete, so that was interesting because he plays them a lot differently than Bryan did. But you know, in a good way. It's more just like, it's kind of nostalgic, because we swore off those songs for a while because we really felt like we had better material. And now we're recognizing, like I was saying before, that if people want to hear it, then we should play it, you know? At least for one tour.
KP: When listening to that album, Can't Slow Down, the influence of Lifetime is really obvious. However your next full length release (Through Being Cool) marked an obvious growth into your own style, and so I was wondering what happened between those two albums to cause the change?
D: Well, touring for one. Can't Slow Down, Chris wrote that record when he was still a senior in high school, a junior even for some of the songs, and the album was recorded when they were still in high school. So it was more about what information he could get from his own little world, like being in Princeton, and Lifetime was a band that he idolized at that point. And then we started touring, and we started getting out there more, and we also went from being sixteen and seventeen to being nineteen and twenty, and you know, things change really quickly around that time. So that's a big part of it I think. But yeah, the difference between those two records I think is definitely, you're right; the sound comes from more figuring out what we do, as opposed to what we like.
KP: When Stay What You Are was released, your popularity really exploded. Was it weird to hear your own music played on the radio?
D: Mmhm, very weird! I remember the first time, Eben and I were driving around in Los Angeles and we were listening to KROQ out there and it said, coming up, you know after the commercial, a bunch of bands, and Saves the Day was one of them. And we were like, oh shit! And we were going to a thrift store or something; we were like, in a parking lot. I just remember we sat in a parking lot for like a half an hour waiting for the song to come on, and then we listened to it, and yeah, I mean, it's really exciting. And very surreal. I mean, the television stuff was the weirdest part. Like going and playing Conan O'Brien and those kind of things? That was just really really bizarre and we felt like we were like on another planet, you know? Cause we never in our wildest dreams imagined we would actually do that. When we all started touring the thought was that maybe we'll do this band for a few years you know, we'll have some fun, and then maybe when we're all like, twenty-three, twenty-four, we'll go back to college. But that's obviously not happening. And that was sort of what solidified that. Through that record we knew we could keep doing this.
KP: What would you say was the best part of being accepted into the mainstream music scene, and what if anything did you miss from before?
D: Um, the best part was being able to have our band be exposed to a wider audience, and having kids who maybe listen to I don't know what coming to see us, you know? We've always said that if everyone in the world could hear our band, we would love that. And that's what any band would say. So that was a really nice thing, knowing that we were playing at one o'clock in the morning or 12:30 in the morning, you know, on television. And all those people that actually heard us play, that probably would never come to a show, you know? That kind of thing. That part was nice. Through getting that kind of exposure, like, the mainstream exposure? That's a big part of how a band like us can get enough fans to be able to really maintain something that allows us to not have to get jobs. Which is what allows us to be a better band, you know? So that part was really good. And then things like, being able to tour with Blink and Green Day and stuff like that was great, we never would have done that otherwise Um, downsides? I mean, there were downsides like um, I don't know I don't know if I can think of any. I mean, there was a certain degree of feeling like what we were doing was something that was really special that we were doing, just with the five of us, at that time, and once it got bigger, there were more people that needed to help in order to actually get everything done. And so it felt there was a certain degree of losing control that happened when all that you know? So we had to learn to trust other people to make decisions for us and stuff, which was weird. Because we were like, you know, we were coming home with the money we'd made on every tour and it was ours. And now all of a sudden its like everything's going all these different places, and so that was a little weird, for me anyway. Like, I like to know what's going on. So it was a little weird to have to know that things were happening without me knowing because there was just too much happening to be able to know about it all. That's the only downside I can think of, and that's not really a downside, it's just kind of a different thing.
KP: One of your older songs actually states that you grew up on soul and jazz music. Was it inevitable that Saves the Day's music would eventually develop a more jazz-influenced sound?
D: Um I'd say it was definitely inevitable that we would change. Because we've definitely learned about ourselves as a band that we'll never make the same record twice. You know, there's some bands that like, have a sound, and they stick to it? And we have a sound, but our sound involves making different records. I think, as far as like, jazz and soul, as we've gotten older we listen to more diverse music, I guess, and what you listen to is gonna influence what you write, so
KP: So Thursday and The June Spirit share something in common with you in that they too are from the Garden State. What is it about New Jersey that produces such angst-ridden music?
D: I don't know. I have no idea. It yeah. I mean, I grew up there so it's just like a normal place to me. Um maybe the proximity to New York, but the fact that it's not a city, allows for a certain kind of like metropolitan behavior? In terms of like, there's more people to be in bands around? And there's the idea that you can go to the city and play shows. I mean that's what we do. I mean we were playing shows in New York City when we were, like, right when I joined the band, but they were even doing it even earlier than that. So it's not like if you're in, I don't know, if you're in like
D - Milwaukee or something like that, or Maine. It's like there's a venue, where you can get a lot of people to come see you, right near by. So maybe that makes it more exciting to do? But I don't know. There's a lot of people in New Jersey, you know? Maybe that's all it is. [laughs].
KP: Ok, bands like The Cure, The Beastie Boys, and Blondie they've all been around for years, and yet they're releasing albums still. What do you think it is that gives these musicians, and others like them, such staying power?
D: Well, do you want like my business answer would be that if you can get popular enough, you can just use that, forever. You know, if you get a song that's big enough, or you get an album that's big enough, then it takes a long time for it to kind of wear out. But that's not my real answer. My real answer would be that if people keep making good music that people want to hear, then people will buy it. I don't think that's true of all the bands that are still making records now, after twenty or thirty years, or the bands that have gotten back together to make records. Like, there's like, Styx and Nelson and some other band touring right now, and you know they're not doing anything new and exciting, you know? But bands like The Beastie Boys, their new record I haven't heard yet, but it's supposed to be their best album in a decade! Age obviously doesn't prohibit one from being able to make good music.
KP: While you guys are playing shows around the country, your fans are working as busboys and lifeguards. What was the worst summer job you ever had?
D: Summer job did I ever have a summer job?
KP: Or have you always been busy touring??
D: Well I went straight from high school into college I've never had a bad job, actually, I've only had good jobs. Like, I was a video store clerk when I was in college I ran the projector for film classes, and I got paid really well for it just to like, hang out and watch movies. Yeah, I've always lucked out with jobs. I mowed lawns a little bit and like, that sucks cause I got sweaty, but that's not that big a deal. Yeah, no I feel like I've been really lucky.
KP: You guys have released albums under many different labels, including Equal Vision, Vagrant and DreamWorks. What was your motivation each time in switching to a bigger label, and were you always happy with the change?
D: The motivation has always been to find a label that is big enough for whatever we think we can achieve with a particular record, but not too big that we're gonna get washed under the carpet if things don't work out well. You know, when we moved from Equal Vision to Vagrant, it was because the guys at Vagrant, they really made us feel really confident that they knew how to sell more records, you know, and get us more exposure. And they signed a lot of bands, they had just signed The Get Up Kids right before we signed with them, and the Get Up Kids were doing really well. Like, the Get Up Kids were like, to a certain degree, they were kind of the catalyst for us going to Vagrant because there were no bands doing as well that sounded like that at that point. They were the one band that we were friends with that we're like, whoa, they're going to L.A. to record. And they're getting national tours that are really good, that kind of thing. And we had a strong feeling that the people at Vagrant would be able to understand what we're doing well enough to make it work. So that was the motivation there. And then the move to DreamWorks was the same idea, you know? There's only a certain point you can get to on an independent label and then you need all those people that can call the radio stations every day, that kind of thing. And it was almost as much that we were just curious to see what would happen, as it was that it was a real well thought out but we really wanted to see if it would work. Unfortunately for us the label got sold right after we signed with them so it didn't work. Like whatever else happens. But we learned a really good lesson. So that's always been the reason. There was a second part to your question, I don't remember what it was
KP: Were you always happy with the way things turned out?
D: Yeah, well the DreamWorks thing kind of didn't work out as well as we hoped, because it was kind of beyond our control, but we're still happy with the decision we made.
KP: Saves the Day's music is most commonly referred to as "emo." If you had to write a short blurb to be stuck on the front of your album, how would you describe your sound?
D: Aw man, that's a really hard question I just say that we're a rock and roll band, like, that's all I can ever say. I feel like it's up to the people that listen to the music to describe it, I've never been able to like when I'm talking to one of my parents' friends, like, 'what does your band sound like?' you know? 'Tell me a band that I've heard of,' you know? And I just can't think, like, how many rock bands are there that are popular enough that sound enough like us actually to say I'll tend to say, 'We sound like the Foo Fighters.' But we don't, and I know that. So sometimes I lie, and say that. [laughter]. But my real answer would be, we sound like us. I don't know any more than that.
KP: The music industry has been really involved in motivating young voters for the upcoming election. Do you have any advice for your fans that are old enough to vote?
D: Just vote. [laughs]. In general, vote. I mean, it's pretty much a fact that if more young people vote, the right people will win. I mean, we've always known that, it's like the Republicans win because the Republicans vote, you know? And yeah. That's about all I say, just vote. I don't care who you vote for, but just vote. And then if enough people vote, the right person will win.
KP: Do you think that Saves the Day will be around for a while to come? Are there any plans for another new album?
D: Yes. There are vague plans at this moment. But it's definitely something we're working towards right now. We're sort of coming to the last few months of promoting this record, and then we're gonna have a lot of business crap to take care of, and then we're gonna make another record. Yeah. But our goal is to have something finished by I don't know, a year from now? Maybe? Maybe maybe maybe maybe? There are a lot of questions. But I mean, we're definitely going to keep doing what we're doing. There's no question about that. It's just a question of how it's gonna happen. And who's gonna be working with us and all that stuff. The process that we've gone through with In Reverie has sort of almost motivated us more to want to do it, it has reminded us of how we used to feel when we were opening all the time and felt like we really had to win crowds over, you know? Like, we hadn't gotten used to having big crowds, but to a certain degree we had. You know, like feeling like we'll do something and people will enjoy it. And we're all talking a lot about what it is people want to hear, or what it is our fans want to hear, and it's probably the most cerebral we've ever been about songwriting. Which I hope isn't a bad thing? Like, I'm sure we'll end up checking ourselves enough that it won't turn into a bad thing, cause I know it can. But in the past it's always been like what song's good, we'll play that song. You know, we're trying to be a little bit more careful now.
KP: Once Saves the Day does run its course, would you like to stay somewhere in the music industry, or do you think you would like to try something different?
D: That's another tough question. Part of me really does want to go back to college, like, for a long time. Like I have this dream that I could just take one class at a time, cause I'm really slow, like I'm a really slow reader, and uh, like I'm not slow, I'm smart, I'm just a really slow reader, and when I was in school for two years I could never do all the reading and I really felt like I was gypping myself. So if I could just take like, one class or two classes at a time, that would be really fun. But I'd also love to stay in the music business. Like, the business part, maybe not, but the music part, I'd like to stay in the music part of it for sure.
KP: What did you study when you were in school?
D: Um, I was an undeclared student taking whatever classes I wanted to take. I dropped out before my junior year, but if I had kept going I would've been doing requirements until the end of school just to complete my major. I was taking photography classes, that's about it. [laughs]. And a little bit of history.
KP: And finally, if you were invited to a real life knife party, what kind of knife would you bring and why?
D: I would bring a butter knife but the butter knives that are really wide, and really flexible, so that I could smack people with it.