PopPunk's Interview with Eben D'amico

Interview with Eben D'amico

PopPunk.com's Interview With Eben

It's "official;" Saves The Day is a huge success, or at least the next big thing. Just ask MTV, Spin, and Alternative Press. Or, of course, you could look at the size of their new tour bus. The near mobile apartment complex is fully loaded with a forty-inch wide screen, purple plush couches, and spacious bunks. It's plain to see; the band's wheels scream big time rock star. Hell, they're touring with rock heavy weights Weezer, riding out the hefty success of their latest release, and playing shows at massive venues to crowds of kids happily singing along to each word. If there is any such thing as validation in the music industry, consider Saves The Day certified!

But, as much as it would appear that our favorite emo rockers have gone SUPER STAR on us, they really haven't changed at all. Maybe they are playing gigantic venues to absurd amounts of people, and maybe they're riding in a tour bus with more TVs than some American households, but as far as the band is concerned they've officially been a success for some time now.

"We're never going to be anybody but ourselves," asserts bassist Eben D'Amico blankly. In short, they're the same Saves The Day they've always been...just a little different. The band's latest release, Stay What You Are, has forced listeners to challenge the lines that separate indie rock, emo, and punk. The record, their first on Vagrant, is at sometimes garishly brilliant and dazzling, while at other times slight and soft-spoken in its folkyness. Strikingly dissimilar to the band's previous efforts, the new record and its title serves as an ironic sound and moniker for a release that displays not only vast musical difference to the bands catalog, but musical improvement over previous albums as well.

First and foremost, Saves The Day is about expression. Eben comfortably declares, "We're a band that you can safely say is never going to put out the same record twice." A mainstay in the group, and what arguably defines their sound, is their devotion to honesty in songwriting. While each record may have possessed a different musical direction, Saves The Day has indeed stayed what they have always been--true musicians. So, while the tours may get even bigger, and the bus may turn into a jet, the men inside will remain the same. Saves The Day will be Saves The Day...just a little different.

And on a chilly night in February, I was lucky enough to sit down with bassist Eben D'Amico, and talk a little bit about the band's success, their latest record, and their newfound mainstream attention.

POPPUNK: Stay What You Are is a drastically different release from anything else you guys have put out. What would you attribute that difference to?

EBEN: I'd attribute it to us growing up as people and as musicians, and Chris growing up as a songwriter. I mean, if you think about it, Chris wrote the songs that would become Saves The Day's first album when he was 16 years old. Taking that into account, you're going to see the band change and evolve, as we grow older. You're going to hear different musical influences come into our lives and you're going to hear us mature as musicians and songwriters. I think that it's something that is still happening and it's always going to be happening with this band because we were fortunate enough to be able to get our start very young. I think with each record you're going to hear changes here and there because we're always striving to make things new and exciting, for ourselves and for the people who listen to us.

PP: Speaking of musical influences, what were you guys listening to before Through Being Cool and before Stay What You Are.

EBEN: Most of us in the band grew up listening to punk and hardcore stuff. So, we made the Through Being Cool record, and then we all discovered, over time, that there is other music out there. I think a lot of kids who grew up in the hardcore punk scene, or whatever the hell you want to call it, have a very narrow-this is a generalization--but, it seems like some people have a very narrow view of music. And you have to realize that there is a world of wonderful music out there if you open yourself up-a world of influences and ideas and sounds.

PP: I've read that you guys received some major label offers after Through Being Cool. But, instead of signing with a major, you opted for Vagrant. How do you like it so far?

EBEN: It's wonderful! I mean, it's the best place for us to be right now, as a band. It's the most appropriate home for our music because it's a label that can accommodate us as a band and do what we need to be done for our records, and touring, and promotion. It's run by people who understand bands like us and people that genuinely love our music and our band. They're not going to necessarily treat us as a product or commodity.

PP: How is the drummer search coming? I know Damon from Hey Mercedes has filled in on this tour. But, are you making any progress in finding a full-time replacement?

EBEN: Yeah, Damon is filling in on this tour. He was kind enough to come in and play for us. We tried out a handful of people when we were home last. There are many other people we are planning on playing with when we get home again. You know, it's just a matter of playing with as many people as we can. And when we find the right person we'll know it, hopefully.

PP: In my opinion, something that set the band apart from the bulk of the pop punk scene in the late nineties, aside from your lyrical content, was Bryan's creative drumming. He was one of the few drummers around who didn't rely on the tired bass, snare, bass, bass, snare pattern to flesh out every song. Do you think you lost something that can't be replaced when Bryan left the band last year?

EBEN: No. I think the drummer that we find will be the last piece of the puzzle and make us be able to be the band we want to be, and to be able to make the music we want to make.

PP: You guys are really starting to make waves in the mainstream music world. I just saw a picture of the band on the cover of Alternative Press. What's with the suit motif?

EBEN: I don't know. Originally, the first idea they wanted to do was to have us be in super hero outfits, which was really stupid. So, I think when we heard suits, it was just that we were willing to settle because it wasn't completely ridiculous.

PP: In the past and the present, New Jersey's punk scene has received a substantial amount of recognition and its bands have had a pretty good success rate. What do you attribute the success of bands from that area to?

EBEN: I don't know. I'm not from Jersey and I don't really know much of anything about the Jersey punk scene. I think as a band we're fortunate enough to not have to be a part of any scene. I mean, of course you always are to a certain extent. We feel fortunate to be able to go on tour with bands that we like, and don't really have to answer to the bullshit politics and stupidity that goes along with scenes or whatever you want to call it.

PP: The first single off of the new album, "At Your Funeral," has had a substantial amount of commercial success. Can we expect any more singles off of Stay What You Are?

EBEN: I think so. I think the next single we've been talking about doing is the song "Freakish." I'm not sure exactly what the plan is for that. But, I think that is going to be the next single.

PP: What is the writing process like? I know Chris does most of the song writing. But, has the involvement of the other band members changed from album to album?

EBEN: Yeah, it has. The way we did it on the last record, and the way it seems we'll continue to do it, is that Chris comes up with the basic ideas for the songs-the chord structure, the melody, and chord progression. Most of the time he'll demo the songs by himself and give us an idea of what they're going to sound like. Then we all go through them as a band and kind of put them through the grinder, put our own flare into it, write what we want to write, and do what we see appropriate to each song.

PP: Do you prefer the large venues your playing on this tour to the smaller ones you've played in the past?

EBEN: No. It's a cool opportunity to be able to play in front of this many people. It's wonderful. We're very, very thankful to be able to be on a huge tour like this with Weezer. But, I think we would all definitely say we prefer playing clubs to arenas. It's very impersonal playing in a place like this.

PP: Have you guys been writing any new material on the road?

EBEN: Yeah. Chris is a very productive songwriter and he's always turning out new music. It's always really exciting to hear what he's doing because our next record is probably a year away. But, already we get to hear what things are going to sound like and what kind of songs he's coming up with. And it's really exciting because we get to start thinking about it now.

PP: Do you have any idea what musical direction your sound will be taking? Will it be more in the vein of Stay What You Are?

EBEN: It's going to be more in that direction. It's going to be the same kind of stuff. We're a band that you can safely say is never going to put out the same record twice. I don't think--although it may disappoint some people--I don't think we're ever going to go back to the way we sounded three or four years ago. That's a bad thing to some people and a good thing to other people. To us, it's always a good thing. The next thing we do, the next music we make, is going to be more in that same kind of direction.

PP: In short, what does the word "punk" mean to you guys?

EBEN: Well, it definitely doesn't mean any sort of specific music at this point. I'd say now a days, punk is about being a band and making music by your own rules. If I could think of a band that kind of personifies punk to me it would probably be Fugazi. Just because they're one of those few bands that never ever compromises and has always done what they want to do. I don't think of us as a punk band at all. Maybe that's the music that we grew up listening to. To a certain extent we've always tried to do things on our own terms, and do what we want to do as people, as a band, and musically.

PP: In your opinion, what characteristics make EXTRAORDINARY music? Not just a good pop punk or emo song-but, a good song, period.

EBEN: What makes extraordinary music is daring to be different. That's pretty much it. Being willing to stand apart from anything else, and of course, good musicianship.

PP: Whenever I read an interview with you guys, I'm astounded at how grounded you are and simply at the fact that your fame hasn't gone to your head. What keeps your feet on the ground?

EBEN: We don't really do anything. We're just people. We're never going to buy into any sort of vibe we're getting from being a band and being on tour and having people watch us, listen to our music, and buy our records. It's not going to change anything. To me, this is a job like anything else. I consider myself, and we consider ourselves, extremely fortunate to be able to do this as our career-as our job. It's wonderful that we can do something we love, which is play music, and do it with people we love and have people appreciate it. We're never going to be anybody but ourselves.

PP: Well, that's it. Thanks a lot, Eben. I really appreciate the interview.

EBEN: Cool. Thank you!

Thanks to PopPunk