PropertyOfZack Interview : : Senses Fail
PropertyOfZack had the chance to speak with Buddy Nielsen and Dan Trapp from Senses Fail a few weeks ago for a great interview. In the interview, Buddy, Dan, and I discussed the band’s ten year anniversary, smart touring, the release of their greatest hits/new EP, Warped Tour, DVD, new album plans, and much more. Check it all out below!
So you guys have been pretty quiet, in terms of touring, since the end of last year. Throughout last year, you had the early tour with Man Overboard and Transit and then the fall tour with The Story So Far and Make Do And Mend. That was the closing of the album cycle for The Fire. Are you guys happy with the end of the album cycle for that?
Dan: Yeah. I think so. We did about what we could with it, you know? The tours were really good. It was cool doing tours with cool new bands like them. I was pretty happy with how everything went. What do you think?
Buddy: Yeah I mean it sold pretty well. If you do the math of how much people’s records sales fall the last couple of years, we’re pretty much right on target. It did about half as well as the last one did. If you can do half as well as you did before, it’s usually considered a success. I think the tours we did went well and we didn’t over tour. It was kind of cool. With other albums, we’ve made it a point to drive ourselves into the ground. We definitely didn’t do that on this one. Every other record we put out, we literally were on tours where we were out for three months. And at the end of that we were like, “This sucks. I don’t want to do this, I want to go home.” That didn’t happen on the last record cycle. So it was good. Which was nice.
Dan: Yeah. It’s good for us to not want to kill ourselves, obviously. It’s what we do. You’re in a band, you put out records, and you go on tour. It’s part of the job. But I think another thing, too, is that you don’t ever want to make yourselves annoying to the fans. The more beating it into the ground that you do, the less likely you are going to have people flocking to come see you. If you’re playing New Jersey or something every three months, it’s not going to do you any good. So I think it was good in both of those aspects. It didn’t kill us, and we didn’t annoy the shit out of our fans.
For months now, there’s been a lot of buildup for the ten year anniversary. In terms of the “Greatest Hits” portion of the record, do you just want to give fans what they want to hear most in terms of song selection?
Buddy: Yeah. That was the idea. You know, what songs go over best live and what songs seem to be the most downloaded. Also, what songs did we do videos for; what songs seem to be the most successful. That’s how we pick the songs for it, honestly. What songs do people really like out of all the songs we have. I’m sure we’ve left off a couple, but…
Dan: Well the thing is, I think there’s always going to be different fan favorites from record to record. Songs that people really like that not a lot of other people like. I think a point to be made is that there is a lot of newer kids, hopefully, that are still discovering the band. Having something like that, especially after being around for ten years, where you can narrow down a sixteen song selection of all of our records, it gives new fans a good reference point to be introduced to the band. To know where to start. You know if , “I never really got into ‘so and so’ (some band from where ever) and know nothing about them,” I’m going to go to their “greatest hits” or their “best of” first and kind of thumb through that. Figure out whether I’m into it. You know, which album was my favorite, and then I’ll focus on that album and then expand from there. I think it will serve a good purpose in that regard.
You guys have been doing some of these retroactive videos for some of your older songs. Has it been nice and fun to explore past songs in a different way?
Dan: It’s interesting because we’ve been talking about the videos and there’s a line of notes and stuff in the actual packaging of the CD where there’s little explanations of how each song was written and each of the videos were shot. It’s kind of cool and crazy and wild to think back to 2002 or 2003, doing a video, and how much things have changed; how much the band has changed and how much we all have changed as people. It’s just interesting to take a walk down memory lane and see how sometimes this just feels like another life altogether. It’s pretty interesting.
Attached to the “greatest hits” portion of the CD will be a new EP as well. When did you guys start writing those songs?
Buddy: February. We went down to Baltimore in February and wrote a bunch of songs and picked the four that we were going to come back and record. We got together before then, last summer, and did some initial writing, but not too much of that made its way into any of this stuff. So we pretty much wrote it all in February.
This is the first EP that you have done since your first release. Was it nice to be in and out quickly.
Buddy: Oh yeah.
Dan: Yeah. It was cool. It was weird focusing on only a couple of songs and being like, “Oh. We’re done? That’s it? Okay cool.” I think it’s good because you don’t get too overwhelmed like, “Oh shit! We’ve got twelve other songs we’ve got to do.” You can kind of give the songs enough attention that they need. It’s short enough and concise enough that you really don’t over think anything. I think that you can hear that in the songs. Not that they were just thrown together or anything, but they have a more raw energy to them. I think that’s something that is similar about these and the original EP, when we just went and wrote songs, didn’t really care, and just did it.
Will we be seeing a song or two released soon?
Buddy: Yeah. We’re going to put one song up. I’d love to put up more songs, but the thing is that we only have four songs. So if we give away two, that’s half of the EP. We’re going to put up one song once it gets a little later in May. Probably towards the third or fourth week in May.
Everyone is also excited about the DVD part of the ten year thing. Can you update us with that?
Buddy: Yeah. It’s definitely changed. There was talk of doing that and now it’s just that a DVD or a documentary or a thing like that costs a lot of money to do. It’s just not something that you don’t really know how much you are going to get out of putting a lot of money into it. We talked about doing a Kickstarter, but I really hate the overuse of Kickstarter from well known bands. It’s a tough argument on how it can be perceived and what it should be used for. We were throwing around the idea of how we were going to fund this thing. Does the label want to fund it? Are they interested? How many people are really going to… I think a lot of people would be interested in seeing it. I don’t know how many people would be interested in buying it. So that’s kind of what we ran into with how we fund it and how we make it happen. The thing is, we caught a lot of footage. Over 8 terabytes of footage literally dating back to the first time that we ever practiced. Up until, I don’t know… we just played a show in Starland. That was kind of the last footage we have of us playing in Starland with Saves The Day over the holidays. We literally have thousands of hours of video tape documenting every tour we’ve ever done, every video we’ve ever done, recording processes from a lot of different records. So we have a lot of stuff to put together. But we want it to also include interviews with people that were a part of all of it, you know? Old managers, people who’ve worked at the labels we’ve been on, obviously the band members, ex-band members. That’s where the money starts to be an issue. Like how do you fund that? Right now we’re at the point where basically my mom has had all of this footage and she’s going to start putting it together. I don’t know what’s going to come of it. If what she puts together ends up being good, we’ll put it out. If it ends up being something we think is just kind of throw-away, we probably won’t put it out. It’s just hard. We’re not fuckin’ Pearl Jam. We’re not Soundgarden, we’re not Nirvana or Foo Fighters. We don’t have this legendary story. A band that started from nothing and went on to be one of the biggest bands in the entire world that spanned over twenty years. We’ve been a band for ten years and I think we’ve accomplished a lot, but it’s not this overwhelming story arc. I think if you like Senses Fail, you’d enjoy watching it, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be the type of thing where if you’re not a fan of the band, are you going to be interested in it? I don’t know. So right now it’s very much loose. We’re going to start doing some interviews to piece together the timeline of what we’re going to put together. I’m not really that involved with it because I have a lot of other stuff going on. We all do. That’s not our focus. That’s another reason why this thing is taking a lot of time. It’s something that could happen but hasn’t happened because it takes a lot of work, takes a lot of time, takes a lot of money, and we’re just not sure how good of a thing we’re going to come up with. So until we kind of piece that together with some of the interviews and it starts to take shape, we’re not going to know if we’re really going to release it. Worst case scenario, it’s something that we’ll just put up online, just for people to check out.
So this summer, you’ll be doing your first touring of the year with Warped Tour. The lineup is great and you guys have a lot of friends with older and younger bands on it. How excited are you guys for that? To be able to celebrate ten years that way?
Dan: I think it will be cool. It’s been a few years since we’ve done it. We did it in 2009 and the last time before that was 2006. In the span of three years, it’s crazy to see the tour change a lot. It will be interesting to get on it this year and see how it’s changed since the time that we’ve last done it. Like you said, we have a bunch of bands that are friends with us and a bunch of bands that we are sort of friends with. I think it will be cool. Hey, it’s a thirty minute set. It’s not anything crazy. But I think it will be pretty cool.
Pushing past Warped Tour, there have been pieces of news that you guys are planning to do an album or other touring. What’s the game plan?
Dan: Well, we’ve been writing on and off for a while. We’re going to continue to do so, even on the tour. If things go as planned, we’re hoping to record some stuff in the fall. Whether it be September, October, or November, we hope to figure that out. But I think before the end of the year, we should be in a studio doing something. Then hopefully in late winter, early spring in probably like March or so, we’ll end up putting something out. If everything goes as planned… But it will be cool. I love writing and recording and getting new stuff out. I think it will be exciting. Especially with a bunch of new guys in the band to see where it goes with the next record.
Like we spoke about at the beginning of the interview, you guys have been touring smarter and you guys have been busy with other jobs. Do you foresee it staying that way for Senses Fail? Smarter touring, more planned out releases, and whatever makes sense, rather than drilling it into the ground.
Dan: Yeah. We’re not going to drill it into the ground. At this point we’ve been around ten years. I think our name pops up when people talk about the music scene just like some of the bands… You hope that you’ve been around long enough and that you’ve put enough work into your records so they can speak for themselves. You hope you are mentioned in the same breath when people talk about this music scene. When you get into punk rock, people are like, “You should check out Bad Religion; you should check out NOFX; you should check out Black Flag.” I would assume that when people say, “You’re getting into music that came out in the early 2000s? You should check out Thrice and Senses Fail and The Used and Taking Back Sunday and Brand New.” I would hope that our name gets mentioned in that same breathe. Today it makes sense to only tour when it makes sense to tour and release records when they are good and it makes sense to release records. As opposed to sticking to this, “Every two years we have to do ‘this’ and we’ve got to do ‘this.’ We’re trying to make the band bigger.” I think the band is what the band is going to be. That’s not to say that in the future we get some other opportunity, maybe. It happens all of the time. Look at a band like Bad Religion. They were a band for like fifteen years before they ended up on a major label and having a radio hit. Sometimes just by sticking around you will eventually run into opportunities like that. But you can’t really chase them because, like we said before, we can’t ram it down people’s throats. You run the risk of becoming irrelevant in a way. You want people to give a shit, and they aren’t going to give a shit if you’re force feeding it to them, you know? I think that we’ve hopefully done enough that the band and name can stand on their own to the point where we don’t have to constantly be doing the leg work all of the time to make sure people still know who the hell we are. When things make sense to do them, do them. Hope that it makes the impact that we need it to.
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