‘Good Vibrations’ is one of the best known songs in The Beach Boys’ back catalogue. Although this could partly be due to its appropriation in various television advertisements, the original recording still stands as a work of avant-pop genius. This feat belies the fact the song came about during a massively turbulent time in the band’s career – songwriter Brian Wilson was grappling with the unravelling of his sanity, while band mate Mike Love was not impressed with Wilson’s refusal to write any more cheesy songs about surfing.
Florida pop punk/metalcore outfit A Day To Remember give a wink to The Beach Boys with the title of their new album, Bad Vibrations. Now, A Day To Remember aren’t immune to internal conflicts of their own – for instance their previous LP, Common Courtesy, was preceded by a sticky feud with former label Victory Records, eventuating in the end of their contract. However, contrary to the disorder experienced by The Beach Boys around the time of ‘Good Vibrations’, Bad Vibrations is the work of a band in better health than ever before.
This is exemplified by the album’s collaborative construction. More so than their previous five records, Bad Vibrations depicts the musical personalities and preferences of all five A Day To Remember members. To achieve this, they all moved into a cabin away from the city and worked on the songs as a group.
“I feel like the way we had been building albums was more based around how I was comfortable and not the whole band,” says frontman Jeremy McKinnon. “Literally, we don’t even play half our albums because people don’t have a connection to the songs like I would. Without even meaning to, I was kind of controlling the process.
“So I thought, ‘Let’s be a real band, get in a room and write a record like we used to back in the day when we were in our parents’ garage, and create an environment where other people that want to have a voice can [have a voice].’ It was the right time to change it up, get out of our comfort zone and try something new.”
While McKinnon was eager to implement this new method, there was no guarantee it’d work out. But the band’s enthusiasm was peaking following the global success of Common Courtesy, and the ideas immediately began to flow. They were additionally motivated by the fact they’d soon be teaming up with a production team they greatly admired. In contrast to A Day To Remember’s latest few records – recorded in Florida with Andrew Wade and Chad Gilbert – Bad Vibrations was recorded at The Blasting Room studios in Colorado with producers Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore. Stevenson is well known as the drummer for the Descendents, but he and Livermore have also produced stacks of punk and hardcore albums, including releases from Rise Against, Alkaline Trio, NOFX and Useless ID.
“There was a few places we were considering, but [The Blasting Room] was the one we were all most excited about,” McKinnon says. “They’ve done all these punk records we love. There were some hardcore records that came out of there that we’ve cited as sonic influences forever, like the Comeback Kid Wake the Dead album. The bass tone in ‘Talk is Cheap’ is the bass tone that we’ve shown every engineer ever recording our albums. It’s like, ‘This is what we want our bass tone to sound like.’ There was no other place to go, in our minds.”
The band evidently had high hopes about teaming up with Stevenson and Livermore, and McKinnon says everyone was on the same page from the get go. “They had done a lot of heavy records. They’d listened to ours and we’d show them things we like, and we referenced the Comeback Kid tone and they knew exactly what was used for that. It just happened naturally. They knew what we wanted.”
A Day To Remember are well known for merging melodic, radio-friendly pop punk sounds with the aggressive screamed vocals and breakdowns typical of modern hardcore. Such a fusion again features prominently on Bad Vibrations, but that doesn’t mean they were hewing to a specified stylistic blueprint.
“We just get together and put together whatever we think sounds right,” McKinnon says. “There’s never an end goal or a theme. It’s always just, ‘What is happening right now in our lives?’ Musically/influence-wise too. We just go for it, and what you end up with is A Day To Remember. It’s never, ‘Let’s try to write this or let’s try to write that.’ It’s just free-flowing ideas that we’re into that we’ve finished in a way that we deem acceptable.
“There’s a bar for us. It’s never just like, ‘We think this song kind of sucks, but let’s put it on the album anyway.’ If we don’t like something, it doesn’t go on an A Day To Remember record and that’s why it usually takes around three years to concoct one. We like to have every part of every song be something we one hundred per cent believe in. I think that’s why we’ve gotten to the point we have – our attention to detail.”
A Day To Remember have an enormous global fanbase, including an especially fervent Australian following – last December’s Big Ass Tour with The Amity Affliction included shows at several of the country’s biggest arena venues. Despite being their first record without the support of a label, Common Courtesy achieved significant chart success. Moving into Bad Vibrations, they weren’t going to dismiss the implications of their commercial standing.
“This band changed my life and we are so grateful for what this fanbase has given us. The fact that I can go home and relax and write music that is just therapy for myself at the end of the day, and I put it out and people come to shows and pay money to see us do that and we can live a more than comfortable life and get to go on tour with massive worldwide huge bands – this is the most amazing gift that anybody could ever be given and we do not take it for granted.
“You don’t see A Day To Remember spitting out records ever year full of bullshit. Even if you don’t like a record by us, we put time and we put effort into making it the best album we possibly could. [Bad Vibrations] is the best we could’ve done for this section of three years in our lives.”
Bad Vibrations is out now via Epitaph Records. A Day To Remember will be touring nationally throughout December to celebrate its release. For more information visit livenation.com.au.