The Summer Set is one of the bands that you might want to check out on Warped Tour, because once this summer's tour is done, you may never see them play the festival ever again. The band is starting to blow up, as they've released a very successful third full-length record, Legendary. I caught up with lead singer Brian Logan Dales in Portland to chat about the record and more.
You're back on Warped Tour after not doing it for a few years. What are your thoughts on returning?
Brian Logan Dales: Yeah, we're back on Warped Tour. We did the tour in 2010, and we're obviously a bigger band than when we did it last time; it feels like back then we were freshman in high school, and now we're seniors. We just put out a new record, so the timing is great, and we're excited to be here.
Who are you excited to see on this year's tour?
Brian Logan Dales: Yesterday, I watched Goldfinger, because John Feldman has always been good to our band. I've been watching William Beckett play and I sometimes sing a song with him. So far it's been about watching friends. I really want to watch Wallpaper's set, I like that stage a lot. There's a lot of stuff to check.
You have a line in one of the new songs that goes "I must confess, I'm a little obsessed with..."
Brian Logan Dales: "Dawson's Creek?"
Exactly. What else are you obsessed with?
Brian Logan Dales: (Insert Television show here), I watch a lot of TV...I like How I Met Your Mother, I've always liked that show. I'm obsessed with Mickey Mouse, as I have on my t-shirt.
Dancing With The Stars?
Brian Logan Dales: NOT Dancing With The Stars, I only watched it that one time Chelsea danced to our song on there. I'm obsessed with the state of California, now that I live there. The Detroit Red Wings, who really fucked me up this year. I'm obsessed with people who don't want the Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup this year, anyone but them, please!
Did you watch the first game of the finals? It was like 3 minutes removed from the longest game in NHL Playoff history or something...
Brian Logan Dales: Yeah, that definitely has to count as two games!
Your new album is titled Legendary - what inspired you guys to name it that?
Brian Logan Dales: The title track of the record is kind of one of the first songs that set the tone for the rest of the record. We all had moved into a house together in Arizona, and I couldn't figure out what kind of record we wanted to make, and we didn't want to force it in any direction. We were on the road basically for three years straight, and we were pretty burnt out, possibly me more than others. We had this house warming pool party, and everyone's hanging out with friends, hanging around the pool and drinking, and it was nice being domestic again and getting back to the roots. I was laying in my bed in my room by myself while the party was going on outside, watching How I Met Your Mother re-runs, and this weird thing hit me where I was like "Holy shit, you've got to get it together!"; I picked up guitar, even though I'm terrible at it, and I wrote this quirky chorus idea about how I watch too much How I Met Your Mother and how I need to get up off my ass and do something epic. I thought it was the sillest thing but the melody was cool, and then I showed John and Steven Gomez and they were a little bit inebriated and thought it was the coolest thing ever, and we rolled with it. It turned from this silly little idea to the most auto-biographical song I've ever written, this song about not giving up on this "Peter Pan" feeling and reminding yourself that everyone has the opportunity to be legendary to someone and do what you love, and it became such a thesis to the record. I think at that point I wanted to call the album Legendary.
I think there's a fine line when you're calling an album "Legendary" between sounding pretentious and having enough confidence. I'm not a pretentious person, and I felt like it had just the right edge of confidence.
Yeah, you mention the pool party, and that's exactly what I envision when I hear this record. It's funny how that works out.
Brian Logan Dales: I think calling the album Legendary is a reminder to myself to step it up and have that sort of confidence.
What's your favorite song off the record?
Brian Logan Dales: God, that's such a hard question, it changes every day.
How about today?
Brian Logan Dales: Today, my favorite song is "Jukebox". We played it for the first time live today and it went really well. It's hard, we wrote 55 songs for this record, and 12 made it. So I always say my favorite songs are the 12 that made it. With our past records, there's always those two songs that if you put it in front of someone new, you'd say "Oh wait, listen to these songs first, that's what we sound like" - but with Legendary, I feel like I can put it on shuffle and any song would work. We did the record with so many people, and I was worried about it sounding cohesive, and it totally feels cohesive though.
Dia Frampton made an appearance on "Heart On The Floor". What was it like working with her?
Brian Logan Dales: Dia's great, she's a good friend. We have the same manager and we're all like a little family, and she sang on our first record when she was still doing Meg and Dia. The song "Heart On The Floor" was one of the earlier songs written for the record, and it's a very different song and we ended up not doing the final verse until 9 months later. I always envisioned the song having this "choir" feel to it, and a lot of vocals, and call and response near the end. So I really needed a girl, and a friend of mine who was originally going to be on it fell through, and I needed somebody last minute, and we hit up our manager and asked Dia if she'd sing on the song, and she said "I'll do my best" because she's so modest, and she absolutely slayed it.
Was there a song that you really had a hard time writing lyrically?
Brian Logan Dales: There song that took the longest to write was "Lighting In A Bottle", but it was one of the most rewarding. We've been playing it live recently, and it's the craziest song in our set. The verses took the longest, because we wrote them four different ways, we wrote it with Emily Wright, and we spent four days working on that song at different times; we'd write half the song one day, and then come back to it three weeks later and write another half of it. It's crazy though, because songs like "Maybe Tonight" were written in a couple hours, and songs like "Someday" were written in an hour and a half.
I know some bands put something out, and then they're like "Oh man, I wish I would've done this instead", and then they re-do it later. I remember Breathe Carolina putting out a new version of "Vegas". Would you guys consider re-doing Lighting In A Bottle, since you had four different ways of writing the verses?
Brian Logan Dales: No, I'm very happy with how that song turned out. That's what's so cool about songwriting - sometimes it takes four hours, and sometimes it takes four days. But I think this song is one of the most lyric perfect songs I've ever written, I'm so proud of it. Every single word I feel great about.
You mentioned you had 55 songs written for the album. Is there a chance we might get a B-sides EP or something with some of the songs that initially didn't make the cut?
Brian Logan Dales: There are a few songs we could do a B-sides release with, or maybe a couple of acoustic versions of a few songs. I think I could take 55 and narrow it down to 20 that I was really comfortable with releasing. There's maybe 8 or 9 other songs I'd like to put out in the world, or I've gotten really into the world of songwriting, I've had so many songwriter mentor friends who really help. I remember with Everything's Fine, we wrote a handful of songs too, and I think some of those songs got graveyarded because I was so precious about them. There's so many songwriter friends, and I've gotten to accept the mentality that "Every song could find it's home, whether it's with me or someone else". A great song will always find it's home with somebody, and to not get too attached to the ones we didn't use maybe helps someone else, or maybe we'll use it later on down the line.
Have you written for someone lately?
Brian Logan Dales: I've been doing some outside writing, I've been doing a lot of stuff with Paradise Fears, they're putting out in like a week in which I co-wrote three of the songs. I really believe in that band, and I hope that they find their way, they released a song "Lullaby", and I think it's one of my favorite songs that I've ever written.
Has there been an immediate fan favorite off the new record, or the whole record pretty unanimously liked?
Brian Logan Dales: It's been pretty unanimous, which is great. With Everything's Fine there were two fan favorites very quickly, which were "Someone Like You" and "When We Were Young". And with Love Like This, we've seen more songs get popular later on, like "Chelsea" and "The Boys You Do" and "Young" were so immediately fan favorites. It's pretty cool to see people respond to the whole record, instead of just one or two songs. Oh, and "Boomerang" goes OFF on our set.
I think that's one of the songs that I felt was going to explode on radio, given the chance...
Brian Logan Dales: Yeah, we've been radio minded with this record especially. We've always made pop music; as far as a band, we've always been a little more pop lenient. I think there were always times during our past two records in which we thought about doing some radio stuff, I think it's hard for a band to push to radio too pre-maturity, because if it fails, you're blacklisted. So we'd always think about it...and then pump the brakes and make a new record. Now, it's our third record and our fan base is stronger than ever, and we have a great new team with Fearless, and it's the best chance we've had so far to even try. When we started making the record we never thought "Radio, radio, radio!", we had the mindset of "Let's make a record, and if a song happens that is so perfect for radio, we'll talk about it then", and then Boomerang happened in the final hour, and then we decided "Yeah, we're gonna do this".
I think one of the catalysts for you guys moving towards radio is you guys recently winning the opening slot on the iHeartRadio festival. I mean, last year Justin Bieber, Green Day, and more headlined that festival.
Brian Logan Dales: Yeah, last year was like Bieber, Green Day, Taylor Swift, Aerosmith...
So everyone that's on the radio is THERE, so it only makes sense for you guys now...
Brian Logan Dales: Yeah, it's a newer festival and it's very shortly become one of the biggest radio festivals in the U.S., which is incredible. It's really cool because iHeart Radio supports about half of the Top 40 stations in the nation, so winning this contest gets our foot in the door with anyone that's partnered with them. So winning is a wonderful surprise, because it's hard for a band on an indie label to go to a radio station with a backstory of "Indie band that's touring all the time". So winning this Macy's iHeartRadio contest gives us a bit of a different story than what we've had before. I'm so proud of where we come from, from this Warped Tour scene, is that we've already played a few of those radio shows - we recently played a show with Carly Rae Jepsen and those shows are so different, but they're so much fun because in this Warped tour world you have to bring a certain level of energy to fit in...I mean, we just played in between two heavier bands today (Stick To Your Guns and Woe, Is Me). Growing up in the scene, you have to have a certain level of energy in order for people to respect you. But with the pop radio shows, the energy is so different but we go up and play those same shows, and those 30 minute opening slots for Carly Rae Jepsen are explosive. Playing Warped really helped us stand out with those types of shows.
What was it like playing the Tilly's stage yesterday and then the Main Stage today? I know Woe, Is Me had a HUGE crowd today, and they normally don't.
Brian Logan Dales: It's tricky, most of the shows on the Tilly's stage are held in the amphitheater. Today I knew it wasn't going to be like that, and it's cool because I like playing the amphitheaters, but I definitely hope we get to do the main stage a few more times, it was awesome.
Fall Tour plans?
Brian Logan Dales: We're going to do something in the U.S. in the fall, but we have literally no idea what we're doing. I'd love to sneak in a few shows in the U.K. before the end of the year, because they've been really good to us lately
If you could pick any three bands to tour with right now, who would they be and why?
Brian Logan Dales: Right now, with us trying to bridge the gap between the world of Warped Tour and the world of radio, I would love to go on tour with a band like Fun., or like One Republic, something a little different. We've toured with every band right now that fits. It's all based around this iHeartRadio festival.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Brian Logan Dales: Our new record Legendary is out now and Warped Tour just started, so check us out in a city near you.