Four Year Strong

Live at the Grog Shop 9/1/15, Interview with Alan Day

Lisa Sanchez

Four Year Strong are the answer to the enigmatic question: What happens to punks when they grow up? The band have been together for a decade (recently celebrating their ten year anniversary at the beginning of this year) and as the members have grown and toured the world a dozen times over Four Year Strong's sound has evolved into a solid fist bump of pop-punk awesome.
           
While preparing for the band's upcoming headlining tour with Defeater and Expire, vocalist/guitarist Alan Day spoke with me about Four Year Strong's new tour, their recently released self-titled album and how the band's fans sometimes conquer the stage during their live shows.
           
Day, obviously packing and preparing for the tour which will kick off in Cleveland, Ohio in less than a week said he was very excited to get back on the road and perform songs they hadn't yet performed from Four Year Strong released in June of this year. "It's an exciting time, but it's also nerve-wracking," Day said. "Some of my favorite parts on the new album are the guitar riffs, but now that I have to play and sing they're quickly becoming not my favorite. I'm definitely going to mess up. I've played the old songs so many times it's just muscle memory at this point, but I've only played the new songs a couple times. Now I have to master playing and singing them at the same time," the guitarist chuckled.
           
Despite some possible pre-tour performance qualms, Day remains excited to play shows where the band helped hand-pick the venues and opening bands, "We wanted to play crazy, small shows. The last time we played the Grog it was crazy, non-stop, people were hanging from the rafters and on the last song everyone in the crowd came on stage and sang," Day explained during the commotion the guitars and microphones had gotten disconnected "So the only sound was drums and everyone singing along." Although that show unfortunately resulted in some broken equipment, it obviously didn't sour the band's relationship with the Grog shop, where they'll be beginning their headlining tour on September 1.
           
Four Year Strong's music has an upbeat, breakneck, quality that combines the positivity of pop-punk with the ferocity of happy hardcore. The band's sound and lyrical content has naturally evolved to reflect the lives of its members, which has resulted in a loyal fanbase of people around the same age as the band, "It's cool, we've noticed a lot of our fans are the same age as us," Day commented, "The fans have grown with us, but there aren't a lot of new, younger fans, who we also need because that's the way to stick around, to continue, and that's what we want to do, we want to play music forever. We just want all the fans."
           
If the band is determined to accrue more fans, the release of their newest album, Four Year Strong, will definitely help them continue their success. The band worked with prolific metal producer and Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou to create a heavier sound for Four Year Strong. "We didn't know what to expect from Kurt. He works with heavier bands normally and that's why we wanted him, for a heavier sound. Because of that I was afraid he would think we were the lamest band ever," Day joked. "He's not very animated either, whereas most producers are like your cheerleaders, it was difficult to get a read on him at first." Four Year Strong's sound formed into the most cohesive and hard-hitting album the band has produced to date with great help from Ballou's experienced guidance.
           
Three months after the release of Four Year Strong and Day said he still wouldn't change a thing about the album, however, as most musicians do, he always thinks there are certain parts he could have perfected more, "If we got all the time we wanted to record, it [Four Year Strong] would never be released. But, that's why people have deadlines and schedules. Now, when I hear the parts I may have wanted to fix, they're some of my favorite parts on the album for that reason." Day said.
           
I spoke with Day about a week before the band's kickoff tour, but when the show arrived at Grog Shop the band slipped flawlessly into their energetic showmanship. Their tech crew were dressed in zebra print spandex suits and before the band walked onstage they played a recording of the interaction between Georgie and Pennywise the Clown from the movie "It" (triggering numerous childhood nightmares). Of course this introduction was necessary for "We All Float Down Here" from the band's self-titled release.
           
After the band's first four songs, including "Tonight We Feel Alive (On a Saturday)" and "Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die" Four Year Strong was told by Grog staff to "politely ask your fans to stop ripping the light cords out of the ceiling" as Day put it on stage. There were so many people flying toward the stage and grabbing onto the ceiling it's not surprising things went haywire, but it seemed par for the course for this Four Year Strong show.
           
The members of Four Year Strong didn't miss a beat, even with shoes constantly aimed at their direction, and consistently kept high energy and amiable stage presence. After playing "I Hold Myself in Contempt" Day admitted, "That's the first time we've ever played that song live, thanks for liking it." About halfway through the show, guitarist/vocalist Dan O'Connor pointed out to the crowd, "This is a special thing everyone on first day of tour gets to see; me gradually losing my voice throughout the show," he said, with a noticeably more gravelly voice than he started with.
           
When Day told me the anecdote about the entire crowd getting on Grog's modestly size stage to sing with the band, I didn't doubt it could happen, but I didn't expect the constant low ground rumble that persisted throughout the entire show. Four Year Strong's show set off an electric current in all of the Grog's inhabitants and didn't stop until the band left the stage. Luckily, there were significantly less wires ripped out of the wall, but Four Year Strong made good on their promise and invited the crowd onstage during their final encore "Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)". The band was buried under dozens of sweaty fans, but the guitars and microphones remained in tact to here Day's voice cut through the chaos to sing "Wasting time-all along you were just wasting mine. Come on, let's hear it!" along with a fifty person accompaniment.
              
Four Year Strong's performance was stand-out from beginning to end and I think they need to consider putting inflatable rings onstage so crowdsurfing fans can earn points for their efforts. The band's current tour will run until mid-October and when asked what the band has planned after that Day told me he was getting married when the tour was over. With that, it's fair to say he and the band will be concentrating on family and friends for the winter.