Interview: AJ Perdomo of The Dangerous Summer

The Dangerous Summer

Recently I was able to schedule a Zoom call with AJ Perdomo of The Dangerous Summer to discuss the band’s new record, called Gravity. In this interview, we chatted about the direction of the new LP, how AJ envisions balancing out his band’s setlists with so much new material, as well as the art that he is inspired by. Today, The Dangerous Summer released their latest single and video for “Pacific Ocean.” Gravity will be released via Rude Records on June 21st, and pre-orders are on-going here.

Good to see you again, AJ! The last time we connected we were talking about your last LP, Coming Home. But now let’s talk about the new record, called Gravity. Where did the title originate from?

Man, I think it was kinda born inside the album. It was just a heavy album to make. I think it felt like going out there super far, super, super far into it…seven weeks in the studio, day and night, and I live right down the road, but I don’t even come home. I just kind of left everything I had for my whole life on pause. I go out there and I make an album and I believe in the journey of the album completely. I believe when I go into making now, it fills up my whole being inside and outside. It kind of felt like going to space or something. People back in the day were singing about, even David Bowie, you start to feel really lonely out there, you start to feel that you stood to really understand what that meant when they were trying to almost scream out to people saying, “hey, I’m out here.” It can just feel like that sometimes. It was really born out of that and gave everything we had to the sound push as hard as we could. And I felt like an astronaut in space.

And I think you were originally tinkering with a different title for this record?

I wonder where you heard that…

It was in a press release. I think one of the quotes was pulled when mentioning how Gravity kind of came together late in the process, I think…

Yeah, it came late in the process. I forget what that was…

But anyways, I love the one-two punch of the new singles that came out, “Gravity” is doing really well. “What’s An Hour Really Worth?” is also a really powerful statement. Can you walk me through the writing process for the second single?

Man, we constantly jam a lot of ideas. We, as a band, kind of write the music together, and we’re connected musically. And then I go and I write, I go right in my room and try to make lyrics. And as soon as it can take forever, sometimes it can take just a little bit <of time>. And it’s kind of like this back and forth thing. So I do remember making “What’s An Hour Really Worth?,” and the funny thing is, I mean, you say the one-two punch of the singles, man. It’s hard to fix things. I don’t know what the single should be, it’s so crazy. And honestly, I was like, wow, that’s why the people want to put “What’s an hour really worth” as a single and then it gave it that energy. In my mind, the older records in my head, feel a lot like the songs on Reach for the Sun. So it has kind of turned around within that get like and then this one kind of has the same kind of clicking and moving over itself, type of feeling. I thought it’d be kind of one of those songs that people really love, but it wasn’t a single. But yeah, writing it, you have a general idea. And I remember we’re thinking in a very Biffy Clyro-type way, that riff had a feeling to it. And then we said once the drums came in, I know we referenced Alt-J as a really cool reference for the drums. It has a cool clicking to it. And as soon as I heard it, I was like, Okay, wow, this is really cool! I can write some really cool stuff to this…And I remember that’s the thing about the lyrics. You kind of feel these songs, and you feel the emotional path, and the sounds. Because, I mean, that’s all music really is. It’s like a blueprint for motion. So you’ve got this kind of blueprint and you have this moment you’re like, “Okay, well is it a love song?” Or is this song starting taking these journeys, these songs and I always start from word one, and I can’t really imagine, and I’m not a big picture person. So I remember I had been driving around, and I saw a memorial for somebody who had died in a car accident, or whatever. You never really know the true story, but I remember that in my mind the roses on the lawn and pesticides on the highway dried up, and shards of broken glass…It is just that feeling of…life is short. You see these signs around you, and you see people dying, and everything going on in the world right now. And I was actually talking to Josh about this. I think the funny landscaping signs are almost like a political statement. And the minimum wage, being what it is, what’s an hour worth? It’s definitely not fucking $10! Like, we’re all gonna die. It’s priceless. I mean, you can’t really put a price on ours. And a lot of times in your life, you feel like you’re stuck here, wasting time. And it’s so valuable that time, I think, and to remind people that, hey, chase that goal, or build that business? Do it, because it’s gone in the blink of an eye. And I think we’ve always kind of been that band that thought about existentialism. And we’ve kind of always had this voice of staying inspired. Like, life is good. And I think it felt really right. And I almost realized something about our band about how we can inspire people, you know?

And that’s a great message! The fact that life is fleeting, and you never know what your next or your last moment is going to be. Did you do anything different in your overall creative process between Coming Home and Gravity?

Um, not really. I mean, it’s kind of always been the same. It’s like, we just fight for what we like, and we all work on the music together. And then, yeah, I go and write the lyrics. And man, we had a really nice studio for this, holy shit… 

Where was it? 

In Richmond, Virginia. So Will Beasley, who also did our EP, and he did Coming Home and basically he interned for Paul Levitt, who did Reach for the Sun. And so he interned for Brian McTernan. And Paul Levitt, he’s so good. He’s so awesome. And you hear Paul, and his music, and you hear how the drums feel, and he really passed like this incredible torch to him. And so they just opened a big convent in the bakery in Richmond, Virginia. And yeah, Beasley is going to be one of the biggest record producers in this world. He’s just so fucking good at what he’s creating right now. And it feels like a lineage. I’m really proud of the lineage we’ve created there. And I think the studio was amazing. We had a lot of room, we had a lot of space, and I think the difference between albums is kind of where you’re at in your life. I always say we’re not trying to make good music. We’re just trying to make honest music. If I feel like shit, and I’m telling everyone I feel like I might kill myself, that’s where I’m gonna say it in my music. And if I feel like I’m really happy, and I feel like I’m on cloud nine, that’s what I’m gonna say in my music. I think the way people relate to music, I really feel that’s how I was feeling. Another thing is music is more like water. It should just flow through you. It’s less of a need to make something incredible, that beats this or is better than that, it’s like a language that I speak and I just speak it super clearly.

That’s a great way of putting it too, AJ. I’m glad you’re still finding music to be a therapeutic way of putting your art out there. So how is your merch store going? And how is the partnership with Rude Records going?

Dude, it’s awesome. It’s really cool to do our own merch. Actually, we kind of took it over for six months last year, but taking it back into our possession and it’s our desire to connect with our fans. And we’re doing our preorder through Rude Records. We signed that merch deal with them for that part of it. We make cool business deals. We asked them, well, to not convolute the pre-order process, do you guys want to buy the rights to also sell the pre-order exclusively? And we can’t sell it on our website because we’re so connected with our fans, and our merch store is awesome. We kill it. I’ve been doing some handwritten lyrics in there now and stuff like that. And, when you talk to these fans through email and say, “Hey, how are you doing?” I think that’s the most incredible thing about everything that we do. We have such good fans. I’m glad we’re not a beautiful band. If we looked like the Backstreet Boys, you’d have less genuine fans. <Laughter> At least they look at us for the music and they really connect to it.

And I saw you’ve been autographing some of the old catalog on vinyl, too!

Yeah, we’ll sign every vinyl and I’m getting that from Taylor <Swift>. She was selling signed CDs <at local record stores> and I was like, Hey, this is so cool! And why shouldn’t artists slow down? We love giving things to fans. They appreciate that. I would sign every album I ever made. I told Rude Records, I was like, dude, we’ll sign all 1,000 <pre-orders>. I think it’s very, very worth it to sit there and sign all that. And I love my fans. It’s such a home there. I really can’t wait to get back on the road and see everybody. It’s just, we’re so plugged in.

That’s awesome. Didn’t you recently do an overseas tour? I think I saw it on Facebook…

So we’re going to the UK later this month. So actually,  over the weekend, we played for the founder of this really giant company, a fashion company. So we went to this wedding, and it was insane. Mariah Carey played it. I saw Brian McKnight play it, too. And it’s funny because we played, and we didn’t want to bore the crowd. We’re like okay, we’ll get in, get out and we’ll play that like he just wants us to play like the one song and he was like hey, just throw two more on there. So we did the permanent, and then we did “Mr. Brightside” and “Use Somebody” and the crowd goes wild at weddings for that shit. “Mr. Brightside” somehow became like the anthem of our generation.

Yeah, it’s like this generation’s “Sweet Caroline”!

And man, you play and you’re like wow, the song is really good! And I was listening to the lyrics and I was like, Man this guy’s basically saying like I’m on tour, my girl’s cheating on me, this is the price I pay. Destiny’s calling me. And I was like damn man, what a fucking strong song…

Right, and yes, right out the gate too! I think that was their first ever single.

So that was just really cool to do, and then yeah, we’re going to the UK and we’re playing Slam Dunk with an insane lineup. And that’s what I like man. I really like the UK’s version of pop-punk. Like, You Me At Six. I remember sitting backstage with Bert from the Used and Josh. And Bert was like, “Man, you guys are really good. You should come on tour with us some time.” And they’re like, “No, you should come on tour with us!” In the UK, they are just fucking huge. We’re also playing with the All-American Rejects. Do you know where they’ve been?

I don’t think they put any music out recently, but I know that they keep reissuing the vinyl and they keep doing other things to stay top of mind, like touring. But I don’t think that there’s any plans to put anything new out…

What a band!  I’m excited to just try to say hi to Tyson Ritter, and say I love your band. Also that song by the starting line. You’ve heard that story, right? Like we all move along and then that inspired “Island”?

Also, The Starting Line got name-dropped by Taylor Swift. So that was pretty cool for them!

And I was so happy that day to hear that because I’m a huge Taylor Swift Fan. So I was like, man, she gave one to the team. That’s really fucking cool. I love those guys and I guess some of it is about Matt Healy. I guess good on you, Matt Healy, for that, too. That’s incredible, because I know they’re saying that it was like the news articles when it first dropped. It’s cool when Emo touches the mainstream. 

Yeah, and she incorporated on the Speak Now (Taylor’s version), she had Fall Out Boy and Paramore on there. So she’s kind of in her emo era, so to speak…

I like that!

So, on your upcoming headlining US tour, how are you going to balance the setlist with not only the new material, but also the old classics? Does it get more difficult as the years go by?

It does get really difficult, but so I think we came up with a good <setlist>. I think we’re leaning it kind of bottom heavy, like four songs off Reach for the Sun. I think we’re gonna do four new ones <off Gravity>. And then we’re actually pulling out a few from War Paint again. We kind of neglected that for a second. And it also gets really complicated to figure out what to play. I usually go off of our top Spotify within the last 20 days, versus top Spotify of all time, and I’ll look at our Apple Music and see what our popular songs are and what do people like the most? And so, I go a lot off that. But I think we’re trying to find ways to say, here’s a couple deep cuts… But either way, you kind of alienate people. It would be cool to have a show where we played every single song we’ve ever done…

An Eras Tour for The Dangerous Summer!!

We’ll just do one show, in the middle of the woods and have a camping trip, and we’ll just try to play every fucking song at one time. I think it’d be really cool. But yeah, I think we’re gonna pull out a couple of fun ones on this tour that we haven’t played. But we’ll play about 15 songs, a little bit off every album, but it’s a good amount of Reach for the Sun and a good amount of the new record.

Nice! It sounds like people will really enjoy it when they come out to the shows. And I know you’re still doing The Drinker’s Club, right?

Yeah, and that has been the coolest connection with our fans. We do it in our RV, at least when we’re in America, and we get these RVs. And it’s like six people, and we start off by giving everyone a drink, and we go, okay, let’s break the ice. And we have three questions: What’s your name? What’s the last concert you went to? And then there’s other fun little questions. And then you just keep talking with your fans. And I was even talking to my drummer last night and the drive back home and saying that we have a pulse to our fans. We know what it’s like to be them and talk to them, and spend quality time with them and you really make friends. Like really good friends, off of an hour <of interacting>. And, honestly, it’s funny because the people we get are mostly repeats. Everybody just comes again. Everyone just keeps selling out the ones they want to go to. I must be making it worthwhile for them!

If they keep coming back, sure.

And also, from our standpoint, it’s a really good way to fund the vehicle. Like we can all sleep in a nicer RV. Because they’re directly paying for that. That’s the rationale in our mind. And that’s how we kind of picked how many people what vehicle we’re getting here.

So the last question I have for you is, what are some forms of art either or that you find inspiration from that others may be surprised to hear?

I really don’t like to listen to much music. I tried to. I’m one of those people where if I find a new album, I’ll just listen to it over and over again for years. I have the same playlist from two, three years ago that I just put on, and even my girlfriend’s like, why is he playing this again?

It’s probably a comfort zone for you?

I just want to either make, or do something . And discovering new music takes a lot of fucking work. It’s just really hard. I do a lot of driving and that is when I would listen to music. But I listen to a lot of Howard Stern. I love Howard Stern so much. He’s an incredible interviewer. And I just love hearing conversation. I love hanging out with people. I’m really bad at watching movies and TV. I just get distracted. It’s just in this age of media, a lot of stuff isn’t enough. Like the internet is the best form of entertainment period. And I think people just need to accept that. We’re really opening up the floodgates to the media. I wish I read more books. But with my ADD, a book isn’t enough.  You can’t really just put on music and sit down. You need to be doing something. And that’s why we’re going to try to have a video for every single song <on the new album>. But as I was saying, when I find something and they come along, like Phoebe Bridgers’ last record, I just put that one so much. I love Phoebe. It’s slow, sad music that just makes your heart burn. I’m kind of into super chill stuff. But yeah, it’s hard to consume, you know?

Yeah, and the fact that Tik Tok is also very immediately gratifying, it almost changes the way people think about music. Whether they will look for just the hook of a song or things like that…

Yeah, and I think that is a thing….How do you figure out how you fit into that world? And I just started making videos over the past year, and it’s kind of all I do now is make video stuff for songs. So you can really only speak to people if you make a video about it. You can’t really speak through a picture in your mind, like on Instagram. You post your album cover when it’s like an album announcement. But if there’s something that’s just static, people won’t read the words. You speak through videos, and I started making videos and it’s really gratifying. I love doing that. I think the internet is bringing the world together. And that’s the beauty of it. It was like being handed down from the aliens or wherever they came from, to say, “Hey, you guys got to connect.” And people say the internet’s a toxic place, but the world is a toxic place, and they need to talk it out. I think people fear the internet and bringing the world together. There’s a lot of bad stuff on there, but look at the world. There’s a lot of fucking bad stuff going on. And we need to see it and we need to understand it and talk about it and fix it. But the internet will bring us together. It brought me and you together today!

Exactly! And I hope the new record does well for you. It sounds like the singles are doing really well, and I look forward to promoting this as we get closer to the release date.

Thank you so much. I appreciate it!

Great seeing you again, AJ!