Interview: The Dangerous Summer

The Dangerous Summer

Recently, I was able to catch up with AJ Perdomo and Matt Kennedy of The Dangerous Summer for a Zoom call to discuss everything that went into the band’s upcoming full-length record. I asked the band about their new partnership with Rude Records, including some insight on the type of deal they signed, and we also chatted about the band’s legacy and what they feel they can still contribute to the music scene at this stage in their careers. The Dangerous Summer are scheduled to release their second single from the new album on June 17th, with the LP scheduled to be released this August.

Thank you guys so much for joining me today, AJ and Matt. Let’s talk about your latest single called “Coming Home.” First of all, what inspired this song, and do you feel it is representative of the direction you took on your upcoming record?

AJ: Yeah, “Coming Home” actually came from the EP (All That Is Left of The Blue Sky) days. Matt and I, when we were working on the EP, we wrote the song and I couldn’t figure out how to put lyrics to it. And sometimes I’m sitting there and spending hours in front of it, and have nothing to at least show for it. I mean, there was a melody and a vibe to it for the verse, and I just didn’t know where to go. But the song kept coming up, because it’s such a fucking good song that rips in it. It’s got anthemic vibes. And everyone had this kind of reaction to it. I was like, fuck, we need to finish the song. So yeah, it came from the EP days.

Matt: Once we got in the studio we were working with Wil Beasley, the producer, and he’s like a master at helping us kind of figure out what we’re going for. He idealized some of the demos and maybe even just helped us piece some stuff together. And once we all like started hearing it back and we started getting the real drums and guitars and everything on it, then I think it must have been way easier for AJ after that, because then he just hammered out the lyrics really quickly. And they’re some of my favorite lyrics on the record. I think that it’s definitely one of the biggest rock songs on the record. We’re kind of all over the place on “Coming Home,” which is the title track. But yeah, I love it. It’s one of my favorite songs. And there’s something about that repeating melody in the beginning is almost like kids music. Kind of childlike, a little bit, to get stuck in your head.

AJ: Yeah, it was a cool one man. I’m pumped about that. It just felt strong when we’re staying up on top of the mountain and the music video turned out strong.

Yeah, so what went into the music video shoot? It’s mostly a performance shoot, but where was it located?

AJ: Yeah, so that was when we brought our good friend Pat Lawler. We brought him out on the road for a whole week and we didn’t really have a plan. He has a nice Read Cinema Camera. He’s one of the best in the game, and his music videos are for basically everybody. He even has a feature film with Justin Long called The Wave. So we just went out and we’re like, hey, we’ll shoot it on tour. We have everyone. That’s some nightmare about music videos in a way where it’s kind of like, oh fuck, we all live in different parts of the country. And Pat shot a lot of footage, actually. He’s making our next video right now with footage from the tour. But we’re like, “Let’s do these cool places.” We picked out some spots on a map. And when you plan, it’s very hard to figure out where it is. We thought, “Let’s go to Roswell, New Mexico!” On the way we were excited to do some crazy fucking drives. We always take the long route just so you can see more stuff. So yeah, we got to just outside of Roswell, like 15 minutes away. It’s called Lake State Park, something like that. It’s beautiful. And man, it’s a sunny day, everything’s great for shooting this big thing, and then we just can’t find the right spot. We move a little bit and we find this clearing and then all of a sudden a storm just starts rolling in. And it’s kind of out of nowhere. It had almost become its own video, because we shot all this footage. And now we’re sitting here and we’re just going to play a shot and the whole video ends up being that, so it kind of turned out really magical and beautiful. And the thing about music, art or any video, you try to plan, and it says fuck you. But, it was a really beautiful shoot.

Can you describe how your band mostly does the songwriting these days? And did the pandemic affect the way you guys are able to connect for the songwriting sessions on these upcoming recordings?

AJ: Yeah, we’re already together, Matt and I. Honestly, we kind of had this awakening as a band and even during the pandemic, we got together and wrote a lot. We’re like this new, calm producer world where we’re taking elements, we’re even using lots of samples and stuff like that. Matt and I are kind of writing a lot “in the box” in a lot of ways these days, at least using modern techniques, and things like “Splice.” But basically, it loops and things like that to create crazy ideas, wild stuff. And the EP was kind of the epitome of that. And then coming into the <full-length> album, we got back in a room, and we were jamming as well. And it was kind of like the hybrid of writing songs in the box and doing that, and it kind of is a mega app, and you never know how it’s gonna start.

Matt: Basically what AJ said, during the pandemic, we started flying back and forth, because that’s kind of all we could do. And so like we wrote the EP, mostly on our laptop, and then had Aaron Gillespie from Underoath play drums on it, which was awesome. And like AJ was saying, it’s a hybrid of the EP. It was mostly us for the first time ever using samples to start a song and then after that, we would use all the real elements of playing the instruments and everything to figure it out and piece it all together with fake drums. But then once we got in with Krishna and Josh like we were able to kind of take that idea and put it in full band form. So I’d say this album sounds like the rawest of any record we’ve ever put out. There’s even some fuck-ups in the songs that we kept on purpose because it sounded beautiful and natural. We’ve been basing a lot of our writing process with technology and now it’s become this very kind of organic thing on the new record.

You guys recently signed with Rude Records after releasing music independently for quite some time. Why did you feel the timing and fit was right to partner with this label?

AJ: I think it was a push, push, push, and finally it was like if we put a piano up on Craigslist. And people lowball you and you’re like, “No fucking way!” And then all of a sudden, it’s like I must feel we’re getting the “one up” with this type of deal on the right things. I mean, we own our own masters. They’re just basically leasing our masters for two years. And they gave us a fuck-ton of money, which is really good for us. Capital is very important. They gave us a guarantee marketing span, which is a very big guarantee marketing spend. They’re going to try to take “Coming Home” to radio with some people. They have kind of a team that they built all around the world and they’re showing us this team, and they kept coming back. It’s the person that keeps coming back and knocking saying, “Hey, I actually am passionate about it.” They offered us a deal, right after Hopeless, and it was better than Hopeless’ deal they were offering us to re-sign and they gave us kind of a dream deal back then where we’re like we just want to do this on our own. We don’t want to sign any contracts. And again, it’s kind of like a relationship. Me and Maca have a terrible relationship. And I think it’s hard to admit at times where it’s like, we were burned and are hurt and our hearts are broken, almost like you would with the relationship with girls. And it was like, “Hey, that chick was crazy! I don’t need to be dating.” Until the right one comes along, and she knows how to do it right. I think the right one came on and was able to do us right.

Matt: I mean, I don’t think you’ll ever hear AJ and I speak positively about record labels, usually. And we love Rude Records, they are awesome. But nothing will get to us. It was the fairest deal I’ve ever seen in the game for sure. It’s just how people should do it. 

Yeah, and the fact that you guys can control your own masters is a big plus.

Matt: Yeah, all we wanted was a fair deal. And we want to be treated with respect and have done nothing but do that. And they’re <Rude Records> a charitable organization. They’re like a “Class B” business, which means that they’ll either be judged on their fair practices or give a certain amount to charity. Just everything that they do seems to reflect kind of the things that we didn’t actually know we were looking for in a label.

AJ: Yeah, and the best part is it’s a two year trial, and if it doesn’t work out, they’re out. We have up to 60 days or two years up, that we can say, “Hey, that was fun, but we’re gonna take our masters, we’re gonna pack up and we’re gonna leave.” Or it could roll over. So they really put the ball in our court, and they really gave us a chance to prove who they were. So this is a trial and also non-exclusive. Matt and I already talked about going into the studio in August, which is the same month the fucking album comes out. We’re already organized. And they <the label> don’t have any stake in that if they walk out. And we’re just licensing our pieces here and there where we feel like it’s right. And right now it feels really right.

Congrats on your partnership with them. That’s a big step in the right direction. How would you guys describe your live shows when you’ve been playing recently? And what are you most looking forward to when you get back on the road?

AJ: Yeah, the live shows have been awesome. We’ve been having a good time, and I love touring. I think we’re going back out in November in the US. And we’re doing September, October in the UK and Europe, and hopefully some other international stuff towards the end of the year. But yeah, the shows have been crazy. And we’re at a point as a band where it’s interesting, because we have our old fans, we have our new fans, but then there’s people that know all of our stuff. So we’re kind of like running the gamut. And I think that’s what’s interesting about The Dangerous Summer. We broke up for a while, and then we had a refresh, and we got a whole gamut of fans, and I love our fans. We’re very fucking lucky. We hang out with them, before and after the show. We try to experience the city. What’s cool about our band is we’ve been able to die, and live again. And so I’m just excited to get back on the road and get back to the parties in the good life and hanging out with us. And having those sweaty hugs and conversations. It’s kind of everything for us.

Yeah, you’ve built a loyal following over the years, like you mentioned. And you recently started “The Drinker’s Club.” Where did that idea come from, and how have the fan interactions been?

Matt: So yeah, The Drinker’s Club was AJ’s idea that him and I were kind of kicking around. I think that before, we didn’t really have the opportunity to do this, because we always run into issues with promoters, either wanting to charge extra, which is pretty common for meet and greets, because they have to pay their staff and everybody to get there early to check IDs and do all that security. But we thought what if we did it at a bar, and kept it to such a small group that you don’t have to tell the bar in advance, you just show up and you have 10 or 12 people, you go in there, everybody’s having a drink, just like you walked in with like some co-workers or something with friends. And we did that, and that was fine. But the bar tabs were kind of high. And so we thought, what if on the next tour, we get a bus, like a bandwagon, which is a smaller tour bus, and then we do it on the bus. And I think this is something that we can only really do with our kind of fanbase, and I even hate calling them that. They’re more like friends and homies that we’ve all been hanging out with over the years. But they come up on the bus, they get to hang out with us, and they get a screen printed poster, we sign whatever they want to bring with them, take pictures, and then we literally hang out for a full hour and they get a free drink too. I mean, people are like literally opening up, telling us what these songs mean to them. We even played a lot of the new record for them. We played two or three songs from the record, and that’s something that we could never offer before. But if people weren’t as cool as they were, then I don’t think as an artist to be able to do that, because you run the risk of your safety. If somebody wants to get close to you there, they couldn’t be any closer to you. But it’s really cool, and one of the best ideas we’ve ever had.

AJ: Yeah, it’s beneficial, as we just love hanging out. We’re excited, so we’re gonna keep that going. And yeah, it’s a dream come true. We love our people. Our demographic is dudes like me and Matt, and they just want to hang out, drink, and listen to good music. We don’t have high maintenance fans. We’re very lucky. I think sometimes it’s not even that people hate certain bands. Their fanbase ruins them. I think that’s what happened to bands like Creed and Nickelback. I don’t think you hate Creed or Nickelback, I think their fan base destroyed them.

And you also have those “Stans” in the crowd. The ones that would go out of their way to bash anybody that said anything negative about one of those bands, or things like that. It’s just a weird culture change for a lot of bands to kind of deal with that type of atmosphere too.

AJ: Yeah, and I know what you mean. We saw Twenty One Pilots play a small show, and man, their fans are the most annoying. (Laughter) You’re like, just chill! We’ve had a few people that got way too drunk, and that happens. And yeah, some people will show up and they’re like, “I fucking hate your new music.” (Laughter) And, I don’t know what to say to that…

(Laughter) If you open with that, it’s not a good conversation starter…

Matt: And the thing is it just rolls off our back, and if anything, we laugh about it. And sometimes I’ll be like, tell me more! I start egging them on. (Laughter)

AJ: This is a tangent, but man, the American music industry is “too cool.” Everyone creates these little too cool scenes, but yeah, we all just want to hang out and chill. Just because you know this one song, that no one knows, doesn’t mean you’re a “better fan” or anything like that. I hate that type of ego with music. 

So I know you guys recently released an EP. Do you have plans to release a full length in the near future? And how would you describe the overall direction of the new material?

AJ: So actually, we are releasing a full length. And yeah, we released the EP independently. That was the one that came out in 2020. We thought about including some of the EP in the full length, but it is just a beautiful thing in the machine. We just couldn’t add anything else or subtract anything. So we have the full length, and there’s actually another song that didn’t make the full length. And who knows, that can be developed after. Honestly, we made the EP during COVID, and it was hard to even make that.  

I think it turned out great! My copy is sitting to the side of me here.

AJ: Awesome, yeah, and that was kind of like a sign of the times. We either released the six songs and made this EP, we just need to get music out. And I think that is one of the things that really, really helped. Especially a song like “Fuck Them All.” Labels were saying we’re stopping a relationship, and people were even telling me to not release music <then>. It is suicide right now. And we really fucked them up. It got on “Rock This” on Spotify, and it became one of the biggest songs we’ve ever released in a short period of time. Right now, it’s like the third most streamed song in our totals.

And it kept the momentum going and the interest high in your guys’ band from the COVID times to now. So that really worked out!

AJ: We realized that, and that’s why we work so hard and keep creating music. I was watching the show with Ozzy Osbourne and his son, where they asked, what advice would you give to musicians these days? And he said, “Just keep making music, because there’s never enough.” So we’re gonna give them more and if there was ever a time where we couldn’t write songs, we wouldn’t force them. We’re not the type of people who like to write songs just because we’ve got to get something out. It goes until there’s nothing left. We bleed every song out and really, what you see is what you get. Every song that’s released is basically all the songs we’ve ever written in a way. We just keep working and like I said, we’re gonna go into another album immediately, especially because we have such good momentum from this. Everyone feels so good and feel just fucking jacked up about it. We just want to go in and continue that, especially working with Josh and Christian for the first time. Everyone just gels, so we’re all very good friends. We have a good time. It’s super chill and it’s awesome. 

What can fans look forward to with your partnership with Rude Records, as well as the rest of this year?

AJ: We’ve got a new single coming out that will be released on June 17th. The album comes out in August, and we got some crazy stuff coming for the full length. I think AbsolutePunk will really love…oops, I mean Chorus.FM.

(Laughter) It’s hard to escape the legacy…!

AJ: Yeah, it’s too good not to do that. But yeah, we’ve got a bunch of music videos that are gonna come out that we’re working on. And man, I’m really excited. I think this record has a lot of good resources and a lot of good power, and <the label saysl> they’re gonna push these songs to the maximum. There’s a version of our next single with Max Bemis on it as well. And that will come out separately from the main single.

Matt: Yeah, lots of singles coming out in the summer, the album comes out in the early fall, and we got the UK/European tour. We’re doing a ton of merch drops over the summer as well on our main website. And we run all that ourselves, still completely independent. AJ is even shipping it all from the studio where he’s sitting right now. And so if you ever hit us up, or anything goes wrong with the order, we literally are the ones answering back. Which is funny, because a lot of people get surprised by that, but we love it. We love the direct interaction with our fans. And yeah, other than that, we’re already ready to make the next one <album>. And we’re not even trying to get ahead of ourselves. We’re just so pumped to where we feel like we’re kind of on a high right now from everything over the last year and the signing with Rude Records. So I think people can just expect more music coming out.

That was cool with your music store, because I ordered something the other day. And Mother Nature came autographed by you guys. It was a nice, unexpected treat!

AJ: Awesome, yeah. That’s the cool part of running our own store. And that was one thing man. Well, we were on Hopeless Records, we couldn’t even sell merch online, everything had to go through their merch store. So during the pandemic, some bands must have thought they literally can’t sign to one of those deals. That’s the only way you can make money, so it’s rough. So we learned to build our own foundation. When we were on Hopeless, we were just kids when we signed, so we figured they give us money when something ships out. But really, when we left them, we said, “Let’s build our own infrastructure, and our own foundation. Take control of our world, so that when someone has enough money to take you to the next level, and pump cash into this machine that we’ve already made very well-oiled, and very well-structured, it becomes just a beautiful object.” I think too many bands think labels will do all this crazy stuff. And the main thing that they do is be like a bank. And they’ve got good distribution resources most of the time. But you know, they’re really just a big bank and all their focus is on the record at hand. And they just flip it, like a product, to do as much as you can. So with Hopeless, it was like, “Oh, here’s Mother Nature. Let’s pay for it. We’ll get you guys in music jail for months after the song comes out.” But they flipped it, and they’ve done all they can. It becomes a very interesting situation. So taking control of our world, becoming the foundation, and then building the structure, that’s everything.

And I hope the new partnership works out great for you guys. It sounds like it’s gonna be a good fit, just from your guys’ conversation today. The last question I have for you guys is, looking back on your past material, what do you hope fans most remember from the legacy of The Dangerous Summer.

AJ: I hope they remember that we gave it our all. And that’s really all that you can do. I think even when we wrote this new album, and all the album’s, it’s just like there’s a confidence inside of us, because we gave it everything that we could. And I think we’re honest, we’re true to ourselves. And that’s truly the only reason why people do react to it and end up liking it is because we’re true to ourselves. And we give every single bit that we can, so I think at the end of the day, The Dangerous Summer can be the biggest band in the world, or not, but they gave every fucking thing that they got and they they ripped it.

Matt: Even to this day, we’ve never really brought production like a bunch of lights, flashy stuff and lasers and everything on stage, because our shows remind me of hall shows and shit. You come there, you sing your ass off too, and that means something to you. And since we’ve given everything we have, we don’t necessarily need a bunch of stuff behind us to distract you from the songs. This is what they are, and this is what it means to people.

AJ: Yeah, it’s a blessing and we kiss the ground every day, just being happy to be here. I mean our jobs aren’t crazy. We can do whatever we want. We get to create and we get to hang out with each other. We’re very lucky.

Matt: Yeah, we’re very very happy to be here after all these years.

Thank you guys so much for your time, and I can’t wait to listen to the new album you shared with me today!

AJ: We hope you enjoy it, and let us know what you think!

Will do!