Spanish Love Songs will release their new album Schmaltz on March 30th. It’s one of the freshest and most honest punk rock records in recent memory. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with vocalist Dylan Slocum and he told me about the delicate art of opening a record and embracing dad punk.
Did you write the opening and closing tracks to be so much different from the rest of the record? To be slower, quieter songs compared to the punk sound of the others?
Yeah, that was definitely deliberate. It’s funny you picked up on that. They were always going to be quiet. The first track, “Nuevo,” was written on guitar and we were all in the studio, and we all love – I forget the name of the Frank Ocean song, but it’s just like a him and a Hammond organ or something. It was in our heads and someone brought it up and I was like, “Oh shit! Yes, we should definitely use organ to start this album.” And especially since the last album started with the most disgusting, cliche guitar slide and a minute and a half punk song. I was like, “Let’s mix it up and do something different.” It might be to the point that people will be like, “What the hell is this album? I thought this was a punk band!”
So that was deliberate and then the last one…no, I don’t know. I feel like we like acoustic songs at the ends of albums. Growing up I feel like all our favorite albums did that. I just had that song and it was kind of written in response to “The Boy Considers His Haircut,” in the middle of the album, and I just thought, “Let’s just track acoustically and throw it on and see how it goes,” and it ended up working pretty well.
Yeah, I saw definitely one of those people who had listened to the singles and then pressed play on the album and thought, “What is this album?”
[Laughs] Yeah, well, we’ll see how it pans out. Maybe not the best move for a band trying to gain new listeners, but I think it’s interesting. Hopefully it pulls people in in a way that they wouldn’t expect.
Well it’s one of my favorites on the album for sure and, hey, it worked for The Hotelier on Home so…
Exactly! Exactly. There you go. It works.
This is your first record on A-F Records, right? Before you were on Wiretap?
That’s Anti-Flag’s label, isn’t it? That’s pretty big. How’s that been?
It’s been great. The label’s incredibly supportive. I was in Belgium hanging out with our old European label Bearded Punk, we’re good friends with them and one of their guys is our tour manager when we tour Europe. We were drinking in a bar and someone brought up Anti-Flag and it was like, “Damn, haven’t listened to Anti-Flag in a minute.” So we started talking about Anti-Flag and then the next day my friend Gregory decided to send A-F the record – I don’t know how he got ahold of their contact info. So the day I got home I got a call and when I answered my phone it was Chris Stowe, the label manager, and he was like, “Hey, someone named Gregory sent us your album, and we like it. Let’s talk.” It was incredible. Good thing we have good friends, I guess. The label’s been incredibly supportive. They’ve really let us take the lead on a lot of the creative decisions. The Anti-Flag guys are great, we got to catch their show over in LA. They’ll, like, they’ll retweet stuff about us. It’s little things like that, you know? And obviously the label is great too, they got The Homeless Gospel Choir and Swiss Army. It’s been nice to join this label that’s been historically political and make out own sad little grouchy corner of it.
That’s a really great story. [Laughs]
Yeah, we’re still in shock that it happened. We’d been in discussion with Uncle M to release it in Europe, and once A-F got on board, Uncle M was like, “Yeah, that’s a no-brainer.” [Laughs] Somehow these four beers I had in Antwerp lead to us having these two amazing labels putting out our albums. Prior to this, we’d had to pay for everything we’d done, and we had to push everything really hard. Wiretap’s great, but Wiretap’s small – they’re growing, but to have somebody bigger, like, validate us was just an incredible, incredible feeling. Made us feel like a real band. [Laughs]
Speaking of historically political labels, I’d noticed a recurring thread throughout the record. You talk about guns and shooters a lot. Could you talk a little bit about that and why that pops up so often?
I grew up in this weird Bible Belt area of California. You know, very Republican, very Second Amendment rights. When I was six, my grandfather shot my dad – he survived, but at a very young age, I was like, “Yeah, guns are fucking awful.” So it’s always been something I’ve been very anti, for obvious reasons. [Laughs] Then when we were writing the album, it was in the middle of this school shooting after school shooting. It was weighing pretty heavily on me and it just kind of bled its way in there. I think it first appeared in “Buffalo Buffalo,” because when I was writing that, my girlfriend was going to Portland, and there was a mass shooting a couple of days before she left. I was like, “No, please don’t die in a mass shooting.” A lot of the lyrics are like that, just feeling unsafe. But then there’s some that are about just feeling like a mentally unwell white male sometimes and, like, what’s the difference between me and the guy who did that? There’s a big difference, of course, but it’s a weird headspace to occupy. That’s a bunch of stuff jumbled into three lines, but it was on my mind. [Laughs]
I like that a lot in the lyrics that it’s never the focus of the song, but it’s still there. That’s how it feels sometimes, hearing about mass shootings almost every other week. There’s other stuff going on but that possibility is always lurking there.
I think that’s a good way of looking at it. I actually tried to write a song that was all about it, but it didn’t work, so it had to be changed. It was actually “El Nino Considers His Failures,” and it had completely different lyrics. It was all about shootings and guns and gun culture and it just felt forced. A lot of that stuff ended up falling to the periphery, and it’s probably better there. I feel like it’s such an obvious subject, but people are so calcified in their beliefs about it. We’re a political band in that we’re operating within our own space and saying how we feel, but I don’t think we’re the type of band who’s capable – yet – of writing the anti-gun song. I think it stays more on a personal level. For me, the fact that we were able to write an album that isn’t just about failed relationships is enough for me. [Laughs] We’ll take that.
[Laughs] That’s something you got on all the other pop-punk bands.
Our first album was all about my divorce and the relationship after that that just crumbled. So when we started writing, I made a dare to myself and I told our guitarist Kyle, “I am not going to write a single song about a relationship in the traditional sense. Just watch.” [Laughs] Nobody believed that I could do it just because it’s such a prominent thing. It was a very conscious effort to avoid that, so I’m proud of that aspect at least.
Have you got any favorite songs on the record?
I think “Otis-Carl” and then the single “Joana, in Five Acts” are probably the most personal to me, so those have been fun. I think those will probably end up being my favorites in the long run because they’re not just about me. They’re about people I’ve lost, obviously, so I think I’ll be happiest with those. But I think this is a pretty cohesive set of songs for us and I think we’ve figured out what this iteration of the band sounds like. I’m really psyched on all these songs.
I know you’re playing pretty soon at 924 Gilman. Have you ever played there before?
What’s that like for you? I’m on the East Coast and even I know what Gilman is, so I imagine that must be pretty surreal for you.
It’s going to be great. [Laughs] Being from the LA area, I remember even when I was, like, six, hearing about Gilman and how Green Day can’t play Gilman because they’re sellouts and even then I thought that was fucking stupid, that whole old-school punk mentality. Me and my band, we’re like the most un-punk band you can think of [laughs]. Playing this hallowed punk venue is going to be great. Being part of the history there, it’s going to be fun. We don’t consider ourselves very punk, so whenever something punk gets brought up we kind of laugh to ourselves. But I’m sure it’ll be incredible, those Bay Area shows are always a blast.
It’s pretty funny to hear you don’t even consider yourselves punk.
Yeah, I know we play in a punk – pop-punk? – band, but if you knew us, you’d see just how un-punk we actually are. One of us is an actual dad, and the rest of us might as well be. We all have steady job [laughs]. We aren’t doing the traditional punk thing. We joke because we play a lot of shows with really punk bands and we play a lot of shows with really indie bands, so we say we’re not punk enough for the punk kids but we’re not indie enough for the indie kids. We’re in this weird void of, “We hope you like us, but you might not!”
I feel like you just coined yourself a new genre: dad punk.
I feel like dad punk’s a thing. There’s a genre called dad rock, right?
I think a band like Jimmy Eat World could be dad rock, but they’d be like the dad punk subgenre.
If they’re dad rock, then dad rock is awesome.
Dad rock is great. That’s where I aim. I’ve got no beef with dad rock. We’re not 19 anymore. It’s exhausting to play straight punk and thrash around. We’re getting ready for a six-week tour and I remember we played a show in January, and I was looking at the bands, like, “Fuck! I guess I’ve got to start exercising now.” [Laughs] So now I go running, listen to the songs, and try to imagine what a full 40-minute set looks like in my head. And it’s fun, it’s fun to take something so silly serious for once.
If there’s anything else you want to say, feel free.
Thanks for talking to me. I hope people check us out, give us a listen. Maybe skip the first track if it’s too slow for you [laughs]. If you’re looking for some straight-up punk the second track is that [laughs]! We just really hope people like the album. We’re getting really excited for the fact that maybe people might like us.
Thanks so much for talking to me.