Four Year Strong made their long-awaited return to Belfast on Sunday night at the Oh Yeah Music Centre, finishing off their EU/UK run of the Rise or Die Trying 10th anniversary tour. The band soared through their set almost perfectly (aside from a few technical issues along the way) and ended the show and the tour on a massive high, inviting half the audience to hop onto the Oh Yeah’s little stage and sing their hearts out alongside the band. I caught up with frontmen Alan and Dan before the show to talk about their career so far, the return of pop-punk and their thoughts on the ways music consumption is changing.
Queen’s Radio: So this is your last date of an extensive EU and UK tour. What have been the main city highlights?
Dan: The London show at KoKo was amazing, it was really fun. It was the biggest show of the tour. But all the shows on the tour were great. We were really welcomed everywhere and everywhere was happy to have us.
Alan: Manchester was really cool too.
Dan: We also did a lot of German shows, which was cool.
You’re touring for the tenth anniversary of your debut record Rise or Die Trying. What was your main motivation for doing this?
Dan: Well, first of all, that record came out ten years ago and it’s still a record that our fans requested all the time and told us how much it meant to them all the time. So when the ten year anniversary came around, it just made sense for us to go around and play it for the people who wanted to hear it. Some of the songs we haven’t played in a very long time and we get requests for them so now is our chance to go out and play the whole record for the people who like it.
What’s it been living reviving some of those older songs?
Alan: It’s been cool. There’s some songs we’ve never even played since recording the album and those are some of the most fun ones to play on this tour.
Dan: I haven’t listened to that record in years so I was forced to listen to it to re-learn the songs but it gives you a new appreciation for it. I almost hear it a little bit differently than I did when it was fresh.
In that ten year period, what have been some of your biggest achievements?
Dan: Just the fact that we are still here and we are able to do a ten year tour that people actually want to come and see is probably the biggest accomplishment. The fact that we were able to take a band that we started when we were in high school – Alan was 13, I was 15 – and turn it into something where we can tour and support our families and keep doing it is a big achievement these days.
Alan: The fact we are able to keep doing it is the biggest accomplishment for me too. I’ve always been grateful that I’ve always known what I want to do with my life and that is to play music. Not only is it hard for a lot of people to know what they want to do with their life, but to actually do it successfully over a decade is pretty amazing. I try not to take it for granted.
On the flip side, what have been the biggest challenges?
Alan: Being away from family and touring as often as we have.
Dan: Remaining relevant is always difficult. Especially today, where even if you aren’t putting out new music, you just need to be putting out social media content and all that stuff. So, for us, having grown up before that whole social media thing started, it doesn’t come naturally to us so trying to stay relevant between tours and records is always a hard thing to do.
Pop punk has seen a massive revival in recent years after a bit of a lull. Why do you think this has happened?
Dan: I just think people miss the good times. It’s a fun style of music. We’ve always tried to keep our personal, political views out of our music because we want our shows to be a place where people can just come, relate to the music and just have a good time, and I think pop-punk and rock is a genre that allows you to do that.
Alan: Also, I feel the reason it’s become bigger than it has been before is because the boundaries of what people think ‘pop-punk’ is has expanded. When we were younger, pop-punk was Green Day and Blink-182. But these days, there’s bands that don’t sound anything like “pop-punk” to me because it’s become such a broad genre title now, which means people can find the pieces of it that they like. We’re pop-punk, I guess, but we sound nothing like Blink-182 or Real Friends or Title Fight. And to me, Title Fight don’t sound anything like pop-punk but they’re in that world. I think that’s probably why people love pop-punk because the stuff that wasn’t pop-punk before is pop-punk now.
We touched on the role of staying relevant through social media. It could be argued now that it’s easier than ever for new bands to make a name for themselves because they can do everything themselves through self-promotion on social media or using ProTools to make an album. Do you think it’s easier or harder for new bands, or do they simply face different challenges than the bands before them?
Alan: It’s easier, which makes it harder. It’s easier to make an Instagram for your band and tweet some stuff and get a relatively good sounding demo, but all of that being so easy is what makes it harder for a band which is better than all the rest to make it. Music is a flooded market. And you could say that for any career, like photography – everyone on Instagram is a photographer now. That makes it harder for the real photographers to stand out.
What are your own opinions on the rise of technology like social media in the music industry, personally and as a band?
Dan: We try to use [social media] when we can because it’s such a touchstone of being in a band. It just comes with the territory.
Alan: Which I hate. I grew up with social media but the thing I don’t love about it is it takes the mystery out of it. We grew up in a time where Green Day were our favourite band and the idea of sending [Billy Joe Armstrong] a short little message and expecting a reply, having this personal connection with them – we didn’t have that.
Dan: Yeah, like knowing what he had to eat for lunch.
Alan: There was this Godliness to musicians then, they weren’t human. And I think this need people have to know what their favourite bands are eating for lunch – it’s stupid.
Dan: When I was getting into music, the way you found new bands was reading the album thank yous. You’d be like, ‘I haven’t heard this band’, I’m gonna go down to the record store, buy the record and check it out. Whereas now, you can go onto Spotify like, ‘I like this artist’ and they give you a million things to listen to. You don’t get invested in the music as much because you just got it – it was easy. There’s so many records I owned where I thought, ‘Eh, it’s okay, it’s not great’. But that was part of the fun of finding someone that you loved, it was work!
Alan: Even the stuff you didn’t love on first listen, you learned to love. I realised that when I started collecting vinyl a few years ago and I would buy tons of old records. Like an old Paul McCartney record, obviously Paul McCartney is one of the biggest musicians in the world, but some of his records aren’t that great and they weren’t like a huge massive success. But I got one and I listened to it and I thought ‘this is pretty cool’. I had to put in the time to listen to it, flip it over and listen to the other side. And that became a record I really liked because I had physically be a part of it.
Dan: And listening to records was an experience. You went to the store, you bought it and you’d be super excited to get home and listen to it. And that was the other thing, you didn’t get to just hear the single. You put it on, pressed play, read the whole album book and listened to the whole album You experienced it. And that’s why when you found your favourite bands you felt so attached to them, you worked to find them.
Now you’ve finished off your European run, what’s next for Four Year Strong?
Dan: In a couple of weeks, we start off the first run of the US Rise or Die shows. We’ll be back over here in May and June to play some shows – we’re playing Download [Festival] then we’ll be playing a few shows around that!