Just before Set It Off hit the stage at London’s Electric Ballroom supporting Crown The Empire, we had the chance to sit down with Dan Clermont to talk all things Set It Off!
RM: Hey guys, how are you finding this tour and being in the UK?
D: We are loving the tour, we just finished mainland Europe so this is our first UK show. It’s been great, all the bands have been really cool, Crown The Empire – we’ve known these dudes for years, so we basically grew up with them so it’s good to be back on the road with them, it’s been great.
RM: How are you handling the weather?
D: Yeah I live in Florida! I was swimming in my pool before I came over here, it’s fucking brutal!
RM: Your music is some of the catchiest we’ve heard in a long time. What was the thought process behind ‘Duality’?
D: Song wise it was a more popular album than ‘Cinematics’ which was more of a post-hardcore and alternative rock vibe. Duality is very much about accepting the fact that there are two sides to everybody and you want to be proud of both sides, instead of hiding it from the outside world. Be yourself, wear you’re skin on your sleeves – I don’t know if that makes sense but that kind of analogy. So yeah, it’s just about self-framing. Letting the world know who you are and being proud of it. Be proud of your faults.
RM:What artists influenced this album? There are some absolutely massive melodies and hooks…
D: We all love our 90s pop artists – like Destiny’s Child, NSYNC. The end of ‘Miss Mysterious’ we actually got the idea for the cue change from a Celine Dion song, things like that. So it’s all over the place!
RM: We hear you tried out most of these songs a capella before you even thought about adding instruments. Tell us about that?
D: Yeah, that was a new approach for us on this record. Normally, Cody would come up with an audio or I’d come up with a riff – or vice versa, and we would just build off the arrangement, but we had limited resources when we were out in California recording the record. We were building the studio while we were out there recording, so the song ‘Bleak December’, it was literally the three of us – Cody, myself and our producer Brandon Paddock just singing the parts out loud, singing the bass lines, and someone singing the melody and someone singing the harmony and that’s how we made music. I feel like if you can have a strong melody no matter what arrangements are around it, it’s gonna be a good song.
RM: Would you say the addition of more unusual instruments show that you’re keen to break away from a definitive ‘scene’?
D: I suppose we don’t really look at it like that. Cody and I have been band kids at High School, like he played Clarinet, I played Trumpet and we both went to college for that. Classical music and Jazz music and that whole orchestral area is a big part of where we learnt how to play music and learn what we do know about music. So it just natural worked its way into it you know, that’s what we love to hear so lets just put in an entire horn section! We actually record all the horns ourselves, we had this guy Matt Appleton, who’s the tenor sax player for real big fish, he was actually one of the producers on the record and he played a bunch of horns on it too.
RM: How about having horns live?
D: No, but we’re working on this concert idea of doing a show where we have a live orchestra backing on our tracks so it could all be real.
RM: Comparisons to Panic! have been rife, but would you put yourselves in that box?
D: I gladly accept that, I mean you have to compare to somebody. Panic I think are an amazing band and we definitely have our influences from them. Brendon Urie can write some huge chorus’s and I think that them and Fall Out Boy are on the cusp of something very special and are advancing what defines rock and roll.
RM: Reflecting on ‘Cinematics’, how do you feel you’ve progressed as a person internally, as a musician and as a band as a whole?
D: I think we went through a lot as a band through ‘Cinematics’. We learnt that in this industry nothing is promised, there are definitely some downtimes and some moments of realism. So I think that forced us to mature a little bit and that came with the song writing. Ourselves personally, when we went to record ‘Duality’ three days before we were supposed to start, our initial producer had to back out due to an emergency, so we had already rented a house in California 45 minutes away and were all set up to go when we got that phone call. We were thrown into something very chaotic and we got a production team that would call us when we’d be hanging out somewhere saying we have to be in the studio in two hours to record. We wouldn’t have a set schedule, so we’d just be waking up and getting anytime in the studio we could. So I think that kinda came throughout the album and that’s why I like ‘Duality’ as came out of chaos.
RM: You recently covered Ariana Grande’s ‘Problem’ for Punk Goes Pop. Do you prefer playing your own songs live because it’s your own work, or does playing a pop hit to hundreds of people have its own appeal?
D: It’s cool to play covers once in a while, we don’t do that a lot. We’ve never been a band that focus’s on covers. Every 10 or 15 tours we will throw a cover in or something like that. I think playing your own music you connect to it more and it’s just more enjoyable. You put your blood sweat and tears. You have 30-45 minutes of playing your own songs, that puts you in a place where nobody can tell you what’s wrong or right, no one can tell you what to do, that’s yours and that’s for you and no one else.
RM: You’re touring the US with As It Is and Roam soon. What do you think of this breed of UK pop-punk? Do you think it’s growing in stature with the likes of Neck Deep playing Warped?
D: I love it! It’s amazing, I think it’s a lot more melodic in my opinion. Actually Neck Deeps merch guy is on tour with us and I was giving him a hard time ‘cus I’m a Neck Deep fan and I always tell him ‘Staircase wit’ is one of my favourite songs, it’s super catchy. I think you guys have something very special here, it’s a very special breed of punk pop. You should hang on to that.
RM: Apart from that US tour, what’s next for Set It Off this year?
D: We are planning on coming back over to Europe, we can’t say with who but we are definitely playing Groezrock festival. Maybe do some other international touring, and just a whole lot of touring until probably late spring; we should be on the road touring ‘Duality’ to make sure it’s heard everywhere.
Interview conducted by Yaz Narcin with questions written by Alex Carter.