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When asked about the song titles of Four Year Strong’s self-titled album—some of which are uniquely named “Here’s to Swimming with Bow-Legged Women” or “Stolen Credit Card!”—vocalist and guitarist Dan O’Connor simply laughs.
“The mantra of Four Year Strong has always been that we take writing the music and creating the songs very seriously, but everything else that has to do with our band, we kind of don’t take seriously at all…We kind of fly by the seat of our pants.” In fact, most of FYS’ song titles and lyrics are quotes from the band’s favourite movies. O’Connor says that “A lot of times [the song titles] don’t have a whole ton to do with what the actual song is about. Sometimes we’re just like ‘Oh, this kind of works,’ but you know, we just kind of try to have fun with it.”
A laid-back and optimistic persona is truly the only way to describe this band of bearded musicians from Worcester, Massachusetts. “I mean, we’re all relatively positive and optimistic people, and that’s something that’s always come through our music. We’re not the type of guys to really thrive on negativity, and we always like to be laughing and keep things light.”
After bouncing around record labels for the majority of their career, vocalists and guitarists Dan O’Connor and Alan Day, bassist Joe Weiss, and drummer Jake Massucco signed to Pure Noise Records and released fifth studio album Four Year Strong in June. “I think our fifth one is probably the most consistent album. We’ve learned a lot throughout the years of writing music and playing together, and I think that this record is definitely the kind of culmination of all the lessons that we’ve learned. You know, how to write songs and how Four Year Strong songs should be kinda put together and all the elements that we think need to be put in there,” says O’Connor.
Listening to how tight the album is, the road to the finish line was paved with many late nights spent between Day and O’Connor, as they tried to find inspiration amid fastly approaching deadlines. “We didn’t have a lot of time to do the writing because we got off of tour, and then we wanted it to be out by a certain time, so we had all these deadlines we were working around, so this was definitely a very fast-paced writing session for this record,” O’Connor explains.
“We’re not the type of guys to really thrive on negativity, and we always like to be laughing and keep things light.”
In the midst of touring life, FYS doesn’t stray too far from the norm: songwriting doesn’t have a place when you’re bouncing from city to city each night. O’Connor admits that the most songwriting that does get accomplished on tour would be recording riffs into their phones and then possibly forgetting about them for months on end until the serious, “official” brainstorming begins.
Yet, despite of the more rushed experience for this particular album, the music itself didn’t suffer any scratches. “A lot of times for our band, [deadlines] actually worked out to be a positive because we really thrive under pressure, so the best ideas come out of necessity rather than inspiration..”
However, real inspiration stems from life experiences of the band. “We try to pull from real life, and at the same time, we try to make the songs very open to interpretation.” O’Connor admits that being in a pop-punk band in their late 20s and early 30s, most of their fan base is much younger. The goal is to create songs that anyone can relate to, find solace in, and apply to their own lives. “That’s always been a big thing for our band: we want people to be able to relate to our songs. But we’re also not the type of guys that are going to go in there and write a song about nothing and not write something that we feel passionately about…[Our songs] have an overall theme of preserving and getting through the hard parts of your life. The more positive aspects of life have always kind of been something that has come through our music.”
The positive demeanour and outlook on life may have something to do with the band’s silent pact regarding their music: stay away from the Internet; unless it’s Twitter or Instagram, of course. Being a band for nearly a decade with (now) five full-length studio albums brings a fair share of criticism. Surprisingly enough, the reaction to this album has been only positive. “A lot of those people who have that ‘I think their old stuff is their best stuff’ mentality are attaching themselves to this record in a really cool way, and I don’t know if it’s for nostalgic reasons or the first time they’ve ever heard our band or whatever it is, but the reaction to this record has been really positive….As far as we’re concerned, we’re really happy with the reaction everybody’s been having towards the record. We’re really excited about it.”