Photo Credit: Elliot Russell
With their second album Pleasantries hot off the press we used Slam Dunk to have a catch up with Alex from the Bath pop punk lads, Decade. We had a chat about the writing processes and how he feels about the industry.
Jess: How’re you feeling about today?
Alex: I feel good, we’ve already played. We didn’t get there late but just in time to load in so it was a bit of a rush, we basically just got there loaded in and got onstage and played. It was in a massive room, quite a few people come to see us!
J: So you guys just released your second album, and as you said you write. So can you talk us through your writing process?
A: So, I normally just start with the guitar. I come up with a guitar part and just record it straight on the laptop. I usually then just record the drums and bass on logic as well, sometimes maybe the vocals too. I send them over to the boys for them to decide whether they like it or not and vote. It’ll be like ‘this is a song that I think we should at least practice’. We’ll then go to the practice space and put all the parts together and practice, change bits then re-demo it. It’s quite a long process but it’s much easier than going in as a group and write as a group, we’ve never really been able to do that really. It’s hard, especially when it’s loud, everyone's got instruments and want to mess around and play ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ or something. When we go to practice we normally play our set at double speed so we can get our set out of the way and start playing the new stuff. We love playing the Pleasantries stuff, but we’re trying to write. We’ll play double speed, blitz through that and get to the new stuff.
J:What’s your favourite song you’ve written and if so, why?
A:My favourite song on the album is probably ‘Cant Figure You Out’ because in terms of what we sound like, it’s not typically what we’d sound like, it’s very dynamic. It’s not too heavy on the guitars- usually we like to be heavy on the guitars, pounding drums and vocals that are quite high in my register. I feel like it’s quite stripped back and sort of considered instead of really really loud. Lyrically it’s kind of about the point at the start of a relationship where there's that air of mystery about people and it’s nice to have that where you don’t know everything about someone and they surprise you.
J: You’ve released two albums now with Decade, all bands evolve. What’s been your favourite part of the evolution?
A: Just trying new things really. When we released Good Luck we wanted to be a pop punk band with a twist, so we had weird chord changes and I didn’t sing with an american accent like a lot of UK bands do. We wanted to be a kind of clever pop punk band, to write clever songs but have that kind of pop punk element. I just enjoyed putting that down and thinking outside of the box. Rather than saying ‘We can’t use that because it doesn’t sound like a decade!’ we just write something. It doesn’t matter what it sounds like or what direction it’s going in, we just try it. It could end up sounding really small and if it’s different, who cares? Might as well have a little variation in the album. At least then we won’t get bored of playing the same thing. Its nice to experiment with different sounds and not having the pressure of writing in a box.
J: Of course, I mean that’s part of what contributes to the longevity of the band. Being able to push the boundaries.
A: It’s not just longevity for the fans. I obviously appreciate the fans but they’ll have a favourite album and would be really happy if you put out another album that sounds exactly the same. It’s longevity for you personally as a musician as well. It’s really hard to play really old stuff and enjoy it. You want to get to the point where you’re changing your sound enough to have a whole variation of different sounds and different songs then you start to really enjoy playing the really old ones because it’s nice to have a change of pace when you play live as well.
J: Who are your favourite pop punk bands or major influences?
A: For me I don’t really look to pop punk for influence anymore. My favourite bands vary drastically. I’m a huge Oasis fan, which I think you can hear on the new album. I’m also very into Glassjaw and Deftones. You can’t really hear it but influences with the lyrics and small ideas definitely come into the music. Even when we were strictly a pop punk band I didn’t really look to pop punk bands for influence because that was the whole thing. We only wanted small element of pop punk and to bring in influence from elsewhere. I always listen to the same bands, I’m very set in my ways with what I listen to. I listen to exclusively the same four or five albums over and over which is probably bad. Eventually you’ll find something new you’ll like, you’ll listen to it to death then go back to the same old albums you’ve always listened to. It’s a really difficult question actually because I don’t really listen to music to find influence.
I just kind of write from nothing to see what it sounds like, it’s not like you can invent a new genre but you might end up being too influenced by certain bands. Not plagiarizing them as such, but borrowing or coming up with some very similar ideas and sometimes you just end up sounding too much like certain bands. You’ve just got to go in with a clear mind and not have anything in your mind genre wise.
J: As you don’t look to your contemporaries for influence and real life events influence your writing. Can you pinpoint some for me?
A: Definitely Oasis, definitely Glassjaw, Soundgarden, The Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer. If I could make a band that sounded like all those things I feel like that’s where Decade sits. Not to the point where we’ll be like “we’ll play a Weezer chorus and a breakdown”. It’s just very subtle influences. I think those are the main ones I kind of go to just to listen to and I gain influence subconsciously just by doing that.
J: Do you have any rituals before going on stage?
A: This is weird, I just kind of do my own thing like warm up my voice the best I can, but today we didn’t do much because we were so rushed. We don’t really have anything that’s set in stone. We make up ridiculous songs, someone will say something stupid and we’ll make it into a song. We also usually list the things that will go wrong, ‘So, your guitar will break, your drumsticks are going to break, the IEM’s aren’t gonna work… Yeah, cool that’s probably going to happen, great! Have a good show!’. I think saying them out loud tempts fate too much for it to actually happen.
J: After Slam Dunk what can we expect from you from now until the end of the year?
A: We’ve got a couple of tours coming up but none of them have been announced yet so I can’t really announce them. Hopefully a couple of festivals later on the year. We’re writing loads of new music but probably not released new music this year. Potentially recording, making our third album which is exciting! I think after Slam Dunk is done and the next tour we’re just going to hide away and write new music. Which is boring for the fans because they can’t hear any of it. It’s just us going away and not playing any shows but it’s exciting for us and hopefully it’ll be exciting for them when we actually start releasing stuff. It’s so hard to go away and write new music when people like your label want you on tour as much as possible. Then when you go home you’ve got to have a job as well. So you have to work, find time for music and find time to tour. It’s kind of quite difficult.
J: Everyone has this image that if you’re in a band that you can live off your royalties and everything.
A: Those were the glory days. When bands were signed for millions and they were set for life. You know they just had enough money and got to do whatever they wanted with it. I’ve never taken any money away from the band, all of our money goes back into the band to make sure it keeps ticking over. It’s important.
J: I think that’s something that you can find across the whole of the creative industries. How do you feel about the shift in the industry? Especially streaming, you can argue that takes money away from the bands.
A: I think streaming is a double edged sword. The difference between someone streaming and downloading your album is absolutely massive. You get a lot more from the download but streaming is so good for the exposure as well. Exposure is one of those things that you can’t pay your rent with though. I mean hopefully exposure leads on to better things for your band but it’s tough. I definitely appreciate streaming because we get added to such good playlists on spotify and that in turn helps a lot with our exposure. People get into us, buy our records and come to our shows as well. It’s a good thing and a bad thing I think but mostly a good thing.
Photo Credit: Ali Horton