With a name synonymous with arguably the greatest seasons of the year, The Summer Set are kings and queens of the festival season. From our very own Slam Dunk circuit to the renowned Warped Tour that takes over the US every year, these guys have been there! We caught up with vocalist Brian Dales and drummer Jess Bowen to find out what they really think of playing in the UK, the thought process behind some of those obscure pop culture references and man crushes on Justin Timberlake. Check out the interview in full here!
HTF: Hi guys, how are you?
Brian: Very well, thank you.
HTF: You seem to have spent a lot of time in the UK in the last year or so, you were here not that long ago with Mayday Parade. How do you find the UK?
Brian: We were here in October with Mayday Parade and in February with All Time Low, so we’ve been here quite a bit over the last few months.
Jess: Then last April and May we were here with We Are The In Crowd.
Brian: We’ve been here a lot over the last year or so.
Jess: In 14 months!
Brian: Yeah, this is the fourth time we’ve been here in 14 months. I mean, we might as well live here! We could apply for citizenship.
HTF: So you must like it over here!
Jess:We love it! We want to come here more often, coming over more would be great. Hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have been here more at least.
Brian: Hate it when it rains though.
HTF: It does do that a lot! Your album ‘Legendary’ came out not that long ago. It seems some tracks have a bit more of a slightly social and political viewpoint, is that something you consciously wanted to do?
Brian: ‘Legendary’ sounds so much more endearing when you say it verses when I say it. I love the British accent! What was the question? I got transfixed on how you say ‘Legendary’, it sounds so much more important when people say our album over here!
HTF: Hahaha, did you ever think of pronouncing it like Barney Stinson?
Brian: Legend-wait for it-dary? Of course!
Jess: Oh yeah!
HTF: You should really consider doing that!
Brian: Its not a bad name for it really.
Jess: ‘Legend-wait for it-dary’ as a follow up to ‘Legendary’?
Brian: We should have just called it ‘Wait For It’.
HTF: Hahaha! So the original question was: is that something you consciously wanted to do?
Brian: Yes and no, I guess. ‘Everything’s Fine’ – our second album – has a lot of songs on it that I felt, at the time – two or three years ago – were a little too mature for our age and on this record we wanted to get some of that energy back that we had on ‘Love Like This’ – our first album. We’re not that band anymore in 2008 or 2009 when we put out ‘Love Like This’ so we tried to figure out how we could make a rhythmic, high energy record but in 2013 as older musicians. We’ve been experimenting with a lot of different elements of production and I think we’ve gotten a lot better at a lot of different aspects of this band and I know I’m a way better songwriter than I’ve ever been. These songs, they feel more important than stuff we’ve written in the past and I think, compared to others in the past, more real as well.
Jess: By experimenting, we really wanted this album to sound like it was taking a step up from the previous one and we always had a sound core but we just decided this time it wouldn’t hurt to add some more and try that out.
Brian: There’s a song on this record which is probably the most experimental; ‘Heart On The Floor’, at its core, its almost a gospel song, you know? With the notes its kind of going into gospel territory. We got to work with Andrew Dawson who is actually a Kanye West engineer, which is really cool and which varies, one of the tracks on the record is with a kind of hip-hop element which was a really cool experiment too, I loved the way it turned out. Its a very mature sense of experimentation.
HTF: Did you learn a lot from Andrew Dawson?
Brian: Oh yeah! He only did one song, I wish he’d done a couple more. That was the other thing that was really cool, we worked with a handful of producers rather than just one for a full album and it still sounds very cohesive which, to me, is great. That was kind of the fear, to make sure it sounded cohesive. I learned a lot from Andrew, just the stories of, like, Kanye West would just call him the day before and be like: “you’re coming to Paris” and then all of a sudden, the next day, he would be hanging in Paris. You can’t say no to Kanye West!
HTF: I can imagine that would be kind of a hard thing to do! More than anything you’d be thinking “what will he do if I say no?”.
Brian: Exactly! I’ve learnt a lot about hip-hop producers and some of them are like the nerdiest white dudes who went to music and jazz school, he’s just a jazz pianist, he’s unbelievable.
Jess: They are very underwhelming to meet because you just assume you should be taken aback by them and then you meet them and its just like “this is the guy that makes Kanye?!”.
Brian: Exactly! He was really cool and I’d love to work with him on another record.
HTF: On the new album there are a lot of pop culture references, especially on tracks like ‘Boomerang’.
Brian: We span like five centuries of history in that song.
Jess: From Mona Lisa to Beyonce.
Brian: There are a lot of pop culture references, even aside from ‘Boomerang’ I think the most obscure one I’ve been able to get away with was in ‘Jukebox (Life Goes On)’ with Dawson’s Creek, the TV show. I think I’m just seeing what I can get away with as far as the words that come out of my mouth.
Jess: When he showed us that song we were like ‘are we really going to get away with singing about Dawson’s Creek?’
Brian: I remember when Chris, our A&R label, was like ‘I love the song. I’m not sure about the Dawson’s Creek line’ and I was like ‘can you sit with it?’ because it was one of the earlier songs, it was about 9 months prior to the album coming out and so I was like ‘can we sit with it and if by the time we have to make the final decision if its still too weird then we’ll replace it with something else’. I crossed my fingers and I got to keep it. I love it, I mean the title track is a whole song about watching How I Met Your Mother and needing to get your shit together. I like the sour and sweet of it, I think pop culture references just for the sake of it – you can only get away with so much. I think we’re just seeing how far we can go.
HTF: In ‘Boomerang’, you have the couple reference of James Dean and Audrey Hepburn…
Brian: They never met each other, don’t worry. This is on record for the first time; I didn’t know they’d never met each other, I knew they’d never dated but at the end of the day when you go to a lot of art galleries a lot of people always associate James Dean and Audrey Hepburn together anyway so for me it was more of that they were the two icons of that time. Now I feel bad that they’d never even met each other! Thats a little weird. So I made that mistake. But I see them all the time on Tumblr blogs and art galleries, people associate them as the two icons of the period anyway so that was more important than if they’d met each other. Its all hypothetical anyway. Its not like I’m actually Jay Z!
HTF: You’ve done a lot of covers in your time. Are there any tracks you’d like to cover? Or any band you’d like to cover your stuff?
Brian: A Justin Timberlake song, ‘Mirrors’ probably. That song is really cool. If there’s any song I’d like to cover it would probably be that. The only time I’ve heard anyone cover our song is the backing band on Dancing With The Stars in the US and it was the biggest monstrosity I’ve ever seen and not really because I can fault them for it, I’m sure they got the song and were like…
Jess: “What is this?!”
Brian: “I don’t understand. Is that a girl or a guy singing?! I don’t know!” But they added a horn arrangement which was really nice.
HTF: Would you consider adding that in?
Brian: I wish! If we could have a horn section and string section on stage that would be unreal. Justin Timberlake does…
Jess: So we’ve just got to get to his status. When we get to JT status, we’ll be fine.
Brian: Yeah, when we get there… He has like a 17 piece band.
HTF: He is one of those people who you just know would be amazing live. Even on his worst day.
Brian: I’ve seen him!
HTF: Was he amazing?
Brian: Oh yeah! I saw him on the Future Love Sex Sounds tour in 2007. Oh yeah. Unreal!
Jess: You watch him even on something like Ellen and if he sounds that good on TV, you know you’re good because its really hard to sound good on TV.
Brian: Some people are just better than everyone! Even in his 15 year career, he’s never even had bad press about him. He’s just everyone’s favourite person ever. That’s pretty impressive. There was a post about him smoking weed at Coachella…
Jess: It made it endearing.
Brian: Yeah! It made him sound awesome.
HTF: Justin Bieber does that and he gets lynched!
Brian: You know what else? I’m going to go on a tangent for a second. Every single person thats tried to cross over from music to acting just sucks at it and then there’s JT who is actually pretty good in a lot of movies!
Jess: He’s just a perfect human being. How does that happen?
Brian: I’ve heard he’s a really good golfer.
Jess: It’s safe to say Brian has a crush, he’s been talking about him for about an hour.
Brian: I just want to be him…
HTF: Thanks for your time guys!
Brian: No worries, thank you.