Lions Lions - Danny
Interview Date: November 01, 2009
Associated band: Lions Lions
In the early winter of 2009, I was asked to do an interview with LIONS LIONS for AMP Magazine. That was pretty easy because they lived about a 5 minute drive away from me so I met up with Danny at a Starbucks in Allston and chatted until the place closed down for the evening. Shortly after the interview, maybe a month or two, the band announced that Danny was leaving the band. AMP didn't want the article anymore because it wasn't relevant so it just sat on my hard drive forever...
You guys are getting ready for tour... What have you been up to?
DANNY: We have to practice our new set-list, which will combine our new stuff with our older list. We haven't toured the west coast yet so we want to get an even portion of the newer and older stuff for them. We want to give the kids who haven't heard us yet a good idea of what we are in our past and present. Until then, we have been working nine-to-five, saving up every penny... You have to put together your care package with like... wet naps, toothbrush, toothpaste, all that shit. One thing I wish I could have is an easy-to-clean pillow. Like one you can wipe down. After a week in the van it starts getting brown, and you're like, "Man, I don't even want to sleep on that!" You end up putting one of your t-shirts over it for a pillowcase. Yeah, that's it man, plus just hanging out with as many people as possible while you can and seeing family. But you have to save money so you can't go out and have fun.
You were in A LOSS FOR WORDS, took a big break, and now you're back in that mode of touring and doing shows again. How is it to get back in that mode?
It's awesome. When I left A LOSS FOR WORDS, I was a bit relieved because it was getting really hard in school to be keeping up while we were touring as much as we were and stuff. My life was in a million different directions at that point so I needed to get a hold of everything when I left A LOSS FOR WORDS. I missed it so much, and it was nice to get back into something again when Brandon asked if I knew any lead singers and I said, "Yeah, me!" *laugh* I had been waiting for a while to get into something musically that I was really into and could really get behind. I felt really good to get back into it. Plus touring with these guys... I've never really thought about it, but touring with these guys is different. Completely different. The way they go about stuff is completely different than A LOSS FOR WORDS. I went into the first tour thinking, "Yeah! This is going to be sick!" with the same mindset I had when I was with A LOSS FOR WORDS, and coming out of it, I definitely had a great experience, but it was in a different way. I had to kind of take a few steps back and get adjusted, but we had a great time. So glad I'm going back on the road.
Is it interesting to have a mix of members who have been in bands that have toured all over versus members who are going on their first tours with LIONS LIONS?
Yeah we definitely had to stop a few times and have conversations like, "These are things you guys are going to be getting used to. Let's not let this cause a huge fight... just roll with the punches. This is your first tour so don't freak out." Our alternator blew in Baltimore first night on our way down to Virginia, and our van stopped right in the toll in Baltimore. We got it jumped and went through a tunnel to a Firestone and then the van died again. Phil and Van have never been in that kind of position before, but the rest of us have all dealt with our share of breakdowns and van problems before. We just had to do what we could do... couldn't complain about it, just had to keep our legs moving and make things work out.
This upcoming tour is supporting your latest album. You did some re-recording of older songs on it... What made you choose to re-record them?
Those songs seemed to be the songs we all grasped and clung to stronger than the other ones we had done before. The crowd as well... they seem to really grab onto those songs pretty strongly. Our first EP was like a shotgun record. All those tracks were meant to be used as pre-production. They weren't even meant to be on the released album. We had time to work our way through things we wanted to do in the past but just didn't get to before. Things we figured out we wanted to do... Like, we always wanted to speed up "Waves." We thought it was a little too slow and dragged a bit. We liked being able to revisit that stuff.
I've heard some people mentioning the clarity of the singing on this record and how it doesn't have that kind of raw sound to it. Did you want it to be like that?
Yeah, I got a lot of comments from the first EP where a lot of people were like, "Yeah, it's cool, but you seem to be yelling more than singing." I really wanted to explore more of singing and explore my voice more. I wanted to figure out my comfort zone a little more... Before, as I said, it was all just putting out that first EP quick. Brandon was like, "You want to sing in a band? Cool, you're in the studio next week." Over the past year before we recorded this, I got to know my voice a little bit more and where I wanted to be singing at. For the first record, people were like, "Sing that part higher. If you can't get up there, just push it out. Just get it higher and more energy." I was just listening to them. Now, I have the reins on my own voice and know what I want to do with it and visualize where I'm going with a song.
How do you guys split up who sings what parts since you and Johnny both trade off on clean vocals?
Basically we will sit there and sing the song back and forth. He'll jump in on spots. It's weird, with different words, I have a little bit of a lisp. Something may sound different when I say it versus when he does so we split things up with that. For example, "Stay out of the shadows" may sound funny because of all the s's. Johnny can sing that line really strong though. Also, in a middle of a set, I want to be able to breathe so Johnny can break that up. We want a good mix so we really go back and forth with it until it works. Anything to keep it fresh and interesting.
With singing and screaming in a set, I'm sure your voice takes a toll. Do you have any sort of exercises or things you do to make your throat comfortable for doing a full set?
It's weird. Everyone always says, "You have to scream from your gut!" I don't know how true that really is. I don't know what the hell that really is. All I know is that when we started playing shows, I lost my voice a couple times from screaming. There is an area where you are comfortable with screaming. You feel it out and get into it. Even last show, I tried doing lows, and I had no idea I could do that before. It wasn't really low... I wasn't trying to sound like NILE or anything *laugh* I got lower, and it was funny. I don't know what the hell it is that you have to go. Before the show, I'll warm up with some scales, and after the show I'll cool down with some scales. Just so I'm not abruptly stopping with my voice. The best part is that I tend to talk a lot so during the day, I am warming up my voice just by talking. At night when I'm about to play a show, I'm already warmed up so I just have to try those higher and lower notes to get the rest of my voice warmed up.
Do you write most of the lyrics, or does Johnny do a lot?
I wrote all the lyrics on the new record except for "Tumbling." That song was Van's whole thing. I saw that video on Youtube and told him it had to be on the album. Other than that, I wrote all the lyrics. On the first record, they had bits and pieces in mind of what would be cool in different spots. Little lines here and there, but I wrote most of that. It's weird because when I was in A LOSS FOR WORDS, I had a hand in writing lyrics and the music too. With LIONS LIONS, they handle all the music. They just come out of nowhere with it. Van handed me a CD the other day and said, "Hey, here's the pre-production demo for the new album." We hadn't even talked about that yet, and he had five songs ready. I've been just writing lyrics. I need to get inspired though. Sometimes I'll go a long while without writing anything and then realize, "Oh shit, I need to start writing" so I'll put together things from my experiences. I tend to crash from all that stuff coming out at once. It's really intense.
What do you draw from with your experiences...Travel? Events? Listening to other bands?
I tend to be pretty cynical at times, but I don't really come out with it at all. I guess that can come across in my lyrics. To be honest with you, I can't remember the last album I went out and bought though. I got the new JAY-Z album. I love the new POLAR BEAR CLUB. The new THEREFORE I AM record is great. It's not like I'm reinventing the wheel, but I guess I draw from everything. I hear a lot of stuff from different genres of music and get inspired from that. It's too bad though; I don't really sit down and listen to music anymore. I'll be at work, and we have the same damn five albums on a playlist rotating over again. One of my goals is to start picking up new music again and discovering bands.
Have you found some good bands through playing shows?
Yeah man. There are so many awesome bands. It's so hard to even think of them all. There is a band called FAIRVIEW who is amazing. They are a great bunch of kids. I was at their practice spot the other night, and they blew me away. AUBURN is amazing. We toured with them, and they're really good. FEELS LIKE JULY is amazing, but I have no idea if they are even still together because they barely play now. It's too bad because I want to go and see shows, check out bands... But on the weekend, I'm either working or playing a show. There are some bands that have been catching my attention though. I don't know how the hell all those Purevolume and Myspace things work, but I remember getting little zines when I was a kid at shows and flyers and searching out bands from that. I remember checking out KOUFAX, RIVAL SCHOOLS, DYNAMITE BOY, and all those shows had flyers with other great bands. Everything is getting flooded nowadays. The bands are great, and you can't tell everyone to do it their own way because they are, but there is just so much of it. Music is really moving people these days, and it's a great thing.
Is there anything with your band that you think makes you stand out from others?
I'd like to think that everyone who is playing music is playing it honestly and for themselves, but one thing we hold in high regard for ourselves is to always really be positive and always be honest. Yeah, we all had shit that happened in our lives, but you don't want to put on a song and say, "Well, that reminds me of the shit I've went through." You want to put on a song and see that someone else went through it okay so you can too. That's what got me into music and into going to shows. It was my escape. I went to shows and saw kids losing their minds. Screw all the bad stuff that happens in your life. As long as you can escape to your own place... That's what we try to encourage with kids. We have a connection with these kids who come to our shows. It's out of control. I feel a really strong connection with them. They're all great kids, and I'm happy they can find some kind of importance and escape like I did with the bands I listened to when I grew up.