1. Can you give us an update on what is going on with the band these days?
For 2013, DYS plans to spend another week to ten days in Europe over the summer, do a run of headlining club shows up the east coast, play 4-6 west coast shows and return to Texas in April.
In terms of recorded music, we’re going to issue a collection of our 2012 Digital-only singles on vinyl, with alternative mixes and maybe a surprise or two.
2. How would you describe the musical sound of the newer material and how it differs from past releases?
It’s always hard to be objective about your own music. But, what we’ve simply tried to do is distill all of our varied musical inspirations and passions into the new songs. I’m playing with the most talented and road-proven group of musicians we’ve ever had in the band, so “what’s possible” is bigger than ever before. Despite our very different prior experiences, we share a love for bands like the Clash, Motorhead, AC/DC, the Bad Brains. We also share an east coast work ethic. And you can hear – I hope – all of that in the music. To us, it’s punk, with hardcore energy and a rock swagger, but the whole idea of “genre” is less and less relevant we think.
And that mash-up, the desire to celebrate our wide range of inspirations, is probably what makes it differ the most from prior DYS material.
“Brotherhood” was a pretty pure east coast hardcore record, recorded when the band had been playing less than a year. We barely knew what a song was. When we revisited the material for the first reunion, there was lots of “why did we do that?” The second record, “DYS,” was an attempt to dive head-first and 110% into the “new wave” of metal that we’d all fallen in love with: Metallica, Maiden. Riffs, complexity, speed, timing. High production value. But, we always wanted to stretch. There was a rock song on the first DYS record (“Girl’s got Limits”) and the world’s first attempt by a hardcore band to play a power ballad on the second. That said, they both sound very much like a specific moment in time, and genre, to me. The new songs less so.
3. What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the newer music explores?
Despite the fact that the primary lyric writing has moved from Dave to me, we’re writing about many of the same topics and themes. Although filtered through the perspective of 20 more years of living. We sing about overcoming adversity, pursuing your passions and dreams – no matter how hard that feels, the incredible power of personal belief and choice, the individual versus society. All with a bit of road weary resignation. I have found that PMA and discipline and the willingness to swim upstream have served my life well. If that can inspire or support someone on their own personal journey, if it helps them get through a tough time, I’ve done my job.
4. What is the meaning and inspiration behind the bands name?
Originally, it was two-fold: The Department of Youth Services is where they house troubled teens; and Alice Cooper had a song called Department of Youth where the chorus was “We’re the department of youth, and we have the power.” Both felt really hardcore. But, again, even from the start, there was that punk/rock dual inspiration
5. What are some of the best shows that the band has played so far and how would you describe your stage performance?
For me, the highlights have been – of course – the first reunion show where we had no idea what to expect and were greeted by over 1,000 fans in our hometown at the Gallery East Reunion. From there, the highs just got higher: playing Groezrock in Belgium last summer, sharing the sold out House of Blues Boston stage for BOTH the Bosstone’s Hometown Throwdown and the Dropkick Murphy’s St. Patrick’s Day run of shows. Two of the longest-running talents out of Boston and long-time friends and supporters. On the west coast, playing Sound and Fury.
Again, it’s hard to be objective about your own band, but I believe we’re one of the more exciting hardcore-based bands visually. We believe every show is a true performance. We’re not shoe gazers, we’re not baggy shorted head bangers. We try to bring the energy and focus like an athlete does. And, speaking for myself, I train for shows like an athlete. Gym, diet, supplements, sleep, warm-up. If you did the drive, if you bought a ticket, if you gave us :60 of your time, we want to blow you away.
6. Do you have any touring plans for the future?
As discussed, we’re going back to Europe with MAD this summer and we want to do at least 10-20 US dates. South America is a dream. But, it’s tough to balance everyone’s lives and music. Adam is playing with the rapper Wax a lot this year; Franz has Scream, Dave has Down by Law and solo shows. Al and Adam do a lot of work with kids at the School of Rock. I have a job that has me flying over 100,000 miles a year. We have families. We love playing, so we’ll try to do it as much as we can. But we cannot do as much as we’d like.
7. The band was broken up for a long time, what was the cause of split and the decision to reform?
The split was well documented in the movies “American Hardcore” and “xxx All Ages xxx.” A lot of hardcore bands tried to cross the divide into metal, the old hardcore scene fractured, and that dynamic did in DYS and many others. We were almost signed by the guy, Michael Alago, who made Metallica famous, but we just couldn’t keep it together in the transition. Dave and I remained close though through it all. He went on to much more successful bands (Dag Nasty, ALL, Down By Law), I co-formed Slapshot and then left the music business.
We almost reformed in 2008 and 2009 to go to Europe in the first wave of reunions, but it never quite happened. In 2010, our old friends Drew Stone and Duane Lucia and Katie Goldman were working on the movie “xxx All Ages xxx” and decided to do a 6 camera HD movie shoot of a reformed Gallery East line-up. We signed on to help them, and give something back to the scene that did so much for us. I flew to Boston six times doing rehearsal runs. We re-worked the arrangements of both records to synch better into one set. We took it very seriously. It was planned as a one-off only. But, based on our performance, the Bosstones asked us to play their Throwdown and the offers started coming in. We signed a merch and record deal with Bridge 9. Seemed like too many opportunities to turn down. Just more proof in life that there is nothing that hard work and focus cannot achieve.
8. The band are considered pioneers in the straight edge movement, what is your opinion of the newer straight edge bands?
As someone who follows the OG definition of Straight Edge (no drugs, drinking or smoking), I an 100% for any band who helps spread the message, who helps promote PMA and who may inspire even one kid to get off drugs or stay off drugs.
I’m not opposed to the militancy out there. We’re in a distracted, media-saturated society where pop culture still – to this day – makes drugs, drinking and smoking look cool. They have long been positioned as totems of rebellion, so of course they speak to kids. So, it may take extreme actions, music and lyrics to break through.
9.What direction do you see your music heading into on future releases?
As discussed earlier, anything DYS-related should have at least one foot planted in the world of punk rock. That said, we want that other foot to include rock, metal, reggae, hardcore and more.
I’ve been looking at ways to experiment with Outlaw Country influences. To me, guys like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings were every bit as “punk” as Joe Strummer or Keith Morris. I spent a long night at the Sunset Marquis picking Waylon’s brain for stories about two years before he died. Incredible. Inspiring. He was the real deal for sure.
I’ve heard country music defined as “three chords and the truth.” Isn’t that punk and hardcore as well?
Don’t know if that means choosing a cover or writing something original. But, I do see true country as being a kindred American musical movement that I’d like to delve into a bit. Also, it’s a genre that allows artists to age with authenticity.
10. What are some bands or musical styles that have influenced your music and also what are you listening to nowadays/
For me, the big life-long influences and passions have been AC/DC, Aerosmith (can’t be from Boston and not love them), SSD, Black Flag, the Bad Brains and the Clash. In terms of newer heavy bands, I love Defeater, Avenged Sevenfold, OFF!.
My personal playlist is a bit broader. My Sirius radios spend the most time on the Outlaw Country channel, followed by Boneyard. My iTunes this month has played a lot of everything from Frank Ocean to Backyard Babies to the new Dwight Yokum album to Buckcherry and Hatebreed.
11. Outside of music what are some of your interests?
I’m a huge fan of the intersection of design and mechanical performance. So, I’m passionate about vintage cars (American muscle mostly), motorcycles (Ducati and Triumph), mechanical Swiss purpose-built sport watches (for diving, climbing, auto racing). For the same reason, I love analog music gear from the 70s. Huge fan of architecture. I believe the gym has kept me sane and healthy. And, interestingly, I cannot think of another city aside from Los Angeles where immersion in all those passions is as easy and possible. So, I also love my adopted home here.
12. Any final words or thoughts before we wrap up this interview?
Just a giant “thank you” to all our fans, past and especially present. Rarely does one get a chance to revisit something as personal and special as their musical career. And rarely do you get to do it bigger and better the second time around.
We live in an era where it’s both easier and more difficult to make connections between people. Hopefully, we’ve given you back the same passion and dedication you’ve shown us. I am touched and moved by all of it.