Cast your mind back to March and you might recall a certain Jeremy McKinnon assuring fans that although A Day To Remember’s new single ‘Paranoia’ was premiering, there was not an album coming any time soon.
“Well, come on, I was technically not lying though,” pleads Jeremy, tongue firmly in cheek, after the band revealed that there is in fact an album dropping in August. “It wasn’t finished at that point, we didn’t have an album cover, we didn’t have a release date; I wasn’t lying,” he continues with a cheeky grin.
“At that point it had just got mixed and mastered. So we did have an album recorded, but there was so much more to do. So technically I was not lying, just saying,” he affirms, before his bandmate Kevin Skaff smiles and chimes: “You lied.”
“The anticipation for ‘Common Courtesy’ was way too high,” explains Kevin, “so we were just like, ‘Let’s not tell anybody about this one…’.”
While the Floridian bred boys are implementing some of their token ironic humour, there is perhaps a more serious reason why A Day To Remember toyed with the audience about the possibility of a new record. The ability to decide exactly when and how they release an album is a sign of the band being back on their own terms again. Come November, A Day To Remember have their final court date in Chicago that will decide their fate in a battle against their label, Victory Records.
Alas it’s not a case of formality or a step through the motions to award them their freedom, it’s still very much in the balance. “It’ll be in the hands of an American jury,” Kevin states somewhat despondently.
“Yeah, real deal court case,” Jeremy continues. “We’re going to plead our case to a jury. He’s [Tony Brummel, label founder] going to defend himself and then these random people from Chicago are going to decide our fate.”
Jeremy quickly disturbs the intensity of the subject matter: “But it’s great man. I’ve been telling people this from the start; even if we were to lose every single thing that we think we should win, we still come out on top. That’s what everybody needs to understand. We were in such a bad place, that just someone saying ‘No, this is what your contract means’ is a win for us. So that’s what’s exciting about it; even if we lose, we win.”
The excitement around the band’s upcoming court date and particularly Jeremy’s overtly optimistic stance shouldn’t trivialise the hardships that A Day To Remember have encountered, endured and overcome over the last “fucking four years.”
“It’s like, ‘just tell us’,” explains Kevin with an air of exhaustion. “Read the case and tell us ‘no’ or ‘yes’, we just want one fucking answer.”
When broached with the question of why the case has taken so long, Kevin can only breathe a heavy sigh and admit that it’s “because our judicial system is apparently very screwed up. We didn’t know that it was like that. We thought it was like the movies where you go to court like a month later, after everything is prepared, and everything is done. It’s not.”
“The guy who is overseeing this case is a federal judge. Those guys are appointed for life and he deals with really big things in the city of Chicago, so we were just the back-burner case,” Jeremy explains. “We were like the least of his worries and I do understand that. It’s understandable, but there should be a protocol for it, like ‘this guy is busy and this is ruining our lives, can we get a new judge?’. We were always told that we could request that, but they told us that if he is offended by that it could affect the outcome of your court case. Therefore, we just sat here for four years waiting for him to have time to make a decision about our case, which is very frustrating. It should not happen for people who are funding it themselves against a corporation.”
It’s admirable that Jeremy is understanding of the length of time the judge has taken to get to their case considering what an impact it has had on his and his band’s life, but it seems that it could have been a lot worse. They could have put the whole band on hold for four years.
“The judge himself is the reason that didn’t happen,” Jeremy continues, “because that was actually Victory’s plan, but the judge was like – ‘No, it’ll ruin their career. They can put it out themselves and that’s cool’.”
“Everyone thinks we won the court case that day and to be honest with you we kind of did. That was the end of our career, if he had sided with Tony, because November 2016 is still when we would have had the court case, which means ‘Common Courtesy’ to this day would still not be out and we just wouldn’t have been a band” he concludes, before adding “crazy shit”, as if he still can’t believe the lunacy of the whole thing.
You have to be in awe of A Day To Remember at this point. Self-funded and self-released for four years and a gold record on the way; a lawsuit looming over their heads all the while, preventing them from doing a whole plethora of things. What they’ve done has taken truckloads of courage. With the end in sight, are they proud?
“Absolutely,” says Jeremy immediately. “There’s nothing that would be cooler than to win this court case.”
“That is a movie,” suggests Kevin.
“That is a fucking movie,” Jeremy confirms with more than a dose of enthusiasm. “The garage band from the middle of nowhere that blows up, this guy fucks them over and then they beat him after four years of waiting around, and they didn’t get destroyed by the court case. That is a fucking movie.”
So while in many ways A Day To Remember are on the brink of realising their goal of unhindered autonomy, Jeremy has seen himself relinquishing some of his control in the studio while recording ‘Bad Vibrations’. “I took a more backseat stance on this record, which was important to me. It’s the first time I’ve really let go of production since ‘For Those Who Have Heart’.
“It was terrifying. It was important to get everyone involved, get everyone attached to the songs, get everyone playing them in a room. Right now, 2016, A Day To Remember couldn’t have made a record any other way and continued to be a band.
“I kind of felt like people pulling back a little bit, like going through the motions just because they weren’t attached to the songs as much anymore. Yeah, that was more important than anything because at the end of the day if people don’t want to do it anymore then it’s over.”
Sober words for a band so close to accomplishing the impossible and overcoming more hurdles than most would ever dream of even being faced with. “Exactly. That’s not a movie,” Jeremy states plainly.
“We got pretty disconnected as a band for a little bit,” Kevin ventures. “I don’t think there was ever a point where we were like, ‘I don’t think we can do this anymore’, but there was definitely a point where it was like ‘do you guys still want to do this?’.
“That’s why this record had to happen this way,” concludes Jeremy.
It’s been a rollercoaster in the A Day To Remember camp, and understandably so. As such, the most collaborative and defiant album in their discography is by far their most melancholy in tone.
“We’re coming from the bleakest point in our career,” Jeremey explains. “‘Common Courtesy’ was written at the time when it was all exciting, like ‘we’re going to get out of this and the judge is going to have our back’. We had an abundance of good ideas. It was just a really positive, exciting time. Then, you’re involved in a super, super stressful court case for four years; it’s not surprising that this is the bleakest record and the most raw sounding.”
The tone of the album is a necessity. It would be wrong for ‘Bad Vibrations’ to ignore what has happened over the course of the last few years, but A Day To Remember have been far from pessimists in all of this. They’ve made the best of a shitty situation and many would be hard pushed to tell you that they’ve been tackling a lawsuit because they’ve hidden it so well with their successes.
“It’s a lot to do with our fan base for supporting it. There’s not a good track history for bands that put out their own records. That was the scariest thing. So to have people continue to buy this record and for it to be even close to going gold one day,” he pauses, “what is life?”
As Kevin adds, “how did this happen?”. They’re both reduced to laughter. What more is there they can do?
Jeremy is quick to say “thank you” to anyone that bought that album. “It’s the only reason we’re still here today, because we paid for that album ourselves. If it didn’t do well, we were in trouble because we would have no money to fund the court case; nothing. It was a huge risk. Scary shit.”
Moving forward, A Day To Remember just want to maintain continued relevance and ensure that all they’ve been through is profoundly worth it.
“It’s ending in November, this album is coming out in August. It’s like, if any of this shit matters to someone it’s going to be so special to us. It’ll be so gratifying that we can do it all five of us together and have songs that matter to the fan base, and we’re also out of all that bullshit. I will tell you this: if we have a song that does well on this record, the next record will not be a bleak record.”
Now the wait begins for ‘A Day To Remember: The Movie’.
A Day To Remember’s album ‘Bad Vibrations’ is out 2nd September.