"I feel this real sense greatness as we look towards the future" - AJ Perdomo
For the first time in their career, The Dangerous Summer are an independent band.
Following on from last year's wonderful 'Mother Nature', AJ Perdomo and Matt Kennedy have stepped out into the big wide world on their own, and with the release of the rousing 'Fuck Them All' and beautifully patient 'Come Down' have signalled the start of a new chapter where absolutely anything feels possible and nothing is off limits.
We jumped on the phone with AJ to talk about the path leading to this point, what his aims and ambitions for the future look like and how he's focusing on the things that are truly important in life right now...
First and foremost, how does it feel to be an independent band?
“It is crazy to be sitting here after all this time you know? So when we got back together after that four-year hiatus we had and after all the member changes and stuff, we wrote our Self-Titled album in 2017. To be able to come back and continue to do exactly what I loved, it had felt like I was really holding out on a really important part of my life. It brought so much creativity out of me that had been pent up. It felt like I had reignited that love of music again. When something is taken away from you, you really start to value it. So we came back strong and we just kept on writing albums. So after the self-titled, ‘Mother Nature’ came out in June last year and we started getting this crazy idea in our heads. We want to do one album or one release a year. This year it’s going to be an EP, and that’s what we’ve slowly been releasing the songs from now. The way the world consumes music is so different. You need to feed the machine and we have enough spark to keep us going.”
So after ‘Mother Nature’, were you at the end of your contract with Hopeless?
“Yeah that’s basically it. Hopeless offered us a new contract and we shopped around a little bit as well. We got a few really cool offers but it got to a point where I was getting all of these calls and having these conversations and I just felt miserable. I hate talking about this sort of shit. This is what makes me fucking hate music. So out of my anger I just said, ‘Let’s release this stuff ourselves. Screw all this shit’. Then we can go at our pace, release things whenever we want and do whatever the fuck we want. Also I’ve always wanted to release some shit on the side of The Dangerous Summer, but I wasn’t allowed to. I just didn’t want to be owned anymore.”
Well it’s over a decade of working within those parameters, so it’s only natural that when you get the chance you want to try things differently…
“There’s also this weird energy in the industry where you almost get scared of this Illuminati type thing. Like, if I go off by myself then will everything around me go away? Are there powers that will stop you from getting to where you want to be? There’s all this inclusion inside the scene, which was the scariest part about stepping away. Do we lose that Illuminati? But when we finally did it I thought, ‘Wow if I can do this then I can do anything’.
"It steamrolled from there where we’re able to just come up with crazy ideas and do things on a whim. We’re trying a new model now, where every single song has its own moment. The industry has its own model. But we see a change every single day. The most innovative of artists are the ones who come out with different shit to try and engage with our fans. And that’s what we have learned. It’s all about our fans and us.”
At the end of the day, it’s always going to be about the fans isn’t it?
“Absolutely, and it feels so special to be accepted for our new music in this way. All of our fans are very on board with everything we are doing now and we’re really lucky to have that. With us being a band who are always trying to grow and change, for them to come along with us and respecting our decisions and still singing along at the shows just feels amazing. To still be here after all these years, I’m a lucky motherfucker.”
How has your relationship with the band and what it represents for you changed over the years then?
"It’s forever evolving. We got signed out of high school. We were in our last year when we signed a contract and we went out on the road straight away. It was a weird feeling of, ‘This is it, we’re going to be big’. You get all this energy when you’re young and have all these ambitions for the band that aren’t always the right ambitions to have. You’re going to be a rock star. You’re going to get to party all the time. You’re going to be massive. But as you get older you look back and realise that it’s all about the journey. Never look forward and just live in the now. I don’t think I lived in the right now enough back then.
"Right now with The Dangerous Summer, everyday is a blessing. When we go out on tour we make sure we enjoy every night like it’s our last, because have had our last night so many times before. It’s just about sucking up every second and remembering that you are living your dream. Drake once said that when you get into entertainment it’s like you’re chasing this dragon. You’re always going for the next best thing but being here and revelling in the fact you are still here should be everything.”
There are also so many things that have changed outside of the band over those years as well. You becoming a father for one…
“I always say that I’m also so lucky to be able to be a father as well as be in this band. I think that when a lot of people start a family they have to let go of that. What I learned when I got a 9-5 after the band broke up and I had my daughter was that in any job I was doing it wasn't about me anymore. You lose yourself because everything becomes about your family. So you work so fucking hard and do everything you can to go out and get what you want so that your family has the best life possible. To be able to apply that to being in a band means that you find me working harder than I ever have and also challenging myself because it becomes a bigger reason to do something. That’s to show my daughter that when she grows up she can do whatever the fuck she wants and do her thing as hard as she can.”
So let’s talk about these two songs you have out now. What was it about ‘Fuck Them All’ that made it the right song to start this new chapter with?
“I’ve spent a lot of time out in LA writing for some pop and hip-hop people. Just in studios every day, working on tracks and building something for someone else. I was working with lots of producers who were cutting stuff up really quick. They were using a programme called Splice, which is like a library full of infinite loops. We actually wrote ‘Fuck Them All’ with a Travis Barker drum loop and this other guitar loop and I put them on top of each other and made that wailing sound you can hear on there. I then picked up a guitar and threw some more bits in there and was like, ‘Holy shit’. Everything just pulled together so well. The way we have been writing this new stuff is kind of like we are rappers. We’re using a lot of samples and loops and modernising our sound in so many ways.
I then wrote the lyrics after getting off a call about signing to somebody and just saying, ‘Fuck them all, this sucks’. It was so draining and I felt like I valued myself so much more than what we were being offered. This is my moment and we’re about to do this thing, why can’t anybody else see that? There was such a fire and energy and everything went into those lyrics.”
It makes the song almost like a statement piece not just for The Dangerous Summer in 2020 but everybody who listens to it. It feels very apt for the times we live in...
“That’s what funny about what we see in the comments. You get all of these people who have contrary beliefs coming in and saying, ‘This is my fucking song’. It becomes a good Fuck You song about the people who they feel are oppressing them within their lives.”
‘Come Down’ is a very different song, but feels very rooted in where you have been before. What emotional weight does that have?
“So Matt came over to demo some stuff and we wrote a few tracks real quick. I had just got back from a bunch of travelling and I was having some issues with my girl. So we were all taking acid one night, we write quite a lot on psychedelics, and we just kept on playing this piano part over and over again. To me it felt so drippy and had such a nice mood to it. So I started putting the melody together and it felt like we were touching on something really crazy. We just kept on stretching as far as we could. Then as we were coming down from the acid it all started coming together. After all the shit we do, it’s so hard to come back down and let go. It’s so hard to get back into reality after everything that you can go through. For us we had been on tour for nearly two and a half years at the time and it was so hard just to get back into this home reality again.”
How does it feel to have this much freedom now in what you want to create and write? Does it feel incredibly different?
“To be honest, we’ve been clawing at the mainstream all our lives. My favourite bands are Kings of Leon, The National, Taylor Swift. I have always just wanted to make the sort of epic music that you want to blast on the radio or which wouldn’t sound out of place at a huge summer concert. That’s what I’ve always been stretching for.”
At this moment where it feels like absolutely anything is possible, what is it that’s giving you those tingles and that fire?
“You know what, I just feel on Cloud Nine every time we release something. We sit on these songs for so long and when the music hits the world and people start reacting, there’s this energy in the universe. You can feel it talking to you and saying, ‘Hey, good job’. I feel this real sense greatness as we look towards the future. I want to go out and tour some more and write another album next year and then see what happens. Right now we are bigger than we have ever been and we are slowly building. I feel like I’m always at the best place in my career right now, so I’m always going to keep on pushing it and forever feeling at the top of the mountain.”
As long as that continues, then there’s nothing that can stop you. It’s like the most pure reason for wanting to make music…
“Exactly. Music is the best drug that I’ve ever done. It never gets old.”