“What’s really present on this album…we’re very theatrical when we present our story. If it’s a darker subject, there is a lot of angst and neurosis that goes into that song…In fact, in one song, [our producers] Zack and Ken think I sound like the Joker from The Dark Knight,” shares Set It Off frontman Cody Carson on the recording of the band’s debut full-length album, Cinematics. “Not that I’m going for that, I just really try to get into character for each song as far as the mood goes. It has that diversity, but it still sounds like Set It Off.”
The 12-track album was recorded over the course of four weeks with Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount [All Time Low, Cartel, Mayday Parade] at Vintage Song Studios in Alpharetta, GA and boasts the band’s signature sound of orchestra-infused pop with a new sense of heaviness, range and intensity in the album.
Entering the studio, Set It Off ambitiously set out to take their sound to the next level and pushed themselves further than ever before in every possible way – technically, musically, lyrically and emotionally in the writing and recording process. Carson elaborates on their experience, “Our favorite phrase that Zack and Ken would use is ‘You can beat that.’ They allowed us to become better musicians and individual writers…in the vocal booth they helped drive a darker side out of me when it needed to show. Through bringing it out in the studio every day, it allowed me to bring "him" out on stage too. It's like therapy for me.”
“Musically I feel like we are the strongest we've ever been,” explains guitarist Dan Clermont. “All the touring we've done in the past year has made us night and day tighter for our live performances and working and meeting other musicians on that next level has forced us to push our skills musically in all aspects from playing to writing.”
Danziger adds, “A lot has happened in the past year. We've made new friends, faced new challenges, had new experiences, and from that we've all grown up a lot. I think the new album reflects how we've changed as people. It has a similar feel to our most recent [Horrible Kids] EP, but is more mature and polished. This is a new era of Set It Off. And we’re ready for it.”
In August 2011, the young band made their label debut with the re-release of their aforementioned third EP Horrible Kids, which garnered widespread praise in the press from the likes of mtvU, Alternative Press, Guitar World, Rock Sound, Outburn Magazine and more, launched them into countless tours around the US, and ultimately prepared them to write and record Cinematics.
The EP blends contagious, driving melodies and hard-hitting choruses with genuine sincerity and a powerful message, creating an emotional concept album referencing the troubles of being bullied growing up and importance of being yourself and embracing who you are no matter what.
The band’s new album takes the same energetic and passionate approach, but strays from a specific theme, allowing the band to touch on a broader spectrum of topics. “Lyrically, Horrible Kids was me digging deep into my past. With the new album, you're getting to jump inside my head and think how I think, feel what I feel, and really understand how human we all are.” Carson confesses openly. “We are human - we have good times, we have bad times, we think pure thoughts, and we think impure thoughts. As far as how I describe these situations, I want you to feel like you are sitting down for a short film…and if I'm not evoking any sort of emotion from you then I'm not doing my job.”
Cinematics was released on September 18, 2012, and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard South Atlantic Heatseekers Regional Chart, No. 4 on Billboard Heatseekers Chart, No. 9 on Billboard Next Big Sound Chart, No. 38 Independent Chart, and even broke into the Billboard Top 200 chart at No. 174. With the release of the album, Set It Off simultaneously set out to give back to young students and musicians by raising money and awareness for music education programs.
Set It Off was able to provide over $5,000 to music education with the release of Cinematics, by donating a dollar for each album sold leading up to and during its first week of release to VH1 Save the Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring instrumental music education programs in America’s public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as part of each child’s complete education. To date, VH1 Save The Music has provided more than $48 million in new musical instruments to 1,800 public schools in more than 100 cities around the country, impacting the lives of over 1.8 million children.
“If it wasn’t for the music education program in my high school, Set It Off would not exist,” states Carson. “I would not have met our guitarist, Dan Clermont, I wouldn’t have been directed toward Oberlin Music Conservatory, and I wouldn’t end up with even half of the musical knowledge I possess now. More people need to be able to experience the unity, leadership skills, and work ethic taught by being involved in music education programs in schools.”
Set It Off has surely proven the power of worth ethic, having formed just five years ago, in 2008 and already releasing three EPs, signing to Equal Vision records, releasing Cinematics (and its deluxe re-issue counterpart) and touring nearly non-stop since their inception. Along the way, Set It Off, has shared stages with the impressive likes of My Chemical Romance, A Day To Remember, Say Anything, Against Me! and We Came As Romans. This summer, the band also performed on the entirety of the 2013 Vans Warped Tour – a dream come true for the members.
While on the Vans Warped Tour, Set It Off released a deluxe version of Cinematics, which features four additional tracks: two brand new songs - “Kill the Lights” and “Partners in Crime” (ft. New Years Day’s Ash Costello) and two alternative versions of previously released songs, offering “I'll Sleep While I’m Dead” as a haunting yet in-your-face, dance-ready remix created by MIRA, and fan-favorite “Dream Catcher” in a softer, acoustic arrangement that highlights the raw passion and intensity behind the song.
The band has also just released an impressive theatrical music video for the song “Partners In Crime”, which was filmed in Los Angeles earlier this year with director DJay Brawner (Foo Fighters, Gym Class Heroes, The Used) and also features Costello.
Set It Off will continue their intense tour regimen supporting Cinematics (deluxe) through the remainder of the year, venturing to the UK this fall with Tonight Alive, before joining Story of the Year on their reunion tour that celebrates the 10th Anniversary of Page Avenue.