Dan Marsala's a straight-shooter — the kind of guy who tells it like it is, because you get the sense that really, he just doesn't care enough about the truth to bother with fabrications. Take his revelation this week that, in retrospect, his band Story of the Year's 2003 debut disc, Page Avenue, wasn't very good.
"It started to get to all of us, especially when that first record got lumped in with all of these new bands coming out that aren't really that good — this time around, we wanted to make a real record and show people that we can actually play music," he explained. "Our first record wasn't really ... I don't know ... us. I mean ... it had no feeling at all. People still loved the record, and that's awesome. But we didn't want to do that again. We wanted to sound like a real band."
Marsala lays a lot of the blame for Page Avenue — which has gone on to sell more than 783,000 copies in the U.S. — on its producer, Goldfinger's John Feldmann (Mest, the Used.)
"We'd kind of all decided we didn't want to work with Feldmann again, because we wanted to go for a different sound on the second record," the frontman said. Instead, they recruited Steve Evetts (the Cure, Dillinger Escape Plan) to helm the forthcoming album, In the Wake of Determination, which hits stores on October 11. "He let us do what we wanted to do. He didn't change us. Feldmann had originally changed our sound. All of his records have the same sort of sound, because he's always using the same formulas on everything."
So not only will Story of the Year fans finally get to hear the band for the first time on Determination, they'll hear a more mature, more energized group, Marsala said.
"Everybody says 'We've matured' on the second record — but it really does sound like we went from being 18 to 19," he joked. "And, I mean, it's not easy to capture the live feel of a band. Usually, we don't sound the best live anyway. But what we wanted to catch was the energy of our live show, more than anything."
Story of the Year also took a different approach to the lyrical attack on this effort.
"The last album, we had a lot of songs about dying," Marsala said. "It was a recurring theme, but not on purpose. Drowning, stabbing — dying. There's not a whole lot of that on this record. It's a more positive record. I listened to a lot of old-school hardcore, to get that positive hardcore to get that positive hardcore feel, like Sick of It All, H20, Bane."
This fall, Story of the Year will be touring the nation with Funeral for a Friend, Anberlin and He Is Legend as the trek's warm-up acts; the tour kicks off September 22 in Wichita, Kansas. It's around that same time that you should start seeing the first Determination video, which was shot at a Los Angeles soundstage for the lead-off track, "We Don't Care Anymore," with director Kevin Kerslake.
Not much to the video, though, said Marsala. It's your basic performance-footage clip, only shot with cool lighting effects and special camera angles. The singer seems more excited about the album's artwork, which guitarist Ryan Phillips and bassist Adam Russell worked on together.
"We had a few people try to come up with some ideas, but we're totally picky dudes," Marsala confessed. "Everything we got, it was like, 'Eh, I don't know.' For the first record, someone else did it, and we weren't happy with that. You know what? We're never happy with anything. We're just a bunch of a--holes and everybody should hate us."
Track list for In the Wake of Determination, according to Maverick Records:
- "We Don't Care Anymore"
- "Take Me Back"
- "Our Time Is Now"
- "Taste the Poison"
- "Five Against the World"
- "March of the Dead"
- "Sue Your Friends, Pay Your Enemy"
- "Wake Up the Voiceless"
- " 'Is This My Fate?' He Asked Them"
- "A Silent Murder"