It’s no surprise the easycore champions Four Year Strong are pop-culture nerds, but one thing you might’ve passed over is the band’s love for a surprising topic: aliens. In fact, the group set out on their most recent tour with Defeater, Expire and Speak Low with an arsenal of merch and creepy intro music dedicated to the freaky wonders of the universe. The group has even traveled all over the U.S. visiting the sites of their most beloved genre of entertainment during their down-time on tour. We spoke with guitarist (and possible extraterrestrial himself) Dan O’Connor to find out more about the group’s obsession.
I went to your tour kickoff in Cleveland two weeks ago and noticed you had some merch items with aliens on them. Also, you wore a shirt referencing the 1940s’ Roswell UFO incident. Definitely got me thinking, do you guys believe in aliens?
DAN O’CONNOR: [Bassist] Joe [Weiss] and myself have been really longtime fans of alien lore, TV shows and films [about the supernatural]. We both grew up watching The X-Files. One of our favorite movies is Fire In The Sky and when I was in sixth grade, I did my science project on “Aliens: Fact or Fiction?” Just this past year on one of our tours, we made it to Roswell, New Mexico, which is super-cool; they have all sorts of cool alien museums and [stuff] about the crash that happened there. I’ve always been interested in it, I’ve always been a big space guy too. I watch a lot of space documentaries and a lot of science-based and cryptozoology-based [programs] like Bigfoot documentaries and stuff. It’s always been something I’ve been into. Joe and the rest of the band have always been interested in it [too]. What do you think? Do you believe in aliens?
Of course. When I saw all the merch, I was really hoping that you guys actually like aliens instead of just jumping on the bandwagon and putting it on shirts because it’s a cool thing to do in the scene.
We’ve been into aliens forever, we’ve always talked about doing a whole line of alien stuff for tour and making stuff really weird and based around the whole freaky alien thing. [We] have weird, spacey music at the beginning of our set and all this stuff. We finally got to do the sci-fi/alien tour theme, which we’re really excited about. When we went to Roswell that one time, we went to all the museums and that’s where I bought that shirt. I bought, like, four shirts, mugs, books and stuff there. Joe and I have always wanted to go to Snowflake, Arizona, which is where—have you ever seen Fire In The Sky?
No, I haven’t.
It’s a great movie. It came out in the mid-’90s. It’s about this dude who went out logging with a logging company and his friend. He was supposedly abducted by aliens and his friends went back and were like, “We saw him get abducted, the spaceship came down.” The whole town thinks they murdered him and that they’re making this stuff up. Eight days later, the guy turns up and [his friends] find him naked in a phone booth somewhere. He had stuck to the story that he was abducted and went up into [the aliens’] ship and they did experiments [on him]. It’s a really good movie, but it’s also just a really cool story of possible contact with aliens, like Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. We’ve just always been really into the whole lore behind all that stuff.
Have you guys gone to Area 51? They have the Extraterrestrial Highway there.
We tried to get there at one point, but it’s so far out of the way on tour. We couldn’t get close enough. We wanted to see the black mailbox. We haven’t made it out there yet, we kind of need, like, two days off in that area to get to it because it’s so far away from anything in that area. We thought it was closer to Roswell, but it’s not as close as we thought it was. We thought we could’ve just gone to Roswell and then hop-skip-and-a-jump to Nevada, but it’s, like, nine hours away. Someday we hope to make it.
Have you or anyone in the band ever seen a UFO?
No, but I think it was Joe who said he saw something once; I can’t remember exactly. He saw something that he didn’t know exactly what it was. We were in Texas—I think Austin, maybe—and we were standing outside the venue [with] a ton of kids outside and everyone looked up. There was this weird thing flying by really slow and I was standing next to a police officer. He looked up and saw it too and we were all like, “What the hell is that?” The cop looked up and said, “I have no idea.” I think that’s the closest we’ve come to seeing something we can’t explain. A ton of people saw it, but no one knew exactly what it was. I didn’t think to take my phone out or take a video of it. I don’t know if it was some kind of extraterrestrial ship. The cop at first thought it was a helicopter, but then said, “That’s not a helicopter.”
I would definitely say that was a UFO. You never know.
That’s what I’m sticking with.
Are there any Four Year Strong songs about alien encounters?
Not really. We did do our video for the song “Just Drive,” which is a video that pays homage to some of our favorite alien stories and movies; specifically Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Fire In The Sky. The whole video is about us driving in a car trying to outrun UFOs that are trying to abduct us. That’s probably the closest thing.
What would you say aliens look like as far as the ones you’ve seen in movies?
I don’t really know. I obviously 100 percent believe there is life outside of Earth and our solar system elsewhere in the universe. I don’t really know how I think they might’ve evolved into whatever they are because you don’t know the circumstances of whatever planet they’re on. They could not breathe oxygen, they might need something else. Instead of a nose and a respiratory system they might need something like gills, who knows? I expect they might be slightly more humanoid looking just because I feel like walking upright and using your front limbs to manipulate objects is an evolution that I think would probably work in circumstances pretty well. I assume they’d look something like that. As to what people have seen in UFOs and abductions, I don’t know because there’s so many different types of classes, like [having] a big head [and] big eyes. Short and skinny humanoid guys? I like the idea of that. The classic alien look, that’d be pretty cool. It’s pretty hard to imagine without having seen anything in person.
What’s your favorite alien movie?
I would say my favorite alien movie would either be Fire In The Sky, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Contact. I like Contact because it’s like an alien sci-fi movie without being too over-the-top alien [based]. It’s like what could happen if some kind of signal from another civilization and the signal turned out to be directions on how to build something. There’s something intriguing on that whole take of contact of an alien civilization. I would say those are my top three.
Four Year Strong hasn’t released their current tour merch online, but their alien-oriented show is definitely not one to miss. Check out the rest of their tour schedule here.