The Dangerous Summer is one of those bands that feels like they always deserved better. They came up and rose to prominence in the “neon” era of the pop-punk scene: bands like Forever the Sickest Kids, All Time Low, The Maine, and so forth were all repping bright, neon shirts and skinny jeans. The Dangerous Summer were sort of the antithesis of that, forgoing power pop hooks for more straightforward alternative-rock tracks that captured the ears and hearts of their listeners.
This continued for three records — 2009’s Reach for the Sun, 2011’s War Paint, and 2013’s Golden Record — with each showcasing the band’s further development, pushing their sound in new directions. The Dangerous Summer didn’t quite have the breakthrough success as their three aforementioned peers, and in addition to other circumstances, disbanded in 2014.
Luckily, after a few years, the band got back together in 2017 and released their self-titled record the year after. They’ve since done headlining tours, support tours, and have been clicking on all cylinders since their reunion. That leads us to this piece and my conversations with Ben and Matt from The Dangerous Summer, talking about their newly released Mother Nature — our conversation took place a little over a month ago, and you’re now able to pick up your own copy of the new record here.
SUBSTREAM: How does it feel to be back out here on the road?
Matt Kennedy: It’s awesome, we’ve had a few months off and I feel like we’ve had enough time to rehearse the new stuff and get comfortable with it. We’ve been waiting for it to come out since December, so we’ve been kind of sitting with it in our hands for six months.
Ben Cato: Super stoked, to kind of slowly let the record out a little early for the kids that come out to the shows.
2019 is a big year for you guys, tell me about the new record.
Ben: I mean, like, it was crazy because we hadn’t initially planned to do a record that soon, and when we went out with the State Champs boys, they were like, “Yo, you can come, but you have to drop a song.” and we were like, “Well, fuck it, we got 7 or 8 demos so lets just go smash out this record.” We started talking with Sam Pura and he was like, “You wanna come out here for eight weeks?” and we were like, “Yeah, that sounds amazing!” So we had two weeks to write and we wrote, like, twenty-something songs and we just picked the best ones. Man, it really, really, like…no sleep, like no sleep — blood, sweat, and tears. So it’s so sick to finally like, like the other day when I held it in my hands for the first time and pulled it out of the box, it was like, finally. Lot of manifestation of all of our hard work. Definitely just our like most eclectic release, so I’m really excited to see what the kids think.
Matt: There’s a little bit of everything on there, like a lot more than we usually do. Sam had all of these toys, there’s like no windows in his studios, so it’s like Vegas — you have no idea what time of day it is, so you just keep writing and keep playing.
How does this compare to your self-titled record?
Ben: There was a lot of cool, like, creative discover — like Matt was saying, a lot of new sounds we’re experimenting with. The self titled was kind of a recent one, but now we’re like, holy shit, we’re really honing in on how the three of us can really forge these sounds and these songs. That’s what’s got me the most stoked. I felt a genuine, like, this is new, this is crazy, what’s happening here? You feel like you’re discovering the idea as it’s happening, and I know that’s like a crazy thing.
Matt: The last album, for reference we had two weeks to do. Like that we did 12 days of recording for that record. This one, we had six weeks. We all live in different cities so it’s nice when we get to get together and write together.
How do you approach writing or recording songs to keep things exciting/fresh?
Matt: I mean, so, Ben and I joined the band in 2012, so prior to that it was Brian, Cody, and some other guys, so they had a lot of teen angst, fresh out of high school, a few years younger than us, so they were kind of honing their sound and creating what the band’s vibe was and all that kind of shit. Once we joined on, I think it was like, a weird time in the band, [Golden Record] was Ben and I’s first record, and that one was just a little bit heavier and a little bit darker just because of the environment we were in, like the weather was shit. The next time we did the self titled, it was nice out, beautiful out, all positive energy. This one, we got to explore new songs and try things out, and I think that’s because we got that last one out, so this was our experiment record — our chance to show people what we have besides our normal.
What’s your favorite song on this record?
Ben: Hard to choose. “Bring Me Back to Life”, I’m really stoked that became a single, because I came up with this groove, and me and Matt were, like, vibing in another room while AJ was in another room working on a vocal, and it was one of those where we were like, “AJ, AJ, come listen to this shit!” I’m really stoked that became a single because every time I hear it I think of that moment. “Violet Red” is probably one of my favorites too, just because I get to go apeshit the whole time.
Matt: “This Is Real,” it’s like a mildly Strokes vibe song. It has some little kid keyboard in the beginning, and I’ve always wanted to do stuff like that. It was fun to hear AJ go through it in that song, because I don’t think we’ve done anything like that before, so I really like that one. I think that’s probably my favorite on the record. [“Consequence of Living”] is probably one of my favorites, too. That one has like an old Boxcar vibe to me.
Ben: We called it “Halo” because it’s the same progression has Beyonce.
Is there a song that almost didn’t make it on Mother Nature but now you’re glad that it did?
Ben: There will always be those.
Matt: “Mother Nature” almost didn’t make it. By the time we got the finishing touches on it, it finally started to fit the vibe, it’s wild that it’s the title track after almost not making it in there. There are a few songs that AJ had kind of the guts for before we came in and he almost debated doing solo stuff with it, and once we started jamming to it, we were like, this is really good.
Ben: Some of it there were like three or four different versions of it before we said that’s it. So that was cool to like, what if we try this?
Matt: “Way Down” is one of my favorites because that’s one that just kind of came out. That one was finished faster than any other. It just felt like too simple at first and we were like, it has a good vibe to it. Online, that’s had one of the best responses we’ve had in years.
Ben: I’ve had some kids say they like the subtle nod to that old era of the band, but there’s something new to it.
Do you have any plans to do a 10th anniversary celebration of Reach for the Sun?
Matt: Those songs, that was really my first introduction to the band back in 2011. I hadn’t listened to too much before it and I heard that record and was like, “Man, this is fucking good.”
Ben: I was at some of the shows! We didn’t know each other and it’s crazy.
Matt: We’re stoked to kind of throw it back a little bit.
Ben: It’s really cool that those fans were accepting to me and Matt when we came on and now they’re like homies with us.
Matt: We weren’t there for [Reach for the Sun], but [the songs] still mean a lot to us. There’s always this bit of alt rock stuff in there. At the time it was a lot of neon pop punk, so that is kind of a disconnect to this. I can understand why this is kids’ favorite record.
Ben: It’s cool, too, because that same community fan has grown with us. I had a homie in Dallas, Jared Ogburn, we sat down and we were smoking weed, and he just wanted to listen to the whole record, and I felt kinda lame, but we did it. He was like, “Dude, this fucks up the entire how I rank your albums” I think that’s a really cool thing to like, a lot of those kids have grown up and we’re touching on some of those themes of being grown and not teen angst. I feel like it’s kind of full circle and it’s gonna be sick, I’m stoked about it being ten years and being able to revisit a lot of those deep cuts later this year.