It’s been just over a month since The Underclassmen released their debut single “Former Life”, but the Los Angeles duo are hardly new to music. Vocalist Justin Cole and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Dan Picarel met in high school, where they began playing acoustic covers at a weekly open mic. Eventually, they began writing their own music.

But music was put on the backburner when, after graduation, Cole joined the military and Picarel went to college. They always kept going, though, and eventually, moved to Los Angeles where they connected with now manager Scott Waldman.  Waldman introduced Cole and Picarel to producer Curtis Douglas, and soon, they were heading to Douglas’s Arizona studio to record. There, they “found another niche that we thought we fit in really well with”, and with Douglas’s help (he’s a “phenomenal songwriter”, Cole says), The Underclassmen was born.

Substream recently spoke with The Underclassmen to talk about the release of “Former Life,” their inspirations and influences, and what they have in store.

SUBSTREAM: You’ve been playing music together and you’ve been friends for several years, and you just released your first official single, “Former Life” – why did right now feel like a good time to release a song?

Dan Picarel: We decided to release it now because we felt like it was ready to be released to the public. We’ve been building content for like two years now, and we felt like the time was right. We’ve been planning this for probably about a year and we were just excited to get to this point. 

What was the inspiration of the song?

DP: The song is about people that are too caught up in technology nowadays. Like – people fish for likes on social media. It kind of takes over their lives, just to prove to people where they’ve been and what they’re doing currently. We felt like people in the older days didn’t care what people thought about them and were living in the moment.

Justin Cole: We loved the idea of the whole “Former Life” concept. We thought that, inspiration-wise – we obviously live in it every day, it never goes away. It’s things that we’ve noticed with friends and other relationships and seeing everything from a higher perspective, I guess, looking [from the] outside-in essentially. We felt that way and we know a lot of friends who feel that way.

Sure. I think it’s funny that you guys are – like all of us, right, we are self-aware that, “oh yeah, everyone is so caught up in the internet and social media and their cell phones” – and yet, we all do it anyway.

JC: Yeah. It’s really ironic, honestly. It’s like – we always complain about the technology, the social media, but we complain about it on social media.


JC: So yeah – I agree with that, obviously, here we are on the phone and everything.

You also recently put out a music video for this song, which premiered over on Billboard. Where did you film that video?

JC: That was out in Arizona as well, outside of Phoenix. [It was] super hot.

I’ve always found that part of the country so mystical – it’s just endless stretches of nothing, desolate, but it can be really beautiful too.

JC: Yeah. It’s incredibly sprawling – you hit Sedona and there’s towns built around giant rock structures, and it’s so cool, and then you drive an hour and fifteen minutes through basically the desert wasteland to hit Phoenix, which is this giant city- it’s so crazy. It’s really cool; I really like that state. I didn’t think I would like it as much as I did until we started going there more often.

So, you have the single, you have the video – can people expect any shows from The Underclassmen anytime soon?

DP: We’re currently trying to work things out with live performances; we’re focusing on gearing up right now. We have to figure out what we’re gonna do, because it’s just Justin and I and we want to make the live performances as best as possible. We’re trying to plan getting a live drummer to go along with us, but for the starting shows, it’s gonna be Justin and I playing with backing tracks. We’re not gonna… I don’t know how to put it but like – slack on the live performances just because it’s two of us, so even if it’s with backing tracks, then we’re gonna make it as best as possible.

For sure, you want to give people the best show you can.

DP: Yeah. But for now, we don’t have any plans to play live – we’re planning our next release, actually.

Timing-wise, when can people expect that next release?

JC: That should be very soon. Nothing set in stone yet, but we will definitely expect to see it very soon – I would say for sure by the end of August.

Since you guys are a pretty new band, can you give me an idea of what are your influences or some artists that have really inspired you?

JC: I personally listen to a ton of A Day To Remember, actually – they’ve always been an influence as far as writing is concerned and the energy that we put into music. I have so many influences though, oh my goodness. As far as pop goes – probably Charlie Puth. I know he’s also pretty fresh, still, but as far a modern influence that’s somebody I enjoy of the same genre, he’s awesome.

DP: It’s so funny, we have very wide ranges of influences that don’t even touch the pop scale even though we play it. But as far as I go – Dallas Green from City and Colour] – his writing style is inspirational to me, and honestly a little bit of Paramore. I’ve really grown to love Justin Bieber recently and how he writes incredible melodies and lyrics.

Amazing. I love hearing all this variety.

JC: Yeah, super crazy variety. But I have to also add John Mayer to that list.

I’ve come to appreciate John Mayer a lot more this past year, myself.

JC: Yeah – I feel like I always overlooked him. I always loved “Your Body Is A Wonderland” and stuff like that, but recently, I’ve really started to appreciate the intricacies of his musicality, it’s crazy.

SUBSTREAM: As we head out, is there anything else in the works that you would want people to know, or anything that you would want people to be on the lookout for?

JC: Definitely more songs and more content – music videos, we’re in the works for those. We’ve got a lot, like a couple of years’ worth, of stuff that we’ve written and we’re very proud of and excited to release and for people to hear, so it’s mainly gonna be the tunes – that’s our most pride-worthy thing that we’ve done so far. We think these songs are gonna be something that anybody can connect with, every song will fit in a different way. We’re really excited for people to hear them, we think they’re a lot of fun. Really, if there’s anything to look forward to, it’s those songs, and the music videos that are coming with them.