Even if you’ve never heard it before, the term ‘folk-punk’ will probably bring something to mind. Whether it’s Woodie Gutherie, The Levellers, Violent Femmes or The Pogues…you’re probably in the right ballpark. Music at a higher-than-normal tempo using predominantly acoustic instrumentation with politically or emotionally-charged lyrics?
That all sounds a bit clinical.
Days n Daze might epitomise whatever ‘folk-punk’ is in the 2020s. They’ve spent the better part of a decade living out of a van and a recording space, honing their craft and playing everything from basement shows to festivals – the hard work has recently paid off with them being signed to Fat Mike (of NOFX)’s Fat Wreck Chords label to make latest album ‘Show Me The Blueprints’ [REVIEW LINK] (released 01/05/2020).
MR’s Ian Savage had a quarantine chat with guitarist / vocalist Jesse in the run-up to the album’s release.
I: For our readers who haven’t come across Days n Daze before – can you give us a potted history of the band?
J: Whitney [DnD trumpet player / vocalist] and I moved away from our hometown of Houston TX to San Marcos when we were 16 and 17. We didn’t know anyone in our new town so we started writin’ dumb little ditties to pass the time and we just never stopped. We picked up Meg [washboard] and Geoff [gutbucket bass] along the way and we’re lucky enough to still have ’em stickin’ around.
I: The question every musician HATES – how would you classify what you do?
J: In my mind we just play punk rock on acoustic instruments. Pretty simple I s’pose.
I: I read somewhere that Whitney is classically-trained while you’re self-taught – does that lead to a particular dynamic in the arranging or recording process?
J: Not really. I mean, usually I’ll write a melody, hum it to Whit, and she’ll just play it by ear – so I guess if anything her being classically trained just makes the whole process go by a bit quicker.
I: Is there much of a conscious Irish influence to DnD? Obviously there’s Irish folk / Poques-esque lines in there, and you can’t have avoided hearing American-Irish punk bands like the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly growing up…
J: We’ve never set out to write a song with an Irish sound to it, but it’s not lost on me that we do have a few riffs that may sit in a kind of Irish scale.
I: And then ska, I hear a little Streetlight Manifesto in the horn lines…is that just inevitable as soon as you introduce trumpet to a guitar-based band?
J: *laughs* Yeah, I think it’s just bound to sound like Streetlight with that instrumentation. Honestly, I’ve only heard maybe three Streetlight songs, but we do get compared to them pretty often. Damn, I need to check out more of their stuff. Don’t know why I haven’t yet, they rip!!
I: And finally on influences – some of the vocal lines feel straight-up metal / hardcore (title track of the new album being a case in point), where does that come from?
J: Leftover Crack and all their side projects have always been a huge influence on my songwriting. That’s where we get those screamies from. I love that airy raspy scream sound.
I: So fairly or unfairly, you often get lumped into ’folk-punk’ as a style – let’s talk about the hipster thing. There are a few people with carefully-cultivated beards and tattoos who are OBSESSIVE about the genre…what’s the makeup of your ‘normal’ crowd?
J: Our crowds seem to be pretty eclectic. Crusty kids, street punx with studs everywhere, the aforementioned hipsters with sick beards, and just everyday run-of-the-mill homies. I like that about our shows. I want everyone to feel welcome regardless of what they look like or what their background is.
I: If you don’t mind talking a little more about it – UK vs US folk-punk. Frank Turner ‘broke’ the style for me personally (possibly in both senses of the term), but can trace back to Beanz on Toast et al on this side of the pond; how much crossover across the Atlantic is there?
J: Don’t think there’s a lot of UK based folk-punk bands that are really well known over here. Frank and BoT are probably the two most well known actually.
I: I genuinely first came across DnD as recommended listening in a ‘how to make folk-punk’ YouTube video. Have you seen it? How accurate is it?
J: *laughs* Yeah, I’ve seen it. It’s pretty on point. *laughs*
I: You appear to be proudly DIY as a band, even down to the recording process – can you take us through it?
J: We’ve always recorded on a Sterling ST-55 [condenser microphone] through a Tascam DP-24 [multi-track recorder]. Those are really the only 2 pieces of equipment we use to record. We don’t run it through any programs or anything because I’m lazy and never learned ProTools or Audacity or any of that. Just onto the board and into the void.
I: Has that changed with the new record (‘Show Me The Blueprints’) being on Fat Wreck Chords?
J: Yes!! This is the first time we’ve had someone else record a record for us. It was a blast!! I love recording myself, but I’d be lyin’ if I said it wasn’t nice to just be able to focus on the performance and not have to worry about mixing and all that. Johnny of Old Man Markley recorded us, and that dude is just spectacular at what he does.
I: How did the Fat Wreck deal come about?
J: Pretty sure Sturgeon of Leftover Crack showed Fat Mike some of our stuff, he liked it so he hit us up – simple as that!! I mean maybe not simple *laughs*- it did take a decade of constant touring and self-promotion, but yeah kinda just fell together. Right people, right place, right time. Still kinda can’t believe it. It’s all pretty surreal.
I: Fat Mike (FWC founder and NOFX bassist / frontman) played bass and sang on ‘Show Me The Blueprints’ – did that push Geoff (Bell, gutbucket bass player) out at all?
J: Naw, throughout the record the bass switches, sometimes multiple times in one song, between Mike on electric bass, me on acoustic bass, and Geoff on gutbucket.
I: How much of a pull is there (if any) to put drums on some tunes now that you presumably have the option to do it ‘properly’?
J: None. I started another band called Escape From The ZOO for all my songs I wanted drums on. I’d like DnD to keep pretty close to the instrumentation we’ve always used – I love how the washboard melds with the guitar. I think, although maybe they would sound cool on a couple tracks, drums would take away from the tightness of the songs.
I: A couple on the state of the world in general – a lot of the songs on ‘SMTB’ deal with addiction and getting/staying clean, how has the Covid-19 panic / lockdown come to bear on that lately?
J: Not gonna lie. The bottle has been callin’. It’s been tough, but just tryin’ to keep busy. Idle hands, right?
I: There’s also obvious allusions to depression / BPD / OCD, as there have been throughout the back catalogue – if you’re comfortable talking about it, how much can you actually lay bare on a record that will probably be heard by tens or hundreds of thousands of people?
J: I try to be as transparent as possible when I write. Partly because it really helps to just get all the thoughts out…mostly because it’s an incredible feeling just laying something that’s intensely personal out there for the world to consume only to have it echoed back from the void that there are other people goin’ through exactly what I’m goin’ through. And therapy’s expensive *laughs*
I: There’s shared vocals or Whitney taking the lead on a lot of the record – who has ‘final veto’ over lyrics, the person who wrote the song or the person who’s singing it?
J: Definitely whoever wrote the song.
I: Something a little lighter to finish with – I vividly recall getting the Fat Wreck Chords CD samplers every few months in the early-mid 2000s, and they introduced me to some fantastic bands – who would you put on a sampler now (Fat Wreck Chord label-mates or otherwise)?
J: Oh damn, that’s a great question. Gotta be some bands maybe folks haven’t heard of, right? For sure We The Heathens. Let’s see….. probably Slummer (local Houston TX dad punk), Night Gaunts (New Zealand party ska), Rent Strike, and I’ll go with one more just for brevity’s sake….. 3 Day Holocaust.
I: And the one any UK Midlands Rocks reader will want to know if they’ve got this far – any plans to tour the UK and / or Europe?
J: Yes!! As soon as all this quarantine nonsense is over with we’ll be hoppin’ the pond!!
I: We’ll be right there – thanks for talking to us!