Exclusive: DYS Premiere "Wild Card"
The legendary straightedge, Boston-based hardcore group DYS have re-formed and are releasing a series of digital singles over the next year, beginning with the song below, "Wild Card." The song, which was produced by Andrew "Mudrock" Murdock (Avenged Sevenfold, Alice Cooper), will be available to purchase online on November 8, and the next single, "Sound of Our Town," will come out December 13. The band's new lineup, consists of founders vocalist Dave Smalley and bassist Jonathan Anastas, who are now joined by guitarist Franz Stahl (Scream, ex–Foo Fighters) and Adam Porris (formerly of Far From Finished), as well as drummer Al Pahanish, Jr. (ex–Powerman 5000). Anastas fills us in on the song below.
REVOLVER What’s this song about and what was the inspiration?
JONATHAN ANASTAS “Wild Card” is about the power of following one’s dreams, passions, and talents, no matter how hard that seems. And, if someone can do that—despite the fact that their path will be filled with challenges, with obstacles, with pain— they can achieve anything.
We tell that story through three verses, each inspired by a real life person or event. Of course, we’re not writing anyone’s biography, so the stories are composites and fictionalized. Facts were changed as needed to serve the narrative or even the lyrical cadence. The first inspiration was a Boston-area boxer who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but eventually went on to an even bigger career as a boxing trainer to many world champions. The second verse was inspired loosely by a woman we came up with in the Boston hardcore scene who moved to L.A. and become an actress and director. And the third was inspired by our own story, or the experiences of any kid who ever wanted to be a musician. Each of those roads is hard, each takes more than just talent. These choices take incredible drive, the ability to withstand defeat/rejection, timing, luck, an unstoppable positive attitude. As the lyrics in the bridge say, “All you can do is try, stay tough and you’ll get by, all you can do is try, stay true and you’ll reach the sky.”
We want to foster and support anyone who follows their creative passions, who takes their own road, who fights for what they believe in and never gives up. If this song inspires that, we’ve done our job.
Which part of it did you come up with first? What is the writing process inside DYS?
DYS songs today start with the lyrics, the message, the story we want to tell. This time around, I’ve become the primary lyricist. However, I’m always writing from the perspective of hearing the words come out of Dave Smalley’s mouth. What I write has to sound authentic in that context. Dave took the lyrics and brought the band a pretty well formed song structure and lead vocal melody. From there, the rest of the band, Al Phanish, Jr., Franz Stahl, and Adam Porris added their talents, not only to their own parts and performances, but to the overall song arrangement, backup vocals, tempos, additional layers and voices. These guys are all the real deal. Drummer Al Pahanish, Jr. and guitar player Adam Porris graduated from Berklee in Boston. Guitar player Franz Stahl and Al have written, played, and performed music—really—at about the highest level anyone can achieve, in stadiums, on platinum records. Dave and Al and Franz have all practiced their craft for many years, night after night, in front of live crowds, in the studio. Their collective talent and experience brings DYS more melody, more dynamic range, more craft than the band ever had. I do my best to keep up, hang on and—really—learn from the guys.
Was this an easy song to write?
Part of this process was very easy. There is a great level of communication and collaboration between everyone—including Producer Andrew Murdock. We’ve all got a lot of the same musical influences and cultural reference points. On top of that, Andrew knows his studio very, very well and is able to get to the sounds we hear in our heads, or ask for, with incredible ease. He’s also kind of a gear geek and pushed us a bit beyond our “fall back” choices in equipment. His expertise in heavy music is legendary, having worked with Godsmack and Avenged Sevenfold, among others. DYS worked with Andrew years and years ago in live settings—long before he had the level of producing success that later came . Al also worked with Andrew during his Powerman 5000 tenure, so—again—there were relationships and common language to fall back on. Each time we went back into the studio for another session or mix, there was this real desire to keep improving, to keep adding layers and make the song better.
The other parts of this process were harder. DYS has not been an active band for a very long time so there wasn’t a linear and recent musical progression to build on. We’re also working with a new lineup where everyone has a well established musical past and vocal point of view. We couldn’t—credibly—fall back on remaking our first hardcore record all over again, nor repeat our second more metal record, nor make something that sounded like a Powerman 5000, Foo Fighters, Scream, Slapshot or Dag Nasty record. So, instead, we’ve just tried to find our common musical ground and play what feels honest, real and inspiring, while also trying not to fall too far from what DYS was or is.
If we’ve achieved that, you should hear more inspiration from the early punk rock we all love; you should hear our history in hardcore. And you should hear our passion for straight-up hard rock’s swagger. You should hear a little all the stuff that’s inspired us along the way: the songs and bands that made us sing along or shake our fists in the air, the music that made us feel better about a bad day, or expressed the voices we heard in our heads.
What sort of feedback have you gotten on this song so far?
I don’t think anyone knew what to expect from new DYS songs. People either expected another “Brotherhood” or another “Metal” record. We didn’t think either of those paths on their own made sense. It’s 2011, and you can’t go back in time. That doesn’t work. So, we had no choice but to write and play what resonates with us today. Those who have heard the new songs have been surprised by the addition of more melody, by the addition of a more “punk” feel, as opposed to straight-up Hardcore, by the production quality, by the performances. Our label really supports this direction, our long-time friends in other bands like it a lot. We—certainly—have created a “third rail” in terms of DYS’s musical direction and it’s one we’re really digging into productively.
We’ve got a number of songs that fit within this sound and we’ll be releasing a new one every four to six weeks for the rest of 2011 and into 2012. The music business has changed a lot and serving up a regular stream of new songs à la carte though digital channels makes the most sense to us right now. We’re going to announce some very limited-edition physical product for the deep fans, but the most democratic and wide-ranging distribution plan is really, “Here are our news songs for $0.99 each online. Take your pick: iTunes, Amazon.com, Bridge9.com, etc. Buy the ones you love, if you feel we’re worthy of the support.”