The remnants of my inner teen emo girl shrieked with excitement upon hearing that Story of the Year were ready to release new music this year. "Story Of The Year is alive and ready to fucking destroy everything in 2017," they said in an exciting announcement last fall.
Today (Dec. 6), Fuse is thrilled to premiere the band's new album Wolves that you can enjoy above, which marks their first record since 2010's The Constant. It is their most personal record thus far, digging through themes of fear, fatherhood and questioning if the band should've reunited. Along with the album stream, we spoke with frontman Dan Marsala, who broke down every song's meaning and recording process. "Yeah we had all those thoughts. The Constant was in 2010 and we’d been on tour for eight or nine years constantly. After that record came out we knew we had to take a break," he tells me when asked if they ever thought of just ending the band and not coming back.
"It wasn’t purposeful but we needed to get away from each other and just see what happens and try some side projects. We didn’t intend for it to be a seven-year break before another record would come out. It was never the right time, but about a year ago we were ready to do it again. I feel rejuvenated and ready for this record than I’ve ever felt in a very long time. It was worth it." He continued,
"Surprisingly it was not at all a nervous process. I didn’t really care if people liked the songs or not, as long as we were into what we were doing. I’ve come to find that I just write music for myself. It’s a very personal thing now. In the past, it was always about trying to win people over and chase a trend. There’s always some reason why you might right shitty music, for a lack of a better term. The older I get, I do exactly what I want. And I write songs the way I want to. I think that will translate and connect with people more anyway."
Click through for Dan Marsala's track-by-track analysis while enjoying Story of the Year's new Wolves album exclusively on Fuse here!
FUSE: This one definitely sets the tone of the album. It sounds like someone running in the woods!
Story of the Year: Early on, Ryan [Philips] had the idea to make the album more cinematic. We didn’t necessarily want it to all coincide with the lyrics but we wanted a good visual to go with the record. It kind of made sense to bring that audio urgency to the beginning of the record to set the tone for the visual side. We came up with it last minute and thought it would be really cool.
The album cover itself has this Stranger Things vibe to it with you guys riding your bikes in the woods.
Yeah we’re definitely of that older age group from the ‘80s and early ‘90s. So that whole throwback nostalgia thing is really cool to us. It’s something that makes you feel good without you really knowing why you feel good.
There’s a theme of hopelessness I felt when listening to this and there’s a line that stood out to me the most: “We say that we’re alive but all I see are empty coffins calling out our names.”
Usually 90 percent of the time Ryan writes all the demo of the music and sends them to me. Then I write the vocals and send them back. This song was the only one where I actually wrote and recorded everything. So it’s pretty much my song and it’s the wildcard of the record. It made sense for it to go first because we wanted to open up with something kickass and uptempo. Lyrically a lot of the record is about my personal life and stuff I went through, a lot of it relates to the band and how that has changed over the years. How our lives changed completely from being a huge band, to going away and being on hiatus and trying to adapt to the normal world. I think this song relates more to the band’s side. How can we go on? Should we even continue with this thing that we love so much? Is it worth it? I mean it can relate to a million different things but that was my mindset. “All I see are empty coffins” was just seeing all the negatives of the future or whatever you’re trying to accomplish.
This is the perfect title for this song, because I can already see people singing the hook at concerts! I’m sure it had to be a good time recording it in the studio.
That was the first one we finished and the early version ended up being the same as the album version. We were going to release it a year before this record. But we decided we weren’t far enough long and didn’t want to put one song out. It was the first one where we were like, “Yes this is Story of the Year. This is where we need to be.” It has everything: it’s heavy, has a thumping beat, catchy chorus and still badass. The lyrics just flew right out. It kind of just happened and we said, “Cool, that’s the comeback!”
When I first heard this, it gave me a national anthem vibe. It’s like a rally cry for well, the youth.
Ryan is an amazing guitar player and he loves to shred all the time. But there was a lack of shredding on this record because we were trying to make more anthemic songs that would be more about lyrics than just guitars. I think he felt there was a lack of some of that and told us, “Hey I wrote this cool thing and I don’t know if everyone is gonna hate it. If it sucks it’s whatever but I think it can go into ‘I Swear I’m Okay’ really good.” It’s kind of like “Eruption” by Van Halen or something. It’s a solo on a record for no reason. But like I said it was a time where we can do whatever we want and it doesn’t matter if you put a minute-long guitar solo in a song. Who cares? It’s art. It’s fun and definitely sets the stage for the next song.
Well speaking of lyrics, I think this song is one of the more personal ones on the record. It stands out to me the most because it’s so melodic and tender compared to the other ones.
We knew that one was going to be different and a stand out to the other songs from the early stages. As soon as he sent the music over, the chorus just came out of me. It’s definitely one of the deeper lyrical songs on the record. It’s about growing up and becoming a different person that what you thought you would be—whether or not that’s good or bad. Or hiding the fact that maybe things aren’t okay and maybe I’m not as happy as I lead myself on to be. It’s more of a letter to a person telling them you’re sorry for the way you are. It’s probably my favorite on the record. It’s uncomfortable to talk about.
When I heard this song I immediately thought of the Page Avenue and In the Wake of Determination days. It reminds me of old SOTY but more grown up. It’s definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.
Yeah me too. That one was not one of the easy ones. I wrote three or four choruses for it and had different versions floating around. With that opening riff, Ryan was like “is that too Anberlin for us?” They’re one of our best touring friends of all time. So it’s kind of like an homage and it’s f-cking awesome. It ended up being one of our favorite songs but it was a lot of work to get it there. I think it might end up being a single, but I don’t know how any of that works anymore [laughs].
When I heard this song, the first thing I said was “Wow, this production is beautiful.” But that’s something you don’t associate with Story of the Year. You usually think post-hardcore. But this reminds me of something Coldplay would do.
Yeah it’s a good theme. It’s just a song about feeling alone and wondering if you’re connecting with anybody or if anybody cares at all. It’s a hopeful-sounding song but I guess it’s very negative in a way. Everybody feels alone at some point and I think it’s a good one that people can connect to on a lot of different levels. We weren’t scared to get weird like that and try stuff that doesn’t sound like Story of the Year, and that was one example for sure.
This production is a lot bolder compared to the other songs. It reminds me of a twisted love story, which I thought was cool.
First off, I want to shout out Aaron Sprinkle who did almost 80 percent of the production on our record and just killed it! He added such a great vibe to all these songs than if we went to another producer. “A Part of Me” is actually a letter to my son.
Wow I would’ve never guessed that!
Yeah it’s a big metaphor. Any of the more lovey-dovey songs are more about parenthood and children than about conventional love songs. But I didn’t necessarily want this to be obvious and wanted people to connect with it however they want. It’s just being thankful that this life has some into your life and how amazing that is. It’s definitely one of my favorites on the record lyrically. It was one of the first ones I wrote as well, and I was like “Man I’m not afraid to get sentimental and deep about my life right now.” That was a good feeling and opened up the floodgates for the rest of the record.
With every album someone puts out, you always have that one sappy song. And this is it! Was it about you becoming a dad for the first time?
It was about my second child. I had written “A Part of Me” and I have a daughter as well. So I said this one would be more about that. But it’s a similar idea lyrically. It’s about being scared of how much you can love someone and how crazy that feeling is. Just freaking out and saying, “Oh my god, don’t make me feel this way. There’s no way I can love something this much.” It tried to make it metaphorical and weird enough where it still has a creepy vibe. It should be in a movie trailer or something, with the big drums and the chorus. It’s just a cool song all around.
Of course everyone is going to be asking who the hell Mike Cronin is!
We crowd-funded the record and one of the pledge things was that you can have a song named after you. A man named Mike Cronin was the one who purchased that. He also bought a studio visit too, so he came in and got to hang out with us. That song is one of the more upbeat and heavy ones. You obviously can’t name a love song that, or something sentimental and slow. So I said, “what if we make it kind of silly?” We didn’t tell him at all [laughs]! It’s one of those classic Story of the Year songs that kicks ass. It’s about falling in love with music, living that dream and not wanting it to go away.
This is a hodge-podge of different sounds. You have the chants in the beginning, those blippy synths and then the piano melody. When you put a bunch of different sounds together, it doesn’t really work. But this one definitely does.
It was one of the last ones we wrote and we weren’t sure if we liked it or not. We had over 30 demos for this record and Aaron Sprinkle came in and picked the ones for it. And they were pretty much the same songs we were going for. The bridge is my favorite part of the whole song. It was the last thing I wrote for the record and it takes the song to a whole different level.
This probably sounds so strange. But if you strip down the drum pattern of the song, it kind of mimics a tropical pop beat. I feel like if you took that and gave it to someone like Justin Bieber, it could become a pop song!
Yeah the kick drum goes four on the floor for the whole song. It’s definitely the poppiest song of the record. But we tried to keep it as a rock song as much as we could.
Love is one of the biggest themes of this album. Why did you guys decide to go down that route and showcase the different aspects of love?
The last couple of records had a lot of social and political lyrics, and I think it didn’t really connect much with people. So I wanted this one to definitely be as personal as possible instead of what’s happening in the world. I think there’s a time for both, but it was time to focus on that. This one definitely relates to my kids again, as well as my wife. Just my whole family and the struggle of how can I support them, what is the future and losing your mind in the process. It’s about going f-cking insane and all you want to do is take care of your family. But it’s not an easy process in the music business nowadays. Anything artistically in that world…it’s like the wild wild west out there.
I wanted to get the story behind this one, because I couldn’t really figure it out myself. It seems like a breakup song on first listen.
This is a cool one as well. It’s kind of ‘80s pop but in a dark way. It’s a bit Peter Gabriel-ish and we wanted to explore that. It’s not really a breakup song. It’s a love song and an apology for being the way I am. The chorus goes, “Don’t tell me I’m not all that you need anymore.” Basically a plea to keep dealing with my bullshit. The first verse is saying I would do anything for you. The second is verse I’m sorry for the way I am and don’t let it go. It’s a different kind of love song.
This is the longest song on the album. How did you guys decide on it being the final scene of this cinematic journey?
The original demo was called “Interstellar Voyage.” Ryan sent this epic long thing to me and I was like, “Okay this is three songs. What the hell am I supposed to do with that?” I loved it right away: it was dark and heavy and very Deftones-y. They’re one of our favorite bands of all time. We didn’t have anything like that. Eventually we structured it a bit better. We didn’t know if we should cut it up and make it a shorter song, or leave it long and make it this big epic ending. The whole second half just goes on this journey into another place and it meets up at the end. It doesn’t feel as long as it is.
I think it’s because you have that spoken word section in the middle.
Yeah that was a last minute decision. How can we fill this song up and have it all make sense? And I had this spoken word idea. Nobody even heard that until the mixes were all done because I did it after the record. Lyrically it’s one of my favorites and is a journey throughout my life. Everything from kids to the band to the struggles—it basically encompasses the entire record. We never even attempted a seven-minute song before, so it’s cool! I love it.
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