All the Right Moves on Warped Tour, David Hasselhoff, and burning pianos

All the Right Moves on Warped Tour, David Hasselhoff, and burning pianos
Photo by Kasey Jean Noll

You may hear traces of Yellowcard in Minneapolis band All the Right Moves -- perhaps it's the violin implemented by both bands. The young band has crafted an album that hits the spot if you're looking for a guilty pleasure pop-punk to get lost in. When Your Compass Breaks is All the Right Moves' venture into a deeper and darker new sound, but still maintains the band's piano driven sound, along with an abundance of hooks that would satisfy any fisherman.

Gimme Noise speaks with lead singer Brandon Daly before the band's album release at Station 4 on Friday about the hard work that goes into running a band.

Band Members: Brandon Daly (Vocals/Piano/Guitar), Braden Ashworth (Vocals/ Guitar), Roman Wolfe (Violin), Will Ceasar (Bass/ Vocals), Dustin Phillips (Drums/ Vocals)

Gimme Noise: You guys played at Warped again this year -- amidst the heat and dirt. What are the benefits of playing that stage? What was up with the green guy?

Brandon Daly: Yes, the Ernie Ball Stage is fantastic. It's seriously the best way for local bands to get involved with something as large as Vans Warped Tour. We've had the honor to play a few different years in Minneapolis and Milwaukee, and it's always been a riot. We've all been going to Warped Tour since we were 15 years old, and it was always the best day of the summer. So getting the opportunity to play alongside all these great bands today is something we don't take lightly! 

It's a wonderful way to mingle with other bands, meet your heroes, and promote your music to the masses. But with so many bands and so many stages, sometimes you gotta get creative in order to get people's attention and draw them in to your show. We've been known to get a little wild.

One year in Milwaukee our violin player, Roman, decided to strip down to nothing but a youth-sized Speedo and walk around with his violin on his shoulder, a megaphone in one hand and our set time written on his chest with a Sharpie. He would yell about our band through the megaphone, play songs for people on his violin, dance around like a maniac and take pictures with people. It's a marketing tact, really. His chest was so white it literally burned our set time into everyone's eyes that looked at him. And yeah, now that you mention it, I'm not sure if it was a mirage from the heat, but I also vaguely remember a tall man in a full-body green-man suit at this year's Warped who looked a lot like our violin player, Roman. Some people saw him holding up a giant neon green sign with our set time written on it. Other people saw him crowd-surfing. Either way, I'm pretty sure he was completely naked underneath that thing.

Pop-punk is a difficult genre to break into, especially in the Twin Cities. What drives you to keep going when a band can go years without the recognition?

We do what we love, and what makes us happy. Bottom line. We make music for ourselves, because we love the music, and we love doing it -- we wouldn't have it any other way. We just want people to hear our music and appreciate it for what it is. Honestly, the biggest payoff in the world is when a someone comes up to us after a show, or contacts us online, and tells us that one our songs was on the soundtrack of their summer, or that it meant the world to them at a particular crossroad in their life. We've had people from other countries send us emails in broken English telling us that certain songs on our CD have helped them through a break-up, family problems, dealing with depression, etc. It's the greatest thing in the world because it means that our music is not only medication for ourselves, but also for others throughout the world. I think that is the ultimate pay-off for any musician, isn't it? 

The band has been successful at getting placements in films and television shows. Is this all hustle from the band, or do you work with a publishing company? 

Both. We hustle our butts off, but we've also been very lucky at the same time. One of our biggest breaks spawned from pure luck -- as well as being at the right place at the right time. When our 2010 EP, The Monster I've Become, came out, we got featured on the front page of for a couple weeks, which gave us huge exposure. During that time we got an email from a company called Bunim-Murray (they produce reality shows for MTV, Oxygen and E! - such as The Real World, and Keeping Up With the Kardashians). A talent scout found our music and liked what he heard and was interested in licensing our music to their catalog. Obviously, we said yes, and we have since gotten our music placed in close to a dozen episodes of various reality T.V. shows. They must love the Minnesota music scene, because we have friends in other bands who have also gotten licensing deals through them.

How did the opportunity to have your song in the movie Piranha 3DD come about?

I went to school at McNally Smith College of Music from 2008-2010, pursuing a degree in Music Business. During that time the head of the Music Business department was a very genuine guy named Ron Sobel. He gave a lecture one day in the auditorium that really grabbed my attention. It was all about licensing deals and his experiences in the world of music publishing. I loved every second of it. After the lecture, I contacted him, and we started talking back and forth via email. We talked about his publishing company, Winogradsky/Sobel, which is stationed in LA. I told him about my band, and that I was eager to have him listen to our album for consideration. I sent him a copy of our album to listen to and he wrote back a couple weeks later telling me that he "listened to the album -- loved what he heard, and thought it would make an excellent addition to his company's catalog." I was stoked! This was the first licensing deal we'd ever gotten. So I signed the agreement forms, submitted my band's album, along with the instrumental tracks and lyrics... and then we waited! 

Something like two years went by, and I got a call from Stephen Herring at Winogradsky/Sobel telling me that New Line Cinema was in post-production for an independent film called Piranha 3DD (the sequel to the 2010 film, Piranha 3D), and they were interested in using our song "The Impatient, The Imperfect, The Impossible" in a water-park party scene for the movie's soundtrack. Needless to say, he had me the second that he said that David Hasselhoff and Gary Busey were starring the movie. I didn't need to hear anything else.

The band seems to do a lot of your own work. What do you feel you excel at, and what do you need to work on? Was it a lot of trial and error?

Yes, we are a 100% DIY independent band, and we are proud of it. We've just had too many bad experiences in the past with shady, money-grubbing managers, so we've decided to keep it indie for the time being. Which is the way to go if you are able to wear the many different hats -- so to speak. We hire on photographers, videographers, and website designers as needed to help us with projects, but as a general rule-of-thumb, we only hire on someone to do something we can't reproduce ourselves. 

I find that the most productive DIY bands have a formula as such: one person in charge all of the finances and banking, one person who handles all of the creative media (like designing graphics/ show flyers, website artwork, etc), one person who does all of the promotion, marketing and advertising work, one person who does all of the legal and contract work, and one person handles booking. Occasionally we will hire booking agents to help us book shows -- especially in other states. A lot of times booking agents have already established a relationship with venues that we want to play, so it makes it much easier to set up shows. However, it's tough to find a good agent. If you find one, hold on to them, because we've had our share of bogus tours. One time we were touring the East Coast and drove all the way from North Carolina to Florida. We arrived at the venue and no one was there. So we called the venue owner and he was like, "What are you talking about!? There's no show tonight! I'm at home eating mashed potatoes with my wife!" Moral of the story is: no matter what someone promises you, DO YOUR HOMEWORK! 
How did you meet Rob Freeman, and how did you choose him to produce When Your Compass Breaks?

(Cue Alanis Morissette) "Well it's a little bit ironic.... don't ya think!?" Like I said earlier, we all grew up listening to bands that were on Drive-Thru Records, Epitaph, and Fearless. One of my favorite bands on Drive-Thru was a band called Hidden In Plain View. Rob Freeman was the guitar player/ singer for that band. Even though I was a huge fan of the band, I never made the connection to Rob Freeman, the producer. After Hidden In Plain View broke up in 2007, Rob Freeman opened The Pilot studio in Boonton, New Jersey and started making records. Some of which have made it to the Top 20 Billboard charts. He's produced records for Cobra Starship, Allister, Gym Class Hereos, with his most notable recent accomplishment being the song "Stereo Hearts" by Gym Class Hereos featuring Adam Levine. He mixed that song and it has since gone platinum. Anyways, there was an album he did that always resonated with me. Hit The Lights' Skip School, Start Fights. I remember listening to that album on repeat all summer long when it came out, thinking to myself, "God, I need to get whoever produced this album to record an album with All the Right Moves". I looked up the album credits and that's when I became familiar with Rob Freeman, the producer. 

It wasn't until spring of 2011 that I made the connection when I got a spontaneous call from Restless Management owner and creator of The Daily Unsigned, Rob Figarola. He explained to me that he manages the producer, Rob Freeman, and that he had found All the Right Moves' music online, and he was curious if we would be interested in recording with Rob Freeman, the former guitar player in Hidden In Plain View. At this point, it all clicked, and I crapped my pants. Twice. 

What's the meaning behind the name When Your Compass Breaks?

The album title is pulled from a lyric in the second verse of the 10-minute long album closer, "You Will Never Be Alone". The line is, "Whether wind or rain, whether grief or pain, when your compass breaks, love will lead the way." It's a symbolic title for the entire record and the experience of going out to New Jersey to record it. The album artwork goes along with the theme, as the entire record is sort of a nautical-themed concept album. There's a ton of references to sailors, ships, and older times -- when things were more simple, and also the idea of being out in the open sea with nothing but a compass to guide your way. Let's say that compass breaks. Now what do you do? You just go where your heart takes you. The same goes for your everyday life. The album is all about being at different crossroads in life when you have to make those small yet extremely substantial decisions that will dramatically effect your life path. Do I go left, or do I go right? Do I go up, or down? It's about the choices you make throughout your life, and trusting in yourself to get you where you need to be.  

How did you approach writing differently on it versus your previous albums?

We spent a LOT more time on the lyrics, and making the album feel like one big movie, from start to finish. We made instrumental transitions to bridge the songs and during the mastering process we set the track markers as such to eliminate silence between tracks, so that the album never loses momentum. We also spent a lot of time focusing in on the piano and violin aspects of our bands, because we feel it's the biggest thing that sets us apart from every other pop-punk band. 

Any favorite tracks off the new album?

That's a tough call, because each of us have a different favorite track off the album. Overall I think our single "Choke" is our best song off the album, and that's why it is our single. But I think everyone in the band would agree that we had the most fun recording the song, "You Will Never Be Alone." I say this because we went into the studio with this song, expecting it to be a 3 minute acoustic "bonus" song for a secret track at the end of the album. After we showed it to Rob Freeman, he fell in love with it, and we jammed on it for hours. We kept bouncing ideas off of each other, and before you know it, it turned into the 10-minute long, epic closer track to the album. We bonded with Rob like peanut butter and jelly. The entire recording experience of that song was seriously magical. There are organic sounds that we made from plucking strings on Roman's violin in a certain pattern, and then we reversed it and added echoes to it in such a way -- it's like a sound no one has ever heard before.  It's the kind of song that you start grooving into, and before you know it you look at the time, you realize you've been listening to it for 8 minutes -- but it feels like only 3 minutes have gone by. It has hypnotic qualities to it, and that's what makes it so cool. 

What's the story behind the burning piano for "Choke"?

Funny story. We actually got that upright piano off Craigslist for free. Somebody at a church dorm was getting rid of it. We told him "we'd take real good care of it," even though the piano was practically un-playable. The strings were all rusted up beyond repair and some of the hammers were already snapped off. So we did the humane thing and took it out of its misery in our music video. In fact, we smashed all of our gear in our music video for "Choke." We got cheap instruments off Ebay, including a violin, electric guitar, bass guitar, and snare drum that looked similar to the ones we were playing and after we were done playing on them for the video we took turns smashing them against the piano. I took an axe to the piano and then doused it with gasoline and set it on fire with a burning Polaroid picture.

If you watch our music video it will all make sense. Basically all of the destruction and the burning piano are a metaphor for the main character's relationship with his significant other and his feelings towards the events that are taking place in the video. The rage associated with finding out your lover has been cheating on you and catching them in the act. There are twists and turns you won't expect, but the story scenes tend to go hand-in-hand with what the band is doing. The cinematography is beautiful, all thanks to our director, Adam Dunn.

What can we expect at the CD release show?

Lots of sing-alongs, dance songs, rock songs, and one hell of a good time! We are going to go crazy!! We've prepared the longest set of music we've ever played. We'll be doing a set with half new songs and half old songs, as well as some cover songs. We have some super special things planned that might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see. We couldn't be more excited. We've got a solid line-up of bands playing with us: Lights Out Dancing (who also recorded with Rob Freeman), The Role Call, The Picture Perfect, and Little Time Off. Also - free 8x10 color posters to the first 100 people to buy presale tickets via our merch store!

All the Right Moves will release When Your Compass Breaks with Lights Out Dancing, The Role Call, The Picture Perfect, and Little Time Off at Station 4 on Friday, September 21, 2012.
AA, $8 adv, $10 door, 5 pm

Purchase tickets here.

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