A-once-local-band The 92s have been making some noise in the Windy City as of late, following their move from the C-U area to Chicago after the completion of their undergraduate careers. Being out in the real world has given Dan Durley, frontman for the band, a lot to think about, and he and his band mates are showing the musical culmination of these thoughts with their upcoming EP, FOR PUBLIC USE. Ahead of their upcoming release show in town for the EP on Saturday, I got to take a moment and chat with Dan about what went into the making of this record.
Smile Politely: Hi there, Dan! Thank you for doing this!
Dan Durley: No problem, it’s my pleasure.
SP: So, what’s the change been like going from a local band here having a small community and moving out to somewhere like Chicago?
Durley: The change has been disorienting at times. Chicago is obviously a lot bigger. It’s been a great experience overall, though. We’ve gotten to do some pretty cool things since we moved. But I personally miss Champaign-Urbana almost every day, mostly because the music community and the people are so great. Honestly, we didn’t really have a “base” in C-U until right before we moved, and there are still a ton of people in town who don’t know who we are. So in a way it was sort of like we went from one level of relative obscurity to another.
SP: Did you ever worry or have doubts about continuing the project after you graduated?
Durley: Totally! We were going through lineup changes, our writing and recording process was a little bit fractured at the time, and this project and the songs we wrote were so tied to my personal experiences in college that I think it could’ve made sense to put a bow on it after TV Fuzz. That album was very much about graduating from school and all the decisions that pop up after that. We could have come back as something totally different, but I’m glad we didn’t do that. Now we have these songs to show for it, and a lot of cool new experiences. I also think we didn’t really get “tight” as a live band until the last year or two so I’m happy we saw that through, too.
SP: Your first single, “Made of Nothing,” just dropped from your upcoming EP, FOR PUBLIC USE. What’s the reception to that been like?
Durley: The reception has been great! A lot of people have told us that it’s their favorite thing that we’ve done so far. We were a little worried because it’s definitely different than TV Fuzz but we’re very proud of it.
SP: That is fantastic! What went into recording FPU? What was that process like?
Durley: The process was infinitely different than how we recorded TV Fuzz. We had tracked TV Fuzz live in a big studio, and took six weeks to track and mix it. This EP was made in our producer’s bedroom and produced, engineered and mixed over the course of six days. Part of that came down to budgetary constraints, and part of that was because the songs sort of called for something different. It made sense to track it piece-wise and tweak tones after the fact, and so on. I think “Made of Nothing” is a good example of that. That song is supposed to sound the way it does, you know, with the drum samples and vocal effects. Recording that live as a band with just some mics in a room wouldn’t have done the song justice.
SP: How is the EP similar or different from previous records?
Durley: I would say that we were less concerned about having a consistent overarching theme with this EP and were more concerned with giving each song the proper treatment it deserved. TV Fuzz had a very defined beginning and end point and had a loose emotional narrative in between. This is just a 4-song EP. You just work with the songs on a more individual level with EPs.
SP: So would you say then, that there is a theme, or intention behind the record?
Durley: We really want as many people as possible to hear it and we’re really going to try and push “Made of Nothing” as a single.
SP: I got to listen to it early, courtesy of you, and I noticed a lot of lyrical themes of white privilege, observations on society, your own implications within this system, what spurred you to put these ideas into musical form?
Durley: I think I was just writing about what was happening around me in that moment. I was going through a weird period in the relationship I was in at the time, weighing the pros and cons of losing your individual identity to the greater good of the whole, and seeing a lot of my peers in business school follow some stupid path up the corporate ladder while I was flailing around aimlessly. [Laughs] It’s sort of hard to explain what I mean when I say I didn’t connect with the people who were on the same academic track as me, but let’s just say there were too many people in the business school at U of I who thought Enron was cool. That sort of sums it up really. I thought people would sort of “get it” as we approached graduation, but that didn’t happen, and that sort of got me thinking about my place in the working world more than ever before. So I wrote about that.
SP: So did any specific events trigger such a reaction?
Durley: Nothing specifically, nah. Mostly just graduating from undergrad.
SP: Sonically, whom have you been listening to that affected the way this record sounds?
Durley: I don’t think I could say that one band or artist specifically affected this record sonically. We tracked this record in August of 2014 so I’d have to really sit and think about it. But obviously Wilco and Weezer come to mind. Those two bands are always in rotation.
SP: What’s it like having done just about everything sin label? Challenges? Freedoms?
Durley: It’s super hard! It’s really hard to figure out how to be heard in the digital age without the backing of someone with clout. You can’t just snap your fingers and get a feature on NPR, you know.
SP: You’re in many projects, how do you decide when a song goes to which? How do you keep them from blending?
Durley: Well, it helps that I’m actually not the primary writer in Nice Things—my other band. I write bass parts and lyrics and vocal melodies for that project, but the essence of each song is started by either one of our guitar players. I’ve been writing a lot of solo material lately though, and the determining factor for those songs is whether or not the song could be elevated by an aggressive, full band arrangement. If it sounds great in my room with my guitar, I reserve that song for my solo work. If not, it goes to The 92s. The 92s are actually changing our writing process a bit at the moment though so who knows!
SP: Who did you think deserved to win album of the year for The Grammys? They don’t have to be a nominee.
Durley: KENDRICK! Though my favorite record from last year was Hop Along’s Painted Shut. That record should’ve won all of the awards.
SP: True or False? I heard your band name is a hoax, that you were actually born on December 31st, 1991 at 11:58PM and just decided to round it up because ‘The 92’s Plus One 91’ didn’t sound good.
Durley: [Laughs] FALSE! DENY! DENY! DENY!
SP: You guys have been local favorites for years and you have a show coming up to celebrate this release, how stoked are you to be back in town?
Durley: We’re so stoked to be back in town! This is the longest period of time we’ve taken between shows in Champaign-Urbana since this project started. It makes me sad that we haven’t played in town since late July. It’s sort of insane to think about. Hopefully we will still be welcomed with open arms!
SP: I’m sure you will be! That’s all I got for you. Thank you again for your time and best of luck with the future of the EP and with your career!
Durley: Thanks man!
The 92’s will be performing with Single Player and Lime Forest this Saturday to celebrate the release of their EP. Details about the show can be found (via their facebook page/on the event page).