Arriving for our first interview of Slam Dunk 2017 and we are met with a bubbly and excited Cody Carson, frontman for Florida “pop-punk/rock” band Set It Off. Check out our in-depth chat where we talk about Slam Dunk, the horrific Manchester attacks and the feeling playing in the city in the aftermath, the Upside Down writing process and a spooky supernatural encounter (this is why you should never play the witching hour kids!)
You’re back at Slam Dunk, you were last here in 2015. Are you pleased to have returned?
Oh my God yes. Slam Dunk 2015 was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had at a festival so needless to say I’m really, really excited to be back right now.
Are there any acts that you’re looking forward to seeing? I know you want to but can’t see Don Broco
I want to see Don Broco so badly (sadly they clash). What stinks is usually I like to mentally prepare before I go on, so I’ll take like a full hour before I go on stage to warm up, get myself and everything ready for the show, which sucks because it takes me out of seeing people like Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake, which are two other bands that I really wanna see. But I know that our friends in Tonight Alive are playing right after us so I should be able to see them, hopefully some Enter Shikari. Our guitarist Dan (Clermont) got me into them so I’m really excited for that.
I’m excited to see them too.
Yeah I’m really excited to see them, I know they put on a hell of a show so it’ll be a lot of fun!
You’re on a short co-headline tour with With Confidence. How has that been so far?
Yes. Oh my God it’s so good! We actually just played Glasgow but the night before that we played in Manchester which was just two days after the attacks (terror attacks at Ariana Grande’s show at the MEN) happened so going into it we were a little nervous. Not just because of the attacks but of other people’s safety, do they feel comfortable coming to the show? And I was just blown away in general by the whole city. There was a line outside, kids that were there since like 9 in the morning and we didn’t play til like 9 o’clock at night, actually that night, we didn’t play til 10, so they were there for almost 12 hours, just lined up, front row, people were screaming the words. You know it’s in the back of everyone’s head, what’s going on there but they were fearless and really getting into it and I feel like it was a show that was necessary, not just for them but for us. We wrote a song called Life Afraid about the attacks that happened in Paris and that was our chance to back it up, to actually be like “look listen, we’re not just words, this isn’t just a false empty shell of a song like we truly believe this” and we got to go out there and hopefully make them feel more comfortable and safer at shows. I think it was a milestone in our career and that show meant a lot to us. Not only has this tour been received very well but it holds a really meaningful show in the midst of it, in light of what’s happened.
Did you think about postponing the show after the attacks happened?
The night before we were leaving to go to Manchester, we saw reports saying that they raised the threat level to critical and that they were deploying military in the streets. We thought about a lot of things and my first thought was that it’s rare that lightning strikes twice in the same place in these sort of instances but also we’ve got to make sure everyone’s safe. We were going to leave it up to the venue, if the venue said the show goes on, the show goes on, if the venue says we’re cancelling due to threats or fear then we obviously can’t do anything about it but as long as it was in our control we were going to play that show whether it was to nobody, we wanted to be there to send a message to the world just to be like “listen, we’re not letting this affect what we love to do or change our way of life or the way we live in general.”
Yeah that’s fair, there was mixed reactions online, even about today of people unsure whether to come or not, which is totally understandable. It’s finding that balance of whether you feel you’ll be safe or not.
Yeah, you have to look out for your safety and I understand that but each to their own in this situation, that’s really all you can say, you can’t persuade someone a different way. If they don’t feel safe, they don’t feel safe. If they do feel safe then power to you.
This is the first time you’ve been back in the UK since 2015. Do you have any plans to do a full UK tour on the Upside Down cycle?
It sucks and I’m sorry it’s been so long! I’m sorry! (we gave Cody our saddest faces ever) It was difficult in the last year to get over here. We want to do something similar to that. The way it is to come over to the UK if you’re headlining, if you’re looking for a decent support and it kinda filters through what’s coming in and what’s available, what’s not as well as what’s financially responsible because of how far the trip is. We’ve heard rumours that there might be something available to us at the end of the year but if not, then at the top of next year we want to come back here as soon as possible! We’ll always try and come back. The reason why it took us so long to get over here in the first place (is because of the availability mentioned before). Don’t think that we’re gonna stop coming here, we’re always gonna keep coming back so no worries there!
You released Upside Down last year, how have you found the response to it?
Amazing! Easily our best first week ever! We sold over 10,000 copies in the first week which was a milestone for us in general and obviously this is the biggest risk we’ve ever taken sonically as a band. There’s people who found us and who came into Set It Off when Cinematics (2012) came out and then there’s people who came to Set It Off before Horrible Kids came out (2011) and with Calm Before The Storm (2009), when we were pop, that’s what we were and then we became that sound and then we kinda came out of that sound. We’re constantly evolving, just trying to find out who we are and we really found ourselves initially with Duality (2014) and then in Upside Down, I think we really fully honed in on what the type of music we like to play is and to write is and except for when we were writing Cinematics and Horrible Kids, we’ve never tried to be anything until then, we were like “alright, we’re gonna write like an eerie sound with a bunch of orchestral instruments in every song”. We had this checklist like “it has to be this, it has to be that”. That gets exhausting as a writer, you don’t wanna always write for everyone else but yourself. You don’t wanna always write thinking that you have to hit all these little marks. Instead I wanna go in and use influences that I listened to growing up and all of them at the same time and just try to bring out the best song possible without really narrowing anything down with tunnel vision you know? The one thing that I think some people get confused on sometimes is the general mix, what I mean by that is in a song where everything is placed, like some songs, you might not be able to hear the guitars as much as you’d be able to hear a synthetic instrument and sometimes that scares people, they’re like “oh this isn’t a band” but what it really comes down to is the composition and arrangement. Like in Upside Down you might not be able to hear all the guitar work or in Diamond Girl, realising it’s a bass driven song but we also have trumpet that we played ourselves, saxophone that we played ourselves. It’s really interesting how perception plays into what is actually going on, reality versus perception. But that’s only like a handful of people who have ever been really kinda concerned about it, the overall response, especially the songs like Hypnotized, that song just went off! I think people like me when I’m angry! (Laughs) so it’s pretty interesting.
Was it a conscious decision to take such a big risk or did it just come naturally?
I think the eventual evolution of Set It Off was a conscious decision, knowing that we were going to be changing all the time, as far as the why, what, when and where, I don’t think that we planned out. It just kinda seemed to happen. It seemed to fall into place. You go in to write and songs start to get put together and you start to understand the identity of your record. We make records differently than a lot of bands, bands will write maybe 6 to 12 songs, sometimes less, go into a studio with a producer and be like “alright, let’s write the record”. We like to write upwards of 40 songs before we even go out to writing sessions or maybe in that process we create that and then we narrow it down from 40 to 12 but we do it by going to different producers, different songwriters, to kind of get different perspectives on different songs. We’re drawing on people’s brains as well as your own. You learn a lot from it too. So we’re never with one person until the very end and then it gets put together so I think that’s why our records continue to be so eclectic. I kinda rambled on there sorry.
It’s okay, we loved the record and were actually listening to it while getting ready this morning.
Awh thank you! I appreciate that. It’s the most fun record we’ve ever put together and I’m so glad of the risks that we did take. Like with Diamond Girl being like a 70’s funk tune we’re really stoked on that, I think it’s like if Earth Wind and Fire got a hold of our song Ancient History (Cinematics 2014), is how I think is the best way to describe Diamond Girl. Hypnotized is like west coast rap meets rock, I think it’s really neat. There’s a lot of different stuff.
It’s great because sometimes if a record is all the same, it can get quite boring and repetitive.
Yeah, you never want that.
This is a really hard question that people always struggle to answer but do you have a favourite song on the record?
Ooh… I have to go with Diamond Girl. My dad passed in 2008 and he used to be in a band that was a lot like what that song is. I feel like if he were around today, he would really, really love that song, so it makes me love that song so much more. I’m proud of the lyrics, I’m proud of the structure, I’m proud of the horns, I’m proud of everything about that song. There is not one thing about that song that I don’t like. So I have to go with Diamond Girl on that one.
What does the rest of 2017 have in store for Set It Off?
Currently, obviously we’re finishing out Slam Dunk (if you’re reading this when it goes live and at Hatfield, the band are playing the Key Club Stage at 8:20pm so go check them out!) and we got a London headliner (31st May, O2 Academy Islington alongside With Confidence and Too Close To Touch) to close everything off and then we go home, we have a month off. Then after that, we go out on tour in the United States in support of One OK Rock also with our friends in Palisades, which we’re really excited about! They’re Florida boys, Louis their singer, we’ve played in the scene together since before he was in that band, so it’s really cool to see him again.
That is one hell of a good line-up!
Oh yeah! We’ve heard nothing but great things about One OK Rock, we obviously love their music so we’re excited to be out there being direct support on that one. After that, we’re tying directly into the second leg of the Simple Plan tour that we did where we’re hitting all the markets that they didn’t hit in the United States. That tour did SO well! So really excited to get back out with that one! After that we’re currently seeing if anything else falls into place but in the meantime, our main plan right now is to write, we’re getting back in the writing right now.
Have you started writing yet?
Yeah, we already got about 9 songs. Doesn’t mean they’re all making the record but we’ve got 9 songs we’ve already put together.
Nice! Do you believe in aliens or the supernatural?
Absolutely! I do believe in aliens, the supernatural is kinda up in the air. The reason I believe in aliens is because if we didn’t know the universe was infinite, you know like there’s millions of other galaxies and it extends beyond anything we can comprehend, I think it would be a little foolish of us to think that we are the ONLY thing in this universe. Do I think they’re like maleficent, vengeful, gonna destroy the earth beings? No, I don’t really have a reason to believe that they’re going to try to conquer our world or anything like that, which sounds crazy to even talk about out loud but I think it’s fun for movies and television and sci-fi in general. But I do think that there’s some other things there that can eat, breathe, talk and communicate. There’s no reason to believe, in my opinion, that there isn’t.
Yeah there has to be because there’s so many planets they’re discovering that could potentially hold life.
Yeah there has to be! And I don’t actively search it out, there just has to be something. I’ve had little experiences with that and supernatural stuff before in my life. Zach (guitar) and I had a really scary one. We were watching the movie The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, I don’t know if you’ve seen it? It’s a really scary movie. The witching hour is always at like 3am, we had a really late band practice and it ended around 2:30 and I took him home, we got to his house around 3am and we were outside and we were like mocking the movie and out of nowhere, I swear to you, he can confirm it! We heard a really deep, dark laugh and there was no one around. It was like (does impression of a devilish laugh) and we literally looked at each other and just ran full speed. We were in the middle of a neighbourhood at 3 in the morning, not a person in sight and it sounded like it was right next to us. So I think paranormal stuff is real too.
That’s actually scary! My house is haunted.
Yeah? When I see movies like The Conjuring 2 and you see stuff like its chilling!
How many tattoos do you have and which has the most meaning?
I only have one and it is definitely the most meaningful. Not just because it’s my only one but because it’s the only reason that I’d get one. It’s meaningful to me because all the band mates have it in the same area, it’s our diamond on our left ankle. To me, I like that it’s there because we got it on Warped Tour that year and that’s the same ankle that I rolled on stage, it put me out for a while but it was like my first I guess Dave Grohl moment I’ll call it. I rolled my ankle like 2nd, 3rd song in and I had to finish the set out, then I got immediate attention, it was pretty fucked up but it was a good story to me. So we finally commemorated the album and with that tattoo. We did it on the day of our 8 year anniversary in 2016.
That was even more special then! If you were in a boyband, which would you be in?
N*Sync hands down. Though it would be pretty hard to compete with Justin Timberlake so I think I’d be trying to go for that front spot.
Just kick him out, you’d be fine in his place!
Yeah. I liked them the most because their dance moves overall were like the most electrifying to me, compared to Backstreet Boys, no disrespect, I love that band and their music but they were more easy-going moves and I felt like N*Sync was just doing everything. I saw this, I don’t know if it was a fake video or not but they would train by running on treadmills and singing songs. The amount of effort that went into being that band was insane. So I respect that work ethic that went on so I’ll have to go with them!
Is there anything else you want to say to our readers?
Thank you for all the support. Thank you for everything. If you want to find out anything about us, if you want to see our new music video for Hypnotized or anything just go to setitoffband.com, you can find all of our socials there. Keep in touch and you’ll be hearing a lot from us.
Thank you very much for speaking to us today.
Thank you very much!