Story of the Year released its major label debut, Page Avenue, in 2003. In the years since then, other bands of its ilk have broken up, run out of creative steam or gone soft. But four albums into its career, the St. Louis quintet continues to defy critics – and resist pigeonholing. Exhibit A: The Constant, the band's second LP for Epitaph Records and fourth album overall, which it recorded last summer with producer Elvis Baskette (Chevelle, Incubus).
The album runs the gamut from ferocious punk ("To the Burial," "Won Threw Ate") and piano-based ballads ("Holding On to You") to radio-friendly rock ("I'm Alive") and even crunchy '90s rock ("Remember a Time"). Vocalist Dan Marsala chatted with B-Sides from his St. Louis home about The Constant and about what happened when the band met Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. For more on the band's career, popularity with wrestling fans and Marsala's pop-punk side project the Fuck Off and Dies, head to www.rftmusic.com. Story of the Year is having its CD release show on March 4 at the Pageant — and the only way to get tickets is to buy The Constant at Vintage Vinyl. Get more details at www.vintagevinyl.com.
B-Sides: Vocally,"Remember a Time" could be a Weezer song. I mean that as a compliment.
Dan Marsala: We definitely thought that had a Weezer vibe to it. It was a little confusing at first, we were like, "Ah, is that a Story of the Year song? I don't know — it's weird." But that was one of the different standout tracks — in a good way, but a weird way.
Your vocals in general, they really stood out to me. A lot of the performances reminded me of Rivers Cuomo. What was your reaction when you guys finished the record and heard all that?
Elvis [Baskette] is great all around; [he's] an amazing producer and engineer and stuff. The vocals — I think it's probably our best-sounding record as far as vocals go. The approach to writing is always pretty much the same — it's always trying to make everything as catchy as possible but still keep[ing] it as emotional and powerful as possible as well. I simplified everything this time around and didn't overdo anything. Weezer definitely follows that same motto a lot, so that would definitely be part of why the similarity might be there. I was really happy with how it turned out this time.
When you said that the songs came fast for the album, I could hear that once I listened to it. Everything feels like it flows — it doesn't feel forced at all.
Yeah, it was all real natural, and it just happened, and we just had a lot of fun making it. The last record [2008's The Black Swan] was still fun to make, but we took a year to write it, between changing labels and doing all the stuff we were going through. It was quite a process, and it became a little un-fun toward the end, when you were like, "I just want to record these songs and get it done." So this time, we were just like, "Cool, let's just take a couple months, write some songs, record it and not worry about it." It was way more fun that way.
Fun is good. People forget that it's supposed to be fun to be in a band.
I know, exactly. You start it as a hobby, or we did, when we were 15-year-old kids just looking for something to do. It wasn't because you wanted it to be your job. Luckily, it became our job, but you still [have] to remember why you started doing it and what's important.
I saw you were at Tony La Russa's Stars to the Rescue ARF benefit a few weeks ago. Had you ever met him before?
Before that night, I had not met him. Phil's [Sneed, guitarist] wife has known him for a couple years, because she cuts his hair. She's been talking to him a lot off and on about the band. He had heard about us just from being in St. Louis. His wife and his daughter came out to a show of ours in Sacramento on the last tour that we did. We met them, and we hung out with them and stuff, and talked about baseball. His wife actually really is into metal and loves music and stuff. She's an older woman, and she loves metal — like Norwegian metal and serious metal. It was real funny.
We got to know them really well. And Tony called and asked if we wanted to go to the benefit thing. We got to meet him and hang out, and he was really, really cool. He was more surprised that we were there — and that we were hanging out. He just kept being like, "Aw man, I'm really happy you guys stayed! Thanks for coming, guys!" It was like, "Are you kidding me?" We were like, "This is weird, you're Tony La Russa, and you're thanking us?" It was awesome, he was really cool. It was a great night. We got to meet some cool people.
Tony has good taste in music; we interviewed him last year. He knows his stuff; he's always going out.
He and his wife, they're both into music big time. The show was really great, and he kept saying we need to play the next one. And I was like, "I'll do it, but we might scare some of the grown-ups that were at that show, I run around and yell a whole lot." But I'll do it, just to say I did it.
Why not? You can open the show.
We'll play a toned-down set, we'll do some acoustic numbers, the radio hits. Actually, we were kind of seriously talking about it, so it might happen. We'll see.