As one of the hardest working independent bands to come out of the Minnesota music scene, Four Letter Lie has endured negative criticisms, major line up changes and being over shadowed by the larger bands on their label, Victory. With all these factors, they still managed to tour 10 out of 12 months in 2008 and in July of 2009, they entered the studio ready to record the album they really wanted to record. Their third full length for Victory, A New Day, is a major departure from their previous works and marks a new beginning for the band. Adam Sever caught up with Four Letter Lie vocalist Brian Nagan, before they headed out on a 3 week tour last Fall, to discuss A New Day, the band's recent line up changes and working with Victory Records. Four Letter Lie will be hitting the road again, for a month long tour, starting January 9th.
In the time between your last album (What a Terrible Thing to Say) and your newest one, Four Letter Lie went through some major line up changes with the departure of guitarist/co-vocalist Kevin Skaff and drummer Derek Smith. How did losing Kevin as a songwriter affect the band?
Losing Kevin just meant that he was no longer here, and that life goes on. It meant the rest of us had to step it up and take on more of the writing process. Connor and John did a great job writing these new songs and even for me, this was the first time I had a chance to write vocals by myself. It worked out really well.
Did the sound or direction of A New Day change after Kevin's departure?
Yeah, I'd say so. We didn't go into this record trying to write a certain way, or sound a certain way by any means. We just kinda wrote and demoed, and this is what came out. But more importantly we were writing what we wanted to write.
Did anything written before Kevin's departure make it onto A New Day?
The last song we wrote with Kevin actually is on the record. It's called "My Surrender." We switched it up a bit, changed the vocals and lyrics and even added our friend Jesse Barrera from the band My American Heart to sing on the track.
Kevin sang parts on most of 4LL's songs, are you still playing songs that Kevin sung on from previous albums at shows? Who is picking up the extra vocals?
We definitely are. We do a mix of some old songs and some new songs live. I just do all the vocals, switch up the style and make it my own. It has been working out really well.
Derek's departure to pursue his rap career was just a couple weeks before you entered the studio to record A New Day . Was his departure something you knew was coming or was it a surprise?
Derek is a great dude and he had a chance to pursue music he is really passionate about. We kind of knew it was coming and it wasn't a bad thing by any means, we supported him and what he wants to do. Luckily, our good friend Tim Java was able to fill in and help us out with the record! He drummed in Dead To Fall.
Ex-Dead to Fall/With Dead Hands Rising drummer, Tim Java, was eventually recruited to play drums on A New Day . How did Tim get involved and were the drum parts already written for the album before he joined or did he come up with new parts in the studio?
He was a friend of ours for awhile, and Tim actually stepped into a pretty big spot. We had the songs all written, but there were no real drums to them yet. We pretty much had 3 weeks before we went into the studio to get it all locked down. But it worked out and he did an amazing job!
Who's the new drummer you're playing with now and has he played in any other bands around town? How does his drumming style compare to Derek's or TimÔ??s?
His name is Tai Wright and we actually got hooked up with him through Tim Java. He was a friend of his. Tim and Tai's style of drumming are real similar, very jazz oriented!
With the departures of key band members, does the title of A New Day indicate a new direction or new beginning for Four Letter lie?
Definitely, and that's kinda what the record is about. Not exactly about the band members but just the whole idea of putting the past behind you. You can't let what has happened yesterday affect who you are tomorrow or today. You have to live in the moment and understand that life goes on. The world doesn't wait so make the most of it and be the best that you can.
Lyrically and musically, how does A New Day compare to your previous albums?
I want to say that this is a pretty emotional record. I hate to use the term, but it really is. We poured a lot out into this album. The lyrics are all just real life and emotion and same goes for the music. If you can't feel something when you listen to a record, why listen at all?
Solo artist and ex-My American Heart guitarist Jesse Barrera sings on the chorus on the song "My Surrender," how did he become involved in the album?
It was pretty sporadic. We knew we had a song that we wanted some singing on and I just shot him a text message asking him if he would be down and he was stoked! He has been a friend for years and we love everything he does so it was pretty cool to get him involved. We sent him the track and he recorded the vocals in his home studio and sent it back to us. The rest is history!
I've heard you use the term "strugglers" quite a few times and it's the name of one of the songs on A New Day, can you explain what a struggler is and where the term came from?
Haha, it is sort of an inside joke I guess. But everyone can work it into their daily vocab. It is pretty straight forward. A struggler can be anywhere, anything. Just someone who struggles. Let me try and put it into an example for ya….You're at a gas station about to pump gas and you notice the person in front of you at the other pump overflowed their tank and gas went everywhere on the ground, thus leaving a mess for the gas station employees to clean up. That would be a struggler.
This was your second time working with Matt Goldman, what made you want to work with him again on A New Day?
Well we love his work for one, but we also wanted to work with someone who we would be familiar with, especially after going through these changes. Someone who knows us and would be familiar working with us! It worked out well, he is an amazing producer and a great friend.
In the studio updates you posted while recording A New Day in Atlanta, there are a few shots of John and Conner drinking and rolling joints, but no shots of you doing anything except one scene where you jokingly say something about having your "red cup of alcohol that helps you sing." Is your participation in those vices off-screen or do you not participate?
Haha, that scene is just me being the sarcastic idiot that I am. There was only water in that cup. I leave the heavy stuff for the big dogs.
In the last few years, Victory Records has had its share of bad press when it comes to relations with their bands. In the few years you've been on Victory, how has the label treated Four Letter Lie?
They treat us well. We haven't ever had really any problems with the label. Bands have problems with the label when bands try to screw with the label. That goes for anything in life.
Has Victory's bad press had any negative affects on the band?
Ah, not really, sometimes agents or managers don't want to work with us because we are with Victory, but that's a part of the business and we get that. It's out of our control.
With so many bands on the label, do you ever feel like Four Letter Lie gets lost in the shadows of the bigger bands?
Definitely. But all we can do is work hard, continue to grow and get better each day.
You were in the studio for A New Day for a month from July to August and within a couple days of returning you were back at work. And the same work ethic applies to when you tour, you'll be gone for a few weeks and you'll be back delivering a couple days later. Is there any kind of mental transition you take from being a musician on tour or in the studio to just being an everyday Joe?
Haha, Sometimes it's weird, the transition between the two. But I guess I have gotten used to it. It's just something I have to do. I wish I could be on the road all the time, but sometimes it's nice being an everyday Joe!
In 2008, you toured nearly 10 out of 12 months, is it hard to maintain personal relationships when you're away for long stretches?
Oh god, yeah. It definitely can be. We have watched plenty of personal relationships come and go. When you're on the road there's only so much calling and writing you can do when most of the time they just want you to be there all the time. It's hard. But you have to be patient and strong and know you're always coming home. If you want it to work, it will work. And if you want to give up, you can always give up.
If someone looked at your twitter, they'd notice that you post practically anytime, day or night? Would you consider yourself a night person? Why do you keep such late hours?
Haha, I am always posting random stuff. It's fun, keeps me amused and entertained. I am a total night person, I don't get much sleep and it's partially because I do all the night driving on the road so I have sort of adapted to these hours. I am a mess in the morning, just don't even bother with me!
You've got some pretty eclectic tastes in music, what are a couple of musicians that others may be surprised to hear you rockin'?
I love a lot of chill feel good rock stuff like John Mayer, Acceptance, Third Eye Blind, but I also love my heavy stuff. One of my faves is Lower Definition. And always My American Heart.
Our history extends back quite a few years to when we used to skateboard and film videos. A little while after that I learned that you were doing a band and were getting ready to release the Her Escape EP. When did the transition occur from "Lil Nagan" the skater to Brian Nagan Four Letter Lie vocalist?
Haha! Man, I don't even know. It was almost like overnight. Once I got a taste of music and doing this band stuff, I just ran with it. That's kinda how I am though. I was like that with skateboarding too. But once music and girls took over and infected my life, that's kinda where the transition occurred.
When you, John and Conner decided to start a band, did you ever imagine that it would bring you to where you are today?
Haha, no way, never. We were a joke.
Was there anyone that really gave you the push to pursue music or supported you throughout the formative years of Four Letter Lie?
The beginning was hard because no one ever really took us seriously. They looked at us like, "What the heck are these kids doing?" And I mean we were bad at first but ya gotta start somewhere. We knew where we wanted to go and just always worked hard. It's true that hard work goes a long way. Things don't just happen in life, you have to make them happen.
Would you ever consider doing a music project with your brother Evan, who was one of the vocalists in the respected Minneapolis metal band Nehemiah?
Yeah, we have always tossed around the idea. He is so busy with work, but it would be cool to even just record some stuff for fun.
You toured quite a bit in support of your last album, will you be touring a lot in support of A New Day?
Definitely! Back on the road, grinding, and living the dream!