Five CDs. Coverage in Rolling Stone. A song in a video game. Two SXSW invites. When the guys in skinny jeans and girls with nothing but strategically placed electrical tape are gone, The day after... will no doubt still be playing its music—just as it has for the past nine years, and will again at a May 16 CD-release party at Beauty Bar.
With all that you’ve accomplished, you’re still considered a “local” band. What keeps you going?
Bassist KC Wells: It’s harder than it looks. Over the years, you do get frustrated … but as long as we’ve been doing this, it’s actually still really fun playing … Anybody else I think would have been like “fuck this” a long time ago.
Singer/guitarist Jenine Cali: We always say we’re not weird enough. We like to have a beer, hang out—we’re not trying to be something we’re not. We don’t have a “thing,” except for we’ve got a black guy, a girl and another white guy in the band … There was this girl in Omaha that was like, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen! I can’t believe it!” And we were like, “Really? Right on.”
If you’d stuck Jenine onstage in a bathing suit ...
Cali: Oh my God …
... would the band have had a different route?
Cali: Yeah, I think so. Everybody’s like, “You need to show a little more boob.”
Wells: That’s probably true. I don’t know how many bands can’t play for shit, but the girl’s up there in a halter top and boy cuts, and that’s it. Truth be told, I’ve been thinking recently that maybe if we didn’t look the way we did maybe if I was a skinny jean white kid instead of this big, black guy, people would have looked at us different. Maybe it’s my fault.
But do you think that lack of a gimmick has helped solidify the band’s longevity?
Cali: Yeah. We’re getting older [gestures to drummer Daniel Kloza, who joined the group about two years ago], except for you. You’re new. You’re young and fresh. Maybe you’re helping.
Maybe put Daniel in a bikini then?
Cali: One day, I’m gonna get him drunk enough to do it.
Wells: But we don’t have anything like that where people are like “They don’t do that anymore.” Think about all those band throughout time, the bands that have been around 20-30 years, never did do any of that shit. They never had that gimmick-y sort of thing. We’re not good at that.
Cali: It would look like we’re trying.
Wells: The little things that we do individually are our personally style and that’s just the way it is. I wouldn’t want to see her in a fucking bikini on stage… at the end of the day, you have to be happy with what you’re doing and I don’t see us being happy being another band. I always think it’s really funny when record labels like you enough to approach you, but then want you to change everything. Which never made sense to me… but I think if we do get to do the longevity thing, that’ll be a good thing that we’re not a gimmick-y band.
Besides a lack of bikinis, what should people listen for on the new album, Black Heart Symphony, and at the CD-release show?
Cali: Every song sounds different to me—but that’s me. It’s kind of fun, because I think there’s something for everybody on that record. For my mom to like a song on there is huge!
Wells: Daniel really brought [an] electronica feel, because he has a lot of that influence … You can look for that at the CD release too, a few new little tricks.
Kloza: Triggers, your 808 beats, little samples in a couple songs.
Are you going to be able to re-create that live?
Kloza: Yeah [laughing]. I can do anything live!
Wells: That’s what’s going to be cool about this record—it’s going to bring a new live show. Not only new songs but also different live elements we’ve never done before. It makes it new and fun and refreshing. It’s very liberating to be in this band, because we can do whatever we want musically.
How was the recording process for this album?
Kloza: It was a lot of fun. I was actually free to come up with my own ideas and do my own stuff and they were actually pretty laid back.
Wells: We started writing the songs on this two years ago right at the end of the whole cycle of A Different Way To Get By. So we were able to take out time with this one as far as writing goes. The last record was really thrown together. For as good as it turned out it was really thrown together. A lot of those songs we wrote two weeks before we went in to the studio. It just seemed like a longer process this time, but it was good. The record kind of benefitted because of that… everybody was able to do exactly what they wanted and get their parts exactly the way they liked—which was awesome.
Cali: Recording—I have to admit it’s not my [most] favorite thing to do, but you’ve got to do it. I criticize myself a little too much I think… but it was good. It’s easy to work with Frank. We worked with Frank Klepacki. He recorded the very first EP we did in 2002... We felt comfortable with him.
Wells: We changed the approach of how we recorded. Usually it’s one at a time… we wanted to try to get this record to capture us live, which is something we haven’t been able to really do in the past couple of records.
Cali: Everybody hears us and says “The record sounds nothing like your live show.”
Wells: Exactly. That’s one of our biggest criticisms… which is not a bad criticism that we’re better live than on record—that’s always a good thing—but we wanted to try to get the CD up to that standard of our live show, so we figured the best way to do that was to record it basically live and all at the same time as much as we could.
So what's next for The day after...?
Cali: We definitely want to do something. I think it’s just a matter of finding that right person because apparently, a lot of people are kind of confused on what we sound like—we don’t sound exactly like anybody else.
Wells: And that’s the truth. A lot of bands say that, but it’s actually true… nobody’s been able to tell us what we sound like in the time that we’ve been together and we haven’t figured it out either. We don’t think about it… we just write songs and that’s how they come out... We have our own thing going on and that’s a blessing and a curse situation where you stand out, but the business is so geared towards copycats… When you don’t sound like any of those bands or any of those trends, you kind of get left out because people aren’t taking risks anymore like they were 20 years ago… we’ve wanted to do something for years. It’s not because a choice that we’re still here.
Cali: I think at this point, we’re like, whatever happens, happens. You can push as much as you can, but we don’t expect anything in return anymore. In the beginning we were all excited… and now you talk to people and kind of feel them out… make sure they really have a [business] card, not written on a matchbook or anything like that: “I run a label, but I don’t have a card. Fresh out. Let me write on this cigarette box.”
Wells: You definitely learn a lot of lessons.
Download free MP3s from The day after...'s new CD here.