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Four Year Strong interview: Pop punk debates, MySpace and unlikely fans

We spoke to pop punk heroes Four Year Strong during their sold out tour, celebrating the tenth anniversary of their 2007 album Rise or Die Trying.

Lorna Gray

Last updated: 15th Mar 2017

Image: Four Year Strong

If you thought the era of pop punk was discarded along with your studded belts and skinny jeans, you're fortunately mistaken. In this current age of nostalgia, bands you thought were cool ten years ago are about one hundred times cooler now. A fine example is all-American four piece, Four Year Strong.

Celebrating the tenth anniversary of their album Rise or Die Trying, which was the unofficial soundtrack to many teenage years, the band have sold out their UK tour and are going on to play at this year's Download Festival.

We spoke to vocalists and guitarists Dan O'Connor and Alan Day ahead of their Manchester appearance and debated what qualifies as pop punk, the days of discovering music on MySpace and the ten year anniversary of what they consider their breakthrough album. 

For those who don't know, how would you describe Four Year Strong?

D: We try to be pretty loud.

A: Loud, that's it really!

D: We're the incarnation of loud.

Where did the band name actually come from? 

D: We named the band when we were a lot younger.

A: I was probably about thirteen.

D: I was like fifteen or sixteen - it's actually a play off of a Get Up Kid lyric, that was Five Years Strong, we changed the number. It's pretty much the worst story ever. 

It might be boring but at least you won't get done for copyright infringement...

A: Exactly, we changed it!

This tour celebrates the tenth anniversary of your album Rise or Die Trying, what do you think makes pop punk such a timeless genre? 

D: I don't know!

A: I don't think it is! I think there's so many different versions of pop punk, it's not really timeless, it's evolved from when we started listening to it until now. I mean, there's so many different things that people consider pop punk, like Title Fight, people consider them pop punk, and they're not pop punk. 

D: Yeah, they're like post-pop-punk. Post-hardcore kind of hybrid.

There are so many subgenres I can't keep up at all

A: There are all these different genres, all of these different things going on that everyone just kind of put under the pop punk umbrella.

D: Like actually true pop punk...

A: Blink 182 ...

D: Green Day - true pop punk

A: Even in the more underground scene like The Starting Line

D: Not even their new stuff.

A: No, I mean when they first came out, Phoenix TX. 

D: NOFX. I think it just keeps evolving, it's not that it's not timeless, it's just that it's evolved so much over time, like you said before, there are so many subgenres that can appeal to so many different people. There are people that like our band and that don't like other bands that I guess would probably be considered under the pop punk thing. There aren't many people who just like ALL pop punk bands because there are so many different flavours and things to do with them.

Okay, but obviously Rise or Die Trying is a bit of a timeless album, since you've managed to sell out of this anniversary tour? 

D: Sure, yeah!

A: Well, I guess so, when you put it like that!

Did you ever think, when you created that album that you'd be playing it to sold out crowds ten years later? 

D: No way at all! When we did that record I don't think we had even any expectation of people liking it as much as they did, whether they liked it the same in ten years or not! Even at the exact time, I think we were kind of just like... 

With that record that was kind of our first album - even though we had released stuff before - we kind of considered it to be our first real release because that was more of an "okay we're on a label, whether it's on another release or not, let's take all the songs that we've ever written over our whole career as a band and put them on this record". We considered that to be our first introduction to people. 

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So like a breakthrough record?

D: Yeah! Even though we had already been around for six or seven years by that point.

What do you like about playing in the UK? 

D: I love playing in the UK.

A: Yeah it's one of the best places in the world for us to play. 

D: The UK was one of the first places that kind of latched onto our band as well, I remember before we even came over here - and I think my main internet source of 'who likes us' was MySpace - I remember there were a lot of kids from the UK who were commenting on our page and we were in a lot of 'top 8's' along with Tom.

I think you were actually my profile song for a while on MySpace...

D: Yeah, seriously, loads from the UK did!

A: Do you know who had Four Year Strong as her profile song?...What's her fucking name?! She's humongous now, she's a Disney chick

D: Disney chick? 

A: Yeah. Not Miley Cyrus, but the other one!

Selena Gomez?

A: That's it!

D: What?!

A: Before she was a big thing, yeah!

D: Really?!

A: I remember, we got an email from our old manager, with a link like, "Check this out, this girl's going to blow up, she's this new Disney Channel star". 

D: I do remember that.

That's insane

A: Yup!

You should hit her up!

A: We should!

Bring her on tour

D: If only I had her number in my phone.

I think that'd be an amazing collaboration, what festivals are you playing this year in the UK? 

D: Download, right?

A: That's all I know of!

How is Download? You've played it before? 

D: Yeah! We've played once before and it was good! Is that the one...

A: Metallica did it, and Tenacious D.

D: Yeah, that was a good one, it was rainy that day - it was a really rainy day.

It's England, it's always rainy

D: I have a video of us playing there and we're all playing in raincoats. 

A: It was so cold!

Are you excited to play at this year's Download?

D: Yeah it'll be really fun! Story So Far is headlining our stage and then it's us and one other band... State Champs!

That's a very genre-specific stage! That's going to be a good day for pop punk fans

D: That'll be cool, it's kind of like a Slam Dunk stage.

A: What kind of place is it? Is it outside? I know it was last time, we've played Slam Dunk before and certain stages are indoors!

D: Slam Dunk's always fun, we've had a couple of times - I think it was when we played in the same place both times - where they put us in a building that got filled up too fast and kids got mad that they couldn't come in. But one time they were so mad they through bricks, this time I don't think there was any brick throwing - you remember that?

A: It wasn't actually a brick, it was a piece of the floor.

D: No no no, I'm not talking about that time, that was a different time (he laughs) when you got hit in the face? I'm talking about the time the kids outside started getting made at the security so started throwing stuff at the security - that wasn't slam dunk the time that you got hit in the face, that was something else.

A: Yeah, that was a headlining show.

D: Yeah!

So anybody that says pop punk isn't hardcore - here's the evidence that they're wrong!

D: We were playing a headline show here once and I remember the venue had a parquet floor. All of a sudden, we're playing and you just see this thing come up and it just hits Alan right in the face - a piece of PARQUET FLOOR. He thought he got hit in the face with a brick.

What happened? Did you have to go to hospital

A: No I just had...

D: He just had a red mark

A: No! It bled! I had a cut and it bled all down my face.

You can catch Four Year Strong at this year's Download Festival.

Tickets are no longer available for this event

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