Since the release of their debut album Cinematics in 2012, Set It Off have found a way to diversify their sound to incorporate a range of genres, constantly creating something new and different. With the upcoming release of their fourth album Midnight (out February 1st 2019), we spoke with frontman Cody Carson about his musical influences, the upheaval and changes that have occurred for the band in the last year, as well as Christmas!
Hi Cody, Thank you so much for chatting to me today.
My pleasure. Thanks for reaching out.
You must be really excited about the new album coming out. Can you tell us a little bit about what fans can expect?
Absolutely. I am extremely pumped and excited, we’ve been working so hard on this for so long, and it’s just been an amazing time in the studio, pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone and working with a producer (who is) a little bit different from what we were used to from the last two records. Mike Green, has been phenomenal, he’s a really good guitarist too, so we made sure with the new record we put organics at the forefront, making sure it’s guitar heavy, drum heavy but also maintaining the theatrics of Set It Off, the emotion that they’re (the fans) used to.
And I got to say, out of all of the records that we have released, this is one which every single type of Set It Off fan will get something that they absolutely love and relate to. So, I am really excited about what it has to offer.
You’ve said that this album is going to be a game changer for Set It Off and it’s the start of a whole new era. Can you expand upon that a little bit?
First of all, I feel as if everyone has stepped up, like 110%, in quality of song, and in lyrical content, all the way down to the titles, and also the overall mood and where we are coming from. In the past year, we went through a lot, we went through personnel changes for different reasons and honestly it was a stressful and dark experience and I was in a deep depression last year, last November. It was one of those moments, you get down to that low point and you need that reinvigoration, and it all clicked together at once and we went in ready. It really does feel like an absolutely new era, we feel like a new band, but stronger than we have been before.
Is signing to Fearless Records part of feeling reinvigorated and excited about the future?
Absolutely, they have been unbelievable to us, they have been so communicative and easy to work with. The great thing is, we all live out here in Los Angeles right now, and their offices are down there, so we will drive down there as a group every now and then to have meetings or to talk about new ideas, and what we want to do with the songs. It’s constant planning, the wheels are constantly in motion. The team behind us right now have a chip on their shoulders, everyone is very hungry. Not a day goes by where I want to leave the desk answering emails, and I like that, I like being busy, I like seeing everything that is going on. It’s more than a feeling, we get to see it ourselves. There is the team around everybody and Fearless have been a huge part of that.
Over the years Set It Off have really diversified their sound and Midnight is very much a culmination of that, incorporating lots of genres and sounds. Was that always part of the plan when making the album?
I feel as if it has always just been a part of us, if we go back after Cinematics (their first LP), Duality is when it really started to happen. Before I feel as if we put ourselves in a box, like we need to sound like this, we need these checkmarks and need to hit all of them, otherwise it’s not going to be us, or it’s not going to be a complete album. The most fun we have ever had, writing, is when we have just stopped doing that, and just said ‘lets write the best song humanly possible’. Let’s go see what everyone is feeling, what is motivating us forward, for the betterment of the song, like ‘ok this guitar riff is amazing, we really love this, our head’s are moving, we’re ready to do it.’ The goal at the end of the day is just to write a song that we would love, that we would love to listen to and put on if we were at home, or to lyrically connect with someone the way songs connected to me when I was growing up. I relied on music to help me get through my tough days, if I got bullied at school, I went home and put on some Reliant K or New Found Glory and listened to them sing about how they got through it. I feel that is something that we are able to accomplish throughout this and I am pumped about it.
You talked about what motivates you, so what is motivating you musically at the moment? What are your influences? What are you listening to?
I feel the more your write, or the more involved you get (in making music), the less you listen to newer stuff. I won’t lie, I don’t listen to a ton of new material right now, but I often refer back to my absolute favourite records. When something comes out and it’s undeniable, I am hooked on it. The artists that continuously do that for me are anything Bruno Mars puts out, anything Beyonce puts out, but I often go back to my classic phases like the boy band era of N*Sync or Destiny’s Child. Also, my dad raised me on big band pop, like Earth, Wind and Fire and Tower of Power, so it’s kind of all across the board. I listen to everything and I think that is what helps us, we are able to draw influence from multiple genres and merge them as one, rather than just relying on those checkmarks.
You have a couple of guest artists in Midnight and they come from vastly different bands, Issues, Wayfarers and Reel Big Fish. Was that an intentional thing to show your diversity or was it because you knew these people and thought it would be good to get them on board?
What’s great about that is each one of them was a completely unique experience. We have never gone in to create a song with a guest artist in mind, we are not going to write a song and be like we need to get this person because it’s popular. Obviously, it would not hurt, but if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.
For the song ‘Happy All The Time’, Sky from Issues came in to write with us. We had been talking about it forever. A lot of the times when you talk about ‘hey man let’s go out and write’, it’s totally like when you meet with someone and you’re like ‘we should totally go out for lunch’, but you never do it. But this actually worked out perfectly, he was in town, he came through, we wrote a song and fell in love with it, as it merged all of our influences. He played bass on it, and I love him as a bassist, as a person as well, but his skill, he’s fun to watch. Technically we did not have to announce that but I wanted it to be known that his style and his flair was the bass that lent itself to that song, because it adds so much, you can feel his personality in it.
With the Matt Appleton feature, he played the sax solo on ‘I Want You (Gone)’. We have never had a sax solo. I do in fact play saxophone, but Matt Appleton is a beast. I grew up with Matt’s ska band, and we became friends through Warped Tour, he helped produce Duality and he played a lot of the horns on that. He even wrote the horn line in ‘Wolf’s in Sheep’s Clothing’. So, when we needed a saxo, he was the first person that came to mind. And I wanted to put his name on it because I think he is one of the greatest guys ever.
With the Wayfarers feature, our friend Katie Cecil she was out here, that’s her artist name, and we were writing ‘Go To Bed Angry’, at first it wasn’t supposed to have a female vocalist on it, but I was like, how much would that change the dimension? So, I reached out to her the day of, while we were in the studio, and she came in that day and tracked it and it was just meant to be. That is why those names exist on the record, not for clout chasing, or anything like that, just because it bettered the song. They each improved the song drastically and we wanted everyone to know that.
Going back to what you said earlier about how last year you were going through a tough time with depression, you can kind of see that in the video clips for the first two singles, ‘Killer In The Mirror’ and ‘Lonely Dance’. Did you intentionally want to reflect that feeling, because they are both quite dark video clips?
I think it’s important to talk about. I think it’s ok to not be afraid to talk about your mental health no matter the condition it may be in. Because at the end of the day, no matter what artists you’re listening to, who you may be or what you do for a living, we are all very, very similar people. We all have really high highs, and terribly low lows. Sometimes you feel a sense of pressure as an artist, or if you are in the spotlight a little bit, to be invincible and not to talk about your problems, because then you’ll look like a larger than life person, but honestly, fuck that. I think it’s the most ridiculous thing in the world to have to hide your emotion and we refuse to do that.
It’s interesting we don’t bottle up happiness, because its felt immediately. I feel that happy songs are the hardest songs to write. But when you are feeling it, you need a cathartic experience and what better outlet than to do something you love and to write that song. In the music videos I used to have my hand on the wheel very much so, the last record I took my hand off a little bit, but this time we had a very collaborative process with this girl Shelby Parkes, (she’s) very talented, very gifted, (has) amazing visuals. We were able to create the atmosphere of Midnight, and what the mood is per song, and what it feels like to be in that state. We tried our best to exemplify that as individuals.
Moving on to something a bit lighter, Christmas is upon us.
I really like your song, ‘This Christmas (I’ll Burn It To The Ground)’, even though it’s more of bit of an anti-Christmas song.
What music do you listen to, to get in the holiday spirit?
It’s funny about that song, I am like the most pro-Christmas person in the world, but we got an offer to do Punk Goes Christmas, and we wanted to do something we didn’t think anyone else was going to do. We had a choice of covering or writing our own, and we were like let’s write a song about hating Christmas, cause it’s going to stand out and it was so fun to put together.
To get me in the mood for Christmas, there’s a ton, I love Michael Bublé, because he is a modern-day Frank Sinatra, and I love his voice, it just gets you in the mood. And I know it’s cliché, but screw it, Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, is the greatest Christmas song of all time. I bump that pretty heavily, musically, to get me in the mood. (laughs)
I am nodding my head very vigorously in agreement for both of them.
(laughs) Yeah! And the acapella stuff too, it just has that vibe. You can’t put Christmas decorations on your tree without having some sentimental acapella Christmas song, or a whole Christmas playlist, and yes, we definitely did that this year.
You guys are heading on a world tour next year, I am assuming we are pumped?
God yes, I want to be on tour now. If you guys could fast forward time for us so we could start now, I would really love that. We are just really excited to be on the road again.
Will Australia be part of that tour?
I obviously can’t say whether it is happening yet or not, but you better believe it is in the plan. We have wanted to come to Australia since we have started as a band. It is just so hard to get over there, obviously we never have never had an offer of a support or a festival and I swear that is the truth. But we are doing everything we can to make it happen. You best believe we are talking to everyone on the team to do whatever is humanly possible to get our asses to Australia, because everyone we have ever met from Australia becomes like our best friend and I feel like we vibe well with them. We are really excited to go.
We would love to have you when ever you get here. It’s been great talking to you. All the best with the album and happy holidays.
Thank you so much, you’ve been very sweet and I appreciate the questions. Happy holidays to you too.
Interview by Carys Hurcom @CarysWos
Set It Off‘s new album Midnight is out Feb 1st via Fearless Records
Set It Off – Midnight tracklisting
1. Killer In The Mirror
2. No Disrespect
3. Stitch Me Up
4. Raise No Fool
5. I Want You (Done) feat. Matt Appleton
6. Unopened Windows
7. Happy All The Time feat. Skyler Acord
9. Lonely Dance
10. Different Songs
11. For You Forever
12. Dancing With The Devil
13. Go To Bed Angry feat. Wayfarers
14. Midnight Thoughts
15. Criminal Minds