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Interview With Classless Act Frontman Derek Day

Classless Act is the band you don't know that you'll soon be kicking yourself for not checking out sooner! Having just released their debut album, Welcome To The Show, on June 24th, the five-piece rock band is currently opening up an arena tour across North America with Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison, and Joan Jett. The album also features Vince Neil from Motley Crue and Justin Hawkins from The Darkness. Not to mention, the album kicks ass from beginning to end! Last week, I was fortunate enough to connect with vocalist Derek Day over Zoom, where we discussed the formation of the band, the recording of Welcome To The Show, and more! Derek radiates explosive energy and was stoked to discuss the tour and debut album.

Band press image for the Los Angeles-based hard rock outfit Classless Act.

How is the tour going so far? Derek: We've already played like five shows -five or six shows. They've been amazing, man. This is our first time doing something as grand as this. So it's been incredible. I've seen the Crue three times live, and I'm definitely jealous that you get to see them every night. I assume you've been watching them when you can? D: Yeah, as much as we can. If we don't have to drive, we stay and watch their whole set. It's insane!

I've been checking out the album, and I've been really enjoying it. It's got that classic rock vibes that I don't feel like a lot of bands have been coming out with lately. Classless Act is pretty new. What can you tell me about how the band got together and how you guys got an album recorded and are now on this big tour? D: So we're, like, a modern-day newspaper, and we joined together through social media, and our guitar player reached out to me through Facebook, and the bass player reached out through Instagram. We found our lead guitarist on TikTok! And so we just kind of, we were all fans of each other, and we did it just individually, like "Hey, wanna start a band?" and everyone was in a band already. We all had things going on, but we just felt like this was a cool group of people to start a rock band. And so, once we made that happen, we got into a room and wrote a bunch of songs, and then, we went through some different members at some point. When we had our final lineup, we were ready to go on tour and started playing everywhere.

How long did the album take to come together from beginning to end? D: It was pretty fast in the sense of recording it. We did the first half in like 2019. Just in like two weeks maybe, or maybe even a week. Yeah, it was like six days. And then the pandemic happened. And then, we just couldn't go back in. So we wrote a bunch of other songs. We had even more songs. We're like, "Well, let's try to write new ones. Maybe they'll make the album," and we wrote a bunch of songs that we loved, and then, when we could, we went back into Sunset Sound and finished it in another eight days. Mixing took another week or so. So really, the whole thing took about a month, but in the span of three years. It's funny how that worked. So then, did Vince coming in on the title track happen before or after the tour was offered? How did that happen? D: So first, we got the tour, and then that happened. It's a lot of stream of events. One was like, when we got signed, the label was like, get Bob Rock to produce the record. And Bob Rock, he did Dr. Feelgood and Metallica and everything. So, when Bob came in, he just like, he liked those, and he's like, "Hey, you want to record it at Tommy Lee's place?" and it's where Tommy lives. So every now and then, Tommy would come down with his espresso and watch and be like, "Hey that's pretty cool!" He would air drum a little, be like, "What's up, dudes?" and he would leave. And that kind of put us in his ether. And he helped us in a big way to get us on the tour because he heard the unfinished material and stuff like that. And when we pitched our album to their management, asking them if we can tour, they said yes. After a lot of moving parts -there's more parts to it- but once we got on the tour, that's when we got more familiar with the members. We didn't get to really talk to them because they were super busy; Vince lives in Nashville. We live in LA, and we had to go on our own tour. So while we were on tour, we realized this song really feels like Vince, "Classless Act," the namesake song, feels like him. We're on tour with them. Let's just give it a shot, like "Hey, it'll help us a lot and also help the song if you sang a verse on it," and he's like, "Sure. Yeah, you guys are cool." Like, and he just did it like on a whim, and it was just so fun. Really kind gesture. Almost like a "welcome to the tour" gesture.

That's awesome. That's really cool. Yeah, you guys have that classic, old school, '80s rock sound, but kind of brought into the modern era, especially saying that you guys are like the modern-day newspaper ad. I think that's kind of funny. Did the sound of the band kind of come together naturally as, like that was everybody's influence as you started or was it kind of an evolution of what worked for everybody?

D: It was super like an evolution. When we first started, we had a different drummer, I think, and another lead guitarist, and it was cool. It's like rock and roll. And like, not thrash, like punk almost -and it was cool. But like, a lot of us, more than three of us, wanted it to go a more alternative direction. Or more like ballads or meaningful things. And so there were some growing pains, and some of us have learned how to write with each other and then we went through members, found a new drummer, and a new guitarist. Because they were like, "I can't deal with this music. I can't, you know, it's such an evolution." And even for me, I'm like, "Whoa, I have to kind of learn how to sing this way and kind of write this way." I was writing more progressive, like Pink Floyd kinda stuff, like chill stuff, before I joined this band, believe it or not. This was like a whole evolution, and the span is still growing. We're still, every day, showing each other new music that we like, and we're like, "That's weird!" All our influences are really everywhere. I'm really liking the album. There are a lot of really great songs on there, but right now, my favourite is "Walking Contradiction." What can you tell me about that song? D: That's amazing. I haven't heard that one be talked about yet. And that's one of my favourites too. It's like, Dane, our rhythm guitar player. He came in with that song. That's like his baby. He came in with the chorus, the melodies, the lyrics and everything, it's really close to his heart, and he loves pop-punk. He loves My Chemical Romance. I love My Chemical Romance, too. So you kind of get that kind of vibe there. It was another group effort. We changed a little bit on it. But really, it's just a song about like, you know, contradictions in relationships. You try to do something for someone, and they do something opposite, and it's just never working. And it's a big circle of things. So, yeah, it's just something where we really needed that one, because I think it's also not only in his personal life and his love life, there's also things that we were going through as a band like we were writing a bunch and were contradicting each other a lot. And there's something that, when we got it all out, we gave each other a big hug. We're like, "This is awesome." Thank you. So it's a really therapeutic angst song. It's good because we're not therapists, but the song speaks for itself, and we're like, "Oh, that's what's going on in the band."

When you write songs, does everyone bring their own material or is it more collaborative, or how does it work? D: Oh, it's every which way! Every single way you could imagine. I bring in whole songs, Dane brings them. On this album, Dane brought in a lot of almost completed songs and then we worked on it. But he usually writes songs top to bottom, demos and drums on it and everything. And Franco brings in songs that are, like, perfect. We try to change it, but we just can't. We're like, "No, it's perfect." And then every member of the band joins in and adds stuff if we can. Actually, in "Walking Contradiction," Chuck, our drummer, wrote the riff. He's a guitar player too -everyone in the band is a guitarist, a piano player, a drummer and a singer. And it keeps us all in check. That's why we're all really respective of each other. We can't talk smack to each other because the other person can do the same things. It's fun. And then sometimes we bring in -it's like Justin Hawkins on the record, sometimes we bring in outside writers, and we love that! We love getting an older veteran, someone who really knows because it makes our songs more mature and awesome. I love that song with Justin. I kept expecting him to sing on the song, and I was like, "Oh, I guess he just does guitar," and then I watched the video and then you guys even put it in the video. I thought that was pretty funny. D: Yeah, it was a joke and a real disclaimer! So when recording Welcome To The Show, what was something that you learned about the band or the process of collaborating, either about yourself or about the band as a whole? D: I mean, it was crazy because we set up pre-production with Michael Beinhorn, who's produced Superunknown by Soundgarden, and then a bunch of Marilyn Manson records, some Red Hot Chili Peppers. And so he didn't get involved in the recording process, but in the first three to six months, he was really working on us, getting us ready, And really making sure the rhythm section had this thing going on. We spent a lot of time with that and fixing some of our tunes and stuff. But then he just couldn't do it. He was moving to Vancouver. So he couldn't do the record, and then that's when we're like, "Okay, let's bring in Bob Rock." We were like, ready. And then we brought in Bob, and Bob fixed some things, and then, of course, pandemic. Bob had to move back to Hawaii, and then we're like, "Dammit!"

And so you're sitting on a lot of songs for a while. And then Joe Chicarelli was the third producer, who finished the album with us finally. We did it at Sunset Sound in the same room that the Bee Gees and The Doors did a few albums there, The Stones did albums there. It's an insane room. I think Joe's whole thing was- each producer had their own thing. Ron was about getting a tight rhythm. Bob was like, "We got to make sure the hook is in the right place and make sure you have more hooks." So, Chicarelli was just so adamant about bring something new, something fresh. It can be an homage to rock and roll in the '80s or the '70s, but just throwing something in that might pave the way for a new type of rock. "Just try something." When you listen to Morrissey or The Strokes, those that are not super, like original, but there's something about it that's kind of fresh, and that was Joe. He's just like, let's try to make it fresh. He's like a mad scientist because he really knows how to mix in the moment. He knows how to just turn a knob just right at the right time. We were insanely honoured to be in front of all these incredible people, and writing was fun.

We wrote a lot of the album when the world shut down. We're just like, let's just write. It was a hot summer- it seemed like every day of 2020 was hot, even in January, even in December, and I realized that was because we were always meeting like three times a week and just writing in the sun, like outdoors, because we don't want to be indoors. You have to be outside to make sure we're not getting sick, so what I remember most is just being really hot all the time, and we must have recorded 50 or 60 demos like different songs. And we chose our favourite twelve, and that became the album.

Are you planning on doing anything with those unreleased songs, or do you think you’ll start fresh after this album cycle? D: That's the question, and I've been like thinking about it! We have a lot of cool songs. A lot of them are really left of center. If we were to release an album, we might lose whatever audience we have because some of it's like disco, and it doesn't make any sense at all. I think we were just trying to experiment. So we might have to actually go in and we'll definitely use some of the songs because we wrote another song, a few songs with Justin Hawkins that didn't make the first album. We were like, "Why!? This was so good!" And we did other songs with some great artists. We'll definitely want to throw a few of those in, but then we might have to start from scratch again. I don't think we'll be releasing anything at least until the end of next year because this whole year, we'll be touring until Christmas, and then we'll take a break for Christmas. Then literally leave like January 15 or something to just go out into the world and tour again.

You guys have already collaborated with Justin and Vince, is there somebody else that you would really like to collaborate with in the future? D: Oh my gosh, there's a bunch. Just like, the list goes on and on. Maybe a name that's foreseeable because I'm thinking like, the ghost of David Bowie. But someone that could actually happen...we haven't reached out to him, but I think…Who's that guy in Gnarls Barkley…Danger Mouse or something? And he's done stuff with MF Doom, and he's produced a few Gorillaz records and stuff. I want to work with that producer. I love his ideas. I've never seen an interview with him. I just like know he has great ideas. He's like cool, futuristic, crisp tones. So, at least as a producer, I want to reach out to him. And hopefully, that's foreseeable in the future. And there's also guys I would love to write with, or I would love to feature, like Steven Tyler or Billy Idol. We almost got Billy for this first record. We did reach out, but he was just so busy. He has a family, and Steven too. We reached out to him, but he couldn't make it work. It was a really intense deal. We wanted to work with these three people. And we got one, and almost got the other two. So I think that's a good sign.

Is there a song on the album that speaks to you the most personally? D: Yeah, it's probably "Circles." That was one I brought in, just already written top-to-bottom, and I was like, "Here it is." It's an acoustic song, and the writing process of it was like… I started at, like 8 or 9 pm. And I finished it. I saw the sun coming up, and I was like, "Wow, this is crazy. It's 7 am." That's when I put the final period on it. I remember every moment of writing that song. It was such a painstaking process because it was such an introspective song talking about my own life. I remember I had breakdown moments while writing it. And the album version -right now, I think it sits at like six minutes or something- but the original version was like 14 minutes long. But yeah, it'll be "Circles," and then maybe second would be like, "Made In Hell." That's another one I brought in top-to-bottom and it's a very personal song. And it's something I'd love our band to head toward a little in the future. Maybe a little more '90s, modern stuff and more dancey. I love that style. I just have one more quick question. And that is what inspires you? What gets you out of bed at the beginning of the day to keep doing this? D: That's an amazing question, especially now, because I really think about that on tour. Like when you're home, you're kind of happy, relaxed. You got things to do around town, but on tour, it's like man, I gotta wake up and like, do this kind of grind. I have to think about my diet and also sing the same set. I can't really improvise right now. I have be really monotonous and just like, stay alive. And so that's why that's an amazing question. So I would say, what keeps me getting up is just… what the plans I have for this band. I have huge plans and also learning, waking up knowing that I'm nowhere. I mean, not that I'm nothing, but I can't wait to just grow more and more and learn new things. And I've already toured the country like four times, but I love doing it every time; there's something new every time. And I like the idea that I have these great, incredible plans, but also nothing will ever go as planned. Like, that's beautiful. So it's more that I love the surprise of life. And it's why I started playing music and started singing. I was like, "This is spontaneous." This will always be spontaneous somehow. Wonderful answer. Thank you so much! It's a brilliant note to end on. Thank you so much for doing this. I'm loving the album. I can't wait for you guys to come to Winnipeg. D: Absolutely, have a nice day! Thanks for having me, man. I hope we get to talk again soon.


Check out our review for Classless Act's debut album Welcome To The Show here.


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