Bassist Jared Palomar talks about the band’s sophomore album Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt, working songs out live on the road, the success of “Boston,” and wanting to be a career band.
So you’re nearing the end of this tour right now. How’s it been to headline again?
It’s been really, really fun. It’s been really great to have a second record out, and have people know all the new songs and singing along and stuff. It’s been a really crazy tour.
You’ve been doing a lot of press and performances the past month for the record. How have those been going?
It’s been good. It’s been kind of hectic, but everybody’s down to work for the greater goal. Anything we can do is something that’s helpful and why we do so much stuff. We got a lot out of it on the last record, which has encouraged us to come back and do that stuff for this record.
The first time I heard about you was back on the Acceptance tour you opened a couple years ago, and it seems like a lot has changed and happened for you since then. What has all that been like?
It’s been good. Do you remember which show on the tour it was?
Yeah, it was at the Glass House.
Oh, nice! Dude, I remember that show. That was the first time we actually played with this keyboard player, who was with us for a while. That was a good tour. Everything’s been going good since then. It took a while, and a couple member and personnel changes and everything, to get going and get our music out there. We have a really good fan base, and it’s come from a lot of touring and all the different bands we’ve toured with. It’s been nice to have that kind of live turnout. We’ve been able to fill up the shows, and people have been coming back. It’s been amazing to have this second record out. It’s something we’re very proud of. It’s cool to see people respond to it the way they have.
Yeah, from everything I’ve seen the reaction has been really positive towards it. Have you seen the same type of thing?
Yeah, it’s so encouraging. It seems like people have been singing along to the new songs more than they have to some of the old songs. That is just the most encouraging thing to all of us. That gets you really excited every night. It’s really cool.
It seems like it took some time for this second record to finally come about. Where you really itching to get something new out?
Yeah, definitely. We had a lot of time between the two records. We were able to play a lot of the songs live for a year and a half or so before the final versions came about during preproduction in the studio. So that was a real blessing for us, to be able to do that and for the fans to be able to see our writing and how it changes. It was kind of a cool process.
How many songs did you end up writing for this and how much did the songs change as you were testing them out on the road?
I’d say over the course we wrote something like 20 or 25 songs. We picked 12 or 13 to actually try and do. We reworked a lot of it in preproduction in the studio. The producer that we had, Mike Flynn, that’s where he had the most impact because he really stretched us to make sure that every part of the song was the best for the song itself. He was really picky about tones and stuff.
You worked with Brendan O’Brien on the first one. How was this time different from that?
Brendan’s awesome. We learned a lot from him, and it was really cool for him to do our first record. We had never made a record, other than like indie records with our friends and stuff, so that was cool to be in an environment where he’s done thousands of records. He really was able to guide us through that, and I think we learned a lot about how to be better musicians. For this record, it probably helped us a lot. We worked with Mike Flynn, who’s been a friend of ours for a long time, but at the same time he was able to step back and do that producer role. He made sure that every little bit of each song was the best for the song.
The song “Boston” was obviously a pretty big hit for the band, and the new record kind of strays from that sound a bit. Did you want to be more versatile on this record and try new things?
Yeah, I think we were definitely trying to do more things. It’s kind of funny how that song ended up being our biggest song. Most of our songs are a little more guitar based, and it’s always kind of funny that the piano song ended up being the big hit or whatever.
That song was originally from your first record, Midwest Skies, too.
Yeah, exactly. It’s probably the oldest song that we have, honestly [laughs]. I don’t know. We’re really, really thankful for what that has allowed us to do. It’s allowed us to have a really solid platform to work from, just based on that one song. We’re really thankful for that and fortunate for the success of that song.
The new record is titled Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt. What led to you picking that title?
It was actually a song that Dan wrote right after we had recorded the first album. It didn’t end up being a song on the record, but he used that lyric for something else. He got the idea from a tattoo that’s on his wife’s wrist, and we ended up really liking that. Pretty much what it signifies is taking the bad times with the good. There’s two sides to every relationship, so it’s about that.
The artwork is also interesting because it has this retro feel to it. What was the reasoning behind that?
I think we’re all big fans of old records and vinyl, and we wanted it to feel like a record we grew up listening to on vinyl that was a classic from 50 years ago. A lot of records now feel really modern, but we really tried our best. It is what it is. We looked through a lot of old Bob Dylan albums, old Tom Petty albums, old jazz albums and stuff like that. They’re people that we’ve always looked to as having long careers, and we wanted to pay homage to that.
Going back to All the Stars, it took about a year for that record to really catch on and get going. Were you ever afraid of getting dropped during that process?
Yeah, man. We were definitely pretty much living on the wire. At that point, we were at a super low point. We ended up parting ways with our guitar player and our manager. We picked up a new management team, and an old friend we’ve known since elementary school ended up playing guitar for us. Those couple changes really helped us get through that and move on. Then once the label kind of got behind it, and the radio happened and stuff, it helped a lot. It took it to a whole other level, which was really encouraging for us.
You’ve had a lot of songs appear on TV shows and stuff like that. What are your thoughts on seeing your music used in that way?
I think it’s great. There’s a lot of really good TV shows that use music in a really, really good way. I don’t think people listen to the radio as much as they used to to find new music, but they constantly have the TV on. A lot more TV shows are showing who the actual band is and the song is that they’re playing on the show, so I think it’s a great thing for bands. I’ve had a couple friends in indie bands have a song on like The Hills or something, and it’s really helped them out a bunch. It’s definitely something that’s really beneficial to a lot of people.
Now you originally started out in the Chicago area, right?
Kind of. Me and Dan went to college in Greenville, which is down by St. Louis. Then we dropped out and moved to San Diego, where he’s from, and met our drummer out there. We kind of picked up the other two guys along the way. We lived in Chicago for a little bit when we were writing the first record.
Are you still living in San Diego?
Yeah, we’re all around San Diego. Dan, Chris, Justin and John are in San Diego, and I’m in South Orange County.
I heard before Augustana you were in a couple of previous bands. How did you first get into music?
I don’t know. I’ve been playing music since kindergarten pretty much, just playing piano. I was in bands in high school, and then in college I went to school for music and recording. I was kind of like the bass whore in college who was in a bunch of bands and stuff. I actually played keyboards in this band at first, and then when we moved out to California I ended up switching to bass. Music is something we’ve all done pretty much since high school, like rock music or whatever. It’s something we all love, and I don’t know if any of us ever thought we’d make a career or a living off of it. We’re really fortunate to do what we love with our best friends.
When did you first start playing bass then?
I started my junior year in high school, I think. I don’t remember when that was. 2000 maybe? 2001? That sounds right [laughs].
One of my favorite songs off the new record is a song called “Dust.” I know the band has some Christian roots and stuff, and the song kind of addresses that faith element and doubting. What is the story behind that one?
I think that’s exactly what that is. All of us were raised in Christian households, and actually four of us went to Christian colleges. It kind of addresses the fact that so many people get locked into this belief system before they’ve ever had a chance to determine their beliefs for themselves. I think that song deals with that struggle.
Up next, you will be opening for the Maroon 5/Counting Crows tour this summer. Are you doing anything special to prepare for that?
Not that I know of [laughs]. That’s going to be a really fun tour. We’ve been out with the Crows before. They’re some of our biggest supporters, kind of almost like our mentors. They’ve been so encouraging to us and our careers. It’s been a really cool thing, so it will be awesome being back out with them. Then the Maroon 5 guys I hear are great as well, so I’m really excited for that.
Do you have any plans for after that yet?
Not now, but I’m sure we’re going to do another headlining tour in the fall or the winter. We’ll see what else comes along.
“Sweet and Low” was the first single off the record and it’s slowly starting to build up now. Do you have any plans for a second single at this point?
I’m not really sure, honestly. We kind of need to see how it goes, too. We were thinking about going with “Hey Now,” which is the first song on the album, but a couple radio stations have started playing “I Still Ain’t Over You,” which is the second song. They just kind of added that on their own and have been playing that. They were like, “We like the song, so we’re going to play it.” It’s like, all right. Cool [laughs]. We’ll see what happens with “Sweet and Low,” and then go from there.
I think “Twenty Years” could make a killer single, too.
That’s funny, our tour manager said that exact same thing the other day. I don’t know. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. I’m really happy with how the record turned out, so I think it would be amazing with any of them.
Do you personally have a favorite song off the record?
I really, really love “Hey Now,” and “Dust” is really fun live. I just about dislocated my shoulder last night playing “Dust” [laughs]. Those are definitely the live favorites, and then I love how “Twenty Years” came out on the record. We hadn’t been able to use strings or anything on the last record, so it was really cool to actually use those parts and hear what it added to the song.
Is there anything in particular over the last couple years that has really made an impression on you with what you’ve experienced?
I don’t know. I think it’s been really nice to have these four other guys around me and see us all grow up together. Dan and me even have babies now. I think that’s been a big influence on all of us because it gives us a whole other motivation to want to succeed. It’s definitely given us the motivation to work our asses off for whatever we can, for every little bit, and for that goal of having a long career and being able to support our families. I think that’s been a large part of our development over the last year or so.