Artist Interview: AJ Perdomo of The Dangerous Summer

Posted: by The Editor

At the end of June, The Dangerous Summer will release their seventh full-length LP, Gravity. It’s a tremendous album for a group nearly two decades in, one that manages to capture the rawness of their early material with the sophistication that comes from years as a band, pushing their well-defined sound into new shapes. It puts them in the conversation with their influences like Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World as bands who’ve managed to hone their particular style over the years while never sounding stale. Tracks like “What’s an Hour Really Worth?” and “Wild One” could’ve snuck onto their pre-hiatus albums, while “Turning Love into War” and the nearly six-minute finale “Into the Stratosphere” suggest new paths for The Dangerous Summer to blaze.

We caught up with frontman AJ Perdomo to reflect on the band’s tenure, their future, and of course the writing and recording of Gravity. 

How’s it going? How’s the band feeling going into Gravity?

Good! It feels good to be still releasing music. If I could do this forever, I would. They don’t tell you when you’re younger that it just keeps getting better, man. We feel great.

You’ve been a band for almost twenty years now, right?

I think the official mark this year is seventeen years. Maybe eighteen! But we broke up for four or five. To be able to still be playing live, releasing albums…it’s just awesome.

If you went back to If You Could Only Keep Me Alive era AJ, how would he feel about Gravity?

He’d be so blown away with how far we’ve come. Even sonically, I was playing that for our producer Will Beasley the other day, the old stuff–he was Paul Leavitt’s intern, the guy who did Reach for the Sun and all that–was like, “you can hear the old stuff.” You can hear the cool stuff about being young, but some of it was a little cringe. When you’re seventeen, your version of the world…it’s different. It’s probably one of the most honest times of your life, realizing the world is so crazy. I think it comes from an honest place, though, and I think that’s the theme. You want to make people feel what you feel. How do you make someone feel that love, that anxiety, so that when they’re in their car in traffic, they feel the depth you felt? Can a seventeen-year-old have that emotional depth? I think yeah. When you’re a kid, and you’re sad, you’re fuckin’ really sad. Kids can feel that too, even if adults can minimize that.

I definitely think some of the new record, in the guitar tones in “Pacific Ocean” especially, do call back to how Reach for the Sun or War Paint sounded. 

Yeah, and I think every album kind of remakes some of the old songs. The song “Gravity” feels like this album’s “Reach for the Sun.” You see this lineage of different songs that evolve over time.

I feel like that’s true as much as you guys take some cool left turns on here. The closer in particular feels very different for you. 

At the beginning of every album, at least the last couple, I think about how I want to do something crazy. I want to shock us. I want to tread some new ground. Now we haven’t made a Yeezus yet, but I think that song “Into the Stratosphere” is a peak at that. Every album, I think, they give me one song. Mother Nature had that song “Better Light.” I like to have fun, and we make so many songs that you can get bored. I want to ask, “What if we weren’t a rock band?”

Is that song, “Into the Stratosphere,” this album’s “Better Light” for you then?

Yeah! It’s cool, too. I wrote that one in the middle of the night. I said, “Let’s get alternate drums in here, an acoustic guitar.” I like the idea of everyone playing a different version of the instrument they’re used to. I think Coldplay did that on Viva La Vida. It gets you out of your comfort zone. You fall into the same patterns. I love weird songs. I love getting fuckin’ wild.

It feels like some of the lyrics on here address that too. Even the first lines on the album address writing the album. 

Coming Home, which we just put out, people were critical of. So I was thinking, “If this isn’t what you want, that’s okay. It’s what I want.” The audience doesn’t even know what they want unless they connect with it. The reason people like “The Permanent Rain” isn’t because it’s good, it’s because it’s honest. We’re here to make honest songs, not great songs. The moment you start to steer away from that, the audience will feel it. They’re smart, they know when it isn’t genuine. I worship the journeymen Brandon Flowers, John Lennon, people who carve their own path. If people want to hop on, we’ll make a home for you. But I get it–I wouldn’t listen to my band if I didn’t feel that way.

I know you guys have, since you’ve been back, been big on working semi-independently.

What we’ve been doing is leasing our albums out. We’ve realized that if we make the album and then send it to the labels, they’ll make higher offers when it’s done, when it’s a tangible product. With what I’ve gone through with labels in the past, it’s hard to give up your masters for your whole life. The people who made Reach for the Suwill only ever make 20% of the royalties forever. With this, you have two years to do whatever you want, and after that we can renew the lease. It’s a beautiful era for artists right now. It’s about the music, and you don’t need the label. What I need is capital. You give me that so I can make the music, then you can do whatever the fuck you want. But labels, they can’t just blow up a band. Labels will say, “I can give you all this,” but it happens or it doesn’t. You don’t even really need a label. I think they’re just as clueless as us.

So how much control do you have over the rollout of the album?

They’re up for anything. I would’ve put this out last year, but they wanted to wait. Coming Home had only just come out. That’s the most annoying thing. I think people are hungry for music. An album comes out and then it’s onto the next. Spotify rewards you for putting out music quickly. We had a good algorithm going where we were up to half a million listeners for putting out releasing one after the other. Spotify’s a hungry bitch, man. They reward you for putting out content.

It seems like after Mother Nature, when you put out the EP and live album, you guys really picked up the pace. 

We’ve been so inspired. When I came back, all I want is to be in the studio. I want to be there. I want to make music. In seven weeks there you grow so much. “Put me in coach, I want to play,” if you’re a baseball player. I just want to express myself.

You’ve got two songs out now. How has the reaction been?

Incredible. People are stoked. People act like we left! They act like we’re back. I think we’re making fans happy. It’s a cool thing. People are saying it reminds them of our old stuff.

There’s still a bunch of songs left, and none of my favorites are out yet. Which songs are you most excited for people to hear?

It was a surprise when “What’s an Hour Really Worth?” was a single. I thought it’d be an album cut that the fans would be into later. I really like “With My Pen.” It’s super gradient in a way. It has a crazy vibe. It would be a single, but we think it’ll be divisive. We wanted the singles to be knockouts. “Gravity” was a clear choice. “Where Did all the Time Go?” is sick, and “Pacific Ocean” too. I feel the magic coming out. I think we’re catching hold on who we are.

What else does the band have planned for 2024?

We’re going to the UK later this month, and we’re playing Slam Dunk. That’ll be wild. We have a US tour in June and, even if we can’t make everyone happy, we’re trying to go everywhere. We’re going to Germany in July. We’re talking about Australia, China, everywhere. We’re riding the wave.

Have you been to Germany and China before?

Germany a lot. In Europe there’s a huge rock scene. We’ve in Germany as frequently as possible. In the UK people love rock. You get people of all ages at gigs. Here it’s just a pretentious scene. People think certain music makes you cool. These countries, it’s everyone, not just people in beanies and Vans. Our music scene can be lame! Let everyone listen to all music. That’s much more inclusive. Americans treat music like something you can chew up and spit out. In ’08, ’09, you’d go to club nights in the UK and hear Limp Bizkit. In America that band was stupid. Americans are haters.

You’ve also been putting out music under the name Broken Glowsticks. What can we expect from that project going forward?

I’ll do a three-song EP. I need Will to mix them, actually. I want to release them during the rollout. Let’s just get more music out. If Rude’s spending money on marketing, let’s put more out. I love Broken Glowsticks. I love people like Phoebe Bridgers, Conor Oberst, people with all these different projects. I think you should do stuff you want to, be selfish with your art.

You’ve referenced a bunch of artists who sound nothing like The Dangerous Summer. Who is your favorite artist that fans of yours would be surprised to hear you like?

Taylor Swift has always been my north star. My three are her, The National, and Kings of Leon. If you mix all three of those, I think you can hear it.

We know she’s listened to The Starting Line. Do you think she’s listened to The Dangerous Summer?

I hope! We brought The Band CAMINO on their first tour, and she put them on a playlist during that tour! We’re one degree away. I hope so. Shouts to Matty Healy for turning her onto The Starting Line.

What’s the best way for someone to experience Gravity for the first time?

I think our band is always best served driving in a car on a sunny day with the windows down. Turn that shit up!

If there’s anything else you think is important, the floor’s yours. 

Support the music. Come out to a show. Support the bands you love. We’re hardworking young men!

Gravity is out June 21st on Rude Records.

Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison

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