Amidst the catastrophic cluster of a year that 2020 has turned out to be, Dayton, OH's The 1984 Draft was forced to scrap plans for a new full-length and opt to release a special lathe-cut 7" EP, Destination Breakdown (limited to fewer than 50 copies, so pre-order now). Offering up two brand new pandemic-"inspired" tunes, the quartet's unique brand of emo/indie/alt.-rock feels more heartfelt than ever given the surrounding context.
Stream A-side "Shame About Grace" below, followed by an interview with guitarist/vocalist Joe Anderl...
I'm just now realizing that it's been a little over two years since your last album, which seems crazy to me, it doesn't feel like it was that far back. I wouldn't say that the new material represents a departure from where Makes Good Choices was heading, but given the shitshow of a year that 2020 has been, the title Destination Breakdown carries with it a certain... not sadness, per se, but... I guess a sort of morose anxiety...
It's definitely been a year. We had initially planned to try and finish the next full-length this year. We started recording it ourselves in late-February/early-March, but then the universe had different plans. We had completed the basic tracks for four songs with vocals when the board we were using to record blew up and we found out none of that material is recoverable. Lucky for us, this happened right after our studio session for the two songs on this 7".
This year has been hard. My oldest graduated high school, which we had to watch on TV. I have a 2nd-grader who has become a conference call pro and is now schooling from home. I have a three-year-old who we pulled out of daycare to keep safe. My wife was laid off from her job at a local music venue and started college online. My mother-in-law also lives with us six months out of the year. This is all while I, too, am working my day job from home full-time.
The number one goal has always been to keep my family and friends safe. We did a run of shows right before Covid hit. The next week, our state was on lockdown. I didn't get to see any of my bandmates until about a month ago.
Throw on top of it all that the U.S. decided to implode with acts of racial injustice and general stupidity.
It's enough to send anyone into a breakdown. Basically, all of my social things and outlets were removed by not being able to play music, and that was really hard. I was basically left to a point where I could wallow in sorrow, or get to work writing and enjoying the extra time I have been afforded with my kids.
These two songs were recorded by Fred Vahldiek at Fredzoz Studio, which is a different combo than you used for Makes Good Choices. How did you land at Fredzoz and what was the experience like, all things considered?
Fred is a good friend of our guitar player, Eli [Alban]. We have played with his band, Dark Backward, several times. They are awesome dudes who have always been encouraging to us personally and professionally. He also lives about a mile away from Eli and I, so it was super convenient. He took safety protocol very seriously. There was Purell when we walked in, everyone wore a mask, and we were able to stay six feet apart from each other.
The recording aspect was exactly how we like to record. Basically, Justin [Satinover, drums], Eli, and I set up and play the basic tracks at the same time. Fred just rolled until we all agreed we got a good one. Then, Chip [Heck] dropped his bass parts in one take separately. Eli overdubbed guitars. I got to sing in a booth by myself.
There is something to be said for not overthinking the process or who you are. The band only practiced these songs once before getting into the studio, which made everything really fresh.
Both of the new songs utilize intensely personal lyrics, but "Shame About Grace" is the one that touches on more of a politically-tinged fallout due to current events here in the U.S. I'm not sure how much you'd want to share about this particular track, but since it's the one we're premiering, I figured I'd ask...
Both tracks were written during the quarantine period. "Shame..." was particularly written in regard to a conversation I had around Covid and the current state of the U.S. The person on the other side had a very differing opinion. It was kind of an eye-opener for me. I deeply respected this individual, but the lack of care or respect he was showing to those around him just infuriated me. We agreed to end the conversation, but we haven't talked much—if any—since. I was infuriated and wrote this song, calling it what it is.
The thing is, the more I think about this particular track, I struggle if I am not doing the same thing I called him out for. For the longest time—up to a couple of days ago, when the irony struck me—I was ready to completely write him off. Including when I wrote the [promo] bio [for Destination Breakdown]. Now that I've had some additional time to sit and process the message of the song, I guess maybe I should be ashamed of myself for not showing him the simple grace that I wrote about.
It's hard right now. I'm angry at how the president treats people and the example he sets. I'm angry that people I know support him. Yet, by treating them terribly or writing them off, am I ascribing to that same principle?
I want to be a good example for my kids. I want them to grow up in a world where racial and social prejudices are gone. I want them to grow up in a world where all humans have equal rights, where Black lives do matter, where people can get good and affordable health care, where women aren't treated as objects, and the list goes on and on...
Maybe it all starts with us showing a little grace to each other.
As opposed to just doing a digital EP, how did the decision for the lathe-cut 7" come about?
Andy, our label head, had recently done one, so we decided that we wanted at least some sort of physical product to go with this release. We thought doing custom covers for each would make it cool as well. This is kind of a test run. If it works out, we may do more of this, and then someday take all the songs and put them on one record. As far as this pressing, we are doing under 50, so I suggest ordering via pre-order!
You've stated regarding this year that you felt you "had to write just to survive." I find that to be an encouraging response in the sense that it can be so easy to just... I don't know, sort of tread water, you know? Just exist, and not much more. I know that for a lot of artists creative expression just comes naturally and is what it is, but do you have any insight as to how you've been able to be creative at all amidst the constant dread and unease of these times?
At first, I didn't know how to do anything but tread. Frankly, the first couple of weeks, I was probably thinking more that we would all lockdown effectively and be back to normal within a month. When it got to month two, I think I started to breakdown and panic. By month three, I knew I had to do something beneficial for my mental health. That has always been music for me. After all, if I didn't take care of my own mental health, how could I effectively help my family? I don't want to just survive. I want to have joy and feel purpose in something. Aside from my wife and kids, music is my purpose.
None of this has been easy for anyone. I think, though, what you have seen is some incredible resilience around the world. We are all trying to figure it out as we go. When I look at it from that perspective, it gives me a lot less worry and a lot more hope.
There is still hope. There is hope for a new president. There is hope that we can all be better human beings. We all just need to keep moving forward the best we can...
Poptek Records should begin shipping Destination Breakdown toward the end of December. With less than 50 copies being pressed, pre-order now before it's too late! Hear more from The 1984 Draft on Bandcamp or Spotify, and "like" 'em on Facebook.