“After we released our first [self-titled] album [in 2016], we were repeatedly told that all of our songs sounded different from each other,” Arson Daily’s Zach Dunham (vocals, guitar) explains to encore before the new year. “So we made an attempt to create a sound that was easier to identify, and ultimately, more commercially viable.”
Enter: “What’s On Your Mind” (June 2017), a five-song EP collection intended to help narrow Arson Daily’s development and direction in the indie-rock genre.
This three-piece started in 2014 in their hometown of Boone, NC, with Dunham, Quincy Platt (bass) and Adam McLean (drums). The now Raleigh-based Arson Daily will play their latest EP and more at their upcoming show with Onward, Soldiers at Bourgie Nights on January 6.
With their first album—recorded with Split Rail Records in Boone—Dunham says there was a lot of pressure going into the studio. Ultimately, it was a stressful environment to try and work from.
“But when we recorded the EP, we had a lot of energy built up from the eagerness to create something new,” he continues.
“You can expect to see a lot of energy and dancing, [too]—from us,” Platt describes of their live shows. “We try to keep energy levels running high for the majority of the set rather than have huge dips in dynamic levels for people to go take cig breaks during the set.”
Though the band’s songwriting is typically a shared effort, Dunham will write some lyrics and melody, and then together the band will expound upon those ideas. They each tend to write their own parts for their respective instrument.
“But sometimes we will allow another member to guide us into playing something different that works best for the song,” McLean details. “For example, if one of the lyric phrases in the hook isn’t working very well, one of us may suggest a new lyric.”
“Not really sure what our individual strengths and talents are but I do know that we work best when we’re all feeling inspired by something,” Dunham adds. “If we all attend a good concert, we can easily draw inspiration from the show to help us come up with something to build on. If there’s a new album we just discovered, the inspiration we draw from that will be where our talents come together best.”
While “What’s On Your Mind” was meant to hone their sound, McLean says he’s been exploring more ‘80s-pop-inspired soundscapes as of late; a la drum machine and pad sounds mixed with synthesizers.
“I’ve also been getting into guitars that use more chorus effects,” he continues. “It’s currently uncertain if we’ll be using any of these soundscapes for our future songs, but it’s definitely an option considering we just bought a new synthesizer.”
Nevertheless, Arson Daily digs deeper into indie-alt-rock storytelling with songs like “Dead in My Tracks,” a fictitious tale of outlaw bandits on the run. Filled with imagery of the “wild, wild West” through descriptive lyrics listeners almost walk alongside our outlaw narrator. With a slightly slower tempo to start, the bandit muses over their fate: “I don’t know if runnin’ is a good idea / We might be caught this time / No more livin’ fear.”
Ultimately, with wanted posters and price tags on heads, he and his posse embrace their destiny: “Caught standin’ dead in my tracks.”
It’s one song, Dunham assures, they’ll play at Bourgie Nights, along with “Tell Me.”
“‘Tell Me’ is an upbeat garage-rock song reminiscent of ‘60s pop/rock that incorporates modern rock influences,” he describes. “This song used to be our opener, but lately we’ve been closing with it because it’s full of energy and good vibes.”
In fact, folks can expect to hear every song from “What’s On Your Mind,” mixed in with older tunes—as well as a random cover or two. In a way, Arson Daily has new songs in the works, too.
“One song we’ve been playing out for a few months now is called ‘Los Muertos,’” Dunham divulges, “which falls in line with the sound of what you hear on our EP. It’s not exactly a new song, but we haven’t recorded it yet—so it’s new to everyone else.”