A Day To Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon was Scared into Making His Best Album

Working with Descendents' Bill Stevenson was one of the scariest adventures Jeremy McKinnon had ever embarked.

By Jay Tilles

A Day To Remember is on top of the world. The Ocala, Florida band is celebrating the release of their sixth album, Bad Vibrations, and the fact that it’s their first time collaborating with Epitaph Records. And, for them, that celebration is justified: after their public battle with a former record label, the independent release of their last album, Common Courtesy and years of relentless touring, the band is on a rocket ride and holding on with a death grip.

Related: A Day To Remember’s Kevin Skaff Shows Off Hilariously Long Fry

During a dinner with Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker at Barker’s restaurant Crossroads in Los Angeles earlier this year, ADTR was asked to play a few small shows with them. Those good vibes soon turned into a formal invitation to join the band, along with All Time Low, on the tour of a lifetime. But as frontman Jeremy McKinnon tells it, the decision to open for one of the biggest and best pop-punk bands of all time, was simply terrifying. Little did McKinnon and crew know they’d end up becoming great friends and hunting for Pokemon together.

Radio.com caught up with McKinnon during tour stop in Detroit just before playing a show at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI.

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How has the tour been going?

It’s been amazing. Pretty much every day has been sold out or really close to it. It’s been hands down the best and biggest tour we’ve ever been on and the Blink fans have been really receptive to us. And, Blink has been super nice. So literally it’s the best tour we’ve ever done.

With ADTR being such a heavy band compared to Blink and All Time Low, has there been any push-back from their fans? 

Honestly, I think this is one of the biggest reasons our band has done so well over the course of our career—not just on this tour—if we can go on this tour between two pop-rock acts and play heavy music… and since we play multiple genres, we fit in with people and they like a few songs they hear. And then we do something a little different that they haven’t heard, that they haven’t seen at a show—there’s a different vibe from the different genres we play so we end up being the band that stands out on these tours. And that goes the same way when we’re on a heavy music tour. After the tour with Blink, we’ll do Knotfest in Japan with Slipknot and once again we’ll be the softest band on that bill. It’s honestly been the biggest blessing ever.

Blink and All Time Low are relatively happy, poppy bands, while ADTR offers  much harder rock. 

Yes we do. And that’s another reason we’ve done so well. A Day To Remember songs are about every day struggles. We talk about everything from your first breakup with a real girl or feeling like you were a naive child with infinite possibilities in the world. There is an A Day To Remember song for every struggle you’ve been through. So, they’ve got all the happy songs covered and we’ve got all the every day struggle songs.

During your set in San Diego you asked the audience to raise their hands if they’d never seen A Day To Remember before and three quarters raised their hands. Does it feel good to play to so many potential fans?

Yes, and a very important fact is that the majority of them also know our songs which is so wild. [laughs] So, that means there’s a massive group of people that are seeing us for the first time but they also know who we are. Legitimately, this is the best tour we could have ever gotten.

When Blink asked you to play the tour, did you comprehend how massive it could be and what it might do for the band?

No way. I personally was afraid when we booked the mini shows with them when they were doing their first shows with Matt at the Roxy and SOMA. I didn’t really know how we were gonna go over. Blink is such an established legendary band… is their fanbase gonna react well to us? And sure enough we played those shows–and they were announced before we even announced–and it was like we were playing our own headlining show. Every single person in the room knew who we were and they were going crazy. We were completely blown away and assumed that the rest of this tour would be the same and so far it has.

 

Has anything out of the ordinary happened on this tour? Has Blink pranked you? 

Mark Hoppus comes by and usually makes fun of us or plays Pokemon Go with us. A few times he’s come out and thrown toilet paper with us. He held onto some toilet paper one night until we started playing our slow acoustic song. He came out by himself in the middle of the song and started throwing toilet paper into the crowd and it was really funny.

Are you guys really playing Pokemon on the road?

We really are. And so has he. We’ve been doing it together. Our whole crew too. Usually at night if there’s Poke stops around we’ll all go out and go on a hunt.

Who’s got the highest level?

I think it’s Josh, our bass player. I think he’s level 26.

Have you gone anywhere specifically just to hunt Pokemon? 

All the time! I just went the other day. There’s different ones in different places, like different towns so have have the perfect job to collect all of them.

 

What’s the story behind the Bad Vibrations album cover art?

Well, we had a really hard time picking what we were gonna do. We didn’t have a solid theme for the album art so it took a little longer than usual. We had a lot of people toss out ideas and to be honest I don’t remember who came up with the subway idea. But we got this subway and we have the person that’s always on our albums with his back turned–we decided to have this crazy art piece. And the way to really experience the artwork is to get this special edition that we’re about to put out because it’s the way it’s meant to be viewed. It’s a lenticular vinyl. And it’s wild when you get it. The train car leaves the station and you open it up to reveal all this crazy stuff inside. The rest of the packaging is like the inside of the station and then when you hit it with black light it’s a completely different set of artwork and it’s almost  the mirror image of what you see the first time. There’s all sorts of hidden stuff in there if you’re a A Day To Remember fan.

When you released the song “Paranoia” in March you said it was not a part of any album. You made it clear you were NOT working on an album. Why were you being so secretive?

Well, we weren’t done with the album and we had no idea when it was actually gonna be finished so technically I was not lying. That was the only song we had ready to go.

In “Turn Off The Radio” you’re hitting some pretty high notes reminiscent of ’80s hair metal. Is that a coincidence or are you a fan of old metal? 

It is a coincidence but of course I love some of that old ’80s hair metal stuff. It is very high. That song was originally written for Common Courtesy but we couldn’t finish it in a way that we were happy with. And, one of the reasons we couldn’t finish it is because it was very high. But we like it and so did the guys at The Blasting Room so we spent some time and got it right in the studio. It wasn’t on purpose singing that high. It just kinda happened that way.

What’s the story behind “We Got This.”

“We Got This” is just like that feeling of finding your place in the world and for us it was the punk and hard core music scene growing up. It’s talking about growing up in that world, feeling it’s a small group of people and we get it and nobody else does—no matter what we’re going through in life we can come to this place and this music makes us feel better—makes us feel that there’s something to live for.

“Forgive and Forget” is a beautiful track with dark lyrics. Have you played it live in front of an audience yet? 

Actually, that’s the only song on the album that we didn’t play live.

Why? 

We were working with our old guitar player, Tom Denney, he was always a part of every album we’ve done. Everything we do we always include him and try to get his ideas. That was one of the things he was working on that we really dug. He wrote the music for it and it stood out to me. I wrote the vocals and we kind of built the song around his idea. It’s about feeling like you enable a person you really care about who’s addicted to something. It’s about that feeling of helping and hurting someone at the same time.

The Martin guitar that you sold in Pawn Stars, do you miss it?

No, not at all. [laughs]

Do you get harassed for having been on the show?

They play the re-run all the time. So ever two months I’ll get a huge wave of “Holy s—! You sold your Martin on the History Channel!”

You’ve moved to Epitaph Records. How has it been working with Brett Gurewitz, a Bad Religion member?

They’re amazing. He’s super supportive and he genuinely likes our band. Just sitting in a room getting his take on on what you’re doing and hearing his opinion on your band. He said something along the lines of, we’re one of those bands that took the torch of punk and are leading it into this time period. And that was pretty trippy for us to be told. Cause none of this was ever planned. So, to have these awesome people working with and supporting us is a dream come true.

How as it working with a Descendent, Bill Stevenson, on this album and did you see the documentary Filmage about Descendents and All? 

I was just a casual Descendents fan when we went into the studio and I had yet to see Filmage, which turned out to be f—— great that I hadn’t seen it. We did a four month recording process with those guys and I’m not going to lie to you. It was terrifying because these guys have done some real legit stuff. It was the first time we ever really let go of the reins and let somebody actually fully produce one of our albums. So, it was scary because we’ve never gone that route before but at the same time it was a learning experience… seeing how much attention to detail they pay. It pushed us to try to be a better band to impress them. And, we really didn’t know them or their sense of humor so we couldn’t tell if they hated or loved what we were doing so it motivated us to really really f—— really try to impress them on every single thing. I saw Filmage afterwards and I thought, “Thank God I didn’t see it beforehand because I would have probably been such a weirdo around Bill if I had.

Are there any specific things on the album that as fans can identify as being influenced directly by Bill? 

One of the first days he told me to get an acoustic guitar and to play him every unfinished song idea I had. I was shocked. Because literally nobody had ever said that to me in my life including my friends and my band. I’m like, “Bill, I have like two hundred of those ideas,” and he’s like, “Well, let’s get started.” So, I put it all out there in front of him and one of the songs that came from that is the new song we just put out, “Naivety.” I had hard time fishing some of those lyrics so we went outside and sat on his little picnic tables next to this little creek that runs next to his studio and me and him really focused on getting the lyrics for that song just right. Feeling like you’re an adult now, kinda looking back fondly at being a kid and not knowing what life had in store for you, and not knowing your own limitations and coming to terms with who you are and accepting that as an adult. He really helped that song. And maybe I’m just saying this because I know he helped me finish writing the song but to me it sounds most like a Descendents song. It’s one of my favorites because of that.

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