Jeremy McKinnon’s track-by-track guide to You’re Welcome — Kerrang!
There was one key thing on Jeremy McKinnon’s mind when A Day To Remember were in the studio working on their seventh album, You’re Welcome: just write good songs. Rather than worrying about the Ocala gang’s beloved pop-punk-meets-metalcore formula that has taken them into arenas and the main stages of festivals across the world, the songwriter shut everything else out in order to make the music his sole focus.
“I’d walk into a room, and everybody would be like, ‘Well, what are we doing today?’ And I would always say, ‘Let’s just write whatever we’re inspired to write. Let’s not worry about what you think you need to do,’” Jeremy tells Kerrang! today, detailing various creative sessions with the likes of multiplatinum star Jon Bellion, co-producer Colin Brittain, and mixers Neal Avron and Will Putney.
“One of the first things that Jon’s squad said when we sat down was, ‘Okay, so what are we doing? Are we writing breakdowns today?’” the frontman continues. “Because those guys don’t do that. And I would always be like, ‘No, don’t worry about stuff like that – let’s just write a good song.’ That’s how it always starts for me. People say what they want about how our music is or what they think we should be, but all these songs start on an acoustic guitar without any heavy parts – they all start that way. So that’s what I tell people: let’s just write a good song today and I’ll worry about how to make it A Day To Remember later.”
It was an overwhelmingly positive process that Jeremy describes as a “needed reset” for him – both as a writer and a human being. Importantly, too, it gave A Day To Remember the freedom to stretch into more ambitious territories – both across You’re Welcome’s 14 songs, and in plenty of unheard leftovers…
“There were 40 fully fleshed-out demo ideas for this record, and honestly, some of my favourite songs didn’t make it – but they’ll be around someday!” he grins. “This record was weird in the sense that songs didn’t get left off because they weren’t good enough; songs got left off because it was like, ‘Okay, maybe this one’s a little bit too far for people.’ We were like, ‘Let’s wait, we’ll see how people feel about what we have here, and then in the future, maybe this works, and maybe it doesn’t.’
“We actually tracked 22 songs or something like that,” Jeremy adds. “The whole process was just insane – like, we couldn’t even wrap our heads around not recording 22 of them (laughs). And then as we continued to make the album it was like, ‘Oh my god, this is insane. There’s no way we’re gonna be able to finish all of these in this amount of time.’ So we just kept doing the cut, so it’s like, ‘Okay, fine, we’ll do 18. Okay, fine, we’ll do 16. Okay, 14…’”
Lead guitarist Kevin Skaff – who also predominantly puts togethers ADTR’s setlists – gave himself the task of cohesively weaving everything together, with Jeremy praising his bandmate for slotting together the tracklist in the same way he would a live show.
“It was like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna space these out and take [listeners] on a journey. We’re gonna give them some hills, we’re gonna give them some valleys. And it’s like a roller coaster,’” Jeremy explains. “For people who like us for heavy music, we’re gonna try to space these out to where we keep whoever you are entertained – we’re taking them on that ramp. We also wanted it to have that jarring effect and to really suck you out of your expectation and flip you on your head, and make you listen to it without that barrier of entry of, ‘Oh, well, this is what this band is.’ If you actually go into the album and listen to the whole thing, I find it very hard to believe – unless you’re just trying to completely reject it – that you won’t be forced to listen to it for what it is. And I think when people do that, they’ll be surprised.”
Here, allow Jeremy to take you into these surprises…
1. Brick Wall
“Originally there was another song that we didn’t finish writing, actually, that was meant to open the album – and that is a song that will 100 per cent see the light of day one day. However, when that song didn’t get finished because of all of the songs we already had, we thought that Brick Wall makes so much sense to be first because it’s on the heavier side, but it’s a slow rolling start – which is different for us. We’ve never had a song like that. When you open an album we’re usually in your face!
“We weren’t planning on this [song] being out before the album (laughs), but if you haven’t heard the song and you’re going into the album, your head would have tilted, like, ‘What’s going on here?’ And then the structure being so outside the normal, how it’s in the EDM structure of the ‘chorus’ comes in and then – boom! There’s the big drop with the big synth lead. I wanted to flirt with that structure as a rock band. It’s meant to be jarring and take you outside of expectation and just completely take you from where you thought this record was going to be, and almost makes you feel like, ‘What the hell is going to happen next?’ And then the rest of the album happens (laughs), and there’s going to be a lot more moments like that. I like surprising people, and making them feel that off guard right from the start is exactly how you should feel going into the rest of these songs.”
“I sat down in a room with [composer, producer and engineer] Mike Green – it was my first day meeting him and working together. Honestly, I didn’t know Mike Green wrote music; I thought he was just an amazing producer that had done a lot of albums that I loved. I didn’t know him as a human because he’s in California and we’d never made an album in California. But I knew a lot of my friends had worked with him. I get in this room and I’m really surprised that Steve, our A&R guy, set up something with Mike because, like I said, I didn’t know he wrote music – and I questioned him on that. But I get there and he’s really nice, and he’s so prepared. He’s like, ‘Okay, so we can write something from scratch, we can work on something you have, or I can show you some old stuff that I have lying around that never got used… or I’ve got this thing that thing that I just started working on this morning and here it is!’ And it was the riff that starts off the song. And I was like, ‘Oh my god, okay, yeah, we’re working on that right now!’
“I was furiously searching around in my head for what I was feeling that day, and I don’t even know why, but the subtle argument with your significant other in a light-hearted way became the forefront of what I was thinking about. I was trying to figure out a way I could talk about that but also veil it in some mystical, cool-sounding verbiage at the beginning that throws people off the scent. I wanted people to be like, ‘What the hell is he talking about?!’ (Laughs) And then the chorus hits and it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s talking about his wife being annoyed at him and won’t tell him what he did wrong!’ The song wrote itself, and I was in the booth tracking the whole thing within an hour-and-a-half. We walked out of the studio that day and I sent it to everybody, and it was the first song that the band unanimously loved, ever, in my whole life!”
“This is about someone taking advantage of you in life that you’re around all the time. And, once again, I wanted to use that darker imagery. This one doesn’t feel as positive, but still it was meant to be light-hearted – but definitely annoyed at this person (laughs). It’s got that classical guitar feel so immediately it made me think of Spanish classical guitar, and that’s really where I started. And it was almost like we made this song to a music video that didn’t exist yet. When we wrote the bridge, I was telling them the specific scene that was going to be happening in the video when we put it together, musically. It was cool! It was like we were scoring a song for a film, more than we were writing a song, which is the first time I’ve ever been a part of something like that.
“I also love in the bridge it starts off with just a pumping kick [drum] at the beginning, and then as the bridge goes on, in comes a snare, and then a high-hat or something, and it turns into something that you didn’t realise it was, which is that reggaeton beat that’s in, like, every Spanish pop song. If you had told me, five years ago, that A Day To Remember would have a reggaeton drum beat in a song, I would have laughed at you! But it’s there and you don’t even notice it, and I love that.”
4. Last Chance to Dance (Bad Friend)
“We did this one with Will Putney, and while I was recording these vocals I was just chuckling to myself as I’m doing it [because it’s so heavy]. And he would look over at me like, ‘What’s so funny?!’ And I would just look at him and go, ‘This is coming out on Fueled By Ramen!’ That’s been a real sense of pride for me, that people who saw Fueled By Ramen and got worried, but for me it’s so cool that these guys are willing to support a band that plays breakdowns. I think that’s pretty cool!”
5. F.Y.M. (Fuck You Money)
“I’m a massive Tom Petty fan. I was working with Collin [Brittain] – who ended up producing the record – and we set up two days of sessions in Orlando for everybody to be at. Day one was just for me and him, and he shows up and asks what we’re gonna work on, and I told him that I had a few things in the bag. And I was like, ‘I’ve got this Tom Petty-ish chorus, but it’s very much like a classic rock feel and I doubt you’re gonna want to work on something like that…’ He’s like, ‘Well, let’s hear it.’ I played him the chorus and he wanted to work on it immediately. So we put it together and it was done in a day! The demo sounds identical to what’s on the record, and, actually, it’s my favourite song on the record; it’s like a more modern version of a Tom Petty song, with modern production stuff happening – that’s the way I look at it.”
6. High Diving
“This was one of the ones I was surprised that everybody wanted on the album! Because High Diving – and Looks Like Hell – are, to me, the most outside our normal realm. There’s a bit of a beachy, reggae-type vibe but still having a rock riff carry the whole thing. It kicks in and is heavier in the verse, but it’s so happy feeling that it doesn’t really feel like a heavy band. It’s just too happy to be a heavy band (laughs). You’ve got that cool little acoustic guitar riff in the pre-chorus, and there’s very much rock-oriented parts around it, but it’s like a slower vibey reggae acoustic type song. I don’t even know how to describe it, honestly!”
“There were definitely some songs that people were nervous about when it came to the making of them, and Resentment was an entirely different song when it started. If you heard the demo to Resentment you’d be like, ‘Oh my god, this is a totally different song!’ Although it had the same chorus and the same breakdown. In its original format that song was very much like standard ADTR, and then it became the shining example of what we were attempting to do with this album. There was there was some nervousness along the way, obviously, and everybody liked the songs, but it was just more so people being like, ‘Man, I hope people will give this a chance and not write it off because it’s not just metalcore and pop-punk and that’s it (laughs).’”
8. Looks Like Hell
“Being in a room with people like Colin and the Jon Bellion group was so different, because they don’t make music the way that I make music. So it was just about approaching songs with a different lens, and that’s why we picked Colin, because he’s so quick, he’s so creative, and it was just fun. He was more of the mindset of older producers that you would hear about from the ’60s and ’70s where it’s like, ‘Oh, you want to record that? Throw up a random mic.’ There was still a lot of thought that was put into what they recorded with, but it was also very much like, ‘Throw and go!’ They weren’t precious about, ‘It’s got to be in this specific sound-treated room with all these pads and pillows around it…’ It was more like, ‘Use that cool mic, just put it right in front of you, and done.’ Every single sound on the record was approached that way, and it was really freeing.
“Looks Like Hell was another Colin one, and he actually hit me with a different approach: he was like, ‘Okay, I want you to try to write vocals in a different style of cadence.’ With a lot of hip-hop artists these days, their melody scheme is 3/1, and I’d never written a song like that in my whole life. He specifically pointed out someone like Post Malone who does this all the time – he does a melody three times in a row, and then changes it on the fourth, and that’s the whole hook of the structure of his melody.
“I made it a story that connected with me about growing apart from someone you’ve grown up with, or a friend growing apart. It’s like the end of a relationship with someone you care about where you’re just headed in two different paths. And either way, it sucks! That was the premise behind the lyrics, and musically it’s an interesting one. Honestly, it’s been one of the ones that gets talked about the most – it’s my mom and dad’s favourite, and every time Kevin shows the album to someone he’s friends with this one is always the first song that everybody talks about. I’m interested to see how people respond to it!”
9. Viva La Mexico
“This is a real-life account of Neil [Westfall, guitar]’s bachelor party in Mexico. There was a big group of guys, and we flew down to Mexico for four days and did the whole bachelor party thing there. And it was just the most wild experience ever! So everything that I talk about in the song actually happened to somebody, but I told it from the perspective of one person. And, as a group, the entire story happened to us, but I told the story from the lens of one human just having a crazy night. It’s supposed to be like these guys go there, do these very dumb things but then we slowly fall in love with this place that’s made us feel so welcomed, and the people are so kind to us. We go from just being there and not really understanding, and then by the end it’s like, ‘This is a place that we’ll never forget.’
“The whole time we were there I was not thinking about music, holy crap! I was trying to recover (laughs). But then we came back and had that session with Colin, and we wrote Viva La Mexico that first day where we were all in the same room with him. And I love that this one feels influenced more by grungy stuff, you know what I mean? I picture older ’90s grunge-type stuff. Or a band like Violent Soho being an influence for a song like that.”
10. Only Money
“This was done with a guy called Dan Book. And poor Dan, man! What a session. That was about my grandmother who passed away. Neil and I both had grandmothers that passed away, and he got me on that wavelength of thinking about it. I knew we wanted to write something talking about this, and then Dan played this piano part for me, on the spot. For whatever reason, that piano part just jumped out at me, so he gave me the chord progression to write to. I think I was probably weeping for 80 per cent of that session (laughs) – I feel like it was more like going to a psychiatrist than it was going to write a song! It was a really tough thing, personally, but he was so incredibly kind to me. It would have been so easy for anyone who wasn’t as good with humans to make me feel really stupid, or not be capable to handle a grown man sitting on your couch legitimately having a moment.
“It was just a perspective thing, and really reflecting on, ‘Man, some humans can affect you in so many different ways – both positive and negative.’ There are positive things in the song, but there’s also negative things where it’s like, ‘There are totally things about knowing this human that made me realise I don’t want these things to happen to me. I don’t want to hold on to resentment for things that I shouldn’t.’ I guess you really couldn’t understand how in-depth it goes unless you knew that human being. But it’s cool, and really like a life lesson type thing. You learn a lot through humans like that.
“It was really, really hard to show my family that song, oh my god! I was terrified. It’s like, ‘This whole song is about your father’s mother – how do you show him that song?!’ It was quite the ordeal to do that, and my wife was so good about it – she pushed me off the ledge, and everybody loved it. It was a special moment, for sure, and just being able to talk about it was good for everybody.”
“I think this one missed a lot of people (laughs). I think we really needed a music video for this to drive home my point! This was another one of those that was meant to flip people on their head, meaning-wise, where you think I’m saying that all my friends are degenerates, but then that first full chorus hits and I say, ‘Or so they say.’ And that completely changes the meaning – it’s no longer me saying that my friends are degenerates, it’s what people think when they see us. Nobody connected those dots – I don’t think I’ve seen one human being connect it! I’ve just seen people be like, ‘These are the most cookie-cutter lyrics Jeremy has ever written.’ (Laughs) So I guess the, ‘Or so they say,’ didn’t land like I anticipated! It’s actually about people discriminating against others because of the way they look. And I wanted a music video that really told that story. It’s so easy for people to just cast you aside as worthless just because of very superficial things. When you’re judging people without truly knowing their character, or who they are, or what they’ve done in life, that makes you the bad person – not them.”
“Permanent is more about the way I deal with things that really stress me out. If you ask me a question and the answer stresses me out, I’m just gonna get out of the text and I’ll respond to you tomorrow or the next day – or, probably, more than likely forget that the text existed and never respond! That part sucks, and I never mean to do that; I hate that I do it. But I get overwhelmed and can’t respond sometimes, or can’t make a choice on the spot so I have to wait until I’m capable of making that choice without being overwhelmed.
“What I’m actually talking about in this song is kinda funny, and it’s represented in the album art, too: when you go past the landscape and through that doorway there in the distance, you get to all those frames. And all of that itself represents the song Permanent and what it’s about. Every single frame represents a different song, and we’re planning on hiding little stuff like that in the music videos, to where it feels like we’re taking you through different portals as we go through this album. But Permanent is represented by all of them as a whole, because the song is about me. I had this art wall in my house, and these cool limited posters done by amazing artists, and I wanted to put them up in our living room, and fill every space of the wall with all these different frames – I just love that look. But I brought them all into the room and immediately was like, ‘How in the world do I do this?’ And because I was overwhelmed with all of the possibilities of how this could go, these frames sat in my house for at least a year (laughs). I just had no idea where to start until somebody came in and was like, ‘Just lay them out on the floor and we can rearrange them and put them up there!’ I have to manipulate stuff and change the things that I don’t like – I’ve got to try and solve that puzzle with everything that I work on in life. And so Permanent is about being afraid to put up my collage wall!”
“I don’t think I would say that this one is happy, but then again, it is kinda happy! I wrote this with Mike Green and the singer and guitar player of FIDLAR – I love those guys. It’s about being an artist, and someone who travels for a living and sees the world. And I don’t know if this is because of the travel, or being an artist, or whatever it is, but it’s gotten to the point where this weird thing happens to me where I get home, two weeks go by, and I never quite feel settled; it’s like, ‘Okay, I’ve gotta go play some shows again!’ and I get that itch. But then I get out and start playing shows, and then a week or two passes, and I’m like, ‘I’ve gotta get the fuck home, man.’ It’s constant, and my brain feels like it has to be on the go.
“I summed it up by saying, ‘Caught a cabin fever that never ends.’ And my friend there from FIDLAR described it as ‘re-entry anxiety’, and that’s why we called it Re-Entry. It’s about that push and pull. I don’t know if people that aren’t musicians or don’t travel for a living can relate, or maybe they can find their own meaning for that. But for me it’s just always having that feeling of wanting to go home. And I thought that cabin fever line was a really cool way of summing that feeling of needing to be on the go and not feeling settled unless you are.”
14. Everything We Need
“It felt really good when we landed on this to close the album – that’s where Kevin planted it. It was very much just feeling how the record felt as flowed and just felt good there, ending on a positive note. I noticed with the journey [of the album] that the first half of the record has Fuck You Money which is very much like, ‘Man, I can’t wait until I’m in a place where I can do what I want in life,’ and then the person gets to the place where they’ve done all these cool things, and then Only Money happens and you’re looking at life a lot different. And you get from Only Money to Everything We Need and this person is very much reflecting on, ‘Maybe I don’t have everything that I wanted in life, but I have everything that matters.’ I know it sounds cliché to say that, but for me personally, the things that actually matter in my life I have, and I’m grateful for it.”
You’re Welcome is out now via Fueled By Ramen
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Posted on March 5th 2021, 11:00a.m.