Set It Off are featured on the cover of our August issue! https://www.galaxy-mag.com/product-page/galaxy-august-2019-set-it-off
Interview & photos by Yising Kao
With their newest album Midnight, Set It Off has taken the world by storm, touring nonstop while expressing themselves through their art. Released through Fearless Records, Midnight is an album full of bursting energy and unique orchestral and theatrical sounds, combined with darker lyrics surrounding topics such as mental health and loss. I had the opportunity to chat with Cody Carson (lead singer/songwriter), Zach DeWall (rhythm guitar), and Maxx Danziger (drums) about their music, after their incredible set at Vans Warped Tour Mountain View!
You're one of the many amazing bands in the punk community who speaks out about mental health and inspire your fans to overcome whatever they're struggling with. What role do you think artists have to speak out in what they believe in?
Cody: I think the most important part of having a platform is only speaking about things that you’ve gone through and you believe in, in general. When it comes to mental health, we all have those issues and have those down times in our lives. When we were growing up watching our favorite artists, you don’t imagine them to ever have bad times ‘cause they're doing what they love, they're on stage, and everything’s perfect, but it’s not the case. So being able to relate on that level is huge to us and being able to speak out about the rough times we go through and how we’re right there with you, I think its important cause not only does it show you that we’re fighting the same battle, but also that you have the same opportunity to go for anything that you want to go through because there’s no difference between us. I think it’s imperative to speak out for what you believe in and what you go through, and what's your calling to speak about.
You’ve said in an interview that this was the first time you went into an album knowing what the theme was. How did you guys collectively come up with this theme?
Cody: We were sitting together, and Maxx had a really great idea of the overall aesthetic.
Maxx: We were talking about the next era and changing things up and we had a diamond logo. We realized that if you move some stuff around, it ends up looking a lot like an hourglass, which visually looks nice. Then we talked about how you only have a certain amount of time to get the things done that you want to get done in life. So, from there, we started talking about what we wanted the new record to be. We knew we wanted it to be a bit darker, kind of bring back some of the old, in with the new, and ushering in this new start. We went to a darker thing like Midnight and because midnight is a reset, the start of a new day, it all just kind of came together really nice, almost effortlessly. From there, the rest just kind of followed too and that’s how we ended up here now.
And I like how your music videos have a space theme and a metaphor of isolation.
Cody: Yeah, for “Lonely Dance,” we wanted it to be as lonely as humanly possible haha.
You’ve collaborated with other songwriters such as Jayden Seeley of With Confidence for “Stitch Me Up” and Cameron Walker on “Lonely Dance.” How did these collaborations come about and what were your songwriting processes like? How do you know when a song is perfected?
Cody: Love both of them! It’s always about finding the best song and best melody. I know that sounds so blithe and like a cop out but it’s the truth. I like writing with people that we know and that we get along with because it’s not a big deal either way. There’s usually a buffer if you don’t know them like ”What are you up to and what are you about?” Once you understand your communication with that person, then it starts rolling. But with Cameron, we’ve already written with him before and with Jayden, he’s just an amazing person and writer overall. So, all we look for when we’re writing is “Let’s make the best melody possible and now that we have a really firm structure with the melody and the instrumentation, what’s our lyrical content? What's the message?” And then we want to make sure that it matches the vibe and that we’re just trying to fit it like a puzzle as perfectly as possible. I know it sounds easier said than done, but it’s a really great time.
Touring is exciting, but it can also mentally draining. If you don’t mind sharing, what are some ways you take care of yourself on tour and stay healthy?
Cody: I think sleep is a huge one.
Maxx: Sleep and massages.
Do you guys massage each other?
Cody: No, we get professional massages!
Zach: I can smell a fanfic already.
Cody: Just about every other off day, I’ve gone to Massage Envy or whatever Groupon’s available.
Zach: Also, since you're in such a small space with a bunch of other people, like, taking time to go eat dinner by yourself or doing something alone where you can get away and have your own space for a little bit.
Cody: Absolutely. I think it really boils down to self-care.
Maxx: Self-care, ladies!
Zach: Skin care routine!
Cody: Yeah, skin care routine, self-care, massages. Straight up, we’ll get facials! On an off day, we get away, we escape, we take care of ourselves because otherwise, tour’s just “Go, go, go!” So, having that time to just detox and having time to yourself is just so nice.
Your background visuals for your shows are beautiful and match the aesthetic of each song perfectly! How did you guys brainstorm what you wanted the production to look like?
Cody: We have to give a huge shoutout to our boy Petter, who looks after all of our production and our lights, and programs everything. he's the man so it starts with him. Then we get images back and forth and we get to critique it, which is good. We have production rehearsals and we look at it. Sometimes we see things that we love and sometimes we’re like “Ok, this doesn’t match this.” We’ll find something that matches it a bit better and we’ll insert new images until we feel like it really matches the energy of what we want to cultivate live. Until we’re satisfied, then we’ll roll it out live.
How does this year’s Warped Tour compare to the past ones you’ve been on?
Cody: There’s one of them haha.
Maxx: This one is 25 years so I feel like, because there’s only three of them, they were able to get different bands. Like, for Atlantic City, they got Blink-182 and they haven’t played Warped since, I don’t even know the last time they played. So, people all around the world are flying to these shows since there’s less to go to, which is always cool, so there’s energy and excitement. ‘Cause I know a lot of people thought, “Is Warped Tour ever going to happen again?” So, this is their chance to see it.
Cody: The demand is just automatically higher because instead of it being a whole summer and being like “I’ll get to see it next year,” they’re like, “I’ll go today or I don’t get it again.”
You guys closed it down last year which was awesome!
Cody: Yeah! Today was fantastic. The crowd was ready to go from song one.
Cody, are you ever scared you’ll fall when you stand up in the crowd, or have you ever almost fell?
Cody: Scared? No, but I'm prepared. What I've learned is that if I hover my foot above someone’s face, their hands will go up to prevent me from stepping on them haha. But I've fallen before, and we’ve never had an issue. Maybe earlier, I was scared but now I'm used to it.
If you guys had your own planet, what would your first law be?
Maxx: No babies. They're too loud and I don’t want any babies on my planet.
Cody: If you pee on the toilet seat, you're arrested forever.
Zach: You have to read all 7 Harry Potter books.
Cody: That’s the brand!
What house are you in?
Zach: I, my dear friend, am a Ravenclaw.
Cody: Spoken like Dumbledore, my dear friend.
Top song on your playlist right now?
Cody: I just fell in love with a song, I don’t know if it’s a hit yet but I hope it becomes one. It’s ed Sheeran and Travis Scott’s song “Antisocial.”
His collaboration album is amazing!
Cody: That song is fire.
Maxx: I literally can’t remember the name of the artist. Our friend Clayton showed us but it’s a song called “Drunk Me.” It’s unbelievable.
Zach: The new Taylor Swift song, you need to calm down. That song is - *blows a chef kiss*
I'm ready for her album!
Cody: Same, bring it on. Slay, queen!
What show would you binge watch?
Cody: Just did it to Stranger Things.
Me too, I cried.
Maxx: My answer is also Stranger Things.
Zach: My answer is Stranger Things.
Cody: Collective unit, Stranger Things.
I asked our readers if they have any questions, so here’s one from Camden.
Cody: Camden, New Jersey, the whole city?
Totally haha. She asked, what's your favorite thing about performing?
Cody: Venting. There are all these things you go through day by day and you don’t realize you're getting it out until you're in the moment but at shows, you're letting it all out and I love that. I feel at home. It’s weird, but I do.
That’s really special how your songs help you get through stuff.
Cody: Whenever someone says, “you help us” we’re like “you're helping us too”. It’s a cool community and we’re helping each other.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can talk about?
Cody: Just know that we’re never not writing and preparing for the next cycle. As soon as we get the chance, we’re already going to be writing for the next record. And we might already have some songs ready to go.
Zach: We’re also going on tour in the UK and Europe about two months from now. We’re also playing Russia for the first time ever and then we have some time off.
Stay updated with Set It Off!