Seattle power-pop four piece Four Lights will be releasing their new album, Kobayashi Maru, on April 20th – a date that totally has no relevancy to the band whatsoever. I sat down with singer/guitarist Dan Gardner to discuss the differences between the band’s first release – Death to False Posi (2016) – and the new album, the interesting and bizarre world of dating apps, and more. The only thing that was missing were a few fruity blue tiki drinks. Next time…
If you could describe the dynamic of your band in regards to cartoon characters, who would each member be and why?
Oh brother! Honestly, I think we should be our own cartoon sometimes. We are so damn goofy all the time, even when we probably shouldn’t be. When we started this band we all said we just wanted to have a good time and play music that we enjoyed playing… so we try and stick by that.
I think we would actually be better Power Rangers than cartoon characters. KII is the logical one. Brian is the creative one. Jeff is the goofy one and I’m… uhh… wait… maybe we are actually a boy band… that have zords and fight giant space creatures? Wait, that’s Power Rangers again.
Give me a second here – I’m Garfield because I hate Mondays and love lasagna. Brian is Wimpy because he would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. Jeff is Michelangelo because he loves pizza and is a cool dude. KII is Danger Mouse because he currently lives in London and he’s probably actually a secret agent.
Your debut album, Death to False Posi, has a very different feel than the forthcoming Kobayashi Maru. Can you speak to the differences and what you were aiming to attempt with this sophomore release?
I think the difference in feel comes from the way we approached the songs as a band. On the first album, I had made demos of every song with all the parts and how maybe I saw or heard them and then gave them to the guys and they kinda made it their own from the blueprint I had made. When we started working on these songs, we didn’t really listen to or focus on the demos I made, but instead sat in a room and I played my parts and sang while the dudes came up with their own parts around that. It made it feel more like a group process than them just learning some songs I had written. We knew we wanted loud and crunchy, a big dumb rock album, so that changed the way we approached recording.
What did you learn this time around that you didn’t learn or know during the writing and recording of the first album?
I think we learned how to work better as a band. The first record was a lot of fun and we worked our asses off to get 13 songs done in the limited time we had. This time, we wanted to do the same amount of songs but with more layers, more overdubs, and more complicated parts in roughly the same amount of time. We like being very prepared for whatever it is we are doing. We do tons of demos and analyze our parts, we go into the studio with pretty much the entire album mapped out from front to back. I think we did a lot of things the same this time, we just did it better.
You claim that your band is made up of “Portfolio Punks”. Can you explain what that term means?
Haha! We are all guys with full time jobs, 401ks, and home or car loans. We were loading in for a show some time ago and ran into some friends. We were bullshitting outside when they made some comment about people that were coming into the venue and mocking the fact that they probably had some benefit package at work with insurance and bonuses. We all looked at each other and wondered if that was a bad thing. So maybe we take a first class flight every now and then, or we prefer hotels to floors. We are still going to shotgun a Buzzball outside of Tower Bar in San Diego and take a shoey on a rooftop in Tijuana.
Many of the songs on both albums are about relationships or your attempts at them. Can you share with us one of your worst-best dating app stories?
Ooof. How much time do you have? I can start with the story behind a song on the new album, “ComRAD”.
I met a lady from Tinder at a bar here in Seattle. We had chatted for about a week or so before we met, so I could figure out if she’s for real and she could realize I am a dork before we waste our time meeting. Right away I asked her what she does for a living and she told me about how she sells stickers in a commercial setting. She asked me the same and I told her that I am in the IT field and she rolled her eyes and snapped, “So you’re part of the problem” to which I got very confused and asked her what she meant.
This turned into her telling me that I make too much money (I never told her how much I make) and that I don’t deserve more money than the gentleman who was serving us drinks and that the government should make maximum set wages for all jobs that employers can’t go over. This was all very funny to me – and I’m a lonely guy – so I listened to her talk at me for an hour and a half, paid for both of our drinks, and left.
I’ve had dates that lasted for 8 hours, almost trips to Disneyland, watching them spot me and turn around and walk away, a lady who knew it was not going well and offer sexual activities to try and improve the date, etc. etc. I’m sure I’ve probably also done stupid things that some lady is currently writing a song about.
And lastly, what is your favorite Tom Hanks movie?
That Thing You Do! They look so great in those suits, have I told you that?