Interview: Graduation Speech
Whenever a member of a popular band embarks on a solo side-project, the fans are the ones who truly benefit the most when we get to hear both sides of the artist as a songwriter and performer through each individual project. That’s the case with Kevin Day. Day, who is best-known as part of the New Jersey pop-punk group Aspiga, has just released his sophomore EP Maintenance Required under the moniker of Graduation Speech. We had a chance to check in with Kevin and talk about the new Graduation Speech EP, his songwriting approach, the differences between his two projects, the balancing act between both, how they co-exist with one another, and so much more!
1. You recently released your new album Maintenance Requiredas Graduation Speech, your solo endeavor. For the folks who only recognize you from your pop-punk group Aspiga, what can they expect to hear from this 5-song EP that is a bit different than what they’ve come to already know from your other side?
A lot less distortion for starters! If you’re a fan of Aspiga I think there is certainly a common thread between both projects, and I hope that it keeps your attention. I’d compare it to artists like Matt Pryor or John K. Samson in the sense that there are moments that might remind you of their bands, but this has its own identity.
2. But for those who have heard Graduation Speech and are already on board, what can those fans expect to hear from Maintenance Requiredthat’s a different feel then that of your last release Quiet and Calm.
On Quiet & Calm I really stripped everything back to the basics. It’s pretty much just acoustic guitar and vocals and the EP was tracked in a house. I really wanted it to feel like you were listening to someone perform in their bedroom. Maintenance Required has a lot more instrumentation and “full band” moments. I’ve always liked the idea of this project being able to grow to include more players, and also be fluid.
3. You draw comparisons to Dashboard Confessional quite often, and much like they did between their albums The Places You Have Come to Fear the Mostand A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar, you went from being an acoustic act to full band for this release. What fueled you to make that decision for this album?
I knew that I wanted to continue to expand with this project. However, I also didn’t want to write the songs in a full band setting as I was afraid the songs might morph into something else. So, I tracked my guitar parts and vocals in the studio and then sent the files to my friend Devin and he tracked his drum parts to what I had already done. I think went back into the studio to track bass and Pat came in and recorded keys. It was a different experience, but I love the end result.
4. “Ourselves” was put out there as a single ahead of the EP release date. Why do you feel that this song was the best choice of the 5 to introduce your new music with?
I think that it’s a very easy song to digest. It has a pop feel to it, the chorus is big, and it moves along very nicely.
5. When you look over the 5 tracks that make up the EP, they are different from one another in many ways. Which one song from the EP is your personal favorite and why?
I’m going to go with “Small Apartment.” It’s just so different from the rest of the tracks and I had no idea how that song was going to turn out. When I heard the final mix, I was pretty floored. I stepped out of my comfort zone and it ended up being one of my favorites. I hope that I can capture quite a few more moments like that on my next release.
6. For someone who hasn’t checked out Graduation Speech yet, which two songs from this EP would you recommend they listen to first in order to get a full understanding of what the EP has to offer?
I would suggest “Ourselves” and “Small Apartment.” They are the best of both worlds.
7. Let’s talk about songwriting for a few questions; What is your songwriting process from start to finish with this project in comparison to with Aspiga?
I’d say they are pretty similar. I usually write a song on my guitar and make some sort of demo. From there I’ll write lyrics and try to come up with a melody. With Aspiga, the song would then get presented to Ray and Alec who will add their parts and suggest any changes. I don’t really have that with Graduation Speech which can be difficult as I don’t get that extra input.
8. Are the ideas for your songs with Graduation Speech born out of real-life situations, and if so, how do you take something personal to you and craft it in such a way that’s it relatable for anyone listening?
I always try to write from experience. There are times that I might not be writing about myself, but it’s rooted in something that I’ve felt. I think my best songs are the ones where I’m being brutally honest and it’s very cathartic for me to make sense of my feelings through writing music.
9. The big question on everyone’s mind, and pulling from a Dashboard Confessional background again, Chris started Dashboard as a side project to Further Seems Forever and we saw what happened with that. Could success with Graduation Speech mark the end of Aspiga or are they two completely different things that can co-exist?
I think both projects can and will co-exist. You never know how things are going to move along with a musical project. I don’t think the success of one would take away my desire to play in the other. I love doing Graduation Speech shows because I can play way more intimate spaces and connect with people on a different level. However, the thrill of plugging in, turning the volume way up, and playing with Ray and Alec is just as satisfying. Aspiga is my favorite band and all I ever want is for people to hear our music. I hope that we get to play more shows and do a new album. We’ve already started talking about it loosely, so you never know.
10. We’re all about helping the next generation at allageszine.com, so we always end all our Q&A’s with this question. What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with their first band today?
Be true to yourself. Don’t worry about the trend in music, the buzz bands or labels, just play the music that you want to hear. People will find you. Be authentic and be kind.