Smile Empty Soul's Sean Danielsen: "Our Songs Have Elements of Anger That Live On"
Let's trip back through time to yesteryear, specifically 1998. Grunge was dead, and from the ashes rose the alternative rock wave of the late '90s and early Aughts to fill the void. The music industry was flooded by a generation of youths with chips on their shoulders and a knack for carrying on the dirty, distorted and deep rhythms to channel their angst.
Courtesy Photo The members of Smile Empty Soul.
Flash-forward to the present, and many of those bands have become a "who's who" of "Where Are They Now?" They never adapted their music as they grew older and found a way to channel the "Father of Mine"-style perspective, into equally angst-filled and passionate music about the pitfalls of adulthood.
However, a select few of the elite do know the recipe for stability and career longevity -- namely, Smile Empty Soul.
The California based trio -- consisting of Sean Danielsen, Ryan Martin, and Jake Kilmer -- was pieced together in the late 90s and came of age in 2003 after the release of their self-titled debut album featuring the charted singles "Bottom of a Bottle," "Nowhere Kids," and "Silhouettes."
"I'm 31 now," Sean Danielsen laughs. "I'm in such a different place [in my life] at this point that there is less of that teenage angst. At the same time, our songs still have moments of anger that live on."
Last October, Smile Empty Soul released its sixth studio album, Chemicals. The record is a hard-hitting and powerful display of passion with Danielsen's tight lyrics and the kind of strong, blood-pumping instrumentals that the band long been been credited with. Prior to Chemicals, Smile Empty Soul formed its own record label, Two Disciples Entertainment, and released its album. Now, the band tackles the promotion, advertising, and sales of the record itself.
Smile Empty Soul is scheduled to perform at Rockbar in Scottsdale tonight, and with much to talk about, Up on the Sun tracked down singer/guitarist Sean Danielsen in the days leading up to the band's performance to talk about always staying busy, its new album, and kick-starting its own label.
So Chemicals has been out for a few months now. How has the fan and critic reception been in your opinion?
It's been really good. The fans have been digging all the different songs that we play live. As far as the response online, it's been incredible. I'd say it's the best response we've had from any of our last few albums.
What is your favorite track on the album?
Umm, it kind of moves around; when you write the material, record it, and play it every night, there is kind of an evolutionary process that happens. At the beginning, you'll like a couple songs the most. Then it will change, and it goes through different cycles. Right now, I'd have to say I'm liking the song "Chemicals" and the song "Sitting Ducks." It's a nice, softer kind of moody piece that builds into something heavy at the end. It's a lot of fun to play live.
Your earlier records are known for capturing a certain level of teenage angst and rebellion against authorities and parents. Do you still try to craft music from that same perspective now that you have gotten older?
I don't really try to purposefully do this or that -- I kind of just let whatever is naturally coming out come out. I think, because I'm so much older and I'm in such a different place at this point, that there is less of that teenage angst. I'm 31 now [laughs]. At the same time, our songs still have moments of anger and elements of anger that live on. The rest of it, we've gotten away from it a little bit, but there will always be that element to our band.
Can you describe what you try to accomplish in a live show?
With a live show, we let things happen the way they're going to happen. There's not a lot of bells and whistles with us. We're not flashy; we're not all done up in crazy makeup and costumes and light shows. We're just three regular dudes that come up there and play our music with as much heart as possible. Sometimes, depending on the mood, it feels right to just play song after song until the shows over and not even speak. Then, sometimes there will be little parts of speaking in between, or stories explaining this or that.
We try to let each night be its own night, and each night dictates its own destiny based on the vibe. As far as song selection, we always try to play a nice mix of old stuff and new stuff, and songs people have probably heard on the radio over the years, combined with some new material.
Can you try to describe the Smile Empty Soul fans to me?
They're an awesome group. They've supported us through thick and thin. They are so dedicated, and we owe them a lot. Typically, they're the type of person that can relate to our lyrics, and have had struggles and hardship in their lives.