Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Q&A with Orange

You’d be hard pressed to find a more apt title for Orange’s latest record.

After months of band turmoil, setbacks and uncertainty they decided to go with Phoenix.
The LA-based pop-punk band, originally signed to the Hellcat label when they were just teens, saw the band nearly dissolve a year and a half ago when guitarists Perry Ladish and Brendan Minded walked away from the group just days apart from each other.

Singer/bassist Joe Dexter and drummer Zak Glosserman thought about walking away as well or changing the name and starting a new group entirely. But having invested seven years in Orange, the duo decided to recast and soldier on.

The result is their most impressive album yet. Less juvenile than the first two releases, but equally catching, Phoenix finds the band in prime form.

Dexter spoke recently about the near demise of Orange, the group’s new lineup and living with Cystic Fibrosis.

I’ve got to say, I’m glad to hear you guys are still around. I really liked the first two records and then I kept reading about band members leaving, so assumed the band had fallen apart.

I’m so happy to be back. The lineup we have right now is just phenomenal!

Well, let’s start off with what happened. You’re still here obviously and your drummer is still here. Is everyone else new?

Yeah, everyone else is new. Kind of what happened was Jack (Berglund) decided to leave the band about a year and a half ago, maybe longer, and quickly after John (was no longer in Orange either. So it all fell apart rather quickly in the span of about two weeks. Me and Zak were like “this is awful.” We lost both of our guitar players and we lost Michael a year before that.

Was it for different reasons? Did they just want to do different things?

They just wanted to do different things. I know Jack wanted to start his own band and John, I just think he knew he wasn’t a right fit. He was more into a lot more of the emo/metal kind of stuff. It was not gelling. We were really scared that Orange was gone and it kind of felt like we were finished. It was such a depressing time and there was one point when I thought we’ve been working for seven years at that time, we got a record deal really early and I’m trying to make my third record here and we cannot give up. Essentially what happened was, I just gave all the best guitar players that we meet across America while on tour a call and asked them to join Orange and they said yes.
That’s pretty cool.
It was really kind of organic and it didn’t take much of an effort. We all practiced in the same room together and it felt big. It felt special.

So where did Perry (Ladish, guitar) and Brendan (Minded, guitar) come from? Were they already in LA?

No, actually Brendan still to this day lives in Vegas with his two kids and his wife and Perry lives in Rancho Penasquitos, but he comes to LA quite often. I met him at a Hellcat (Records) Christmas party about two years before Jack left. I gave them a call and they were both over the moon to be joining Orange.

What have you found that they’ve added to the band? Do they bring in different influences or a different sound?

Oh hell yeah. Well first off they are both really fantastic guitar players, which in the past I always felt we had on one really good guitar player in the band and that was Jack. Perry went to college for about two years to study guitar, so he knows all these crazy chords and really cool techniques and Brendan, the lead guitar player, is one of the most fantastic musicians anyone could ever meet. If you listen to the record, every single one of the solos is improvised. They definitely bring elements of more professional musicians.

It seems like you are a lot more confident lyrically and musically on the new album.

For sure, that’s what we were going for. I love the first records, but for me they felt somewhat juvenile and I knew consciously that we wanted to do something larger than life, something you can listen to in 30 years and still relate. And still I wanted a very diverse and colorful record.

When you were going through the other members leaving did you and Zak ever think, let’s just forget about this or let’s start a completely different band?

Yeah, there was a point when the two guys had left when we felt that it was somewhat finished and we thought about starting something completely new. But I thought we just can’t let this happen. I’ve worked on this since we were 12 years old and I’ll be damned if I let this opportunity slip through my fingers. We kept going and I’m really thankful that I did.

What else can you tell me about the new record?

For me, I think it’s the definitive Orange record. It’s got something for every single person. Not all the songs sound the same and lyrically I really challenged myself and also musically. I knew that I wanted to paint with more colors than just red and blue. We created a really colorful, bright, inspirational record. I hope it doesn’t sound like we’re bragging. I’m just very happy with it.

Did you take a little more time on this one?

We did. The thing is, I write every single day. Writing for me is just a non-stop process. But with the actual recording process, we had Gavin MacKillop produce this one. He’s beyond professional; he’s a really legit producer. We spent about two months recording the whole things for a really good budget and he really hooked us up. Having that extra time allowed us to create a really solid and polished record and I’m really thankful it’s all in tune this time.

Listening to it, I keep coming back to the first song (“Each Other”). What can you tell me about that one?

That song I wrote about living with having an illness like cystic fibrosis and also trying to deal with being a professional touring musician. It’s about life and mixing music with health – which comes first? It also brings in the element of relaying on your friends during hard times. It’s about my lifestyle and dealing with having a disease and being a professional, touring musician.
You can be in absolute prefect health and still get torn down from constant touring.

When you first started touring you were younger and I’m assuming you took full advantage of being out on the road. Do you find you take better care of yourself now on tour?

Absolutely. For the first couple of tours my dad went out with us because he was also our manager for years. He would look after me and it was a pretty good situation because he would look after all of the medical issues and I would kind of focus on having fun and putting on a good show. But nowadays, we’re a lot older, we’re on this tour alone and I’m taking care of myself completely and I’ve found I’m very on top of my game. I take really good care of myself. If I don’t, that jeopardizes the tour and the band. It’s a commitment.

I also found your choice of the Lou Reed cover (“Perfect Day”) on the record as interesting. Did you plan all along to record that song or was it added on at the end?

Yeah man, it was actually pretty random. We started recording the record and it was about three days into it and our producer Gavin turned around and said “Have you ever thought about covering a song”? We’d done that on our past record, so I reeled off a list of songs that I had in mind and he said “These are ok, but have you ever thought about covering ‘Perfect Day’”? There was just this energy surge in the room and Perry got up out of his chair and “Dude that would be amazing.” It was almost kind of meant to be. The idea just struck Gavin out of nowhere and as soon as he said it a light bulb went off.

It came off great and it’s also not an obvious choice.

Yeah, that’s why I was so happy about it. We really wanted to create a diverse record, not just another pop punk record, but one with elements of other genres.

Well, those are all the questions I had. Anything else you wanted to add?

Yeah, I don’t mind if the kids download our stuff for free or go and buy the record, I just want as many people as possible to just go and check this album out because I am just so proud of it. It’s the definitive Orange record. Whether you’re on old school fan or just getting into us, this is the Orange record to own.

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