Dressed for Work

Blue-collar boys wear The Suit by name, but wear their grind as pride.

Photo by Kyle Kotajarvi

I’m always curious about where band names come from, so tell me about The Suit.
Alright, well, when we were first formed, we were called “Midnight Suit.” That was the original name for the band with the founding members. It was from a lyric of a Bob Dylan song our guitar player found. We thought it was cool because we couldn’t settle on anything that we all could agree on that didn’t sound stupid or cliché or whatever. So we started off as Midnight Suit, and we recorded and released a couple of CDs under that name. And then we had member changes. We had a drummer move on, had a guitar player move on and we always had our friends, our fellow bands, “Oh, it’s The Suit dudes! What’s up?” So when we had that transition between members, we had just recorded our EP, and that release did the most work for us. We were kind of forced to reemerge with a new lineup, a new sound, and we thought, hey, for branding and marketing, The Suit would be really to the point, and they call us that anyways. We went with that and we’ve been The Suit ever since. And that was 2009.

Tell me about Day After Day. What went into making this? Would this your first full album since the rebranding?
Yeah, it’s our first full album ever. We’ve always just done EPs, some online singles. What went into this album was a lot of time, a lot of rewriting, a lot of scrapping stuff, a lot of trying it again, over and over and over and over and over. Rerecording, trashing it, rerecording it, trashing it. The amount of effort and time spent on trying to get it so we liked it in its entirety, front to back, top to bottom… You know, some bands write, like, 40 songs then pick their favorite 10 to put on a record? We wrote these songs and just rewrote them within themselves a lot until we felt like we got it right. A good chunk of change was spent on it; we did everything ourselves. We went down to Glow In The Dark Studios and had Matt Goldman record the drums for it, so that was an experience. We’re really happy with how it turned out, and to finally have it out and have people be able to listen to it.

It sounds like, from what I’m hearing, like the work you guys put into it really paid off. I’m hearing a strong sound, a good mix, and it comes across as something people can really sink their teeth into.
All the production on it took a long time because of the way we did it. Our keyboard player, Greg, recorded everything else, did all the arrangements. Obviously, our band members played everything, but he recorded and tracked everything. There’s a ton of gang vocals, there’s a lot of vocal tracks, a lot of guitar tracks, a lot of background tracks, a lot of keyboard sampling. He was behind the board on all that stuff, so that’s another reason the process took really long.

Speaking of keyboards, it sounds like you guys favor mixing in a lot of piano sounds with rock, which isn’t something I’ve heard a lot. It really caught my attention. I feel like it’s almost a goth flavoring, but there’s a classical feel to that traditional piano sound.
Yeah, there’s a lot of it. Our keyboard player, he actually recorded worship music for his dad and was active in doing that. I think that’s what got him into it. We recorded our very first CD in his dad’s studio, in his hometown at his house, and it had a piano in there. That’s where everything starts, even with our bass player, too, playing piano stuff and trying to keep the writing old-school. Then penning it and then recording it and then trying to formulate songs around a real base to stand on. Build it from the ground up, and use the classical tools to creating music. You can really explore a lot of different sounds, a full sound, with a piano, whereas a guitar only has 6 strings. … It’s the direction you get when you start with a piano.

And I like the tones I’m hearing out of that. But you guys aren’t slouching in the guitar area, either. You’ve got a strong guitar sound there, nice and crunchy.
Yeah our guitar player Joel and Greg are tone junkies and worked a long time on getting the tones and then being really in tune with it. I feel like it’s important to be have good tone. You don’t want to have things muddy; you want them crisp, clean and seamless that comes off in live performances, as well.

Speaking of live performances, I was looking through where you guys are playing. It seems to be mostly around the North Dakota area. Are you getting out elsewhere to tour?
I’ll have to get back to you on that. We’re just trying to get our feet set. We’ve spent so much time on the road, dedicating a big portion of our lives to this. We’re all 28, 29 years old, and you can run from life happenings, but sooner or later they’re going to catch up with you. And in this process of being off the road and not playing so much, we’ve been working on getting our feet set. People are buying houses and settling it down and being adults a little bit. We plan to play shows; how far out we’re going to get, we still have to talk about that. We just got the record out, we played a CD release show in our hometown, got that rolling. We’re going to have a meeting about (touring) soon and figure out the game plan for the next string of shows, where we’re going and build the business plan for this record.

With all the settling down and the adult life aspects do you guys have aspirations to release more records down the line? I mean, settling down is not going to be the end of new music, I hope.
Oh, no, absolutely not. Greg was definitely worn out from this process because he spent an unbelievable amount of hours finalizing this, mixing it — this was his baby. It’s our first full length record we’ve ever released; these are the best songs we’ve ever released. We’re trying to put out our best so our time spent and his time spent and the standard he has for himself and his work. He double- and triple-checked and made sure everything was absolutely perfect, and so he’s a little burned out. But I’m sure the writing process will pick up again, and we’ll start preparing for another one and plug away at it. But we’ve been throwing out ideas and concepts for what direction we want the music to go for the next CD already, (but) we’ve got to take some time here and see where the music takes us, I guess.

So is there a best of the best? Do you have a favorite track or two on the album?
As far our poppy, rock-and-roll stuff, I like the track “Where Were You.” I love that hook in that song, the string arrangements in it, the flow of it. I really like that one. And then also the song “Grunt Force Trauma” is probably one of my all-time favorites, too, because of the message in it. And it’s one of the heaviest tracks we’ve ever written, and it’s really fun to play live, too.

That was one of the ones I checked out, and it does hit good and hard. Tell me about the message. It seemed very personal, emotional when I was listening to it.
In the last couple of years, we’ve been personally affected by people we’ve known committing suicide, kids getting a hold of us and saying, “Hey, my friend killed himself the other day and your music helped me through it.” The epidemic of suicide across the nation and the world, you never really think about it until it happens to someone you know. Even if they’re not that close to you and you know that person, have memories or have some sort of recollection of them, those instances where you were with them, they come back to you. Even if they were insignificant, it’s like… Life is such a heavy thing and for it to be taken for that reason? It’s hard to understand, it’s hard to get through, it’s hard to get past, especially if it’s someone on a friend level. That song is about the person who’s affected by suicide, people who struggle with it, giving them a voice. Maybe it identifies with them, letting them know someone knows how they feel, that they are mad, that they are upset, that they are angry at that person who did that. Things you ask yourself, “Why did you do this? Why didn’t you think of me? Why didn’t you think of your friends, your family?” It’s not a point of anger and being mad at them, specifically, but one of the lines is, “Now I see nothing but misery,” because everybody around you is affected. You see them everywhere, things you see on a day-to-day basis will remind you of that person and your interactions. It’s hard to get past and it heals with time, but you see the marks that person’s left everywhere in everything you do.

Would you say that on average your songs tend to be emotionally heavy like that or do you fluctuate between some of the heavier topics like that some something that’s more light-hearted?
“The Way that We Fall” has been a good silver-lining song. It’s turning adversity into prosperity or taking a positive instance and self-healing. You know, we want people to be able to identify with our stuff because, if they have no idea what I’m talking about, they kind of go, “Why do I listen to this?” We try to keep it real and cover things we’ve gone through, (the things) that have changed us or helped us learn, grow, move on, talk about the things people do like to talk about. We try and cover a subject range where we tell our side of the story, ‘cause a lot of our fans are younger and maybe haven’t encountered these things yet so as being older from the influence side someone who can go like, “Oh yeah, I’ve been there before, it’s not so bad, don’t worry about it.” We’re kind of laying it out and saying “Hey you’re going to make it, it’s going to be OK.”

I saw somewhere where you listed one of your influences as the Beatles. What influences the heavier styles that you guys get into?
The heavier stuff, I would say more of the 2004, 2005, even 2006 era where our genre really started to explode. Our keyboard player — well, a lot of us — were fans of Chiodos because they were big and orchestral, they had a lot of keyboards, a lot of big sounds. The Devil Wears Prada. They’re a really heavy band. A Day To Remember. They do the sing-song stuff and the heavy stuff, too, and mix it up. We try and keep it old-school as far as the rock and roll. Our straight-up rock and roll songs we try and keep brief, you know, “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” Tom Petty-style. And also, what you see is what you get. We’re not going to write a lot of stuff we can’t play live.

It sounds like you place a lot of emphasis on your live performances; you’ve mentioned them a couple of times now.
Oh, yeah, absolutely. The energy, the interaction, the experience, creating a moment, a memory — not just taking a piece of merch with you, a CD or whatever. We’ve been about trying to keep it real because a lot of bands seem scripted on stage, and some of the shows we’ve been to, we’ve been left speechless from something the singer says or the performance itself. We aspire to be that kind of awesome, that kind of influential, that kind of memorable. We don’t want to be scripted. We just want to be ourselves. Take us as we are. Take it or leave it. We’re here to have fun. We’re here to try and play some rad tunes and have a good time with you. We want you to remember what you were feeling, what you were thinking, the first time you saw us, every time you saw us. What was going on and what you were wearing. I want an experience. That’s what we like try and create.

That sounds like the kind of thing I would want to be there for, from your description.

Yeah, we’re just trying to be interactive, you know. Who wants to stand at a rock show with their arms crossed at the back and just act too cool for school? Get up front and clap your hands! We got clapping parts. We got jumping parts. We’re just trying to bridge the line from the stage looking one way to the crowd looking back at us. We want it to be like everybody is looking the same direction doing the same thing, like everybody is a part of it.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done or seen at one of your shows?
Warped Tour, Minneapolis 2010. We were playing the Ernie Ball Stage, and we had a killer crowd, like 1,000, maybe 1,500-plus, and it was just a sea of people. It totally caught us off guard. There was a kid in the fourth row that had a seizure, and we stopped what we were doing. It was our first opportunity playing Warped, and we (knew) we had to stop playing, but we only have 22 minutes to play. But we stopped playing, and they dragged the kid out of there, and he ended up being OK. But it was really scary because with that big group of people, he might get trampled on, he might get injured more than he already is.

I believe I read that you won a battle of the bands that was Ernie Ball hosted. Was that the same thing or was that two different events?
No, that was, that show was our preliminary playing. You know, like, when we enter the online contest and they choose four bands and then that was our show in Minneapolis. And then from there (or all of the stops) they check out the bands they select to play, and then they review all of them and they choose four to go to the finals. We got chosen to go to the finals. We played the finals, we won the finals, and then the rest is history.

Is there anything else you would like to get out there to the fans?
We wouldn’t exist without the fans, so if someone’s reading this and is hearing our name for the first time, don’t be scared to check it out. You might like it. If you don’t, that’s cool, too. Yes, your CD purchase helps us out because we are self-funded, but there’s no pressure. We have a message. We have some things we’re saying in our music that might help you through something you’re going through. That’s been the case with a lot of our feedback, so if you’re struggling with something, give the tunes a listen. If something sticks out to you, help us get the word out. Our livelihood depends on that. We love grassroots promotion like that, (seeing) our name on someone’s shirt or in their car on a CD or on their iPod or their phone. That’s how we stay alive and stay afloat as a band in this business. Help someone through something by sharing our music with them.

The Suit was posted on June 3, 2014 for HM Magazine and authored by .