A Day to Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon Talks 2016 Self Help Festival + More
After years of playing festivals, A Day to Remember decided to launch their own music festival in 2014. The inaugural Self Help Festival in San Bernardino, Calif., was a huge success, and the band has gone on to stage East Coast Self Help festivals, as well. With Self Help set to return to San Bernardino on March 19, we had a chance to catch up with A Day to Remember's Jeremy McKinnon and discuss this year's event. McKinnon talks about the thrills of running Self Help, the return of the reunited Underoath and what he's looking for out of this year's event. Check out the chat in full below.
Can you talk about what it has meant to the band to have this platform to put the Self Help festival out there?
I’ll tell you, it is the most exciting thing that we are working on right now to me. Just because it’s not solely based around around us. We’re moving more and more towards other people headlining this festival mostly. And then us wherever it makes sense. So it’s really cool to be able to just sit back and be a planner and kind of just drive the ship. It’s incredible doing that. Because when you are playing it, it’s just a totally different vibe just showing up. Last year, Pierce the Veil headlined it and we just got to go and just be fans of music and watch a list of bands that we put together that we wanted to see. And that is so awesome as a music fan. So it’s been incredible.
Can you talk about what went into choosing this year's lineup for you?
Well, we’re, our way of kind of branching out from just the normal bands in our genre, well these bands are still in our genre, but what I mean is ... what we are doing this year with Further Seems Forever and Underoath, we’re going to try to have more and more bands coming through and playing like that special record in their catalog that put them over the top. So, Underoath is going to play a lot of stuff from They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line. So that’s going to be something I think we are going to try to focus on is getting that one band playing a special album that people are going to be like, “Oh s--t, I gotta be there for that.” So that’s what I’m really excited about because what that really means is we get to pick our favorite albums over the years that from these bands that don’t really play them that often and once again think about that as a music fan. If you have the opportunity to have your favorite albums played for you that you never got to see and you were actually doing it. It’s amazing.
Underoath are one of those bands where people were asking "Why?" when they shut it down a few years ago.
So cool to have them back, and I think they even announced Self Help before they announced they were doing a full-on tour. How great was it to have them be the draw right off the bat before the rest of the lineup came out?
It’s amazing and actually now that you point that out, it really puts us in the position to be taken serious by all of the older bands. You know what I mean. Underoath did it. Further Seems Forever is going to do it this year with them, and it’s going to be a great success. I mean we are already at 9,400 tickets sold and that’s more than we ever pre-sold, ever. So it’s going to be the biggest this year we’ve done it so far. So it’s going to be much easier to get that done next year because they took the chance with the festival. So couldn’t be more thankful for those guys playing ball with us.
Not sure on the history between the two bands, but was there a past with you guys as friends? Or did this come up more as a perfect opportunity?
A little bit of both because Underoath was a local band around our area back when they were a metal band and they didn’t have Spencer as their vocalist. So I kind of grew up listening to them when they sounded completely different playing in gyms, like in churches and stuff. So I knew a few of them just from that whole time period and then we’d met them when we toured with them a few years back. We did a U.S. tour and we did an Australian tour with them. They were some really cool guys. We always had a good time when we went out with them. So we kind of knew them from that and they liked us from the tours. We heard they were getting back together and we were immediately like if you are down to playing some of this material with your original lineup, we want you. Whatever it takes and they were down.
It's an eclectic lineup as well. Yes there are bands in your genre, but then you have Yelawolf or Issues that have more of a dance or rap vibe. Can you talk about getting those acts to be a part of this as well?
It's going to always be based around our genre of music, but we would also like to have different styles come in. The stuff that our age group listens to, and that is rap music. That's a little bit of dance music. It's always going to be based around this genre, but we're going to keep branching out as we go just to make it a little more interesting. You don't want to see the same bands every year, you want to see what's cool, what's fresh in other worlds too.
I attended the very first Self Help and spoke to a few of your bandmates. It seemed like they just wanted to see where this went and obviously it was a huge success. But, from that first year to now, what lessons have you learned?
It did really well right out of the gate, which has been an absolute blessing. It has 100 percent to do with the team of people that actually make the festival happen. It's one thing for us to come up with ideas, but it's another thing for our whole team to go out and actually make it happen in a way that greatly surpasses anything I've ever been a part of in the states when it comes to a festival. No. 1, the team gets all the credit there. The most difficult thing, learning how to operate a festival. The first year we had problems getting everyone in the door, [laughs]. Little things, smoothing it out as we've gone. That's been the biggest hurdle. We've automatically had the fanbase and we've automatically had a brand that people attached to, so everything else has been how can we make it smoother and more pleasing to the person who is paying to come? We've been slowly upgrading everything and we're trying to do it in more and more places. The sky's the limit, really.
I've seen you several times and it's always a good show with more for the entertainment value. Anything you've got in mind for this festival? Is it going to be similar? Do you have any stuff on the horizon that's maybe a little different than people have seen?
Yeah, a little different always. We try to do stuff and surprise people every time. We're probably going to do a greatest hits type set, add a few special things that we're going to float out. Yeah -- we're putting money into the production for the headlining set. That's important to me too, whoever headlines the festival, I've always been such a fan of putting on a show. I always want the headliner to do something. I don't want somebody to get up there and have a backdrop and collect a paycheck. If you're going to play Self Help, you should invest, do something special for people. We're going to do that as the headliner this year.
I'm sure you're busy all day with it being your festival. But do you think you'll have the chance to get out and see the other bands? Are there certain bands on this bill that you hope to carve out some time to go and check out?
Oh, absolutely. I can't wait to - like we talked about, I'm going to be watching Underoath, you gotta be watching Further Seems Forever. I usually just walk around all day and just watch bands, it is our festival. It's bands that we want to see, and that we're friends with. Yeah -- you always see us walking back and forth to the stage. If we usually take in, I'd say 75% of all the fest throughout the day. We only shut it down right before we go on, usually. Actually, Underoath, I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm gonna have to get ready way early.
I see August Burns Red is also on the bill. I know you did the song "Ghost" with them. Might we possibly see a crossover appearance?
Maybe, I'm down if they are so we'll see what happens.
I saw the artwork for the festival. Very cool look from Mike C Hardcore. Can you talk about your involvement with him?
We wanted it to be something clean and just, simple. I think that goes a long way, especially when you're branding something like this. He did a great job getting the whole medical thing right, in a way that wasn't tacky. I'm in love with the whole branding of the festival. He's always been amazing to work with. We found Mike C. through him being a part of the hardcore scene. We were a touring band, just like everybody else who had a van and trailer playing to nobody a night and you'd see these random hardcore bands with these tee shirt designs that were just out of the this world. The coolest thing you've ever seen. I figured out who he was, hit him up personally and we started working together and almost right out of the gate we put together some of our most iconic designs that are going to stick with us for our entire careers. Probably outlive us. He did the FU from Florida shirt which was massive for us, he did the PacMan shirt you keep runnin your mouth, which was actually a fan's idea but man, me and him expanded on the idea and - holy hell. That shirt, was a lifechanger for us. We still sell a ton of those shirts. So yeah -- he's absolutely amazing and we found him at the right time because holy hell, his whole look exploded after that.
Beyond the festival, you're touring with Parkway Drive and State Champs coming up this spring. Talk a little bit about the two bands you're going to go on tour with.
Parkway Drive we've known for years. They actually took us out the first time in Australia and they were a massive band so honestly, we owe them big time for setting us the right way over there. Plus, they're an amazing band. We've always been fans of them every time we warm up for a set and we're listening to heavy music they're always on the playlist. There just cool guys, they're a great band live and we can't tour with them enough. We're excited to be out with those guys. We've actually never toured with the State Champs guys, they've played Self Help though the other year and they killed it, so we're excited to meet those guys on tour for the first time and get to know them.
Common Courtesy has been a great record for you, but is there an update on where things are at with new music. I realize the festival is taking up a lot of time right now.
We've been taking a lot of time off. We haven't had a lot of that in the past six years. During this time off, I've been trying to focus on building a studio with our engineer Andrew Wade. We're building a studio and calling it "The Audio Compound." So, that's been the majority of my time this half a year. ADTR, we've been doing our own thing, taking it easy and trying to recharge the batteries to try and do it over again, but nothing is really planned other than Self Help and those shows.
You mentioned building a studio. I know you've done some production work. One of the bands you worked with is The Ghost Inside who obviously went through the horrible accident this past fall. Have you had any communication with those guys since then?
We've all talked to different members on our own and we've been trying to do things as best we can to help. It was really unfortunate. It is very cool to see them being so positive about everything, so that part of it is awesome and I can't wait to hear what they put together after this. Holy hell, what a story they're going to have to tell.
Thanks to A Day to Remember's Jeremy McKinnon for the interview. The 2016 Self Help Festival is set to take place March 19 at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, Calif. For ticketing information, click here.
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