Dan Vapid & The Cheats

Photo by Katie Hovland

Dan Vapid is back with his latest musical endeavor, Dan Vapid & The Cheats. After Screeching Weasel’s abrupt breakup, Vapid reunited with two former Methadones members, guitarist Mike Byrne and drummer Mike Soucy. He also recruited bassist Simon Lamb to complete the band’s lineup. They plan on recording their debut album this fall and releasing it next year. We spoke with Dan about the band’s origins, their influences, songwriting, touring and what he hopes to achieve with The Cheats.

Bill – What led to the formation of Dan Vapid & The Cheats?

Dan – I got word that the people at Cobra Lounge were asking if I would be interested in playing a solo show at their venue for the weekend Weasel Fest was scheduled, (now cancelled). My initial thought was not to play the show, but I realized there were Screeching Weasel fans from all over the world who had booked airfare and hotels for this event. After considering for a week or so, I decided that I would do this show for the people who came to town and try to make the best of a bad situation. Initially it was meant to be a one-off show, but we had a really enthusiastic crowd response and we had lots of fun. So, I decided to push forward and make Dan Vapid & The Cheats my new project.

Bill – After Screeching Weasel’s untimely demise, were you at all apprehensive about starting a new band right away?

Dan – Yes. For about a week and a half after SXSW I had serious doubts if I would ever play again. I had just lost my position with Screeching Weasel, which was my source of income. My wife and I were counting on that income to get us through the year since she wasn’t working because we were about to have a baby. Now with that gone my focus was getting a job. Where would I work in a terrible economy? That added pressure, along with the awful embarrassment of being associated with the SXSW fiasco. The endless commentary on Facebook and punk message boards was very overwhelming. I didn’t sleep for about ten days. So, I had my doubts. But, people like Mike Byrne and Simon Lamb gave a lot of encouragement to do the show, as did other friends, along with the guys in the former Screeching Weasel lineup. That meant a lot. I also received many emails, phone calls and text messages from people in support. It opened my eyes a little and it helped me get through a very difficult time. When life comes and knocks your ass down you need to get up, shake off the dust and start again. This band symbolizes a fresh perspective and a new chapter for me.

Bill – What do you like best about playing music again with former Methadones members Mike Byrne and Mike Soucy?

Dan – I played with those guys for 10 years in The Methadones, so I know them both inside and out. I know what to expect. I know what they are capable of doing as musicians and there is always ease in knowing that.

Bill – How did you meet up with bassist Simon Lamb and what sort of positives does he bring to the group?

Dan – Simon played briefly in Screeching Weasel and The Riverdales. Besides being a close friend, I can count on him to give good suggestions with tempos, open chords, backup vocal ideas, etc. Simon is also a graphic designer, which helps out.

Bill – Describe the sound or style of Dan Vapid & The Cheats.

Dan – We are a pop punk band, influenced by early punk, new wave, power pop and groups from the early ‘60s.

Bill – Lyrically speaking, what sort of things have you been writing about for this band?

Dan – I think every songwriter writes what they know. Things like love, loss, anxiety and depression are what I know well. And writing about those things is cathartic at times. But, sometimes it just gets to be too much, too serious. I feel it’s just as legitimate to write about the lighter side of things. Because I also know what makes me smile, be inspired, laugh and what I find entertaining. What I love about songs is that you can write about anything. You just need to make it work. Lately, crazy girls are getting a lot of mileage. Narcissistic people get a few jabs. There are songs about Devo and girl groups from the 1960’s, all kinds of stuff.

Bill – What’s behind the band’s name?

Dan – In the early stages of contemplating whether I wanted to move forward with playing music I asked a friend of mine for advice. Initially, I was inclined to shed the name “Dan Vapid” forever and use my real name. He advised me to go with Dan Vapid. He made a few arguments, one being that show promoters, labels, etc. would just put ex-Screeching Weasel on fliers, posters and promotion anyway. I knew this to be true from past experience. And I thought why should I run from that? I’m proud of the records and the role I played in Screeching Weasel, despite how it ended for me. So, I chose to go with Dan Vapid & The Cheats.

Bill – What do you guys have planned in terms of recording?

Dan – Dan Vapid & The Cheats will be recording a full-length record in October with Justin Perkins at the Mystery Room. Our plan is to have it out in 2012.

Bill – Any idea as to what label you might work with or have you considered self-releasing your music?

Dan – I’ve talked to a few, but we’re in the early stages right now. So, time will tell.

Bill – Do you have any shows or tours booked in the next couple months?

Dan – We are headlining a night at Insubordination Fest in Baltimore in August. We have other shows, both local and out of town, that are pending at the moment.

Bill – Given that you’ve been playing in bands for over 20 years, what aspects of writing and performing music do you still enjoy most?

Dan – For me, it’s writing and recording, the creative process. I really just love it. Seeing where the music goes, from how I hear a song in my head to how it actually ends up recorded. Hopefully making something that will inspire and that people can enjoy. I often don’t achieve that ultimate goal, but I really enjoy trying to.

Bill – What do you hope to accomplish with this band that you haven’t done with the other groups you’ve been a part of?

Dan – My goal is to fully enjoy it and have fun, and to stay young at heart. To demonstrate you can get older and be just as effective if not more than a twenty-something. But it’s also personal. Ultimately, my goal is to make the best music I can and truly accept and be content with whatever the outcome may be.