Dan Vapid and the Cheats

Photo by Katie Hovland

Photo by Katie Hovland

With the release of their second LP, the aptly-titled Two, Dan Vapid and the Cheats have cemented their status as one of today’s leading pop punk bands. Recorded by Matt Allison at Atlas Studios, the album sounds great and does a masterful job of highlighting the detailed songwriting. The record contains both classic and contemporary elements of pop punk, resulting in a collection of songs that’s sure to please lifers and newcomers to the genre alike. Without question, this release serves to reintroduce the band and position them for a promising and exciting future. We recently spoke with singer/guitarist Dan Vapid and discussed the album in detail. We also talked about lineup changes, the decision to self-release the record, future plans and more. Lastly, make sure to listen to “I’m a Contrarian,” which is streaming at the end of the interview.

Bill – Since the release of your last album, your band has experienced several lineup changes. Guitarist Mike Byrne departed the group and Simon Lamb switched from bass to guitar. You guys also added new bassist Rick Uncapher. What transpired that led to these changes and what do you like best about the current arrangement?

Dan – The departure of Mike Byrne is when the change came about. Simon was our bass player, but his main instrument is the guitar. He missed playing guitar so the switch made sense. From there, we needed a bass player to complete the lineup, so I turned to my friend Rick who had played with me in a side band called Noise by Numbers. Playing with people I genuinely enjoy being around is what I like most about the lineup.

Bill – Compared to your debut full-length, how would you describe the style of this record?

Dan – There’s some similarities with the first record, but I view Two as more of a punk rock record than the debut. The songwriting was a natural progression and just felt right. It’s a little dark and angry in parts, as some of the songs talk about going through some hard personal stuff, but there’s also some fun and upbeat tracks which in my view gives Two some balance.

Bill – Given that you guys recorded the album at Atlas Studios with Matt Allison and Justin Yates, what aspects of the recording are you most pleased with?

Dan – Matt and Justin are both great engineers and have a history of making great records. I like many aspects of the recording, but if I had to choose what I’m pleased with most it’s the drum tones. The drum tones on Two have been my favorite of any record I’ve ever done. Needless to say, Mike Soucy (drummer) was very excited about the drum tones as well. We were also very pleased with the mastering by Kevin Nix at L. Nix Mastering.

Bill – “I’m a Contrarian” is a great opening track that really sets the tone for the rest of the record. What inspired the creation of this song?

Dan – There’s a brief moment in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross where the character Ricky Roma, played by Al Pacino, enters a Chinese restaurant where all the salesman hang out. Roma orders a drink and says, “They say you should not drink alcohol when it’s so hot outside because it dehydrates you, but I subscribe to the law of contrary public opinion. If everybody thinks one thing, I say bet the other way.” This brief scene of dialogue brings a smile to my face as I have felt like a contrarian in many regards. I re-watched Glengarry Glen Ross recently and the song just fell into place.

Bill – “Beaten Down” is definitely one of the more personal songs on the album. What motivated you to write its lyrics?

Dan – It’s a personal take on the Sandy Hook school shootings, and how as a society we have learned little and nothing has changed. It’s about how mental health issues are still not taken seriously and that very modest gun control proposals lost the debate in our country. Conspiracy theories, paranoia, ignorant and irresponsible commentary on Facebook and Twitter, the actions of the Westboro church that followed, etc. So much fear and hate. I could go on forever but you’ve heard it before.

Bill – On a lighter note, “I Wanna Go to Machu Picchu Before I Die” is one of the most upbeat and catchiest songs on the record. Why is it that you’re seemingly so interested in traveling there?

Dan – I was having a conversation with my father-in-law about Cancun, Mexico which turned into a bucket list conversation. I was telling him about tours in Europe and passing through gorgeous landscapes like the countryside of Switzerland, Italy and France. He spoke of travels in his youth and the army. Then I said, “I want to go to Machu Picchu before I die. Always wanted to go there,” and I remember thinking how beautiful Machu Picchu appeared in photos. I pulled up some images of Machu Picchu on my iPhone and we passed them back and forth at the bar. As our conversation about traveling continued, I found myself intrigued with the place. The song popped into my head a few days later.

Bill – The album concludes with “Face the Music” and “A Long Way,” both of which seem to address negative influences or experiences. At the same time, they also deal with overcoming bad situations and growing from tough times. What made you want to write these songs and why’d you choose to put them at the end of the record?

Dan – Both those songs were written fairly quickly and easily. They poured out and the reason would be is that I have known a lot of toxic and negative people in my lifetime. Since I believe nobody is 100% bad and these people have positive attributes like everyone else, I would try to see the good in them. Focus on what we have in common. But then I would find myself making excuses or feeling embarrassed for their shitty behavior. Over and over. That shit gets old and eventually I reached a breaking point.

Bill – You guys again elected to self-release the album on your own label, Torture Chamber Records. What are some of the main positives of this approach?

Dan – Lots. The sales numbers will always be accurate. When we recoup, the profit is 100% ours. We can do whatever we want because we are paying for it. I’m a firm believer that it doesn’t pay to be cheap. We spent more money on recording, mastering, artwork/layout and photography on Two than past records and I’m very happy we did. Most record labels I’ve dealt with try to cut cost whenever possible. It’s totally understandable, but sometimes you get what you pay for too.

Bill – Tell me about the graphics and layout of the record, which were created by Riccardo Bucchioni.

Dan – We tried centering the record cover around the band photo but it wasn’t working out. I was corresponding with Riccardo via email and looked over at my two-year-old’s toy rocket sitting on a shelf. I suggested trying to illustrate something with a rocket on it. He came back with that design and we all loved it.

Bill – Having played in numerous bands over the past two-plus decades, what do you enjoy most about playing in Dan Vapid and the Cheats?

Dan – I used to niche write in past projects and now I don’t. Some friends and fans have told me it’s a combination of all the bands I’ve played with in the past, with some newer elements as well. I enjoy writing whatever comes out and not trying to force a certain style.

Bill – What else does the band have planned for the remainder of 2013?

Dan – We play Beat Kitchen on October 4th and are working on lots of other Midwest shows in October and November. Visit our Facebook page, website, Bandcamp page for music, merch and tour info. Thanks!

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