Categories: NewsPublished On: June 27th, 20222939 words
Despite the persistent myth that rock music is on the verge of extinction, a legion of promising new acts are poised to lead a rock revolution for the next generation.
The youthful exuberance, organic charm, steadfast determination, and unapologetic rock-or-bust mentality of many of these bands make them uniquely positioned to carry the proverbial torch of their predecessors.
In specific terms, Los Angeles-based rockers’ Classless Act is among those bands that fit the bill.
Founded by way of social media in 2019, Classless Act is formidably comprised of vocalist Derek Day, guitarists Dane Pieper and Griffin Tucker, bassist Franco Gravante, and drummer Chuck McKissock. This inherently cohesive quintet has experienced a whirlwind of sorts since its inception, working with distinguished record producers Bob Rock (Metallica, Aerosmith), Joe Chiccarelli (Pat Benatar, Counting Crows), Keith Nelson (Buckcherry), and Michael Beinhorn (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden), signing with the prestigious Better Noise Music, and preparing for the release of their highly anticipated debut album on June 24, Welcome to the Show.
Powered by lush harmonies, catchy hooks, and high-energy performances, Classless Act successfully leveraged its roaring momentum into securing the opening slot on the long-awaited Stadium Tour. With thirty-six dates between June 16th and September 9th, the Stadium Tour also includes rock icons Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Poison, as well as co-headliners Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard.
On his way to the next venue between shows, charismatic frontman Derek Day spoke to me by phone about, among other topics, the Stadium Tour, influences, Welcome to the Show, and the promising future of rock music.
Citi Field in Flushing, NY will host the Stadium Tour on Friday, June 24, while Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA will host the tour on Saturday, June 25. At approximately 3:30 pm ET, Classless Act will take the stage.
Andrew: Thanks for setting aside some time to chat amid a hectic schedule, Derek. Let’s dive right in. The Stadium Tour kicked off on June 16th in Atlanta, and as of this interview, you have four shows under your belt. What has the past week been like?
Derek: Oh, man. It’s been such, not only a learning experience but an inspiring experience. And it’s so cool to just see these veterans – these legends – hold the stadium in their hands. It makes so much sense that they fill stadiums to this day. It’s so cool to see, and not only with the bands and musicians, but the crew; they’re intense, they’re amazing, and they’re super professional. Any inconvenience that happens – if it’s a humid, rainy day, or like a hot, 110-degree day – they know how to fix whatever comes their way. So, it’s just been really mind-blowing and a crash course in how to be awesome.
Andrew: In light of the fact that the band hits the stage so early, what has your audience been like so far?
Derek: So, we’ve been trying to track that as much as we can; sometimes it’s been 4,000 people around 3:30 or 4; one time, it was like 8,700, which is pretty damn good. And one time it rained a little bit, and we just pushed everything back about thirty minutes and then had 21,000 people in the stadium. We get these numbers through the scanning, like there’s a scan-specific – or whatever you call it – but they like to keep track of it. And so, it was just insane. So, it’s just all over the place. Regardless, there’s a lot of people there; more than any club we’ve ever played, every show. So, it’s frickin’ mind-bending.
Andrew: What is the largest audience Classless Act has performed in front of before playing stadiums?
Derek: We did one show at The Palladium, and it was a few years back. I don’t know, maybe a thousand; I’m not sure what capacity it is. It was like half full at that time, and we were the opening band, so maybe like 1,500 people. That was the most we ever played to. But other than that, it’s just been a few hundred here and there, probably.
Andrew: How difficult is it for a band with so much live energy to bottle it up after an abbreviated performance?
Derek: What’s really challenging is the opposite. In a weird way, it’s like we put 110 billion percent out in the first two songs, so we’re actually quite tired by the third or fourth song. Luckily, those are like the only songs we play. So, yeah, I mean, it’s a challenge. There’s a lot of endurance, so we have to try to hone-in. It’s still a learning experience, but hopefully, we’ll get it down by the tenth show or so.
Andrew: Have any of the singers you’re sharing the stage with this summer influenced you growing up?
Derek: Actually, yeah. Joe Elliott and Vince Neil were a huge part of my upbringing. The first band I was ever in was [based around] Mötley Crüe/Skid Row. We played Skid Row and Mötley Crüe songs, and so I got really into that very early on. I was like twelve. I heard “Hysteria” and a lot of great Def Leppard tracks as I was trying to write my own music. So, I was very familiar at that point. It’s just so weird, man; I’m opening up for these guys now. It’s insane.
Andrew: Have Joe or Vince offered you any advice?
Derek: No, not yet. You know, we’re just kind of kicking off the tour – I think we’ve only done four shows so far – so we haven’t really been able to really talk to anybody. We talked to Poison and Bret Michaels and C.C. DeVille; even Joan Jett a little bit. It’s just been passing, very polite, “Hello’s,”“Good luck’s,” and “Kill it.” So, hopefully, soon we’ll be able to have those conversations.
Andrew: Back in 2020, Tuk Smith & the Restless Hearts were originally announced as the Stadium Tour’s opening act, so how did Classless Act ultimately secure the opportunity?
Derek: You know, what happened was, we were recording the album – we had Bob Rock produce it – and he only produced about half of it before the pandemic had struck the world. So, he couldn’t finish the album, but when Bob jumped off the project, he suggested that we record the album at Tommy Lee’s place, because he has a studio under his house. You know, [Bob] worked with Mötley Crüe, and Metallica, and everybody; you name it. So, when we were recording this album, Tommy would come down every now and then and listen to a lot of the unfinished material before anyone else heard it. And that sort of put us in a cool spot. It didn’t get us a spot on the Stadium Tour, but it kind of showed people who we were as people and as a band. When we pitched our album and our band to Mötley management and stuff – it certainly helped that we had Bob on our side and we had management – I mean, it was just right place, right time; finished album. I know Tuk, he was on that tour because he was ready to go, and then everything kind of hit the fan. So, now, we just had finished our album right when the pandemic had ended, so it was kind of perfect timing.
Andrew: I wanted to bring it back to the beginning for just a moment, Derek. What was your earliest introduction to music?
Derek: My earliest introduction was, like, disco. Bands like the Bee Gees and Abba, because my mom would always blast it while cleaning the house or eating breakfast on Sundays. It was just this beautiful, melodic, awesome openness of music. So, I was exposed to, I think, one of the greater genres of music.
Andrew: At what point did you decide to become a singer?
Derek: Actually, that’s a funny story. I was a guitar player at first, and I only played guitar for a while. I did this elementary school talent show, and I just meant to play the guitar, and I saw a microphone on stage. I was like mid-song; I was playing “Purple Haze” or something. I was like bored with just a guitar, so I ran over to the microphone and just started singing last minute. And I thought, “Hey, this isn’t out of key or anything.” It was a surprise. It was a spontaneous decision in front of a lot of people, and I think that excitement and spontaneity struck me like, “I think I wanna be a singer. I wanna be a vocalist. I wanna be a creator. I wanna perform for everyone. But as long as it stays spontaneous, new, fresh, and fun.”
Andrew: As I understand it, you have a deep admiration for David Bowie and Tom Waits. How have their artistic prowess and progressive ideas influenced your music?
Derek: They both changed with the times. You know, we got The Rolling Stones, and The Rolling Stones literally changed with the times. But like, what Bowie did was, he would change with it and then against it – but he would still change. He was always different in every decade. And Tom, he started off doing piano into like crazy experimental things, then into straight-up country when nobody else was really doing country. I like their individualistic choices. It just inspired me to try to be as much of me as I can and try to go against the norm. I really liked how those two always tried to develop themselves and change with their voices; they have different tones; their falsettos sound different, so they worked with that. And I loved that; I thought it was a great strategy and smart. And again, artistically, they both went against the grain, and I just respected that.
Andrew: With members from all over the world, including Poland, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Argentina, and Dallas, how did Classless Act ultimately come together?
Derek: It’s a beautiful story of social media; the modern-day newspaper ad. They reached out to me through Facebook; I think Dane and Franco reached out through Instagram; They reached out to Griffin through Tik-Tok, and then we found Chuck performing at a local show. It sounds kind of like a put-together in a weird way, but really, we were big fans of each other and really respected musicianship, humor, way of life, and thinking, and we just wanted to form a band with each other. You know, we were all in our own band – we were all doing our own thing – but we just decided to start this crazy thing.
Andrew: What was the blueprint for Classless Act’s debut album, Welcome to the Show, which will be released on Friday, June 24?
Derek: We recorded like fifty demos and it was all over the place; there’s alternative; there’s maybe more modern, pop stuff; or like more funky type things or heavy metal. That album really took shape during the pandemic in 2020. Whenever we really honed in our writing and decided, “This is kind of what we wanna sound like,” we wanted to represent rock ‘n’ roll’s raw emotions. Nothing too crazy, just like loud and proud and punchy. The blueprint of it is just a lot of hard work, a lot of trial and error – maybe five-hundred demos – and just working, working, working.
Andrew: In terms of songwriting, Derek, could you walk me through the band’s creative approach?
Derek: Well, that’s a good question, because I feel the way to write a song is unanswerable. It’s indescribable and it’s kind of why I chose it to be my career choice, my lifestyle, my spiritual journey. Like, everything’s music. Every day there’s a new way to write a song. Sometimes it starts with a melody, and you build on that. I mean, with this band, sometimes Franco will come in with a full song, and it’s just done, and we don’t need to touch it. Or Dane would come in with three frickin’ chords, and everything else just falls around it. Or the whole band, like the song, “All That We Are,” we all kind of come together and we share these little parts that give it its iconicism, like a bridge, drumbeat, or a really cool riff, four-part harmonies; we try to add four-part harmonies as much as we can.
Andrew: On the track “Classless Act,” Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil appears as a guest vocalist. How did this come about?
Derek: Oh, yeah! “Classless Act,” that is our mainstay song, and that was like the first song we’d ever written together, too; just a fun fact. So, really, it was just this beautiful, perfect circle. We realized Classless Act seems like Mötley, so it’s just like this weird puzzle piece connected. And we thought that Vince would sing something like this back in the day, or today, so we just reached out to him, because we were already connected through management, and label, and touring together. We just said, “Hey, you wanna sing a verse on this? It would help the song immensely – it would help us immensely – but most importantly the song. It would give it that attitude, it would bring everything to life.” It was just meant to be, I think. We were on the road when we asked him, so we couldn’t get into a room with him, unfortunately. He was rehearsing with Mötley; I think he was in Nashville at the time, and we were in Philly or something. So, I mean, it was just a quick, fun thing and he frickin’ killed it on the track.
Andrew: What was your experience working with four industry veterans on the production side in Bob Rock, Keith Nelson, Michael Beinhorn, and Joe Chiccarelli on Welcome to the Show?
Derek: It’s funny, everyone has their own beautiful piece of knowledge. But not intentionally; we just watched them work. It was just a huge crash course into production. Michael taught us about rhythm and creating a great groove; Bob taught us how to stay in certain sections with melody and create hooks at the right time and the right place; Keith taught us about tone and how to create great tone; Chiccarelli was just like this mastermind who just knew how to be great. He was so connected with giving something new to the album. It was funny how each one of these producers had something new and different.
Andrew: What’s next for the band once the tour wraps in September? Given how much material the band is sitting on, will there be any new music in the near future?
DereK: You know, we have enough material to do like two more albums, because of all the demos we’ve been doing. I’m not sure which of them will become the next album, but we are happy that the road is open again, businesses are trying to be businesses again, and people are trying to be people again, so we wanna just communicate physically. So, as soon as we’re done with this tour, we’re gonna sleep at our houses in L.A. for like a couple of days and run out on the road one more time before the end of the year. We’re gonna go all around the states and probably hit up some other markets around the country. We’re just gonna tour, tour, tour. If you’re not seeing a Classless Act show live, you’re really missing out. It’s something that really puts the image to the name and sound.
Andrew: The future of rock music is quite promising, though there appears to be a wealth of talent vying for success. From your vantage point, why do you believe Classless Act will emerge as one of the breakthrough acts?
Derek: I think because we have a sense of urgency that we need to convey to the world. With recording this album, our goal is to create moments and have every moment be special. Whether it’s a guitar riff, a drumbeat, a rhythm section kind of feel, or a lyric-based song, spoken or screamed with. The key is to create moments, and I think in a lot of bands, they take liberties in a lot of ways that aren’t necessarily urgent, and I think we’re just trying to create a sense of urgency because you never know what the hell is gonna happen tomorrow. You know, today could be the last day that you play a show, or write a song, or follow your dream – become a chef or win a race. You know, you never know. Clearly, these last four years have been pretty frickin’ intense – the last ten years have been in intense – it’s just like, “You never know what the hell is gonna happen.” So, I think that kind of sense of urgency and that goal and that mindset I think puts us on top. It puts us there, in front of people, I think.