INTERVIEW: Derek Day of Classless Act Talks About the Release of Their New White-Hot Album “Welcome to the Show”, a 36 Stadium Tour, Music and Playing for the Fans
I’m not exactly sure what to expect in the days leading up to my one-on-one interview with Classless Act front man Derek Day. Pouring over the research material, I get the basics: Made up of an insanely talented and eclectic group of musicians whose roots span the ever-lovin’ globe, the music these stalwarts plie their craft at runs the gamut from hard rock to epic, rousing ballads. The group’s debut album – Welcome to the Show – was released on June 24 and is currently burning down record charts all over the world. And what an album it is. At some point, I eschew the reams of press material I have on the band and finally just settle back to listen to one of the best albums I’ve experienced in years. From the opening chords and primal rock of the first track on the new album – Classless Act featuring a jaw-dropping guest appearance by the legendary Vince Neil – to the final gut-punch of Circles Thoughts From a Dying Man, all eleven rousing tunes on Welcome to the Show should be considered a master class in how to construct the perfect rock and roll album. Raw, loud and heartbreakingly powerful, this album represents a band at the very height of their respective creative powers.
Reconciling the audio opus I’ve just lost myself in to whatever I can gleam from various and sundry clippings, the day of my interview with Derek finally arrives; but who will I find at the other end of my telephone line? My first guess after absorbing songs from Welcome to the Show such as All That We Are and Walking Contradiction is that I’m about to meet someone who is a mixed cocktail of Holden Caulfield and Jim Morrison, perhaps with a little dash of Salvador Dali added for good measure. What I ultimately wind up with however is so much more than that: Modest, polite and possessing a pure rockin’ spirit, Derek Day is Cameron Crowe’s Russell Hammond without all of the hang-ups or a more enlightened Nigel Tunel with better sentence structure.
Vents: We’re talking today with Derek Day of Classless Act; greetings and salutations, Derek!
Derek Day: Hey man, and a big ‘greetings and salutations’ to you too, my friend!
Vents: Before we begin kicking the proverbial tin can down the dirt road, how has the first-half of 2022 been treating you?
Derek Day: It’s been a real fun ride so far; very inspiring and the positive reactions from all of the fans for Welcome to the Show have really just lifted things and made it such an unforgettable experience.
Vents: And speaking of the recently released album Welcome to the Show, congratulations on that major accomplishment! What was the genesis of this freshman album, Derek? Did it all come together quite quickly, or has it been what you might call a slow burn?
Derek Day: We’ve really covered the map with Welcome to the Show: I think in all we cut something like fifty demos that really ran the gamut as far as style goes. During the course of creating the album, we dabbled with pop, heavy metal and alternative among other genres.
Vents: Did the recent worldwide pandemic inform Welcome to the Show at all?
Derek Day: Oh yeah absolutely, how could it not, right? I mean, the album really felt as if it came together at the height of the pandemic right around 2020. The things going on out in the world focused all of us and our writing when we were in the studio. We really wanted to get to the heart of what rock ‘n’ roll is for us by tapping into some pretty raw emotions. We wanted it to sound like a fun time because honestly, it was for us. You only get one chance to do that first album, so might as well as make it count. We just really concentrated and worked day and night on it, producing tons of demos until we felt we had gotten our sound just right.
Vents: For the record, can you introduce our reading audience to Classless Act and talk a little about how you got together? As I understand it, the group is very multi-cultural.
Derek Day: Yeah, we are. We’ve got the four corners of the world covered with Poland, Argentina, Dallas, Hawaii and L.A.I’ve got to credit social media for kind of bringing all of us together. Between Facebook and Instagram and Tik-Tok, Classless Act sort of slowly began to take shape. Dane Pieper is our guitarist and Franco Gravante is on bass and both of them got in touch with me for the first time on Instagram. Through them exploring Tik-Tok we landed our other guitarist Griffin Tucker. For drums, we found Chuck McKissock just through seeing him perform at a local show. That’s us; that’s Classless Act.
Vents: And what is your collaboration like in the studio? Do you all get an even say creatively-speaking while in the studio recording?
Derek Day: Yes, absolutely. We’re all each other’s biggest fans and supporters. There’s no one way in which we create our music, it just comes down to everyone having an equal say and input whenever they feel it. Dane can come to us with just three chords and we can jump off creatively from there, each of us adding something to the pot.
Vents: What about one of the more remarkable tracks on Welcome to the Show, All That We Are? How did the collaboration among band-members look for that brilliant tune?
Derek Day: I’m happy you brought All That We Are up; it’s a real favorite and everyone in Classless Act contributed to it. We all came together for it and kind of compared notes and at the end of the day we created a song with a memorable bridge, some four-part harmony and a rocking drumbeat.
Vents: Classless Act is in the midst of a thirty-six stadium tour alongside such rock and roll luminaries as Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Poison, Motley Crue and Def Leppard. Are you and the guys in the band currently living every collective rock and roll dream you’ve ever had, touring with this amazing lineup?
Derek Day: Oh yeah, totally! It’s been everything you could ever want or expect: It’s inspired each one of us and it’s also been a real learning experience, too! For example, during most shows after we play our own set, we’ll just hang out backstage and watch all of these other amazing and legendary artists play their hearts out on stage. And we’re just there loving it and enjoying it as fans ourselves. On another level, we’re also studying how these guys capture their audiences and hold on to them for the entire ride. It’s simply awe-inspiring.
Vents: Classless Act has played both smaller and more intimate venues and now, with this tour, epic-sized stadiums. Do you have a preference between the two?
Derek Day: It depends, you know? For the stadiums it’s absolutely amazing to reach so many people all at once and to have them grooving along to our music; there’s an electricity to playing those large venues. For some of the quieter material, those smaller clubs are idea and you connect with an audience in an entirely different way than you would in the larger attractions.
Vents: The clock is ticking down on our time together today, but before we let you go word ‘round campfire has it that you’re a tremendous Quentin Tarantino aficionado. Final – SILLY! – Question: Favorite Tarantino film – Pulp Fiction, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Reservoir Dogs or (even though he only wrote it and didn’t direct it) True Romance?
Derek Day: That’s easy enough – Reservoir Dogs. It was shot not too far away from where I lived at one point and it was my first real exposure to this idea that people in the movies could sound just like me and my friends talking about music and movies. It was eye-opening stuff and I’ve never forgotten it.
Vents: Considering that love which you have for cinema – and also keeping in mind that it’s not at all a stretch for a musician to segue-way into Hollywood (see: Flea, Eddie Vedder, Bing Crosby, etc.), could you ever envision a day when you’d like to try your own hand at scoring a film or even acting?
Derek Day: Sure, why not? A lot of my music sensibilities have their roots in the world of movies and it would be fun to explore that in the future.