Interview with Classless Act — “We just want people to be themselves…”
Categories: NewsPublished On: November 25th, 20214931 words
If you haven’t yet heard of American hard rock band CLASSLESS ACT, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. However, if bands like GUNS ‘N’ ROSES and SKID ROW are up your alley, these guys are a must-check-out. While they’ve only released one (official) single so far, it shows an astounding amount of potential, so it’s no surprise that they’ve been picked up by Better Noise Music. Check out our interview with vocalist/guitarist Derek Day to talk about who they are and what they’re all about, clearing up some confusion over their inception on the internet, as well as laying down what CLASSLESS ACT are all about! Watch the interview here, or read the transcript below…
It’s really great to know who you are now! Everyone, this is Derek Day! He’s pretty cool. We met by accident a little while ago when our Zoom codes got mixed up. So it’s nice to know who you are this time. Tell me a little bit about yourself for everyone who – like me – does not know who you are!
Yeah, so my name is Derek Day. I like to invade random Zoom meetings just to pretend like I’m a little part of it [laughter]. No, I’m Derek and I’m from Los Angeles, California. I was born and raised here, and I’ve been playing music since I was like a little kid, like 5 or 6 or something, just… you know, guitar, singing, all sorts of things, and had a million bands. Now, after playing on the street and learning how to [play] an instrument and be a musician, I am in this band called CLASSLESS ACT, and we play all over LA and we play rock ‘n’ roll and it’s as simple as that.
You said you’ve been playing music for a really long time – was this always the goal? Did you always want to be a musician from day one?
It seemed like it, yeah. I mean, I’ve toyed with other ideas, like some form of culinary-type arts or even… psychology was a thing I wanted to get into. I didn’t even know what things to do in that field, but really, music was just always there, like… since I was a baby. So I just want to play music, I just want to make weird sounds and stuff.
Music can be pretty all-encompassing. If you want to incorporate all of those, you can try a lot of different foods if you’re touring, and writing lyrics… you can really get into the soul get into the psychology of why people are the way they are.
That’s yeah… I never thought of it that way, of course, absolutely!
So your singing style, I would almost describe as a combination of any of AC/DC’s singers and Axl Rose. Have you always sang that way or is that a style that you use with this band?
That’s how I’ve really mainly sang my whole life. Those are great observations, as well as Robert Plant and stuff like that, the higher-end distorted singing. But as I grew older, I really got into Tom Waits and David Bowie, where they get down in the lower register. Finding that kind of timbre. So you’ll be hearing some other stuff, where I get to dive into that sort of thing.
If you know, what is your vocal range, if you don’t mind saying?
I don’t know what the technical term for it is. Maybe alto, high alto, or mezzo-mezzo-mezzo-soprano, really low soprano maybe? But I don’t know how many octaves, because I don’t know what the rule is. I know I can go… head voice, I could go from what I’m talking now, I could go at least three octaves above that, and I already have a pretty high voice. So, with the head voice, but maybe just two octaves with the chest voice. I don’t know! I can hit a high F#, if that means anything? High F# over middle-C, maybe [laughs].
Has being really outgoing, being in front of people and on stage, has that always come naturally to you or did you have to learn it?
Oooh that’s a good question. There’s always been a little seed in there, always since I was a baby, because my mom… she’s from Honduras and she’s… women from Latin America, they’re just so happy and full of life, wooo, and are always the life of the party, so it’s always been in there, but I’ve never been a performer. Once I started playing on the street, I’ve always had this inkling, I just want to play on the street and play for people, that helped me. It justified… I felt like it made me feel like it’s okay to be a little crazy and funny to a bunch of people so, the more I did that, I was like, okay, fine, it’s excusable. So, yeah, at a very young age to say the least, around 10-11 years old.
Well it’s obviously infectious, so keep it up!
So talking a little bit about CLASSLESS ACT. I looked you up, obviously. I had to figure out who you were. I read all these crazy articles and they all said different things. One of them was that you guys all met on social media, like Tik Tok and stuff?
Mmm-hmm, yeah, or on Instagram rather. We really did. It sounds whack, but it’s not, because it’s totally cool. The way we met on Instagram was like, “hey, we’re trying to start a band.” Someone hit up each member like, “we need a guitar player, we need a bassist, we need this.” So it was really friendly. We wanted to try it out, and then we met, and we’re just like, “I love you, I think you’re great. I think you’re a really great person,” and we laugh, we shared times, went to parties, and hung out like a real band. So that the social media aspect was just the very first touch before our awesome friendship began.
Awesome. Were you guys all from the same area, were you able to meet up right away, or did it take some time to get together?
We’re pretty far away. The bass player just so happened to be in LA, but he’s from Argentina. So he just happened to be there for a few months on a different tour, and then left his band, like “I love this band, I wanna be with this band,” and then he worked out staying here. One of our guitar players is from San Diego and I think he was going to college at USC so he just so happened to be there at the right time, “Alright I’ll be in the band.” And our drummer’s from Torrance, which isn’t far from where we are, but it’s drive from where we rehearse. And he still is far, so he’s making the drive every day. Then the guitar player is from Texas, so he’s figuring out how to live here now. I’m in LA, so I’m like [gestures], “Come to me.” [laughter]
I love it. So the other strange thing that I found was this discrepancy on when you actually started. Some said it was 2016, some said it was 2019. Most articles that I found said 2016, but your like official website and everything says 2019.
That’s funny, because… the original members with some other members met around 2016-17 and we were [trying] out different bassists and doing different things and a lot of the songs we were writing weren’t what we wanted to do. 2019 is when we found the perfect lineup and we completed the puzzle and we started writing music we really loved, and we were like, “Okay, now we are Classless Act.” Bam.
Two questions about that then*. Was the name one of those, “yeah this is the name,” from the start? A lot of bands, when they go through that, they’ll reinvent themselves, give themselves a new name. How come you stuck with CLASSLESS ACT?
It’s weird, we did try to think of many different names, since day one. I don’t know. Even after, we were… CLASSLESS ACT. “What else is there though?” but we just couldn’t like beat it. Something about CLASSLESS ACT is just charming, like… classlessly charming. I don’t know how to say it, but it really describes how we act and what we want to say. So yeah, we tried. Trust me, we tried! [laughs] but it didn’t work out. Or it did work out, rather! Because now we’re like, “Hell yeah we’re Classless Act,” and we just needed this affirmation to just be classless.
I love it. I love to go way too deep into things sometimes, but I like how it ties into modern society a little bit. You know, “classy” had this really heavy implication to it, that you had to act a certain way, you had to dress a certain way, you had to behave a certain way, you can’t say this, someone might get offended, and this and that. That was so much of what rock ‘n’ roll was trying to break free from, so to me, I’m surprised some band in the ’70s-’80s-’90s didn’t already take name. And I love how modern it is at the same time, because it’s really relevant. More and more people are feeling that freedom to be who they want to be and not be restrained by their own insecurities or the oppression of society or the patriarchy or whatever.
Oh fantastic! You’re just speaking to my soul right now! That’s exactly… yes, exactly! We just want people to be themselves and don’t be so scared to be whatever you want to be.
Now you guys have also been signed to Better Noise Music, which is a pretty big deal. I guess they were Billboard’s #1 record label of last year or something like that. So how did you guys get in with them?
That’s a good question. I have to go back. You know what, that’s also something that happened in 2019 too, so I feel like that’s when we were, like, “okay, cool, we’re established.” Our manager had a connection with the label head and just brought us in and Allen Kovac, he’s hard to win over. He knows a good band and a bad band, and we needed work back then, I’m not gonna lie. We basically went through a lot of auditioning… we tried out for many different labels, like Big Machine and all sorts of things and we had little showcases, and they were just like, “ehhh, pass.” We just kept getting passed on. But our manager brought us to Kovac and he was nice enough to be like, “alright, I’ll give you guys a chance.” So he just took a chance on us, really, and we weren’t that great back then. But now it’s like, you know what, he believes in us, let’s practice four more times a week and write better music and let’s do this and I think it’s working out well now.
Better Noise is also known for being a bit of a multimedia label. They do some movies and I think some literature as well, if I understand correctly. I was curious if everything goes well with your releases and things like that, is that something you’d also be interested in, working on these other projects with the label?
Oh, I’d love to! I’m sure everyone in the band would, but especially me. I love acting, anything dramatic. [laughs] Even just being a lighting guy! I don’t know, whatever it takes. It all goes back into music, so that experience would be amazing. Yeah, I would love to be a part of movies too. I’ve done a bit of acting in high school and in college and I’ve done many plays.
So is it safe to assume you guys are working on an album right now?
I wonder if I can say this? I’m gonna say it anyway. We finished it! We finished our entire album, it’s ready, it’s mastered. I think it’s ten… we recorded way more than ten songs and mastered more, but it’s going to be ten maybe. We finished it and we have enough material already, because we’ve been writing so hard for this one album… we have like, thirty songs left over. [laughs] So we have the next couple albums, but we’re gonna keep writing, and to this day we’re writing new stuff.
The feeling when [the music is] just coming out, it’s the best.
Oh man, you’re telling me! This has been in the works for SO LONG. I feel like we started writing this album in 2016 [laughter] and now it’s 2021.
Tell me just more about your music then. Do you guys all write together, do you start stuff on your own and bring it in, do you have one maestro mastermind? How do you guys do it?
That’s a great question, because a lot of people do have that one guy or that one person, whoever. But as you know, there’s no real set process. It’s always different. I’m actually really happy to say that this band… everyone can write a song really well, individually. Everyone is their own mastermind. Sometimes like I would bring in a song, all finished, or someone like Franco [Gravante] – the bass player – would bring in a song all finished, or Dane [Pieper] the guitar player would bring it all. Or we would just sit in a room together, just us, or we would go to an outside writer, someone who’s established, like we wrote a few of the songs on this album with Keith Nelson from BUCKCHERRY, and some other pretty big names too. So yeah, we just do any which way we can, sometimes just two people or three people. As Keith would say, we don’t like to have “too many cooks in the kitchen,” you know? Too many minds working on one song kind of means it’s going to just be conflict. This whole album has been very collaborative, I would say.
Now you’re speaking my language! I love group creative projects because it’s great to have one person take the lead of something, you know, write the main riffs, write the main story, and then have everyone add their flavor to it.
Yeah, yeah, that way it’s so diverse, it’s different than the next track. It keeps it fresh. It really does. It took me a long time… I’m the lead singer and I play guitar and I play a bunch of instruments as well, so I get cocky. I’m like, “I could write a whole album myself,” but then I hear it back and I’m kind of bored, this isn’t that great, actually. So I’m really happy to have my homeys, my people, to be like, no let’s tweak this, let’s add that, and I’m like, dope, good. Just some paprika and some cayenne pepper.
Moving from the music a little bit then to the lyrics. What do you guys like to write about? Do you write the only lyrics or do the other guys write lyrics as well?
I write a lot of lyrics just for now, but the other guys write lyrics too. On this album, Dane writes… I love… it’s weird… I wish I could… oh man, that’s a good question! Dangit! Why are you a good journalist? [laughs] Okay, we do all write lyrics and Franco writes these really brutally honest and straightforward, sometimes, but also very poetic lyrics. Dane writes very catchy lyrics, things that really roll off the tongue well and make you remember them really well, and I write stuff that’s more like… well I like I would like to say, I write more with color. I like to try to paint pictures, but it’s very… it makes sense if you really read into it, but at first glance, it doesn’t really make much sense. So, we all kind of write different kinds of lyrics and infused together, it’s like this weird, weird soup.
For now, I don’t know, I’m trying to think of the kind of songs we have, but the truth is that this album that we will eventually release within the year, it has songs like “Give it to Me,” the single, but it also has songs… like there’s ballads on there and there’s all sorts of different concepts, really different sides of us, so we’re not just this rock ‘n’ roll band actually, we’re other stuff as well that you will all see soon enough.
So you said ballads… Finland’s a pretty heavy metal country, we’re not super on board with ballads a lot of the time, so what kind of ballads are we talkin’ about here? Are we talkin’ like, MANOWAR cheesy ballads, are we talkin’ soulful blues ballads? What have you got in store for us?
[laughs] Maybe a little bit more soulful blues, because it’s still rocks, it’s going to have a huge guitar solo in there and it’s going to have a fat drum sound. It’s going to sound huge, but there is an acoustic guitar. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. [laughs]
Just you alone on the stool, on the stage, under a spotlight singing your heart out, single tear? [laughter]
One tear and it stays there for a chorus and a verse, and it goes down here [gestures to chin] for the bridge…
And then bursts into starlight.
Yeah, exactly! Then there’s mountains behind me, and I’m just on top of a mountain. [laughter]
Incredible. I can’t wait to see this. [laughter]
Yeah, but we get fast, we get pretty heavy and hard, then we get fast but not heavy sounding. Some of that stuff isn’t super distorted, but it’s still revved up, so I’m excited for you to hear that. I mean, I have to think about what we have. Overall, it’s a rock ‘n’ roll record, which I think is kind of nice. A producer won’t let you leave the studio unless it all sounds cohesive, or the label won’t even try to release it unless it all sounds like one thing. I guess I’m thinking, I’m talking about a bit more of our unreleased stuff, the stuff that’s not going to be on this first record, because we have some weird progressive stuff. Like, I’ve mentioned Bowie. It gets pretty Bowie, and on my end like a little Tom Waits-ish, and Franco the bass player loves QUEEN, and it gets veryQUEEN, heavily. Thank God for our guitar players. They love pop music, they love like JET and GREEN DAY and stuff like that, so there’s a lot of that too. We really all come from different walks of life, so that’s one thing I could say about this band is I’m really excited about each member coming from somewhere, because I don’t think there’s been a band like that in a while. Most rock ‘n’ roll bands, you love them because they all come from the same dumpster and they’re best friends from an ugly place, but we’re all from different dumpsters, so we smell really weird. [laughter]
Even being that spread out, you probably have slightly different lifestyles that you grew up in. That’s a lot of different perspective and opportunities to see things in different ways, you know, not the same enabling bastards that you’ve been best friends with since you were four.
Yeah [laughs] enabling bastards. I’ve been in those kind of bands too, where like I was in a band with my best friends and it was great music, but inevitably, you really end up breaking up very sourly. I feel like this band has longevity in it. I feel like we’re all just like, “you know what, I came from over here, so I’m just like trying to work with you on that,” kind of thing.
So then if I’m teasing a little bit more out of this album, what kind of intro can we expect? Do you guys have an intro track or a song that works as an intro, or is it more of a punch-you-in-the-face, let’s get the party started kind of intro?
Intro, like what’s the track one you mean?
Yeah, how do you how do you kick things off?
I actually don’t even know if we know what that is yet, because we have… I guess technically our intro track is our first single, which is out now. It’s “Give it to Me.” I don’t know if it’ll be track one, but it’s the first track that we’ve released. We wanted to say, “hey this is us,” because we want to let people know that we love, first and foremost, to have fun and we want to represent a certain amount of power. We’re like, “hey, we’re this, raaagh” and whatever you have, give it to us, because we want to give it to you back, we want to give back our energy, we want to exchange energy, so that’s kind of what we were thinking of.
And with a hint of innuendo, which is so rock ‘n’ roll.
You need a little bit of that! [laughs] But you know, funnily enough, “Give it to Me” also describes a bit of… it’s a hint of innuendo and it’s not really about any sort of sensual thing. It’s about a lot of things. It’s just about wanting things in life and if you want it, you take it. It’s like a manifestation song, funny enough.
It’s true, it’s sort of a “positivity breeds positivity” sort of thing. “Give me your good energy, I’ll give it back [tenfold.]”
Yeah and people might be like, “noooo that’s not what you meant,” but really that’s kind of what we were writing about. Yeah, we want to be rock stars, we want to be musicians. Give it to me, I want this.
So did you have any fun stories from the music video shoot? Any SPINAL TAP moments yet?
[laughs] Oh God, the band as a whole has had many SPINAL TAP moments, just in general, like in rehearsals and everything. Positive moments. But while making the video, it was just like… no, it was super easy, smooth. We just went in, we had the best time ever, everyone was just loose, having fun. We did borrow an amp head from Keith Nelson from BUCKCHERRY. I’m gonna say this, Keith is going to kick my ass. We borrowed his amp head and I wasn’t here when it happened, but a light fell on it, and it still works but it’s scraped, and it’s a really expensive amplifier… Marshall head, and I was the one to return it to him. So I gave it back to him and he just like… he looked at me like he was going to force choke me, like he was Darth Vader [laughter], I thought I was going to die. So I’m sorry, Keith, just want to say this publicly and [inter]nationally. I’m sorry about your amp head! Thank you for writing music with us and making us sound good.
Other than that, everything was really smooth. You’ve just got to be there, because it was just all experimentation, we did funny things where I spit water into the camera, we did things where I like… oh, well the first take, actually! I immediately… like the very first shot we did, was me picking up my mic and my mic hit my forehead, and I immediately started bleeding, so we had to stop for a minute and I had to ice it down before it swelled. It was within the first 5 minutes of shooting, like, oh great. So other than that, it was amazing.
So your label mate has really praised Better Noise Music for letting him have his music done the way he wants it done, his production, his style, his sound, letting him have his own feel. Do you guys feel that you’ve got that same kind of relationship with them? How was the production for the album?
Pretty good. We’re such a fresh band. We’re so new, so we’re actually quite happy to take a lot of advice and for the most part we had a lot of freedom with writing the music and making sure we said what we wanted to. There are actually songs on the album that were really not even touched or oversaw, they were just like, “oh, that’s a good song, put it on on the album, don’t touch it,” you know. Then, of course, you have a producer. We had Joe Ciccarelli and Bob Rock both co-produce the album, and they both add their things to each song, like maybe take that out, tweak this. Other than that, as far as style of production, actually yeah, we get… not a final say, but we do get to say, “oh, we like that” or “nah, I don’t like that.” Then I have to thank our manager too, because he made sure, like, “make sure you like this because this is gonna be what you guys look like for the next… forever.” Better Noise, for being the top rock label of 2020, they’re very cool with the band. I think maybe that’s part of their success? They’re just like, “you guys handle it, we’ll make sure it’s not dumb, ridiculous, but if it’s good, we’ll sign off on it and we’ll sell it.” I think that’s kind of the vibe. I think. I’ve been getting that vibe from them. That’s how it’s been. And like I said at the beginning, Allen Kovac just took a risk on us, gave us a chance. We were half a band, metaphorically, when he met us. And he was like, “All right, I’ll sign you guys.” He didn’t need to, but he was like, “I think you’ll do good, I think you’ve got potential.” He took a huge risk. As of now, it really feels like we’re a band that’s ready to work, that’s for sure. Thanks to him for taking that risk. Whatever you want, we’re going to do it. We’re going to kick ass for you, because you did that. I feel like doing that for your artists makes your artists work harder, to say the least.
It’s great to hear that all record labels aren’t totally evil these days. So, as we wrap this up, do you have any guilty pleasures or surprise bands that you like?
[mulls] Dang, that’s a good question. I get frustrated because I don’t really think about that. As a songwriter, I try not to listen too much to music in general. I have my normal influences, but then I push them away. Everything is not really guilty. I will promote N’SYNC, BACKSTREET BOYS, Britney Spears… I will tattoo it on my chest! I love that stuff!
I think in this day and age, it’s more cool to like BACKSTREET BOYS than it is to not. When BSB come to Finland, all the metalheads go there. Come to Finland and make fun of the BACKSTREET BOYS. I dare you.
[laughter] I can just imagine black metal dudes kicking your ass in the name of the BACKSTREET BOYS and it’s blowing my mind right now.
That’s pretty much it for my questions. Thank you so much for doing this! Do you have any last words or an album name drop or anything you’d like to share?
Not an album… there’s a schedule, but I’m the lead singer so I’m only about me [laughter].
You’re so pretty.
[laughs] Yeah as long as I look good I’ll let them handle whenever that is. But we do have a single coming out really soon, within a month or so. So there’ll be a new single and it’ll be something really fun and a little bit faster and a little bit harder, believe it or not.
Thank you so much! I look forward to hearing the album.
*ed: I forgot to ask the other question, which related to him being listed as the drummer in one article about CLASSLESS ACT from 2016 that I found. I had meant to ask if this was true but… I forgot. Next time!