For any young band, the idea of performing before thousands on their first arena tour is a daunting proposal. When the heroically titled Saves the Day were tapped as openers for Weezer’s North American tour, which begins February 5, however, they pushed the butterflies aside and focused instead on rising to the occasion.
“Every tour that we go on, we hope to be more comfortable as a live band,” bassist Eben D’Amico said. “Just being able to do our thing onstage that much better. We’re always honing and perfecting what we do.”
While the Princeton, New Jersey-rooted quintet may come off like it’s “just another gig,” the prospect of introducing their brand of soul-baring indie rock to crowds that will likely be susceptible to their honest lyrics and catchy, unrefined melodies isn’t completely lost.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said singer Chris Conley, “and it will certainly be overwhelming, to say the least. We’ve played to 3,000 people at the most, and [New Jersey’s] Continental Airlines Arena (scheduled for February 11) holds 17,000 – who knows if it will be filled, but still – it’s mind-blowing. We’re just some dudes, you know.”
That Saves the Day are “just some dudes” plays a major role to their recent success. Fans relating to the unassuming quintet, whose intent to express their inner softie isn’t muddied by rock-star pomp and circumstance, has helped their third album, Stay What You Are, sell more than 110,000 copies since its July release – making it one of the best-selling albums for indie label Vagrant Records, home to such emo stalwarts as Dashboard Confessional, the Anniversary and the Get up Kids. The LP’s first single, “At Your Funeral,” is a certified bullet, increasing spins on alternative radio stations nationwide while its accompanying video continues to enjoy evermore exposure on video outlets.
Not a bad stride for a group of guys barely on the other side of 20, most of whom were high-school classmates. The band witnessed a few lineup changes since forming in 1997, and the group recorded its debut album, Can’t Slow Down, during winter break in 1997. Hardcore label Equal Vision released the LP a few months later, while the bandmembers were finishing their senior years, and after graduating they spent more of their days on the road promoting themselves than off.
Saves the Day’s shape-shifting lineup still leaves them unsettled. Before learning of the Weezer tour, drummer Bryan Newman quit the band after the group headlined last summer’s Vagrant American label tour, opting to go to college. The group is in the process of finding a permanent replacement. In the meantime, Hey Mercedes drummer Damon Atkinson will fill in for the tour.
With tension-building music tethered to early-’90s indie rock and lyrics that speak frankly of feelings most mook rockers elect to project as rage, Saves the Day were quick to be lumped in with the emo crowd, alongside bands like the Promise Ring, Jimmy Eat World and Jets to Brazil – though an attentive ear reveals acute differences in each band. And like any band that perceives it’s being unfairly pigeonholed, Saves the Day respond to any broad-stroke designations with weary disdain.
“People are going to label you something, whatever you’re doing,” Conley explained, as if one time too many. “We’re just making music because something is telling us to make music. And it’s fine. I don’t care what people call us, because it’s just music.”
Coupled with the band’s own ire, some of Saves the Day’s fans are equally peeved to find their coveted musical secret now amplified for nationwide broadcast. Although the bandmembers vehemently laugh off accusations of selling out, contending their modest success has come on their own terms through persistence and perhaps a bit of luck, D’Amico understands why some fans react the way they do.
“Part of the thing about a band like us – or independent bands in general – is you’re thinking, ‘This band is mine; this music is mine,’ ” he explained. “And people get freaked out, because they think now everybody’s going to have this band, and it’s not going to be just mine anymore. So I can identify with that. I wish that whatever fans are upset by us growing in size, they would think about it from our end and say, ‘It’s best for them. It’s good for their career. Their music is getting out to more people.’
“There are always going to be people who react negatively to anything you do as a band,” he continued. “There’s always going to be a contingent of people who shout you down for doing something – whether it’s recording music that sounds a little differently from the last music you recorded or moving up to bigger venues and playing with different bands. Whatever you do – if you wear a different pair of pants, there is going to be one person who says it sucks for one reason or another.”