Best known for their hit songs, “Hey There Delilah,” and “1, 2, 3, 4,” the Plain White T’s have finally put out their long-awaited, seventh full-length album, American Nights. With a sound that leans more toward indie-pop/indie-rock, I think it’s their best yet. Standouts include: “Pause” – the first single off the album is a song about slowing down and enjoying life with a catchy/danceable chorus; “Never Working” – the song of the album that strongly showcases a new indie-rock sound that is something the Plain White T’s have never down before but that totally works for them; “Dance Off Time” – a cutesy love song that more closely resembles the band’s previous work and is bound to be a summer beach hit. Pancakes and Whiskey was lucky enough to chat with the guys (Tom Higgenson, Dave Tirio, Mike Retondo, De’Mar Hamilton and Tim Lopez) last week while they were in New York City promoting their new album.
P&W: So you guys just put out a new album, American Nights, what’s the response been so far?
Tom: I mean, overwhelmingly amazing. Our last full-length album was in 2010, so it’s been a while; it’s been way too long. We dealt with a little bit of drama behind the scenes for this one. I think the fans were getting annoyed waiting for it. I think the fact that we finally got it out there, everyone’s pretty stoked on it.
P&W: What was the process like making this album?
Tom: Well, we recorded an album about three years ago and the label kept dragging its feet. We had a release date and it got pushed back. We put out an EP and the release date for the full length got pushed back even more. We were in a kind of career limbo for a second because we couldn’t put this album out. So, we basically negotiated our way out of the contract with them and they let us walk with the album, which was pretty cool. Since we had released almost half of it on an EP, we kind of scrapped half the album and recorded six new songs in the past couple months. We were all super stoked on the way it turned out.
P&W: So how does this new record differ than your old stuff? Or is it similar?
Mike: Similar but different. That’s what I would call a progressive sound.
Tom: All of our albums have a different vibe to them. This one, I think, people have been saying has more of an indie vibe, which is interesting because it is an independent release now. We didn’t try purposely to go for an indie sound. I think “Pause” has an indie vibe. We always try to write the songs that we dig. These songs for sure now more than ever were a collaborative effort. Everybody was really on bored with this batch of songs, so I’m not surprised that it sounds like cool music that we listen to.
P&W: How was it making the music video for “Pause?”
Tom: That was fun. That was a day in the desert out in California. We got a buddy of ours from high school, Mike Venezia, who directed a bunch of our videos, we love working with him. We got an RV, broke it down in the desert
Mike: Broke it down for real.
Tom: Yeah, it really did break down that day by the way. Very meta.
P&W: What happened?!
Mike: We got a working RV, according to the rental house or whatever, paid extra to have it mechanically checked out.
Tom: It drove us to the location
Mike: Did a shoot at one location, everything was cool. We went to drive to the next one and nothing.
Tom: It really broke down, yeah. Then got towed around.
Dave: We barely finished the video actually because of that.
Tom: Super fun day though, a bunch of our friends were in the video and hanging around.
Dave: That’s pretty much what music videos are all the time.
Mike: The concept was, hey the RV breaks down, and it actually did.
P&W: Do you guys have a favorite song off the album?
Tom: Oh, I would say, “Stay.” “Stay” is my favorite.
Dave: If I had to pick like five it would be: “Never Working,” “Heavy Rotation,” “Stay,” “Never Working,” “Never Working,” “Young Belong,” and “Never Working.” “Here Comes That Sunrise,” how about that.
Tim: It’s funny, we always get asked what our favorite song is and it always ends up top five.
P&W: Well, is there one that you had the best experience writing?
Tom: “Never Working!”
Dave: Well yeah that’s why he’s kind of giving me shit because if I had one song and I picked my own, that’s being a total homer, you know, you gotta pick other people’s songs.
Tom: Dave wrote, though, for the first time ever; he wrote a song on his own.
Dave: You know, for years and years I had all these voice memos and stuff and they never go anywhere and I’m just really bad at finishing anything, so yeah, I finished a song. I had the guts to send it around and they all accepted it.
P&W: What shows do you have coming up and what are your plans for touring?
Tom: We did the Gramercy the other night and we’re doing a few record release shows for the album. We’re doing Chicago next week and LA the week after that. Then, we’re going over to play for some troops in Asia and then we’re going on tour all summer with Rob Thomas, which starts the beginning of June.
P&W: Wow! What are you most excited about for the shows and tour coming up?
Tom: I can’t wait to do the record release shows. The one at the Gramercy was awesome.
Dave: As far as tour, I mean, I like playing the amphitheater style venues in the summer.
Tom: It will be fun to play in front of a big crowd and to some people who may not be super familiar with us.
Dave: And have a lot of new songs to play for them.
Tom: It’s a chance to win over a new crowd.
Dave: Yeah last summer we only played one or two new songs.
Tim: We always hope it will be a good hang too with an artist like that. You know, do stuff on the time off, drink some beer.
P&W: You guys just went to SXSW, how was that?
Tom: That was awesome! That was our first time playing some of these new songs, you know. We debuted some of the songs at [SXSW] but just getting back into small rooms with people just right up against the stage rocking out with us, it was awesome.
P&W: You were also just in Europe too right? How were the shows over there?
Tom: It was cool. Yeah, what did I just say, a month ago when we did Kelly and Michael. When actually it was two weeks ago. We were in New York two weeks ago and since then we’ve been to South by South West in Austin, Las Vegas, Paris, London, Berlin, Brussels, Antwerp, Amsterdam, and now back in New York.
P&W: Wow, that’s a lot! That’s got to take a toll, huh?
All: Look at us! haha
Tom: We actually have a couple days off starting tomorrow, so this is the home stretch.
Mike: Literally, only a couple though.
De’Mar: We’ll go to our respectable cities.
P&W: That’s nice, a little family time.
P&W: Is that the hardest part about doing this, being away from home?
All: Definitely. Absolutely. 100 percent.
Dave: It gets harder and harder every year too, leaving, it really does. I get really fucking bummed. (gesturing to Mike) This guy’s like, eh!
Mike: You know, I like playing music.
Dave: Of course, once you get out in the grind of it, it’s ok.
Mike: It would be cool if like we could like…
Dave: …bring all of our families and friends with us.
Mike: Yeah. Tow our houses on trailers.
P&W: It’s in the name so I have to ask: favorite whiskey?
De’Mar: I’ve got mine! W. L. Weller antique.
Tom: So I had Bulleit in Nashville once, a little too much, and I ended up puking in a restaurant bathroom for about an hour.
Tim: Oh good, that’s my go to whiskey, by the way.
Tom: It was too good, that’s the problem.
Dave: I was drinking Bulleit at the Gramercy.
De’Mar: Let’s drink some Bullet right now!
Tom: Oh, wait a minute, I’ve got one for real. The honey whiskey.
Dave: Oh you like that shit, the Tennessee honey.
Tom: Yeah that stuff is delicious.
Dave: Tom likes the sweet stuff.
De’Mar: Does that count?
Tom: Does it count? As a whiskey?
P&W: I mean, technically it’s whiskey but…
Tom: Thank you! Thank you!
Dave: Whiskey with training wheels.
Mike: I knew you would like that stuff though.
Tom: It’s so good, man.
Dave: It’s a little too syrupy for me, too sweet.
Mike: I like a good Macallan.
Tom: That’s a scotch isn’t it?
Mike: Dude! It’s still whiskey.
Mike: That’s like saying what kind of beer do you like? Oh that’s a pilsner and that’s a lager.
Tom: Now let’s talk about pancakes.
P&W: That wasn’t in my question queue but, what are your thoughts about pancakes?
De’Mar: I’m an excellent pancake chef. *girl’s voice from behind the wall* – he makes pancakes all the time.
Dave: We have confirmation on that
Tom: German pancakes. There’s a place near my house in Chicago that does great pancakes but they make their own syrup. There’s butter mixed in the syrup and it’s unbelievable. What are you guys laughing about?
Mike and Dave: It’s pronounced si-zurp.
Mike: I like pigs in a blanket, that’s pancakes right?
Dave: Yeah, wrapped around a sausage link.
Mike: A little bit of si-zurp on top of that, perfect!
P&W: Do you guys have any other plans for the future besides the shows you have coming up?
Dave: I think one of the main things I keep thinking about now that we’re independent is recording quickly all the time. Just releasing things at a really fast pace. It’s what everyone else does now. Any other bands or hip-hop artists, they release singles I feel like every few months. They’re always doing something.
Tom: Always putting out something new, yeah.
Dave: We’ll be writing for sure while we’re on the road and if there’s a song that everyone likes, we’ll just record it and start compiling stuff and all of a sudden we’ll have another album ready and no one has to wait two years again.
Tom: Even if we want to put out one song we can.
Dave: Yeah exactly.
Tom: It’s going to be a fun next few years for us just because it’s a lot of experimenting and having fun with it.
Article by: Merissa Blitz