BestFan blogger Ashley Fisher had the chance to speak with Kurt Dahl of One Bad Son over the phone. Kurt talks about the band’s upcoming album Black Buffalo, how the band has changed over the past ten years, and his love for Pearl Jam! Check out the full interview below!
Ashley Fisher: I have to start out by asking you BestFan’s signature question and that’s who or what are you a “best fan” of?
Kurt Dahl: I like that question! Usually we’re always just asked about the band, so to know bands that we like and stuff, that’s pretty cool! The band that got me into music and kind of made me a musician was Pearl Jam. I was the guy in the fan clubs when I was like ten years old (laughs). I learned a lot about music and how a cool band can be really good to their fans. Pearl Jam always sends out a vinyl record every year to everyone in the fan club, they send out newsletters every six months, they just really value their fans and that’s something that’s very important to me – to treat your fans great and be very grateful for every fan that you have. I think we’ve done a good job of that so far. We never take anything for granted in this band and especially not the fans. It seems like there’s a really good connection between us and the fans, which is special and I think it starts with loving Pearl Jam.
AF: That’s great! Your single “Satellite Hotel” was released last month. What has the response from fans been like so far?
KD: It’s been awesome! It’s blowing up faster than any of our other songs have, which is cool. I love the song, but you never know how new stuff’s gonna be received, you know? You can love a song, but never know what the perception’s gonna be from existing fans and new fans and stuff. The common response…a lot of these radio stations we stop by on tour, the stations are always like, “We keep getting so many phone calls. What is that song?” or “I love the new direction OBS is taking,” which is a great compliment. That’s why we picked “Satellite [Hotel].”
One week before we released that song we had actually planned on releasing a different one entirely and we just ended up playing a bunch of new stuff live and the crowd reaction was really good to all the stuff, but to “Satellite [Hotel]” it was just crazy. Like as soon as the chorus kicked in people would be going nuts and they’d never heard the song. And we sat backstage and I remember saying to the guys, “I don’t want to say this, but I’ve got a gut feeling that we shouldn’t release the other song, we should release ‘Satellite [Hotel].'” And everyone was like, “You know what, I agree.” And so we had some frantic phone calls the next day because of course all the promotion was set in place for a different song and the artwork was done and all that stuff, and so we had to just make a last minute call.
I think that’s all you have in this industry, your gut feeling. We’ve always followed that and not really worried about anything else. If we feel as a band we want to take a certain path and we’ve done it, it’s meant to take the road less travelled and it’s a bit rougher, but it’s made all the difference because we’ve just been true to ourselves. Again, I think that’s what resonates with fans. They know with OBS it’s always the real deal – there’s no one else pulling the strings behind the scenes.
AF: Let’s talk about your upcoming album Black Buffalo. I was actually able to take an early listen to it and I have to say, it’s awesome! What was the creative process like for the album?
KD: First of all, thanks for the compliment! That’s awesome! We’re in our tenth year as a band. The last two years have been like the breakthrough years for us in a lot of ways…the last album kinda took off. So we spent the last two years touring like crazy and I think that kind of culminated in this album. This album sounds like a band that’s been living on the road, you know? That’s really, I think, when we hit our stride as writers and performers, is just from living music and living rock ‘n’ roll.
We did a bit of a writing retreat last summer in Northern Ontario. We had this cabin and just stayed there for a week and just worked and worked and worked on songs, which was really cool. We kind of got the “shells” or sort of like the “skeletons” to a bunch of songs in place and then we took those and we had like twenty or thirty songs and we kinda just kept working on them. Some songs just write themselves in like ten minutes and those are just…that’s rare. Those moments happen and it’s like the best thing in the world, but other songs take months and months and years to write. There’s a bit of both those on this album. The songs that we had to work really hard at…when you get it right – as a creative person and an artist – it’s like the greatest feeling in the world. And you put that on record and you’re proud of it, and hopefully we’ve got eleven of those on this record.
AF: And going back to this being your tenth year with One Bad Son, how have you managed to stay together for so long and how do you keep things from getting boring?
KD: I think it’s like any relationship, you know? It takes a lot of work. You have to respect each others’ space, which is tough since you’re in a small band together for days and days and weeks and weeks. There’s times when we fight, there’s times when we can’t stand each other, there’s times when you just need to get away and kinda do your own thing. But we know that…I really do feel like the four of us are brothers, and to me, that’s what separates us from other bands. We really…it’s a band of brothers. And ten years together, it really feels like family, you know? You get to know people so well and the good payoff to knowing someone really well is, musically, you can almost guess where other people are going before they even go there. It keeps things fresh that way.
AF: And when you first started out, did you ever think you’d make it to ten years with the band?
KD: Honestly, when I first started out I was kind of naive and I thought that we were gonna become big rockstars within a few months (laughs). So I thought we were gonna become this big band, you know? I really believed it, but I didn’t think it’d take ten years. We’re still not at the level where I was probably envisioning when we started, so I guess the answer is things have always gotten better and better. It’s always kind of been this upward climb. Of course you have your downs and throughout your career you have a lot of hard times and struggles you have to overcome, but I always feel like we’re making progress and writing better songs and becoming better musicians.
If I ever felt along the way that we were just doing the same old songs or not progressing anywhere, I think we would’ve all ended it. It’s kinda funny that way because in a sense I never thought it’d take ten years to get where we are, but at the same time, I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything happened for a reason and that’s the funny thing with life, you know? It’s like you blink and ten years have gone by. I feel very grateful we’re still able to do it. So many bands don’t make it this long and don’t make it this far, and we’re still doing it and feels like we’re doing the same thing we’ve always done. We make music we want to make and more and more people are getting into it. That’s the best feeling, that we didn’t have to compromise who we are along the way.
AF: How would you say you’ve changed as a band over the past ten years?
KD: I think we’ve gotten…as you can imagine when you work at anything for that long…I think we’ve gotten better at it. Better at writing songs and playing our instruments and that kind of stuff. I think personally, one thing I’m always working on and hopefully getting better at is just stoping to enjoy the moments along the way. There’s always a thousand things you could be doing at any one time to make your career bigger and better. You know, we could be doing this on the internet or we could be doing this live or we could be doing this with fans.
It’s like you can kind of get to a state where you’re never really appreciating the moment and appreciating the success because the second you have a success it’s like, “Okay, what next? What can I work on next?” So I think one thing I’ve really tried to work on – and I think the rest of the guys are the same – is enjoying the moments and embracing the fact that there’s not gonna be an end point and you’ve just gotta enjoy the journey.
AF: You guys will be touring with Airbourne and Glorious Sons this fall, what are you most looking forward to in terms of the tour?
KD: We love doing headlining shows and playing to all of our own fans and seeing that fan base grow, but there’s something to be said for playing to someone else’s fans and people that have never seen you (laughs). You get to play bigger crowds of strangers and I still love that sort of “eureka” moment that happens with people that have never seen us before. They often come up to us afterwards to the merch table and are like, “I didn’t know bands like you guys still existed!” I hear that all the time, which is great.
I think rock ‘n’ roll is going to this interesting time right now where it’s not like the heyday back in like the late ’60s, early ’70s, or even the early ’90s with grunge when there were so many great rock ‘n’ roll bands. Now, there’s a lot of great rock bands, but it’s harder to find them and when fans do find us, they’re fans for life. And that sort of feeling is…I’m looking forward to that on this tour.
AF: You guys are from Saskatoon. How would you say that the music scene over there has influenced your sound?
KD: That’s a good question! There’s a great live music scene in Saskatoon and it’s a community of bands that worked together…we were never really part of that community. We always kinda did our own thing and weren’t exactly embraced by the other community of bands, but that being said, there’s a great community of live music fans as well that came out and supported us in the early days. Our sound has not been influenced by other Saskatoon bands, but the fact that we stayed together for six years living in Saskatoon can definitely be attributed to the great support we got in Saskatoon from the get-go. We started off and we had to earn every fan. It wasn’t like every show was packed from the get-go by any means, but once word started to come out…those fans are still there at every show and they’re still messaging us on Facebook and tweeting us and we will never forget the support we got in Saskatoon in the early days.
AF: What made you decide to pursue music as a career?
KD: I don’t know if it was ever a decision, to be honest. Once I heard Pearl Jam, once I heard The Who, once I heard Led Zepplin…I just knew that I had to do that. It’s kinda like, once that bug bites you, you’re never the same.
AF: Would you say then that Pearl Jam is one of your biggest musical influences?
KD: For me personally, I would say bands like Pearl Jam and The Who are probably my two biggest influences, and maybe Zepplin as a close third. As a band, I think we really are inspired by Soundgarden, Led Zepplin, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, that sort of thing.
AF: Do you remember how you felt the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio?
KD: I actually do. I’ll never forget it. It was a feeling that was pretty surreal and it made me feel like all those bands I just mentioned. It was in Saskatoon, of course, and it was in the evening that they played it. They told us they were gonna play it so of course I tuned in the whole time, and I’m not gonna lie, I just had the biggest smile on my face the whole five minutes. Our first song was like close to five minutes, which, we’ve learned to shorten them down since then – we’ve learned to trim the fat. But yeah, I was smiling ear to ear for five good minutes. I had the old arm hairs standing up in the moment, for sure.
AF: That must have been so cool! When you look back on your career, what would you say has been your proudest moment?
KD: There’s been a lot of those moments that are cause for pause. It’s tough to pick one, to be honest. Right now, I’m really proud of what we’ve done on this album. I feel like we’ve put our heart and souls into it and made the album that I’ve always wanted to make and it’s not easy to do that…we had to really push ourselves. Those that say writing songs is easy are either liars or don’t know how to write good songs (laughs). There’s a lot of effort in it. The creative struggle went into this record and that’s when you make your best stuff. If it really comes easy…sometimes I have to question it. But this record…I can’t wait for it to get out. I’m really proud of what the four of us have done.
AF: And going back to the new record, what’s your personal favorite song off of Black Buffalo?
KD: It changes day to day, just like my favorite song in general changes day to day. I would say at the moment I’m really loving “Land of the Saints,” which is kind of a new territory for us. It’s one of my favorite drum beats on the record and I just really dig what the rest of the guys are doing. We’ve never written a song like that and I think it’s gonna be one of the songs that the fans are really gonna dig.
AF: I definitely agree! What advice would you give to any aspiring musicians out there?
KD: I’d just say stick with it and believe in yourself. No matter what anyone says, you can be a musician. It’s a lot of hard work but there’s no better thing in the world than working hard at something and then achieving it, especially being a musician. Sure, it’s a tough industry to make it in, but if you work harder than anyone else and believe in yourself, no one can stop you.
AF: For someone who’s never listened to One Bad Son, what song would you say best represents your sound?
KD: That’s tough. I am really proud of the fact that we have a bunch of different sides to us. So many rock bands have one gear and all the songs kinda sound similar. In some ways it’s easier to sell to people. For us, it takes a lot of time to really get One Bad Son because we don’t just have one side, just like no human only has one emotion. Not all of our songs are uplifting, not all our songs are happy, not all of our songs are sad and angry either, right? I think a good starting point for a song that kind of has everything…I would say right now I’ve been kinda digging “Love/Sick/Love.”
AF: And my last question is how would you describe One Bad Son as a band in one sentence or less?
KD: Yikes! You put me on the spot, Ashley!
AF: That’s what everyone says whenever I ask this question!
KD: Hm…I guess…Four brothers making rock ‘n’ roll that they believe in.
AF: Perfect. That’s the best answer I’ve gotten so far!
KD: Oh, nice!
AF: Thank you so much for speaking with me today! Have a great day!
KD: Thanks! It was my pleasure!
One Bad Son’s new album Black Buffalo drops on September 2 and they will be heading out on tour with Airbourne and Glorious Sons this fall!
Make sure to take a listen to the first single off the album called “Satellite Hotel” below:
(Photo via Strut Entertainment)