“The Future Is Now”
Dexter Holland: It’s about the dangers of technology. You see people on their cell phones constantly. Everybody is in the same room but no one is looking at each other or speaking. You start to think, ‘Does technology really bring us together, or does it isolate us? Does it help us, or does it hurt us? Does it give us more freedom, or does it enslave us in a way?’ Everyone is tied to his or her device all of the time. What technology does to us as a society is an interesting idea. It’s something I want to explore more on the next record too. I decided to make an allusion to it now and put it out there as the first song on this album. We’ll see where it goes.
Noodles: I love that song. It’s a straightforward rock song. It’s got some punk attitude for sure, but it’s upbeat. There’s a lot going on in it guitar-wise. There’s also a great piano breakdown in the middle. It’s a really dynamic song, while some of it is unadulterated aggression. It’s a great opener.
“Secrets from the Underground”
Holland: One side of Days Go By is the idea that things are tough but they will get better. Another very real side of the album is that people are also getting pissed off. They feel like they’ve had enough. You can almost sense something in the air, whether it be the Occupy movements or the elections. People are about ready to turn the tables. It’s an observation and a warning. Something’s got to give or something’s really going to give.
Noodles: That song reminds me of T.S.O.L. That’s one band that ties us all together. We share a love of that band and all of their music for sure-until they went metal. Even then, we secretly bought those records and enjoyed them [laughs].
“Days Go By”
Holland: It tied everything together and was the most representative of what I was trying to get at. Time marches on. We have to get through life and pull ourselves up by our boot straps. No one is going to do it for you. At the same time, there’s a message of hope, and I wanted that to come across. The last few years have been really tough on a lot of people. You can see it on TV or in the newspaper. The song doesn’t simply say, “Let’s revolt.” It’s about the spirit that things can get better.
Noodles: It’s a mid-tempo rock song as well. Lyrically, I like the meaning behind the song. You can’t listen to one song and know what this album is about. There’s so much going on. It empathizes with everyone struggling in the world. It’s about hanging tough. These days will go by and get better. It’s a song of commiseration and hope. I hope it’s something a lot of people can relate to.
“Turning Into You”
Holland: That came up quickly. We wanted to write something straightforward. The idea of trying to make your own way, do your own thing, and be your own person but feeling pressured to be somebody else or act like somebody else is a universal feeling. You could talk about it when you’re in high school all the way up to the corporate world. It’s about resisting it. There’s an old school punk sentiment to resist the pressure of what people tell you to be or tell you to do. You’re deciding for yourself what you want to be.
Noodles: It’s got a drum loop which is very not punk, but it works well [laughs]. I really like that. It’s a cool juxtaposition, and it adds some tension to that song. You might enjoy somebody’s company, but they’re really not so reciprocal. You end up trying to please somebody and all you do is end up losing yourself in a relationship. Some relationships can be toxic, and it may take a while to realize it.
“Hurting As One”
Holland: That chorus is, “Broken in two, but hurting as one.” That could apply to a relationship or your country.
Noodles: It can be powerful when people unite as one voice. They’re not going to go away. They’re hurting as one too.
“Cruising California (Bumpin’ in My Trunk)”
Holland: As I was writing this record, I realized I was writing some heavier songs, and they were a bit serious. Having some fun songs has always been a part of our band. I thought, ‘I should write a couple of songs that are a little more fun and on the lighter side’. Towards the end of the album, I wrote ‘Cruising California.’ It’s about what it’d be like if I was driving down the beach in my hometown on a nice sunny day in Southern California. I live in Huntington Beach so I thought that’s what I should write about. My hometown is great, and there’s a lot of fun reflected in the song. At the same time, there are some shady and seedy parts. I tried to put both of them in the lyrics. It’s a great place, but there’s a dark underbelly as well. Huntington Beach had some of the biggest riots in the ’80s and ’90s so that side of the place always existed. At the end of the day, I want people to know it’s a fun, summer song. Bob told me to write about Huntington. It seems weird to write about your hometown-like you’re bragging or something. He said people in the rest of the world have a different perception of California. It’s like a dream place. It might be where you live, but others don’t see it the way you do. You’ve got to have fun. It’s also a good way to cope. There’s a lot of silly stuff out there, and it’s good to laugh and have fun with it.
Noodles: It’s a silly fun and song. Some of the tracks are more serious and require more thought from the listener. This is about shaking your ass. I call these kinds of songs ‘ear worms.’ They stay stuck in your head and wriggle around for a few days. I wanted to call it ‘Caboose.’ That would’ve worked too.
“All I Have Left Is You”
Holland: It’s a different song because we’re using a lot of keyboards. The subject matter is a relationship. Relationship songs can be really dark and depressing. Or if they’re romantic, they don’t feel right for our band because we don’t want to be cheesy. If I’m writing about a relationship, there will be two sides to it. Things aren’t black and white in real life. There’s always some gray area. You can be the best and worst guy in the world at the same time. You can take the song a couple of different ways. It could be that the lovers are hanging on through the storm because all they have left is each other. That’s the romantic way. Or, it could be one person is hanging on even though they should be apart. You can interpret it opposite ways even though it’s the same lyrics.
Noodles: There are some pretty guitar parts in it that provide a yin and yang with all that sadness.
Holland: That’s one of the songs I built on for a long time. It came in as a reggae riff. I started playing this riff on the bass. We put a little drum to it. We were bopping our heads, and we let the thing roll. We kept going back to it. The song talks about how Orange County can be a dangerous place. I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve commuted up to L.A. so I’ve definitely been through the bad neighborhoods daily. It’s dangerous, but it’s fun at the same time. We thought it would be really interesting to have mariachi in there. Mariachi and reggae are very different musical styles. I never heard mariachi in a reggae song so that was a challenge. I was happy with how it turned out. It has a unique sound to it.
Noodles: It sounds like an Offspring song, but it’s different. The Mariachi stuff was so fun. It was really hard to get those two musical styles to blend, but once we figured out how to get them to fit right with each other, it was great. Reggae is usually sitting on the beach kind of vibe. This song has some menace to it.
Holland: It’s an old song. We actually recorded that for the first time on our second record Ignition. It was right before Smash. More people know about the music post-Smash than the stuff prior. It’s a hardcore fan record, and the one song fans pointed to off that album is “Dirty Magic.” We started putting it in our live sets, but most people weren’t familiar with it. We had a tiny budget when we recorded Ignition. I think we did the whole thing in nine days. It was really rushed, and we probably did the whole song in two hours. We wanted to make it fuller and bigger and do it the way we’d always wanted it to sound.
Noodles: It was great to re-approach that. We know our way around a studio better than we did back then and we had Bob on board. I was stoked to add texture and layers to the song. A lot of old school fans ask us to play that song. That one never got its due.
“I Wanna Secret Family With You”
Holland: There have to be a couple of funny songs on the record. The idea of a secret family is something I’ve heard about. You always hear the story of a pilot who has families in different countries. The other family is his ‘secret family.’ It’s a funny thing to sing about. In this story, it’s a guy who goes into a strip club. The idea is he’s so infatuated with this girl he wants to have a secret family with her. It’s not a nice compliment, but the guy in the song assumes it is. I hear It happens! I saw Will Ferrell accept an award and say, “I want to thank my family, and I also want to thank my secret family.” He knew about it [laughs]!
Noodles: It’s got a doo wop rock ‘n’ roll structure that fits the vibe.
“Dividing By Zero”
Holland: “Dividing By Zero’ and “Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell” both sound like one song, and that was the idea. It was intentional. Those were actually the last two we did for this record. We thought it would be cool to put two short songs together almost as if it were a short punk medley that adds up to one five minute song. That’s it musically. Lyrically, it’s about vengeance. It’s the idea that something is coming back to you. When I read those lyrics, it sounds like a military guy on a bombing mission, someone going after Osama, or someone getting tried for fraud. The idea of vengeance in a pure adulterated way. It’s an unapologetic eye for an eye. People tend to temper that, but it’s about tapping into what that emotion is.
Noodles: These two songs could’ve been on Ignition. We might not have played them as well [laughs]. They’re super fun.
“Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell”
Holland: The idea is the world’s going to hell so let’s have a drink and watch it burn. We started talking about Nero, and Slim Pickens came up. It’s a great reference to wave the cowboy hat and ride the bomb all the way down. That became the metaphor for the song.
Noodles: The Slim Pickens reference adds a comedic tone to the song. That movie was hilarious, but it was very dark too. That’s what this song is. It’s a nihilistic thing, but at the same time we’re making fun of the nihilists. It’s not bad for 2 minutes and 50 seconds.