Danny Bemrose of Scars on 45

<img src="http://www.qromag.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/scarson45interview.jpg" alt="Scars on 45 : Interview" />On the last stop of the tour with Ingrid Michaelson, singer/guitarist Danny Bemrose of Scars on 45 sat down to talk...
Scars on 45 : Interview
Scars on 45

On the last stop of the tour with Ingrid Michaelson (QRO photos from final date), singer/guitarist Danny Bemrose of Scars on 45 sat down to talk with QRO.  In the wide-ranging talk, Bemrose talked about touring America (and not their native U.K.), making debut Scars on 45 (QRO review), getting their ‘big (financial) break’ thanks to CSI: New York, making a video for a Grey’s Anatomy promo, touring with TV soundtrack favorites, their upcoming tour with TV competition contestant, life after soccer/football, a redacted tour story, and more…



QRO: How has this tour been?

Danny Bemrose: It has been awesome.  Can I use an American word, ‘awesome’?  Should I use a more English word?  It’s been ‘spiffing’…

Ingrid’s crowd has been just been the perfect match for us, really.  For a new band whose new album’s been out for three weeks, it’s important for us to get out there.  And in this day and age, it’s so important to sell as many albums as you can, so selling albums whilst your on the road is important, and her crowd has just been lapping it up.  It’s been brilliant, really.

QRO: Did you have some technical difficulties on the first stop with Ingrid Michaelson, in Austin?

DB: Yes we did.  We went on stage and our computer wouldn’t start up.  Bear in mind it was the first song, so thankfully Ingrid came out and she obviously saw that we were struggling a little bit, and being the first gig, it was a little bit nerve-wracking.  She came out and saved our asses, really, to be honest…

As we say in England, ‘She saved our bacon…’

QRO: You’re opening for Ingrid Michaelson, and recently toured with The Fray (QRO album review), but the last time I saw you, you were headlining – how do the two types of tours compare?

DB: Look, it’s great playing any gigs – we’re a band that loves playing any gigs, and The Fray gigs were amazing, because they were a similar size to [Terminal 5 – QRO venue review].

I won’t say that you put a lot more effort into supporting gigs, but when you’re supporting a band, it’s like, they’re not your fans that come to watch – it’s much more of a, ‘Right, we need to convert people into becoming fans of our band.’

But the headline shows – I mean, we’ve only done two-and-a-half weeks of our own gigs, headline gigs.

QRO: Is that just in America, or even in the U.K.?

DB: We’ve done nothing in the U.K.  We spent last year kinda supporting bands, and kind of seeding gradual interest in the band, but didn’t know if it kind of led to anything.

QRO: It’s harder to tell when you’re the opener…

DB: Yeah, when you’re supporting.  So when we were told that we were going to do our own headline dates in January, we were told before Christmas, we were like, our agent and our manager, we were just like, ‘You are absolutely mental…’  We couldn’t quite believe it.  ‘No one’s gonna come and watch.’  We didn’t think that we would sell out.

But we did twelve gigs, our own gigs, and the majority of them were sold out.  How did that happen?…

It was more intense – I’ve never experience that.

QRO: So you’ve only done headlining gigs in America?

DB: We haven’t done anything in England, never toured in England, ‘cause we didn’t really… whether we didn’t connect or anything…

The whole thing about it in England was, we tried everything that we could to be successful in England, and it just, for some reason, and I don’t mean this in a derogatory term to England, but it’s fuckin’ horrible… [laughs] I’m only joking…

I don’t mean this in a horrible term, but it’s a lot more ‘image-based’ and you’ve gotta be a cool kid and fit into the NME – you can’t just write songs.  We’ve always been a band that says we don’t pretend that we’re doing anything that’s groundbreaking or pushing the boundaries in music – we just write songs that we like, and we record songs that we like.

Our entire aim – still, to this day – to please ourselves.  We are completely selfish in that regard.  And if we please ourselves, and we think that we’ve written a good song, and we’ve played a good song, then that’s all that matters.  If other people like it, and other people buzz off it, and other people get what they get out of it, that’s an added bonus.

So doing them headline gigs – I’ve never felt anything like it.  It was immense – to have people singing back the songs that you’ve written…  It killed me.

QRO: This was the last date on this tour – how do you fight ‘tour burnout’?

DB: The lucky thing for us is, we’re all really close friends.  We’ve been in a band together for… we knew each other before we were in a band together, and that, for me, is the key.  Everyone can say whatever they want to everybody.  You take it on the chin, accept it and move on.

In regards to that, it would be a lot harder if you were in a band with people you didn’t know.  Like, I instantly know when Aimee’s [Driver, singer] a little bit stressed, and you give her a little bit of space.  We all know when Nova’s [David Nowakowski, keyboardist] not in a good mood, you know when to leave him alone.  That is so important.

And that kind of rejuvenates a little bit more, when you’re given that space.  Everyone has bad days, so when the rest of your bandmates give you that little bit of space when you’re having one of those days, I can’t explain how important that is.

QRO: On tour, has Aimee always had to go over to Nova’s mike for that one song?

DB: She’d never done it before.  She’s got a little glock[enspiel] – we’ve never done it before, and then on this tour…  Because there was a part of the song, Aimee doesn’t come in until the second verse…

Aimee never sung before, when she joined this band.  And now she’s becoming a lot more musical than she was.  She’s playing guitar a little bit, and she just seems to be a really natural person at picking anything musical up.  So we kind of incorporated a little bit more – there’s things on the album which we haven’t done live, and now it’s a case of, ‘You can do that now…’

She knows what she’s doing, and I don’t think it’ll be long before… hopefully she’ll play an acoustic guitar and I can just relax…

QRO: Are there songs that you can’t do live?

DB: We did a few gigs, a small little tour before we came on this Ingrid Michaelson tour, and we’ve played every song that’s available for people.

Scars on 45 playing "Give Me Somthing" live at Joe’s Pub in New York, NY on February 7th, 2012:


QRO: How was making Scars on 45?

DB: It was a kind of a weird thing, really.  We didn’t intend to do anything with it, to be honest. 

It was a case of the only reason we recorded an album was because we wanted to do an album for our friends and family – and ourselves.

There was never any intention- I mean, we hoped to get signed, and do what we’re doing now, but we just didn’t think it would happen.  Didn’t at all.

So those songs that we recorded that are the album were just recordings that we did by ourselves on our little – I mean, I can show you our studio now if you want; it’s just a computer.

QRO: The same one that broke in Austin?…

DB: It’s the same one that broke in Austin, yeah.  It’s a magic computer.

So we just set about recording our own album.  We were pretty anal about it, and we really enjoyed making it.  And then when we found out we were getting a record deal, Chop Shop wanted to sign us, it was just like, ‘Alright, well, they’ve heard our songs that we’ve recorded; now they’re gonna send us to a proper studio and record it properly.’  But they were just like, ‘We want to release these tracks.’  And we were like, ‘Are you sure?’  And they were like, ‘Yeah…’

I mean, don’t get me wrong – it was mixed properly.  I can’t even explain to what extent the minimalistic equipment we had to record with.

QRO: Was it recorded before the EPs came out?

DB: Yeah, it was all recorded in halfway between 2009 and 2010.  We just recorded it, and then we were signed, and then the album was mixed, "Give Me Something" (QRO review) came out – we’ve been on the road since before "Give Me Something" came out.

The album was supposed to come out, and then kept getting pushed back, and pushed back – which was fine with us.  We were having the time of our lives, we were touring the U.S. – it was like, ‘You want to put the album back six months?  That’s fine – we can stay out here another six months.’

The album, it is what it is.  It can’t be any more us.  What you hear is exactly what we planned to do, really.

QRO: Do you have any songs that you’ve written since making the album?

DB: I constantly write, because it’s the only thing I can do at the moment, really.  Can’t play football anymore, I’m certainly not an academic…

I write all the time; it’s just what we do.

QRO: If so, do you play any of them live, or is your set list just exclusive Scars on 45?

DB: We do one song called "Forget Now".  It’s a slow one, and it’s one that we’ve recorded; it’s not been mixed yet.  But we really like playing that song.

"Forget Now" is probably the only song we play that’s not available to people.  There’s a couple of songs that we’ve written and recorded – well, we’re going back home and finish them, a couple of songs that we’re probably going to submit for certain films and TV.  Whether they get used or not is another thing, but you’ve just got to keep writing.

For me, anyway, it’s just what I’ve always done.  From the age of 21, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do is write songs.  I don’t suppose I’m ever gonna stop.

Scars on 45 playing "Caught Between a Breakdown" live at Joe’s Pub in New York, NY on February 7th, 2012:


QRO: Is playing New York special at all because your ‘lucky break’ came thanks to being played on CSI: New York (even though it’s shot in Los Angeles…)?

DB: Is it really [shot in L.A.]?  I didn’t know that…

Like I said, we were going nowhere in England, but we were always a dedicated band who would rehearse every night of the week – every night of the week, bar none.  Unless people kind of sent a letter and said, ‘I’m not going to be at rehearsal this day, ‘cause I’ve got to be at someone’s birthday.’  That’s fine…

We were very, very dedicated, and very kind of ‘strict’ with rehearsals, and what we were doing.  But it just wasn’t going anywhere.

So we were a little bit disheartened, didn’t think it was going to happen.  And then we got a thing on CSI: New York, which was for about $10,000, which, to us…

QRO: That’s a lot to anybody…

DB: It’s a lot for anybody – trust me, we’d love that right now.  But at the time, it gave us the money to buy some equipment.  We bought that computer, we bought a microphone, we bought something to record with – just really basic stuff.  We paid off a lot of debt that we had.  And we just knuckled down to recording.

So when people say, ‘Was there a particular moment that your fortune changed, a point where it’s like, "This is the turning point,’" that was it.  That was it.  It gave us money to buy equipment that is the first album.  There’s no other kind of- if there’s one pivotal point, that was it.

QRO: It seems like TV has been good to you – is that a good ‘revenue stream’ or what-have-you?

DB: Well, in this day & age, when people illegally download albums… Which is like, whatever.  It’s the day & age that we’re in.  People say that it may have very well have cost musicians that kind of income, but on the broader horizon of things, it’s just made everything – it’s improved things ten-fold for me, the internet and file-sharing.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I need people – I beg people to legally buy our stuff, but it’s unavoidable; people are gonna share music.  You gotta take everything with a pinch of salt, I suppose.

But it is a huge revenue stream.  We’re lucky enough that we’ve had a few things, which have enabled us to stay out on the road, really, and promote this album.  As long as we can continue to get things, hopefully we’ll still be on the road, and continue to make music.

QRO: I’ve noticed that, at least in indie music, they’re not like, ‘Oh, you’re selling out by having your songs…’

DB: You know what?  The whole point of getting into a band, for us, anyway, our aim was to have our music, and our songs, heard by as many people as possible.  That’s what you want.

All these people who are like…

QRO: Well, they don’t say it anymore.

DB: They don’t say it anymore.  It was an early 2000’s thing, ‘You know, I’m a singer/songwriter.  I just want to stay true to my music…’  Yeah, stay true to your music, but at the end of the day, it don’t pay the bills – it don’t pay the bills…

I agree that there’s certain things that you can’t do with your music.  But you just have to be open-minded to everything, because this is what we want to do.  I mean,

I can’t even explain to you how in love I am with music.  Playing music is the love of my life, always will be.  It’s the love of everyone in the band.

  It using our music on film or TV is ‘selling out,’ but it means that we can continue doing the thing that we love, I’ll fuckin’ sell out every time…

QRO: Actually, Ingrid Michaelson & The Fray have also had a bunch of songs on television shows – is it just coincidence that you’ve toured with other ‘TV soundtrack favorites’?

DB: I think the music that we write and the music that we record is…  See, this is the thing about people.  I mean, we’re the first people to say that we’re not pushing boundaries, that we’re not doing… 

These particular bands and artists are probably not classed as being ‘cool’ or being ‘hipster’ or whatever, but they are the bands that are still working after ten years, still working, still selling out the Fox Theatre at 4,500 people, they’re still the bands that TV shows and films wanna use their songs.

I think that it’s essential that there’s bands and there’s artists out there who create new things, push boundaries, create new sounds.  But we don’t enjoy listening to stuff like that.

I was brought up on The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, and Oasis – that’s what I was brought up on.  The Beatles, you can’t get any more popular than The Beatles.  Oasis, you can’t get any more simpler than playing Oasis songs.  And Fleetwood Mac, you can’t get any more honest than Fleetwood Mac songs.  So I don’t wanna do anything else.  I wanna just write music that we love.

[David Nowakowski enters.  "You’re still doing this?"  Bemrose invites him to join the interview]

QRO: Indeed, you’re going to be touring with The Voice finalist Dia Frampton, right?

DB: You know what?  We’ve met her, and she’s such a nice girl.  And she’s got such an amazing voice.

People seem to forget that she went on The Voice, and she came runner-up, didn’t she?

David Nowakowski: Second-place in America.

DB: That’s classic Nova, ‘She came runner-up, didn’t she?’  ‘No, she came in second…’ [laughs]

QRO: I don’t know about The Voice, but on American Idol, the second-place winners are way more successful.  Except for the first year…

DB: She came second, and apparently she was tipped to win it, but people seem to forget that she was in a band with her sister for years before she came on The Voice, and they are brilliant [Meg & Dia – QRO photos].  She’s so good.  We did something with them in Palm Springs, and she was amazing, her band was fantastic.

And we’re going on tour with them for fourteen shows, and it’s gonna be a blast, innit?

Scars on 45 upcoming dates:

6/9/12 – Portland, OR – Tom McCall Waterfront Park
6/10/12 – Seattle, WA – Chop Suey*
6/11/12 – Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory*
6/12/12 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory*
6/13/12 – Reno, NV – Cargo @ Commrow*
6/17/12 – Scottsdale, AZ – Martini Ranch*
6/18/12 – Santa Fe, NM – Santa Fe Soul*
6/19/12 – Taos, NM – KTAOS Solar Center*
6/22/12 – San Diego, CA – House of Blues*
6/27/12 – Denver, CO – Bluebird Theater*
6/29/12 – Austin, TX – Stubb’s*
7/1/12 – Dallas, TX – House of Blues*
7/5/12 – Baltimore, MD – West Mt. Vernon Park
7/8/12 – Westhampton Beach, NY – Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center
7/12/12 – Ann Arbor, MI – Sonic Lunch
7/13/12 – Cincinnati, OH – Bunbury
7/14/12 – Indianapolis, IN – Military Park
7/27/12 – Red Bank, NJ – Navesink River
8/2/12 – North Conway, NH – Cranmore Mountain Ski Area
8/9/12 – London, England, U.K. – Monto Water Rats
8/10/12 – Bradford, England, U.K. – Live Lounge at Utopia

* w/ Dia Thompson

QRO: Last TV question: How was playing on Tonight Show with Jay Leno (QRO Indie on Late Night TV)?

DB: The most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done.

DN: I’ll tell you a story.  We have a dress rehearsal, and then they put this big shutter down.  You don’t rehearse with this big shutter.  And this shutter’s huge, right?  So you don’t know what’s behind this shutter when you go out, live, and this shutter slowly, slowly, slowly goes up, and you’ve got cameras, you’ve got audience there, you’ve got people – it’s the most damn experience ever, but you know what?  The most memorably experience…

Scars on 45 playing "Change My Needs" live at Joe’s Pub in New York, NY on February 7th, 2012:


QRO: You were a former football player, right?

DB: I had a great right foot.

DN: He had a great right foot.  Footballer for Newcastle called Peter Beardsley, really quick, and Danny was a comparison of him.  Unbelievable…

But now he’s shit… [laughs]

QRO: Do you still follow your old team?

DB: Well, no, because they didn’t renew my contract.  Any time they lose a game, I celebrate a little bit…

My team is a team called Hull City.  That’s where I was born.  And we’re not very good at the moment.

DN: They’re better than my home team.

DB: Nova’s home team is Bradford, which is even worse than Hull.

We miss the soccer matches.  Recently, I don’t know if anyone knows, but this season, it went down to the last game of the season between Manchester City and Manchester United.  Literally the last minute.  We missed that.

DN: European championships are coming up.

DB: Which we’ll be on tour for.  So we’re gonna arrange gigs around it…

DN: Come on Poland!

DB: Poland?

DN: They’re not even in it…  I’m Polish.

QRO: Is the rest of the band sick of hearing about football?

DB: No, I don’t really speak on it.  I didn’t have any ‘glory days’… [laughs]

DN: The best band in the band, in all seriousness, is Aimee.  You tell her to do some kick-ups, you give her a soccer ball and she’ll show you a few tricks.

QRO: After being in America so long, are sick of the word ‘soccer’?

DB: No, because when I go home, I call it ‘soccer’.  I spoke to my dad the other day, and I said ‘soccer,’ and he was like, ‘What happened?…’

Scars on 45 playing "Warning Sign" live at Joe’s Pub in New York, NY on February 7th, 2012:


QRO: How was making the videos for "Hearts On Fire" & "Give Me Something"?

DN: He loved it!  He loved it!

DB: You know what?  All these bands who bang on about, ‘Oh, bollocks, it’s the worse, it’s the most mundane task ever…’  It’s the best day ever.  I loved it!  Didn’t you?

DN: You know I loved it…

DB: Nova loved it.

It’s enjoyable.  The first single we did was "Give Me Something", which was done on a budget, and it was just a few people.  We did it in Valencia, which was outside Los Angeles.  We loved it, ‘cause we’d never done anything like that before.

DN: Under the baking hot sun.  It was beautiful there.

Scars on 45’s video for "Give Me Something":

DB: Then we did a video for "Hearts On Fire", and because it was used for the Grey’s Anatomy thing, the promo, we turned up and there was like sixty people.  I’m like, "Why are all these people here?"  "Oh, they’re all working."  "And how much are these people getting paid?"

DN: Everyone knew what they do.  "I’m hospitality."  "And what do you do?"  "I’m ordering your coffee…"

DB: We didn’t have someone ordering our coffee…

It was nice.  It’s like, we’ve never done anything…  When we were young, up until a couple years ago, would never have even dreamed of making a music video.

Both of them have just been absolute pleasures to do, and we all feel really thankful that we’ve been able to do.  It’s just been amazing.

Scars on 45’s video for "Hearts On Fire":

QRO: Was there an actual old oak tree that the council cut down?

DB: No, there isn’t.  That’s true.

That song was just about – everyone’s been in those relationships where it’s just never meant to be.  It’s just not meant to be.  You can try as hard as you want, but it is just not meant to be.  Forget about it.

Trust me – some of the relationships that I’d been in, I wished they’d chopped the tree down…  Especially [REDACTED]

QRO: What cities or venues have you really liked playing at?

DB: We’ve said this in every interview that we’ve done: every single place that we’ve been to, and we really do mean this, every single place that we’ve been to, there’s always something in every city that you go to which kind of warms your heart, just kind of makes you realize how lucky you are to do what you’re doing.

There’s certain cities that do stand out.  Obviously New York, San Francisco, Portland, Whitefish, Montana, Bend, Oregon…

DN: Kill Devil Hills [North Carolina], Mobile Alabama…

DB: There’s some cities, New York, San Francisco, that stand out, but every single city, every single gig – what makes a good place, and a good something that’s memorable, is the people.

DN: I was saying how the positivity, the way people welcome you with open arms when you’ve been in a van for fifteen hours – it’s amazing the welcome, the hospitality you get.  It’s fuckin’ amazing…

QRO: Do you have a favorite tour story?

DB: I don’t know if I can tell this story?  [REDACTED]

Tell that one…

DN: Driving to Kansas City, we’re driving in the van, late at night, there’s police, ambulances, paramedics everywhere.  We’re driving to the hotel, we pull up in the hotel, there’s a police man in the hotel itself, and we say, "Hey, what’s going on outside?"  There’s a guy on the floor …

And he says, "A guy was comin’ out of the bar, and he happened to trip on the sidewalk."  And we’re like, "Oh, that’s not so bad, is it?"  And he says,

"Yeah, but his prosthetic leg fell off as well."

There’s this guy in the middle of the road, and we were all like, ‘Bloody hell, watch out…’  And behind him this lump, this thing next to him – we didn’t think what it was.  It was his prosthetic leg…

DB: He’d been drinking too much.  He was completely like us…

All: Hey!

DB: On that bombshell…

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