Upon the release of Dan Croll’s third single ‘Away from Today’ taken from his yet untitled upcoming new album, Dan sits down with Fault Magazine to discuss studio life in Georgia, and his past struggle with anxiety but coming out the other side stronger with a new label and a renewed drive to succeed.
Hey Dan, how are you?
Yeah, good man. Bit tired, but good.
You enjoying the campaign so far?
Yeah been up and around today, things are good. We’ve decided to pencil in the release date and to get things going. So now I guess the PR wheels are turning and there are a lot of interviews and stuff, and its great. It’s this part that I like, when you start to get people excited, you know?
It’s the start of something much bigger isn’t it?
Yeah definitely, and to remind people that you’re alive.
You’re doing a lot of social media, for the likes of pancake day!
Oh god yeah, that was such a depressing one! [Laughs]
So you’ve got this new single out, ‘Away from Today’?
[Pause] Oh yes! [Laughs] it’s been really busy. I’ve been trying to keep up with what’s going on! The single has been doing well; it’s been fun to see it out there. It’s a different sound but in a good way I think, it’s something that is probably the first track really that has revolved around a heavy sample; so its been quite fun from the whole writing process to people hearing it.
Did it make a big difference with the sampling?
Yeah I think the sampling is typically considered something hip-hop scene and Rn’B and stuff so it’s quite weird to bring it into a different element.
Brings a different vibe to your music, would you say?
With the horn section included, is that something you’re hoping to bring across to the live performance?
Oh god I wish yeah [Laughs], I’m already broke so I’d need to find some trumpet players to come with me and break me even more! But no, I think we’ll find cleverer ways to do that but I would love to don’t get me wrong. Maybe there are some fans out there who would want me to do it, but yeah.
It would be awesome to see! You’ve got the video for the single that was recorded within a deep forest, where was it filmed?
Its funny that actually, when the director Greg rang me and he was like “Oh Dan we’ve got the location for the video”, and I was like “Wicked!” because I knew what the idea was and everything so I was like “Oh amazing, where are we going to do it?” and I had a few ideas, like we might be going up to Skye in Scotland or something like that. He was like “you’re going to Portland” and I was like “you’re fucking kidding me? We’re going to Portland?” And I was absolutely buzzing. Then I asked “Portland, Oregon?” and he was like “no, Portland in Dorset”. [Laughs]. So we just ended up in Dorset which wasn’t as cool as Portland Oregon but it was good, it has a major (going really geeky now) but it has a major port from the war – batteries, big long range guns so it was quite…
…a historical site?
Yeah definitely. It had been battered itself so it’s quite a rough and ready environment to shoot a video in, so it was quite cool.
Did that sort of fit the theme of escapism?
Yeah it sort of was, it was all about escapism and being your own worst enemy, all of that.
It comes across that you’re washing your hands with the events of the past?
You got it, I’m glad [Laughs]. You nailed it.
You’ve got the new tour coming up in May, what’s your plan before that? What is your tour preparation?
Just stay busy, lots of interviews to do and sessions and hopefully radio, just keeping very busy. Rehearsals and I’ve just recently built a little home studio in my house. So I’ve actually been writing a lot so it’s been quite nice. Trying to keep busy.
More tracks for the new album?
Just whatever comes, yeah. All sorts! Like I say, I go mad when I’m not busy so I’ll be keeping very busy.
Especially with the tour, you’ve got the likes of Glasgow, Manchester on the bill…
Yeah just the kind of standard little UK run just to kind of test the water I guess before the album comes out and then we’ll hopefully go from there and visit more places afterwards.
Does that mean the setlist will be more of a mix?
Yeah definitely, it’s been quite weird and it’s the first time that I’ve ever had too many songs and it’s quite a weird sensation to have to axe some of them. I’m obviously attached to them all because they’re my songs, so it’s been weird.
Will it tell a story?
Yeah, a lot of it is to do with just the basics of pace and tempo, I like the kind of science behind it. I really like the phycology behind a setlist I think; it’s kind of an artful thing. So yeah I’d like to spend a bit of time doing that. Tried a few ways out and I think I’ve got the right way now.
To help perfect it?
Yeah, it’s like do you start with a bang? Do you build? Do you dip in the middle? Do you finish on a high? Do you do one of those pretentious sort of encores where you walk off and prepare for it.
What do you do in that kind of situation?
You know what we’ve done it a few times I think it’s so; I get why people do it but at the same time it’s like you’ve know you’ve got another 2 songs to play. Unless the gig is bombing just play them all [Laughs].
Do you try and gage the vibe in the room?
Yeah, it’s weird. Its just kind of an egotistical slap on the back you know? You’re going to get a cheer. So between now and the tour I’ll be working on the perfect setlist.
Who is supporting you on the tour?
You know what, we’re just about to chat about that today. Yeah it’s good because when you usually do your tours, it’s everyone’s names in the hats. So the booking agent will throw in names, the manager will throw in names, I’ll throw in names and band members will throw in names. It all goes into a big pot and it’s nice to have some fresh music after a while. People you’ve not really heard of, people you’ve heard of with new material, it’s exciting. So we haven’t confirmed anyone yet but there’s a lot of great people I think. People are really up for it, lots of talented bands.
Any favourite venues on the upcoming tour?
A favourite? Well London is usually the big gig.
Heaven this time around…
Yeah, I’ve never been so I don’t know what to expect there. I like The Thekla in the ship, I’ve heard a lot of good stories and tales from Thekla. Actually the last time we were at Thekla, the last time we were in Bristol we ended the gig in A&E, which was quite mad.
Do I ask?
We had a freak accident on stage with my sound guy so we had to run to A&E during the gig. Something always happens at Thekla, that’s the thing.
Is Thekla cursed?
Yeah, it’s quite like exciting to go there though; there’s also the Great Escape Festival that is in the mix as well, as part of the tour. I love Brighton.
Always a good line-up there!
To tell the truth I haven’t checked out the line-up for this year yet but when I go its always good, it’s my fourth time probably there now so I enjoy it.
Do you try to check out the other acts that are playing?
Yeah all of that, to be honest I’m a sucker for a seaside town.
Well Liverpool is a seaside town I would say!
Yeah you can go across to New Brighton and stuff but a bit depressing than traditional do you know what I mean? That sounds bad but you know.
It’s like, can you get an ice cream or not?
You know I think places like Brighton or even Blackpool have got a weird charm about it than other seaside towns I think.
Yes, great reputations.
When you go to these places, do they inspire you through the writing process?
Not so much Brighton and Blackpool [Laughs]. But definitely new places do massively; massively. Especially if they have something about them in terms of [Pause]
Yeah I guess so, kind of green cities, which are usually quite a nice thing. Places that are immersed in kind of a natural beauty; they are quite nice. That’s why I love going to America, it’s not like we haven’t got it in the UK but when you go there it drastically goes from desert to city or forest to city. That’s also inspiring.
It’s crazy how 2 vastly different ecosystems work well together like that.
Yeah it’s very steady, all over the shop! It’s mad.
It is, so the campaign is going well?
Yeah I can’t wait for it to get busier to be honest, looking forward to really getting going!
Have you got a name for the album yet?
I have but I’m not allowed to say just yet, this is the thing. I don’t know so for safety reasons I’m going to say no for now.
In terms of a release date?
I know that we’ll be aiming for the very end of June, start of July. But I think we’re just confirming that today. Today is my London day for things like that so I think we’re going to hopefully announce that very soon.
Nice summer album for your fans to look forward to.
Yeah, pre-orders up soon to get people excited.
Will there be a vinyl release?
You’ve got the likes of PULS Open Air Festival to look forward to playing?
Great, where is that? [Laughs]
Great! [Laughs]. That’s not in a snobbish way, we’ve had things flying through and so I’m trying to keep up with a lot of things especially these types of festivals where; to tell the truth I haven’t kind of done a great deal of European festivals and I’m really excited to do them.
Obviously when names come through I’m just “Oh yeah!” One went up the other day that I forgot about called Summer’s Tale festival. I’m doing that and look at the line-up; great! My previous management and my previous label they were very much centered around the UK and East and West coast America and I feel that maybe on my first album campaign that I neglected Europe.
So I’m very excited to go, I’ve got quite a bit of work to do to build back up in Europe but I’m very excited to kind of try hard this year to push for lots of European festivals, lots of European touring and stuff. UK as well but its just such a mad idea that you wouldn’t go to these places, you know.
Easy to get across to Europe from here, lots of possibilities.
Yeah it is, so yeah I think they’ll definitely be some touring and festivals in there. Where about is Open Air?
I think it’s in Germany.
Oh cool! Know the line-up?
Nope, me neither! But that sounds cool, lets go there.
It’s a great difference to play there and then your home country.
Yeah we’ve done a lot of UK festivals and it’s not like I don’t enjoy them, I love them. But there is something to be said about them, a new experience of a new festival.
Yeah definitely, new friends and new experiences.
Yeah for sure!
The new album was produced by Ben Allen?
Yes so it was me and Ben Allen in Atlanta, Georgia which was great.
You got to America in the end then!
Yeah, it was 2 months living in Atlanta on my own; it was cool. It was a fun experience, very hot place for a pasty white guy. [Laughs]. It was very hot, so that was great. Loved Ben and I think we’ve done a great job and it’s been mixed by a great guy over here so I just want people to hear it. There’s obviously been 3 tracks off it already so far.
You started off with ‘One of Us’ back in 2015…
That’s coming back around actually, there’s a re-release and a remix and stuff. So ‘One of Us’, ‘Swim’ and ‘Away from Today’ so that’s kind of 3 of 11 tracks I think, and we’ve got one more to go and then the release.
Brilliant. One more single so that means another video?
Yeah god, another video; hopefully not running this time. [Laughs] Hate running.
That was a good effort though!
Oh yeah, I don’t hate running really I just wasn’t prepared for that really. That was like one day off between America and coming onto the European tour so I was really ill. It was like “so you’ve got a video shoot.” and I was like “oh my god!”
I bet you missed that during your transition from the first album to this one, you kind of had a long break in a way?
Yeah I mean it’s been a big break. There has been a lot of hardship really being dropped and losing management and all of that. Going back to square one has been tough mentally, a very tough couple of years but thankfully I managed to pick myself up and Communion I owe a lot of thanks to for picking me up.
You’ve come back stronger, do you think?
I hope so! I just hope it’s going to see the light of day. There was a point last year when I nearly uploaded it for free just to get it out there; it’s driving me mad.
Because you’ve been sitting on it for so long?
A long time, you forget how long you’ve been sitting on it but not in a bad way. You’ve heard it a lot and you just want to get it out there.
You had the single ‘Swim’ come out just before your Village Underground show just down the road, how was that? Sold out show and everything.
It was amazing, it’s an incredible venue and I had tickets to go and see Loyle Carner there and I think he played a few weeks before me so I couldn’t make it, so I thought I’d know what the venue would be like but I didn’t.
First time you’ve been there?
First time I’ve been and I loved it. I think as a venue it is pretty spectacular. It is this almost kind of a German and European kind of venue with the big warehouse brick structure. It’s quite a brutalist venue so I loved it. So yeah ‘Swim’ came out and it had a good reception and I was chuffed that, that one came out as a single. It’s got one of my best mates on it singing, Becky from Stealing Sheep. So it meant a lot to have her on it.
You had a lot of collaborations didn’t you in the first album?
Yeah we had quite a few, this new album is definitely a bit more sheltered in a way, Becky is the only collaborator on it. This album was more me on every track with a few band members pitching in on the first one. This was more a challenge; I think I’m a very competitive person. I’ve come from a very competitive sporting background so when it came to the idea of creating an album its like how far can I push myself? So here’s an idea, I’ll play everything possible. And I’ll compete with myself in a weird way to see if I can do it, you know.
Did you gather new sounds and new ideas that way?
Yeah there was definitely a point when I was recording my drums on the track, I’m not a drummer and I had a drum kit as a kid; but I’m kind of self-taught. I’m not amazing but I know the basics so I was doing takes for my own songs and like sweating in a very hot Atlanta. Then the producers found a way to really push me in quite a clever way, they kind of realized that I was very competitive so on the talk back, if I wasn’t doing well enough it kind of subtly threatened with the idea of that he could find someone else to play it, but in a very nice way. He was like “Dan you’re looking pretty knackered, I’ve got a friend who is a really good drummer and I reckon he’d do a really good job of this.” I was like “no!” and sweating. He got the best takes out of me so it was quite a smart way of doing it really.
How did you feel in the studio with him?
It was great, the studio was beautiful; it was kind of an old railway signalling house.
They’re kind of modernized in the UK now, right?
Yeah kind of, they’re in a weird brick over there and it was hollowed out and built into a big studio; it was great. Basically it was one big live room and that suits me very well. The way that I work is kind of uninterrupted chaos a lot of time, you’ll hit record at the start of the day and take it off at the end and try to make sense of it all.
My nightmare of a studio is when there are individual live rooms where each member would stand in a separate room, so there would be a lot of start and stop. Setting up and re-mic’ing and so when we’re looking for a studio because we’d already found Ben, we’d need to find a place to house all the instruments but have them permanently set up and mic’d. So there was no touching them from day 1. They were all ready to go from day 1; uninterrupted chaos.
I guess that is why it was quite a relatively quick recording process, only 2 months?
Only two months yeah, and maybe a week’s break in the middle. So one month and three weeks if we’re being really picky. [Laughs]
Got any phobias?
Yeah! To tell the truth I have this Emetophobia I think it’s called, I might be wrong, it’s a daft one since the kind of rough couple of years I’ve had; I developed a lot of anxiety and I had a real tough time with having a phobia of actually being sick in public. For some reason that became a very big thing for me, and stopped me from taking public transport for a while and made me very sheltered. I didn’t go out a lot and for some reason I was just very paranoid about embarrassing myself in public and being sick. It’s not quite a funny phobia but I think I’m alright with everything else; no phobia of cows or anything.
What is your fault?
I think being as competitive as I am is both good and bad. Kind of at times can be a fault; I think it’s because you’re so bothered and driven about succeeding so you know taking any pleasure in succeeding or failing and learning from your mistakes and stuff like that. So I think being very competitive sometimes can bring out a bad side but trying to learn to enjoy the small things.
Dan’s latest single ‘Away from Today’ is out now on Communion, you can watch the video for the single here. Dan is on tour around the UK throughout May 2017, you can get tickets for his upcoming dates at dancroll.com
Words – Stuart Williams
Photography – Dan Wilton