Set It Off : « It is not socially acceptable to be that angry »

After the release of their album Midnight in February, which went #1 on the alternative chart, Set It Off are now on a world tour. The band is currently on the road in Europe and they made a stop in Paris to give a show full of energy! Right before the concert, we had the opportunity to chat with Cody Carson, the lead singer, about their new album Midnight.

© Mac Praed

Your new album Midnight came out earlier this year. Congratulations! We feel like it’s the child of all your previous albums. What were your goals with this record, what did you want to make precisely?

Cody Carson : We feel the same way! A big part of it was to find a great balance of everything we’ve been doing. The number one goal was bringing the organic instruments more towards the front. We wanted to bring back all the things that we knew we were successful with and make sure they were all present. By organics I mean the drums and the guitars, we wanted to make sure they were heard. Last record they were there but they were mixed very low so you couldn’t hear it that much. We wanted to make sure we brought the band back as far as it sounds like us.

You said the Midnight era was a new beginning for Set It Off, so what are your goals for the future? What can we expect from you?

Cody : Touring like crazy! I think you’re gonna see a lot of us everywhere which is nice for us. Our goals, at the end of the day, are just to be successful and for our music to reach as many ears as possible. I don’t really think I can ask for more.

Midnight was pretty successful. It went #1 on the alternative chart, 1 million streams in two days, did you expect this reaction?

Cody : Honestly, I didn’t. I had no idea what to expect but I didn’t expect that. Not that I didn’t have faith in what we could do, it’s just we took a minor step back with the last record (Upside Down) just to be completely honest. It wasn’t our most successful record to date, we had great numbers from it but as far as how we felt afterwards, as far as our connection and our momentum. We weren’t sure what to expect but to see that happen it was like we never left! Good to be back!

Your logo was also part of the change. It’s now an hourglass, what’s the meaning behind this symbol?

Cody : Partially it was a nod to our fanbase. Also a sign of a new era. Maxx was looking at our diamond and was playing around, inverting it and making it look like an hourglass. One of the main reasons we looked at that in the first place, we did a Youtube video not so long ago where we wrote a song on a Youtube live stream with all our fans. The song ended being called Hourglass Love, we wanted to be able to release it but legally it’d be a nightmare. You have to find every one of the thousands people who were involved. We couldn’t do that so instead so instead we wanted to give them a little nod and Hourglass became sort of the theme but it also became the theme roll of the songs like not taking your time for granted, really appreciating every second you got.

Does the color blue mean something special to you? Blue was present in your two precious eras, Duality and Upside Down. Still with Midnight.

Cody : When we were first doing Duality, we started to understand branding so we wanted to create a logo. That’s what we did with the diamond and we wanted to have a color scheme, we were looking for some and blue stood out for us – which is also my favorite color. No one else was using this color so we were like « ok, cool, perfect, we’ll claim that ». But then moving forward into Midnight, it’s a blue but it’s a much darker blue – it is actually called Midnight Blue. We went with that color because we wanted to take our sound from the previous records and darken it. We went from a very white album cover to a very dark and black album cover, it’s overall darker and the tones are a lot darker too so we wanted to amplify that in the scheme.

There’s a gospel choir on your song Happy All The Time. Is there an instrument you’d like to have on a song one day?

Cody : I think a real organ would be cool. A real drum line as well. It’s hard to think about because we’ve done so much. We’ve got a chamber choir once which is more classical, we’ve done horns and winds. There’s always gonna be something we can try out but we never want to force it in there. If I enjoy bagpipes, I’m not just gonna throw bagpipes in a song. (laughs)

Sometimes it’s hard to be able to afford everything so there are some synthetic instruments that you can use like a keyboard. When we were starting out, we couldn’t afford a choir. We wanted one since Why Worry, all the Whys, we wanted it to be a gospel choir but we couldn’t afford it at the time so it’s just a bunch of me singing (laughs). The choir on Happy All The Time was the first time we’ve ever done it and they were phenomenal and they absolutely brought the song to a whole other level.

You co-wrote all the songs of Midnight. Do you put yourself some limits on how personal your lyrics can be?

Cody : No! It has to come from a personal place. That’s very important to us cause if you don’t, you lose your authenticity. We’ve done writing sessions with people, even close friends, who would be like « C’mon man, think about hey nanana hey hey goodbye, those lyrics don’t matter, why do you care about this? » well because that’s who we are. We never gonna write a song with nonsense lyrics, that’s not us.

Some anger radiates from your songs. Would you say it’s therapeutic for you to write and perform those songs?

Cody : Yes it is! It is therapeutic to perform, to sing it in a booth and to write it down. Everything about it, just getting it out, is amazing because it is not usually socially acceptable to be that outspokenly angry. The only time you can get it out is if you’re singing along to a song, if you’re at a show. Otherwise, you’re a bubble of happiness, you smile, you laugh, that’s fine, that’s acceptable. I’d say with emotions, happy is the most okay, sadness is in the middle but anger is below ground. If you see someone cry, you’re like « oh, ok that’s normal » but if you see someone wagging, flipping table, « ok you gotta find better ways to vent », so people that wrong us get their own songs. (laughs)

And do they know that you’ve written a song about them?

Cody : I like to think they do. I basically go as far as saying everything except from saying their name. Especially in Hypnotized, I was basically calling someone out directly.

You openly talk about mental health and anxiety. Did you hesitate to show that « vulnerable » part of you?

Cody : No. It’s easy for me. I used to live afraid of showing emotion, hoping I wouldn’t get judged for acting this way. I don’t give a shit anymore. I’d rather look like an idiot being myself than look cool being what I think someone wants me to be. That’s what I prefer. At least I can go home and sleep knowing I was me through and through. At the end of the day, everyone has social anxiety. Some people are better at handling it but they feel it too. Everyone has the same moments. It’s very interesting how similar we all are.

You’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the band this year! What are your highlights and best memories?

Cody : So many! I think the most recent huge milestone was selling out a tour before it started, this tour (The Midnight Tour Part 2). We are very excited about that! The other one I can think of is being the last band to play the Orlando Wrapped Tour. Our first time playing in an arena, I’ll always remember that. I remember getting catering that day and how fucking awesome it was! You go back and you think about the worse times and you compare them; there was one time we were playing a show at the venue that was so small and the bar next door offered us – and I’m being so serious – half-cooked sausages and hot dog and water. It looked like something out of a horror movie. It was terrible. But then, we were supporting Simple Plan in an arena in Canada and there were chefs serving us food like « What is going on?! This is amazing! » So this is a lot appreciated as well. And obviously having a #1 alternative album, but that’s still sinking in! (laughs)

Is there anything you would do differently if you were entering the music industry today?

Cody : If we had all knowledge we have today, I think we would have written better songs from the start to be honest. I think Midnight would’ve been our first album and it would’ve been the perfect way to step forward. But you don’t get that opportunity when you start off and that’s fine. We’ve learnt and grown a lot by doing that. We’ve learnt to appreciate it because I’m a big believer that if your trajectory is 90 degrees, you’re coming down 90 degrees shortly after but if it’s a slow fruitful process, if you ever do the climb, it’s gonna go down just as slow. You’re creating such a firm foundation underneath this incline. There’s no way it’s just gonna go away. So, I’m very grateful for the time it has taken to get us where we are.

Let’s finish with a less serious question, can you describe each member of the band with a Midnight song?

Cody : Dan would be Raise No Fool. Zach would be Hourglass. I’d be Different Songs or Unopened Windows. Maxx, I want to give him Lonely Dance cause he can sleep! He enjoys his naps. (laughs)

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