Interview with Cody Carson, vocalist for Florida based Orchestral pop-rockers, Set It Off.
Fresh off stage after their performance at The Electric Ballroom in Camden, on their last night supporting Tonight Alive on their current UK tour, I had a quick chat with Set It Off frontman Cody Carson.
Once the rabble of fans wanting hugs and pictures scattered back to the main floor, to watch tonight’s Aussie pop/rock headliners, Cody and I braved the October chill and ventured outside the venue to talk about how the tour has been, the organised chaos that is their live show, and when they hope to be back in the UK.
Cody also told me about how the band had been asked to tone down their performance – after some over enthusiastic stage antics led to him giving someone a black eye the night before – and how people are slowly starting to catch “the disease” that is Set It Off. Check out the Q & A below for more:
Q & A
Sophie: Alright Cody? You’ve actually just come offstage…
Cody: Yes, hence the sweat [laughs]
Sophie: [laughs] You played London’s Electric Ballroom, how was the show for you?
Cody: Amazing. We were told before we went on like, ‘hey it’s a tough crowd’, and we’re like alright we’ll buckle up, because last night we played in Newcastle, and I won’t lie, Newcastle’s like… you have to be able to get them going, they don’t just move for anybody. And so, last night I was stage diving into the crowd, jumping on people, and I guess I gave someone a black eye…I was not aware of this. So the promoter today got wind of that and was like ‘listen, the parent’s upset, you can’t do that here.’ [At this point Cody looks to the camera and says, “if you’re watching, I’m sorry, it was completely unintentional.”] So today was like ‘you cannot start a mosh-pit’, ‘you cannot crowd-surf’, ‘you cannot stage dive’, so I did not. So, all I did was mention [to the crowd] ‘listen I was told I can’t ask you to crowd surf or stage dive.’ So I thought I’d let them know. But they went hard today, they jumped, they had a good time, I had a really really really really awesome time today. London threw down and I realise why we’re back, it was a really fun time.
Sophie: oh good! Am I right in thinking this is your second time over in the UK?
Cody: This is our second time coming to London, we’ve had two shows in London. We had a show at the Koko with Yellow Card, we did that when we were here in March, and Rock Sound [It was actually Kerrang!] promoted a show at The Garage, for us, we had a headliner there, it was our first headliner overseas ever. So we’ve played two times, so then this show is our third show – technically – in London, but our second time being here. But it was amazing, it was a really good time, yeah.
Sophie: So would you say most of the crowds have been responsive [to you guys]?
Cody: Very much so, yes. Especially Ireland, like, what I’ve come to notice is like, a lot of places that bands don’t usually go, they freak out a lot. Like, Ireland you have to take the ferry over, it costs more money to get there, so a lot of bands won’t head over there. So Ireland was very very much responsive and they were an amazing crowd. They had a really good time, but every crowd was awesome.
Sophie: So you’ve been on tour with Tonight Alive for just under two weeks, how has it been?
Cody: Unbelievable. Really, I can call them good friends. They have been so kind to us, they are amazing musicians, great band, and I hope we get to go out on the road with them again. I don’t care if it’s here, in their neck of the woods, our neck of the woods… I’ve had a great time and I think I can say that they did too. We bonded very much over this tour.
Sophie: Good 🙂 So you released your last album ‘Cinematics’ last year, how has the response to that been? because you guys are quite a theatrical band.
Cody: We’ll always be theatrical and over the top, it’s just, I have a background in theatre and acting and musicals and stuff like that. I was a thespian in high school and so, it was kinda fun to introduce that theatricality plus my orchestral background, with our rock background. I think what makes a band who they are is really introducing their roots, and what they know and where they come from, and making it their own. And that’s kind of what we did with ‘Cinematics’, and we’re going to continue to do that as we grow as a band. I know, growing up I listened to a lot of 90’s R’n’B, like Usher, TLC…and 90’s pop like ‘Nsync and stuff like that.
[I had to stop and high-five him there just for the ‘Nsync love!]
So I think with the next record people will hear a lot of that influence, added into the current theatricality and orchestral background as well, so I’m really excited to see how it turns out. So far we’ve written some songs and it’s definitely the best stuff we’ve ever written, by far, so I’m excited to see how it’s responded to. Whenever someone has a pop influence they automatically go ‘sold out’, but I don’t care, we like writing it [laughs].
Sophie: Why should you care? If you like the music that you write…
Cody: Exactly, you write what you like and if they like it, good, and if they don’t, oh well. [Chuckles]
Sophie: Well it seems that’s not really an issue for you guys, everybody was going bat-shit crazy [during their set.] I was at the back and I was struck by how much energy you have onstage. What do you do to psyche yourself up for that? Loads of red bull? [laughs].
Cody: Ahh, no, no, no, like, I mean, maybe I’ll have a couple shots before I go on but…
Cody: Anything, Tequila’s my drink of choice, but I don’t always drink before I go on. Honestly what does it is just the general adrenaline rush. Going to shows when we were growing up we wanted to watch a band that made us move, and I remember that adrenaline rush as a kid, and what it did for me, and how it distracted me from everything that was going on at home, or any bad things that were happening in my life, and so we want to be there for everyone else. Everyone has their comfort zone, you come to a show, my goal is to break them out of that. Because it’s trying new things, experiencing new things it’s exhilarating, and so I want to be able to do that for other people, and show them what trying new things is like. For some people, even jumping at a show is new, but if they see…a lot of people will look around and be like ‘oh is he doing it? Is he doing it?’ but if I’m like, everyone does it and everyone does do it, then it’s more of a cohesive effort and people don’t feel uncomfortable. So it’s a lot of psychology if you think about it. Also, [gestures to the ‘joker’ card in his waistcoat pocket] Joker is an inspiration to me so… shows are organised chaos and I like the idea that there’s no real rules, you can do whatever the fuck you want, yeah people can get hurt but it’s a fun time.
Sophie: Responsible fun…
Cody: Responsible fun, I mean I’m just saying people can, it’s not like a fuckin’ death trap but…[laughs] it’s a fun time to release aggression in a healthy way, instead of going out and doing drugs or alcohol, or joining a gang. I know it sounds so cliché but it’s really, it’s a healthy alternative. That’s how I see it.
Sophie: Wise words. During your set before you played ‘Dreamcatcher’, the speech that you gave had me welling up because I’ve tried to convey the same idea in the past, that a rock show can create a community and bring people together…
Cody: It really does. Like, my instance that I brought up a few times tonight at the show was: It’s a Wednesday night and we’re shoulder to shoulder sweating our asses off watching a band play, and vice versa, watching them watch us play, and people don’t have to do that they can go home or play video games instead. It’s a whole other world, it is a whole other community.
Sophie: Is it humbling for you to see how many kids show up?
Cody: Completely. Absolutely. Because we started with nobody, ya’know? It started with nobody coming to the shows. It started with no one giving a shit and that’s fine because we gave a shit, It was all us. And people started to catch the disease, the infectious…we love what we do, and people latched on and it kind of went from there.
Sophie: So with your background in theatre what drew you more towards the music side of things?
Cody: Music was involved in theatre, my parents were musicians they were on tour, my mum was the director of the theatre programme at our church, so I was involved in musicals and I would sing and…I’ve always loved both. My mother was a singer, she was a singer in a band and as I grew up I started doing it more and more. I started out as a drummer in my first band but I was sitting at a throne and I felt trapped, I wanted to get out there and interact. I would try to move around, jump around as much as I could on my drum set, but I could only do so much. So as I grew as a musician I wanted to grow as a performer.
Sophie: Speaking of growing as a performer, am I right in thinking you guys did some work with VH1, can you tell us a little about that?
Cody: VH1 ‘Save The Music’. There was a programme that we did with our album where we did a pre-sale which was… we donated a dollar for every album pre-ordered. Because it involved music education, and music education was the reason that I was involved and have the work ethic that I do, because our band programme was amazing, and every year band programmes drop off because they just cut funding. So in hopes to show people how much it meant to us, how much it helped us, and hopefully put more money into those programmes and help them stay afloat.
Sophie: So, would you say it’s a little bit harder to be a musician nowadays because it’s easier, in a way, to build a fan-base through things like the internet and social media, but because so many people are doing it, does that also make it harder?
Cody: it’s arguably… it’s easier because you have access to the internet but you have to be good at it. You can’t just be like, ‘alright here’s a video’… like, you can’t just put a video on YouTube and everyone’s going to watch it, you have to know how to make people watch it. Because you’re only, in this scene, in this day-and-age, you’re only as legitimate as you appear. If I release a photoshoot for our band and our friend did it on a digital camera, we’re going to look like a bunch of amateurs. If you get a friend who is a very good photographer and that can make you look – at the quality level – of a Taylor Swift or a Justin Beiber, then you will get their level, and that’s kind of how it is. If you post a shitty video on YouTube, no offence to people who do, it’s just… it’s how you’re going to look. You are only as legitimate as you appear, I will quote that day in and day out.
Sophie: On that note, you guys are pretty hard-working so…
Cody: We do our best [laughs]
Sophie: Do you have any upcoming plans to come back to the UK?
Cody: We don’t have a solidified plan but we know, as far as schedule wise, we want to try and come back before summer. We want to come back around the spring time. We’re going to aim for Slam Dunk [festival] but we can’t say…we can’t promise any of this. It’s just, these are the things we want to do…
Sophie: Tentative plans.
Cody: Tentative, exactly. But yeah, that’s the goal.
Sophie: So for anyone who may not have heard of Set It Off, can you describe your live show in five words? Why should people be interested in you guys?
Cody: Five words? [Thinks] [counts on fingers] organised, chaos, energetic…
Sophie: As hell!
Cody: [Laughs] energetic as hell…energetic, fun, positive.
So there you have it. Set It Off are an incredible live band, they put every ounce of energy and passion they’ve got into their performance, and you can’t help but get swept up in it. Before launching into their set closer ‘Partners In Crime’, Cody said that he wanted the song to be stuck in everyone’s heads the next day….well mission accomplished guys.
At this point I’d also like to say a huge thank you to Cody for being such a sweetheart and taking the time to speak to me, despite the fact that it was pretty darn cold outside the venue 🙂 he’s a lovely guy, extremely down to earth and fun to chat to. Hope to see you guys back in the UK soon.
*Sophie Says: As you can probably tell I do also have video footage of the interview, however, I chose not to use it. We had to do the interview outside because Tonight Alive had already started playing, and it was pretty darn cold, so the camera work is pretty shaky because we were shivering. On top of that we had to contend with people talking really loudly around us, the doors slamming as people were coming in and out of the venue, police sirens, traffic noise, and one guy even walked right through the shot at one point. My Dictaphone picked everything up fine, and I didn’t want to put a video online that I had to make apologies for because of certain things that were out of my control…or that made people feel sea-sick just watching it!