Soul Asylum has just released their eleventh studio album, Change of Fortune, and it is as much a new experience for the band as it is for fans. The band took some new approaches to making and promoting the album, and now they are gearing up to head out on tour to promote it! I sat down with Dave Pirner (guitar/vox) to discuss the new album, getting down with fans, and their upcoming tour with The English Beat, which you can read below. You can also win two tickets to see Soul Asylum and The English Beat at Ogden Theatre on July 13! In order to enter: download the Thrillcall app, set your location to Denver, locate the giveaway, and follow the on screen instructions. Good luck!
Thrillcall: Hi Dave! Thanks for speaking with me today.
Dave Pirner: My pleasure, thanks for having me.
TC: So you’re in Minneapolis today, what are you up to? Are you hanging at home?
DP: Well, I’ve been living in New Orleans, Louisiana for 14 years, 15 years, but I’ve still managed to keep a place here in Minneapolis, so I’m spending more and more time in Minneapolis. And we’re just rehearsing and getting ready to go on tour. This reminded me that probably some of the stuff I’m gonna need to go on tour is in New Orleans, and that’s the story of my life. I’ve got too much stuff spread out all over the place.
TC: You left some gear in New Orleans?
DP: No, no; it’s the lucky underwear and shirt I like to wear, (laughs) and the stuff that I don’t always carry around with me until I’m out for six weeks, and now I have to reconfigure my whole situation. It’s very complicated; my clothes get wet every night because I sweat so much. The whole cycle is ridiculous, [the band’s] gotta walk by my hanging underwear and I feel kinda embarrassed about it but when you’re on a bus with a bunch of people, there’s really nowhere else to dry your underwear. It’s a little odd.
TC: I can imagine touring is an intimate experience with your bandmates.
DP: Yes, it always has been varying degrees of intimacy. Sometimes it’s more intimate than anyone really wants to be with a bunch of dudes on tour. You kinda get used to being in small spaces and having to smell everybody else. We recently, well not so recently, like eight years ago, we got a female tour manager, and to me, it really was one of the best moves ever. I don’t really understand the dynamic but it works so much better to have a female in charge of a bunch of dudes who need some pushing around. (laughs)
TC: I bet! I feel like that should be a requirement: all women tour managers.
DP: Yeah it really switches up the chemistry in all the right ways.
TC: And you guys have always toured a lot. You never stop touring, it seems.
DP: That’s certainly how it feels. That’s the job.
TC: Do you still get pumped to go on tour? Are you excited to go on tour with The English Beat?
DP: I don’t know if pumped is the right word. I think it’s somewhere between fear and trepidation and of course there’s some excitement in there. It’s one of those things where once the ball’s rolling it tends to snowball, and the band will get better as we tour. So that’s what I’m looking forward to, when we’re firing on all cylinders, when it becomes effortless. It can be a little clumsy at first, you don’t have everything working right.
TC: Did you write your new album, Change of Fortune, while on tour?
DP: No… the process has been discombobulated over the years. This record was made over time, which is not how we’ve always made records. You go into a studio in New York or LA and spend two months there and spend ungodly amounts of money to do it. But now everybody’s got their own ProTools studio or whatever, and you can do a lot of stuff on the fly. So we’d go to the studio, work on four songs, tour, then go back, record four more songs.
TC: I’ve read the new album, Change of Fortune, described as something that “embraces all that we love about music and it’s been made without any creative shackles.” You guys even did a Pledge Music campaign to get the fans involved. What made you want to open yourselves up to that?
DP: To be perfectly honest, we needed to pay the producer and we needed to raise some dough to cover our expenses. It’s like Kickstarter, where you’re crowdfunding, and I was very apprehensive to get involved. I am very wary of the internet and exposing myself to… haters, if you will. (laughs) I don’t know, it’s something that I shy away from. This was supposed to expand the band’s profile online, and it was gonna help promote the record. I kinda felt like we were panhandling to our fans, which felt kinda weird. But I was able to rationalize it by putting my artwork out there. I’ve always made paintings and this was an opportunity to share them with people that are really into the band. I didn’t know how to sell my paintings, but if I’m going to, why not sell it to someone who’s a fan? So we had fun filming some spray painting things. I mean, I like making films and short films, too, so that was fun. And meeting people was… interesting. And sometimes awkward. (laughs)
TC: Indeed. (laughs)
DP: We played at a house party, that was one of the options for the Pledge Music campaign. So we agreed to play this set and it turned out to be for our biggest longtime fan. It was actually really nice, just a handful of people and we played an acoustic set. It doesn’t get much more intimate than that, let me tell you.
TC: I can imagine. That’s fantastic. Sounds like you were a little apprehensive at first, but it sounds like it turned out really well!
DP: Yeah, it did! When I talked to the dudes that were running it they just seemed so young and smart. They know the internet in a way that someone my age will never understand it. It’s so intuitive and he was so enthusiastic about the potential. It’s an interesting program, I’d like to see where it’s going to go.
TC: Totally. Now, back to art: did you create the artwork for Change of Fortune?
DP: The art was a photo that I saw in a magazine and I thought, ‘I really want this picture for the album cover, and I know I’m not gonna get it.’ I had tried to get a picture from National Geographic for the Hang Time album cover, and, sometimes I’ll think I have artwork secured, but when it’s too late, someone will say ‘oh we can’t get the rights for that.’ For Hang Time, they tried to recreate the photo in the studio, but it looked nothing like the original. With The Silver Lining, I tried to get a Banksy thing, but that fell through. That was kinda before everybody knew who Banksy was, I didn’t know he was gonna explode the way he did. So anyway, we call this guy [for Change of Fortune], and he says, ‘oh sure you can use it, as long as you give me some music for my wildlife movies.’ And I was stunned! I told him that sounds great, and it all worked out. It’s a real photo, a monkey in a zoo climbs up a wall and grabs someone’s phone and he apparently managed to make the flash go off before he slammed it underwater.
TC: That’s great, I really love that artwork. It’s humorous to see him staring at the camera. So I had only one more question, and it’s more of a silly one.
DP: Mm hm.
TC: Have you seen that episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where a character sings “Runaway Train”?
DP: No! I haven’t, but I’ve heard it’s really funny.
TC: It’s hysterical and I personally wanna consider it the best cover of the song. It’s just like, a very drunken karaoke version, where one of the characters realizes they’ve picked up a kid who is running away from home and sings it to him the whole ride. It’s funny, you should check it out!
DP: (laughs) I will! Thank you.
TC: Well, no, thank you! Thanks for talking today, and good luck on tour!
DP: Thank you.