Daniel Wand, lead singer for Capsize, was making me reach deep into my memory bank. “Do you remember the feeling of your first time going to a heavy music show?” I thought back to the first mosh pit I ever witnessed as a terrified 16-year-old.
“It’s like you don’t really know what’s going on,” Wand said. “Maybe you’re kind of scared, but in a fun way. Or feeling like you might get in trouble if your parents saw exactly where you were. It’s this intense, innocent energy that you can’t really explain—a feeling I cherish so much. That’s what I try to make happen for everyone in the room.”
To discuss creating that magical energy for the crowd, as well as tour survival tips, differences between supporting and headlining, and the strategy involved in building a setlist, Behind the Setlist sat down with Wand and Hail the Sun’s drummer and lead vocalist Donovan Melero, whose bands recently finished up a national tour together. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
There’s not a lot of downtime between shows on this tour. Have you had time to enjoy the cities you’re playing in?
Donovan Melero: It really depends on how long the drive is the next day. At this point, we’ve spent time in all these cities because we’ve hit them so many times before. So on this tour, it’s really just in and out. We’re doing six shows on and one day off.
Daniel Wand: We don’t do any touristy stuff, but if we’re in a place that has any super notable restaurant or type of food, we’ll try to do that. We had an off day driving from Texas to Florida, so we went out of our way to pull over in New Orleans to get the best gumbo and jambalaya. In Philadelphia, we had to get Gino’s cheesesteaks. If we’re in Chicago, we’re going to go and get a real deep-dish pizza. But other than trying to get the authentic staples of food out of each major city, not really.
How do you stay healthy and energized with all the traveling? I’m sure a lot of it is fun, but with only one off day a week and all the driving, I imagine it can wear you down, too.
Melero: It’s definitely work. It feels like a dream sometimes, but it can also be extremely grueling. You can break your body very easily. Our band has been going for so long, we can be a little more comfortable in a financial sense, which helps. Also, lots of water. Tons and tons of water. I personally have been on this big Whole Foods salad kick lately. Any chance I get, I go into a Whole Foods and eat as much green shit as I can.
Wand: Nothing really in particular keeps us healthy, honestly. Every tour, someone has some low health point. But the main thing that keeps us going is the fact that we’re doing what we want. We’re not at work or doing something that we don’t want to be doing. The fact that we’re in the rare situation of actually getting to manifest the way our lives are spent is what makes it worth it, no matter what. The vibe is like, “OK, this is what we signed up for, regardless of how amazing or terrible certain moments can be.”
Since you guys both sing, is there anything specific you have to do to take care of your voice on the road?
Melero: That’s where the water comes in. And no dairy or cheese before I play. Now, after I play, that’s a different story. I eat a lot of cheese. I love cheese. But before I play, I’ll take it easy. I did a bunch of research about proper vocal warm-ups and how to take care of your voice so you’re not doing long-term damage to it, and I would definitely not be opposed to doing professional vocal lessons just for longevity. I rely on my voice for what I do, so any way to protect that is smart.
Wand: I don’t do anything to tend to it, and sometimes it gets a little rough. I have a nonchalant attitude about it. I’ll warm up before I play, but aside from that, I just live my normal life. I don’t do anything precautionary. Granted, if I actually get sick, I’m going to try and sleep it off. But aside from that, I don’t adjust my day based around the fact that I’m a singer.
You guys have both been doing this a long time and been all over the country and the world. Do you have any favorite cities or favorite venues?
Melero: Texas is incredible. San Antonio has been very good and strong for our scene of music. There’s a great venue there called Jack’s Patio Bar. Our all-time favorite venue is Chain Reaction in Anaheim, CA. It’s kind of a legacy venue at this point. Everyone from Thrice to Circa Survive to Mars Volta had their first show at Chain Reaction, as have so many bands over the last 20 years. We love playing there.
Wand: Our most hardcore fans are definitely in California, Texas, Florida and Germany.
Germany? Actually, I guess that makes sense. They do have a big hardcore scene there.
Wand: Oh, yeah. It’s unreal. But essentially the farther we are from home, the more I appreciate it. Anytime I’m in a place where no matter how bad I want to go home, it’s not possible to get home in any sort of immediate time is when I feel like my life is cool. The less familiar I am, the better I feel about the progress of my career. It would have seemed completely unrealistic back when this was all starting to know that we would actually go on to headline Japan tours or that we’d go to Australia.
Is there anything about this tour that has stood out from others you’ve done?
Melero: The last two to three years of touring, we’ve always been supporting a larger artist. This is our headlining tour, so our schedule is a little bit different. We get a soundcheck, we can take our time loading in and we get a longer set. But also being a headliner, most of the attendance for the night in theory is reliant upon us, and we’ve seen really great turnouts so far. That tells us the last two-and-a-half years of supporting has done its purpose.
Right. As you’re supporting, you’re building a fan base so that when you do end up headlining, those people come with you.
Melero: That’s the theory at least, and that’s how it typically goes. There are so many variables though, especially these days. For example, the season that you tour in can make a big difference because there are competing tours. There is so much overkill these days that when ticket buyers have seven shows a week to choose from, you’ve got to do everything you can to make sure your show is one of them.
Wand: And as support, we try to get the energy up as high as possible. We’re trying to do Hail the Sun the service that they’re paying us to do. They chose us for direct support on their tour believing we will put on a show that gets the crowd ready for them, and I respect the fact they invited us over any other band they could have. Obviously, we’re there to play to our fans and gain new fans, but second to that, out of respect for Hail the Sun giving us this place, it’s our job to turn it up and make sure the crowd is in a great mood by the time they walk onstage.
How has the response been so far?
Wand: It’s been a good time. This crowd is definitely not our usual kids, but the kids that are there have been super open-minded. Our band has a different vibe than the other bands on the tour, but it’s definitely cool. Every single night there have been kids that have bought shirts and said they’ve never even heard of us until they showed up.
How do you approach building a setlist? Do you keep it the same throughout the tour or does it change frequently?
Melero: For us, our setlist is always the same. We may interchange a song here and there, but for the most part it’s all set in stone so that every show runs the same. Usually a month before the tour, we’ll start brainstorming and bounce ideas off each other. It’ll take a couple weeks to get everyone to middle ground where we can all agree on the same setlist.
Wand: Our setlist thought process is mainly based around the first two songs of the set and then the last one. If we want Hail the Sun kids to enjoy the show and get into Capsize, then we have to make sure they hear the first three songs they’ll find when they look us up.
For the first one, we play the first song on our new record, because that is the main representation of our most recent sound. For the last one, we play the song that’s currently the most popular or has the video with the most views. That way people get to start with something there’s a pretty good chance they’re familiar with, and then they get to finish with something they’re definitely familiar with. We fill in everything else with songs that have videos we like or have gotten the most attention.
So there’s strategy based on the fact the crowds on this tour may not know your music yet.
Wand: Right. We’re the only band on this tour that it’s awkward if no one’s into it. Our set is more about getting the crowd going than it is about the way the songs go. With the other bands, you can bob your head and enjoy a song if you don’t know it. But we have this energy onstage where either it’s reciprocated, and we kick it up a notch even harder, or we just feel awkward [laughs]. So it helps to pick songs people are more likely to have heard.
How do you know when it’s gone really well? When you walk off stage and know you just had that “magic show,” what is it that makes the difference?
Melero: When everything goes right and it feels like a “magic show,” it’s that we all feel like we played well. We all feel like we did a good job and played our parts right, and also that the crowd reaction was stellar. On the opposite end of that is where we weren’t playing as well as we felt like we could’ve been. Crowd vibe is a weird thing. We could perform very well and still have a strange vibe, but it’s a lot worse if we performed not as well. Honestly, we just like playing.
You’d have to! In order to be good enough to get up onstage every night, you have to play a lot. You have to practice a lot. You can’t do any of that if you don’t love it.
Melero: I completely agree. I just have to say how lucky we all feel to have been doing this for the last seven to eight years. Since I was six years old, I thought I’d be doing this. I’ve always thought that I’d be doing this. I just never knew exactly the route I would take to get there. So I’m thankful to everyone for giving us the chance. Everything we do is a stepping-stone, and we’re going to keep building.