It isn’t often that a support act is reviewed after playing with a big headline name, but it isn’t often that you come across a band as special as Set It Off. I went along to the Electric Ballroom in Camden to review them supporting hugely popular Tonight Alive on Wednesday the 9th of October and they were kind enough to give me an interview to go along with it.
As the cogs of the music industry continue to turn and music fans continue to complain about ‘corporate sell-outs’ and ‘faceless musicians’, it brings great joy and refreshment to write about a band like Set It Off. Like many fifteen year olds of my generation I shamelessly sported a straightened fringe and clothes so dark that I was instructed by my parents to wear a high-vis jacket when walking home from school. During this period of my life, however, I was fortunate enough to see an energetic pop punk band whilst on holiday in Florida. There was no way I could have known then that those five kids jumping around on stage would grow up to one day tour overseas just five years later.
Originally from Tampa, Florida, Set It Off started in the pop-punk scene with light upbeat rock songs, influenced by bands like All Time Low and Fall Out Boy. As they’ve grown up their sound has become harder to categorise. If you did look to fit them into a group it would be fair to say they’ve hit the alternate rock scene pretty hard, describing themselves as, ‘orchestral pop rock’. Front man Cody Carson has a background in classical music and the band have gone in a new and original direction, combining hard-hitting power chords with beautiful string scores. The band use this in a different way to other musicians that have been down a similar route, as the classical sound doesn’t direct the music but simply adds to it. This accompanied by dynamic meaningful lyricism and catchy rhythms is what gives the band not only popularity but also diversity.
What is clear from the first minute of speaking to these guys is that their fans are the only thing they care about more than their music. Guitarist Zach DeWall told me how he loves going to see the fans before every show and that, ‘it means the world to me to see all our fans’ faces’, with drummer Maxx adding that, ‘the least we can do is go and see them after a show to say thank you’. That statement really sums up the band. This sincere kindness is what has proved hugely important in making them as popular as they are now. Guitarist Dan Clermont explained that, ‘the most important thing is to show your fan base that you are human beings, not just people that write songs’.
One of the best ways they are able to show this and demonstrate their enormous talent is through their music. Releasing their first full-length album Cinematics in 2012 took the band to a whole new level. The album focused on a message of believing in what you do and not giving up.
This album was the foundation for their set list and they kicked off the show with ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’, which announced the band in dramatic style as lead singer Cody immediately threw himself into the arms of the front row. Throughout the set the guitarists constantly move around the stage often breaking into simultaneous guitar swings ensuring that there is as much energy on stage as there is in the crowd. Drummer Maxx informed me that the band, ‘pride [themselves]on having an energetic live show without having to choreograph’, which I was surprised by as the band seemed to perform moves that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a dance recital. The second song was new single ‘Kill The Lights’, with a fast paced chorus that ensured the whole crowd was jumping along with the band.
Up next was ‘Swan Song’, a single released before the album, which showcased unbelievable vocal ability from Cody who seemed to climb from octave to octave without batting an eyelid. The vocals were truly spectacular, as not only did they reflect what they sounded like on record, but surpassed it. The vocal improvisation during the songs was very impressive as the crowd were blown away with the emphatic front man’s ability to ‘riff’, reaching notes and dropping back down again in an instant.
This followed into a track that showcases the band’s broad range of sound, ‘Plastic Promises’, which demonstrated Cody and Dan’s jazz influences. The crowd broke into a 1950s style boogie rather than the usual mosh pit you’d expect. After this light hearted interval they moved onto a track that defines what the album is all about, their inspirational song, ‘Dream Catcher’. Cody told everyone to repeat back to him, ‘I am not alone’, a sentiment not encouraged enough by rock bands. This was a true testament to how much the band care about their fan base, providing support for those more vulnerable, not just with their music but in their message. The performance of the song was equally uplifting and got the crowd jumping again in time for their penultimate track ‘@Reply’. In order to whip the crowd into a frenzy, Cody spent most of his time in the crowd, eventually leading to a stage dive straight into the middle of the madness.
This is a band that after an infinite amount of hours of trying are looking more and more each day like making it. The guys told me that, ‘most bands would’ve given up by now but we’ve kept the belief and things are finally starting to happen’. So my advice would be catch them now because they are truly something special. I was assured that, ‘we’re never going to change who we are, we’ll always be there for our fans and we’ll always write for the same reasons’. It looks like huge success is on the horizon for these guys and I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.