This is one installment in a series of articles about Warped Tour Atlantic City, one of three official events commemorating the music festival’s 25-year-run. Stay tuned for more features about everyone’s favorite “punk rock summer camp.”
Warped Tour had a magic kind of circularity—the traveling festival allowed fans to see their favorite artists year after year and watch them grow before their very eyes. One of the most memorable bands that rose out of the scene is Set It Off. The Tampa rock group, comprised of Cody Carson, Dan Clermont, Maxx Danziger, and Zach DeWall, is beloved for its dramatic sound, combining orchestral flourishes with stories of dark nights, scheming lovers, and self-actualization. The guys released their fifth studio album, Midnight, earlier this year, so you can expect their next few months to be filled with shows galore.
At Warped Tour Atlantic City, we had the chance to sit down with Carson, Danziger, and DeWall. We reminisced over fond Warped memories, exchanged bizarre childhood dreams, and even sang a misheard version of a Jonas Brothers lyric.
TYF: You guys have been on Warped Tour on and off since 2013. How has it changed over the years? How has it stayed the same?
Cody Carson: It’s always been crazy. And what’s funny is, I know why you started with 2013, because the first year we actually did it, it probably shouldn’t have counted. (Laughs) We started in 2011, on a two-week run, on a stage that does not exist anymore. Here’s what I mean. So it was called the Dzambo Stage. And we were only on for two weeks, and we rocked a wristband, not credentials. And we found out later that that stage was charging bands to be on it. Kevin [Lyman, founder of Warped Tour,] did not know. Kevin found out and shut the stage down. Hence why that is not on the record! But we were there for two weeks, and it was one of the hardest working tours we’ve ever had to do because not only was it a wristband; we didn’t get catering, we didn’t get water. We had nothing. To survive, we made a system where you got 50 cents for every CD you sold. So you had to sell or you’re not eating, you know, McDonald’s that night (laughs). It was a huge grind, and we were playing on a stage that was tucked into nowhere.
Maxx Danziger: We weren’t even on the blow-up [schedules].
TYF: That sounds crazy.
Carson: We had to heavily promote to everyone… We might as well have given them a map. It was a really tough first year, but we were just happy to be on the tour. And the next time we were on Kevin Says, which means that [Kevin Lyman] sought us out and wanted us there, which was amazing. And we started to make a name for ourselves on Warped because we would garner bigger crowds and people would stick around. And then he brought us back on the Journeys stage, which was another leg up, and that year, we kept getting bumped up to mainstage, which means that he saw that things were going well. So getting validated by the person that started the tour that we used to attend and fell in love with on our own was an amazing feeling. And then we were brought back to do a full run on mainstage, and now here we are on the 25th year anniversary.
TYF: What are some of your favorite Warped memories from over the years?
Zach DeWall: In 2013, we were playing the Kevin Says stage, like [Carson] said. And we would go out to the lines and sell CDs and do whatever we had to do to promote the set time. So in Orlando, I was selling CDs out in the line, and we got bumped to mainstage that day.
Carson: That was the first time.
DeWall: Yeah, the first time ever. So when you get bumped to mainstage and you’re coming from the smaller stage, that normally means that you’re on first. So I’m selling CDs to the line and this kid is about to buy a CD, and then I get the text that’s like, “Whoa, we’re mainstage.” And I [tell the kid], “Just keep it!” And I run as fast as I can to get back to mainstage. We had to push all of our gear from a different stage.
Danziger: One time, me and Zach were selling CDs in Denver. And we saw a ski lift. And we were like, “I’ve never been on one. Let’s go on one. We got time.” And so we get on one… and you don’t realize how long it takes.
DeWall: It’s also the middle of the summer.
Danziger: So it’s hot, and we’re up there. And we’re looking at our phones like, “I really hope that our set isn’t soon.” And they hit us up like, “Your set is in, like, 30 minutes.” And we’re still on this ski lift, and there’s nothing we can do. We made it in time. But the whole time we were like, “This is the stupidest reason to miss a show. Nobody would believe this.”
Carson: Like, “It’s the summer, and you’re stuck on a ski lift?” That’s hilarious. I love that.
Danziger: Beautiful view.
DeWall: It was good.
TYF: Amazing. And you guys have some new music out. You just wrote a song with your fans called “Hourglass Love.” Can you tell me about that?
Carson: Yes. So that was the song we couldn’t release.
TYF: I heard, yeah.
Carson: We did it on YouTube. We wanted to [release it officially], but legally, it would be a nightmare. We’d have to track down every single person [who contributed]. But we wanted to do a YouTube video where we would collaborate with everybody, kind of bring them into the songwriting process and show them how we go about doing it so they would know exactly what our processes and intentions are like. And it was a lot of fun. We did it a little bit differently than we normally would, because we took lyrical suggestions, and usually we’ll write the melody first and then we’ll work on putting lyrics in the melody. But we wanted to give [the fans who helped us with “Hourglass Love”] a shout out, which is actually a huge reason why the hourglass is our symbol right now. Our fans mean everything to us. And I know that sounds like such a cliche sentence to say, but they truly do. And we want to show them how much we appreciate them with every move that we make. So we did that for them, [and we listen] to what songs they want in the set and stuff like that. It’s always about them and trying to make them happy. That’s why we went about making that song.
TYF: Absolutely. One of the songs you guys released as a single is “Killer in the Mirror.” You have a really awesome music video for that. Can you tell me about the making of it?
Carson: Yeah! That was actually our first time working with our director Shelby [Parks]. She’s been our director on every music video so far for the album cycle, and also the photographer for every photo shoot we’ve done related to our press for the album. She has a great mind, especially in relation to the world that we’re trying to create with this. And I was really excited for the music video for “Killer in the Mirror,” ’cause we started talking about what the concept was going to be, and I heard that I was going to be drowning in it. I don’t mind suffering a little bit for the process, so when you saw me being held under, I was legit being held under. I had to come up with a cue for the people doing it, ‘cause I wanted it to be long enough so that it looked like I was struggling, but I also didn’t want to die. I think it was a double tug on someone’s shirt. And they knew [the cue], but I was also struggling, so they didn’t [always] know when I was tugging… I never almost died or anything, but it was very scary. You might never realize that sort of phobia until you’re put into it. But that’s kind of the beauty of [the video]—you’ll see the genuine fear from it all. And that sort of purgatory world [in the video] was actually upstairs in a convention center with a bunch of mirrors. It was cool to see how it was an innocent location that we turned into something very decrepit.
TYF: Super cool. You guys released “Midnight Thoughts” at the very beginning of 2019; it was your New Year’s special. Do you guys have any New Year’s resolutions, and if so, have you been keeping them?
Carson: All right. So I have a confession to make. My first New Year’s resolution was to get up mega early and workout…
DeWall: He was gonna be Mark Wahlberg.
Carson: Yeah. It was inspired by Mark Wahlberg.
DeWall: Of all people.
Carson: Big fan. (Laughs) He wakes up at four in the morning, and I was like, “All right, I’m gonna try this.” And I did it for a week. My birthday was January 9th, so I stayed up mega late and got hammered with my friends, and then that stopped. Now I’m trying to get myself back into a good regimen. I just want to eat healthier and be in really good shape.
TYF: Even one week, though—that’s rough.
Carson: It was tough! I’m blown away that [Mark Wahlberg] can do that and still see his family. (Laughs)
DeWall: He eats dinner at 4:30, like an 80-year old.
Carson: Yeah, I didn’t do that.
TYF: How do you guys know so much about Mark Wahlberg’s routine?
Carson: So we’ve seen every Mark Wahlberg movie.
Danziger and DeWall (eerily in sync): Ted! Ted 2!
Carson: We write him letters. He burns them. He showed us a video of him burning them… No, it was just this big thing on social media for, like, a month. Everyone was like, “Have you seen Mark Wahlberg’s schedule?”, ‘cause he posted it online and broke it down. He wakes up at 4, and he goes to bed at, like, 9, and he has a slot of time to hang with his family. It’s crazy. But honestly, it was amazing when I was doing it. I woke up at 4. I was done working out by, like, 7 AM. And then I had the whole day. Usually, I’m a night owl, and I sleep in, and I’m like, “Oh, I feel like a piece of shit.” (Laughs)
DeWall: Waking up at the crack of 5:30 PM…
Carson: I’m like, “Oh, the sun’s already going down.” But it was nice to feel like I had so much of the day to be productive.
Carson: Oh, I love that question!
TYF: Thank you!
Carson: Mine are usually scary dreams.
DeWall: Mine are really scary. The one that comes to my head is… When was a teenager, way after I left elementary school, I had this dream that I broke into the back area of my elementary school with a bunch of friends. I was like, “Ooh, we’re gonna sneak into the school. It’s gonna be so great. What’s gonna happen?” And then I notice my friends aren’t going inside. I’m like, “Why aren’t you going inside? Let’s just go inside.” And dude. This train conductor light comes out with a deep voice and says, “”CAUSE I HAVEN’T COME OUT YET!”
TYF: The train conductor, the deepest-seated phobia.
DeWall: Yeah. Sometimes I’m about to go to sleep, and I think about it, and I’m like, “Never mind, I’ll stay up a little more.”
Carson: (Laughs) That’s terrifying.
Danziger: I had this one dream… I wake up, I’m still in my bed. My bed is in a desert. And I’m walking around a little bit, and there’s this giant black marble monolith. And I walk over and I go to touch it. And the only way I can describe it is pure energy coursing through my entire body. You know how people are always like, “You use 10% of your brain?” I felt like I was using 100%. Like I was being electrocuted. And I woke up and I remember thinking, “That’s gotta mean something. There’s gotta be some sort of key here.” So that’s why my phone is always marble. (He points to his marble phone case) I always do marble phone cases now. ‘Cause marble is power. You know what I mean?
TYF: “The monolith is with me.”
Carson: I have one that’s really dumb. I remember it from when I was, like, four years old. Imagine the world is the size of… I don’t know, imagine someone can run on the world. You know what I mean? That’s what I remember. I’m running, and the globe is spinning while I’m running on it, almost like it’s a ball that is balancing. And what was chasing me were these plastic dinosaur toys that I just got. (Laughs) That was my weirdest one. But there’s this other recurring dream I get every so often. It’s always a different scenario, but I’m able to fly—but not Superman fly. You can tell I’m just learning how. Like, I’ll jump up and I’ll hold my breath, and as long as I’m doing that, I start to soar up. But if I exhale, then I start to deflate and come down again. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a dream. Like, I keep trying to chase it. I don’t know what it means or what it’s about, but it’s very interesting to me.
Danziger: Maybe the plastic dinosaurs and the train conductor have something in common. Maybe they’re teaming up.
Carson: Maybe they do. Maybe the dinosaurs are the train conductor.
TYF: The dinosaurs drive the train?
DeWall: Ok, I’m not afraid of trains.
Danziger: That’s very clear. (Laughs)
DeWall: And it’s not a train conductor, it’s a train light.
Carson: But where’s the conductor?
Danziger: There was no conductor?
DeWall: No, just a train light.
Carson: And a guy yelling?
TYF: The train was yelling?
DeWall: I don’t know.
Carson: Was there a train?
DeWall: I’m gonna cry.
TYF: I used to have nightmares about jesters when I was little.
Danziger: They’re spooky.
TYF: You know, clowns are supposed to be funny, but jesters are sinister.
Carson: They’re hiding something. They have a secret. I was a jester for Halloween once. Proves the spookiness.
TYF: I would have been terrified.
Carson: Costume is available. (Laughs)
TYF: You guys had a really cool music video for “Lonely Dance”. You guys are in space in that one.
Carson: Literally. (Laughs)
TYF: Yeah, you guys went to space.
Carson: Yeah, just for the video. Really good budget. (Laughs)
TYF: If given the opportunity, would you guys go to space?
Carson: We’ve already been! No, I’m kidding. (Laughs) No, absolutely. I was obsessed with space when I was a kid. I think every little kid wanted to be an astronaut, even for a day. I just wanna know what it’s like to hang out in zero gravity. (Laughs)
DeWall: I’d have some questions, for sure. I’m not just gonna shoot off in a rocket. Like, am I spending months up there?
Carson: Yeah, how long is the journey?
DeWall: I don’t want to go up there and then I come back and all my friends are, like, 50.
Carson: But you’re still the same age?
DeWall: Well, that happens in space. Time moves slower in space.
Carson: Are you serious?
Danziger: That’s from Interstellar.
DeWall: I figure it does, though.
TYF: In space, one year is a thousand.
Carson: I don’t think if you spent three years in space, you’d be three years older and everyone else would be, like, 20 years old.
DeWall: I don’t know. I’m not a scientist.
TYF: You go back and everybody you know is just a child.
Carson: Or a train conductor.
DeWall: Oh, look at that callback!
Danziger: We love a callback.
TYF: When you land, you can run on top of the globe.
Carson: As soon as your feet touch, you become the age that you missed. All the back problems you didn’t have yet just accumulate. (Laughs)
Danziger: That’s the thing that I miss most about when I was younger. When I would go to Warped Tour as a kid, my back didn’t hurt. Now I have a trash back.
DeWall: My favorite Warped Tour memory is not having my back hurt.
TYF: Speaking of going back in time, let’s go back in time a little to your 2009 EP. I’m curious about “Introduction to Outselling a Salesman.”
Carson: Yes. First of all, props on your segues. Your segues are solid.
TYF: (Laughs) Thank you. I work hard on them.
Carson: So, “Introduction to Outselling a Salesman.” You’re talking about our EP Calm Before the Storm?
Carson: God, that was our first… To me, that’s our first EP, because it was actually professionally recorded.
TYF: I am going to bring up Baby You Don’t Tripajaharda.
Carson: Oh, no. (Laughs) Oh my God. That EP that you’re referring to, Baby You Don’t Tripajaharda, was recorded on GarageBand. We started recording it in my dorm room, finished in my home in Florida. I was 19—I had no idea what I was doing with production. So that’s why when I go back and listen, I’m like, “This is garbage; please, nobody listen to it.” That was also my first time writing full songs, so the melodies are so busy (laughs), but I get why everyone likes it. It’s, like, the infancy stage. But for Calm Before the Storm, we got with an actual producer, we saved up a bunch of money… I think we even had our parents help us get it paid for. It was our first real shot. We wanted it to be taken seriously. So we went up to Baltimore and worked with Paul Leavitt, who did Put Up or Shut Up for All Time Low.
TYF: Oh, no way—I’m really close to Baltimore.
Carson: Oh, that’s amazing! He showed us some great food spots out there, and he helped us with song structures. Originally we were going to try to just rerecord Baby You Don’t Tripajaharda. And he was kinda like, “No.” (Laughs) But he liked “Text Me Kelly,” which is why it was on both of them. And then we wrote more songs. He helped us with song structure and we really learned a lot. And that’s why I like creating albums—each new album is a different learning experience. That was definitely our first, “Hey, we’re here” moment. We had some solid songs and a solid production, and we saved up and did a solid photo shoot. We were finally ready to present ourselves in a serious way. It was nice.
TYF: Who is “the salesman”?
Carson: That is the question. So that whole EP is basically about one girl that I dated at the time, who shattered my heart into a million pieces. She was “the salesman,” and “outselling the salesman,” to me, was being able to overcome someone that is deceitful. And she would sell herself to me as this really kindhearted person, and then I found out she was dating someone else the entire time–kind of balancing two guys at once. And [the song is] kind of like the handbook for everyone else to look out for people like that.
TYF: And you guys have that section in “@Reply” where you’re talking about captains and soldiers. I’ve always wondered what the inspiration for that part was, because it’s so different from the rest of the song.
Carson: I guess it was a “call to arms” sort of thing. Like, it doesn’t matter what branch it may be, but I love the reference to it, because when you hear something like that, you feel empowered because you put yourself in that situation. And that’s what that whole song was about—trying to empower ourselves when we felt like everyone was doubting us. It was like, “Well, screw you. We’re the captains. We’re the soldiers.”
DeWall: When we wrote that song, we had submitted it to a bunch of different labels…
Carson: And no one wanted us. We weren’t signed at the time.
DeWall: That’s right. We were unsigned at the time, so we were pretty much like, “Cool. We’ll do it without you.”
TYF: Now I have a question with a visual component.
Carson: I’m excited. We never get these.
TYF: Okay, so here we have the Cinematics cover. If you guys had to tag yourselves as the little images here, who would you be?
Carson: Ooh, I think I know Maxx is.
Danziger: Oh, what’s mine?
Carson: There’s a cat eye.
Danziger: Oh, that’s the one. I miss my cat. Wish she could be at Warped Tour today.
DeWall: I’m going to go with this preacher-looking thing because it reminds me of a dementor in Harry Potter. So that’s very on brand for me.
Danziger: I will say this image of a clown is for all the people that are sleeping on Set It Off.
Carson: I’m going to go with the pocketwatch because I am very lost in this album and the overall value of time, especially listening to “Hourglass” and playing it every day. So that’s going to be mine.
TYF: All right, wonderful answers. And finally, we get to Baby You Don’t Tripajaharda.
Carson: Oh my goodness.
Danziger: We made it.
TYF: We made it! So my best friend and I spent so long trying to figure out why it was called Baby You Don’t Tripajaharda. And we found a theory. I think this is correct, but I would like to have the official confirmation from you guys.
Carson: Of course.
TYF: So is it a mishearing of…
(The guys start to laugh)
TYF: The Jonas Brothers’ “Burning Up”?
All: It is!
Carson: Congratulations, first of all. And it is. It is from the lyric, “Baby, you turn the temperature hotter.” We heard someone sing it, “Baby, you don’t tripajaharda,” and we would die laughing every time. So we named an EP after an inside joke, which is so stupid. (Laughs) But well done. I’m proud. I’m very proud of you.
(I begin to sing “Baby you don’t tripajaharda”; the guys join in.)
Carson: It still works. And consequently, during Maxx’s drum solo on this tour we’re doing, we do a snippet—of course, with the Jonas Brothers coming back—of that song. Kind of a callback.
TYF: Fantastic. Do you guys have anything else that you want to say to the fans?
Carson: If we’re still on tour, come see us. We’ll probably still be on tour whenever you listen to this. We will be coming back around in the United States at the end of the year, it’s looking like, so check us out. Setitoffband.com, and stream us on Spotify and Apple Music. We’ll see you soon.