“When it’s time to start making a record, we tend to go through this process where we don’t know how to make music anymore,” says FOUR YEAR STRONG vocalist/guitarist Dan O’Connor with a laugh. “We sit in a room with guitars in our hands and go, ‘How do you make new things on this?’”

More than 20 years into their lauded career – featuring albums like 2007’s Rise Or Die Trying and 2010’s Enemy Of The World (hailed by Kerrang! as one of the 50 greatest pop-punk albums ever) – it would be easy for the Worcester, MA-based quartet (O’Connor, vocalist/guitarist Alan Day, drummer Jake Massucco and bassist Joe Weiss) to coast, setting aside the hard work that comes with musical progress in favor of simply churning out carbon copies of their past selves.

Stagnation has never suited Four Year Strong, though. While their trademark sound, rooted in pop-punk energy, dextrous metal riffage and caustic hardcore spirit, helped elevate them to the top of the underground, their desire to never stop stepping outside the box is what keeps them carrying the torch to this day, continually inspiring new acts around the world to turn up the dials on their own musical blenders.

When it came time to prep what would become their sixth album, analysis paralysis, they were truly, finally, stumped. O’Connor and Day showed up to Grammy-winning producer Will Putney’s studio on day one of recording without a single finished song, in stark contrast to the 40-some ideas they brought to the table as the band and Putney (who, in addition to producing albums for Every Time I Die and Knocked Loose, guided the band’s 2022 re-recording of Enemy of The World) began work on Brain Pain.

“We purposely didn’t tell Will we hadn’t written any songs, because we knew he’d make us reschedule – and we’d come back on that date with no music,” Day says. “We needed to lock down and figure out what we were going to do. The first week was a brick fucking wall.”

The two songwriters spent much of those early days in a spare bedroom at Putney’s house talking about, and listening to, music, desperate for a spark of inspiration that could guide the path forward. In a way, they found it by looking back: at what made Brain Pain such a success in their eyes, and even the genesis of Four Year Strong as a band.

“We were able to take a couple of risks in our songwriting on Brain Pain that we weren’t sure our fans would be stoked on,” O’Connor admits. “We’re always dipping our toes into that, but the weirder stuff was actually the moments fans really loved.”

Adds Day: “Once we realized we can do things outside of that box and have people respond to it, we said, ‘OK, now we can do what we did back when Rise Or Die Trying came out, which is write the music we want to be playing and hearing – not just the music people expect us to play.’ There were zero expectations of what people wanted. On this record, the question became: We know what we’re supposed to be; how do we do that to our greatest ability?”

This lightbulb moment unlocked a new wave of creativity for the pair. Within a month, they’d completed nearly 80% of the album’s dozen songs, like the combustible hardcore rhythms with ‘90s alt-rock melodic bliss on the album’s first radio single, “uncooked”, and dabbled in rough-around-the-edges reggae, stomped their way through muscular, tom-heavy rock, and effortlessly swerved between vibe-heavy synths and thunderous breakdowns.

The result is an album that expands the band’s classic sound in exciting new ways, from an emphasis on groove-forward material and some of their heaviest riffs and tones to date to truly head-turning moments…but through it all, analysis paralysis remains unmistakably Four Year Strong: Day and O’Connor’s distinctive vocals – two voices born to harmonize with each other – atop the airtight rhythm section prowess Massucco and Weiss provide. This deep into their career, there’s virtually nothing that doesn’t sound like Four Year Strong when these four are involved.

“It was hard work to find the thing that spoke to us and what we thought would speak to our fans – a lot of fucking work,” Day admits. “What intrigues us as music fans is being challenged and hearing those head-turning moments, when you’re at the edge of your seat wondering what’s going to happen next. Not just doing what’s expected of us is exciting.”

“I don’t need everyone to hear one of our songs and think it’s amazing,” O’Connor adds. “What would bother me is if people hear it and go, ‘Eh, it’s whatever.’ That would bother me more – if it ever felt stale.”

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