The Summer Set's Brian Dales Talks 'Stranger Things' and 'Ozark' Influence, Reveals 'Hail Mary' Travie McCoy Collab (Exclusive)

It's quite common for music artists to be influenced by movies and TV shows, but longtime pop-rockers The Summer Set found a whole new way for their favorite shows to inspire their new album, Blossom, Pt. 1. Recently, PopCulture.com had a chance to catch up with Summer Set lead vocalist Brian Dales to talk about the new album, including the band's collaboration with Gym Glass Heroes frontman Travie McCoy, "FTS." In a surprising twist, Dales revealed that the infectiously upbeat tune was actually written eight years ago.

Dales explained that the song was written for Stories For Monday, the band's 2016 album which came out right before they went on hiatus for four years but wound up not being used. "Then Travie wrote his verse on it two days before we turned it in," he added. McCoy has been the frontman for Gym Class Heroes since the band formed in the late '90s. He also has an extensive solo career, which includes his 2010 hit "Billionaire," featuring a then-virtually unknown Bruno Mars.

Later going on to share the story of how McCoy's verse on "FTS" came together, Dales explained, "Travie was the most phenomenal Hail Mary we had. Honestly... there shouldn't have been enough time for that to happen. He continued, "It was the last song that was turned in. It was already a week late for mastering. We were already down to the wire... We really wanted a feature but we didn't really know where to start. A close friend of ours is Travie's A&R, and [they] just kind of texted him on a whim with a couple of days, only a few days to spare —we were already extended a few extra days — and sent the text was like, 'Yo, this is a wild card, we have to turn this song in yesterday, but do you think Travie would feature on this?' And Eric Tobin at Hopeless Records was like, 'Honestly, I think he might.'"

Dales went on to say, "Travie seemed to really respond to the song, and then this crazy thing happened where it was like, 'Okay, Travie's on board but we have to have this done in two days.' And so we sent him the song, we gave him an open verse and we were like, 'I have no idea what he's going to send. I hope it's awesome.'" It was beyond awesome. But, it was still pretty nerve-wracking because I don't know, he sent us back this thing, my jaw was on the floor. I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm obsessed.' And then we turned it in two days later and then Monday the album was turned in. It was literally, this was a Monday to Friday entire thing, top to bottom."

Dales co-founded The Summer Set with Jess Bowen and brothers Stephen and John Gomez in 2007. The band released its first album, Love Like This, in 2009. The Summer Set wrote and recorded three more albums over the next several years before taking a break in 2017. Last year, in August 2021, the band announced that it was returning. They played a handful of shows after coming back, and then toured the United Kingdon this summer, as well as playing Sad Summer Fest.

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(Photo: JORDAN KNIGHT)

Detailing how the band's resurrection came about, Dales shared, "'Street Lightning' [the second track off Blossom, Pt. 1] was the song I wrote by myself in my teenage bedroom in Arizona, just kind of [messing] around... There was no intention of The Summer Set getting back together. But I wrote that I remember, [when] we were in the throes of the pandemic. I had gone back to Arizona with my dog and was just living in my parents' house in my teenage bedroom. And was like, man, I want to make some music that just didn't abide by any rules, and just felt good, and made me feel like I was 17 again, and I'm just chugging away on the guitar."

He continued, "And I sent this voice note of it to Steven, our bass player, who, him and his brother produced our album. And he was kind of like, I love this. And he kind of brought it to life. And we showed it to [Jess] and Steven. That was the catalyst that made the whole thing happen. And then we wrote everything else kind of staggered over the next year and a half with really no idea if it was concise or consistent. It's funny, we kind of got back together but we weren't really planning on making... At the time we weren't even planning on releasing 'Street Lightning,' but we had gotten offered a couple of festivals and it made sense to just put something out. We thought we were really going to take our time."

Dales says that "one of the really fortunate parts about doing the band again" is that they are all "really kind of all just doing it for fun. We all have enough going on in some other music projects outside of the band that allows us to come to do this, and it just be this fun respite from all the other stuff. That also comes with a curse. Honestly, I think we thought we were going to write a lot more songs, but we all got caught up in our other and the other things we were working on, and we kind of really only had a good batch of eight songs over the course of a year or so."

He added, "We had this conversation of, 'Okay, well we don't quite have as many songs I think we'd like to have for a full big 15 song album, 12 song album even, but we'd like to get something out. We're going on tour, it'd be nice to finish the tour and announce something and have something, give people something after waiting all this time.' And we sort of had this idea of, 'Well what happens if we just put out an album in two parts, as opposed to an EP? Blossom, in some ways, is almost the size of a large EP, but somewhere stuck in between."

This is where, Dales says, the band's favorite Netflix shows inspired their release structure. "We had this idea of, honestly, pulling from what streaming television does with after watching Ozark and Stranger Things." He explained, "'Let's just pick what we have that we know we're proud of. Finish it up, put it out, and then just get back in and start writing more songs,' and beginning sometime next year, hopefully at the beginning of the year, we'll put out Blossom, Pt. 2 with another seven or eight songs. And then the best way to put it, for example, this time next year, it won't look like two different albums."

He noted, "What's rad about Spotify is you can kind of self populates. So it'll just look like one long 16-song, side A , side B album. It seemed like a really interesting way to keep the conversation going. In today's world, I think people put out an album and then a month later people moved on to the next thing. So we were trying something new." He then reiterated, "The model for us was watching Ozark and Stranger Things and seeing people put out the volume. I think it keeps the conversation going in a way that's really interesting. So we were kind of trying to pull from that."

Finally, Dales offered some insight into what it has been like to make a new album after temporarily walking away from The Summer Set, "There's a quote that I've heard in the music industry for 15 years now that, I won't really get this right verbatim, but in some degree, it's a quote that falls in line with the concept of a sophomore slump and how... basically, you have your whole life to make your first album and 15 minutes to make your second." He said. "I will add to it: You have forever to make a comeback album no one knows you're making."

He continued, "You have forever. So, in some ways, it felt like we were a band for the first time because it didn't matter. There was not a single expectation for us to make new music, which is really fun. To make music that you want to make purely for enjoyment. The way it got back together just couldn't have been more organic. A lot of things had to happen. Years had passed, and we had all grown up into... We all took the time, in the last six years, to really kind of become fully realized versions of ourselves that I think in some ways weren't the last few years of our band. We were codependent on this only thing that we had known in our adult lives. So I think we all really grew into the people that we are today, which then thus put us back in each other's lives in a healthy manner.

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Dales went in to say, "First and foremost, we were all just at least talking again, and friends. That was great. And then weird silver lining in the pandemic. I don't know if it would've happened if the pandemic didn't happen, because the pandemic happened and I moved to Arizona for a year, by accident. And Arizona, where we started this band, is also what got this band back together. We were just there and we made some music for fun. There was no plan. So it's kind of like we got to be a brand new band all over again."

Next up for The Summer Set, they'll be playing a retrospective headlining show in Los Angeles on Nov. 3, which will include songs from all of their albums. "We're just trying to celebrate 15 years of this thing that we forgot about for a little while, but a lot of people didn't, and that's really important." Fans can get access to tickets, as well as pick up a physical copy of Blossom, Pt. 1, by going to the band's website. Keep it locked to Pop Culture.com for more music news, interviews, and exclusives!