'It was natural'...and that naturalness, that special spark is felt every time Already Dead and BOS The Rapper team up.
'Don't Wake Me' is the latest single to come from Dan Cummings (frontman of Already Dead) and BOS' longstanding and brilliant musical bond. It's a slamming single, one that comes after a very momentous 2022 for the Massachusetts band and one that seamlessly fuses their punk with BOS' hiphop.
Dan and BOS took some time to chat with us about the song, their history and collaborating!
You guys met at a house party back in 2015, BOS freestyling while Dan was playing a cajon. How did your friendship and, ultimately, this creative partnership bloom from that day?
BOS: Not long after that party, I went over to Dan's. At the time his roommates were guys I'd graduated with from high school. We started freestyling, and one song came from that original freestyle. We formed a band. We gigged almost every weekend and ended up recording an EP. Dan's produced songs for me that are on Spotify. He made beats that he's sent my way too. On top of hanging out, we've consistently made music since the day we met. It's been a ride.
Dan: Once that band stopped, we kept working as we never wanted to stop. When Already Dead started it was natural to include him in songs because we had worked together so much.
This song combines genres brilliantly. When it comes to your own influences, what sort of genres are there? Who did you grow up listening to?
BOS: I grew up not listening to much hip-hop until my teen years. I grew up with my mom [listening to] Elvis, Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, acts like that. [Then] I heard Nas for the first time. I'd always been a storyteller/writer...and this dude tells a story perfectly. From there, it went into the underground scene - Jedi Mind Tricks, Aesop Rock, Atmosphere...those dudes all influenced me in one way or another.
Dan: My influences are across the board for sure. I grew up on classic rock [and] I think I was a fan of Rancid by the time I was in fourth grade. I love a particular band from all genres of music. I love music, and have been influenced by music for as long as I can remember. But punk-rock...that's the genre where I love pretty much every band I hear - I can't get enough of it.
I also grew up loving rap. The way we blend the genres is something that I've always wanted to do but I can't rap!
BOS: It was meeting Dan that I really started to find out more about punk rock than the basic knowledge that I had. Where we connected on hip hop was Brother Ali from Rhymesayers Entertainment. The both of us loved his discography and went to a show. It was interesting too, having been established in my hip hop ways for well over twelve years before I met Dan, to now be writing to the punk rock songs. It's evolved my writing, writing with him over the punk instrumentals...it was a challenge at first but it [has] really pushed the creative side of what I've been doing for a long time.
Your new single, 'Don't Wake Me' has been a long time coming in the sense that it's existed in various shapes and forms for almost a decade. What made you decide that this was the right time to release it?
BOS: The second verse was written for the song originally, then I redid the first. But, yeah, that was written in 2016 and got left on the shelf for a while - the original instrumentation [Dan] made for it, we were like 'eh, that's alright [but] not what we're looking for'. Fast forward years later, and 'oh shit, let's do this again'.
Dan: And make it something.
We sent a version to BOS' friend, who is a producer on the west coast. We got the old version mixed but it was a lot more mellow. That producer, what he said, it made sense to me perfectly. The music didn't justify the lyrics, in my mind, so one night I sat down and came up with that initial guitar riff that the song starts with. I already had BOS' vocals in my computer so I started jamming to those vocals. It finally clicked, one of these 'now this works' moments. It's weird as I always liked the old versions too but I don't think it was something we would release as a single - maybe it would be a B-Side or something like that. Now, I think the music lives up to the lyrics so it was worth putting it out like we have now.
BOS: One of the most common phrases that went back and forth between us on the older versions was 'missing something'. Every version we got back, it was missing something. It wasn't [there]. They had great skeletal bones but there was no meat to it. When he sent me the opening, what the opening does with the guitar and my vocals coming into it full force...it spoke to the way that we both talk about travelling, about music and the way we want to continue to do it and see new things through it. Sometimes it's in a nice dream state way, and some times you're just struggling and just pounding away. That's how the song goes and I feel like it carries that journey pretty nicely.
There's a family aspect to the track too as, BOS, your sister provides backing vocals. That must've made this one extra special!
BOS: We, to this day, will sit around a fire with a guitar and just make up songs, laugh and joke and she'll come sit with us. You can play any kind of song and she'll singalong. She's got a beautiful voice and Dan came up with the idea to have her sing in the background. I think she showed up [to the studio] and did it in two takes, and she's not someone that goes to the studio a lot. It's special and cool to have her on this song.
'Don't Wake Me' was produced by Jimmy Corbett who, Dan, you've been in a band with and who produced Already Dead's album My Collar Is Blue. Why did you turn to Jimmy?
Dan: 'Don't Wake Me' was recorded during that. I went to Jimmy because I was self-conscious and he was already a friend *laughs*. Already Dead is pretty new, it's a new project, so the songs on that first album were my first attempt at leading a band. It was a comfort level [thing] as he and I are friends but he's an incredible producer, so I lucked out knowing him.
With 'Don't Wake Me' being a song about the desire to travel and seeing new places, I gotta ask...where do you guys dream of travelling to? What venues are on the bucketlist to play?
Dan: Everywhere, honestly.
BOS: I love to see new places. The line 'I wanna eat hamburgers in Hamburg', we all joke about it, but the reason that it exists is because, since I was eight years old, I've been immature. I know it's dumb and makes no great philosophical sense but it's always made me laugh and I want to go there, do that as I think it'd be a hilarious picture to have!
It's really anywhere I haven't seen yet. As far as performing, I love performing, just give me a mic and a stage or not I don't care. But...probably Red Rock Theatre. I want to play there.
Dan: Anywhere that will have us. I got the opportunity about ten years ago with another band I was in to do a tour in England for a couple of weeks. I've travelled around the US a lot but that...music as a means of travel is probably the best thing. It's the dream.
Of course, you're no strangers to collaborating - that is for sure! But how do you, Dan, decide when to bring BOS in for Already Dead projects? Are you actively creating songs with a collaboration in mind or is it just something you realise later in the creative process?
Dan: I realise it. I'll be sitting there making songs and in my head I'm like 'I need BOS on this one'. I'm not writing it to have him, but [I'll know] that this song needs him.
BOS: It's an active collaboration almost at all times, even if neither of us is featured on a song. I'll wake up, every couple of weeks, and have a track that Dan wrote and recorded and he'll say 'what do you think of this?' I'll do the same or send over an instrumental. It's a symbiotic relationship in that respect. Even if we're not actively featured on each other's songs, most of our music is actively influenced by our conversations over it.
Dan: Yeah, I bother him a lot *laughs*
BOS: It's vice-versa! The wife and the fiancée didn't realise what they were agreeing to - like you're with Dan but BOS is going to be around a lot!
Your collaborations are very balanced in that sense that it feels very equal, that both party is as important as the other. Is that something that comes naturally or a balance you're always aiming for?
Dan: It comes natural for both of us, it's not forced or intentional. We just take our influences and it's what comes out. I grew up punk-rock but grew up on hip-hop too. I can tell that's coming out when I'm writing something so it's great that I have a friend that can rap and bring that element.
BOS: Punk and hip-hop have been cousins since inception of both of them. Wu Tang touring with Rage Against the Machine, the genres were already mixed. They have similar messages where it's 'this is us, we're going to do what we want'. Going on twenty, thirty years later - we're old - it still carries that weight. It's a natural form of us rebelling and speaking the way we would on our platform.
'Don't Wake Me' comes after a very busy and fruitful time for Already Dead. You released your EP in October last year and were also nominated for Punk Artist of the Year at the 2022 Boston Music Awards. How important is it to keep that momentum building and keep things moving?
Dan: It's so important. I'm always writing. For years, I had songs stashed in my computer and not seeing the light of day. Now, if I write a song and I'm happy with it, it's 'let's go into the studio, let's put it out'. It's very important to keep momentum and I'm very motivated.
It's fulfilling. I don't think I'd do it if I didn't love it. It's not a chore - if anything, work is a chore.
BOS: It's like that sticker you have - 'I work so I can play shitty rock' *laughs*
What's next for both Already Dead and BOS The Rapper?
Dan: I'm in the process of recording some demos, some stripped down acoustic versions. There is one song that me and BOS recorded a while ago so I'll probably be adding that as I really like the song.
BOS: I always appreciate the call, anytime I can get into the studio to work on music. Off the top of my head, we have at least three working songs right now that, at any point, we can be like 'this is a good time'. There's times when they'll fall under a BOS project, or times they'll fall under an Already Dead project. Similar to 'Don't Wake Me', those are generally a nice refresher for myself and Dan to step outside of whatever we're zoned in on and push ourselves creatively.
For myself, I have a few batches of songs that I intended to release but life happens. So they're still in the process of being mixed or recorded but, throughout the year, they'll either come out as singles or small projects. They're still going to be releases. The goal, for now ,is to do more shows. We always seem to catch a run but then it goes quiet for a while. With summer coming up, I'd really like to start booking ahead a little bit.
'Don't Wake Me' is out now.
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