There aren’t many bands out there like A Day to Remember. They’re a group that can hit you with crunching guitars, thunderous drums, and earth-shattering screams while also having the capability to make fast pop-punk songs and gentle acoustic ballads. This sounds like a combination that shouldn’t work, yet they’ve found a way to pull it off time and time again.
ADTR’s fourth album, What Separates Me From You, further proved that A Day to Remember will never fit into a certain mold. They’re going to make the kind of music they want to make, whether that’s fun pop-punk or metalcore. Each A Day to Remember album is a grab bag of genres, but here the band (consisting Jeremy McKinnon – singer, Neil Westfall – rhythm guitarist, Joshua Woodard – bass, Alex Shelnutt – drums and Kevin Skaff – lead guitarist) started to explore their poppier side like they never have before.
“I am fueled by all forms of failure/I paid the price, so I’ll take what’s mine” screams McKinnon on the album’s heavy opening track, “Sticks and Bricks.” The song kicks off What Separates Me From You with a punch, taking shots at anyone who ever doubted the band. The song was on par with the rougher side fans had come to know A Day to Remember by, featuring McKinnon’s vocals rotating between clean and screamed, a catchy chorus, and of course, a brutal breakdown.
“All I Want,” the first single off the album, highlighted that his album was going to be different than everything that came before. The single shaved off the heaviness of the opener and instead took a turn towards straight-up rock, complete with an anthemic chorus that remains one of their strongest to date. The exploration of pop started to show on “It’s Complicated.” While they did make sure to squeeze in a breakdown, the song felt unlike anything in their catalog with the way it bopped along. This different vibe continued on “This is the House That Doubt Built,” a track that would’ve been made angrier on past releases, but here it’s not hard to feel the sadness McKinnon is expressing.
Lyrically, the album tackles the difficulties of being in a touring band. Songs touch on the struggles to maintain relationships while on the road (“It’s Complicated”), dealing with people who throw hate towards the band (“Sticks and Bricks”) and putting those who never believed A Day to Remember would ever amount to anything on notice (“2nd Sucks”).
“2nd Sucks” remains the heaviest song they’ve written as a band. The track is basically a two minute and 28-second long fistfight of sound, appropriately kicked off with a sample of “Fight!” from Mortal Kombat. The track found the band calling out other bands who viewed A Day to Remember as their competition. If you’re wondering who they’re talking about, the band made a not so subtle dig at Four Year Strong in the music video (keep an eye out for “Beardo”).
The back half of the album continued to really mix things up. “Better Off This Way” was A Day to Remember’s take on a ballad, with a light chorus mixing lyrics of heartbreak with some “whoa-oh-ohs.” “All Signs Point to Lauderdale” was a new anthem for those who hate their hometowns and are fed up with bad friends. “You Be Tails, I’ll Be Sonic” was a heavier version of the feelings expressed on “Better Off This Way.” “Out of Time” was a track McKinnon said was “one of his most personal” on the record, and it’s easily the most pop-sounding track of the batch.
While much of What Separates Me From You showed A Day to Remember going in a different direction and not being afraid to experiment with their sound, it was also their first album with Skaff, their new lead guitarist Skaff. Skaff joined the band full time after lead guitarist Tom Denney chose to step away in 2009, although he does still contribute to the band when they write new material. Denney’s guitar playing always leaned towards metalcore, while Skaff was more of a pop-punk guitarist and this style had a huge impact on the new LP.
Skaff’s biggest contribution songwriting wise was the album closer, “If I Leave.” “If I Leave” reminds an underrated B-Side in A Day to Remember’s catalog and deserves more love than it gets. The track features both and sounds like what would happen if you were to mashup A Day To Remember’s sound with what New Found Glory was doing on Coming Home (Which is fitting since NFG guitarist Chad Gilbert was one of the producers on What Separate Me From You). It wraps up the album on a note that leaves you wanting more, which to me is always the sign of a great record.
I’ve always been a believer that albums can arrive in your life right when you need them the most. What Separates Me From You will always hold a special place in my heart because it helped me through a key transition period. I was a sophomore in college who was still trying to figure out life after high school. I was jaded on relationships following a bad breakup, falling out of touch with high school friends and I still hadn’t yet found what I was looking for in college friends. Overall, I was just unhappy, but this album played a key role in helping me snap me out of that. I worked through the pain and anger of love life hiccups with “Better Off This Way” “It’s Complicated” and “If I Leave.” I dealt with my feelings towards my hometown and home friends with “All Signs Point to Lauderdale.” I kept my hopes up high and my head down low with “All I Want.”
This album was consistently on repeat for me and eventually I was able to pull myself out of a funk with a little help from ADTR. I stopped being bitter about the past, instead choosing to focus on the present and let bygones be bygones. My love for A Day to Remember also helped me find a great group of college friends, who remain a part of my circle to this day. I know I’m not the only person whose A Day to Remember’s music has helped. It’s not a coincidence that they have millions of fans all over the globe.
Homesick helped take A Day to Remember to new heights, but it was What Separates Me From You that put them over the top. They performed on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in front of massive crowds on headlining tours and continued to grow their fan base. In the 10 years since What Separates Me From You, A Day to Remember has only grown in popularity. They’ve released just two albums since, 2013’s Common Courtesy and 2016’s Bad Vibrations, but they’re expected to drop their seventh album You’re Welcome in the near future. You’re Welcome will be their first release on the hit-generating record label, Fueled By Ramen.
This band doesn’t box themselves in to a certain type of music. Last year they put out a song with Marshmello and so far all three singles for their upcoming album have been all over the place, drawing a similar parallel to what they did a decade ago. For a band that once declared “mark my words, we’re taking over the world,” they continue to show what separates them from other bands in the scene.