Alt-rock band Late Night Episode, comprised of Daniel Lonner (vocals), Eric Sherman (guitar), Brett Daniel (drums) and Giovanni Stockton-Rossini (bass), might not be on your radar, but you’re definitely going to want to check out their latest project. Now, more than ever, artists are taking full creative control of their projects. Visual albums allow artists to do exactly that by providing their listeners with more context, and overall, tell a much richer story. Late Night Episode has done exactly that with Lay Off, an incredibly well-done visual album. I got the chance to talk with Daniel about how this project came together, how the band got started, what he nerds out about and so much more. Keep reading to see what he had to say.
Yeah, totally. Me and the guitarist, Eric, we’ve been playing together since high school and just making all different sorts of music. We kind of started our journey in the music industry producing for other people. What ended up happening was we wrote a song that I wrote a vocal line for and one of our friends was like, “Hey, you guys should make this a band. You guys could turn this song into a band.” And that song was “Swim”. And then we just kind of started from there. We had a little apartment in Alphabet City where we kind of just started the band and we all live there.
Very cool. I’m not familiar with Alphabet City. Where’s that?
Oh, it’s in New York City. It’s like further east than East Village.
Okay. Gotcha. I’m curious though, Late Night Episode is one hell of a name for a band. Where did that come from?
Uh, that came from a Motion City Soundtrack song.
Were you just listening to it and it inspired you and you were like, “That’s what I’m calling my band”?
Yeah, it really inspired the guitarist in our band. He’s a really big Motion City Soundtrack fan. “But save for a few of those late night episodes” is one of the lyrics. And we just thought that vibe really felt like what we talk about and what our songs are kind of talking about.
Going off that, one of the things I’m always genuinely curious about is what artists want to convey with their music. If you had to describe your sound without using names, how would you describe it? What kind of music do you produce?
Without using genre names? I’d say it’s fun, honest, and layered music, if that makes any sense.
Yeah, it definitely makes sense. I want to talk about Lay Off and what the writing process was like for this album. Do you guys generally write by yourselves or are you big on collaboration? What was the writing process like for this?
We parted ways with a production company we were working with at the top of 2018, who we had been writing songs with in a kind of scattered way, where we’d all write individually and then come together and it kind of felt a little too disjointed for us, which is why we ended up parting ways with them. And what happened was, for this album, we rented a really small house in south central LA. We have recording equipment that we’ve just piled up over the years and we drove out there with some of our equipment and we just set up a studio space in the house and we recorded and produced the whole thing ourselves in the house. We [would] wake up in the morning and just jam and we just wrote all the songs together and it was a really collective effort and we did it all kind of in the same room together.
If you guys are living in New York, what made you want to go to California [to record the album], just to get away and be totally secluded to focus on this album? Why California?
Yeah, I mean I think it’s a really inspiring place to write music. I think if you’re from New York and you go to LA, I don’t think that the majority of people are going to say they like LA better, but I think that they’ll find LA really inspiring. Like, for me, I feel really isolated in LA a lot of the time and it feels like a very surreal place to me. So, in addition to being able to get the band all together under one roof for an extended period of time and the fact that a lot of our favorite bands went out to LA to make records, I think it was just an inspiring necessity, you know?
In terms of other bands, who are some of your musical influences?
I’d say the Red Hot Chili Peppers are really big. Led Zeppelin is really big, Third Eye Blind is really big. That first Third Eye Blind record, Graduate, is like… I never realized how much we sounded like them and how much we were influenced by Third Eye Blind until really recently, actually. And I think that’s really valid. I love bands like Oasis, but yeah, no, nothing too crazy. We always try and start to incorporate new things. Like I think some of the new records, like “Tuxedo” and stuff, were definitely inspired by Beck and Talking Heads and the Gorillaz and stuff. And I think those are new inspirations that we’re messing around with.
I want to talk about the visual aspect of this album, which I think is fascinating and all around awesome. What inspired you guys to add in this visual element? Was it always supposed to be a visual album or did that part come later?
We didn’t really have much money to do what we did, and the way we did the first couple of videos was we actually drove… we kinda just knew we wanted to do something cinematic for at least one of the videos, but we also wanted it to be simple. We didn’t have a bunch of money and we were in LA, so we drove across the border to Tijuana, which is like three hours or four hours from Los Angeles, where we were able to rent a pretty crazy looking house for 30 bucks a night or something.
I hit up one of my friends, who is a director and who we worked with like five years ago, and, on very short notice, I was like, “Hey man, do you want to come with us to Tijuana for a weekend and try and shoot some music videos?” And that was just kind of the premise. We had told him that we had done an album, but we didn’t really think of anything before we went to Tijuana. So we get to Tijuana and he’s trying to figure out what song he wants to do and we obviously have an idea of what we think the singles are… but the things that he’s coming up with ideas for are not the songs that we want to shoot videos for. But we didn’t have any money. We didn’t really feel like telling him, “Hey man, no. Do this.” We were more so excited about the concept of a collaboration with him that we were kind of willing to do whatever he wanted to do. So we got the videos for “Smoking Kills” and “Mama Please,” those were the first two videos we did and then that kind of set the tone for the rest of the album.
So the visual element didn’t necessarily change anything about the way you went about creating the album besides obviously creating the videos themselves, like that didn’t impact the creation of the album.
Now that you’ve done a whole visual album, would you ever do another visual album and have that be like the sole focus of the album, just to create music videos to accompany every single song?
Yeah, totally. I mean I would love to do this again. I think that the way that we might deliver it in the future might be different. I think this was a situation where we really needed the ability to express ourselves creatively and put that out into the world without having the world react to us first, which is kind of what happened to us in the past. When “Swim” started getting traction, we had a whole EP that we wanted to put out that kind of got sidelined when we signed our production deal. So this was kind of an opportunity for us to create something that we had dreamed up and then put it out without anything getting in the way of that happening in that process. So I don’t know that we do it exactly the same, but you know, we definitely want to continue experimenting and exploring.
You talked about the director, your friend, doing the first two videos, but after you committed to doing this idea and you were going to do videos for all the other songs, where did all of those concepts come from?
Some of them came from the directors, some of them came from us, some of them were collaborative ideas. I mean, most of this stuff is a collaboration. For “Tuxedo,” we had a very narrow idea. I knew that I wanted models in tuxedos holding animals, and I didn’t know what else to do with it, but I knew that I saw that visual with that song. Then we brought that to the director and he was like, “All right, this is is what we’re going to do.” And he had all these cool vignettes with the different models in the tuxedos with different animals and of all them playing back and forth, kind of like a party. Um, and that was one of the more joint ideas.
Did you guys end up using the same director for all of them? Because I know you shot a lot of these videos as you went back to New York from LA?
Yeah, no, they were all shot by tons of different people. I think we worked with five or six different directors on the whole thing.
Overall, which video is your favorite? Which one are you really excited for people to see?
I’m really excited for people to see “Over the Girl” because it also is my favorite song. I’m also really excited for people to see “Crystal Ball.”
Alright, last question — our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd. So what is something you nerd out over?
I nerd out over the ages of artists when they write hit songs [laughs].
So like Third Eye Blind, for example, I wigged out about the fact that they didn’t really write their first album until they were like 30; I’ll harp on that for days. Everybody in my band gets so annoyed. Yeah, I just focus on everybody’s age all the time because I’m so worried about time. I just want to do a lot.
Is there like a pattern that you’ve noticed? Do artists tend to be older or is it really just all over the place?
It’s all over the place.
That’s what I figured.
And it’s a whole bunch of luck.