The Victory Drive is premiering the official video for their single “Pop The Champagne” (feat. Lexi Vito) exclusively on Talk Nerdy With Us. After a decade long hiatus, lead singer Jamie McClanahan and the band are back and better than ever. They released their EP Before I Self Destruct earlier this year, which features “Pop the Champagne” – a song they originally released in 2011 and remixed due to how much the fans demanded it.
In addition to premiering the music video, Jamie took some time to answer a few of my questions. We talked about the reason behind the decade long hiatus, the story behind remixing “Pop the Champagne”, the process of shooting the music video, his love for anything true crime and so much more. Keep reading to see what he had to say!
Let’s go back to the beginning. How did The Victory Drive originally start?
So I was in a band with a couple of guys that actually had a pretty good run. We were signed with Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, so we had a good run. The singer ultimately became a raging alcoholic, so I left and started The Victory Drive and then the other guys decided to come with me and join as well. So that was how it originally started, back in 2008 or so.
Right. And then you took a little bit of a break and just returned to the project after a decade long hiatus. So what made now the right time to come back to The Victory Drive?
That’s a great question. Actually, the hiatus was not voluntary. I played ice hockey and I got a really nasty concussion so I was in bed for about a week. After a week in bed, unable to really have lights on or anything, it caused the stroke from high blood pressure. So I was like blind for over a year. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t speak. It was really, really bad. So the hiatus was never a choice. And then basically, when I was ready to roll again and I got healthy, I didn’t really think too much about it. And people were like, “Why don’t you get back into it and get the music going again?” I was like, “Oh. I don’t know.” And then I came back. So I guess the simple answer would be that the hiatus was never a choice.
Gotcha. So where did the name The Victory Drive come from? What does that mean to you?
Well after everything happened with previous bands, where things had looked so positive and then everything kind of crashed and burned, it was more about like an inspirational, positive message, like a victory lap, a celebration, a drive to victory if you will. I know it sounds kind of lame but that’s pretty much where it came from.
Yeah, that makes sense. So I’m something I’m always curious about is what artists want to convey to listeners with their music. Your sound would generally be described as emo-pop, but if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe it?
Hmmmm. That’s a really good question. I like not being able to describe it because I feel like it means it doesn’t really sound like anyone else, at least not too much. If I had to describe it without using exact terms, I would say Top 40 pop but with guitars and drums. Almost like a pop dance rock with real instruments. I know I kind of named some genres when I wasn’t supposed to.
All good. Kind of going off of that, who are some of your musical influences? Who inspires you musically?
That’s funny. Actually, I was never into music at all.
Yeah. I was a sports nut. All I cared about was sports and then I heard Nirvana when I was younger. And before the song was over, I changed instantly. Before it, I was a jock and all I cared about was sports. By the time song ended, all I wanted to do was go get a guitar and start dressing like Kurt Cobain. I instantly changed within that four minute song.
What was the song?
“Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
Ahhh classic. Good stuff.
I had never heard it before and it just completely transformed everything I planned on doing.
So obviously this song changed your life in terms of you finding music and you getting interested in music, but what made you want to make music your career?
I just seek attention. This is probably a really bad answer but oh well. To be quite honest, I like attention so that’s why I wanted to be the frontman of a band and all this other stuff. It was a way to kind of be in the spotlight.
Before you listened to this Nirvana song, was being a professional athlete all you had thought about?
Yep. 100%. I wanted to be the biggest star ice hockey player to be famous; to kind of stand out and be a little different than everybody else and to have something about you that you’re known for. Hearing that song just changed what I wanted to be known for, but ultimately I always wanted to be known. And I think that’s because I’m an only child, so I grew up like every time I’d be on family vacations I was by myself – it was horrible. So I just craved attention and I got it by acting out when I was a kid, but then you get to like middle school/high school and you realize it’s not really the way to go. So I tried to make it something positive and I decided to go with sports and then ultimately music.
That’s awesome. So let’s talk about “Pop the Champagne”, which is the lead single from this EP. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is a song you had originally released back in 2011, right?
Yep. That’s right.
So what made you want to remix it and not only include it on this EP, but choose it as the comeback single?
To be honest, the audience did it. They chose it. I had no intention of bringing it back. At the time that it came out, people didn’t really like it. They said that it sounded too much like bands from the future. So that’s kind of weird that when I was touring in 2017/2018, everybody loves that song because it was then future compared to when it first came out. So I guess those things were originally correct.
But basically, the drummer that I was touring with wanted to play it, so we threw it in the setlist and started playing it on tour and it just caught on. So I was like, “Well alright, I guess this is the direction to go in”. So now everything that’s going to be coming out in the future is going to be a lot more like that, like electronic-pop-rock. So I didn’t choose to bring it back; the audience dictated that it was coming back.
Gotcha. So there was never another song in your old catalogue that you considered remixing instead of this one. This was just pure audience love that drove it to become what it is now.
What inspired “Pop the Champagne” originally when you wrote it back then?
To be honest, we were kind of a rock band at the time, but rock was clearly dying. Instead of thinking of ourselves as a band, I was like, “Alright. We need to think of ourselves as songwriters and then we’ll figure out a way to perform the song live. We won’t even worry about that.” So it was a, I don’t want to say sell out move, but it was an attempt to be a lot more mainstream because rock was dying and I wasn’t about to go down just because a genre was going down. So basically the inspiration was honestly just survival, like survival in an industry that was getting away from rock.
Gotcha. So is that why you think though that people didn’t gravitate towards it originally, was because it was so different from what you guys were doing at the time?
Absolutely. 1000%. And also I think maybe I was a little early to make that determination that rock was dying. I mean it ended up being correct, but that’s just luck. I think I was a little premature and that is why people didn’t like it. It didn’t go over well at all in 2011. In fact, the band that I had at the time called an emergency meeting, dragged me into a parking lot and berated me for about two hours about how horrible the song was.
Oh yeah. They were mad.
So then how did it ever see the light of day? Did you get the final say?
Yeah [laughs]. I said, “Alright, then you write something. What do you want me to do? You write something and if it’s good, we’ll record it. Otherwise I don’t want it hear it.” They just kept berating me for about two hours, but I didn’t care. It was coming out.
Wow, that’s so fascinating. What’s your songwriting process like in general?
It’s all mental. It’s all done on an acoustic guitar, but it’s really done kind of in my mind first. So I’ll plan out what direction do I want the song to be. Do I want a rock song? Do I want a pop song? Do I want a dance song? Do I want a ballad? Do I want to be something up beat? So I’ll kind of structure it first in my head like, “I’m going to make a pop song. It’s going to be pretty upbeat, pretty dancey.” Then I’ll just kind of start thinking about melodies that kind of fit that tempo. Then I’ll figure out what chord progressions sound best with that melody. And then ultimately start recording it and then decide what instruments should be used. Maybe it’s not even a guitar. I’ll just completely delete the guitar from the recording and throw in a synthesizer or something like that. So basically, I envision the song first and then go and try to bring it to life. I think a lot of people, I shouldn’t speak for others, but I think a lot of people I know, they’ll just kind of have their guitar and try to just come up with something. For me, that’s not a very effective strategy because I’m not some guitar virtuoso. I don’t know music theory. So I have to just hear the notes in my head and figure out where they are on the guitar. I can play the guitar, but I don’t really know much about it.
So you are melody first and then lyrics second.
Oh yeah. Lyrics are dead last.
Interesting. I know you guys shot a music video for this remix. What was that process like? Was that your first time shooting an official music video?
It’s the second official one, but the first one was for a ballad and it’s a lot different. This is a lot more mainstream. This is the one we’re really going all out with. The process was actually… do you know the band Rookie of the Year?
I do not.
They were real big in like 2006 and the whole emo scene. Anyway so I’m good friends with Ryan [Dunson], the singer; he’s been helping me a lot and he was like, “Let’s shoot a video for “Pop the Champagne. I’ll direct it” and I was like, “Alright.” That kind of got the whole ball rolling. So he came to New Jersey from North Carolina and he actually changed the entire premise of the video like four times the night before.
Yeah [laughs]. So even showing up to the shoot, I had no idea what it was going to be like. And whenever anyone would ask me, I’d be like, “Go talk to Ryan. I have no idea”. So actually Ryan from Rookie of the Year is the one who decided that there would be a video for it and took it upon himself to direct it and came up with a great concept I think that is really modern, just visually pleasing as opposed to a storyline.
Yeah. It looks awesome.
So now that The Victory Drive is back and stronger than ever, what are some of the goals and benchmarks that you’re aiming to reach in the next couple of years as a band?
To be honest, I don’t have any specific goal or benchmark. And the reason for that is I don’t want to have any sort of a limit in mind. I want to take it as far as possible. Ideally, and of course this is completely unrealistic, I would like to be the biggest star on the planet. That’s never going to happen, but I figure if you shoot really high, even if you missed it by a lot, it gets a lot higher than if you have some sort of short-term, small goal. So I’m more big picture oriented. I don’t worry too much about the short term goals. I’m just trying to write a hit and make it take off.
Do you guys have any plans to go on tour in the next couple of months or even the next year?
Oh yeah. So we were touring for the end of 2017, all of 2018 and most of 2019, and then we decided to pull back, record the video and promote it. We’re going to get back on the road for the East Coast, down from Florida up to Maine, in I think it’s June.
Last question — our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have some kind of inner nerd. So what is something you are currently nerding out about?
Does true crime count as nerd?
Oh my God I love crime. Love it. Like all day, if I’m not recording or producing someone else’s record or anything, I’m watching crime shows. In fact, when you called, I was watching a show on Oxygen called Snapped about a doctor who was killing all their patients. So if it’s crime related, I’m in.
Do you have a favorite crime-related show or podcast or anything like that?
Yeah. I was actually on a TV show called Evil Lives Here on Investigation Discovery.
Yeah. I’m in season two.
What is that show about?
Each episode is a different crime and it’s almost like a docu-series about various crimes. So the episodes aren’t related to one another. For example, one of the ones I was in, I was playing Skip Jeffs, who was the son of Warren Jeffs. I don’t you remember him. He’s a polygamist leader. He just got sent to prison maybe 10 years ago or so and they did an episode on that and that was one of them where I played his son. So whenever I’m not doing music, I’m totally invested in crime. I went to graduate school just for the sake of studying crime. I went and I got a masters in homeland security and criminal justice just for fun.
So yeah, I’m pretty nerdy about crime.