A pillar of the Ohio music community, The 1984 Draft is set to release their latest full-length LP, Makes Good Choices, via Poptek Records in August. It’s an eclectic album of catchy, alternative rock tunes, showcasing the songwriting talents of Joe Anderl. Drawing lyrical inspirations from his life experiences as a dedicated family man and an equally dedicated independent musician, the album is as fun as it is touching. It’s humble, it’s warm, and it rocks.
The stakes have been upped on Makes Good Choices compared to the band’s previous releases. This is clear both in terms of songwriting and production, which was enhanced by the expertise of Pat Himes, whose credits include Ryan Adam’s legendary Heartbreaker album and a mix by Jake Bryant, formerly of Rise Records’ Dangerkids. It’s refreshing to see artists like Anderl, who has slugged it out as long as he has, continue to refine his craft and release stellar material time and time again.
As goosebump-inducing songs like “Honest” depict, it’s easy to get burned out as an independent musician. You can tell that these songs are a labor of love for Anderl, which, as tempting as it may be at times, could never allow him to quit. Much like the journey of the independent musician, the album is dynamic, full of surprises, and ultimately incredibly rewarding.
Ghettoblaster caught up with Anderl to talk about the album. This is what he said.
How would you describe Makes Good Choices and how do you think it compares to the previous releases in The Draft’s catalogue?
I think the obvious difference here is this is first release where we had the full four-piece band in place. On Bo Jackson Up the Middle we didn’t have a bass player. On Heisman Trophy Winner, Larry Evans (Smug Brothers / Goodnight Goodnight) stepped in to help with the recording and support the EP. Chip joined shortly after Heisman, so it was nice to finally get a recording done where we had all the permanent parts in place. Sonically, I feel like Makes Good Choices is a good representation of what the first two EPs would have been if combined. We were able to combine the overall feel and use of various tunings into one full record with Makes Good Choices versus separating the songs by tuning choice for the first two EPs.
Aside from that, I would describe Makes Good Choices as an uplifting record. It’s meant to be fun and to chronicle the last 10 years of making music as the Draft, growing as a person, and finding a positivity that I forgot existed in myself.
How long has it been in the works?
We finished recording the record over a year ago, so it has been a slow burn. The writing of the record went the gamut from songs that are 10-15 years old (“Miss Ohio”) to songs that were written the week before we went in to record them (“Lutheran Heat”). I really wanted the record to have the right flow and a solid A and B side to the album. As we were getting close, I realized we were missing some components, which is why we added some songs at the last minute.
We had a large base of unrecorded material to choose from so the sequencing and choosing what we were going to record was a little difficult. In the end though, we had a list that everyone agreed on and the rest kind of took care of itself.
What was it like working with Pat Himes?
Pat Himes is incredible to work with. We laid out the vision prior to recording and he was extremely accommodating. We tend to like to record live to get the basic tracks of the songs done. There is a certain feel we get when Chip, Justin and I are playing at the same time and we didn’t want to lose that. Eli was then able to go in and do his overdubs for the guitar work which gave him the time to really focus on the lines that he plays.
The best part of working with Pat is that no idea is off the table. He has such a plethora of gear and musical expertise that he can make anything happen. If I heard a three-part vocal harmony in my head but couldn’t deliver, Pat did (“Jan Kowalski”). If I wanted an organ intro but don’t play the organ, Pat did (“Lisbon Falls”). If I wanted gnarly vocal effects from recording a play back through headphones and getting feedback, Pat made that happen (“Morrisey of Mandy’s”). Throw all of that on top of that he is mellow and super professional, and it makes it easy to record a record with Pat.
Lyrically, a lot of these seem like very personal tunes. Can you describe what inspires you to take a life experience and fit it into a Draft song?
Sometimes it’s driven by the melody of the song and a single line. That will dictate where the story goes. It’s hard to be honest and realize that people are literally listening to my inner thoughts. Sometimes it’s just a description of daily life, like how my middle child comes out of the bedroom in the morning, or how my wife looked on a certain occasion. For me, I do my best to capture how I felt in that moment. It’s like a post card or a Polaroid that no one will ever be able to take from me and I’ve captured it forever on a record. I’d love for others to be able to find a way to relate something in their own life to what I was feeling.
On the flip side, I almost feel like it is unfair to myself, my wife or my kids, that so many other people get to be on the inside of our moments. I want to shelter them somewhat from that but at the same time, I am best at writing songs from my experience and point of view. I think I do a good job of that in a way. Some of the songs are ambiguous enough that while I may know exactly what a certain line is about, others could take it more generally. In the end though, I’m not the best fiction writer.
One of the standout tracks (my humble opinion) is “Honest.” Can you tell me a bit about the song’s origin?
“Honest” is a hard one. I just wanted to tell the truth. I’ve been playing music for over 20 years and I can’t count the times I’ve wanted to quit. It’s hard. It isn’t easy being an independent musician. There are a lot of hard nights. But for every one of those, there are those life changing awesome nights that keep you going for the next year.
When I sat down to write the song I was in a place of being over the age of 35, still grinding, feeling tired, and assessing if this was even something I wanted to do anymore. I tried to think of why I keep doing this. I just kept thinking of my good friend Brian Ostrander (Distinct Populace, Columbus booker). He toured with me years ago, helped book me on a ton of awesome shows, and has just been a great encourager. I guess I just wanted a song specifically to say thank you to him and all the other people (especially my wife) who have made this so rewarding over 20 years. I would’ve given up a long time ago if it wasn’t for him and my wife.
Any favorite song from the new album?
My favorite song is the intro to the record. It’s a little 30-second song of my five-year-old singing about his favorite Planes character “Jan Kowalski.” I really feel like his lyrics are very creative, his timing and delivery is impeccable, and that it is a very passionate performance. I am so glad that my wife captured it on video so that it could be included on the record and inspire the first song.
What are some core things you’ve learned over your many years as a working musician that benefited you the most on this album?
Be kind, work hard, and surround yourself with your best friends. It makes being in a band so much easier when you truly love and care about the people you are making music with and their families. The best part of being in The Draft is the relationship we have with each other. Our wives get along, our kids play together. It really is a family deal.
The other thing I’ve learned is to always be thankful. Thank the clubs, the press, the bartenders, the fans, and other bands. They are the reason we can do this so always be humble and say thanks. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. It really means a lot to us.
If you could put a Draft song in any movie soundtrack from the ’90s, what would it be?
Ohhhhh, this is hard. I’ve always been a fan of movie soundtracks. I loved all of the awesome soundtracks from John Hughes films in the ’80s.
If I had to pick a movie to have a song in from the ’90s it is an easy choice however. I would want to be on the Angus soundtrack. That soundtrack is killer and probably features the best Weezer song ever with “You Gave Your Love to me Softly.” If I had to pick a song to go on it, I think probably “Red Dress” or “Honest” would fit best. If I had to pick a second soundtrack to be on it would be the So I Married an Ax Murderer Soundtrack. I would just really like to be on something that Ned’s Atomic Dustbin is on.
What are the plans for the band after releasing the new album?
We are working hard to make sure as many people hear the record as possible. We are really pushing press and radio at this point. We have a bunch of shows lined up to get us through the fall and into winter. We are working on doing a lot of new and different places so that is exciting. Aside from that, we are enjoying continuing to write and spending time with our families.
Pre-order Makes Good Choices here.
Catch The 1984 Draft live here:
July 22 – Jimmies Ladder 11 – Dayton, OH
July 29 – Blind Bob’s – Dayton, OH
August 8 – WYSO – Yellow Springs, OH
August 25 – South Park Tavern – Dayton, OH
October 20 – Blind Bob’s – Dayton, OH
September 1 – Tippapalooza – Tipp City, OH
September 28 – Peaches – Yellow Springs, OH
November 2 – Yellow Cab Tavern – Dayton, OH
Words by Andrew Humphrey