Exclusive Q and A: The Promise Ring Talk Reunion Shows, Jimmy Eat World and Being Indie Rock Heroes

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsFor fans of the midwest emo/indie rock scene, there are few bands that can compare to The Promise Ring. Hailing from a genre that also included the likes of Jimmy Eat World, Braid and The Get-Up Kids, The Promise Ring rose to indie fame in the late ’90s and released four albums and five EPs in their seven years together. Following the release of their final album, Wood/Water, the band decided to call it quits to pursue individual interests. As members of Dashboard Confessional and Maritime, The Promise Ring continued to create music, but the desire for a reunion was too strong to ignore for long. The band confirmed their reunion at the end of 2011 and will be playing shows around the U.S. in the upcoming months. We met up with drummer Dan Didier at The Bamboozle Festival (where many fans saw the band for the first time in ten years) to hear about the reunion, how the scene has grown, and what fans can expect to see at shows this year.

OS: It’s been ten years since you guys played festival shows. How does it feel to be here at Bamboozle?
DD: This is the first time we’ve ever played Bamboozle. But festivals are interesting. I still obviously prefer smaller clubs and more intimate settings, but what I do like about festivals like this or SXSW, where a lot of people go to them…you cover a lot more ground with people who come. People fly in that wouldn’t necessarily go see you. There’s a bigger array of people so that’s always kind of nice. Definitely playing to new people or total diehards who came from Kansas to see us, so that’s cool. But it’s also kind of a big headache because of how big it is and how crazy it is. The logistics that people don’t really realize and all the things that go on behind the scenes. It’s a headache, but I can’t wait to play.

Frontman Davey von Bohlen rocks out at Bamboozle

OS: Are you surprised to see bands like Jimmy Eat World and Hot Water Music here in 2012?
DD: Jimmy Eat World, no, because they’re good friends of ours and we’ve known those guys forever. When The Promise Ring was a band, we brought them on tour and they opened for us a bunch, and then they blew up and they took us out and we opened for them…it was just a really fun time that we had with them. But the way that they are, it makes total sense that they’re still a band right now. They have that special…I don’t even know what you would call it. It’s like this magic potion of being in a band where they’re all still friends, so they don’t have that animosity that can build up and break up bands…they don’t have that. They have that really successful record that let them do what they want to do and continue to create music, so they can just focus on that. They’re at the total sweet spot of music, which is great to see.
OS: What have you all been doing while The Promise Ring was on a break?
DD: Davey [von Bohlen, vocalist] and I are currently in another band called Maritime, and we’ve been touring and releasing records under that. But we all have jobs and kids and that sort of stuff. I drive a minivan…it’s totally cool. [laughs]
OS: There have been a lot of reunions for bands in your genre in the past couple years. What was the reason behind getting back together? Has there been a shift in band dynamics since you reunited?
DD: The reason we got back together is just because the scheduling worked out. We reunited once for one show in 2005 and after that, we kept on getting asked and kept on getting asked, but we’re busy, Scott [Schoenbeck, bassist]’s busy with Dashboard Confessional, Maritime’s busy, Jason [Gnewikow, guitarist] can’t do it…so it just seemed to work out. This year all made sense. The kids are old enough, everything all made sense. Getting back together, it almost seems like no time has passed. For the time when we were this lineup, this was my favorite time when we were a band. We went through three bass players, so there were tumultuous times. But when we were this lineup, this was my favorite. It’s super fun, I love it.
OS: There’s a vibrant indie scene in the midwest, in particular. What is it like to be considered pioneers of such a creative and respected scene ten years later?
DD: I feel honored if someone actually thinks that. I don’t think I personally think that, because I see a lot of other pioneers who inspired me. But I’m humbled, I think that’s awesome. That obviously wasn’t our intent…we just wanted to make music and people listened to it. We were just lucky; right time, right place, doing the right things kind of thing. I’m totally humbled by it.

Dan's view from the Bamboozle stage

OS: Your last record, Wood/Water seemed to grow on your fans after the band broke up. Do you think the material from that album will be better received in 2012?
DD: I really hope so! [laughs] Tomorrow we’re playing a bunch from that record. In our proper set, we were really diligent about showcasing really early stuff to the last stuff. Every album has four or so songs from it. So we were really diplomatic about choosing what songs. Hopefully that goes well! I love the songs, I love playing them. Hopefully people like to hear them! [laughs]
OS: You’re going to be playing some shows around the U.S. this summer. Have you thought about what will be on your set list yet?
DD: We’ll probably keep roughly the same setlist, but we’ll keep adding and shifting to keep it interesting. When we rehearse and set up what songs we’re going to play, we have the first tier, second tier, and third tier. So we know all the first tier ones, now we’re going to go back and pick and choose from the next set of songs and then we’ll interchange those. We’ll keep it fresh.
OS: Dangerbird Records is going to put out some unreleased songs from The Promise Ring later this year. Is there a possibility that you’ll be writing new material as well?
DD: There’s no talk of it whatsoever. I can’t put the stake in the ground and say no, but right now there’s no talk of it. If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t bet on it…because I’m stingy with money and betting. But that’s just me. I can’t say no definitively, because you never know. We’ll see what happens at the end of this year!
Catch The Promise Ring live this summer:
June 27”Varsity Theater”Minneapolis, Minnesota
June 28”Summerfest”Milwaukee, Wisconsin
July 19”Riot Fest Philadelphia”Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
July 20”9:30 Club”Washington, D.C.
July 21”Paradise”Boston, Massachusetts
Aug. 11”Avalon Hollywood”Los Angeles, California
Aug. 12”The Glass House”Pomona, California
Sept. 1”The Fillmore”San Francisco, California