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In an era where millennials contribute nothing to society besides “killing” everything, Dan Masterson is out to make piano rock conscientious again.
Or something like that.
A self-described “proud yet anxious millennial,” whose pop rock tunes hinge on a certain stadium-filling charm, Masterson has had his record When Reality Calls in the works for years, even before the surprise traumatic end to 2016. And, of course, like many other artists and creatives who didn’t see the outcome of the presidential election coming, he had to rip apart some pieces and start over.
“I started writing most of the songs for When Reality Calls before the 2016 election, but almost all of it was tweaked or re-written as we recorded throughout 2017,” Masterson tells Vanyaland. “During that time, like a lot of people, I was preoccupied with how to react and respond to what was and still is a dangerous political climate. I briefly entertained the idea of running for local office instead of recording this album.”
“I’ve always been interested in the intersection of social movements and music, especially in the U.S.,” he adds. “I have this existential dread about a lack of a shared pop culture in the U.S. today. The internet has allowed us to splinter off, not just into our own political worlds, but also our own cultural worlds. We don’t read the same news, we don’t listen to the same music, and we’re so eager to cut down or cut out people who disagree with our taste. A lot of this album is also about that battle between the digital and the physical worlds we live in, and the toll it takes on our relationships as the digital world becomes more pervasive in the physical world. It’s easy to become habitually reactive and nasty online, and it’s easy for that habit to spill over into our personal interactions.”
When Reality Calls marks Masterson’s first full-length LP after three EPs, and unleashes what the singer/songwriter considers a bit more bite than his past work. But then again, that vigor can be easily chalked up to his sign o’ the times thematics.
“My style is always changing a little bit, and I think for the last few years playing out with my band, we’ve shaped the sound more towards full arrangements with more rhythmic elements to keep the set moving,” Masterson notes. “When Reality Calls has a bit more of an edge to it. The biggest change came from working with Dave Brophy and Alec Gaston, letting them experiment and guide a little bit. On Atlas, I wrote out charts for all the songs, and the instrumentation was simpler. On this album, we took more chances on instrumentation, experimented more with vocal doubles and harmonies, and had the whole band in the studio together.”
The end result is eleven tracks of piping piano-pop, served with a self-aware smile tonight in Somerville. 2018 and all its shenanigans can eat its heart out.