A Day to Remember’s last trip to Oklahoma City was a stop lead guitarist and backing vocalist Kevin Skaff won’t soon forget.
The Ocala, Florida-based metalcore/pop-punk hybrid made its most recent appearance last year at Chesapeake Arena last year while on tour with Blink-182 and All-American Rejects. Skaff said the gig was memorable to him because when the band arrived at the arena, it was presented with custom Oklahoma City Thunder jerseys with bandmates’ names printed on the back of each one.
“I ended up wearing mine all day,” Skaff said in a recent Oklahoma Gazette interview. “It was pretty sweet.”
This time around, A Day to Remember (ADTR) travels to OKC as a main headliner, playing Aug. 9 at Chevy Bricktown Events Center, 429 E. California Ave. The quintet will be joined by Wage War, a fellow Ocala metalcore band signed to Fearless Records.
In addition to Skaff, the band is comprised of vocalist Jeremy McKinnon, rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Neil Westfall, bassist Josh Woodard and drummer Alex Shelnutt. ADTR might be most known for its 2009 album Homesick, considered by many as an important hardcore release of the late 2000s.
Skaff spoke with Oklahoma Gazette days before the band embarked on its monthslong national tour. Though he admits to occasional homesickness of his own while on the road, Skaff said he relishes life on the highway.
“I really enjoy touring,” he said. “It takes my mind off a lot of stuff and just kind of lets me be me, because when I come home, then I have responsibilities again.”
ADTR had recently returned from playing a July ESPN-televised gig at the X Games in Minneapolis. The performance was a special homecoming for the Minnesota-born guitarist who has been living in Florida for the last nine years.
Though he enjoyed seeing the X Games for himself, Skaff has never been much of a skater. He knew from a young age that he wanted to play guitar for a living and said he did not want to risk injuring his wrist. Bruising his tailbone while snowboarding several years ago also resolved him to leave the tricks to the professionals.
“After [the injury], I said, ‘Fuck this. I’m just going to chill and stay safe,’” he said.
Bad Vibrations, ADTR’s most recent album, was released in September. Many have called the 11-song album the band’s best release since Homesick. Skaff said the record marked the first time in a long time the band wrote and recorded an album together, with all members present. In the past, due to inefficient scheduling, two to three members would be responsible for writing most of the songs while the others would catch up. For Bad Vibrations, the band wrote as a unit during a retreat to a cabin in Fort Collins, Colorado.
This time around, ADTR made sure of two things: Every member had a role in the creation of each song and every track could sound as good in concert as it did on the record.
“We wanted to be able to pull it off live,” he said, “which can’t be said for a lot of bands nowadays.”
ADTR accomplished this by recording Bad Vibrations live in the studio. The result is arguably the band’s best record in terms of performance value.
“We just kept it simple, and I think the songs came out a little more powerful,” he said.
The Bad Vibrations album title is at least a subliminal reference to courtroom drama between ADTR and Victory Records, its former label.
The two sides were squabbling over several things, including the band’s fulfillment of its contractual obligations. Victory claimed ADTR still owed it new music while the band argued that its studio albums, combined with other album formats like deluxe and live releases, satisfied its contractual quota.
In November, an Illinois jury ruled that the band had satisfied the terms of its contract and awarded ADTR $4 million in unpaid royalties.
Skaff still remembers the agonizing wait for the verdict. After two weeks of court proceedings in Chicago, the jury was expected to reach its decision on a Friday. When deliberations took longer, the judge recessed for the weekend and heard the verdict on Monday.
“We were just left to ponder,” Skaff said. “‘Well, what do you think they’re going to say? Do you think we won; do you think this?’ It was an extra two or three days of sheer terror.”
When the jury’s decision was finally announced that Monday, Skaff said it was a great relief and emotional experience. Several bandmates cried tears of joy. Skaff, the road warrior he is, celebrated by renting a car and driving from Chicago to see his family in Minnesota.
“I just had six hours to listen to music and decompress,” he said. “It was wild.”
The band is currently independent, having self-released its last two albums.
“We’re kind of just floating around right now and seeing what the future holds for us,” Skaff said.
ADTR held its first Self Help Festival in 2014 at National Orange Show Event Center in San Bernardino, California. This year, the event also has dates Sept. 10 in Philadelphia, Sept. 30 in Orlando, Oct. 7 in Detroit and March 3 back in San Bernardino.
The event is heading into its fourth year and its first in Detroit and Orlando.
“At first, we just wanted it to be this one stationary thing,” Skaff said, “but there were so many people flying in, even from other countries, that we were like, ‘Maybe we should take this to other cities.’”
Bands like Rise Against and Underoath join some of this year’s event bills. Past fests have included acts like The Wonder Years, The Story So Far, August Burns Red and Yelawolf.
Skaff said ticket sales have been very strong.
“That’s really cool to see,” he said, “because this is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while.”
Self Help Fest got its name through the deep emotional connection ADTR fans have to the band’s music. For them, live shows are more than surface-level listening experiences; they’re immersive healing sessions.
Though Skaff said he feels like a regular guy, he recognizes that some fans view him on a higher level. It is an honor he tries not to take for granted.
“As you go through life,” he said, “you kind of learn how to stay humble and not let it go to your head.”
A Day to Remember with special guest Wage War
8:30 p.m. Aug. 9
Chevy Bricktown Events Center
429 E. California Ave.
Print headline: Free recall, A Day to Remember guitarist Kevin Skaff is eager to return to OKC.