Hailing from Florida, Danny Attack plays wide-ranging acoustic music that is hard to pin down in terms of genre but could broadly be categorized as “alt-folk.” We spoke with Danny Attack ahead of his Sunday appearance at the Charleston about his background as a musician, life as an independent musician, finally getting to tour again after a year of COVID-19 lockdowns, and much more.
The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Tell me a little bit about your history as a musician
Well, I’ve been a musician and been playing music for probably about 20 years. I picked it up right in junior high, just kind of messing around with stuff. There wasn’t really anyone to teach me music, so it was just friends who had stuff. I would mess with their gear and then slowly gravitated toward rock and alternative music. Once I was doing that I would just grab any instrument I could to mess around with it, and then eventually in high school I actually learned how to play them. From then on it was just finding out what the names of chords were, figuring out how to make the chords and how to tune the guitar, and things like that.
I’ve been playing for quite awhile now, but mainly in bands: punk bands, alternative bands, metal bands, and things like that. Within the last few years I’ve been playing strictly under Danny Attack. Before that, I’ve always played my own stuff, or covered stuff — just acoustic, singer-songwriter stuff. That’s always been as a hobby, more of a backburner. If my full bands weren’t doing anything at the time or someone wanted someone to fill in for a show, then I would just go and play. But since my last band out here in Florida, which is where I’m located right now, we did a bunch of tours and then that band went on hiatus, so I decided I wanted to keep moving forward, getting a bunch of tours, that’s what I wanted to do. So I took the Danny Attack thing and ran with it, started making actual albums and music videos, and then set up a bunch of tours, both in the U.S. and then overseas. I’ve been touring and playing Danny Attack stuff for about 2-3 years as my main focus of music.
Your promotional materials, graphics, etc. are very polished. Are you on a label or are you operating independently?
It’s all do-it-yourself ... well, “do-it-myself.” I don’t have a label or management. I do have a video and content team, so that's about as far as that goes. All the production you see in my music videos, or the pictures I have, or any of the artwork for albums — all that stuff is done by my media team and they're called Rozu Creative. They do all that stuff for me. I'll take them a vision, "Here's what I want to do and this is the kind of vibe and aesthetic I'm looking for," and then we collaborate and they execute it. So everything that's cool and nice and fancy is all them.
But no labels, unfortunately. Not that I don't want to be on one, but starting off, I've only been doing the Danny Attack stuff for a few years. I've been in different bands that have been signed, so I kind of know how things work, and the same thing with booking my own tours and things like that: I booked tours for my band previously, and so I just bring all of that, the connections that I had before that, into what I'm doing now. So far everyone's been receptive to it and welcoming both here and overseas, so it's pretty cool.
Can you talk a bit about the “DIY” attitude in the punk scene?
For me, when I do stuff it's more fast-paced, like if I want it done or if I think there’s something to do or I'm thinking of a tour, I have to do it right away. A lot of times when you are signed and have management and things like that, there's a lot of stuff you have to go through before you can get stuff done. You also get to keep a lot of creative stuff — you're the one that's doing it, so the only one you need to get a "yes" or "no" from is yourself. And being in that whole DIY aspect, you don't want to give up that freedom.
A lot of the big labels, they want their hand in it of course, because they want to make sure it's commercial enough, they want to make sure it sells. That's the business. That's what they're supposed to do. A lot of times the mindset of people who play in rock bands like that, it's like they're ... I don't want to say anti-commercialism, but they definitely want to keep that punk aesthetic and not be too commercial, for their own reasons. For me, that's not really a thing for myself. I'm doing it for myself because if I don't do it myself, it's not going to get done. And I'm not one to wait on, "Well, I'm just going to sit here and write my music and hopefully someone's going to sign me and then I can do it all." I'm more of a, “if I don't make my music and play it out, and send it to people or tour as much as I can, no one’s going to hear it.” And eventually if someone does hear it that has the ability to sign me, that’s perfect; great, I’m happy to do it as long as the deal is cool. But until then, it’s all myself.
And I do it by myself because I have the ability to do it. I have some of the contacts to get it done and I guess enough to do as much as I’m doing now. I have my creative team that makes everything look good, so with that professionalism aspect, people will see it and go, oh yes, it’s a product that’s pretty commercial because they have a certain aesthetic or it looks cool, like it wasn’t shot on a cell phone or something like that. Not that that stuff’s not good sometimes or most of the time, but some people who want to listen to certain stuff, they want to visually see it and visually be a part of it as well. And that’s what’s cool about my stuff is the visuals — the darker aspects go along with the lyrics and stuff I’m writing so you visually see what I’m talking about in my songs. And then maybe because of the music I play, which is more singer-songwriter, acoustic, if I was on a label they might be pushing me to do a more singer-songwriter image, as opposed to the darker stuff that I have.
Those darker themes seem to be common in the folk-punk genre, but you also have the singer-songwriter thing going on as well. Where would you say you fit into things in terms of genre?
I would want to say it’s a certain style just because it’s easy for me to do that, but across the board, the albums I have are not just one particular acoustic genre. I have a couple murder-folk songs that consist of what I’m singing about or writing about, but then somewhere I have some slow songs, or songs that seem kind of poppy and aren’t really too folk. They’re more like pop-punk as opposed to folk or Americana, stuff like that. I write to what I like or what I want to sing to. So it’s all over the map. So I can’t really put it in a particular genre. I can say, “Well this song is that genre, or this song is that genre.” I think one I heard was alt-folk, alternative-folk. As a wide range, that might be something I fit in, but I couldn’t say that I belong to any particular one, just because each song is different across the board.
Going back to record labels, I imagine if you were on a label they’d try to pigeonhole you into one sound. It seems like being an independent musician gives you greater freedom to play around with different genres.
I actually never thought about that, but because you brought it up, it’s actually probably a thing, because when you look at most indie labels or even the major ones, they handle a particular genre. I mean, maybe some of the bigger ones don’t, they kinda do a bunch of stuff, but some of the labels I like, a lot of them are just pop-punk labels, or they’re just folk labels, things like that. And they’re known for those types of genres, so they might be like, “yeah, we like these songs that you did; we don’t care too much about those ones, so if we sign you, we want you to stick to this, because it sounds like what we want.” So yeah, that might be tough on my end. And I don’t know how I’d react if I was faced with that, but I definitely have the freedom to do whatever I want right now, because I don’t have anyone telling me not to.
I come from different genres in my background anyway and a lot of people know me from different bands I’m in. I think it’s cool because I have the different genres in my acoustic stuff, that I can appeal to different fans from my past things, whether it’s metal, or I could play acoustic pop-punk and it might be more fitting for the metalcore or screamo/emo bands that I was in before, things like that. My fans, I’ve noticed, are pretty wide ranging in the types of genres they listen to. I have metal fans that like my stuff, I have country people that are my fans, and things like that, so it’s a pretty wide range of fans and I think that’s because I write across genres. One of my metal fans may not like too much some of the slower stuff I do, but they might enjoy more of the murder-folk, more of the heavier folk stuff that I do. But it keeps them around because they know I’m going to keep writing stuff like that at some point. So it’s definitely a thing for the labels.
I’m assuming Danny Attack is a stage name; if so, can you talk about where the name comes from?
Well, the “Attack” part is a stage name. Back in my early high school and maybe out-of-high-school days, I listened to a band called Screeching Weasel, and they’re a punk band, pop-punk band. That band has a bunch of Danny’s that ran through it, and they always had nicknames. Like, the singer of the band’s stage name is Ben Weasel, but there’s Danny Panic, Danny Vapid, things like that, and back then I had a best friend who we were giving a nickname, and so I called him “Matt Attack,” just because I thought it was cool. But he never liked it so it didn’t stick. So I was like, fine, then I’m gonna use it. So that’s basically where that came from — he denied it because he just didn’t want it, so I took it and started putting it on stuff.
But back then I wasn’t doing anything like this. It was for band purposes, so my band name wasn’t [Danny Attack] or anything, it was just like, oh, whatever band I was in, this guy is “Danny Attack” in it. And that was it. And that’s kind of how it’s been this whole time. Even when I started doing my solo stuff I wouldn’t bill myself as “Danny” or “Danny Attack.” I ran it through a couple different band names when I did my solo stuff before this, like “Whispers in Reverse,” or “Bad Wolf” — which is what I ended up calling one of my albums — and “The Fear Frequency.” Just different things like that, weird band names I would think of for it and then eventually after my last one, Whispers in Reverse, that’s when I started getting more serious about doing this stuff so at that point it was suggested that I use my name for branding purposes if I wanted to do this seriously. I thought about it and I changed it from band names to now “Danny Attack” is what I go by when I play my music. So it helps for branding, and people don’t expect a full band when they see it on a bill.
It definitely seems like a fitting name — short and sweet, and packs a punch.
Yeah, and I’m not sure if you know this at all, how much research you might have done, but because it is kind of cool and snappy, for merch purposes, I don’t put “Danny Attack” on any of my merch. It’s only just “Attack.” All my shirts that I’ve ever had — I have like 10 different shirts that I’ve done throughout the course of this — for merch purposes, they all just say “Attack.” They don’t say “Danny” on it. I want to give people the option to buy it even if they don’t know who I am. People will buy art or anything visually appealing to them if they think it’s cool, if they like it. I don’t see that happening if it says “Danny” on there.
I play a lot of shows that are cross-genres, so I could open up at a metal show, or things like that. Yesterday, at my first show of the tour, the first few bands were full bands, and they were like punk, alternative, grunge — bands like that. And they played before me, and then I played. I headlined the show. But bands, metal bands, things like that, if they see a cool design on the shirt, and they like it, they would buy it except if it just says “Danny” on it. But now if it has just “Attack,” “Oh, cool, that could just be the ‘brand name,’” whatever it is. A lot of shirts these days are more about their branding logos in T-shirts now, at least for some of the pop cultures, the branding is the main thing people are buying, and their logos that are on the shirts. So people could just think that’s a cool type of shirt or whatever cool logo that is. But it limits the buyers if it just says “Danny.”
A lot of my merch is cool artwork. It’s the same media team, my content creators, Rozu Creative, they’re the ones that help me out with that stuff, too. So we’ll do the vision, we’ll come up, we’ll collaborate, and one of the guys, they draw it out, and we get everything done, and it’s good art pieces, visually. And it’s happened: People have gone to shows and I’ve never seen them before, they just happened to pop in and before I even play the set, they’re buying merch because they like the way it looks. There might be a special thing where I do put “Danny Attack” on it for a limited run for people who really want that kind of thing, but for the most part they’re all going to be like that: Just, “Attack,” because of that branding.
You mentioned that you’ve started your tour. How does it feel to get on the road after a year of COVID restrictions and lockdowns? It seems like we’re not totally out of the woods yet, but that things are slowly getting back to normal.
It’s probably a little bit different for me than if you were asking someone in a different state. That’s because I’m in Florida, and we’ve been kind of open for a little while. Me doing this run is definitely the first tour I’ve done since COVID, so that question I can answer. But as for starting to play shows, I’ve done runs in Florida already where I’ve done a lot of the major cities. I’ll do weekend runs for four days, things like that, and it always feels good.
I feel like I’m having to play catch-up again, because COVID started in March 2020. I felt like I was ramping up a little bit — I was actually in Europe, in the UK, when all the COVID stuff was happening. So I had to cut a tour short while I was out there to get back here, because they were closing borders and stuff. Once that happened, I feel like this whole last year — like for everyone else — was a big waste for me, because I was building up momentum, we had a couple sold-out shows overseas, and then everything just stopped. So now I have the whole year we’re gone, just like everyone else, working on content, putting things out. I recorded an album, put out a few new videos, things like that, just sort of staying busy. So now it’s all catch-up. I have to build up this momentum again and I’m hoping this tour helps that. I have a UK tour scheduled in October as well, so as long as everything’s still good border-wise, then that’s going to go through as well.
But it’s definitely been tough to try and stay in the game. When normal things are happening, bands are touring all the time, and some aren’t touring all the time. It’s a mix of everything. But everyone’s been home, so everyone’s putting out stuff, everyone’s doing livestreams — which is cool, because that’s the only way people were able to see their favorite bands play. But everyone’s also charging for these; they’re charging for every single thing, because that’s how they made their income.
So let’s say the smaller bands, local artists, we can’t really compete with that, so that moves over now to the touring aspect, where things are opening back up, all these tours are getting announced, and the local artists that might have had a shot previously as openers for tours are now not being able to do that because these bigger bands are taking out other bigger bands as openers. Which is cool for the show-goer, because you go out, you just go to one show and you have three to four headliners, which is super dope. But on the performing side, there’s no one really to play with now because all these shows that you normally would have a chance to try to open for or go on a run with are now taking out their buddies, who are also in big bands, on the road. I didn’t know that that’s how things were going to go; I wasn’t thinking about it because I was doing my own booking, but in the future, if I wanted to go out on the road with a bigger band I’d have to try to do a buy-on if possible, or hopefully someone notices and takes me out, but other than that it’s just strictly booking my own tours, like this one. It didn’t seem harder than normal to book it once I got a hold of people, but the hardest part was getting a hold of places and clubs that might not be open anymore, because of a lot of the shutdowns. So it was hard on that end, but once I found people, those clubs that were open, it was easier to book because they’re the ones looking to open and have shows again.
Like you said, it’s cool to see a show with a bunch of headliners, but it seems to me the downside of that is the audience loses out on the element of discovery from seeing bands they’ve never heard of before but might really enjoy.
Yeah, it’s definitely a thing. For me, I try to tour as much as possible. And I guess I’m going to keep on touring because that’s the only way to get your name out, besides the internet. But with the way Facebook and Instagram and other social media have their algorithms, it’s super hard to get anything out. So relying on social media, I don’t know if that’s going to be super helpful much anymore, because I think Facebook and the owners [of other social media companies] are really cracking down on how you put music out because they want you to pay. They want the pay-out promotion and the ads and things like that. Since COVID, that’s how everyone’s getting their local bands and checking new people out. Now, we’re posting on Facebook and we’re posting on groups and our fans are sharing it and things are changing every day today with the internet and that stuff, so it’s going to be crazy to see what happens next with us local bands. It’s a crazy time. It’s hard to say about any of it.
Have you been out to Washington before as Danny Attack or with other acts?
Yes. I’ve actually played the Charleston ... twice, I believe. The last one wasn’t too long ago. I want to say it was toward the end of 2019. But it wasn’t with Danny Attack. I’ve never played in Washington under Danny Attack. I played the Charleston with a hardcore band that I play with out of Germany. Whenever they do tours I play bass for them. So we did a tour, the whole west coast and the central area with a few other bands and went through, we played there. And I played there once before but I forget which band it was with. And then other places in Washington I’ve played as well, but particularly in that area, it’s only been a couple times but not as Danny Attack. So this will be my first time playing Washington as Danny Attack.
Can you elaborate on your connections to the music scene overseas, including your collaboration with UK musician Sam Russo?
Sam Russo [who appears on the title track of the Danny Attack album Ghost], I didn’t know him before getting him on the album. I’d listened to him already. I’d been a fan of his for awhile so I just happened to message him and was like, “Hey, I have this album I’m going to be doing. I have this track that would be awesome if you wanted to collaborate or just sing on it, whatever you want to do or whatever you’re comfortable with; just let me know.” So I sent him the song and he was like, “Whatever you want me to do, I’m super down to do it.” He was a super nice guy. Everything about him was super nice and he helped me out. I sent him the lyrics and he recorded his vocals, he put his spin on it, and that was it.
Other connections I have in Europe were from a different band as well. I was in a different hardcore band out of LA and then we toured out in Europe. And that was back in 2011. On that tour and other tours that we’ve done, I’ve gotten to know everybody, stayed friends, and even after those bands had parted ways, still hung out and kept in contact with these guys.
The band that I tour with from Germany out here, was a band that my other band toured with. So we toured with them, I got to know them, and they had a last-minute change where their bass player couldn’t come to the U.S. for a tour. And so they just hit me up and said, “Hey, do you wanna play bass with this tour?” So I said yeah, and ended up sticking around and kept doing it — that bass player can’t tour at all. Even in Europe, they can do weekend shows but they can’t physically do a tour. So whenever they do a Europe tour or a U.S. tour, I play with them for that. And then when I do those tours over there, I’m always super friendly and want to talk to people about everything, so I hang out with the sound guy, or I’ll talk to whoever owns the club, and things like that and just keep in contact. Now that it’s time to do my tours, I just hit them up — I tell them it’s not the same genre and things like that, and they’ll either help out or point me to someone who can. If that club is strictly metal or something like that and they don’t have singer-songwriter stuff there, they’ll be like, “Hey, well this person does, I’ll let them know I know you,” and we’ll book it that way. But definitely all my contacts are just from networking in the past and just being friendly … being a cool person, I guess.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m on this tour and James Hunnicutt is going to be the headliner on [the Bremerton show]. I’m sure you’ve heard of him there on that side. But he’s headlining the show. I have the Phantom Pines opening up … he’s out of Seattle, I believe. But yeah, it’s going to be fun. I hope everyone comes out!