The Heyday’s “Come in or Stay out” | Song of the Week | Indy Week
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The Heyday’s “Come in or Stay out” 

Randy Ramirez on sunshine, high school and the self-fulfilling stories of pop songs

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click to enlarge Hey, day!
  • Hey, day!

Sun-soaked, sing-along pop-rock recorded by five high school pals bound for dorm rooms and dining halls makes The Heyday the windows-down soundtrack to a southwestern summer. Just one hitch: Though they possess the golden glow of Phoenix’s The Format, The Heyday instead hail from Denver, sharing a hometown (and penchant for hooks) with mega-selling pop princes The Fray. “They say Denver gets the most sunshine out of any city,” frontman Randy Ramirez says, setting the record straight.

With help from modern rock station KTCL, “Come In or Stay Out” became the first local hit off The Heyday’s self-titled debut, released last September. After first recording the track as part of a planned EP, the band scrapped that plan for a full-length after Chris Jak, a power-pop songwriter and regional producer who’s worked with Rise Against, offered to record the band.

The re-recorded track is laden with guitars and keys, all spilling over an elastic bassline and taut drum fills. The track swoops into acoustic-only territory for the bridge before bursting into a last-chance chorus that’s brimming with the honeyed vocals of Ramirez and 15 of the band’s closest friends. It’s an ode to post-breakup indecision, a familiar story for many, though Ramirez claims it wasn’t autobiographical—at least not at first. “It seemed to kind of unravel itself after I had written it,” he says.

We let Ramirez unravel it a bit more on his last day off before a big hometown show and the band’s sojourn east.

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: Is this going to be the first time for you guys touring out in North Carolina?

RANDY RAMIREZ: Yeah, it’s the first time we’ll be going that far east. We’ve done a lot of Midwest stuff, as far as Ohio, but never been to the Carolinas.

Do you have any connections out here? There’s that one song on the record, “Matter of Time”, with the line about the Carolina coastline.

Brian [Martin], our guitarist, wrote those lyrics, and I’m pretty sure he has been out there and has some friends out there, so that’s kind of where that came from.

You guys have been playing for about two years…

Yeah, a little over two years. We started in May of 2006 after most of us graduated from high school.

“Come In or Stay Out” has been your calling card of sorts, right?

It seems like it’s always the crowd’s favorite. We were in a radio contest here with the local radio station 93.3 KTCL and they picked that one and it went over really well with the listeners of that station. So, yeah, that’s definitely one that we try to push, if you want to call it a single or whatever.

Was there a demo or an earlier version you had recorded for the EP you had planned to put out, or is the one we hear on the album the first take on this song?

It was basically the same core recording. We recorded the five songs, and we never released it as an EP because we got in contact with this producer [Christopher Jak] and he wanted to produce the full-length. So we just took those same five recordings and just revamped them, added a lot of stuff and redid some parts that could have been better, and then we recorded five more tracks from scratch. So yeah, that’s how the full-length happened.

What in particular happened with “Come In or Stay Out” between that first version from the planned EP and the album version?

We just added a lot of the harmonies that are in there and re-tracked some of the vocal takes and rhythm guitars to make it bigger and a little more full sounding. I think we re-did all the bass and all the piano. We basically kept the guitars and drums the way they were. We just added more guitars on top.

You talked about doing some of the harmonies. I saw in the liner notes that Chris Jak did some on the record, but another 15 people or so did backup vocals on this track and a couple more. How did that work out as far as recording those parts and getting those people involved?

Well, when I was writing the song and these melodies popped in my head, I kind of imagined them being sung by not exactly a crowd, but just a bunch of people, and eventually that kind of evolved into wanting it to sound like a bunch of kids in a basement, just singing some songs. So we tried to emulate that by getting as many of our friends that were willing to come up, which was like 15 of our closest friends, and we just taught them the songs and had them all sing them. I think it ended up on “Come In or Stay Out,” “One Foot Out The Door” and “Where I Want To Be.”

The song, as well as much of the album, sounds “summery.”

That’s about the time we were writing the songs. We wrote them pretty much all summer long. It was a really fun summer, just hanging out with all our friends before going off for college. Around that time in Denver, it seemed like there was a lack of bands and musicians that were playing upbeat music. Everything was either hardcore or pretty slow, melodic, acoustic music, so I kind of wanted to create something that wasn’t so overwhelming around here, just wanted to write something a little more upbeat that people could just have fun to, you know, and kind of celebrate.

I thought it was kind of interesting because you kind of associate California with bands that have that type of sound.

Well, they say Denver gets the most sunshine out of any city…

Can you talk about the writing of “Come In or Stay Out.”

Most of the time one of us, usually Brian or I, comes up with a riff or a lick or some sort of chord progression and we’ll just kind of jam on it and everyone just kind of evolves into their own parts and everyone helps each other. It’s a pretty collaborative process as far as the music goes. Once the music is all done, I make a melody and write the lyrics to fit that melody afterwards. That’s usually the process.

And “Come In or Stay Out” is pretty standard as far as that process goes?

Yeah. I came into practice with that opening lick and I was playing that. It’s kind of funny how the song starts is pretty much exactly how we jammed it the first time and it just kind of took off from there. So that’s always kind of fun to play because it always reminds me of that first time that we played it, and it all happened kind of naturally. And after all the music was done I wrote the lyrics and the melody.

As far as the lyrics go, it’s kind of a familiar story, but was it tied to a specific experience you had with a specific person, or is it more general than that?

It’s kind of a funny story with this one because when I wrote it, no, but it seemed to kind of unravel itself after I had written it. There are a few lines where it seemed just to match up perfectly, and we always kind of joke about that, how songs can tell the future or tell something subconsciously that’s going to happen. So I guess yes and no would be the answer to that question, because I wrote it more just trying to tell a story and obviously something a lot of people are familiar with and connect with, but it wasn’t exactly an experience for me until after I had written the song.

So if you didn’t have a personal connection to it at the time, what was the inspiration for you to tell this story?

It’s kind of hard to explain. Sometimes things like that just pop in my head as I’m thinking about a melody. A lot of times I’ll just sing gibberish until words fall into place, and a lot of times they just work right and I don’t know exactly if it comes from something in my subconscious, but that’s kind of how that one happened. Once I got a few of the words, I kind of just wrote the story around that chorus.

Between “Turn Me Around” and “Come In or Stay Out” there’s that “lonesome road” phrase that’s repeated. Is there a connection between those songs?

Well, we were planning on releasing the EP as The Lonesome Road EP. So “Turn Me Around”, “Come in or Stay out” and “Matter of Time” actually [have that phrase]. We kind of put that in there just to theme the EP, but by the time we released the full-length, we were kind of over the title, not all that into it. But it kind of works as a theme, a lot of people tell us that the record is great for listening to while you’re driving, and I think that kind of fits with those lyrics.

The Heyday stop at each Triangle vertex during their first trek through the Carolinas: they open for fellow Coloradoans Big Head Todd and the Monsters at Lincoln Theatre Thursday, Oct. 16 ($20-22/ p.m.), play Duke’s West Quad Friday, Oct. 17, at 4 p.m., and Mansion 462 in Chapel Hill Tuesday, Oct. 21 ($3-5/ 9 p.m.).

  • Randy Ramirez on sunshine, high school and the self-fulfilling stories of pop songs

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