FIGHT OR FLIGHT
Featuring members of Disturbed and singer Dan Chandler of Evans Blue
While on hiatus from Grammy Award-nominated, multi-platinum Chicago-based juggernaut Disturbed in 2012, guitarist Dan Donegan started to intensely miss touring and recording. So, he reached out to Evans Blue front man Dan Chandler with an idea.
Donegan didn't approach Fight Or Flight with a concrete plan. Instead, he allowed the music to arrive naturally, and that's exactly why it feels so alive and authentic. There wasn't a big social media reveal. He didn't even tell the record label or his management that he was writing songs. Rather, he picked up a guitar and held nothing back and started his collaboration with Chandler.
"After a few months home, I was going through withdrawals from the road," he laughs. "I actually met Dan Chandler online in 2011. I requested him on Facebook because I'm a fan of Evans Blue. I watched them at Rock on the Range that same year, and he sounded incredible. We had spoken about collaborating in passing that day, but I didn’t think much of it until Disturbed decided to go on a hiatus.”
They began sending each other songs back and forth via email and meeting in person anytime Chandler was in the Chicago area. Chandler had a bunch of unfinished ideas and was looking for an outlet to express those ideas. Donegan said,” We didn’t have a plan for it, we just wanted to write together, there was no discussion of the direction, we just let it happen naturally.” Soon, they had a bulk of material, so Donegan suggested getting his "Disturbed brother of over twenty years," drummer Mike Wengren and record the material properly. That proved to be a no-brainer for the spot behind the kit. Although there’s some trademark things in the way Mike and I play, when you add another writer and new voice with Chandler, it's going to be different." It's got edgy moments, but there's more melody across the board. We had the chance to experiment as well. There are acoustic guitars and some electronics even. Together, they cut fourteen hypnotic and hard-hitting songs fortified by Donegan's trademark riffing, Chandler's melodic sensibility and vocal harmonies and another solid foundation laid by Wengren.
“Still at this point, no one at the label was aware what we were doing, Donegan added. We still weren’t sure what this meant other than we had songs that we were proud of and a new creative direction.” Once the recording process was complete, they found themselves going to their manager and the Record Label for the first time with a finished album. It was at this point that they realized that their creation has come to life and was time to round out the band lineup. They turned to Ra's Sean Corcoran [bass, backing vocals] from the Boston area and Jeremy Jayson [guitar, backing vocals] a well-respected local staple in the Milwaukee music scene. When Donegan was invited by Wengren a few years back to see Jayson’s original unsigned band he knew this kid had something. He left that night thinking if Jeremy never gets his break with this band then he’d keep him in the back of his mind if another band was ever in need. “Little did I know that the band would be us years later”, Donegan laughs. We had met Sean nearly 10 years ago and he stood out to me on what a great player he was. When Donegan started reaching out to a few close friends to ask if they news of any great bass players that could sing, Sean’s name came up again. The call was made and a trip to Boston happened shortly after. “I already knew he had the talent, this was a trip for all of us to hang and be bros before we would even play together.”
Everything kicks off with the stomping first single, "First of the Last." It's an energetic anthem that's meant to be cranked as loudly as possible. He goes on, "It's one of the more driving tracks on the record, and it's got my signature style. Lyrically, it's more cryptic. Dan and I spent a lot of time discussing conspiracy theories, and those conversations inspired the song."
Elsewhere, there's the heartfelt acoustic ballad "Leaving." The song builds from faint strumming into a powerful chorus paying tribute to troops coming home. "We've always been pro-military," affirms Donegan. "I really like the message. It basically talks about troops returning after war. Those memories stay with them so the song ponders how they come back to normal life after their experiences."
Meanwhile, they plucked the album title (Is Life By Design?) from the first line of the hulking slow burn "A Void." The guitarist continues, "Is life by our own design or is someone else designing our lives for us? That's the question. Do the billionaires and secret societies make the real decisions or do we? Is there a bigger agenda that someone may be laying out the design for your life? It was fun to explore that idea. We wonder that sometimes."
However, regardless of who pulls the strings, everybody has the ability to make certain choices. That idea stands encapsulated in the group's very moniker. "My wife said Fight Or Flight one day, and the phrase jumped out at me," Donegan remembers. "A few days later, I was watching an episode of Dexter, and he said it too! After hearing it twice in one week, it just made sense. I like the meaning behind it. It's the body's response when you're backed into a corner. It's about how you respond when you're threatened. You can cower or stand up and fight." Us, like most musicians also know what it’s like to fight and have to break down walls to try and survive in what could be a very difficult road to travel. But when you have that fight and passion in you, there’s no giving up.
We never backed away from a challenge or obstacle, and Fight Or Flight is a testament to that. "We wanted to do something that would be different enough from Disturbed and make the best effort to keep them separate from each other," Donegan concludes. "You can't worry about pleasing everybody. There were no expectations or rules. We did what we wanted, and this is the outcome. We have the hunger to go out there and prove ourselves again. This isn't a one-time deal. Mike and I have two things in our lives now. This is the next chapter."