Cody Carson On His Favourite Touring Memories With Set It Off (So Far)

27 June 2023 | 12:06 pm | Mary Varvaris
Originally Appeared In

"We walked up to the venue door, and there's a bullet hole in the door, and we're like: …okay."

Set It Off

Set It Off (Source: Supplied)

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Floridian genre-bending trio Set It Off are coming to Australia after waiting for a while to come down under, opening shows for You Me At Six this July. Their 2022 album Elsewhere is a transitional, moody, and forward-thinking release, one in which they have faced their demons and come out happier and more full of life than ever before.

Earlier this year, the band decided to go independent, ditching Fearless Records for their new Dopamine era. In March, Set It Off released their first-ever independent track, Punching Bag, before following it up with Win Win featuring Scene Queen.

The band are bringing life and party to the gigs in Australia, and to celebrate the upcoming dates, vocalist Cody Carson has offered his favourite touring moments in Set It Off (so far).


Now that I’m thinking about the upcoming Australia tour, I'm having all the memories flood back from when we were previously there. From my first memory, it was our first time ever over there in Australia, and it was a really, really incredible experience. 

I'd never been surfing, but I’d always wanted to try. And one of the people that was on the tour with us would surf all the time. I remember the tour had concluded, we were in the van together, and he had a surfboard on him, and it was very cold out, and it started to rain.

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But we decided we were gonna go to the beach and we're gonna try to surf. For me, I just wanted to get on the board and just coast down a wave. And I'll never forget the first moment I had when it happened, it was the most serene feeling of my entire life. He was teaching me how to do it, I laid down the board, and I had to judge the wave. And then once I caught it - I'm laying down riding this wave to the shore, and I'm looking on the left and right side of me seeing the wave crash as I'm going. And it was just peace. 

It was absolute peace. I've never felt any sort of serenity like that in my life. And right away I was like: I get it! I get why people dedicate their whole life to this. It was just really something. And that was just apparently the bare minimum level I can experience. It was just really, really, really cool, and that has always stuck with me.


This memory is a really sentimental one. There is this venue in Orlando, Florida called House of Blues, and it's in downtown Disney. It’s a big venue. Maxx [Daniger], our drummer, is from Orlando and he would go see his favourite bands play there all the time. So, I think it was a year and a half ago when we finally headlined that venue and sold it out. That was a cool part and all, but also our family and our friends were there. 

I’d written a song about the passing of my father called Unopened Windows, and my mom and my sister were in the audience. She's holding my new niece, and there's a moment where I'm singing some lyrics about my dad in the song…well the whole song is about him, but I look up, and it's like the lighting director knew, and a light shone on them. We locked eyes, and I reached my hand out, and she did the same thing, and I just started uncontrollably sobbing during that song. 

And it was hard for me to get through it, the song ended, and the guys had to come pat me on the back. I had to take a second before I could get to the next one. But that was really special to me, not just because it was in a venue where we really wanted to play, but also because I got to share such an intimate moment about my dad.

My dad was a performer and an entertainer, and he was afraid for me to do this for a living because he knew on the other side of it - if I can't make a living doing this, I'm gonna have to start working nine-to-fives and really grind. And there have been some moments that have happened lately in my life where I think he'd be really proud, and this was just one of those moments that I felt like he was there. So that's really special to me.


There are some moments that you would think at the time are bad memories, but they’re now great memories because I get to think about where we came from. One of these is when we were playing a show in Detroit, Michigan, I think it was in 5 Mile. And I don't know if you know about Michigan, but from what I've been told, the further south you go of 10 Mile - the rougher the area gets. So, we’re in 5 Mile, and we did not fit in. We were wearing skinny jeans, and we pop out of the van, 2008 neon phase. And everyone is looking at us like: you do not belong here. 

We walked up to the venue door, and there's a bullet hole in the door, and we're like: …okay. Then we go into the show, and no one has purchased a ticket, no one is there that day. So we treated it just like a rehearsal, basically. We played a show to absolutely zero people. And at that time in our career, it wasn't the worst day, you know, we’ve played shows in, I think, the middle of Tennessee to like five or 10 kids, and that was a win. That was amazing when that happened because we didn't have any support tours. We were brand new. Nobody knew us, no one wanted to vouch for us at the time. We really did start from scratch. As much as I had that help with All Time Low, performing with them and stuff like that was great, that got some eyes on us. But as far as bands taking us out, we had to really work our way up to that.


Another memory I have was when we had no money. We were living off the dollar menu. You could probably spend like $10 a day on food, so you had to really make it count. One day we had nothing, and we had to put our money together to split a $5 Hot-N-Ready Little Caesars Pizza. And we ate it together on a curb. But now I get to look back now at that, and now I'm like: I'm in an apartment in a city I've always wanted to live in, and my music helps me, it’s what funds this. It’s just kind of crazy to look back at where it started. And I feel like I need to do that, I always wanna remain grounded, and it's so important to remember where you came from.


When we did our first overseas tour, we didn’t have a lot of money, and this family was super nice and let us stay with them in Paris. They put us up and were showing us around Paris, and we had a really great time. We got to go to Disneyland in Paris, and that was really, really cool, we’re big theme park nerds - but no one is a bigger theme park nerd than Zach [DeWall]. He's a big fan, so he was really excited about that. We got to experience that together, and beyond that, we went to the obvious ones too. We went to the Louvre, and we got to see the Eiffel Tower.

Actually, that reminds me, we were touring with this band, they're called Brawlers. We haven't seen them in a long time, I don't know if they're still together, but they were some of our favourite touring companions ever. Like shit, we shared a bus with them, and we would watch movies and stuff, and we loved to drink together. We found out that in Paris you could just grab a little bottle of liquor and just walk around. So we got a small bottle of Jameson, and we walked down to the Eiffel Tower, and we started drinking it - and we decided we wanted to do two things. 

We wanted to race to the Eiffel Tower in the courtyard and see who could get there fastest. I think I came in second, they were a bit faster than us. And then - we wrestled. We got a little sauced, and we had some good old-fashioned horsing around fun, and we just full-blown wrestled in the courtyard outside of the Eiffel Tower. That was honestly one of the funniest things ever. We were having a blast, it wasn't like an aggressive thing, and it was the middle of the night so we weren’t causing a public ruckus, we were all just having fun. We loved those guys.


This is another one that involves exploring, that's something that people don't know when you're on tour in another country, they think like: oh, you get to go on vacation. I wish! It's easier when you're in a van, and you're the ones driving because you can dictate your entire schedule. When you have a driver, you gotta take care of that guy or girl. You gotta make sure they are prepared and slept and well rested, and you can't just go anywhere when you want to go. But when you do get to go anywhere you want, it's a real treat. 

We were playing a show, it was our first time ever in Italy, we were in a city called Cino, it was right outside of Rome. We had, I believe, an hour and a half of free time and we're like: we're not not gonna go exploring. We rushed around with Google Translate, just trying to understand where we were going. We took a train to Rome, and I'll never forget this, we get off the train, and we're walking up these stairs, and there's a tunnel. And as the tunnel opened up, there was this bright light, literally, it's like how I feel people describe death. And then all of a sudden, my eyes adjust - and the Colosseum is right in front of me. And I was like: woah!!

If you’re looking at the Colosseum and you turn left, there’s a road walkway to go up, and there’s a bunch of restaurants right there. I think it was LP [Longineu Parsons] from Yellowcard and one of my other band members, this was so long ago. But we went to one of the restaurants and sat down outside. I feel like everywhere, but the United States when you eat outdoors is really open and free, and there are no barriers, and you don't feel like you're trapped. It just felt really open. 

And so I'm drinking wine, eating lasagna, staring at the Roman Colosseum - and it was the coolest thing ever. One thing that's really important to me, it's a very simple quote, but I'm trying to stay as happy as I can for as long as I can, so moments are everything to me. I wanna make memories. If I have to shell out and spend a little bit more than I want to, but I'm gonna create a memory - I'm gonna do it. So, if we're travelling and I'm able to do it, I try to spring for it.


A recent one is that we just went on our first big rock festival run. We've done a festival tour before with Warped Tour. But we just did Rock am Ring. Ahead of time, I guess I didn't know enough about the allure and how big the festival was. I'm writing with my buddy, Jon [Lundin] from Point North, we wrote Punching Bag together, and we were working on another song that's unreleased right now. And he's like: what have you guys got coming up? 

And I was like: yeah, we're doing Rock am Ring. He's like: seriously?! Instantly, I was like: I need to look up videos. So, I looked up videos, and I started obsessing, I watched Bring Me The Horizon's headline set, and I watched Linkin Park’s headline set as well, taking notes. I do that all the time, just like: alright, how are they extending songs? How are they transitioning from song to song and making it seamless? I get really obsessive with analysing stuff like that.

But it was also fun, and it was such an eye-opening thing. I was like: oh, this is huge, we’re on a big boy run. So, we get out there and, you know, we don't know how many people are gonna come to see us. There are three stages, and ours was a little tucked away. It started decently sized as far as the crowd goes. But my favourite thing, and I've always felt this way, like back in the days of Warped Tour we were on a stage called Kevin Says Stage, and nobody knew about Set It Off - but I didn't care! I like the challenge, I know people are gonna walk by, and I wanna see them stop. I wanna see them see us and I wanna see them join the crowd. 

And we got that feeling back, and by the end of our set, it felt like we had gained so many new fans. So that first day at Rock am Ring was just a “going back to your roots” feeling - but also it felt larger than life at the same time. The whole festival run was just like that, and we got to play on like the biggest stages we've ever played on. And I got a catwalk in the Czech Republic!! It’s like: dude, don't give me a catwalk. I'm gonna run up and down that thing, it’s like a jungle gym! It’s like a playground, I'm gonna be everywhere! It was the best time.


A final one, it was 2011, we were on Warped Tour, but it was a very strange version of Warped Tour for us because we weren't an official band. We were on a stage that was not even a real stage. They got kicked off the tour for charging bands to play. They didn't charge us so we didn't think much about it. But they straight up were making bands buy onto Warped Tour. Kevin [Lyman] found out about it, it's actually on their show Warped Roadies I think in the first season. And they shut the stage down. 

But what was worse than that was that the type of credential you got when you were playing was just a wristband. Everyone else gets a laminate. That laminate gets you food, water and access to anywhere you need to go. Our wristband got us nothing. It got us in the festival area and on the stage, and that's it. So, we had to create a system to survive, where it was like each CD you sold is $1 in your pocket. So to eat that day? You're not eating if you don't sell CDs. We literally had to go out there, and I was singing songs like, "I'll sing whatever you want if you just buy the CD." I think it was like $5 we were selling the CDs for. That was one part of it. 

But it was a total shit show for us because so many things went wrong. The first day it ended, we were just like: we just played Warped Tour. Oh my god, I cannot believe this because we would go to Warped Tour together as friends, this was like a dream come true. 

We were in our van, which was the van that I purchased with my college money that ended up not going to college and into this instead. It got us the start we needed. And so, we end the first day, and we're sitting in the van, we're like: all right, so here's what we did great and here's what we didn't and here are the things that we need to buy so that we can do better tomorrow. So we immediately went to Walmart, we bought our stuff, and we're like: all right, now we're driving from North Carolina down to Orlando, Florida - not a short drive. 

We load up the stuff into the back of the van and the person driving at the time, I won't throw them under the bus, but the door was still open, and they start the van. They didn't realise we hadn’t finished loading and the door was not closed yet. So, they start turning out the back door, the van catches the trailer, bends the door in half and the glass shatters. And at that moment, you could hear a pin drop. We're like: oh my god, we are so fucked. We have to get to Orlando tomorrow. What are we gonna do? 

So, we had to go back into Walmart and get a bunch of wrenches and try to bend the door back. We bought rope, and we had to tie the door as hard as we could together with the rope, and then do the whole duct tape with a garbage bag thing over the window and drive down there. And we were so mad at the person driving obviously.

We did make it to the next date by the skin of our teeth. We still played. I was exhausted. I was wearing basketball shorts, and I guess like a Hanes tee, I did not look like I was in a band at all. And the reason why this is significant is my friend slash mentor Joe Ragosta who sings in a band called Patent Pending, who by the way has now been having massive success. He co-wrote the song Need A Favour by Jelly Roll, so happy for him, he deserves everything coming his way. But he was like: what are you doing?! Why are you dressed like this? You look like a fool! 

He would always give me that tough love. He's from New York so it's always been that way, but I love him, shout out to him. But while we were doing stuff and selling CDs and trying to survive, we told the dude who drove: you gotta go solve this. You gotta get us a door. So, he went to a junkyard and found the only door that they had that would fit that van. And it used to be in a taxi. The whole van was now white except for this giant orange door where you see the outline of the sticker that used to be where it said “taxi” on it. And that was the resolution for that. It was a total shit show.

The thing is too - that was my car. That was the only car I had, and I was single at the time, trying to date people. I'm like: you wanna be picked up in my white/taxi van? It was not a cool look. We’ve had vans since then before we started going into the vehicles we're in now. But that was the beginning of the end for that one.

Set It Off will join You Me At Six on their Truth Decay Australian tour. You can buy tickets here.