When 2009′s Save Me, San Francisco spawned an inescapable hit that made everyone entirely more aware of any mention of “hey,” Train was faced the difficult task of recording a follow-up with the same massive appeal. After returning to the Golden State to record this year’s California 37, the band has aimed to recreate the eclectic Northern California feel that’s fed into much of their musical and personal history, while providing karaoke enthusiasts and driving fiends alike with something to belt out on their own time. Popdust spoke with lead singer Pat Monahan about not paying attention to the critics, his love of Mamma Mia, and what it’s like to drink Drops of Jupiter in the studio.
POPDUST: For the amount of money Train spent on California 37, what could I buy?
PAT MONAHAN: On Save Me, we spent an enormous amount. You could probably have bought an entire block of condominiums in Florida. But this record? Maybe just one condo.
How do you think listening to the album will make people feel?
It’s [like] a romantic comedy: there’s reason to laugh and there’s reason to cry.
Did you listen to a lot of Adele in the studio?
I feel like Adele is more singing to other people [and] not really me. She’s a great singer but ["Someone Like You"] doesn’t make me cry—I think it might be for girls? But a lot of times when something is for girls I totally love it because I’m very girly.
You must have examples…
I love Abba, I love going to see Mamma Mia, I’m not afraid to be a girl or to be feminine—listen to my lyrics.
What’s the best song on the new album for karaoke?
I think the ultimate duet would be “Bruises,” but “Drive By” is fun because it’s on the radio and you’ll know it. There’s nothing more fun than going “I-I-I-I,” that’s the magic of “Hey, Soul Sister“: nobody gets the “Hey-ey” part wrong.
Did you like the Glee version?
I thought it was really cute. I thought [Darren Criss] sang it great. I got to meet him and I was very pleased to know that he’s a really sweet guy. That’s what we care about more than anything. Of course I love music and I would love people to like my music but not as much as I would want them to think I’m a decent guy. Fuck all that music stuff, man.
So you’re not bothered by negative reviews?
I actually don’t expect anyone in the press to like me. It will always be surprising that anyone cares enough to ask a question.
Are there any songs on the album that reflect that?
No, I don’t talk about business in the records because I think it’s incredibly boring. [It's like] Catcher in the Rye—I love that book so much—all those references come to mind: phony, boring. Listening to a guy who travels the world and writes songs and does all the shit I do complain in songs; can you think of anything more boring than that?
Is the new single “This’ll Be My Year” an intentional ripoff of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire“?
It wasn’t. I love Billy Joel, but “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is certainly not on my list of go-to songs.
What song cost you the most sleep?
“This’ll Be My Year,” because I just couldn’t finish the chorus. It was definitely a headache.
What do you want people to do while listening to the new album?
Lie in bed. Then you kind of get the idea of the words, the music and you can feel a part of [the song] in a different way than if you’re doing an activity. Train fans tell me that having it in the car while you’re driving down the highway is pretty fun, too.
That seems like a given.
Maybe if you lay down while driving… [Laughs.]
Where do you listen to it?
On headphones in airplanes, constantly. My wife listens in our car.
Are there songs on the album that your exes could think are about them?
Yeah, they could with “When The Fog Rolls In” and “California 37.” But I make sure that my children and my wife are OK with what I’m writing because no song is important enough to hurt them or make them feel uncomfortable in any way.
Any running jokes from the studio?
We learned a lot about Typical Chazz. Incredible.
How do you keep your voice healthy during recording?
I try to get sleep and I don’t drink alcohol or anything ever.
Not even your own wine?
I learned a long time ago that if I wanted to be a successful person, as an Irish kid, I needed to stay out of the pub. I taste the wine and I think it’s really nice. I wish that I could drink and smoke weed and do crystal meth and all that other stuff, but I can’t.