If we could start a movement, it would be to teach people that you can accomplish what you normally see as impossible, no matter what. Take that leap of faith, and don’t let the fear of failing control what could be your best life. It’s obviously terrifying, and the farthest thing from easy, but that’s what makes it so worth it.
I had the pleasure to interview Justin Cole & Dan Picarel of the music group “The Underclassmen.” Being an “underclassman” doesn’t have to mean that you’ll be picked on at lunch or shoved into a locker. Los Angeles based pop duo, The Underclassmen, want to make sure of that. They write songs for everyone, not just the popular kids. A leap-of-faith move to Los Angeles and a chance encounter with manager Scott Waldman and producer/manager Curtis Douglas led to the creation of The Underclassmen. After nearly two years preparing and amassing a “class-load” of content, the unlikely duo of former firefighter and photography major drop out aim to bring their inspiring pop anthems to headphones and stadiums worldwide.
Thank you so much for joining us Justin and Dan! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
The Underclassmen: So we both met in Syracuse, New York. We actually met through Justin’s girlfriend, at the time, in junior year of high school. He approached me (Dan) and said he wanted to try and play some cover songs together at our school’s weekly open mic night. I played acoustic guitar and Justin was playing the drums a lot and singing. We really only knew each other in passing but when we met up to practice for that first performance, it was an instant friendship, and an instant musical connection. The first song we played together was Crossfade’s “Cold” and from there, we started playing a lot, eventually showing up every week to the open mic nights to play. After we graduated, we played at this local place called “Funk n’ Waffles” that also hosted an open mic night. It was there that we garnered a ton of support from other local musicians and talent, and really gained the confidence that this could someday be a thing — a career kind of thing.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?
The Underclassmen: Honestly, the sudden nature of how The Underclassmen began is a story in itself! Be prepared for a lot of name drops here — Justin’s fiancée, Rose (not the same girl from high school), had a connection to Beth Brett, who she knew through some babysitting. Rose had brought up to Beth that we were musicians looking to make a career. Beth had an old connection through a previous job, Scott Waldman, who she knew is an artist manager. One thing led to another, and we ended up in a meeting with Scott, going in to just discuss our ideals and goals and maybe get some advice. That meeting had us taking said advice, getting in touch with Tempe, Arizona based producer Curtis Douglas, yet another connection that Scott had. Justin and I drove out to Arizona to do some writing and recording with Curtis. In that span of a week, we had really hit it off as a songwriting team and re-established our sound and who we were as a band. We left with a new outlook on what we were capable of, and were henceforth known “The Underclassmen.”
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
The Underclassmen: We are definitely hard at work on a lot! Our main focus is on our future releases, as we have two years’ worth of material waiting be seen/heard. We are also working on what an Underclassmen show will soon look like. We want it to be an experience that will stick with fans throughout the rest of their lives. There is plenty of merchandise to be designed, music videos to be filmed, and more songs to be written. We are only just getting started, and we don’t plan on slowing down.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
The Underclassmen: It may not be a big name, but we have to give a shout out to Funk n’ Waffles’ former Syracuse University location, a legitimate waffle restaurant that hosted a weekly open mic night, where we both started performing and growing as artists outside of high school. We met so many talented people who also performed there and we created a lot of memories. Before we moved to Los Angeles, we had had one last performance to say goodbye. It was extremely emotional and we have so much to thank that space and its wonderful group for. They helped shape the bond between us as friends and musicians, and for that, we are forever grateful.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
The Underclassmen: It might not go too far back in history, but Frank Sinatra is a huge influence, especially in singing, for Justin. His performance in musicals such as “White Christmas”, “On the Town”, “Robin and the Seven Hoods”, and “High Society” is really one of the main driving forces that started up Justin’s love and spark for singing. I had more modern influences that don’t really date back, but Avenged Sevenfold is the band that got me into guitar.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The Underclassmen: Regardless of success level or where you are in life, we believe that you can bring goodness to the world by simply having a good heart and helping others. Just by being a good person, you can make a difference, regardless of the scope. Justin is a former firefighter and member of the Air National Guard, and I (Dan) am always willing to lend a hand to anyone who needs it. Do good for others, see things from their perspectives, be a solution to the problem in every situation. We really want to incorporate this in who we are as The Underclassmen.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The Underclassmen: If we could start a movement, it would be to teach people that you can accomplish what you normally see as impossible, no matter what. Take that leap of faith, and don’t let the fear of failing control what could be your best life. It’s obviously terrifying, and the farthest thing from easy, but that’s what makes it so worth it.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
The Underclassmen: In the words of the great master Shia LaBeouf: “just do it.”
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started?”
The Underclassmen: . Success is entirely subjective. Don’t let anybody tell you what success looks like, because that vision is yours, and yours only.
. Enjoy and celebrate the little things.
. You will literally never stop failing at things, but perseverance is the true measure of capability and character.
. Trust in yourself. Love who you are as an individual, because the world needs who you are as an individual.
. Support comes from so many different places, whether it be friends, family, co-workers, etc. Keep those people close, because they love you for you.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this, especially if we tag them :-)
The Underclassmen: We’ll do our top three: For Justin it would be Charlie Puth, JoJo and John Mayer. Charlie is an incredible songwriter and producer, on top of his performing. The fact that he can do it all is incredibly inspiring, and he’s also super humble. JoJo has blown me (Justin) away since day one, and not only do I believe she is one of the greatest vocalists of the modern age, but I cannot have more respect for the way she’s handled the pitfalls of the music industry. She’s one of the strongest and most inspiring artists out there, you can fight me over it. And John Mayer is a freaking legend, so obviously I would love to meet him someday.
For me (Dan), it would be Hayley Williams, Dallas Green and Bill Nye. I’ve listened to Paramore since their debut album, and Hayley’s incredibly inspiring when it comes to bringing mental health into the forefront of importance, and I really respect that. Dallas has the voice of melted butter, is an amazing lyricist and is super down to Earth. His songs were some of the first I ever learned on acoustic guitar. Bill Nye is THE science guy.
We can’t pick just one, we’re greedy.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Come talk to us! Our social medias are:
YouTube: The Underclassmen Music — where you can see the music video for our first single, “Former Life,” which premiered on Billboard.
We’re also on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon music, Google Play, anywhere you listen to music, we’re there.