By Samantha Hindman
Dayz Off Members Patrick Thomas, Finn Haney, Matthew Stratz, Clay Strickland
Long before the release of Pittsburgh-based indie music band Dayz Off’s first album “So Much More,” or even the addition of bass player Patrick Thomas, the then three-person crew of Clay Strickland, Matthew Stratz, and Finn Haney had the beginnings of a plan to start creating music together.
All four members were freshmen attending Point Park University in 2019. Haney and Stratz attended Exeter Township Senior High School together, lived in the same hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania, and are longtime friends.
Strickland, who came to Point Park on his own from the rural Turkeyfoot Valley High School in Confluence, PA, found himself in the mix entirely by chance.
Arriving late to his business program orientation, Strickland made his way to the back of the room, where Stratz was sitting with his friends. “I could clearly tell that group was the fuck-ups, the kids who weren’t with the jocks or the girls,” Strickland joked, “So I was like, my man!”
Coincidentally, one of Strickland’s close friends (who just so happened to be next-door dormitory neighbors with Stratz) was in the university’s cinema program. This led to Thomas, who is in the same program, meeting the group. They hit it off immediately, and so Thomas quickly became a recurring character in their lives.
Ideas quickly began forming into actions for the band, who had not yet known how or what they were going to accomplish, but knew they wanted to create art together. They started practicing and writing, drawing inspiration from indie rock bands like Peach Pit and Beach Fossils, and putting all of the pieces in place before they began recording.
One of Strickland’s childhood friends, who he recently reconnected with, is a woman named Dannon Johnson. Fortunately for Dayz Off, Johnson, a sound engineer and student at Duquesne University, agreed to handle music production for the band with her Pittsburgh-based record label Guffy Cam Studios.
Though she had always known Strickland and his interest in and passion for music, she knew that when he told her about Dayz Off, this time he meant business. “When he first introduced me to Matt and Finn, I knew he found what he needed to be successful,” she said.
Unfortunately for the new band, as soon as they had begun getting their creative gears turning, they had to come to a grinding halt. In March of 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic caused not only Point Park University, but also the world, to completely shut down.
“I think from the beginning we wanted to take things seriously,” said Stratz, “but when we had the opportunity to record a song and play all together for the first time, that weekend we got kicked out of school from COVID.”
But quarantine didn’t stop the passion this motley crew had for making music. In fact, they insist that it was beneficial for them. Quarantine is where many of their songs were first written and recorded, and despite the limitations it brought, it also brought an opportunity to get more creative.
One thing that the band was short of before the pandemic struck was time. “It was easy,” said Strickland in regard to the time he spent in quarantine. “I finally had time to just sit around, and that’s how I wrote Headspace and that’s when we first kicked around the idea of Julie’s Pool.”
Before playing at venues, Dayz Off became notorious for their house shows. Most, if not all, live venues in the area were still shut down due to COVID-19 guidelines. But the band was writing music and needed a way to get it out to the public. Luckily, around the same time, Thomas had moved into his house on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
“We were there all the time. [Thomas] was just always around,” said Strickland.
Initially, Thomas was unsure about whether or not he wanted to join Dayz Off, even though the other members eagerly pitched the idea to him. Although he was always with the members, as they had all become great friends, he still felt an uncertainty surrounding the decision.
“I went to one of their shows whenever it was the three of them playing. I was like goddamn, this is so cool. I really do want to be a part of this,” said Thomas.
After Thomas had joined, Dayz Off became the fully-formed band it stands as today. With Strickland on lead vocals and guitar, Stratz on drums, Thomas on bass guitar, and Haney on rhythm guitar, their sound finally reached a point they could all be proud of.
Dayz Off performing at The Hard Rock Cafe in Station Square
Though the band has moved on from house and basement shows onto venues like The Hard Rock Cafe in Station Square and the center of Market Square, they look on that period of their career fondly and even occasionally miss it.
Haney described the stark difference between performing at house shows versus an established venue. Though he was awestruck by the quality of the sound, the quiet audience, and the formality of it all, he still felt as though something was missing.
“I don’t think it’s really as fun as an experience when you’re not bumping elbows with the people next to you, you know?” said Haney.
He wasn’t the only one who expressed a feeling of awkwardness following the switch from house shows to big venues. Johnson, referred to by Strickland as the only person who is ever allowed to mix the band’s music, also feels a bit misplaced.
“It’s been tricky for me to get in as an outside engineer. I want to be running the show [at other venues] because they’re my boys,” said Johnson. “I know their sound, but while another house engineer might do a great job, it’s not as personal.”
Dayz Off is able to bring the collaboration they have when they create music to the business side of their band as well. Since they don’t have any kind of formal management, the typical managerial duties are instead split up among the members, each playing a part and assuming responsibility for a different element.
“They’re all the same person. My running joke has been that the four of them all collectively share one fried brain cell,” Johnson remarked. “As a whole, they work, they brought out what the missing parts of each other were.”
Stratz handles the bulk of the graphic design work, primarily handling the band’s website and designing merchandise for the band. Haney handles the band’s Instagram page and assists Strickland in finding venues and opportunities for the band. Thomas covers the band’s photography and videography with the help of his friend Riley Crow, a film student attending the University of Pittsburgh.
“Any time anyone says they like any part of our band, ‘It’s like- thank you, thank you, thank you,’” said Strickland. “It’s nice to feel like we’re actually real musicians sometimes.”
If you want to see Dayz Off in action, you can catch the band performing at the 565 Live Speakeasy and Stage in Bellevue on Saturday, May 14th, the same day as the release of the band’s newest single Lies.