Mid-afternoon in the scorching sun was not the ideal time to experience the Stadium Tour this past summer. But you would have never known it watching Classless Act’s performance at the 4 p.m. house. The Los Angeles-based heavy metal group opened the show with a 20-minute set and carried themselves as future headliners. Thrashing, posturing, and running around the stage with maximum showmanship, they performed like they were closing the event to an enthusiastic audience of believers instead of a half-empty house.
Despite the early set time, this gig on the highest-grossest tour of 2022 thus far, is a plum one for any hard rockers. Classless Act seemed to have come out of nowhere and landed that desirable slot—although their manager, Rick Canny of Favor the Artist, who also manages Tommy Lee and Dave Navarro, and used to manage the Darkness, might have something to do with it.
When vocalist/lyricist Derek Day and songwriter/bassist Franco Gravante Zoom in to speak to SPIN at midday on a mellow Sunday from Gravante’s L.A. area home, they are dressed in their rocker finest with leather jackets and silver chains. The previous weekend, the group got dressed up to spend the day with Def Leppard’s Phil Collen at his home. These kinds of superstar invites are becoming commonplace for Classless Act, who are about 40 years junior to the rock legends of the Stadium Tour.
The group’s debut album, Welcome to the Show–which was partially recorded at Lee’s house–was released in May and features guest spots from Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil and the Darkness’ Justin Hawkins. The album is overtly influenced by sounds and style from those groups making the swagger and snarl of Classless Act come across as heavy-metal-by-numbers. But these songs aren’t hollow, predictable party anthems. There is substance and thoughtful observations chunked in between the standby hard rock tropes. Plus, the album has the pedigree of being produced and mixed by giants in the rock production space: Bob Rock, Michael Beinhorn, and Joe Chiccarrelli.
Everything is clicking into place for Classless Act in 2022, which is a big payoff for the group that, with varying lineups, has been around since 2016. Classless Act was initially formed by Slash’s son London Hudson on drums and Niko Tsangaris on guitar, both of whom have departed (although Tsangaris and his father Chris have a good amount of songwriting credit on Welcome to the Show).
The current configuration of Day, Gravante, guitarists Dane Pieper and Griffin Tucker, and drummer Chuck McKissock solidified in 2018. Gravante honed his skills in his native Argentina before coming to Los Angeles. Day spent 10 years busking on the streets of Santa Monica, starting when he was 13 and opening for Ted Nugent, Steve Vai, and Living Colour before joining Classless Act.
“It didn’t happen overnight,” Gravante says. “We whittled out a few members. The writing process, rehearsing, making sure you’re a whole unit, it takes a long time.”
Classless Act lore says the group members met via social media. But, Day says, “First we have to party together, and we did—a lot, and that’s when we knew we could be in a band together.”
“It’s about bucking up and being fucking ready in the moment,” says Day of the opportunities that have come his way. “I had a big ego because I had done these [high profile support gigs] before I met the [Classless Act] guys. I had to strip that off. None of it mattered. I realized all of that was practice to have more chops to front a band.”
Day takes the adage of “luck is when preparation meets opportunity” to heart, which is why he was ready to go when he got the call about fronting a supergroup of marquee musicians at the Taylor Hawkins tribute concert.
“My manager called and said, ‘I need you to go to the Forum in one hour,’” Day recalls when he was tapped for the tribute concert. “I thought I was in trouble, but that was the rehearsal. My manager said, ‘Just go there, even if you don’t get it, be ready.’ I was two minutes from the Forum when I was confirmed.”
Day performed Mötley Crüe’s “Live Wire” and “Home Sweet Home” with Foo Fighters and the Crüe’s Nikki Sixx and Lee. Channeling Justin Hawkins’ energy (to whom he bears a striking resemblance), Day handled the stage ably, even if the proliferation of monitor wedges had him stepping carefully to get to the front.
Classless Act’s Foo Fighters connection goes back a few years when they recorded a yet-to-be-released song with Hawkins at his home. “It was a beautiful experience,” says Gravante of that recording session. “It’s still a great memory. When you see a drummer play like that and it’s right there in front of you, you’re like, ‘Ah shit, this is drumming.’”
Says Day, “It was the first time we got to see a real superstar on the drums. He’s just running around and being a kid the whole time. When we made this demo, he did it in one take. He stood up and said, “One take Jake!” I use that term all the time because he made us laugh so hard when he said it.”
“But,” as Gravante says, “We’re not going to release it any time soon.”
Day adds, “We don’t want to capitalize on it. We really want to respect the family. We want to release it at a time that’s good. We have faith that it will hit hard.”
In the meantime, Classless Act is releasing acoustic versions of five songs from Welcome to the Show, one a week, every two weeks, starting on Oct. 21 with “Classless Act.” Each song was recorded in two takes at the iconic Sunset Sound and includes a live video of the intimate performance. The five songs will be released as an EP in December.
“It’s nice to show people another side of us,” says Gravante of the acoustic songs. “It’s nice to unplug ourselves from distortion and transform the songs. It’s like telling another version of the same story. And it’s fun.”