I recently sat down and talked with Texas In July bassist/lyricist Ben Witowski to talk about the band's upcoming slot on Of Mice & Men's upcoming headliner, as well as their brand new self-titled record, and more. You can check out the band's on Twitter, as well as Facebook. Many of the dates on the Of Mice & Men tour are SOLD OUT already, but you can check out all dates HERE.
First off, how was the European tour with Miss May I?
Ben Witowski: It was great. We were really excited to go over there with Miss May I because they’re great friends of ours, and they play metal similar to us. We just knew it was going to be a good time. Coming back to the States and looking back on it, it was definitely well worth it, and it was a great trip.
Compared to the last time you were there, how was the response this time around?
Ben Witowski: It was good, there was a couple of markets on the tour that we’ve never played before, which is always beneficial for us. We played Sweden, and we played some markets in the United Kingdom and lower Europe that we’ve never been before. So it was nice playing in certain cities and countries that we’ve never been to before, that’s always a good thing.
What was the one thing that you learned about Miss May I while on tour with them?
Ben Witowski: We see a lot of ourselves in them; they’re small town country boys, and they’re all from small towns in Ohio, and we’re from a really small town in Pennsylvania. So we kind of have similar upbringings, and we’re pretty young bands – each band has members under 22, and even younger than that. We automatically jive on that note, and on top of that, we play metal. They’re one of the only bands in the realm of people we play with that still plays metal, you know? So it’s always nice to tour with them, and they’ve been really helpful to us as friends, they’re great people.
You’re doing the Of Mice & Men headliner in a week or so. What kind you tell us about this tour, and your relationship with Of Mice & Men?
Ben Witowski: We’ve toured with Of Mice once before, I can’t say that I got to know all of them too well, so I have some learning to do personally – I do remember that they were nice people and their band is on fire right now, so I’m very excited to be out on the road with them.
What about a few of the other bands on the tour, like Woe, Is Me and Volumes?
Ben Witowski: We love Volumes, it’s really cool stuff. We actually did a couple of days with them this past summer on the Scream It Like You Mean It Tour, so we got acquainted with them and we watched each others sets . We’re excited to get to know them even better.
What about the opening band on this tour, Capture The Crown? They definitely have a lot of buzz, both positive and negative.
Ben Witowski: I don’t actually know anything about them, I just know that they’re on the tour and…I think they’re Australian?
Yes, they’re an Australian band that Sumerian Records picked up.
Ben Witowski: Yeah, so I guess all I know is that they’re Australian and that Sumerian signed them recently.
They get compared to Asking Alexandria quite a bit…
Ben Witowski: Yeah, that’s not really my style…
I definitely don’t blame you…
Ben Witowski: Yeah, I’ll hang out with them as long as they’re nice people. I may not like their music, but as long as they’re nice, it’s cool.
This new album is definitely your most mature album to date. Coming back to Miss May I, they also changed their style up a little bit to incorporate more of a refined metal style. I feel like that’s what you’ve done with this record as well, a progression from your last record, One Reality. I feel like you’ve found your identity as a band with these last two records. With that in mind, how does a band find their identity in your opinion?
Ben Witowski: You know, it’s been hard for us, and I think even on the new record it’s still struggle and we’re working towards something greater and unique. We’ve often been compared to many bands that are way bigger than us, ones we’ve been inspired by. Even those bands that we’re inspired by have other bands that they themselves were also inspired by, and so on. I think this record we put out have experimental hints and tastes of what we really build upon, and it’s really hard to create something because there’s so many bands in the scene that do the same thing these days – it’s just a lot of repeats, and it’s hard to have your own sound.
Texas In July have been continually compared to August Burns Red since you started…
Ben Witowski: Yeah, that’s who I was talking about, I just didn’t want to call it out.
Same geographical location, same genre, but at the same time this new record isn’t an August Burns Red record, it’s something out totally different.
Ben Witowski: And that’s something that we’ve heard, but there’s always the people that are always going to call us out for sounding like them. I don’t want to silence those people in records to come, I don’t want to go “Ha, we changed”, I just want them to understand it’s a growth process. We’re required to write records in a certain amount of time, we can only be writing a certain amount of months out of the year, it’s hard. I want those people who accuse of being a ripoff band to understand what it’s like to try and throw something new out there.
When you guys were writing the album, what albums were on constant rotation?
Ben Witowski: I think everyone had something different that they were listening to at that time. We all have different tastes in music, with some similarities, so there’s a good blend of CD’s we can play in our van and listen to at the same time. There’s things that I listen to that I know that I shouldn’t listen to at the van too loudly, because some of the other guys may not like it.
So what are some of the own records that you all can listen to at the same time though?
Ben Witowski: If I could just throw out something recent and relevant: Deftones Koi No Yokan – that’s definitely an album we can play and nobody minds. Slipknot is good too, Whitechapel’s new self-titled record is cool with everyone, As I Lay Dying’s new record Awakened, letlive., Stray From The Path’s Rising Sun.
I really do like letlive. quite a bit, and the thing about them is that they’re so open minded.
Ben Witowski: Yeah, it’s amazing, they’re great people.
What does it mean be open minded today?
Ben Witowski: I guess it’s someone who appreciates who appreciates everything in some way or another. I feel like negativity and open mindedness don’t really go hand in hand, even though open minded people don’t like certain things. Me being open minded means this freedom that I’m trying to take advantage of – I’ve always noticed that more open minded people in the music business are kind of hard to come by, and that’s okay though because there’s a lot of trends and people in the music business. It’s hard to come across bands like letlive., Stray From The Path, and Hundredth that make music from the heart, and not solely for a paycheck.
I noticed awhile back you projected your frustration of closed minded Christians over twitter. Can you go a bit more into that?
Ben Witowski: You know, I didn’t think anyone would actually read that. I was having a rough day on the tour we were on, and for some reason I felt like I need to speak out about it, even though I consider myself a Christian as well. But I feel like there’s a lot of closed-minded Christians out there that don’t allow people to believe in being a Christian and this religion like how they’d like to believe in it, they feel like there’s a structure…a proper way. And you know what, I don’t know if there’s a lot of people out there that fully agree with that.
Just in my personal experience of how I and the other band members were raised in a small town in Pennsylvania, we went to church on Sundays and when we started touring you get exposed to the real world. And it doesn’t mean you lose those things that you learned as a kid, or that faith that you were branded with. You get to open your eyes a bit more when you get out and see these different things in the world.
Does Texas In July consider themselves “Christians In A Band”, or a Christian band with a ministry focus?
Ben Witowski: We do not have a ministry focus. But I can tell you that if we had a fan that wanted to talk, I’d talk to them if they approached me about it and wanted to have an honest conversation about their religious beliefs. We don’t say anything about our faith on stage, regardless if we’re on a Christian tour, or a secular tour. We’re just five friends making music together, sometimes I feel like throwing your opinion too much interferes with things. We’re just trying to jam, make friends, and see the world. There’s some bands out there that are very militant with their beliefs and I’m absolutely OK with that, and I’m friends with those people – but you know, Texas In July has never really been that. So to have Christians expect that of a band that says they’re a Christian band, I don’t agree with that – if we don’t want to say anything about it, we don’t want to say about it. So to answer your question, I guess we could go either way, but it’s really up to the fans to decide because we have plenty of Christian fans, and plenty of non-religious fans. We don’t get called out on it, we just don’t talk about our faith on stage.
Coming back to your new album, you’re starting to build an identity and it’s your most mature to date. Is this your last record with Equal Vision records, or do you have one more with them?
Ben Witowski: We have one more with them.
I wanted bring up the track “Cloudy Minds” – how has August Burns Red helped you grow as a band? I know that Matt Greiner hopped on the track to drum.
Ben Witowski: We all saw August Burns Red grow as we were kids in middle school, high school, etc. We saw them hit the real touring market, and along these times we were playing as well. Not until we got signed to a local record label that they also signed to when they first started out (CI Records) is when we first got introduced to them and played on one of their hometown shows years ago, and then they also took us to Canada, as well as a Full U.S. headliner in 2012 that hit a dozen House of Blues venues. It’s amazing – you don’t see too many tours that goes across America that hit these types of venues and markets, but we were chosen to go on that tour with them, and we were very happy. We got to really know them on those tours, and it was cool that we were finally could be eye to eye with them as friends. They’re a huge band, and there is a lot to learn with a band like that – you watch and study them, and they’ve just let us be in their presence the last couple of years and take certain motives from them, and it’s helped a lot.
I wanted to talk about a few of my favorite songs off the record, “Cry Wolf” and “C4”:
“Cry Wolf” has been the song you’ve been opening your sets with, at least for the last few months. The lyrical content talks about going through the motions and going through a rhythm. Can you breakdown the song a little bit further for us?
Ben Witowski: This song is interesting because when it was written, there is three quarters of the song that was written before we went to the studio, and as we went along into the recording process, the musical structure of the song kind of changed. So for me, writing the lyrics to this song was like a cocktail of time of when it was written – I had thoughts and feelings from three months prior to revisit and add some more flavor. I just wanted to try something new, and a lot of the times I like to mess with words, and how they might fit and rhyme together; I really tried to attack that in Cry Wolf, there’s a lot of fast paced and rhythmic parts of the song, and even some of the words were just chosen on the basis that it sounded good together but also picked apart this small story as a I wrote along…a bit of weird process.
“C4” has guest vocals from David Stephens of We Came As Romans. Can you tell me your relationship with We Came As Romans, as well as the decision to include David on the album?
Ben Witowski: Yeah, We Came As Romans is also friends of ours that have taken us out across America several times and have been there to guide and fill us in on things about the business and playing, just being a professional unit trying to make something of a band. Dave is an incredible front man, he’s got an incredible voice, and we just decided after being on tour with them that he’s got to be on the record. He’s a great friend of mine, and we had a talk at Bamboozle (in New Jersey) and we brought it up then and not too much later he acted on it; we were in the studio when we played the festival, and We Came As Romans were headed to California to record some music, and he mailed his part over to our producer and it got lined up that way.
The line that really catches my attention in that song is “Hype the threat, but never pull the trigger, a nation of patriots with dirty hands”. Can you dive more into that line, as well as the song overall?
Ben Witowski: This song is definitely something that we wanted to write, that was something politically charged, it was our first crack at something like this. We all like being filled in on the news and researching into conspiracies and really knowing what’s around you, so this is a bunch of observations that is put into a big storyline.
What were some of your favorite things about 2012 that got you through the year, and in 2013, what is it going to take to be successful?
Ben Witowski: In 2012 we toured in Thailand, China, and Japan, and that was the highlight of my year – we also got to tour in Australia, and those were places that we always wanted to go and now that’s happened. In 2013, we really just have to stay out on the road and do a lot of touring and prepare a new record to follow up with this new self-titled record, something that outdoes it or easily compares to it. We’re just going to work hard in the writing process and give something new and tasteful to the fans so they keep hanging with us.
You just put out this new record though. Do you feel any sort of pressure to put out something right away to keep fans around?
Ben Witowski: I don’t feel pressured to put things out right away, but I think it’s important to keep music coming at a proper pace, and we have a time frame in place. We’re planning out what we need to do right now, and sooner than later we’re going to be writing some new material and we’ll head to the studio to do some pre-production.
Can you see yourselves doing a single, like We Came As Romans is doing right now?
Ben Witowski: Yeah, maybe, we could look into a plan like that, or we could save the material. I’m not really sure what’s to come.
What’s something important about either yourself or the band that you’ve never shared before in an interview?
Ben Witowski: That’s a hard question, I really don’t know.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Ben Witowski: Keep your eyes open for us on the Of Mice & Men headliner in a city near you, thanks!