Let's go back to about 9 months ago when you were last here with Every Time I Die, The Acacia Strain, and Hundredth. I think most people would say that you've really taken off since that time – what has your experience been like since that time?
Well, that tour gave us a lot of exposure, we definitely see the growth in some areas where we've had a smaller draw in the past. The Every Time I Die/Acacia Strain tour helped us out so much in the past year. For doing that Every Time I Die tour, and then to go on a heavier tour like this, it'd normally freak us out a little bit but we've done it before and we've had a good response surprisingly, and people have been pretty accepting, we're kind of the odd-ball on the tour.
Do you feel more at home with the Warped Tour scene then? I remember you guys playing 10 days or so on the tour last year, if I'm not mistaken.
Well...we hustled for three years before then, so to actually play [the tour] was easy. Warped Tour is awesome and it's not, you know what I mean?
Is that scene where you're most comfortable? Or do you prefer a different scene altogether?
Oh, much different scene. In my opinion, Warped Tour is great now because it gives kids an opportunity to hear bands they normally wouldn't otherwise...because [when we played], you had to find us, and I'm sure a lot of kids stumbled upon a lot of good bands like letlive and Stick To Your Guns.
Most people don't know this, but you've been personally doing music for over a decade, which is really something to think about. What has kept you going when it's looked like the grass is greener on the other side of the fence?
Little things will keep me going, and I'm sure the rest of the band would agree, stuff like kids coming up to you and telling you how much your music has helped them and what you say has positively impacted their life – that stuff keeps it fresh, it keeps me from getting bummed out on how old we are and where we're at.
I think a lot of fans don't realize it, but when you get to where you're at as a band, you sacrifice so much. You've sacrificed education, birthdays, and family gatherings, and yet fans coming up to you makes it all worth it then.
We've had people tell us that our music has saved their lives, and if we just had one person tell us that, it makes it all worth it.
Now, do you believe that music saves lives, or do you believe that people inevitably save themselves and have music to help guide them along towards a better path? That's been a debatable topic lately, with people saying on social media sites like Instagram that someone like Vic Fuentes (of Pierce The Veil) saved their life.
Yeah, it's a lot of things, man. You don't realize as an artist or just as a human being, taking the time to talk to anybody, you know what I mean? A kid could have the worst day ever and the hugest Pierce The Veil fan, and Vic sends him a message? That could change their life, change their entire outlook, I believe that. I believe that if you find a song and you connect to it, that could change your outlook on a lot of things, that could shake up some hope inside of you and help you find strength you didn't know was there. I dunno man, I think there's so many things that contribute towards saving someone, you know?
Over the last ten years, you've had a long, hard road coming up as an artist. Is there a particular person that in the music scene that's helped mentor you and show you the ropes?
Actually, yeah, early on we knew the For Today guys way back when, and they hit the road really hard, and they kind of were an example for us, letting us know “If you guys want to be a touring band, then you need to tour, and tour all the time. Don't expect anything, just do it”. They worked really hard, they used to tour insane amounts and they kind of instilled that in us, and we thought “We're going to be a touring band, so let's just tour – make mistakes and learn”. So yeah, For Today had a pretty big impact on us early on. There's so many bands that we've gone out with, and we watched how they do things, like the Every Time I Die guys, those guys are PRO – solid dudes, and it makes sense why they've been around so long.
Following up, has there been people you've mentored recently?
I'm always willing to talk to anyone who wants to listen, but we definitely have friends in bands that we'll give them any advice we can. Actually today, our buddies in To The Wind...we stayed with them last night, and we've thrown our two cents in over time. Kids are always asking us how we do things, which is awesome, and we're always asking other people how they do things. I don't know who I've actually been a mentor to, I kind of try to talk to as many people as possible and give them whatever advice I have.
Is there a common question you seem to get?
“Can we tour with you guys?”, or “How do you tour?”, haha. I say “ Don't take shortcuts...write music you like, because you have to play it every night” and “Don't expect anything from anyone, because it's music and you just have to paid your dues. And even when you have, you have to keep going, because you're never there, and if you do think that, you're very wrong”.
You've been doing music for so long, but if you weren't doing music, what would you like to be doing career-wise?
I would finish school for sure. I would probably do something with sports therapy/medicine.
Do you think you'll pursue that after the band is done?
I dunno man, I'd like to do something in sports with baseball. But at the same time, that's why I'm excited to go back to school and grab a new skill I didn't know I have.
What's your academic background? What year did you last finish?
Oh man...I probably left when I was a sophomore in college...
What college did you go to?
I had a short stint at La Sierra University in Riverside, CA, and then I did some community college.
What are your thoughts on education and it's importance?
It's great, the best investment you'll ever make is your education. It's always worth it. If you don't know what you want yet, go to school, you'll figure stuff out. What's funny is that people who head in there knowing exactly what they want and they head to college and they're surrounded with a whole network of people, and you find something else you enjoy, and you might figure out you don't want to be a doctor but you want to do something else instead.
Let's talk about your current album, Cycles. I think most people connect with the title track the most, that's the first one they immediately go to. To me, it's all about being proactive about your life and making the change for the better. And when you look at the album as a whole, you'll see other songs that fit into that same theme, like “Legacy” and “Repeater”.
That being said, what is your interpretation of what it means to be proactive?
To be willing to learn, always learning, and to not be afraid to make mistakes. People are so scared to move forward from things or to attempt things to better their lives, or people get stuck and comfortable. Life is about learning, man – change is something that happens because you do life, and you make mistakes and learn from lessons.
It's been 14 months since the album came out, which is fairly recent. I know you're going back into the studio to do some pre-production in April, which would mark about a year and half in. Do you have any sort of anxiety over going right back into the studio to record, or are you comfortable with the idea?
Normally I would be [anxious], but this time I'm really excited to go back, I didn't think I'd have material ready, you know what I mean? I got a theme, and I think it's something that should be heard, and I'm excited to write about it.
Do you feel like the scene's general expectation to crank out a record as fast as possible is a detriment, or do you feel like it's different for every band?
It's definitely different for every band – my favorite band is Propagandhi, and they take forever to write albums, but every albums they write is incredible. If you can crank out good music every day, do it; if it takes you two, three years? Do it. There shouldn't be a time limit on the process. I think for us, if we had the time, we could've writing and recording months ago. At least for me on the lyric end, it's hit me pretty good, and I'm excited for it.
Staying on the lyrical aspect of this upcoming record, what sort of themes do you plan on touching on?
Right now, my theme is anger. I see it every day...in our scene, all over. It's going to definitely be an angry record, where I talk about the pros and cons of it. I get angry a lot, which is crazy, because people say “Oh you're so passive, you're so this and that...”...I just deal with it differently, I'm 30, I've had years to learn how to deal with my anger. I'm excited to write about it, I feel like it's going to be a fun challenge, and try to spin some positives from it.
Do you think you're going to have the entire album revolve around that one theme, or is it just a part of it?
I think it'll be a big part of it – there's a couple of things I kind of want to write about, but that'll be the overall theme.
Have you sat down with the rest of the band and talked this over with them, and what the music to accompany these lyrics might sound like?
Yeah, we've had little talks here and there. I've told the band what I'm thinking, and they back it – Daniel is trying to write some pretty aggressive stuff, and the cool thing about that is that no matter how aggressive he gets, we always find a way to make it melodic. I think it'll be our best stuff, I'm not a guy who usually says that. I think it'll be a really fun for us.
When you sit down to write, what is your ideal environment? Is it alone, away from everyone else, or is it in the van?
Yeah, [I prefer to be] alone. I don't know if that's when I do my best, because I have written in the van before, but if I can, I'd like to be in front of a computer, because I can type faster than I can write words [in a notebook]. Just anywhere I can have any pre-production playing in my ears, I can sit somewhere and write or type it out.
So when you do write, do you focus on particular themes, or do you lyrics you're building on?
I do a lot of things. I have some one-liners in my phone, and I have topics like the different kinds of anger written down as well. The big thing is when I hear a song, I just let it hit me, and from there I can get a feel for what I want to write.
Coming back to the album theme of anger, do you feel like the album is going to be more self-reflective, or is it going to include different individuals own stories, and how anger affects them?
I think it'll be stories from others, because like I mentioned earlier, the only reason I thought of anger in the first place is because I see it everywhere. But there will be a lot of my own stories as well, because I want people to know that I'm going through this stuff too – I get angry, I get depressed, I go through all the emotions. I want people to know that I'm writing about other people, but I'm also writing about myself too.
April is just around the corner. Who would you like to record with? Do you have someone in mind?
We actually have someone, we just booked it. We're heading into the studio with Will Putney.
Yes! That's EXACTLY who I had in mind. Will Putney has been doing some of the best work this year and last year, in my opinion. I really love the way he really dials and hones things in.
We've been getting really excited, because we have a lot of buddies that have gone with him...
Yeah, he really has done such a phenomenal job lately. I mean, look at that Like Moths To Flames album that came out this year, those guitars sounded so ridiculous!
It's our first time with him, it'll be nice. There's other places we could've gone as far as comfort is concerned, but we felt like we wanted to try something new. I mean, how can you not like what he does?
Let's take a shift towards literature. What particular book has really shaped you as a person?
Well, The Bible, but not in ways most people would probably think. I read a Danielle Steel book in high school, His Bright Light, she wrote it about her son, Nick Traina, who used to be in a punk band I was into called Link 80. That was one of the eye openers for me, he was manic-depressive, and I come from a perfect upbringing...this was around 2000, and nobody talked about suicide back then, it was very rare. He committed suicide at 19, and this book talked about how if you didn't live with him, you didn't know he would get down, down, down...because when he was with his friends he was super eccentric; he was the lead singer of his band; a lady-killer, and then I come to find out he was battling all this stuff at home. It's crazy to see the way she writes about her son. I've never thought about it until now, but that book impacted me early on and it opened my eyes to that kind of stuff.
Let's move to Propagandhi and ask a similar question: what album or song has shaped you as a person?
Well, How To Clean Everything was the first album from them that I had heard and they're in the same breath as Rage Against The Machine, in that I listened to them with a dictionary. When I first listened to Propagandhi, I wasn't even in middle school yet, I was way young. The way he wrote lyrics...even now, Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes came out in high school, and that's when I started writing stuff of my own. I'd read Chris Hannah's lyrics, and they're not the norm...it's like some songs, it's like he's just talking to you. The way he writes lyrics and how he breaks it up, and some songs are based on melody and not necessarily rhyme...he blows my mind.
How To Clean Everything was sick because from a music standpoint, it wasn't like any kind of punk rock that I was listening to. Propagandhi was super talented, doing a lot of things punk bands don't do, even now. Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes was the perfect album at the time, plus the recordings were incredible, and I thought that album at the time was the best recording, especially for punk rock.
Do you look to Chris Hannah's lyrics and the way he writes them to help improve yourself as a songwriter?
Yeah, you know what I look to him as? I look to him as somebody that doesn't have rules when he writes, I feel like. I wouldn't say I stole this from him, but I'll tell people when they ask me how I write lyrics that I won't sacrifice the right word for the sake of rhyming, you know what I mean?
Let's come back to the topic of The Bible, you mentioned it was important to you a little bit earlier, and you say it's shaped you in ways most people wouldn't think.
Well, I'm a Christian, and I do appreciate and believe the stuff that's in there. But there's a lot of stuff that's out there for me, and I haven't researched so I can't say a lot about it.
Can you give an example of something you're not quite sure about?
My thing with the Bible, religion, and churches and all that stuff is that it's meant to be a guide. The Bible by itself isn't going to get you into heaven or save your soul, it's there to help you, that's how I see it. What I've always really liked about the Bible, and I think I can thank my parents for, is that growing up I had a lot of friends where you'd talk about Biblical stuff...it's scary – all the creatures and whatever. All that stuff never scared me, because it was never the highlight. The highlight for me was always about love in all the stories, and that's what it always came back to – even hard lessons learned, it came back to love. Regardless of my beliefs, to me, the Bible had really good stories about love, and I learned that at an early age, so even now, I have a hard time with people that try and scare you into believing, it's so ridiculous. Love is how my parents presented it to me, and that's probably why I still believe today.
I'm really curious, Impending Doom is on this tour. Have you had any meaningful conversations so far with not only those guys, but the For Today guys as well about what faith is, and how it's applied to daily life, etc.
I haven't had a conversation with the Impending Doom guys about that yet, but as far as For Today, I've had really good talks with Ryan. What's really cool about For Today, and I'll get to Ryan's influence, is that you gotta talk to them. People know who For Today is from how they are on stage, and that's pretty dead on, they live what they say, I've seen it. But at the same time, if you talk to them, they're real dudes in a real gnarly scene. They've toured with bands that openly don't agree with what they're saying, and I've had talks with Ryan about that, and I've sort of lived the same way, and whenever someone comes at him with why he's a Christian, basically he's like “I don't have to defend God”.I'm kind of the same way too, when people come and try to talk to me about why they're Christians or they're not, to me, it doesn't matter.
Because the way I believe, it's a personal thing, and when people get upset, it's the most ridiculous thing, I won't argue with anyone. I'm a huge Angels fan, and that's like someone coming up to me and tell me that I should be a Yankees fan, and then have them try to convince me why – I mean, no, I'm not going to be a Yankee fan, it's just not going to happen. When people get so worked up about it, it just makes me laugh.
Because it's such a personal thing to you, will that necessarily be reflected in the lyrics you're writing?
I'm sure it will. I'm not going to say “No, we're not a Christian band”, but I'm a Christian, and it's going to come out. I would love to be a “frontlines” kind of dude, trying to save people...but at the same time, it's not my personality, that's not me. Right now, my big thing is suicide and people who are going through depression. My big thing is wanting to make sure these kids are heard and that they feel they're understood, you know what I mean? Just because something works for me, doesn't mean it's going to work for them. Of course I'd tell them to find Christ, but I know a lot of people have been so burned [by the church] so badly in the past, I'd say “well, find something that makes you happy...and then let's expand from there”.
We're approaching the end of 2013, heading into the new year. What goals do you guys have as a band for 2014? Is it playing specific festivals, touring with specific bands or something else? Obviously the new record is going to be a massive focal point.
We've never sat down and talked about what we wanted to do. Personally, I'd like to tour in Japan – we went to Australia this year, which is the tops. We'd like to get on any festival anywhere – if it's the United States ones, cool, but we'd like to get on the European and Australian ones too.
You just turned 30, and I definitely understand that it's a loaded question, but what were the most significant things you learned in your twenties that you can share with younger fans?
I learned a lot in my twenties, I was engaged in my twenties. My big thing is constantly learning, and doing the best that you can. It's okay to take chances on things, and it's okay to fail – I wish I would've figured that out sooner, and not be afraid to fall on my face. My life can be defined by all the times I've failed, like the time I was engaged – that can be a big failure in someone's eyes, but it opened my eyes up so much and it made me realize how immature I was, and it made me appreciate a lot of things in my life. Learn, take chances and opportunities. I feel that our band has done a pretty good job at not having too many “what ifs”, just a lot of things that didn't work out. We've done the whole genre-changing, and the stupid haircuts, we're finally in a place where we're comfortable.
Wrapping up, this your chance to say whatever you'd like to say, perhaps something you didn't get to say before...
A big thing we're about is suicide awareness, and I wish more people would look for themselves about suicide and depression. I had a talk about this in an interview I did in Hawaii, and how people will say that suicide is “weakness and selfish”, and yeah, for sure, but who's to say that this isn't the strongest moment in your life, the defining moment of your life? I don't want to glorify that at all, but I feel like there's such a lack of understanding about it, and I wish more people would be open to it and I wish Guys (and girls too) would talk about it, and I think it's the coolest and bravest thing when someone comes and tells me something about their life more so about a struggle with depression and suicide, because especially for me, I was raised in a time where you don't talk about that, you don't talk about feelings, because that's “weak” or people will think you're gay, or they'll say stuff like that. We've been taught to be tough, and some of us aren't, some of us need to talk about it, we need help, and that's okay. If you're hurt, take a step back and catch your breath, and go again. I would like people to be more unafraid to talk and share with each other.
The website we've been pushing is GTMorg.com, it's a great resource.
Come talk to us at a show, come say hello, this is what we do. It's funny when people think they're burdening us by talking to us.