In my opinion, Chelsea Grin is one of the most improved bands in the entire Warped Tour circuit. They've elevated their musicianship, lyrics, and stage performance tenfold since I first was introduced to the band on the Whitechapel "Welcome To Hell" U.S. Headliner in early 2011. Fast forward to summer of 2014, and Chelsea Grin is a force to be reckoned with, on the heels of a brand new release, Ashes To Ashes. I spoke with drummer Pablo Viveros and vocalist Alex Koehler on a sunny afternoon in Pomona, CA on the Vans Warped Tour.
First off, what are your thoughts on being on Warped Tour this year?
Alex: It's great. We did it two years ago, it's real cool that we were able to do it once, let along be invited back for a second time. We'd do it 100 times, as long we're kicking, we'd love to do it.
Pablo: It's a dream come true, honestly.
What song in your set do you look forward to the most, and why?
Alex: We're playing two new songs on this tour, and they're back to back and honestly they're the most fun.
Which two songs are those?
Alex: "Angels Shall Sin, Demons Shall Pray", and the other one is called "Playing With Fire"
If you had the time to add one more song to your setlist, which song would it be and why?
Alex: Probably another song we just released, called "Clockwork". It's really vibey, it gets a great crowd reaction, and it's easy to get into.
Pablo: Yeah, the crowd really likes it a lot. We've gotten a lot of positive response to that song online.
What would you say is your biggest goal as a band on this tour?
Alex: We just want to play to as many people as we can, as well as seeing new faces and making new fans. Trying to kill it, really.
Pablo: Trying to have fun, and play some rock n' roll music!
What's your take on some signings requiring a wristband in order to attend? Imagine being really excited to meet a band all summer and then getting hit with that.
Alex: I guess that's just a huge bummer I guess, I don't know how that works. At our signings at our tent, we don't require wristbands, we'll sit there until the line is gone.
Moving on, Ashes To Ashes is definitely the most important thing right now for the band, especially after how successful the Evolve EP was, and how that marked a change in the band's sound. How does the new album build on that EP, but how is it different?
Alex: The EP was kind of like a start, a lot of experimentation, and the full length was a combination of so many styles of music. We have 15 songs on the album, so we wanted to experiment while at the same time have that crushing Chelsea Grin sound.
You guys have made such huge leaps and bounds since I first saw the band on the Whitechapel "Welcome To Hell" U.S. tour in early 2011. How have you grown as musicians and performers over the last few years?
Alex: I mean, we've all just grown. You do something for so long, you're going to get better at it obviously, and we've all worked our asses off. We've just become better musicians, really.
Pablo: Practice, practice, practice.
Interesting fact, but Diego from Volumes helped produce the record. How did he become involved?
Alex: He's a very close friend, that band is very close to us. We wanted to go with someone that we could be as creative as possible, and not worry about a "big name producer" telling you to do something or not to do something, and we really wanted this record to be us.
How did he help push you outside of your comfort zone?
Alex: He's a genius, man - he had some genius ideas, and we just vibed.
That record clocks in at just under an hour. Was that a conscious decision, or did it just end up that way?
Pablo: It just ended up that way, we just wanted to put as many songs as we could on it, and it turned out to be about an hour long.
What is your favorite song off the record and why?
Alex: Oh man, that's a hard question. Right now, I think "Clockwork". I just like the mood - it's an ambient, sad vibe to it...
Pablo: ...It's a little bit more melodic than the others. For me, it's probably "Playing With Fire", it's high energy and the crowd reaction is really awesome.
Yeah, that's one of my favorites as well, but "Nightmares" is probably my favorite overall, I really loved that spooky build up. Can you talk about that song?
Alex: Our guitar tech Steven actually wrote that song, and he's an incredible musician, and we were lucky enough to be able to use that song. We were trying to experiment as much as possible, so it's cool to throw in a song from a completely different realm.
Can we expect a new music video anytime soon?
Alex: Yeah, we'll be releasing a new music video for "Playing With Fire" in the very near future.
What are you guys up to in the fall?
Alex: We have a kickass tour in the fall that I really want to brag about but I can't just yet. But be prepared for a really crushing tour in the fall?
Are you headlining?
Alex: We are not, but the headliners are incredible.
What can you tell us about them?
Alex: It's a band that we've all looked up to for a really long time.
Pablo: I think it's bands that people have wanted to see us tour with for a long time.
Alex: This package is going to be every metal kid's wet dream.
Is it a full U.S. tour?
Alex: It is.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Alex: Ashes To Ashes comes out July 8th, and check us out on the rest of the Vans Warped Tour.
Pablo: Monster Energy stage!