I consider The Word Alive to be in the upper division of the metalcore world, I feel like arguing against that is pretty difficult. It's always great connecting with lead vocalist Tyler "Telle" Smith, and our conversation here is definitely worth reading, especially if you're a bit unfamiliar with the band. Make no mistake, The Word Alive will finally get a spot on main stage for the entire tour sometime in the future, and I'll be there cheering them on.
Okay, so what made you want to come back to Warped Tour? I know you guys weren't offered main stage, which is really surprising. But you're still out here, kicking ass on the Monster stage.
We felt like it was a good thing that we weren't on main stage. We did 2010 and 2011, and we didn't do 2012 or 2013, so I feel like it's a good way to re-connect with and build that Warped Tour fan base back up. I think Warped Tour has a lot of young fans where it's their very first show, and I think it's totally fine because if it's their first show and there's a lot of new fans that we haven't got to play for. A lot of kids, they can only go to Warped Tour for a whole year maybe, it's the only show they can save up and go to. We're playing for a lot of new people, so it's a hopefully a way to get a lot of new fans this year and then you never know what will happen in the future.
Is it exciting to know that The Word Alive is one of the first bands that some of these kids will see?
Yeah, kids come up to our signing if we have one after our set and there's been kids that have said "This is the first show I've been to", "Your band is what got me into this type of music", so it's cool to be part of that whole circle of life. There's many many great bands before us, and there's going to be many great bands after us.
How have the signings been? Is there a wristband that you have to have in order to attend them? Do you have to buy something?
We are actually having to make it so you have to have a wristband, because our signings are too long and it was just going to the point where security was getting pissed, and we were blocking other merch tables, we're going through fire exit lanes, stuff like that. You have to pay $5 for an actual wristband that you can wear, but you also get a poster.
It's like yes, you're supporting the band but basically what it does is on Warped Tour there's potentially over 10,000 people at one given place. So a lot of kids will come, they'll see a line, and they'll just get in line - they don't care about The Word Alive. So all it is is separating the people who are coming though just to kill time versus our actual fans, because we were having to cut lines with our actual fans being left out and we're like "That's not fair to them." Even though it's $5, we've never been a band to charge fans to meet us, but it's a little bit of balance where we will get to meet our fans.
Yeah, and that was something I was concerned about before the tour started. Imagine being really excited to meet you, Zack, Luke, etc., and you're saving your money all summer, and then you get hit with a $5/10/15 fee just to meet a band - Falling In Reverse is $25. And then you're crushed. And I get it - if you're like 16, then it's exciting, it's what you look forward to.
There's people who I don't understand why because as a fan of music myself, when I was going to Killswitch and Deftones shows, I just cared about seeing the band. If I happened to meet someone, it was just a gigantic bonus. Now, it's almost like people go to shows to meet people and get those photos almost more than the music itself. Times have changed.
Do you feel like if there wasn't the expectation to be on social media, would you even do it?
No. Had I not been in a band, maybe I would have one to keep up music, I understand why kids do. But if I wasn't in a band, I would not be using Instagram to post updates on my life, and my personal stuff. It would be maybe be like keeping up with certain entertainers, I guess you could say. I understand the concept of it, but I don't understand people who post 50 photos a day - "Here's me in the morning, brushing my teeth"; "Here's my outfit"; "What outfit do I choose?"; "Here's me going to school or work"; "Here's me at school or work"; it's crazy.
What's the difference between asking for input from other people as opposed to "Hey, I'm doing this, I'm just sharing it with you..."? What do you think?
Well I try and mix it up. I try and do a fair share of information, and then there's people who want to see photos of me or the guys or friends hanging out. They want a glimpse into the lives of everyone, I think people just take it too far. Social networking has made so many bands, but also caused this huge rift in music where there's a large portion of kids who are growing into this industry with "image first" mindsets and not like "If I love this band, I just love what they're doing".
Yeah, and I feel like a band can't win in general with social media. For instance, Stray From The Path will announce they're going on tour with For Today, and people get mad about it.
You definitely can't please everyone, I stopped trying to a long time ago. Ultimately, people are going to talk shit and hate on your band, even on Absolutepunk. We went through this phase where it was all positive all the time and we're like "This is crazy"; and then now that we've grown and put out more records, there's some posts that have more hate than love, and some that are a bit more equal. But I think over time you just build up people who have their mindset about your band and because of social networking, they feel they need to express that and tell everyone. Which I don't go - Blood On The Dance Floor is the only band I talk negatively about ever, I don't waste my time talking about the bands that I don't like, I talk about music that I do love or I think fans should check out.
I think it's just getting older too, I'm feeling the same way as well. Patton Oswalt had a bit where he said something to the effect of "There's music I listen to, and music I don't".
Yeah, exactly. I don't understand why people focus so much energy sitting on YouTube all day, writing negative comments. I don't understand how someone could enjoy themselves doing that, to each their own I guess.
How have the crowds differed when you compare them to what they looked like 2010 or 2011? Obviously a lot bigger.
It goes both ways. We were doing pre-orders for Deceiver back then, but we had released three songs before, which really worked for our band. This time around, we released the album right before Warped - we could've played a "Warped Tour" set, where we could've all played all heavy songs and fast things, but we've done that and we've been that band. Not that we don't want to express that side of us, but we wanted to have a bit more of a diverse set, especially on the Monster stage, there's a lot of heavy bands.
So we tried to mix it up - we played probably one of our heaviest songs off REAL., which is "Glass Castle"; we played the lightest song, which is probably "Lighthouse"; and we played one that's kind of in the middle, which is "Play The Victim". And each bring a different element of our band to the forefront and it lets people who maybe that's what they love our band for say "At least we have that song, and vice versa."
And you're promoting an album too...
We've been around now for five years, so we could've been played a safe set - more old songs, etc. If people want to love The Word Alive now, they need to hear where we're at.
Yeah, when I come to a show, I want to hear what that band brings to the table. I want to hear what they want to play, not necessarily what I want to play.
And that's rare. A lot of fans want you to play the same six songs.
It's what you're offering. It's not like I'm ordering a set.
Those songs obviously have done really well, but you know them, you've seen us play them. Let us play some other things that can bring in some new fans into the fold.
Plus you just did that tour with Memphis before Warped.
What was your biggest goal as a band on this tour? Was it to meet as many fans as possible, or to make a statement saying that you're ready for main stage, etc?
We don't get caught up in what stage we should be on, or what we "deserve". I think our band always goes with the flow. We work hard, I believe that we're kind of that band that tries to do things the right way and the honest way and we hope that pays off in the end. There's a lot of bands that don't go that route, whether it's a gimmick or they're thinking "How can we be dramatic this week and get in the news stories?" Our band just kind of chills, we just try to be good to each other and to our fans, and we try to write music we love and we feel is a progression from our past material. We try to put on the best live show every single day - if that doesn't speak for itself, we don't know if it ever will. We'd rather be known for the right things then the wrong things.
REAL. is definitely your darkest album to date. Was this intentional? Or did it just come out that way?
I just wanted to be more honest. I think you know that I try to be a very positive person online, I think there's way too much negativity. It doesn't mean I don't have really horrible days, and some of my worst days are the days where I post things that are the most uplifting, because it's just reminding myself that I have a responsibility to show people that yeah, they might be feeling this way, but it's just one day, it's an event in your life that you're going to move on from.
I had a lot of dark things that I've gone through in my life in the last few years, and I wanted to talk about it, I wanted to get it out. I think music is a great way of getting out negative energy, but in a positive way. It's almost like closure on certain things. Unfortunately I have to wait about two years every time I go through something because I have to wait for an album to come out to write about it. Especially a song like "Terminal" on the record, it's probably the darkest song I've ever written, because I've never written a song that sounds so anti-myself. But nobody's perfect and I've definitely failed a lot of times in my life - I've hurt friends, loved ones, my girlfriend. Being gone from your family and friends all the time, it's not easy to be good to everyone else all the time, you get so drained and you feel so divided emotionally - sometimes I just don't have enough to go around.
The first time I listened through the record, I first thought "This is super transparent." Was that nerve-wracking for you, putting out this album?
I wanted to put it out, but I didn't know how I wanted to say everything. I wrote and re-wrote some of these songs so many times on this album.
Was there a song that was particularly difficult to write? Re-write after re-write...
"Never Forget" was the one I re-wrote the most times, that's the one about Mitch and Suicide Silence. Those dudes are some of the best guys I know, we've only toured with them two or three times and we've played festivals with them on and off since 2010 I think. The thing about them was, you can't see a heavy band now without seeing glimpses of Suicide Silence, whether the front man wants to look or act like Mitch, or just the way their band sounds. There's so many things about Mitch and the band, they influenced so many bands. Even bands like us - I wouldn't say we sound like Suicide Silence at all, but they still influence us in a way and we would hear parts and say "Holy shit, that's so fucking good." No matter the manner in which Mitch passed away, that in no way, shape or form takes away from to me, the love I know he had in his heart for his family, his friends, his band mates. Everyone makes mistakes, and when you're drinking some of those mistakes are amplified. But there's a million people who I know are probably talking shit, and had a beer or two and drove, it could happen to anyone. I don't think it's this crazy, wreckless thing - they weren't there, they don't know his life and what he's been through, and they never will.
So I wanted to write a song that both memorialized him and built up the band for who they are and who they still are. The fact that there's four other dudes in that band that are still here who music is their passion, and they deserve to be able to continue on. I completely agree wholeheartedly. I started writing that song before I knew 100% the band was going to move forward, but I wrote that song knowing that they would. I was just talking to Dan Kenny the other day, and they're literally the best people. It's not about continuing on so they can keep selling records, it's continuing on because that's the way they feel most connected with their brother who is gone.
What songs have been most talked about or mentioned by fans so far?
I think "Light House", "Runaway", and "Never Forget" are probably the top three that are most mentioned to us. I think we're in a time where lyrical content is starting to come back, in a whole song, not just a one-liner before a breakdown...because I hate that shit.
Plus I think we're getting away from putting a face or lyric on a t-shirt.
These songs are starting to mean something to people, and I think those songs lyrically stand out to mean something positive to people. "Glass Castle" has been a song that people have really liked us playing live. I think the most that's been talked about the most that we haven't really pushed is "The Fortune Teller" - that one's kind of been the sleeper, where I more and more posts about it.
And that one's one of your favorites off the record, right?
It is one of my favorites.
A few months back someone asked you what your favorite songs off the record were, and you responded with "Collapsing", "Light House", and "The Fortune Teller". Would you say that's still true? Or has that changed a little bit?
"Collapsing" is my favorite song to listen to. I don't listen to a lot of stuff in our genre anymore, unless it feels refreshing to me. I've actually heard most of the new Crown The Empire record and it sounds really awesome, they did a lot of cool things. I support all my friends, because I know them as people first and if you're a good person and a good band, chances are I'll support you.
What bands in the genre do you pay attention to the most?
Probably our closest friends - We Came As Romans, Memphis May Fire, Sleeping With Sirens, and Asking Alexandria. For as much hate as Asking Alexandria gets, I think they're going in a positive direction for their band, I think they have been since day 1.
Danny was out in Ventura, he seemed alright.
Yeah, he's been great. I think he has that 80's rock star soul in him, and I kinda like it, because too many people play it safe nowadays.
Like Ronnie from Falling In Reverse, as much shit as he gets, he just is who he is and a lot of people don't know that he's actually a really rad person. He saw me having a down night the other night and he stopped and randomly gave me a hug and was like "I can relate" and then texted me later and made sure I was alright, and he gave me words of encouragement. Those things about Ronnie don't get talked about, it's the crazy stuff. Back in the 80's and 90's, no one was safe, nobody was cookie cutter. Even for our band, I would say we're on the safer side of things. Not saying that being vocal about things is ignorant, but we're not saying things that are getting us in trouble.
Elvis was Elvis because of who he was off-stage just as much as he was on-stage. The Beatles were The Beatles because of what they looked like and what they brought to the fashion world from a music perspective, and how everyone wanted to be like them. So I think everything that made rock and roll what it is, people are starting to talk shit about bands who do that. People just like to talk shit.
Would you say people are going to be listening to Falling In Reverse and Asking Alexandria 10 years from now?
I think so, but I think it really depends on the band and direction they go in. I think trends are changing - a lot of the kids who were into "scene" music when they were 16, they're now into EDC and electronic shit. It's different, not as many people are into it. A lot of people say we only have 12 year old girl fans, we have analytical information and documentation that shows our biggest part of our fan base is made up of girls who are 16-24 and guys who are 18-26 - that's our largest demographic and that's 60% of our fan base.
Let's talk about the fall - are you doing a fall tour?
Yeah, we are. We have a headlining show in September that we're going to announce the day after Warped I think, and then we go to the U.K. and Europe for a headliner, we're bringing The Color Morale and Like Moths To Flames. We will be in the States, and it's going to be one of my favorite tours that we've done. It's a full U.S. tour in November and December.
For someone brand new to The Word Alive, what's the most important thing people know about your band?
I really think people should come see us live, I think they'll see what our band is all about.
Good read, I have loved The Word Alive since I first heard Battle Royale off Empire in 2010 and this warped tour was my 18th time seeing them haha, but seriously Real is fantastic front to back and seriously does have a song for everyone. My personal favorites are The Fortune Tellar, Never Forget, and Glass Castle.