In The Studio: The Word Alive

March 14, 2012 by Annie Zaleski

In The Studio: The Word Alive

Big things are afoot for the Word Alive, who are in the thick of recording album No. 2 with producer Joey Sturgis. The record, which frontman Telle Smith says will be out in “late June/early July,” will have an accompanying "awesome" tour--“which I was told I am not allowed to say what it is yet," he notes--and a x. Smith checked in from a North Hollywood studio, where he was doing pre-production.

How is pre-production going? At what studio are you? Who are you working with?
I’m actually working with a friend, Adam. The guys are with Joey [Sturgis], and then I’m in there with Allen Hessler. We’re actually working out of a friend’s studio currently, but I might be tracking my actual vocals out in California. It’s getting pretty close to when we’re supposed to be done, and the guys were still working on music stuff so it’s looking like I might track out here. I wouldn’t mind staying in the nice weather a bit longer.

What made you decide to track vocals separately from the music? What is it about the people you’re working with in the studio that made you think, “This is where I want to be”?
It’s a mixture of things. More than anything, it’s a product of circumstance. The guys were tracking, then Joey had to take several days off towards the beginning of our record. Since we’re recording 17 songs—which is way more than we’ve ever tracked at once—it was obviously really hard how to predict how long exactly it would take us to record. The music was just taking longer than we had hoped it would. I mean, it’s coming out insanely good, so it’s worth it. That being said, there wasn’t going to be as much time as what’s truly needed for me to do vocals—especially for that many songs—if I were to wait until the music was done and then go there.

I had previously tracked with Allen before, so there’s already this comfort factor. And Allen’s heard every single take, whether good or bad, that I’ve done for this entire record. He’s heard where my ideas have started and where they’ve ended up. It just makes the most sense, efficiency-wise, to stay out here where everything is already in the right mindset—rather than possibly trying to recreate that again [elsewhere] and potentially putting the record back further.

Ideally, in a perfect world, we would have had the perfect amount of time, and we could have all done the record together.  Ultimately, what’s most important is the record coming out the best it can possibly be. The guys have been really stoked on the stuff I’ve been doing—and I’ve been really stoked on the stuff they’re doing. If it’s working, then there’s no need to go away from it just because it’s not necessarily what we had envisioned making this record being like.

What exactly do you guys have done?
Basically, all of the music is done for the majority of the record. [On] about half of the songs, they’re working on production stuff, keys and all the programming stuff [guitarists] Tony [Pizzuti] and Zack [Hansen] wrote, and then Joey’s basically just taking that and making it better. They’re making sure the songs are as big and awesome as they can be. Realistically, not including vocals, we have probably 80 percent or 90 percent of the record done.

Once I get all my vocal stuff—like every time I finish a song—I would send it to Joey. Since all the other guys do vocals as well, then we have notes of, “Okay, here do this part, here to that part”—anything they feel could help add to the song. Then Joey will have them send it back and forth until everyone’s stoked.

It’s so nice you can do that now, thanks to technology.
Yeah, especially for a band like us. We rely on it very heavily. We [almost] wrote every single song for this record while on tour over the least year and a half. We actually wrote 25 songs for this. We chose 17 of the best ones with the anticipation of putting the top 14—once they were all done—on our record and then three on a deluxe edition as sort of b-sides.

How is Joey Sturgis helping you guys and your sound on this particular album?
A few things. Don’t get me wrong when I say this—I love what we’ve done in the past, I love what we’ve done with Andrew Wade. Joey is a more aggressive and more metal-headed-minded person when it comes to music, so he just gets our sound, I think, a little bit more. He’s been able to pull out some of the specific things that we do and really bring them out in the mixes.

The record [isn’t] mixed or mastered, and it sounds so different from anything we’ve ever done, but in a great way. The guitars—everything is very distinct and clear. Everything stands out. We have a lot more shredding and solos, and we really wanted to showcase that we’re not the standard “chug-breakdown” band. Every single person in this band is this talented—and every single person in this band worked really, really hard since Deceiver to make sure nobody could possibly be disappointed with anything that we do.

It does kind of feel like you guys almost have something to prove, because there are so many bands who sound like you guys.
That’s exactly what it is. There’s also that chip on your shoulder that you have to have that’s like, “We’ve been a band for three-and-a-half years or so and we’ve done just as well—if not better—than several bands who are technically at a higher level than us.” And we’re the type of band who practice constantly. We talk to our fans every single day. There’s not a day that goes by that at least one of us isn’t online; typically, I’ve been online every single day. We just try to bring something new to our genre. There are no egos in our band. We’ve said from day one, “If anyone has an ego or starts to get too ahead of themselves, it’s our job to bring them down to Earth.”

That mentality has pushed us to better ourselves. But we’re also prideful people, and we see some of the music that’s doing really well right now, and we have something to prove. We feel the things we’re doing are different. Not necessarily better—those [other] songs are meaningful to a lot of kids, and I don’t want to take anything away from that. But especially musically—and what we’re able to reproduce live—we feel we’ve worked really hard and really deserve our shot, and this CD is our best.

A lot of bands put out nine, ten songs, and a couple of them are re-done—we’ve done that in the past—and this time we were just like, “Nobody releases a ton of music anymore, because it costs more [and] there’s not any benefit.” People are like, “Oh, save those songs. We can put them on another release.” We’re not a band that’s afraid of running out of ideas, so we have the mindset of, “Let’s prove that not only can we write more songs than a kid’s favorite band, but we can write 17 songs and not one of them is a filler song.” We just have that to prove about ourselves—that we’re a band that can write good music and go out and perform it as best as we can.

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interview the word alive in the studio telle smith

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