In The Studio: The Word Alive

March 14, 2012 by Annie Zaleski

In The Studio: The Word Alive

Of the songs that made the record, are there any lyrical themes emerging? What sorts of topics are coming up?
The album is actually called, tentatively—I’m not sure if it’s 100 percent final—Life Cycles. What I wrote about on the majority of the CD is a look into people’s lives, from the perspective of someone who’s having an out-of-body experience; they’re kind of floating around the world and looking into the lives of different people. Since we started touring overseas, we made some friends who are in the military who would come to our shows and would tell us how much they missed home and the reality of what’s going on. But as much as they missed home, they were there for duty—and they were so proud.

We all talked and I was like, “I want to write a song about those people, our friends in the military.” But I didn’t want it to be political or to be so overly noticeable that people were thinking it was some sort of propaganda or anything. I just wrote it as a thank you and a story to them, but it’s coming from inside the mind of someone who’s in the military. We see on the news all these things that are happening and it’s like, a lot of stuff doesn’t get reported. A lot of people are losing their lives, but they just keep doing what they do and they keep serving their country no matter how much it’s reported or appreciated.

There are several songs that are definitely about my life. On past CDs, I’ve always written super personal stuff. I didn’t want to go away from that, but I also wanted to try story-writing a little more and [using] fictional characters. There’s repeating fictional characters within the album. We kind of have a concept album idea, but I didn’t want to do that for 17 songs, so there’s a batch that tie in together lyrically. Then there’s obviously some that—you know, 17 songs we’re a heavy band, there’s some negativity you have to get off your chest. I took that opportunity.

The biggest song we’ve had as a band is our song “2012,” and I had written that one after a movie, Law Abiding Citizen. I kind of wrote in the same mindset of that person. It’s kind of the “2012, Pt. II” if there were to be one.

There’s going to be something for everyone. Something for someone who’s falling in love, something for someone who’s having the worst time—they just got betrayed by someone they loved and cared about. There’s something for someone who’s just trying to figure out who they are, what they are, where they belong in this world, and [also] some [addressing] the basic questions we have as humans growing up of like, “Where is my place? Where do I belong?” And that longing to feel like you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be.

I tried to definitely branch out in topics, because Deceiver was kind of mostly one sided. I wanted to showcase all the human emotions that people go through and experience. This album is definitely more broad in terms of that.

What else do you want people to know about the record?
We’ve basically been that band that’s been on tour non-stop, and I know that on our last record we had some songs on it that we couldn’t play live—not that we couldn’t, just that it didn’t make sense in a live setting. [This time around] we wrote 17 songs that were meant to be played live. Seventeen songs that were full of energy, full of passion, full of big moments that make you feel something, make you want to sing along, make you want to move. We’re not trying to fit any mold. There are several different sides of this band. There are a lot more metal parts, but then there’s also some experimental, almost jazz-influenced, old soulful-type stuff. I don’t know, I’m really proud of where it’s at, and I think we’re going to prove a lot of people wrong about this band, about “Can we endure member changes?” and “Is this band the real deal?” kind of thing. I think we’re going to prove that with every member change, we’ve not only grown individually, but we’ve grown together. We’ve grown as a band.

This is our first record without our keyboard player, Dusty [Riach], and a lot of people were afraid, thinking that we weren’t going to have keys or that we weren’t going to have electronic components within our music. I think the programming and dynamics of acing electronic is way more advanced than we’ve ever had before. We’re not just looking at that as, “Okay, we could have synth and then nothing else.” We’re thinking about what sounds—what does this make you feel like, this part. Let’s make something that makes you feel that way. So we’re not limiting ourselves—and not that Dusty was limiting us, but it just wasn’t his thing.

He was a synth/keyboard player and that was what he wrote. Just like me—I’m a vocalist, so I’m not going to coming up with crazy, weird atmospheric things for the record. But this time around, we were like, “What can we do?” and Zack and Tony put it upon themselves to not only write some amazing songs, but then to also program some really awesome ideas. I think in that aspect, that’s going to be one thing kids are looking for us to almost fail on. I think they’re going to be really excited with the direction that we’ve taken with the electronic stuff.

Explain more about the programming stuff. What’s really standing out to you? What’s your favorite song, keyboard-wise, they’ve come up with?
One of Zack’s songs has some instrumental-type breaks that are like the Word Alive meets Ellie Goulding almost—Ellie Goulding, but dark. It’s still really melodic, but it’s not like your smiling, bouncing-around-type electronic stuff. We wanted to incorporate some stuff like that, but we didn’t want to sound like typical electronica, like we’re just trying to mix dance beats or anything. It’s not like that. It puts you in the right mood for the song. There’s more grooves; there’s more things that, at times, are more in the background, but it just makes the song sound more full.

It brings a whole other dynamic to our music, because before it was just—not typical, because Dusty created each one of his sounds individually—but it was the typical, “you know that’s a synth” sound. Now, there’s times where you’re like, “What instrument is that? I don’t even know what that is. I’ve never heard that.” I think that’s going to be a cool thing. There are a lot of different sounds and noises and stuff going on that we’ve never done before, and I don’t know that anyone within our genre has ever tried before.

With Deceiver, as far as I know, we were the first band to incorporate doing a breakdown within a dubstep part—and that was before dubstep started getting huge. Now we’re looking for that next thing: What can we do now that a bunch of bands are going to start wanting to do, too? So we’ll have that. And as always, we’ll have those Slipknot reference keg hits as well, because we like to honor Slipknot as well on pretty much every album we do, because they’ve influenced our writing a lot. Even though it doesn’t sound like it at times, they’re always in the back of our minds. alt

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interview the word alive in the studio telle smith

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