In early September, post-hardcore unit Chiodos entered the studio with producer David Bottrill. While the band were holed up in the producer’s Woodstock, New York, studio—described by Bradley Bell as “an old, hollowed-out church from the 1800s”—the keyboardist took some time away from the studio monitors to speak with Jason Pettigrew about his dreams and hopes for the follow-up to Illuminaudio, as well as what the future presently holds.
READ PART ONE WITH VOCALIST CRAIG OWENS
What was the Warped Tour situation like?
We figured Warped Tour would be a good situation for us to test it all back out again because it was a familiar environment, and it’s not like we’re doing a headlining run where we’re playing for an hour and a half every night. We knew that it was a tour where you can just get away from each other for a minute if you need to, and go hang out with other people. It was a good test to see if we still had our chemistry there—and we did. No circumstances got out of hand with each other. I think those years away let us develop our relationship into what it’s become now. We all had chances to take a step away and realize what we had done wrong in the past, and we matured to a point where we got over that and know how to work with each other better.
The whole vibe of the band has completely changed. The great thing is that you guys can work on music and your friendships.
I feel like every single person has taken an approach to this in a much more selfless manner than before. It was all so new to us years ago, and we didn’t really know how to handle it. This time around, we’re realizing that being in a band is a compromise, and it’s more about helping other people out than helping yourself.
How are you helping each other out on this record? Obviously, the chemistry you and Craig have goes way back.
There are a lot of the old elements that are still shining through. I feel like we’ve taken a different stab at it this time. Each person is more involved than they’ve ever been in the past with songwriting. It’s not just one or two people running the show this time, and I think that you’re gonna to be able to hear that in the songs themselves and realize what difference that makes. We’re more prepared this time than we’ve ever been before, too. Like, with Bone Palace Ballet, we went into the studio with our backs against the wall super-unprepared, and we were just writing the whole time that we were in the studio panicking—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think that when you’re under pressure like that, sometimes that’s when the best things are written. This time, we were able to actually get ahead of the game, and we came in here with, at least, 20 songs prewritten. The hardest part is deciding which songs aren’t going to be on the record.
Nobody’s interested in making the same record twice. Do you think that this far along, the notion of what Chiodos can be expanded, in some context?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve never really felt like there was much of a ceiling on us for expectations. A lot of times, when you listen to our albums, a lot of the songs don’t even sound the same. They all have different personalities to them, you know? I feel like a lot of the songs we’re doing on this record might be a little more universal than what we’ve done in the past. We also still have a lot of our older theatrical moments and very heavy elements as well.
What’s your favorite song on the record thus far?
I don’t know. They’re all still babies; we just started tracking drums a few days ago, and we only have pet names for the songs right now.
So do you just write the pieces, and then figure out what it’s going to be called afterward?
Yeah. For now, we usually just look around the room, and the first thing we see is what we call that song. We have one called “Blanket,” one called “Lemon Drop.” [Laughs.]
What does new guitarist Thomas Erak bring to the mix?
This has been a learning and a growing experience for him, as well. He’s definitely not bringing the Fall Of Troy to us; it’s completely different. I’ve felt that our two bands have had similar energies in the past: We both came up around the same time, same label, and we grew up listening to the same music, so we get each other. It’s a totally different personality than what the Fall Of Troy were, but he’s still that guitar player. When you hear him play, you’re like, “Oh, that’s Thomas Erak.” It’s very identifiable, but it’s outside of his box to work with us because we’re a little more in the box than what he’s used to. But there are a lot of similarities from him to Jason [Hale], our old guitar player. He brings a stronger lead guitar presence that we haven’t necessarily had in the past. He’s bringing a new story element to the guitar world and taking us outside of our own comfort zone when it comes to trying new chords, key signatures, time signatures, and coming back to them. So it’s been a challenge for us all. >>>