a skylit drive michael jagmin
[Photo via Facebook/ASkylitDrive]

In 2017, A Skylit Drive fans were hit with the unexpected news that vocalist Michael “Jag” Jagmin was no longer part of the band. A lengthy Facebook post from guitarist Nick Miller stated the decision was mutual, but a later post from Jagmin addressed the claims as “utterly and entirely false.”

Not much has been heard from A Skylit Drive since, leaving fans confused on the fate of their favorite band. On Monday, a cryptic video teaser appeared across the band’s socials teasing that something would be coming today. 

Read more: ‘Punk Goes’ returns with acoustic classics from Taking Back Sunday, more

Now, with the debut of a new Signals track, Jagmin opens up on the events leading to the band’s hiatus in hopes of bringing fans the closure they deserve. 

There’s been quite a debate on social media. Do the teasers have to do with your project Signals, or is A Skylit Drive actually back?

It does have to do with Signals. It’s a long story. There’s a speech video that I recorded that will actually play before the video on Facebook [today]. [It] loosely dives into just, since A Skylit Drive ended, the way the band stopped and all the internal issues that were going on that really never saw the light of day [and] the way I was treated at that time.

A lot of crazy, pardon my French, shit happened with our old business manager, which just so happened to be Kyle [Simmons, keyboardist]’s dad. We stumbled across that he stole upwards of $200,000 from the band ever since I joined the band. This was all while we were writing a new record, late 2015, that we started figuring these things out. At that time, that caused a huge wedge between Nick and I on one side and Kyle on the other, because of course it was his dad. What was he supposed to do?

There was a huge thing going on with that where it turned into somewhat of a legal thing, but he really didn’t want it to go there. He was embezzling quite a bit of money. That would have put him [in] quite a lot of trouble. So he actually settled. He had to sell out the whole property just to pay us all the money that he stole. Essentially, the money went back to the band, and the band at that point was going to continue, which was Nick, Kyle and myself. It was going to be invested back into the band and essentially some of us were going to get paid out a little bit.

Read more: Signals (ex Of Mice & Men, ex A Skylit Drive) premiere “New American Religion”

Literally, the huge wedge between Nick and I, it finally tipped over the edge with what to do with the money. That is literally what did it. Money was the root. I had an idea, [and] he had an idea, and neither of them lined up. Even though the end result was the same, we both wanted to handle it differently. Him and I always had personal issues before. We never got along, and that just tipped it over the edge and made things past the point of being reconcilable.

It was only a matter of weeks later that all of a sudden, I wake up one day, and I get this email notification from Facebook telling me I had been removed as an admin. I got all these text messages from people like, “What the hell’s going on?” and I got on the Facebook page, and there’s this post from Nick stating that I’m out of the band, and it was all supportive, and because I had a kid, and he thinks it’s great for me. 

We took off 2016 as an agreement. It was like, “Hey, we need to regroup.” We kicked out our hired gun drummer, and we were like, “We don’t even have a full band. We need to regroup and write a new album and really put the pieces together.” So we were already going to take 2016 off.

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He made it sound like I was holding the band back, and this was our agreement. We were going to take 2016 off, write and regroup. He never once supported me being home with my family. 

Kids kept asking what we were doing, and I was like, “We should post something and let people in because they’ll be understanding.” Every single draft of a post I could come up with, he would turn down. It was just being honest like, “Hey, we’re writing a new record. We’re regrouping. Jag just had a baby. We’re putting a lot of pieces together, so it’s a good reason to plant our feet.” He never allowed us to say what was going on. Then he literally took tons of my words and put it into his post, and it just infuriated me. Like, this is the biggest slap in the face that he could have done.

At that point, we already knew we weren’t really going to do the band together anymore because our differences had already hit that point, but I didn’t know he was going to do that. I thought we were going to leave A Skylit Drive alone. He and I at least had that mutual understanding of we’re not going to do it unless it’s you and I. I’m still right here even though I loathe that guy. I’m still standing by that because I don’t think it’s right to continue using that name.

Time went by, and he didn’t do anything with the name even though he said he was going to put out new music. I strongly disagreed with it because I was like, “You should leave the name alone.” A Skylit Drive should just be left at what A Skylit Drive was, and I still feel that way. I’m not using the name. I don’t want to use the name. I want to leave A Skylit Drive as it is. Even the teasers don’t say anything about A Skylit Drive. Is it some trickery? Sure. Then again, I think a lot of things need to come to light, and a lot of things need to be confronted, and I have the platform to do it.

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I think I deserve it with everything that I put into that band. I worked my ass off for years steering that band trying to keep people who never wanted to work on working. I guess that was my big downfall. I was always the outcast. Ever since I joined the band, I was always extremely bullied, told I need to stop doing this, you’re not funny enough in interviews, stop singing so high. [Laughs.] I was always bullied, and I never felt comfortable. It really sucked because so many of those interactions and experiences should have been the greatest times of my life. For most people, it would be, but the sad thing is, it wasn’t. My favorite moments were onstage because then I could interact with people who gave a shit. But when I was off that stage, I was now surrounded by people who didn’t even like each other.

But it was also one of those things I couldn’t let go of. This was what I always wanted to do. This was my dream. It’s a feature that I got from my dad that is completely self-debilitating that I will go to extreme lengths to succeed, to reach my goals. One of those is, unfortunately, putting myself through hell, which a lot of that was. I was a blink away from quitting before we even finished Identity On Fire. When we were doing Adelphia is when things really took a downward spiral, and I really started recognizing my place in the band and recognizing that I was just this outside person.

Read more: Michael Jagmin on the future of A Skylit Drive

It was a constant up-and-down battle of a lot of different emotions in the band. More often than not in the history of the band, I was unhappy. Honestly, I’ve never been happier than in the last few years. I’ve been home, been able to be there every day of my little girl growing up. I’m also working a normal job making actual money. [Laughs.] I’m not struggling. The beauty about this is, I no longer rely on music being my income, and I think that’s one of the best things I could have ever done. If I could tell anything to any artist it’s don’t rely on it for your income because it’s going to eat you alive. The small portion of artists that can actually live off this? It’s so fleeting. You never know when it’s going to end.

How does the new stuff differ from ASD?

The fun thing about it and the thing I think will be most exciting is I naturally gravitate toward the style we first wrote, like off Wires… That’s the style of music I think is the most fun and the vocal style I think is the most fun. I was able to start writing music with Jon Kintz, formerly of Of Mice & Men. I was with him in the band Odd Project, the band I was in before A Skylit Drive. He was always really, really talented.

He lives in California, so he and I write everything emailing back and forth. He’ll write a song, I’ll write some vocals to it and then we’ll bounce back and forth. Then we fly him out here when we have a batch to work on. We iron things out when we’re in person, then go back to emailing. He’s always been a good friend of mine. He’s super talented. He writes in the older Wires-eque style which I think most fans have missed because we never did it again. We never even tried to do it again. That’s not to say I didn’t try, but I wasn’t the guitarist. I was just the singer. I can bring vocals to it, but like I said, I was always bullied into doing different things. And I’m one of those people where my voice is very sensitive to stress…I started jacking up my voice because I was going [through] all these things that weren’t natural to me.

It literally took me a year of not singing at all to get back to what I used to be able to do. I had to retrain my throat and my muscles to not go a certain way…My muscle memory was completely jacked because all of a sudden, I was touring singing a way I didn’t want to. I was in the studio singing a way I didn’t want to, but I was being told to sing all these ways I didn’t want to. Then all of a sudden, I didn’t know any other way anymore…So I didn’t sing for about a year. I worked and was just Joe Shmoe [Laughs.] I’d come home, hang out with my family [and] didn’t even think about music…Then I got that itch after about a year, starting talking to my buddy Jon and checked out some of the songs he had been writing. Hearing the songs is what psyched me into wanting to write something to it because I would instantly hear melodies to it. This was exciting. This is stuff I want to hear. This is the stuff nobody is doing anymore.

You’ve obviously been through a lot over the last few years, and it sounds like your new stuff with Signals has been a long time coming. What does this song mean to you personally, and how does it feel to finally have it out there?

It means a ton. As soon as I started writing it, it brought me back to how much fun it was when I was first writing Wires… It was the honeymoon phase. Everybody was being nice to each other. Nobody hated me yet. [Laughs.] Everybody was excited. They were young. This was the band’s first full-length, so it was like, “This is going to be cool.” From the moment I heard the music, I was like, “This is going to be something special.” One of the first songs I wrote vocals to was “All It Takes For Your Dreams To Come True.” The storyline of that, as soon as I started writing this song, all I kept thinking of was a continuation of that song. So the storyline is a continuation of “All It Takes…” That’s why the song is called “The Vulture (All It Takes II).” The vibe of the song, the whole thing just seemed like it goes right after “All It Takes…”

That song was always meant to be this battle cry for those who feel broken. It was almost like I was foreshadowing something I needed to hear a year later. That somebody is there for you, that they’re going to help you through all of those hard times. Even when you feel defeated, you can get back up and defeat it. It’s a metaphor for that. It is really important to me that this is the first one that comes out because everything that’s happened and how I landed back in the position that I’m in. That I’m able to share it with all the same people I once got to share ["All It Takes”] with. 

“I’m leaving the legacy of the band alone. I’m letting the band go away. Anything we put out is what’s going to speak for A Skylit Drive, and this song is going to speak for me going forward.” —Michael Jagmin

I know there’s going to be all kinds of different responses. Some people will want it to be A Skylit Drive, and some people will listen to it for the music that it is. Some people are going to be mad. Some people are going to be happy. At the end of the day, the most respectful thing I can do is what I’m doing. I think that the fans who want to know what’s going on, they’re going to know what’s going on. They’re going to find out, and I’m leaving the legacy of the band alone. I’m letting the band go away. Anything we put out is what’s going to speak for A Skylit Drive, and this song is going to speak for me going forward.

What does the future of Signals look like? Can we expect a full album or a tour?

We are working on an album. We’re about halfway done with it actually. We’re doing it with producer Curtis Douglas, and he’s based in Arizona. It’s really fun because we’re all doing it from home. I’m doing all [o[of]y tracking from home. Jon does his from home. Then everything gets sent to Curtis, and we bounce everything back and forth. It’s nice because I can just walk into a room, go do my vocals parts, then go hang out with my kid. It’s great.

There aren’t necessarily plans to tour. I want to perform again but, I don’t see myself hitting the road. Shows here and there, when the time is right kind of thing. That’s what I’m interested in. One-off shows or a weekend of shows or something. Not exactly full-on tours. That’s not my interest. My interest is being able to write and put out music again. What I missed more than anything was being able to create, put it out there and hope people enjoy it for what it is.

You can see Jagmin’s message and Signals’ new track, “The Vulture (All It Takes II),” below. The song is also available to stream here.