In the studio with Escape The Fate: Craig Mabbitt talks ‘Hate Me’

August 21, 2015
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Escape The Fate may be the unluckiest band in the world. In the last 10 years, the group have been through it all—lineup changes, label changes, drug addiction and lawsuits. With just one founding member left (drummer Robert Ortiz), it's almost a miracle ETF aren’t just a memory… But here they are, set to release their fifth full-length album, Hate Me, this year. AP editor Matt Crane caught up with singer Craig Mabbitt to get the rundown on everything about the band's new album.

Where was your headspace at going into this new album?
CRAIG MABBITT: This time around, it was just no boundaries, really. We've always been that diverse band that likes to do the ballads, do the pop songs, do the heavy songs. But we always try to make the album sound cohesive. This time around, I just said, “Fuck it. If we're gonna do a heavy song, let's make it heavy; if we're gonna do a poppy song, let's make it poppy as shit.” We just went full-force with it, and started writing music that we like, instead of worrying about what other people will think.

How did guitarist Kevin Thrasher's role in the band change for this album?
He definitely has a fresh outlook on everything, and it just ignited a lot of creativity—prior to and being in the studio. The guy is a great guitar player. He's been filling in on tour with us for a while, and he's been a session guy in LA. He showed me some of the songs he's worked on, from pop artists to country artists. Not only is he a great guitar player, but he's a great songwriter, as well. He understands melody, he understands vocals. He understands how to give the vocal a little room. So writing to something that Kevin writes is a breeze.

What’s the band's writing process now?
When the recording process started, we were in this writing zone where I flew out to L.A. and we were all together. We would do a minimum of two songs a day. We'd all get up, grab some Starbucks, meet up at Kevin's house at noon and just write. “Hey, what kind of song are we gonna do today? Are we gonna work on this demo from yesterday? Do we wanna start fresh?” We did that for a couple months until we had 40 or 50 songs. The hardest part was trying to narrow it down to which ones were the absolute best.

Lyrically, what sort of topics are you touching on?
The whole album's cohesive, and it all revolves around hate. I noticed that a lot of the songs have the word “hate” in there. Our band has dealt with a lot of [hate], and we've always taken it to heart. Now, we're at a point where we're just embracing it and using it as fuel for the fire, so to speak. So we decided to name the album Hate Me.

Would you say it's an angry album?
I'd say it's an angry album. But it's more about overcoming adversity through all the hate and how nothing has slowed us down and nothing has stopped us. Now we're embracing it.

Aside from hate, what other topics are there?
“Just A Memory,” which is the track we were playing all summer on Warped, is about people in your life who backstab you, and getting older and realizing you always have to watch your own back. How you can never really trust anybody. The whole album is pretty much cohesively about all the bad shit in life that can happen do you. You just gotta take the punches and roll with it. That whole meaning is where the artwork comes from. It's a Tarot card that is “The Wheel of Fortune.” You're spinning on a circle and life is always gonna throw things at you. It doesn't matter what happens to you; it just matters what kind of person you are after it does.

How'd you decide to work with Howard Benson?
We had another producer locked in, and we got a call that said Howard Benson is interested and he wants to do it. Obviously, when someone like Howard Benson wants to have a meeting with you, you're not not gonna go. Let's go sit down with the guy, talk to him and see what he's all about. Why is he interested in our band? Having the track record he's had, he's the most humble producer I've ever met. He just gets it. He's like, “I don't care if my name is on this record. It's your record. I just wanna make it sound the best that it can.” He was like, “I want the studio to be a fun process. I want the album ready before you even set foot in here to record a single note. I don't want you guys waking up every day, working on the record and wondering what am I gonna do? You shouldn't be working in a studio. You should be having fun, recording your songs and figuring out ways to make them better. It was a nice change of pace.

I'm not asking you to pick your favorite songs. But could you tell me the two tracks you've been thinking about the most the past few days? Which ones are you most excited for people to hear?
I'm excited for people to hear the heavy stuff. I know a lot of our fans are like, “Man, I love your Dead Rabbitts stuff because it's heavier. I wish Escape The Fate would do something that heavy.” I'm really excited for people to hear the ones we're really taking a chance on. We have the song “Let It Be,” which is pretty much “Harder Than You Know Part 2.” I really enjoy that one. One I've been playing a lot lately that I didn't think I would like is this song called “Get Up Get Out.” It starts off with this cool rock 'n' roll guitar part and then it gets a little poppy. I was listening to it driving around this morning with my daughter in the backseat, and she was like, “I think that one’s my favorite.” She probably knows better than I do, at this point! She's closer to our listeners' age then I am.

What is your goal with Hate Me? What was your vision?
Our vision is to just finally put our stake in the ground. We've been a band for 10 to 11 years now, been in the scene for a while. We've had our ups and downs. We've had a lot of success. We've had a lot of good albums and good memories. There's just an insane amount of story and history with this band when you look back on the career. It's been like a roller coaster ride. With this album, we're finally slamming those stakes in the ground and establishing ourselves. It's been 10 years of turmoil, and we're ready to take over the world now. Finally.

We have the fans to thank for that. Because if we didn't have the fans' support, I'm sure this band would've been done years ago. At the end of the day, everyone—fans, musicians, critics and everyone alike—always says it's about the music. That's everyone's final answer. It doesn't matter about who's better than who, who hates who, what publication says this about your group—all that shit doesn't matter at the end of the day. All that matters is our fans, and they've always appreciated our music. alt

Written by Matt Crane