“There’s something so different about listening to a product that you know you can’t change. It’s already been turned in, so it’s like I know this is it,” Issues frontman Tyler Carter says in a sentimental Instagram video update. The band just turned in their forthcoming third studio album, a record that’s been almost two years in the making.
During that time frame Issues have endured what some bands will experience over the span of their entire career. Now, almost three years after the release of their last album Headspace, Issues have created art out of conflict to make what Carter believes is “probably the heaviest shit” they have ever written.
Issues have been through a lot since kicking off the writing process for your third album. How have those two years influenced the record? Did you learn anything about yourselves as a band through the process?
We started the process two years ago, [and] we’re always writing as a band. Every time we’re on tour there might be an opportunity to whip out the mobile rig and start writing. As songwriters, we always have ideas, so we can write at any time.
Something that we learned, though, [was] having enough time to make a proper record. We’ve never really had this much time, so you know, two years in the making, whereas maybe our last records were under a year. You get like a month of lead time to write. So having two years to make a record and to write taught us a lot about songwriting. We started this album with 50 songs. We had to narrow [it] down to 13 tracks. You learn that every song you write is not the best. Instead of writing a 12-song quota for an album and putting out every song, we were able to write tons of songs and then pick the best of the best which made for a more groundbreaking record in my opinion, and also just an honest record. We got to really home in on the songs that were very honest and emotional as well as put a few songs on there that are just fun and lighthearted. I think you don’t really know that until you write 50 songs. You don’t get to explore as many options and then pick the songs that are the best for the future of the band.
We also learned a lot about ourselves along the way. A lot of trying new things and self-discoveries within the record that we may have not have had if we just went in and did it in a month. I don’t think we really would have had that time to explore or experiment.
You released an emotional video on Instagram discussing the recording process with fans, during which you revealed there were several times where you thought the band were going to break up. How did you guys push through that, and what inspired you to stay motivated?
I hate to say let haters be your motivators, because really the hate can honestly take away all the inspiration sometimes. You feel like nothing you do is gonna be good enough for everybody. You can’t please everybody. That’s something you have to learn throughout the process. I’ve listened to bands in the past where I’m like, “Oh that was my favorite record by them,” or “I don’t really know anything off that record,” or “I didn’t like that record,” and that’s natural. Obviously there’s gonna be an era of a band that fans like more, and then there’s gonna be fans that really support everything you do throughout every era. The difference is, I wouldn’t go as far as to tweet those bands that I like whether I like an era or not. I wouldn’t go as far as to tweet them and be like, “You guys suck now,” [or] “You guys should go back to that first shit” because bands grow and bands change. I’m not wearing the same shit I was wearing two years ago. Music is a lot of the same for me. I go through phases and moods of different styles. Stuff that becomes my favorite happens to set with me depending on where I was at that time in my life.
I feel like we got discouraged by some of the hate, but also just how long the process has been can be draining. One of the biggest things that’s hard about taking a year off to write an album is you have to battle yourself with this notion that we don’t get to tour. Which means we don’t make any money. We all have to really be smart, maybe get a part-time job on the side. We’re not in a world where rock bands like us are millionaires like it was in the ’80s. That’s just not the world we live in anymore. We can only aspire to be a big and great rock band, but ultimately, it’s not that easy. We take all this time off which means we don’t get to tour, and that gets hard because we have no income coming in. So we have to stay motivated, stay creative making an album while also making ends meet. That’s really hard, and I think that’s something that fans don’t really know. They think that we’re all millionaires and our label pays for our lives, and that’s just not how it works. But we get through it.
We did Warped Tour last summer which was good because it was therapeutic to be back onstage and to spread out the endorphins and connect with fans again. It kept us afloat financially so we could continue to finish writing the recording, and in the fall we went and recorded the record. But yeah, we got discouraged at times; we got burned out with our emotions and our attitudes. Sometimes egos got in between us, and I think that’s very natural. I think it also made for a great record because in the end, everything we went through was worth it and really shined in the music.
You guys have had to endure the rumors that Issues would now be a “bubblegum pop” band. You’re constantly shutting down those assumptions on social media, assuring fans that they’re just that—rumors. How would you describe the direction of the new album?
[Laughs.] I think it’s hilarious. Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”—that’s bubblegum pop to me. It’s capable of getting on Kidz Bop and shit like that. But how much of that is there these days? Music has become so much more open-minded and so much more outside the box and creative. Yeah, there’s still standard pop, but the artists we have on the radio today are the kings and queens of pop culture. You got people like Halsey who literally more or less came from our scene in a way. These are great doors that need to be opened for rock music to flourish again.
I love the rumors. The more genre rumors and musical rumors, the better. It’s just going to shock people once they hear the album, especially everybody talking all this shit. The biggest misconception for me is that you have to have screaming all over an album for it to be heavy. I feel like people just always assume, especially the scene we come from and the era, people think you have to have build up to a breakdown call and straight hardcore dancing, mosh, crabcore [Laughs.] screaming parts. People think you have to have that to be heavy, but the truth is, this album we tuned so low to some songs. We had to bring in an eight-string. We have songs that are double drop C sharp, an octave lower than standard C sharp. It’s just funny. I feel like this is probably the heaviest shit we’ve ever written, but that doesn’t mean there’s a buildup to a fucking “open this shit up!” [Laughs.]
It was mentioned on Twitter that the album was a pretty collaborative effort by everyone in the band. Do you feel that teamwork played a key part in the creation of the new album?
I believe so. I know the reason why I felt like there were times when we were gonna give up or break up is because there are four dudes who have completely different tastes in music. Completely different standards of what’s cool or what sounds the best. We all wanted the absolute best album. What’s the best possible album to me might mean a little differently to Josh [Manuel, drummer], or what’s the best idea or coolest option for a part to Sky [Acord, bassist] might not feel the same to AJ [Rebollo, guitarist]. There were a lot of times when collaboration, teamwork and unity actually became very difficult. It made us have to spend three days making a decision on one thing. It might be 10 times more passionate to someone else, [whereas] another band member might be like, “No, I’m not really satisfied. We need to talk about this. We need to vote on this. We need to discuss this more.” That could end up being a four-day thing where we should have just been able to move on. I also believe that because of that passion and that kind of weighing the options made the album the absolute best it could be. If you spend the extra time and you make [it] work, then it’s gonna turn out really beautiful.
There’s been talk on social media that Saxl Rose is featured on the new album. Can we expect any other collaborations or guest vocals?
I don’t believe we made any features happen on this. Saxl Rose came into the studio and played on one of my favorite songs. It’s one of the more poppy songs, more groovy songs. He played on that song, and it turned out really beautiful.
You guys recruited producer Howard Benson (Halestorm, The Maine) who has some phenomenal credits under his belt. What was it like working with him?
Howard’s influence on the record was amazing. We actually had plans to record the album a year ago, or at least six or seven months earlier than what we did. At the time, we felt like the songwriting wasn’t quite there. We felt like we needed more opportunities to write songs and more direction. We needed a director. There are a lot of amazing producers out there that can make a band sound amazing. I think sometimes it takes a band coming in that really know what they want and know what their identity is. The thing was, we were creating somewhat of a new identity in a way, and we needed a director. Somebody to come in and highlight the best parts of us.
We wanted somebody to really help us drive it to the next level, and I think that’s exactly what Howard did. I think he’s a great producer. He’s a great mentor. He’s a great director. He also had some great writing connections. He’s been in it long enough to know how to produce a record like the back of his hand. It takes no effort for him. But he has all of these other strong qualities like mentoring a band. He has management skills even though he swears he’ll never manage a band. He hears a song, and he knows, “This a great song. This is what you guys should do with the song.” He can hear the emotion in it, and he really encouraged us to put more emotion into the lyrics and put more honest lyrics in there because he felt like listening to our first album, we had a lot of that. Then [on] our album Headspace, we didn’t really have as much emotion. We didn’t have as much of that honesty. There were a lot of honest lyrics, but it just wasn’t quite as personal. That was the kind of stuff he encouraged us to bring back into this album.
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Here’s a photo of us playing our new album for some of the neck deep boys. I know it seems like forever since we released new jams but I promise it’s worth the wait. Also we’re getting real close so hope y’all are ready. I couldn’t be more stoked! What do you think the new record sounds like? 🧐 📸 @kylebertrand
Is there anything you’re hoping your fans will take away from the album?
I just hope that they really give it a chance. That they don’t go into listening to it with a biased opinion. People obviously are a little sensitive that Michael [Bohn, former unclean vocalist] is not involved with this album, and we respect that. We understand that hurt and where that comes from, [but] we hope people will generally listen to this album for the music. We want them to really give it a chance and listen to it honestly. We’ve made a lot of sacrifices to make this album and to get to this chapter in our career. People think that we just sold out. But we’ve put everything at risk. We gave up security to try something new because it’s what we wanted to do from an artistic standpoint. If we would have continued to do what we didn’t want to do just because we knew it worked, that would be selling out. I think people need to understand we actually sacrificed a lot because if this album doesn’t do well, then that’s going to take a really big hit on our career. We gave up everything. We sacrificed so much for this one chance.
What can we expect from Issues going forward?
A lot more creativity. A lot more thinking outside the box and doing what we feel is cool. Right off the bat I feel like we have tended to make decisions based too much on politics in the past, and now we just want to do what’s cool to us and do what sounds good. Do what makes people feel something. Whether it be music videos or songs we play live or how the album sounds. We just want to trust our guts more. Expect a lot more cool, creative shit and the band really trusting our guts.
Finally, congrats on your engagement! You had the sweetest proposal to Trent last summer. Any update on those wedding plans?
No, we’re traveling so much right now with touring and everything going on right now. We’re just saving up for a wedding because this year we wanted to enjoy being engaged. Just enjoy going on trips and stuff like that. I think we’ll probably wait until maybe next summer to get married just so we have time to plan it properly.