It’s been nearly a decade since Madina Lake released World War III and thus concluded their three-album series on the mystery of Adalia. While the band would soon after announce their departure from the scene, it seems that this was one story deserving of another chapter (or a few). Following their surprise release of “Playing With Fire” this past spring, Madina Lake revealed that they’d be dropping a new single every month leading up to the debut of their new EP Sept. 4.
Appropriately titled The Beginning Of New Endings, this five-track EP will serve to give closure to the era of Adalia and shift the narrative onto a new concept centralized on the seven deadly sins—a theme more relevant to society in 2020 than one might care to believe. Longtime fans will be happy to know that this progression in no way distances Madina Lake from their roots. In fact, the “rawness” of these songs may put them closer to “Here I Stand” and the rest of From Them, Through Us, To You than earlier tracks.
Alternative Press spoke to Madina Lake’s very own Nathan Leone regarding the circumstances surrounding the band’s reunion and the development of The Beginning Of New Endings. Rest assured, while the title may appear foreboding at first glance, these innovators aren’t looking to close the book again any time soon.
It’s been nine years since the release of World War III. What prompted you to finally get back in the studio together after all this time?
NATHAN LEONE: It’s weird, right? Personally, I’ve always felt like we had a bit of an unceremonious conclusion and hiatus, if you will. I felt like we were forced out when Matthew [Leone] got hurt. After he got better, we rehabbed him for almost a year, and then we went back to Japan, Australia and England. He was just getting way too tired, and it didn’t sit well with me. I basically pulled the plug, and we just stopped.
Then, as the years went by, we all went our separate ways. [Matthew Leone] went to Manchester, England, where he met his now-wife. We’d never been apart before, so that was an adjustment. [Mateo Camargo] went back to Colombia, and Dan [“Chizel” Torelli] went back to Philly. I moved to Los Angeles and eventually, Mateo did [as well]. We continued writing and doing movie soundtracks, commercials and pop songs to pitch to other artists, so technically Mateo and I never stopped working and writing together. Throughout that time in Los Angeles, we would occasionally work on some Madina-type songs, [but] we had no plans to reunite the band in any serious way.
Eventually, Matthew and I both moved out to Sarasota, [Florida], because we had an opportunity to get two houses that are exactly the same, except mirror images of each other, right next door. So he and his wife came back from Manchester, and we’d been talking about it for a while. Then we started working on a couple of songs more efficiently. We decided that it was time to redo at least the ending of the band. Who knows how far we’re going to go with it. We have this EP that we just finished, and then we’re doing another one. [We’re planning] to start it in August as soon as Mateo is allowed to fly back here.
The Beginning Of New Endings sounds unmistakably like classic Madina Lake. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely an evolution there, but you’ve really stayed true to those mid-2000s roots. How were you able to achieve that with so many years in between? Are there any changes to your process that you’ve observed?
Everybody does their first record, and then you want to progress and change on your second record. We did that, but [we felt] it was way overproduced. We did the record with David Bendeth [Sleeping With Sirens, We Came As Romans, Paramore] in New Jersey, who’s amazing, but he’s a real shiny, quantized producer. We wanted to make this one raw, we didn’t want to have perfect, quantized drums and everything Auto-Tuned to death and technologically produced in that sense. It’s interesting because when we did the first record, we were all in our room together, playing live, and this [one just involved] trading files back and forth and doing edits.
I feel like there’s a chemistry between Matthew, Mateo and I that [allowed us] to reconnect pretty easily. The lack of progression sonically was not deliberate, but we definitely are aware of our identity in that sense. That’s the kind of music we love to make and listen to, so we just wanted to make it raw.
How do you think this EP reflects the growth that you’ve seen as individuals in the past nine years? Have you found that your dynamic has changed at all?
In all honesty, no. We’ve all had very different lives in many ways. We’ve been all over the place. It’s like riding a bike in the sense that when we do get together creatively, it’s the same particles spinning, and it puts [us] in the same headspace. It feels like we didn’t skip a beat. Nine years is a long time. It’s a decade. [But] we feel like the connections remained virtually the same.
The track “Tiny Weapons” runs for over eight minutes. I know that’s not exactly new to you. “The Great Divide” runs around the same length, but it reads as more of a grand finale to World War III. What prompted the decision to go ahead and put another extended song on this EP?
We were very apprehensive of that [at first] in that it felt very self-indulgent, especially in a world where everything is immediate and move on. [Laughs.] It’s like, “How dare you put on a song that’s three times the length of an average song?” But if I look back on World War III, which was the finale of the trilogy, we were in such a bizarre headspace at the time. I was still dealing with Matthew’s incident, and [Dan Torelli], our drummer and family, was falling apart and having very difficult, personalized mental health issues. None of us were in a good place.
When we wrote that it came together so viscerally as if something was coming through us to get it out. The record [was not received] well by the people that support our band. It’s definitely been their least favorite, [but] it’s personally one of my favorites. It was such an intense period, so, having ended on that note, we did some things [on the EP] that we wished we had the time and capacity to do on World War III. “Tiny Weapons” is probably the ultimate example of that.
You do a great job at segmenting these longer songs. It almost feels like you’re listening to a mini, very cohesive EP inside one track. How does this creative process differ from writing individual songs or a full LP?
We [wrote] “Tiny Weapons” two years ago in Los Angeles. Matthew had flown in from Manchester, and the three of us got together in my shabby two-bedroom apartment. It came together so fast, ironically for being so long, because we had no preconceived notions about what we were doing. We weren’t trying to write singles or anything, just songs and music that moved us.
This one was such a weird one because it just kept going. I had to type up the lyrics the other day, and it has three pages. I’m like, “I don’t even remember writing them.” We just [set up] a microphone in the small bedroom, Mateo programmed a bunch of parts and we just recorded it one night before dinner. It was weird. We’ve worked on it since then. It’s interesting because we were working on all of these pop songs and things that I personally couldn’t connect with. [Speaking for] Mateo and me, we were so relieved to jump into something that we love again. We just didn’t want that moment to end, so we took it all the way to eight minutes.
People are obviously in bands together because they like the music they produce. Within that process, there are certain magical moments where things just come together. Sometimes you’re hammering out one idea for weeks and can’t get anything out of it. But then another one will come up and be done in 10 minutes. “Tiny Weapons” was one of those moments, and it’s one of my favorite songs that the band have ever done. I’m really happy about that—I love it.
Traditionally, Madina Lake have been extremely conceptual in nature. Are there any underlying stories to this EP like on previous albums?
It started with this concept in mind [based around] the seven deadly sins. It was initially called Superbia, which [we’ll be] working on next. The environment we’re living in today is just strange. It’s very bizarre in ways that you couldn’t ever imagine would be real, for better and for worse. There are parts of it that are great and parts that are extremely difficult. Technology and social media have tremendous benefits in many ways, but I think [they] play a little bit to people’s worst inclinations in terms of ego and gluttony.
[People] constantly have to be stimulated and get dopamine hits. It seems like the world has become very combative. Those are things that I was trying and wanting to address in terms of writing lyrics. At the end of the day, I didn’t feel like I had it in the five songs, which is why I punted. But in retrospect, I’m coming to the conclusion that those five songs are parts of what I wish was added to World War III to [give] closure to that era the first time around. I think this EP will serve as a nice segue to the next concept, which will be Superbia.
What’s interesting is that you largely came up on the far side of the social media and streaming service boom. What’s it like to return to a scene that’s been so altered, both culturally and technically, in the past decade?
I had to essentially relearn the industry. I have no idea how to even release music in today’s climate. It’s become so busy, and there are so many niches [with more] niches in them. Spotify is basically how you release a record these days. Fortunately, we had a friend approach us when he heard we were working on new music. He works in a distribution company that goes through a label called The Orchard, which is a big independent distributor, and they handle all of the Spotify stuff. We’ve just been leaning on them [to] decide what we want. We’d like to do these songs in this way, with different artwork for each single, and ultimately the EPs will encompass the bigger picture of it. But it’s all so foreign to me. [Laughs.]
Obviously, we’re getting old as dirt now, but I’ve never felt so disconnected from the music scene in my life. I was so thrilled when [My Chemical Romance] came back and all these other bands, like Underoath, [who] we became really good friends with on Warped Tour are back in it now. It’s good to be in familiar company.
Do you feel that coming into it fresh gives you an advantage in a sense?
Yeah, I do. Namely, I think, because we don’t care. Back when we first started, you had to get signed and get a record deal. Otherwise, you really didn’t have much of a shot at all. It’s not that you were totally calculated in your writing, but you did have to think about things like eight-minute songs and decide against them. [Laughs.] It’s like an “ignorance is bliss” and naivety that we’re just doing this because we love it, the people that we’ve connected with through it and the amazing experiences we’ve been able to have within it. We’re coming from a place of gratitude, loving every moment.