At the beginning of 2019, Slaves announced that they had parted ways with frontman Jonny Craig ahead of their European tour with Escape The Fate. Since replacing Craig with The Voice runner-up Matt McAndrew, the group have collectively worked toward strengthening their dynamic as a unified force as well as growing their personal relationships with their fans.
Over the course of a year-and-a-half, Slaves have faced the aftermath of being on the wrong end of addiction, finding their footing with a new lineup and operating almost entirely as a new band. Despite tough circumstances, nearly impossible feats and rebuilding from the ground up, the band have consistently worked to shed the snakeskin of who they were and face the world as who they are.
At the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement this year, Slaves announced on Instagram that they would be changing the name of the band to better reflect their virtues as a whole and recognize the racist connotation that’s perceived with it.
As individuals, as well as a collective, we hold certain virtues close to our hearts, honesty and transparency with our fans being some of the most important. Early on in the process of writing and recording the new album To Better Days, we discussed what this new iteration of our band should sound like, what it should look like, as well as what it should be called. We decided then this would be our last release under the name ‘SLAVES.’
The name ‘SLAVES’ was conceived as a reference to the band’s battle with substance abuse in the past. To the idea that we become enslaved by our addictions and by our own demons. Our goal has always been to tackle these difficult subjects head-on, as well as to build a community and share stories of hope to let others know that their inner demons can be defeated. However, this definition of the name neglects to take ownership of its racial connotations. As obstinate supporters of the BLM movement, we cannot continue to tie our music and our positive message to a word associated with such negative weight and hurt.
To Better Days will represent the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another for the band. This is something we have been planning for a while and are excited to start unveiling new music, new name, later this year. We are thankful to our fans that continue to stick by us and we look forward to sharing this new era with you moving forward.
Ahead of their first studio album featuring McAndrew on vocals, bassist Colin Vieira and McAndrew candidly spoke to Alternative Press about their decision to change the band name, how the group have grown with one another and what fans can expect from the group moving forward.
For those who don’t know, where did the band name Slaves derive from?
COLIN VIEIRA: The band name was always wrapped around being a slave to, well mostly, addiction. [With] the band being really put together around Jonny, that was the idea of it. Our old drummer [Tai Wright] is the one who came up with the name. His standpoint was like being a slave to your phone or the system or anything that really has to do with being captured. And in Jonny’s case, which is a lot of the context of our earlier stuff, [it] was about addiction. We simplified it down to being a slave to our demons.
When Slaves first formed, like you said, the band name was selected based on the group’s experiences with substance misuse and feeling like a slave to addiction. Nearly six years later, do you feel as though you’ve outgrown the name?
VIEIRA: I feel like so much has happened in six years with this band. So many lineup changes, a lot of our team has changed. Throughout the years, there’s a lot of different things that this band have gone through. It feels like it doesn’t really fit. The last thing about this band that ties us to six years ago is the name. Everything else is pretty much different about the band. A lot of the lyrical content is the same, but the attitude, motivations of the band, the different inspirations, I think the name is the only thing that really ties us to the older version of ourselves.
How long have you been toying with the idea of changing the name of the band?
VIEIRA: We’ve had serious talks about it pretty much as soon as Matt joined the band, as soon as Jonny left. This new thing that we’ve created in the past year-and-a-half has been staring us in the face. Even before Matt officially joined the band, we were all like, “Hey, it seems like we’re at a spot here where we could get rid of the last thing [tying us] to our old selves.”
MATT MCANDREW: It definitely has been a conversation that has been had since I’ve known the guys. Being the newcomer to this whole thing, I obviously have a little bit of a different perspective. For me walking into it, it’s always a name that I was hesitant about. The original meaning behind the name is no longer the most relevant thing when speaking about the group as it stands now anyway.
It seems as though Slaves have grown so far beyond that name and what the band were originally built on. You have taken that foundation and really amplified it to the next level. So it only makes sense that the band name would be the next thing to change.
VIEIRA: We even did a whole rebranding before this. I think people noticed and saw the change in the band in the past year-and-a-half and a new direction.
MCANDREW: We’re trying to use this album as a pivot album, being the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. And I think it’s something that we all feel really good about. There’s certainly a lot of compelling reasons to change the name. We’ve been talking about it, and [there] is a new lineup [and a] new philosophy around what the band are. I think we want to, in a lot of ways, cut ties with the past in terms of stigma around the band or reputation.
Also just from a positive standpoint as well, maybe shine light on the fact that, “Hey, this is in some ways a new group.” We’ve been at it with this lineup for a year-and-a-half, coming from a place of a lot of people counting us out from the beginning. I would like to see us get credit for being a band that’ve almost been more or less around for a year-and-a-half as opposed to six years. Obviously, we’re building upon a foundation, and I think we’re really grateful for it, but it’s also something that we’ve been able to more than double. It’s been really great. And then there’s the stigma around the name. I understood the history of the name and the meaning of the name, and that’s something really important I’ve come to learn. There are a lot of things the band have publicly struggled with [regarding] past members. But that’s a thing that resonates with the band as well, so I get it. I think we’re all happy to be looking forward.
The band announced in an Instagram post that you would be changing your name. How are you navigating the name change with an album pending for release in August?
VIEIRA: There’s definitely a lot of red tape around it. And we knew that going into this. We’re in talks with Spotify and our label distribution. I hope personally that we can tie in to and possibly still have this album under the new name as well. That would be the perfect world for us. But it’s also something that we realize we have to prepare for if we can’t. It would still, for us, be that transitional album. Obviously, we’re really proud of the album. In a perfect world, everything will be able to line up seamlessly with this new album, and everybody will be able to stream it with a new name. So as of right now, everything will be under the name Slaves. Once we’re able to confirm the new name and move forward with that, I’m hoping we can have that album underneath it.
How have fans been responding to the fact that you have taken responsibility for the name Slaves?
MCANDREW: I would say the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve been trying to use our platform the best we can to post in support of Black Lives Matter and post different positive things that people can look at, whether it’s just educating themselves or the place to donate or to learn more and see how they can get involved personally. We didn’t see a lot of backlash [with] those posts. So it makes sense that there hasn’t been too much [outcry] with the name change.
Since this has been a topic that you have been visiting for approximately a year-and-a-half now, do you have new names in mind?
VIEIRA: We’ve had a bunch that we sent around and some that we’ve revisited. But none that we have really fell in love with except one newer one we thought of in the past couple of months. Nothing is set in stone yet. But we do have one that we all feel represents us a little bit better and something we’re all happy with. But like I said, nothing is 100% finalized yet.
The group have released three full-lengths, all with your former vocalist. How has the dynamic of the band changed since his departure, and how has that pushed you to revisit your morals and values?
VIEIRA: It’s definitely been consistently an uphill battle with this band since the start. There have always been setbacks, which have been pretty public for us. This hopefully is the final setback, and it seems [like] losing a singer and getting a new one initially was a setback. It’s the way you handle these setbacks. It either turns out to be a positive thing for you or you can take it very negatively.
Since Matt has joined the band, you all have been putting in a lot of effort to connect with your fanbase in new ways, including visiting School Of Rock and surprising fans with an acoustic van session. Why do you think it’s important to connect with fans outside of the live music experience?
VIEIRA: That’s another thing since Matt joined the band and since we have our final members. A big thing for us was to connect with our fans on a more personal level and have [them] get to know the band. That was something we’ve been focusing on. We actually have a number that anybody could text. We’re responding to every single one of their texts right now. Like I said earlier, these people look up to us, and even if they’re not looking up to us as people, they’re looking up at our music, and our music is helping them. So it’s super important to relate to these people.
MCANDREW: With all this new technology, it just makes sense to try to utilize that and foster those relationships. It’s a strange new world that we live in where you can deal with your fans all over the world. They call us via text now.
Your new album, To Better Days, is set for release Aug. 7. What was the inspiration behind the album title? It seems very omniscient and optimistic about the future.
VIEIRA: That was a big part of our plan, [and] it goes along with the rebranding. I think it perfectly depicts where we were at when we were in the studio and where we’re at right now as far as the future of the band, how we feel about the band and the situation we’re in. It was also something that helped us with the meaning of our band name. Overall, it represents where we’re at right now and where we were at when we were writing the album.
To Better Days is the first album featuring Matt on vocals. How was the writing and recording process different?
MCANDREW: Everybody pretty much just did their thing, you know? Zack [Baker] was playing the drums, I was singing, Colin was playing bass guitar, Wes [Richmond] was playing guitar and Jimmy [Alexander] was producing. It was super easy. And then beyond that, everybody has input. There were a couple of songs where at the end of the process, I was just stuck. And so I got some lyrical input from the guys and whatnot. But for the most part, everybody just did their own thing. And we just built it all up together, and it worked.
Do you ever think about retiring old music or rerecording it so it more accurately reflects the band?
MCANDREW: It’s interesting because Beautiful Death has always been a part of the story for me because [of] the guys who are still touring on that record. We weren’t really playing anything older than that, though. So I would say if we were to revisit anything, even just in a live setting, I feel like it would extend to Beautiful Death and Revision because we’ve covered that. As we put out new music, we have this whole new album, and hopefully, we’ll have another one soon after. We just have more new stuff we’re looking forward to playing.
What do you think fans will be most excited about on the new album?
MCANDREW: We have a good insight into what people have responded to so far. Obviously, it makes me really happy to see that people are connecting with the lyrics so strongly, which is great. It makes me happy to see how much credit the band have been getting. I think it really does sound like more of a band. I hope they keep digging the lyrics and just enjoy the music.