Earlier this year, Slaves officially announced that they parted ways with frontman Jonny Craig just ahead of their European tour with Escape The Fate. Matt McAndrew, the runner-up on the seventh season of The Voice, handled vocal duties for the tour and then performing on the Australian dates, as well. Since then, the Sacramento post-hardcore quintet have had a lot to unpack—truths to face, emotions to take shape and a new chapter to dictate their next destination.
Just as the band were getting settled to depart to Europe, they were faced by Craig relapsing and not boarding their upcoming flight. Adapting to tremendous changes in a microscopic time frame, the band and their overwhelming circumstances unveiled itself as a rewarding turmoil that opened a new door for Slaves.
It was a race against time, and they were already running on empty. They panickingly punched in a slew of phone numbers by their flight terminal, desperately searching for a substitute vocalist. They even prepared for defeat at that point, discussing a Plan B to take a shuttle home, book studio time and get a head start on the new record.
“We got left at the airport with probably about an hour until before our flight departed, so we were calling pretty much anybody that could sing at all,” bassist Colin Vieira says, laughing.
Escape The Fate had already boarded the flight and were aware of the band’s dire circumstances. In between the dwindling minutes of constant texting and calling, they took Escape The Fate guitarist Kevin Gruft’s suggestion and dialed McAndrew. With minutes to departure, the band finally found their new vocalist just in time.
“The check-in desk had five extra minutes for us,” Vieira recalls. “Matt was on the phone with us, and they were like, ‘Hey guys, did you find a singer yet? We have to close down now.’ And that was literally when Matt said yes.”
McAndrew, flying solo as a singer-songwriter at the time, never thought he’d join another band again. But having attended The University Of The Arts in Philadelphia, pursuing a solo career and finishing second place on The Voice, music was certainly in his favor. By conquering the stressful work ethic and monstrous stage frights on The Voice, McAndrew felt quite invincible; he never thought he would ever feel nervous again.
But when McAndrew received a call from an unfamiliar group of guys asking him to fly overseas and perform a setlist every night, it was like The Voice all over again—but tenfold. His passport had just expired that day. He knew nothing about the band. He gave “I’d Rather See Your Star Explode” a brief listen, and against his better judgment, he painstakingly accepted the offer.
“I never heard of the band,” McAndrew says. “I never heard of Jonny Craig. I had like two or three days from the time I got offered the gig to perform with them. I never met any of the guys. I met them about an hour before we did our first show in Manchester. All I can say is I was just super-nervous, and my biggest fear was that I said yes to these guys I’ve never met. It was by far the most daunting thing I’ve ever done—way scarier than doing The Voice on TV.”
“I feel like there’s a lot of pressure for me to do well, and I think it’s only reasonable that I should have to go above and beyond what people expect even just to be considered as good as Jonny,” he continues. “It’s definitely making me a better singer because every time we perform live, I have this mentality that I have to show people what I’m capable of and prove people wrong.”
Despite having zero rehearsal time with McAndrew aside from playing the actual shows, the new Slaves lineup pulled through smoothly, missing only one date. It was their last intention to postpone or cancel another European tour, which occurred in 2017. After realizing that Craig “chose his addiction over the band,” it was in their best interest to move on without him.
“That wasn’t much of a decision because he left us at an airport,” Vieira explains. “It was more of the fact that we needed to continue on as a band and let Slaves live and let Jonny get the special help that he needs rather than us trying to be his guidance counselor.”
With Slaves currently writing their fourth full-length in the studio and releasing the first single of their new era, “Heavier” (written during their Australian tour and produced by Awaken I Am’s Jimmy Alexander) reflects on the aftermath of parting ways with Craig and moving forward. Similarly, the songs from the album also portray “the distresses and anxieties of working with somebody who is unfortunately an addict and the ups and downs that go with it.”
In addition to the new single, the band are selling a limited-edition shirt that’ll fund addiction-related charities and programs. The shirt design features an addiction helpline on the back for those who might need support. “The whole point is by supporting a band you like and buying a shirt, you could also be helping other people,” Vieira says.
Slaves are thrilled to start a new era with a fresh slate, already having 10 songs written and in preproduction. Vieira shares that the album will be “on the catchier side,” but a “progression from Beautiful Death,” with the emphasis on pushing more musical boundaries. The fourth record will not only be a step up from their last album but an organic blend of different personalities stirred from the current lineup.
“It was the first time that this current generation of the band had written together,” rhythm guitarist Juan Felipe Sanchez says. “We didn’t know how the whole dynamic was gonna go, so we went in with the mentality of anything goes, keep an open mind and be very receptive to other people’s ideas—I think it further unified us.”
Through Art We Are All Equals and Routine Breathing were written primarily by ex-guitarist Alex Lyman. Beautiful Death was written by Vieira, Craig, guitarist Weston Richmond and producer Erik Ron. Their upcoming effort is the first time for the band to collaboratively write with the inclusion of McAndrew, Sanchez and drummer Zachary Baker.
“As far as the new lineup goes, the real test for me and the band is when we did that first tour together,” McAndrew says. “The shows are going really well, and we get along, but we wanted to make sure that we were gonna be able to write together in the studio.”
Although this is only the beginning, a bright journey awaits the band, and they’re already making big strides, creating unbreakable chemistry as songwriters and performers.
“I remember after the second show in Nottingham, we were looking at each other, and I was almost teary-eyed, like I can’t say no to whatever this is—this is amazing,” McAndrew says. “Even within this scene that I’m totally new to, the sense of love and support that these bands have for each other—everything’s been super-refreshing and wholesome for me. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of not only the band, but a part of the whole scene in general.”
Slaves expect to release their fourth album early 2020, but official release dates are still to be determined at this time.
Check out an exclusive interview with Slaves featuring new vocalist Matt McAndrew below.