The Word Alive have been in the game for almost 12 years. With their sixth full-length, MONOMANIA, dropping soon, frontman Telle Smith reveals that this may be the post-hardcore outfit’s most vulnerable release.
Inspired by his own life experiences, Smith gives a hint as to what was running through his mind during the creation of the Word Alive’s Violent Noise follow-up.
“There are a lot of songs on the album that are about the past two, three years of my life,” he says. “Not the last year in particular but the years leading up to it. Overall, I just wasn’t in a good place. I feel like I hadn’t really dealt with a lot of emotions [or] situations that I’d gone through in life.“I didn’t want to let anyone down, so I just brushed off all these things that were happening to me. At times, I felt like I couldn’t catch a break.”
The Word Alive vocalist explains that the LP is his expression of his feelings when life sometimes felt like too much.
“Once you start getting into that mindset of feeling like nothing you do matters—no matter how hard you work, no matter if you try to be the best person possible—if you feel like nothing good comes from that, it’s draining, to say the least,” he says. “That was just one aspect of how I was feeling. This record tackles that whole mindset and a lot of where I was at in life in general.”
Smith also shared the meaning behind each song on the album.
I had gone in with one of my good friends Scott Stevens, who I wrote “Face To Face” with back on Dark Matter. We just enjoy writing together. He’s one of the best dudes. He’s a great producer, and we started this song, and it actually started out [with] basically a piano with some electronics and drums. It was a very different song.
I just wanted to talk about how [in] the pharmaceutical world, we’re given pills and told “All right, you’ll take this, and you’re good.” [With] how these coping mechanisms have developed over the years, all it does is tear us down more. It makes us feel more alone. It gives us more depression and anxiety than we might inherently have. It’s just all these different things that aren’t healthy for us. So I wanted to write a song that started the record that’s just about taking ownership of ourselves and what we go through [and] how we feel. Unless you’re facing your problems, nothing is going to be solved.
“NO WAY OUT”
This song for me has been the tip of the iceberg of trying to get this story told. Ultimately I think in sharing this, it’s going to help me be able to talk about it more and more. It’s about a total loss of perspective, about what happens when you push things…You just allow things to constantly build up, and it hits you like a car crash would, where you’re not expecting it and you just get nailed. For me, that song represents that feeling, because once it hits, it feels like there’s no way out of that. It feels like once you’re in a really dark, bad place, you’re emotionally and mentally drained to the point where it feels like there’s no option for you to feel any other way then that.
“SEARCHING FOR GLORY”
You’re searching for glory. You’re searching for that moment or that feeling in your life where you feel like you have everything figured out, and you feel like everything you’ve done led toward something and how we can all be searching for that in the wrong places or through the wrong people. In the bridge, it says, “Some people wish they were someone else/It’s not worth it if you lose yourself/I guess I’m asking for help.” That was me realizing, “Man, I was doing that.” The whole song is me telling the story almost as if I got that point figured out in my life.
I think a lot of fans look at us and look at me, and I do try to always be really positive. I don’t want to add to the negativity of the world, but at the same time, I struggle, and I have things going on just like anybody else does. You shouldn’t want to be someone else. You should just start trying to make the best decisions possible for your life, and that’s how you find that “glory.”
“ANOTHER YEAR IN THE SHADOWS”
It’s electronic, and there is a really cool beat underneath. We wanted to capture what happens in electronic music where there’s a really cool buildup, and you know it’s coming, and instead of a drop, the release is the chorus. We added these big guitars and really cool guitar riffs in the chorus and then drop [them] back out. At first, we were like, “Should we add more guitars?” It was Zack [Hansen, guitarist] or Tony [Pizzuti, guitarist] that were like, “More guitars would ruin the song.” Which is cool, because us being all on the same page is very important, and we were more than ever for this record.
Story-wise, the meaning of it is about the movie Sixth Sense. No one ever really talks about the love story aspect of that movie. They talk about “I see dead people,” and they’re quoting Haley Joel Osment. [When] the song goes into the bridge and he’s like, “I think I know what’s happening/I never saw the light coming in,” it’s him realizing he’s dead. As he does in the movie, only the whole song is about the scenes with him and his wife where he feels like she just doesn’t hear him, and she’s not in love with him anymore. That’s the saddest part of the movie. He’s haunting her because he can’t let go and because he loved her so much.
This one is about being in a relationship where you were taken for granted, and if the person would have just respected you, appreciated you [and] loved you like you loved them, you would have been their greatest love. Instead, you’re left with this sinking feeling. It’s written for the other person to understand how close they were to having everything that they wanted. Everyone is in a different place in life. Sometimes it’s because you’re not meant to be, and sometimes it’s because someone refuses to take responsibility for their own actions, for the words that they use and say. They don’t really respect the person they’re with. It’s hard to find someone that has a good heart, good character, works hard [and] wants success for you.
I feel like it’s going to be a really fun live song. There’s so much energy, and [it’s] one of the heaviest and upbeat pretty much the whole time. For me, “thank you” is the most polite way of saying “fuck you.” But I didn’t want to [sing] “Fuck you.” I wanted it to be a passive-aggressive song.
The music industry isn’t always the kindest. There aren’t many authentic people who say what they mean, and we’ve all probably experienced that person who just thought they could treat you like shit and you would just be OK with it. It’s like saying “thank you” because when you go through a breakup with someone or you get fired from a job that ultimately you didn’t want anyway, you learned from it. You’re thankful that it happened because now you know. Now you know what the person is like. Now you know that it’s not what you want.
“NUMB LOVE (MISERY II)”
Zack had actually started writing it a couple of years ago, and when I heard it the first time, I was like, “Eh, I don’t know about this one.” When we were writing the songs for this album [and] going through the demos we had, I heard it and was like, “We gotta use this song.”
This is the continuation of ["Misery.”] At the time when I wrote that song, several of us in the band were not in healthy relationships…And I was like, “Well, if you’re miserable, then why are you in this? I don’t understand. Is everyone just settling? I think when you’re on tour and you’re gone a lot, you feel like you owe it to someone for them to not be that good to you, and you just take it. That story is when you’re in the middle of that and you’re starting to realize “Maybe this isn’t good for me. I’m miserable, and this isn’t really going anywhere, but I can’t break away from it. “NUMB LOVE” is like the finale. I don’t know if there will be a “Misery III,” but I think it says enough. You fall in love with the wrong person, and it can destroy you. It can take all the good from you. It can absorb all of your energy, mental, emotional, physical even and just make you feel lifeless.
“K.F.” stands for “Kyle Forever.” It’s basically just how we felt when we learned that [Kyle Pavone]ied combined with [We Came As Romans]aking the announcement that they were going to continue on, which I 100% believe is the right thing, and I know it’s what Kyle would have wanted. We toured with [t[that band]ore than any other band in the world over 11 years now. They’re our closest friends we have on tour. We have a tremendous amount of respect for them, and we wanted to give them…it’s like their song. That’s why we didn’t make it a single.
It’s one of our favorite songs. We didn’t want to feel like we were selling it…I wanted to write something for the guys, and I told the band I was going to try to write this song, and it was just really strong in my heart. It was something I felt like I needed to do to honor Kyle and We Came As Romans. Every time I listen to it, I either get goosebumps or tear up.
“BURNING YOUR WORLD DOWN”
That song is about coming out on the other side of the darkness. Like, “I’m never going to be in that place again. I’m never going to let any person make me feel less than what I am.” It’s just a powerful statement song about how much you need to focus on yourself and your own happiness, and you can’t let anything stand in your way of trying to be the best version of yourself.
“COMFORT & CHAOS”
I was playing acoustic guitar in the studio one day and just humming along. I didn’t realize it, but Matt [H[Horn, drummer]tarted recording me. Then I just stopped playing, and he was like, “That was really cool. I liked that. There’s something there.” And I said, “Something where? I don’t even know what I just played.” I liked some of the melodies that I was singing, and Erik Ron (Motionless In White, I Prevail) came back into the control room, and we were basically just like, “Hey, I think we have the beginnings of a song. Let’s just start writing it and see where it goes.”
That ended up being “COMFORT & CHAOS,” and the title comes from what we express touring is like. We never know our schedule. We never know what day of the week it is, and somehow there’s comfort in that. We’re all drawn to it. We all love it even though sometimes it can pull you under and make it hard to cope and deal with things that are happening in your life.
“I’M SORRY YOU’RE SORRY NOW”
I took from my own life for that song because I feel like I was so lost for a couple of years. I found myself giving too much of myself away in life in general…Unless you start taking responsibility for your own life and the problems that come your way, nothing is going to change.
If you see someone is just living the same cycles and nothing changes, you have to let that person go. Maybe you letting that person go is what helps make their life better. I’ve been in relationships where it’s been both. I’ve been the reason [w[why]t’s failed, and I’ve been [i[in situations]here the other person was [t[the reason]and it’s not a good feeling being on either side of it.
It’s a somber realization that even when it doesn’t feel like it’s your fault, everyone fucks up. Everyone does something that might not be what the other person can handle or take in at that point of their life. It’s about realizing that you’re the one this time that is to blame and being sorry about it but being sorry too late.
“DEATH IS ONLY THE END IF YOU ASSUME THE STORY IS ABOUT YOU”
That song is written about someone who thinks their life is perfect, who has everything going right for them, and then that person has everything stripped away from them because the person that really has it altogether passes away. It just leaves you with this empty hole that makes you realize how much you needed this other person. It’s meant to be a metaphor for someone or something really great in your life that you don’t really realize how much it means to you until it’s gone. Part of the last few years, losing some close friends, battling with my own demons, losing perspective [a[and]osing family members, [m[made me realize]ou’re just one piece of the story.
It’s not about any singular person. It’s about all of us and how we live our lives. If we live our lives the best way, we leave an impact that carries on to other people. If you assume the world revolves around you, you have that loss of perspective. You’re not going to be living your life the best way. We shouldn’t want to die, but we shouldn’t be afraid of it if we’ve been living our lives the best way.
MONOMANIA drops Feb. 21 via Fearless Records and is available for preorder here. The Word Alive are currently on the road with Falling In Reverse and Escape The Fate for The Drug In Me Is Gold tour. Tickets and a full list of dates are available here.
See more: 16 memorable band photos