Every band says the same vague, contradictory things about their new record: “It’s heavier,” they say. “But it’s more melodic, too.” But the latest from Wage War, Pressure, actually pulls it off, with surprising new elements from inside the band and out.
Producer Drew Fulk (Motionless In White, Lil Peep) keeps metal at the core of Wage War’s third record, as heard in the haymaker leadoff single “Who I Am.” That opening cut sets the tone and theme for the new album, which drops Friday on Fearless Records.
The band and its songwriters are older and wiser, leaving behind all things negative and pushing on in search of solutions. While 2017’s Deadweight was all about lingering heartbreak, things get lighter this time around. Sometimes.
Between albums, the Florida quintet kept the buzz going strong with unplugged versions of fan favorites, “Johnny Cash” and “Gravity.” The acoustic sounds are one softer side that didn’t make it onto the album. Instead, Wage War found new ways to balance their trademark mosh interludes.
Now screamer Briton Bond also sings radio-ready vocals on half the tracks, including the expansive “The Line.” That catchy standout track is one of two songs co-written with Andrew Goldstein, the ace songwriter and producer whose credits include Demi Lovato, Britney Spears, 5 Seconds Of Summer and All Time Low. But worry not: All the band’s brutal parts are intact, too: Electronic flourishes actually enhance crushing passages such as the slow-burn breakdown in “Prison.”
Cody Quistad—the group’s co-clean singer, rhythm guitarist and chief songwriter—discussed the next evolution in Wage War’s sound and personal lives with AP.
Do you have plans for stripped-down versions of any songs from this album?
100%. I can’t say which ones yet for sure. Some will bridge nicely into that. I think “Hurt” will do well. We’ll probably do one of “Grave.” I think we’ll do one for “Prison.” It’s interesting that it went well, because we love doing it, and we love so many styles of music.
Will stripped songs be part of the tour?
No. Not at this point. We’d love to do it. But there are a lot of moving parts. You need a lot of personnel for the guitar changes. And we’re still a pretty DIY band. If we did it by ourselves, it would take five minutes to change over.
Do you know which songs will make it into the live set?
I do. I don’t want to give away the setlist. We’ll play “Ghost,” which is one of the most aggressive songs we’ve ever put up. We’ll probably play “Who I Am,” “Low,” “Me Against Myself,” “Prison,” “Grave”—that’s like the first five songs on the album.
How did you connect with Drew Fulk?
He was in Florida working on some stuff. We had some mutual friends. So we met up late [one] night, got some drinks and talked about life and music. I shared my vision for the new record, and he was on board with it. When you work with somebody, you want a good friendship. And it became one of the easiest things we’ve ever done.
What was that vision?
[WW’s debut album] Blueprints, in my eyes, was textbook metalcore. For Deadweight, we expanded on that a little more and put out the stripped-down songs. And somewhere in the middle, everyone seems to be happy. We wanted to make something that maybe transcends the “metalcore” genre. I think there’s a song or two for everybody, whether you like our band because we’re heavy or because you like the singalong stuff or riffs.
Briton contributes more clean vocals on this album.
We were super-stoked on that. It was something he’d been talking about doing. We came into the studio the first day, and he jumped up to do “Grave.” That’s one of our favorite songs from the album. He knocked us all flat, like, “Where did that come from?” It opened up a whole new world for our band.
“Me Against Myself” is so melodic. Was that a flex?
We hope the whole album is a flex. We pride ourselves on being songwriters and doing what makes sense for a song.
The clean parts of “Forget My Name” are almost radio ready. Would you ever completely drop the heavy parts and write a straight-up pop song?
I wouldn’t put a ceiling on what I think we would do. We wrote that with Andrew Goldstein. He’s worked with a lot of popular artists. The song is weird, honestly. People think they know how we structure songs, but that is a whirlwind. It’s everywhere.
How did you connect with him?
People on our team have been friends with him for a while. And I think he had a wild [urge] and wanted to work with a metalcore band. He checked out our band and thought we were sick.
It’s only been two years since Deadweight.
We’re always writing. If it was up to me, we’d be dropping music left and right. I would have done this record even sooner if I could.
When you wrote the previous album, you were 23. Now you’re 26. That’s when a lot of guys start to turn a corner and see life in a different way. Do you feel like you’re a different person now?
Deadweight was a pretty personal album about heartbreak and a relationship that had happened around Blueprints coming out. This album deals with a lot of different things.
“Who I Am” reads like it’s the album’s theme statement, and you’re figuring out who you are.
To a fault, I’m a YouTube comment reader. I’ve read everything anybody has ever said about our band on the internet. One day, I was sitting there, and I thought, “That’s a person sitting on the other side. And people are treating each other like they’re awful.” Wage War, it’s something I pour myself into. And for them to just go on there and go, “This sucks!”? Maybe that’s something people can relate to. Not to be too hippie, but we’ve got to love each other and be nicer to each other. That’s what we were hoping to convey with the album.
That was the whole idea with the diamond branding and theme: Pressure is essential to make a diamond, for something beautiful to come out of it. Pressure isn’t inherently a bad thing. It’s how you let it affect you: You can either crumble under it and let it get the best of you, or you can turn into something good and persevere through it. As corny as it sounds, the album is our diamond.
Pressure drops Friday and is available for preorder here. The band will be heading out on a headlining tour next month with support from Like Moths To Flames, Polaris and Dayseeker. A full list of dates and tickets are available here.