When a band are gifted enough to extend their longevity past the 10-year mark, resting on your laurels can be a tempting practice. For Telle Smith and the Word Alive, that’s never been an option. 

Although if there’s any time to be nostalgic, it’s now. The metalcore mainstays are fast approaching the 10-year anniversary of their debut EP, Empire. However, Smith is far more concerned with the next 10 years rather than recollecting the past.

Read more: The Word Alive dropping debut EP on vinyl for first time

A decade shifts much more than a group’s sound or lineup over the years. It’s sometimes easy to forget musicians are people as well, and the biggest difference for Smith and his bandmates has been a change of mindset.

“Back then, we weren’t thinking very far ahead,” he recalls. “We were just thinking and living in the moment. Now it’s like, ‘OK, if we’re going to be a band in 10 more years, what songs are we going to be playing? What message are we going to want to sing about? How are we going to want to be perceived?’ That just wasn’t even in our realm of understanding at all back then.”

While the milestone is cause for celebration, the band will most likely be ringing in their debut’s 10th birthday from the studio. The Word Alive are currently working on their sixth album, but Smith says the band are treating it just like their first, as if “this is the last thing we do.”

“I feel like everything is different and not that much is different at the same time,” he says. “You never know what’s going to happen. You never know if you’re going to get a chance to keep making records. So the fact [that] we’re in the process of putting together our sixth album, it’s crazy. We remind ourselves of that when we’re in the studio. We try to have as much fun as possible.”

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The band are all in on the future. Their last two albums have been a far cry from their metalcore roots, but that’s intentional. The Word Alive are moving on to their next chapter, and they hope fans will help turn the page. 

“I think what we had been doing is keeping one foot in the past and one foot trying to go forward,” Smith says. “It was just holding us back from really taking that unique step forward where we just accepted who we are. We hope our fans do as well.”

Although the process hasn’t changed drastically since Empire, with the entire band fully wrapped into the songwriting, the goal is clear: “create a sound that’s unique to the Word Alive.”

“It’s definitely not metal, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no screaming at all,” he explains. “We’ve really done, so far, a great job of taking the guitars and the drums and making them still really creative, really cool and complex at times without forsaking the overall energy of the song. If a song has a certain vibe, like maybe it feels softer, maybe it feels aggressive or on the verge of anger, all the instrumentation is accenting an emotion.”

Read more: Miss May I were fully expecting to be forgotten after their debut album

While they long to move into the future, Smith understands they aren’t the only ones getting older. As their music continues to develop, the lives of their listeners are growing as well.

“Just because we’re playing doesn’t mean life stops happening,” he says. “Our fans aren’t teenagers anymore—a lot of them are in college. They have quote-unquote ‘real jobs.’ They’re paying their own bills. They have families to provide for.” 

It’s for that reason, Smith explains, that the Word Alive’s early hits will be stowed away in the “TWA vault” for special occasions such as the anniversary run of their debut full-length, Deceiver

“We understand that sometimes you need to give those fans extra incentive to come to the show because for them it’s like, ‘Oh, I’ll try to catch them the next time when I’m free,’” he says. “But a show like this, if that’s your favorite record, you’re going to take a sick day, or you’re going to get the babysitter, or you’re going to skip school, whatever it is.”

Thoughts going into touring, what to play and growing up all come full circle to what matters most. For TWA, it's the next chapter of music. 

“We’re here doing what we love, making music that we love, and it means a lot to us,” Smith says. “We’re not the same band, but we are the same people. We just want to make music. We’re always going to be a band that try to bring a powerful message and a lot of meaning to our songs. Hopefully people want to hear that for another 10-plus years.”

The Word Alive are celebrating their Deceiver anniversary alongside Miss May I, who are ringing in nine years of their sophomore record, Monument. Tickets are on sale now here.

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