Aaron Pauley tells all about Of Mice & Men's new album!
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE APPROACHING THE END OF THE TUNNEL?
“It’s crazy, because to me I feel like I spend so long in the tunnel that I forget what its like being on the other side of it. Sometimes I get really caught up in listening to the new songs over and over and just thinking, ‘Is this going to be good enough?’ but in reality it’s only because I’ve heard them 100 times. I think we’re all perfectionists in our own ways.”
AND HOW’S THE MOOD IN THE BAND RIGHT NOW? IT SOUNDS POSITIVE…
“Rise Records was very lenient in letting us put out new music when ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Back To Me’. We told them straight-up that we just want fuel for the engine so we can go out and tour and meet our fans again and kind of reconnect with what being Of Mice & Men is for us and having spent a month in the States doing weekend festival shows and then we spent probably six or seven weeks overseas doing Download, Hellfest, Rock AM Ring… I really think having that forward momentum having come off a tour, we only took a couple of weeks after that to finish our writing and head into the studio.”
“I think having that momentum and having each other and being genuinely hungry, for wanting to put out new music and wanting to tour everywhere and wanting to just go 100… I think conversely, if you don’t try to hold onto that positivity and momentum, it’s really easy to just let that go and then all of a sudden you’re back to being in the same place where, ‘Oh no, we don’t have our lead singer any more’ but in reality, all of those feelings we dealt with at the end of last year, almost to be cognisant of the fact that we were going to have to have that in our psyche going forward.”
IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU STILL HAVE THE HUNGER…
“I read something once that said, ‘Success is never owned, it’s rented. And rent is due every day’. And I think that I can speak personally that I’ve never felt – no matter what we’ve done as a band – like, ‘Oh yeah, this is the pinnacle. I’ve made it to where I want to be’. Which maybe is a detriment because maybe I should feel that way about certain things sometimes, but for the most part it’s always just… it’s not from a place where it’s not good enough, it’s just from a place where I want to go further.
"If I’ve made it this far and there’s a door, what’s behind the door? I think for us as a band we’ve always felt that way. I remember coming off the back of the Linkin Park tour and that was the biggest shows we’ve ever played and the biggest venues we’d ever played at the time, and I remember thinking, ‘How do we get to a place where we can headline these?’ Once we got to that marker it wasn’t even about the marker any more, it was about, ‘Where are we going to take a step from here?’ And I think that’s part of the fuel that keeps us going.”
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE ALBUM?
“This album is chock-full of very energetic material. It’s very passionate, it’s very… I would use the word, ‘exciting’. And I use that not to grade it, but as a way of saying the overall vibe of the album is not one like ‘Cold World’. ‘Cold World’ was very subdued and came from a very dark, painful place in all of our lives, in all of our situations. It’s what we were going through as a band and as individuals when we made that record. This record sounds like Of Mice & Men coming off the back of a successful festival run.”
“For us, the overall vibe was reconnecting with the things we felt like made us US, which was first and foremost the message, but second was a lot of just the sound elements. Lots of percussive drums, lots of loud guitars but lots of dynamics, so there are a couple of softer songs, there are a couple of songs that build from soft to heavy, some that go backwards. I’m really, really happy with it.”
WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT RECONNECTING WITH WHAT THIS BAND IS, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU LOST THAT?
“I don’t know if it’s something that we ever lost it, or it was not a path that we could travel at that time. I think a lot of the stuff on ‘Restoring Force’ and ‘…Full Circle’ and those singles, there was a lot of energy, aggression and excitement. When we made ‘Cold World’, at the time Austin had gone through a couple of pretty debilitating surgeries and we hadn’t toured or done anything for the better part of a year. For us, making that record was kind of a way to evolve as a band in a way the line-up with Austin and where we were at the time could keep performing, because if we had written an album of all heavy material, there was a risk that Austin’s exit from the band would have happened sooner.
“I think we evolved to try to match what our limitations were at the time with regards to his health and also just where we were at. I think that record is a very sad record and a very dark record. I definitely think it has its place and I don’t regret it at all but I don’t think that people come to Of Mice & Men to listen to epically sad music or to feel things that are exceptionally, heavily sad. We’ve always been a band that’s been about hope, and even while ‘Cold World’ is all about hope, I just think the overall tone of it was different than the tone we’d really tried to focus on in the past, which was, ‘In those times, you either let the change define you or you define yourself through it’.
“I think for us on this record it was really, really important to reconnect with that energy for ourselves and for our fans and just for the future of the band, because I think Of Mice & Men has always been about overcoming adversity. When it was Austin it was about the adversities he would have to overcome and when it was he and I writing it was about different circumstances that we’d both lived through that we shared. That mainline through Of Mice & Men is still there.”
SO WHAT’S THE NEW MUSIC ABOUT ASIDE FROM HOPE?
“A lot of what I’ve been writing about is just change and how you fit through it, whether it’s being unsure of the future or whether you are sure of the future and then that’s gone. There is a Japanese principle called mono no aware, and it translates to ‘the pathos of things’. The overall teaching of it is that there’s a gentle sadness that runs through everything because everything is impermanent. Everything is beautiful because it is impermanent and I think it’s really easy to try to be hopeful and ignore the reality.
"It’s really easy to go, ‘Oh just get over it. Just be hopeful! Press on!’ but I think we don’t take enough time as people to go through our feelings, we don’t take enough time to actually validate that sadness of understanding that things end. You can kind of learn to live with that and get to a place where you understand that things are beautiful because they’re impermanent and there is a gentle sadness that flows through all impermanence and there is a larger, gentle sadness at their passing. From losing Austin in the band to losing Chris Cornell to Chester, things in my life with regard to my family, there’s so much change.
"I’m 29 this year, I’m going to be 30 next year and they say every 10 years is a major life change, but I feel like I had that a year or two early. For all of us, it’s just been about growth and been about understanding that change is inevitable. They say change is the only constant. So maybe as cliché as that is and maybe that doesn’t really wrap up everything into one tidy little package, but that’s definitely been the pinnacle from which every lyrics has stemmed from in one way or another.”
THERE’S NOW A BIGGER SPOTLIGHT ON YOU AS A SONGWRITER AND VOCALIST. ARE YOU FEELING THE PRESSURE?
“I never really try to think about how things are going to be perceived. For me, writing is very honest and I know it sounds cliché and everyone says the same shit, but for me writing is something that’s very personal, it’s not even something that I do around a lot of people.
"Generally when I write lyrics I’m alone because it’s something that’s very personal to me, it’s a very cathartic outlet so because of that I never try to think about outside perspective, but at the same time I have a very eclectic music taste. If I just tried to listen to my own music taste I’d probably be the only one that bought the record, so I think in a way all I ever try to do is listen to where it’s coming from.
"Where it goes after it’s been recorded onto a CD and either put into the internet or onto vinyl… I think after that it’s up to people to assign the meaning to it and decide whether they like it or not. That wouldn’t change that fact that it’s meaningful to me.”
Of Mice & Men tour the UK alongside Five Finger Death Punch and In Flames in December.
17 - BIRMINGHAM Arena
18 - GLASGOW Hydro
20 - LEEDS Arena
21 - LONDON Wembley Arena