Ahead of The Word Alive dropping their new album 'Violent Noise' this Friday, we had a chat with Telle Smith to chat about all the changes that the band have gone through recently, and what the future is looking like for them.
It’s the band’s first release since the lineup change, how’s that feeling?
It’s been awesome actually. A lot of people might not know but me, Tony [Pizzuti] and Zack [Hansen] have written almost every part of every The Word Alive song since day one. It’s always funny when people are like, ‘Oh, it’s never gonna be the same’. We’ve appreciated every member, and every member contributed to the sound and the shaping of the band, but the core of The Word Alive has always been the three of us. We’ve been the leaders of the band, on the songwriting front and otherwise, so it was really easy because it was only three of us in the studio - it was less cooks in the kitchen. Just the whole process of writing and recording the record was a lot more laid back. It was a lot more enjoyable, we got to take our time, more so because we weren’t waiting around for people to decide if they liked or didn’t like something, or, trying to be creative and needing more time. We were kind of just on fire with writing...someone just always had an idea, and we’d try so many different things. We wrote probably over 60 songs so it was really fun to make this record. And now starting to play these songs live, they’re coming to life so much…and I’m very very stoked.
The sound across the album is a lot more diverse than you previous records, where did that come from?
I think the big thing was we just wanted to create a sound, and a record, that was The Word Alive. Like, if you like these songs, then there’s not necessarily a lot of options for you to listen to something else. We wanted didn’t just want to make a record that sounds like someone else, just to try and keep up with what’s either popular or what people think of the band. We really wanted to carve our own niche into the hard rock/heavy music world and be experimental - try things and have fun, so there were no rules with this record. You can listen to this record as a whole, and you can tell by the way that the track listing is that it really flows well, but you need a little more [flexibility] with the idea of playlists and singles. It’s ok to love these two songs, and not these two songs… you don’t have to listen to the record as a whole to find something special that you love, so that was kind of our mindset - just writing music that we’re fans of, that we want to listen to, that we also want to play live.
That’s a good point. Songs get separated from albums and put on playlists all the time.
Exactly, we’ve just been like, fuck it, this is the way the industry is going. Physical CD’s are decreasing, Best Buy and Target in the states are going to stop carrying CDs. It’s just one of those things where no matter what you want it to be, the reality is it’s all about vinyl and streaming so we wanted to make this creative and cool thing. And our fans that are going to buy the record physically, we love that, it’s amazing and it helps us so much, but at the end of the day we’d rather you put your top ten favourite TWA songs in your daily playlist than to have a record that’s just going to collect dust because no one listens to CDs. It’s just the way it is, and we’ve accepted it.
The album feels incredibly raw and vulnerable. Where did that stem from?
Unfortunately it’s not been the best couple of years…and I think when we were getting into the writing process, it’s just whatever came out naturally was a little bit more open, and just a deeper level of honesty than I think ever thought I would go.
Now that we’re approaching ten years being a band, of touring…ten years of crazy experiences all over the world…and I just really started to focus in on, one, how crazy that is in an awesome way, and also it’s the last ten years of my life I’ve given to the road. I’ve missed so much, it made me…not be the best version of myself at times, and I’m getting back on track in the last six months or so, but it took me hitting rock bottom.
I got really sick, my mental health was not in a great place whatsoever. I was just kind of going through the motions; I was drinking a lot, and I started doing drugs which had never been a part of my life before, but i was fighting it because I’m not that person. I didn’t want people to think this was me, so doing all those things just put me in this weird headspace where I was self-aware enough to know that what I was doing was either self-sabotaging, or it was hurting someone I love. It was just taking steps backwards in life, but at the same time, it took me going through all that to get to where I am now, which is the best place, maybe ever.
What ‘Violent Noise’ means, and is about, is not a sonic thing. ‘Violent Noise’ is about that internal struggle that I’ve been through that so many endure - that voice in your head that won’t go away, that tells you this is right, or this is wrong. Mine was just kind of if you’re going to have a devil or an angel on your shoulder, picture that, but I just had five devils on each shoulder basically. I just kept making bad decisions for myself, for my friends, my family, and so the record ended up discussing a lot of that.
It’s not all dark, there are songs that are obviously uplifting, talking about the world, and just the perspective of where things are right now, but a lot of it does focus in on the shit that’s just therapeutic for me to get off my chest, and the darker side that I’ve written over the years - this is me letting that go, and this is me trying to move forward through that. A part of the therapy of writing music is knowing that other people are gong to relate to it, and it’s going to help someone else.
I’m doing everything I want too in life and still struggle. I have so many things to be thankful for and I still feel the way that someone who’s not doing that feels. So I think people will gravitate toward the emotion and the feeling of what violent noise is, and I think it’ll make the songs just feel more alive to them, than some of our older stuff.
Is being in a band a thing that perpetuates this behaviour? Due to the freedoms?
Yeah, it absolutely does. There’s a line in our song ‘Human’ that is; "I’m blessed, I’m cursed, fuck my head, making it worse". I know that I have an awesome life, and do really cool shit, but it comes at the cost of whatever things, negatively, that come from being gone. Missing out on your family, your friends, life events, it’s…you can’t escape that, you can’t do this, and do that, so you do have to make a choice that is inevitably going to hurt you - to do what you love. No one loves being gone from their family, friends, girlfriends, lives, or whatever. We’re basic beings - no one wants to miss funerals, and birthdays, and weddings, graduations…we’re not made that way, so it is a perpetual state of really good, and really bad, and it does put you in a place where it does drag on you mentally, more so than the average person might realise.
Have you ever reached a point where you’ve considered throwing in the towel?
Yeah, that happened actually after…well it fully hit this past December, so after the record was written, but it was going on for the last couple of years. Just because you know, getting older and starting to be like, what is my legacy? Is it all in this dude who’s singing into a microphone? Am I making my family proud? Am I setting myself up to have the life I want twenty years from now, thirty years from now…you can’t only live in the moment all the time. You do have to think of the bigger picture, and think, if I do this right now, this is going to have this impact a year from now, or five years from now. So personally it has crossed my mind, but every time I get to that point I find my way back to being more energised and passionate about the band than ever and I just feel like it’s where I’m supposed to be.
And how are you feeling for the future?
It felt like two steps backwards but now it’s six steps forwards. We’ve both personally, and professionally, had member changes which scares some people, but for us it was a good opportunity to re-focus the core. We have Matt Horn drumming for us and he’s great, he’s an amazing drummer, and he brings a new energy to the band. We do this thing now where we sit down and talk as friends about life. Not even as a band, we were trying to make sure that we remind each other that if we’re not friends and having fun, then there’s no point to this. It doesn’t matter how much we make, or how big of shows we play. If we’re not friends having fun then it just doesn’t matter, and so that’s all we want to do this album cycle. We want to grow our friendships with each other; share music with the world and hopefully people will gravitate to this record and love it so that we can keep doing it for as long as possible. We feel like going from ‘Dark Matter’ into ‘Violent Noise’ is the first time our band in the history of our discography, are coming off a record that grew our band, that we still love all the songs and playing them going into a record that we just love even more…it’s never happened. We’ve always kind of been back and forth, like, do we love these songs, do we not, is it the right record for us, is everyone fully into this? And this is the first time we’ve had two records in a row where it’s unanimous, so I feel like we’re finally finding who we are, and we have found who we are between the last one and this one and it’s fun to have no rules, and it’s fun to just being playing shows for the right reasons again and just enjoying the ride.
The Word Alive's 'Violent Noise' is being released May 04 through Fearless Records. It's available for preorder now, and you can get all of the info here.