Over the past year or so that I have been actively writing about the music industry and the scene, I have began to listen to genres that I never thought I would, and one of those is screamo/hardcore. Most often the music choices I make in that genre in particular are ones that aren't just screaming through out but those who also balance singing into it and a few that have been particulary successful in that way are Breathe Carolina, A Skylit Drive and this next band of Mice and Men. I've been lucky enough to sit down with all three of them and these guys in particular blew me away.
After a whole lot of waiting and promises of good things, the debut album for Of Mice and Men dropped on March 9th. It's something that both the fans and the band have been waiting for a long time, and from listening to it I believe both would be satisfied.
With stand out tracks like YDG and Those in Glass Houses amongst many others, their live shows are finally not the only thing fans can listen to and experience to really know the band. I talked to the group while they were on the second day of Alesana's 'The Emptiness tour' and they let me in on many different things. They explained to me what snarf is and gave me the insider edge on what is sure to be an insanely popular genre come the end of this year with farmcore. On a more serious note, they also gave me an in depth look at their songwriting process that has made them something different in the scene today and so much more.
How did Of Mice and Men first come together?
Jaxin: Well when the band first started out, it was Austin who was living in Columbus, Ohio and he has just finished his prveious music project and was looking for something else and I was looking for one as well. So we decided to get togther and with Rise and Artery backing us, we moved out to California and picked up these two guys and basically started writing music straight away and went into the recording studio a few months later, recorded our album and just started touring right after that so its (laughs) basically how it happened.
Who would you say are some of your bigger musical influences as a band and for the sound?
Shayley: I'm pretty opposite from what they listen to. I'm more of a nu metal kid, classic rock kid and that's pretty much my influences a lot for vocals. Inclubus, all of those really meaningful and emotional content filled songs. Not so much agressive. That's my influences anyways. Tino's a rapper for sure.
Tino: Definitely listen to a lot of rap. I feel like I developed my style of drumming back when I was listening to music and growing up in the music industry and going to shows and stuff. Definitely like I obviously don't play rap drums but I love breakdowns and I feel like I kind of bring a faster, more aggressive style of drumming from the stuff I listened to. August Burns Red, Misery Signals, Poison The Well, As I Lay Dying, Underoath, Prada. I feel that we all kind of listen to our own kind of stuff and it really brings a different background and a different element which really makes us unique but in the sense of how well it all come stogether and how well we can make everything gel.
And the brand new CD is coming out less then a month from now. How long has this album been in the process?
Jaxin: We arrived in California in March and basically we went straight into the writign studio and we worked all the way up to like four or five days a week. At least five days a week in the writing. Right up until July we were mostly in the recording studio so I guess it started in March. We finished recording in September and we headed out on the road on our first tour. So we've been patiently waiting since September to be able to show to everybody what we've been doing.
So um yeah since March already, so it's been a long time coming and I've never been so anxious to get everything out because being a band without a album and kids being able to listen to your music and really get into and to create a following because the kids like your songs is a hard thing. We only had one song on our myspace and really two songs but one of them was a cover song so it was hard for us to be able to share with everybody who's like following us what we were actually doing so that was probably the hardest part in waiting but we finished in September.
Tino: And we've been touring since then, just kind of in addition to what Jaxin is saying. To tour with no music is really, really difficult and the release date was originally supposed to be February 23rd so that seemed like a long time away from the time that we finished recording. So we tried to figure out how to get the music to the kids you know earlier and to let them hear what we've been doing other than live because that's all we had because we didn't get our tracks back until after they're mixed and mastered. It's definitely been a long time coming so we couldn't be more excited for it to come out.
And how did you go about the writing process since it is your first debut into kids listening to you?
Jaxin: Phil, want to answer that one? How do we go about the songwriting process?
Phil: Oh man, Tino and I would just jam. We just you know would fiddle something out at home and then demo that 'oh that sounds cool, maybe we'll work that out at practice'. We just keep moving on and that's how it all worked out. Just how the energy keeps flowing, just fast paced and that's basically how it happens.
Tino: Shay ends up coming into the process maybe a week before we went into the studio and he just kind of was into it and maybe do you want to talk about how you join in the writing process?
Shay: I basically you know, they told me what kind of music that inspired them sound wise with our own influences but in that genre which is you know like post hardcore or whatever genre we are. I always wrote about the meaningful stuff, just putting a message out there but in a really well read way. I guess with the melody, I just pretty much did what my heart told me and whatever they told me, sucked it all in.
Tino: He probably had the hardest time because Shay's old band doesn't sound like us that much and his background and his music isn't exactly what our background was so him coming in, while we were recording, and starting to write was once we started getting the songs finished. That's when he came in and did vocals. He had to come in and be like 'hey is this good? is this good' and we'd be like 'Yeah! Let's do it! More of it!'. He had to take the most criticism because we had never really heard him sing before. I mean he had showed us demos and stuff but when he started laying down the vocals, I feel that his voice brought the record in an almost completely different direction but we loved it even more then we expected to because his voice carries. You can really feel the passion in the way he sings and with his meaningful lyrics and it really brings a whole different element that I don't feel like many bands in our genre really have. There is singing and screaming but his singing, like is not something that you would expect over like breakdowns or even rock.
Jaxin: It's a good contrast. It's like a positive contrast. It's extreme, but it's a positive contrast to what Austin's doing. Austin's got his like screams and stuff and Shay comes in with this really unique sounding voice, so we were super suprised and stoked to have this development through this cd which was like a crash course in music like we said. You know it happened once we got to the recording studio and it worked.
Shay: There were times though, since where we were recording there was no like rehearsal booth or practice space so I had to go in the van and actually sit there, blast hte music, sing my melodies and after that there would be times where I go into the van, twenty minutes later we're recording the song, the melody that I just wrote and I'm like 'Oh Shoot, that's going to sound so dumb', play it back with the harmonies on it, and actually think 'Wow, when I'm under pressure, I do well'.
And then this is kind of goofy, it's only the second day but you're probably familiar with the other bands styles. If you could collaborate with another band on this tour, and what do you think the song would be about?
Jaxin: It's hard because we're actually really all the same in a kind of way. We're all pretty similar as far as our music kind of goes. I guess probably I'd personally want to do it with A Skylit Drive because it's like Jag's voice is so different then anything we do so it would be cool to do something with those guys. We've been friends with those guys for a long time.
Tino: Especially like Nick and Joey for such a long time like from when Skylit Drive played their first show like ever and they're just such good guys. I think everybody in that band is such a talented musician. Not that everybody else in any of the other bands aren't you know but they would definitely be a great band do something with. I'm down!
What is Snarf? I follow most of you on twitter just to get an idea of what to expect and the last five tweets from Nick are snarfing.
Jaxin: We want to collaborate together to make a band called Snarf which is a crazy melodic death metal pig band. Basically, like have real pigs on stage and just play music with pig squeals done by real pigs.
I had no idea what that was.
Tino:Now it's a musical project, idea, adjective.
Jaxin: Man that was so snarf! Snarf is the new thing. Farmcore.
I know you're playing both Warped and Bamboozle. What are you most excited for?
All(at the same time): Warped!
Jaxin: They're both really huge but warped is like you know two months long, like a million bands.
Tino: It's like summer camp!
Shay: Being a band, not many bands get to actually be on the Warped Tour. It's such a good feeling.
Tino: I was going to Warped Tour like when I was thirteen or fourteen and finding out about bands. Being like "Oh! This guy wants me to go check out this band at this time and I'd go to the stage and be like "He's in the band!" Just being so awestruck. That's how warped tour is you know. All the bands are all there, hanging out, trying to show all thsee kids that go to this. It's a really cool time to really promote your band and get to know your fans because it's hard to get their attention with so many bands on a tour like that!
Shay: I'm really excited to be hanging out with kids and to be at the merch and you know. Mark my words for saying this or regret my words but being in the sun and outside..Watch, it gets old after like four days, sunburned like a lobster or something.
Jaxin: When I came to America, I got picked up, went straight to the first day of Warped Tour and I was teching for a band called The Higher. Every single day, for the whole tour, I would stand on stage and watch the band play and wish that I was doing it. Just being like, 'Man this would be so cool. It's such an awesome experience to be there' and now that I'm going to have the opportunity to do that. It's just that dream that you wish you could be doing what they're doing and now we are so its' been awesome.
And now the last one since I know the show is getting close. What was the first show you went to as a kid?
Shay: The first show I went to was Three Dog Night.
Phil: Oh Wow.
Tino: My first show that I wanted to go to was Rage Against The Machine but my dad didn't let me go and so then for my fourteenth birthday he took me to go see CAKE and that was ten years ago to this day. That was my first concert like that. I think one of my first shows that like I really listened to was probably like Bleeding Through and Underoath, Darkest Hour and Atreyu something like that and the venue was probably like a fifth the size of this one like a 250 capacity venue that wasn't sold out and I was probably like 'Man! These bands are so heavy!'.
Jaxin: My first was 5ive! (laughs)