Honing in on stereotypes and inequality that women suffered in the ’50s, Famous Last Words will bring a new story to life with their signature metalcore musical theatre style this year. J.T. Tollas (vocals), Craig Simons (drums), Tyler Myklebust (guitar), Matthew Bell (bass), and Evan Foley (guitar) are set to thrill audiences once more with their new album, The Incubus, set for release in September. Returning to the formula used in The Two-Faced Charade, Famous Last Words will present The Incubus in chronological order. After the initial story is formed, Tollas explains, “I just figure out, all right, what are the key points of the story that I need to tell? And those are the songs.” Much care is taken to ensure each song continues where the last one ended and results in an album that flows smoothly from track to track.
Let me tell you a story. The music of Famous Last Words is cohesive and set perfectly to lyrics composed to tell each story in painstaking detail. Describing his unique style of storytelling, Tollas says, “I’ll think of some crazy idea. I’ll get the story (a rough idea in my head) and then I will try to imagine it as a Twilight Zone episode. If I can imagine it from beginning to end as a Twilight episode, I know it’s possible to pursue. There are stories out there that can be way too much going on and it’s really hard to fit in the storytelling lyrics with the vague lyrics that [appeal] to people who aren’t 100% with the concepts.” The music is a story, but each piece can stand alone as a relatable song for the listener, who can determine their own interpretation or connection to an individual track.
But can you do it live? Musical storytelling requires a skillful touch to perform live without compromising the story or the music. Famous Last Words write fascinating tales set to compelling music, but their real strength is in their live performance. A consummate showman, Tollas instantly engages the audience, weaving together tales delivered in captivating clean vocals and powerful screaming. His faultless tenor exudes emotion from start to finish with a narrative that is impossible to resist. The melodies are perfectly balanced with rhythms to create the mood of each character and span emotions ranging from elation to terror, and everything in between.
It isn’t always easy. Like most kids, Tollas encountered problems as he grew up. In 9th grade, he had to leave school, which put him substantially behind his peers. Instead of giving up, he found a school that would offer an opportunity to catch up and finish high school early. Taking 25 classes in one year (core classes, because the school would not let him carry such a heavy class schedule if they were not all required courses), Tollas finished every one and graduated high school at the tender age of 16. In the process, he discovered an affinity for math and became a teacher at the school he graduated from, where he still works when he is not on tour with Famous Last Words.
War is hell. From their album Council of the Dead, Famous Last Words told individual stories with each song. Lyrics from the song “Brothers in Arms” say, “This air is so hard to breathe / Through the dust and the smoke and the torrid debris / Marching forward / Towards murder” in depicting battle from the perspective of a dead soldier. It is poignant in the scene it depicts, but relevant to anyone who has struggled. There are many forms of war, such as agonizing over how to makes ends meet in a failing economy or fighting for your life in a dangerous neighborhood, which brings us together in a brotherhood of survival.
Signed to Revival Recordings, Famous Last Words is surrounded by expectation and anticipation for their new record. So much excitement from the fans generated the opportunity to hear some of the new tracks at the live shows as they tour across the U.S. this summer. Do not be surprised if the videos for songs that will be on the album have you jumping and singing along. I predict Famous Last Words will be on my playlist permanently!