MEB staffer Nick Niedzielski recently caught up with I The Mighty vocalist and guitarist Brent Walsh to talk about the band’s debut album Satori – from lyrics to recording – as well as their upcoming tour with Say Anything and much more.
MEB: Y’all just released your debut full length Satori. What kind of sound were you going for with this record?
Brent: We didn’t have a specific sound in mind when we began writing the record. We just kind of wrote, and whatever felt right we kept.
What overall messages and themes are prevalent on this record?
Existentialism, acceptance, growth, heartbreak, friendship, and political corruption.
Your lyrics are often politically charged and have a message to them. How important is it to you as a band to write music that has a deeper meaning to it?
We don’t want to come off as preachy or seem like we constantly push a political agenda. However, I believe in writing what inspires you. Politics have always frustrated and fascinated me. There’s a lot of really interesting stuff going on, and I’m sure that won’t change, so it will likely always be a part of my writing.
How did the idea for the spoken word video come up, and how does the message delivered there incorporate into the album’s overall themes?
The spoken word was just a free-write that I wrote one night and that I eventually shared with my good friend/our manager Daniel Rubin. He kind of had the idea to record it as an album teaser. So right after we got done with the “Speak to Me” video shoot, he had me just stand there in front of the camera and let it all out. It felt good to be honest…but I have to admit I was quite nervous to put it out. It’s the most vulnerable thing I have ever done and I had no idea how people would react to it. Luckily, most people seemed to really connect with it and I got a number of really sweet emails and messages about how it helped or inspired people. I’m glad I was talked into recording it that day. There’s a section of the speech where I say “embrace your failures, abandon your ego…” etc. That section is where the album’s themes are laid out.
Was there any type of progression or experimentation that you wanted to dive into on this record that wasn’t necessarily there on Karma Never Sleeps?
We just wanted to really give it everything we had. Everyone pushed their abilities and limits musically, while always keeping in mind what would be best for the song and its vibe/message. I think the four of us as a group grew so much within the writing period just as songwriters and collaborators.
Were there any major differences in writing for a full length as opposed to an EP? What was the writing and recording process like for Satori?
You almost feel like with a debut EP it has to be comprised of all singles. You want to make a splash immediately. With a full length you’ve got so much more room for variety. Things can hang and breathe. I’ve always loved records that crescendo and decrescendo so that it feels like a journey. I’m really proud of what we did with this record and the tracklisting. The writing and recording process was pretty simple and organic.
The record definitely has a lot of really technical guitar parts on it, and the drumming is especially impressive. Do you feel that having the ability to play an intricate style gives you an advantage in writing? Like are you a little more free to get creative and break the mold a bit more? Alternately, is it ever a struggle to find a balance between technically challenging music and music that is catchy and melodic?
Luckily, the four of us are all melody-driven writers. We like to get down and play with strange time schemes/melodies, but we’re all big fans of a great hook. The balance we’ve struck between the two just kind of happened on its own. Again, it all comes down to the individual song. Some we felt it was okay to let loose and do some riffing, and others it felt better to just groove.
“Speak to Me” was the first track released, and it is also one of the most aggressive on the record, especially vocally. What was the thought process of putting it out first?
We just felt like that song was a banger with a big chorus. We wanted to catch people off guard a bit and grab some attention. Then we went with something a little more classic I The Mighty for the second single.
There have been a lot of albums leaking early recently. What are your thoughts on the issue of leaking albums and the handling of a leak?
At this stage in the game, albums are going to leak. Luckily ours didn’t TOO early. What can you really do though? Prevent it as much as you can and just be glad people are interested in it enough to download when it does leak.
You guys are fixing to go on tour with Say Anything. How are you looking forward to that?
As I write this, I am actually sitting on the front bench seat of our van, leaving California. The first show is in a few days away and I could not be more excited. We love every band on this tour. Say Anything has been one of my favorite bands for years.
I was lucky enough to catch one of your shows at SXSW this year and y’all definitely have a lot of energy live and have a commanding stage presence. How important is it for bands nowadays to have a tight and captivating live show?
I personally tend to truly fall in love with a band after I see them live. I think it’s really important for the music to translate. We work hard to do everything we can to make that happen. My favorite bands tend to be the ones that are better live than on their records and I hope people say that about us.
Do you guys have any plans for after the Say Anything tour?
We have another tour in the works for the fall. When we get back from Say Anything we’re probably going to just work on some stuff behind the scenes and get another chunk of songs from Satori in check so that we have a variety of songs to choose from for the next tour. We’ve got some ideas for additional content/videos for the new record that need some attention as well. On a more personal note, I’m going to do everything I can to make it to “Burning Man” this year. If anybody’s got a ticket to sell, get at me! Haha
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’d like to add that we are so thankful and humbled for all the great feedback we’ve been getting for this new record and we hope to see anyone who reads this at a show someday. If you haven’t heard any of it yet, please check it out when you get a second and if you like it, TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS!