During their tour with Parkway Drive, The Word Alive vocalist Tyler “Telle” Smith took a minute to speak with staffer Tim Dodderidge. The two discussed the band’s most recent album, their current tour, and the importance of lyrics in music.
How’s the tour been so far?
Awesome. We’re less than a week in, but every show has been insane. Last night was the best show so far – in Denver. Just the atmosphere for every band was awesome, and that to me makes the best shows. From the time While She Sleeps starts playing until Parkway ends, it was just awesome all night.
If I’m correct, this isn’t your first time touring with Parkway Drive. How’s it been hanging out with and opening for them over the last year or so?
They’re great dudes. They’re really nice, and for being one of the biggest bands I would say in heavy music period, they’re super humble and easygoing. They like touring with bands that are also that way too. We’re really happy that they felt we were one of those bands and wanted to take us out again.
Your latest album, Life Cycles, came out last summer. How’s the reception been from fans, and what’s the response been like in the live setting?
Incredible, honestly. Critically and with our fans, the CD went over really well. We play several songs – most of the songs actually are off Life Cycles right now. Part of that is because we haven’t done that many tours in the states since it came out, so we’re still getting fans songs they say they want to hear. Overall, it’s been great. Some of the songs are the best crowd reactions we’ve ever had. We’re definitely really stoked on it.
As far as your live performance goes, what songs do you enjoy playing, what songs do you think fans enjoy the most, and how do you try to balance the two?
The favorites for me are the songs the kids sing the loudest. Whatever that happens to be on a particular night, on this tour, three songs have been pretty close: “2012,” “The Wretched,” and “Life Cycles,” which is the song we close with. Those songs in particular are very crowd-participation, sing-along-type songs, so they do really well. We definitely play mostly fan favorites. I think we’re only playing one song on this tour that isn’t technically one of our “big songs,” and that’s “Room 126.” That one’s more for the people who like some of the guitar stuff we did on that song. I think that it’s a fun song and we enjoy playing it, but I definitely would say it’s not one of our bigger songs. We try to mix it up. We want to change things up and play different songs. Every tour we play something different or put a new twist on something old.
What was the method of creation like for the album? Was the writing and recording process any different than you had done in the past?
It actually was completely different. Tony [Pizzuti] wrote his songs and Zack [Hansen] wrote his songs, and we picked songs from those two groupings. We picked the ones that we wanted to record. Then we went in to record them, and I added in vocals over the top of those things. It was our first record we had done without our keyboard player [Dusty Riach]. Zack and Tony did all of the keys for each of their songs and they did a great job. It only has taught them so much more. So our next record is going to be way crazier, way more dynamic than even Life Cycles was. Some of it was rushed as far as the final product goes. We had so many songs that we didn’t focus as much on the individual ones. This time around, we’ve learned our lesson, and we know that quality comes before quantity. We want to really break down our songs and pick the ones that we really, really love, and ones that our fans will love too.
Did the band find itself in a rush to replace the members that left? How did you guys go about finding replacements?
We decided instantly that we didn’t want to replace our keyboard player. We wanted it to just be a five-piece. Realistically, with technology nowadays, and the fact that Tony and Zack are so good at programming (and Daniel is too), we didn’t really feel the need. If nothing else, it frees up a spot, and whenever we’re traveling, it frees up a space on stage. So it’s made some of the aspects of our live show and traveling a lot easier. We didn’t want to replace that. As far as our drummer [Justin Salinas], you’ve got to replace your drummer (laughs). So we had our friend Matt Horn play on the record, and he recorded all the songs for Life Cycles. We were looking for who was the best fit to tour with and bring out live, and add something new and fresh to the band. And we found Luke [Holland], and he’s been with us for a little over a year now.
What was your goal in terms of sound progression for the album? It seems as if the sound is a bit heavier.
I mean, we don’t necessarily set out and be like “We want our record to sound like this,” or “We need this many songs that sound like this,” or “We need to progress to this style.” We just kind of grow. We’re growing and learning more about ourselves and our instruments, and because of that, our music’s changing. We don’t sit there and write and be like “Well that song was really big, so let’s make a song that’s similar.” We want that song to stand alone and be special, and we want to create another song that’s just as special. That’s our mentality when we write. We just want to create something that feels new and fresh, but still The Word Alive.
What would you say were your goals for the lyrics? What were your main writing inspirations for Life Cycles?
I definitely wanted the lyrics to be more impactful on this record. With Deceiver, I was coming from a dark place. I was very angry, and at times hurt, and I felt betrayed. And there were a lot of those emotions that felt negative, except for maybe a couple songs. So I wanted to kind of show a different side of myself and different things I’ve been thinking. Some are still angry and dark, but also more introspective and looking at where my life has gone over the last six years of touring, and where it’s going to go even when I’m done making music. It’s a lot of those types of things – things that I felt people could connect with on an even bigger level. Because ultimately, I want people to hear our songs, and obviously I want people to love the music, but more than anything, I want them to read the lyrics and have them mean something to their life. If a song sounds cool, you might listen to it for a while, and then you’ll find another song that sounds cool. But if you find a song that connects with you on a very deep level lyrically, you’re going to listen to that song for the rest of your life. So that’s what my goal was, and I think I accomplished it with several of the songs. And several more, I wrote things that I think people could connect with but maybe not on a bigger scale. My goal is, I want to write songs that are meaningful, are real, that come from me, and also things that people could feel like, “I’m there right now,” or “I’ve been there,” or “If I start to go through something, I know that there’s that song for me.”
As a band, what are your main motivations? What fuels you guys, and what keeps you on the road year after year?
Well, I mean, part of it is the commitment we made. We signed to a label, we said we are going to make this many records with you, and we’re going to try and build a career off of it. The biggest part for us is that we love what we do. And that’s the most important part. We love making music. We love writing, recording, touring, playing shows, and we love seeing how this crazy idea of us being in a band together could take us all over the world – seeing where we could go and how far we could take it. And we’re all friends, and we want each other to succeed and do well, and that common ground really helps us to push forward.
Anything else you want to say to your fans?
Just thank you. That’s the biggest thing we could say. Thank you so much, whether you bought a CD, or bought a shirt at our merch table, or just come up to us at shows and give us hugs or high-fives, or tell us what the songs mean to you. All of that, it really helps us to keep moving forward as well.