MEB staffer Alexa Rahmanparast recently spoke with Tyler “Telle” Smith of the metalcore band The Word Alive. They talked about embarrassing accidents, their upcoming album, the Vans Warped Tour, and much more.
MEB: So are you excited for tonight’s show?
Tyler: Always, Orlando is one of our favorite places to play. I mean Florida in general, but definitely here at the House of Blues in Orlando. The crowd usually goes crazy, so I’m expecting a good night.
How has the tour been so far?
Well this will be show number five. Almost every night has been sold out and it’s some of our best crowds we’ve ever had, so I can’t complain at all. It’s been really great. I’ve known every person on this tour, aside from the Hands Like Houses dudes for like five or seven years, so it’s kinda like a family reunion of sorts too.
Have you had any interesting stories happen while on the tour?
Not too much yet. I did, right before the tour started actually, a really embarrassing and unfortunate little accident happened to me; still kind of recovering. I was lying down on the couch of my hotel in Arizona before we left for tour and I felt a really big sneeze coming on so I started to sit up. I sneezed like the most vicious sneeze of my life and pulled a muscle in my neck and snapped some nerve. For a few minutes I was literally paralyzed. I couldn’t move my entire body and I was like freaking out thinking that I was gonna have to be carried out on a stretcher or something. I couldn’t move my hands, feet, nothing. And I’m like calling to our merch guy and photographer, Dan, and I was like “Uhhh,” he was in the other room and I was like “…Dan, can you come in here?” and he picked me up. Then my blood started flowing back again and I was able to move around a little bit, but I was in extreme pain. I couldn’t move my head more than like that [moves head slightly to the right]. It was just like solid. My head might as well have been in one of those neck braces that keeps you looking the same way, but that happened right before tour so that’s how I started the tour. I’m still really sore, but I’m in a lot better shape now.
That’s good to hear!
It’s kind of like, out of all the things I do, on stage especially, to be injured from sneezing is kind of embarrassing. [Laughs]
Yeah, it must be kind of difficult with your flips and stuff.
[Laughs] Yeah, well I’ve only done one since that happened and I shouldn’t have even done that, but of course I fell. It was the first one I’ve done since October and I was just really, really anxious and excited, so I over-rotated and flew. I was fine and who knows, maybe I’ll pull number two tonight. We’ll see how it goes.
I’ve recently come across several silly pictures of you guys saying you shouldn’t be taking life too seriously, so do you have any other reason that you guys do that?
I mean we think it’s hilarious. It’s mostly me and Luke [Holland, drummer] doing it. We make funny faces all the time, usually together, but it started mostly because, you know live (concert) photos. Everyone always gets those photos where they’re like mid-headbang and one eye is open, their tongue is out, their nostrils are flared; you look like you have five chins. So we would always zoom in on the photos, screen shot it and then send it in our group texts with the band and crew and we’d all just send in really messed up pictures of each other to the group photo and we’d just try to top it. We just think it’s hilarious and it’s just something that, me and Luke in particular, we do all the time. We have little battles sometimes. I’ll post an embarrassing one to him and he’ll text me and be like “Dammit.” Then like five minutes later I get a text and he’ll just laugh and I’m like “alright” and then I’ll go and check twitter or something and sure enough, my @ replies are just kids laughing at me and I’m like “okay, what did he post?” and I’m like “dammit, it’s something ridiculous.”
You guys have recently been playing a new song called “Play the Victim”. This is off of your new album, correct?
Can you tell me a little more about it?
It’s one of the first ones that we wrote all together in a room. It actually is the first song we wrote with Luke, Daniel [Shapiro, bass], me, Zack [Hansen, lead guitar], Tony [Pizzuti, rhythm guitar], like all of us wrote and it was really organic. It’s kind of a more stripped down song compared to some our older stuff. It doesn’t have a lot of programming in it and the programming it does have is more like real instruments, like piano and orchestra-type stuff and it kind of encapsulates the whole record better than some of the other songs do. Some are, you know, more progressive towards our newer sound. Some [songs] are more for where we’ve been but still growing as well, and this song is kind of the middle ground song for the record, it kind of shows off little aspects of where we’re headed as a whole or at least part of where we’re headed. And it’s mostly singing actually in the song, but it has some really heavy parts. Zack has a really badass guitar lead. Tony came up with this really sick riff for a verse and the drums are insane. Bass is crazy; it’s the best, coolest bass parts up until, you know, you’ll hear the record. There’s even more, but compared to the past, Daniel really shines too, and overall, it’s a sign of growth for our band. So far we’ve had amazing feedback on it and those are just based off of shitty quality videos on Youtube. So I’m really excited for people to actually hear the real version, but live it’s been going over great. It seems like people have already known the song because I think it’s a really natural song to feel the energy of it and that’s what we wanted and that’s why we’re playing it.
So how would you describe your new sound?
Well this song in particular is, I think it’s just bigger. It’s a little more, I don’t want to say rock-influenced, but it kind of is I guess. And the influences of our band shine a little bit more; you know, older stuff like Deftones and even like Glassjaw and Finch and different things. Some of the bands that we listen to that helped create our desire to be in a band I think shined through better in this. We don’t sound as modern if that makes sense. I think we sound a little bit more like a, it’s used all the time, but a more mature band. We’re just trying to focus on writing great songs and not about writing parts, so hopefully that’s what people get when they listen to it.
So can you tell me a little bit more about your new album?
Yeah, I mean I think as our band has progressed the last five years, we’ve had fans of Empire, fans of Deceiver, fans of Life Cycles, fans of all three or a mixture of two and I think this record is one where we were able to hone in kind of what I think made each release great. We were really able to showcase the individual talent, but in a way that makes the band as a whole stand out instead of doing something just for the benefit of an individual. We tried to record the songs in a more natural way where we let whoever was feeling the part kind of take over and kind of create their vibe over a part instead of being like “well we need to have this many guitar solos, we need to have this many breakdowns, we need to have this many like structures that go this way.” We weren’t thinking that way.
We just tried to write the songs that we felt would go over live ‘cause we consider ourselves a band that you should see live. Whether that’s for the energy or so you can actually see what’s going on with all the different instruments and the abilities that everyone has. We tried to capture our live show into our songs a little bit more. I mean vocally, I feel it shows the most growth and that’s easier for me to say because I know that’s something I really, really focused on. I think the lyrics are better written. I think the choruses are way stronger than any album we’ve ever had. I mean, even like the least favorite song on the record to people will still be one that you can sing along or hum to. You’ll catch yourself like having it in your head and that was kind of my mentality. You know, I wanted to write things that you were gonna remember even after you’ve heard it for the first time. We have some of the lightest songs we’ve ever done; one doesn’t really have any screaming. One barely has any, but it’s not screaming like metalcore screaming, it’s more like, I don’t know, like Rolling Stones or something. It’s more like old school and not to try to be brutal. So we have songs like that and we have the ones that our most metal of fans and people who think that everything sucks unless it has breakdowns and guitar solos, we have something for them too.
So how do you find the balance between like really light and heavy?
I mean, the balance for us is we didn’t want to put out anything on this record that wasn’t gonna help propel The Word Alive to be able to continue to have a career. We didn’t want any song that was just because one member wrote it and was like “I want my song on this record.” We strayed away from that ‘cause on the last record, we had so many songs and part of it was because people had differences of opinions on what songs should be on the record, so we just did all of them, or almost all of them. But with this record, even if we had a song that a few of us were into, we tried to pick songs that all five of us unanimously were like “This is a The Word Alive song, this is something that represents our band, this is something that we feel confident putting out, that we could explain, song-to-song, why we did it, what it means, what it is supposed to accomplish for our band.” And that mentality is less is more. We’re gonna have fewer songs than the last album and it was just a quality over quantity type of thing. We really want you to focus on that this time around ‘cause it’s so important. I think that’s what we did with our EP and Deceiver. We didn’t try to write 40 songs and then try to pick the best ones, we just wrote a batch of songs that we all loved unanimously and that’s kind of the mentality we had with this record.
Do you have a favorite song off of the album?
I do, I really like the one that we’re playing, “Play the Victim”, but probably my favorite one, the pre-production title of it was “Five Two” for the people who were following along, watching our board updates, but I believe it’s gonna be called “Your World”. I could be wrong, but you’ll know which song it is ‘cause that’s one of the main lyrics is “your world, something” and I’ll just let people listen to it. But I think it’ll be the last track of the record and similar to Life Cycles where “Astral Plane” was the last song, it’s kind of a, not an “Astral Plane” part two, but it kind of has that feeling. Anyone who loved that song will love this song. And that’s one of my favorite styles, like ambient, big but memorable and something where you can feel the emotion. It puts you in a specific mood or it enables you to be like “If I’m in this mood, that’s the song I wanna listen to,” it’s kind of that song. It’s a darker one and it’s probably my favorite one.
Do you have a release date for the album yet?
Before Warped Tour. [laughs] Warped Tour is not that far off, so that’s where we’re at right now.
For this album you worked with Cameron Mizell and John Feldmann for the first time, so what was that experience like?
It was awesome. This record combined has been with a lot of great people. I did pre-production with vocals so I could get out all of my ideas, which I was able to do a little bit on Life Cycles, but I really did it on this album. I went with Erik Ron who did the new Get Scared record, who’s worked with Motionless in White recently, New Year’s Day, he did their last new record and he’s really great with vocals. He lives right down the street from me and we’re friends, so it made sense to work with him. Then we took the songs and we went in with Cameron and we recorded. He trimmed the fat, and added in, filled the hole so to speak. A dream of all of ours was to work with John Feldmann and we had finished the record – or what we thought would be the record – when we were like “There’s still an aspect of where we could go in the future that we’d like to maybe put our foot in the door now,” and those are the lighter songs.
It’s really focused on, like, just a really good song. It’s really easy for people to really grasp onto. I think one of the songs in particular is probably the catchiest thing that we’ve ever written and we attribute that to John’s mentality to writing. He just gets in your head and is like “What is your band about? What do you want to say? What message are you trying to convey through your music, through your lyrics, through your vocals, through the melodies?” He really gets inside of the band; he almost becomes, for us, a sixth member. We did two songs in two days and they came out great, so we’ll see what people will think of them, but they’re very different. We’ve never done anything like we did with him and it’s not like we went in and were just like we wanted to write pop songs ‘cause I think heavy songs can be catchy, but I think it balances a side of us that we’ve never shown before, but that we all love. We’ll see, but it was great working with them and now Dan Korneff is mixing our record right now. He did Sleeping With Sirens’ Feel, he just did the new Dayshell record, he’s worked with Deftones, Killswitch Engage, so we brought in all of these people because we wanted this record to be our best record and I think we accomplished that. They all played their part.
I read online that one of the reasons the album has taken a while to be released was because you were trying to get some of your friends to collaborate. So are these some of the friends that you were referring to?
There are some people that we have in mind that we’re trying to work out some scheduling stuff ‘cause right now is a really busy time. Whether it’s that bands are recording their own records or that a ton of our friends are in Australia playing SoundWave or they’re on their spring tours here in the States and internationally in Europe. It’s a big time here so it’s really hard because we have our deadlines and then they have their tours and their deadlines, so it’s really hard. But yeah, we’ve definitely been trying to solidify our options and pick people who want to be on the record and have heard stuff that we’ve done and are really excited about it. So hopefully there will be some people on it, maybe there’s one, maybe there are three, maybe there are none, but our hope is that we can work out the schedule, so that we can. If not, we’re fine with the songs how they are.
Who would be some of the people you’d be interested in working with?
Well, I can’t say that. I can say that one of the people we were trying to work with was Chino [Moreno] from Deftones and Crosses, but scheduling didn’t work out for that and that person I can say. But yeah, there are some other people that it might still happen with and it might not, so I want to wait, just in case. I don’t want to get people’s hopes up or start the “what ifs,” but I’ll let people say “what if” about Chino ‘cause he’s one of my favorite singers ever.
This is the first time you’ve record with Luke, so what was that like?
It was great. He’s obviously an amazing drummer and he’s young, talented and wanted to really add to the songs and give us a new aspect to our music – a new dynamic – and he definitely did that. The drums are on a whole new level from what they’ve ever been in the past and that’s just what he is. He’s, for lack of a better term, a prodigy. He’s 20 years old, he’s seven years younger than me and he’s way further ahead than I was at 20, or any of us in the band were at 20. I think this is just the start for him of showing what he can do and add to songs and I think people are gonna be really happy with what he’s done, but it’s not like he was like “Oh I’m really good at drums, so I’m just gonna shred the drums every song, all song long” ‘cause any of us could do that. But that’s not what we want to play and that’s not what we feel our fans are looking for. People know what we can do and it’s better for us, in our opinion, to accent that and give it small doses here and there. We’re not trying to just showboat the whole time. We want to write a great song that you can listen to for the rest of your life, so that was our goal with it, but Luke killed it.
Do you guys have any plans for after this tour?
We’re going international. We play UK, Russia with Memphis May Fire to both of those places as well and then we’re out on full Vans Warped Tour this summer. We’re on the Monster Energy Stage and we’re going to be playing at least two new songs. I’m sure we’ll play “Play the Victim” ‘cause it’s been going great already and it’s not even out yet. But we’ll probably add another one into the set and probably play six, seven songs and just make it all our fan-favorite songs plus two new ones and we’ll see how the record does and then we’ll keep going after that.
Are you excited to play Warped Tour?
Yes, it’s our third year and my fourth, personally, so we’re kind of getting to the veteran status now and it’s awesome to see how it’s grown, developed, and changed and I’m anxious to see how we do on it this year.
Thank you so much for the interview! Do you have anything additional you’d like to say to the readers of MEB?
Just thank you for talking about our band, caring about our band, reading. If you like this interview, re-post it, share it with your friends and hopefully pick up our new album when it comes out.