2014 has been quite the year for Issues. After touring the world with big names in the heavy music scene right now, they have gained a rapidly-growing fan base and exposure to the world at incredible measures. On top of touring all over the place, the band dropped their debut self-titled album, introducing their unique mix of metal, R&B, EDM, and everything in between. Before hitting the stage on their first US headliner in New York City, MEB editor Emma Guido was able to chat with lead singer Tyler Carter and find out what’s in store for Issues’ extremely bright future.
MEB: It’s an understatement to say that 2014 has been an amazing year for Issues. You’ve toured all over the world with incredible bands and just a couple days ago kicked off your very first headliner in the US. How does it feel to make such rapid progress in such a small amount of time?
Tyler: It feels pretty sweet. We owe it to the fans, obviously. We never imagined that we would be doing a headliner already or that it would be in these upscale rooms. It’s been really cool being able to do it and pack out the rooms. Everyone’s worried about selling out all the rooms, but, to me, I just want to put on a show. I don’t care what room we are in as long as there are kids there singing the lyrics. We know how to put together a production and that’s what entertainment really is. We are pulling it off and it’s been really good.
What do you think has been the major contributor to your success?
We are very self aware and we micromanage our band very diligently, so I think that being super independent and having visions all the time [really helps us].
You guys are on the road almost all the time now. Do you have moments on tour where it becomes really hard to be away from home?
Yeah, sometimes I get anxiety because I’m tired and I don’t want to deal with people. When you are at home and you don’t want to hang out with friends, you can just go in your room, put on Netflix, and just be alone for two days or whatever. Out here, you are on a tight schedule. Most days I am stoked and ready to go, but some days I just wish I could just chill and be alone. You don’t just get to choose when you get that moment, so that could be a bummer sometimes.
How do you overcome it?
I don’t know, drink some whiskey (laughs). It’s never like that once I hit the stage because I’m excited and the fans pump it up. If I’m trying to chill and need to get amped, I usually do some jumping jacks, take a shot of whiskey or something and just get amped. Turn up!
You’ve especially been outside of the US for a good portion of the year. What was that experience like?
That was crazy because, speaking of panic attacks and anxiety, we were going over 24 hours without sleeping and flying nonstop. Every single day was a flight to a new city to play a show, then you might sleep for three hours and then you fly to the next city. Jetlag isn’t even the worst of it. Being in a new place is already exhilarating but then you top that with anxiety. It just gets really crazy, but it was fun and worth it! That’s where we learned to overcome a lot of that, by flying every day and doing a world tour.
After gaining exposure to the music scenes of places outside of the US, what are some of your favorite places to play?
I definitely think that Japan is one of my favorite places ever. We are really trying to book a tour in Hawaii in 2015. We just want to do a show there and just vacation for a minute. I love Hawaii; I just came back from there. We have a lot of fans over there. I met kids everywhere I went and I was just like, “Wow! This is so crazy!” It feels super cool. But yeah, Japan is my favorite spot, besides the UK, which is like a second home to us.
What do you like so much about Japan?
They can’t speak English, but they just know all the lyrics somehow! It’s really funny, because the parts where there are no lyrics always get super loud because they love melodies. They are a very melody-oriented music market out there. Anything with melody is huge; that’s why they are addicted to karaoke in Japan.
Now, one of the biggest contributors to musicians’ worldwide success is the internet. There is no doubt that many bands, including yours, have been blessed by its power of instant connection to the world. It builds and enforces fan bases like nothing else. However, do you think that an overindulgence of personal connection with fans online draws attention away from the music?
One hundred percent, because kids are so fucking entitled these days that it’s almost impossible to be whoever you want to be. That’s what music is; it’s the expression of who we are as artists. It’s almost like you can’t do that anymore. I feel like it’s one of the things that we’ve tried to bring back a little bit, like musical integrity. I think that everybody is so cookie cutter these days because they are afraid that fans aren’t going to buy this or like that, but where’s the integrity? Back in the day, the only time you saw a famous musician was when they were on a magazine cover, when they put a music video on MTV, or when you saw them live in concert. They didn’t have social media – don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram (laughs); I post selfies on the reg. They (fans) feel so connected to the artist, which is great to an extent, but then they think they own the artist and can say whatever the fuck they want to them. I guess it goes both ways, because back in the day you said anything you wanted about Michael Jackson or Elvis, but they didn’t know about it. They didn’t care or see it because there was no social media. We try not to pay attention to it.
What about you and people you’re a fan of? How do you view social media to communicate with those people?
Sometimes my friends or bandmates will meet somebody they looked up to and say, “Man, he turned out to be a fucking asshole” or “Man, he was a douche”. I try not to think about when I meet people, though. Even if he is an asshole, I think that it shouldn’t stop me from liking his music because, in retrospect, he’s an artist. I liked him for his music. I wasn’t meant to, like, meet him and be friends with him, so whether I like him or not should have no reflection on how I feel about the music. Unless something within the music was a message. If that’s why I liked their music, because it was so positive, and it turned out to be super negative, that would be a different story. Regardless, you should just focus on the songs and the music and how you feel when you listen to them, and not so much [about their personal life].
What is one event over the course of your career that has changed your perspective on the music industry?
I don’t know if there is anything that has changed my perspective, but there are definitely things that have regained my respect [for the industry]. I personally love when new artists come out that are actually really talented. Ed Sheeran is such a saving grace for today’s music because his face is all over pop culture, but he is not a pop icon. He’s everything that this music industry needed. I think that the fact that he can sell out arenas with just him and a guitar and a loop pedal right there on stage is just so good and creative. It’s just raw talent at its finest and I feel like we need a lot more of that in the industry. Let’s keep praying for it, I guess (laughs).
Have you ever seen him live?
No. I want to, though. I’ve always been on tour whenever he came through.
The unique sound of Issues is something so original and fresh to the music scene. The way you balance so many elements within your music is really special. What inspired the band to create this signature style? How did this idea come about?
I think I just had a vision when I started the band: to be an integration of everything that I like. When the members came together, we started incorporating things that everybody likes and it became broader. I think that’s the fun part of it; we never really know what the next song is going to sound like. I might hear a song and say, “Hey, we should write a song like this”. But once AJ [Rebollo, guitarist] gets a hold on it, it gets a little heavy and then it becomes the “Issues sound”. It’s always unpredictable. It’s fun.
What are some of the surprising ideas and sounds that you guys came up with in the studio?
I never thought that “Tears on the Runway” would become a rock ballad. It was just a pop song I wrote. A lot of songs I wrote ended up getting converted [to rock]. “Late” was the big shocker we came up with because we wanted a pop song, but that song was really indie pop. Matt Malpass [co-producer] and I were working on it. He wrote it with Leighton from Lydia and it was actually for The Cinema at first. They didn’t use it and I just kept hearing it and had this vision for it to be really rocky and punchy so I asked for it and used it for Issues, so we converted it in two hours. It came together and we were like “Wow!”, but the guys were super skeptical because they didn’t want it to sound like ’07 Asking Alexandria or ’08 MySpace-core (laughs). We were afraid of how we can make it sound new wave. We looked to The Weeknd, Drake, and the new production of Maroon 5 [to help inspire us].
When it comes to picking which songs to play live for smaller sets, how do you come up with the perfect set list?
We usually play the songs that we know are fan favorites, but we always try to sneak new songs in and campaign those a bit. It’s based on the energy of the song and how heavy it is.
If you had to pick one song from your discography to describe Issues, what song would you pick?
“Hooligans”, because it was the first song we wrote as a full band. We had all of our members and that was the first one that felt really right and was in the direction we needed to go. Since then, we’ve only enhanced that and moved in a new direction, but that song has always been the base of our career.
You guys also just announced the release of your new acoustic EP, Diamond Dreams. What can fans expect from it?
It has some jazz compositions and re-imaginations of our songs. It was back when we were listening to Frank Ocean when he put out Channel Orange, The Weeknd started to blow up, and Lana Del Rey was just discovered. That was actually when we started working on the record. We know we are a metal band, but we know how to make chill music, so we wanted to re-imagine some of our songs in a more chill way for the smokers and non-metal fans to vibe out to.
What do you want listeners to take from it?
The messages and lyrics are still pretty much the same. We just want people to understand it in a different vibe and emotion.
Now with all of these things going for the band right now, what is the next step for Issues?
We are just touring a lot this year and we plan on writing a new record around February. It will hopefully be released around next fall. There is a lot of stuff in our heads right now but we are probably going to go full force in January and February.
Do you guys plan on taking a lot of risks and making changes to your style?
Yes, always. We’ve already come this far, breaking boundaries, so we are just going to keep being unpredictable. It won’t be too off the wall but it will definitely be catchy and full of good songs.
I’m so excited to hear it! Before we end this interview, is there anything you would like to say to your fans and supporters?
Thanks for buying the records, coming out to the shows, and knowing all the lyrics. Yeah, Godspeed!