Ocala, Florida metalcore quintet Wage War has taken the scene by storm since their introduction via Blueprints in 2015. They’re continuing their rise in the metal ranks with their first-ever national headlining tour, as well as a sophomore record that’s already turning many heads. Staffer Tim Dodderidge caught up with a few of the members to talk about their current tour with Gideon and Varials, the writing and recording of Deadweight and musical influences that range from country music to Slipknot.
It’s an exciting time for you guys. What’s it like right now, having a new album out and playing shows in packed venues every night?
Briton Bond (Vocalist): It’s pretty sick. We’ve been dying to play these new songs for a while, since the first album, when we did Blueprints, was done for over a year [before it was released], so I think we’re a little tired of those songs. It’s really tight having a new album.
Chris Gaylord (Bassist): I think it’s a relief, really. Like Briton was saying, we’ve had all these songs for a while and have been able to enjoy it. Some of our close friends and family can hear it, but I feel like it’s a relief to have it out and tons of people — pretty much anybody who cares about our band — can listen to it now. But it’s been fun. It mixes up the set for us, being able to play some new songs. It makes it fun.
This tour specifically features a lot of hardcore, including Gideon and Varials. As a band that covers ground in both hardcore and metal, what’s it like playing more on the side of the former?
Chris: I think they both would probably say they’re metalcore, but…
Briton: Yeah (laughs)…
Chris: …for us, I don’t really care about it (laughs)
Briton: I think there’s a little more energy with the hardcore sound, like what you’re saying. Yeah, I think kids enjoy the bounce. I think that’s what a lot of those bands bring — that bounciness.
The tour’s also one full of new material for you guys, and, well, all three bands have released albums recently. I mean, you’ve been playing your singles for a while now, but what’s it been like exposing fans to the new material now that Deadweight is out?
Briton: It’s pretty exciting. I’ve been dying, like we said earlier, to put new stuff out. So “Stitch”, “Witness”, “Gravity”, “Don’t Let Me Fade Away”, all of those songs have actually done really well. A lot of kids know it. I’m like, “Wow, this record’s been out for a week and you already know every word.” That’s really cool.
Chris: It’s, like, my favorite part of the set every night now is to be able to play the new songs. Even for us, we’ve been listening to the new songs but we haven’t been able to play them live yet. It’s fun.
In regards to the album, what was your thought process going into with an album already under your belt?
Briton: I don’t know if there was an actual, “Well, we need to do this”…
Well, what was the mood, I guess, going into it?
Briton: I think a lot of these new songs we had been working on a little bit even after the record had been done. Like I said, the first record, Blueprints, was done almost a year before we put it out. So we already started working on new songs like “Stitch” and whatnot. I guess the record going into this next record was going a little more personal, like personal stories. With these songs, these things happened to the members of the band.
Chris: I think overall it has a little darker vibe, a little sadder. But I think it was just indicative of what was going on in our lives at the time. I feel like it was just honest.
So what was your songwriting approach?
Briton: I think it just kind of came out of what was going on at the time. I don’t think there was an actual…
Chris: “…we have to do this or we have to do that.” Some songs started with guitars, some songs started with lyrics.
Briton: There wasn’t really a formula to this record. It just kind of came out, which was cool.
Being from the same city as A Day to Remember, I’m sure it was an obvious choice to go with Jeremy McKinnon and Andrew Wade as producers again. But what was it like to work with them, specifically for this record?
Briton: I think Jeremy and Andrew, with our first record, it was super sick. I think everyone in the band bounces ideas off one another really well. Jeremy’s very good at kind of “finessing” your songs. It’s not like he goes in like, “Oh, this song is trash” or anything.
Chris: I feel like he makes a good song great.
Briton: Yeah, he comes in and is like, “You know what? That chorus is sick. Why don’t we do this note with this?” Little things like that kind of bring the song together.
Chris: Yeah, I feel like Briton was saying it perfectly. The smallest details are what Jeremy — and Wade — both tend to focus on a lot. Some people would be like, “This chorus is done,” and they’re like, “But maybe if we do this…” A lot of times, at least for us, those little details are what make it good.
Briton: And there are a couple songs on the record that they didn’t even touch, which was kind of weird (laughs).
Chris: They’re great to work with. I feel like, after Blueprints, we meshed really well with them, and it just made sense. It worked last time, so why would you not?
The fact that you’re able to make a record with them and that there were songs they didn’t even touch shows there’s chemistry there.
Briton: For sure.
The album title, Deadweight, reminds me of an album your current tourmates Gideon put out a few years back in Calloused. It relates to struggle, which is a central theme to both records. How did that end up tying everything together?
Briton: Again, for Deadweight, I feel like it was just an overall mood, that these songs are really real. A lot of stuff happens in people’s lives, and we wrote this record about that. It’s about having those problems, that weight, you know?
Chris: It’s, like, letting it go — the pieces of yourself, inner struggle, things that you feel about yourself that you don’t want to feel anymore, or if there’s someone in your life that’s holding you down. It’s just, like, trimming the fat. If there’s anything holding you down or making you sad or holding you back from where you want to be, it’s deadweight. You can’t keep carrying that in your life.
Briton: It’s getting the monkey off your back (laughs).
Right? So, being in a touring band for the past few years and writing this record, what kind of experiences fueled the lyrics and themes?
Briton: Being away.
Chris: Yeah, being away from home. Having fun on the road but being said and missing your family. I feel like it’s maybe a realization of what touring is like. I would say, like relationship issues, you know, dealing with life in general. But maybe being in a band affects your relationships with other people. Just a lot of inner struggle — figuring out who you are, who you want to be, who you regret being, and then just trying to move forward from that.
Lyrically, the song that’s really caught my attention is “Johnny Cash”, as it’s a more unusual title for a metal song. Can you share the backstory behind that track and how it came to be titled what it is?
Briton: I think that song’s just about getting your heart ripped out of your chest. It says “Johnny Cash”, this little part. Technically, back in the day, Johnny Cash wrote a lot of love songs and stuff like that.
Chris: There’s “Man in Black”. I feel like there’s a lot of correlations between it, and it just felt fitting. A lot of us like country music, Cody [Quistad, guitarist/vocalist] in particular. Naming it “Johnny Cash” and saying Johnny Cash’s name in the song — a lot of country songs will do that sometimes, using a person’s name. So I feel like it was just like, “This just all works.” Like Briton says, it’s about having your heart ripped out. Someone in the band the other day said lyrically it was like something you’d write in your diary but then tuck away under your bed. It’s almost something you don’t want to share with people. That song, for all of us, was a perfect closer. It was talking about having heartbreak, but at the end it’s talking about how it’s no longer a part of me. You can’t be controlled by it anymore.
Briton: And even with the title track, the song “Deadweight”. At the end of the song it says, “Deadweight, no longer a part of me,” and at the end of “Johnny Cash”, it says the same thing. It kind of sums it up.
Kind of my thinking on “Johnny Cash” is that you have the way Johnny Cash’s music affected you, and then you have your band’s music doing that on the other side of things. Is that something that you thought about at all, or noticed?
Briton: I guess yes, noticing it. It’s not something we tried to do. We always try to write what’s genuine to us. There’s no, like, “Let’s write a song about heartbreak today.”
Yeah, it just kind of came out.
Chris: Right. It’s not like all of us are the happiest people ever (laughs). I feel like, yes, someone could do that, but I feel like people would feel it when it comes from a place of heartbreak, or whatever your song’s about. If your song’s about being happy, then the only happy song you’re going to write is when you’re being happy. The feelings just correlate.
Briton: This record’s just really original in that sense, it came from the heart.
So what is it like being on the other side of things, being in a band where people are looking up to you?
Briton: It’s so sick that kids can relate to these songs. A lot of kids related with “Youngbloods” on the last record. If someone comes forward and says, “This song helped me with hard times,” I think that’s super sick. We’re here to have fun and write music, but if you can get something extra out of it, that’s super sick.
Chris: There’s a sense of responsibility that comes with having a platform. It’s not that we are above other people or anything, but I hope people relate to the songs and feel the songs just as much as we do. It feels cool to have people look up to you or ask for advice, or relate to what you do. I think that’s what, at least for us, the whole purpose of being in a band doing what we do — to make that connection with people. People will then be along for the ride with us.
Yeah, metal’s definitely a community in that aspect.
Another song that sticks out is “Gravity”, which consists nearly completely of clean vocals. How did that song come about?
Briton: I think it just happened, and it’s something that we wanted to do. It’s not the typical Wage War song, but it definitely fits who we are.
Chris: Cody had lots of singing on the first record. It’s, like, a chance for him to showcase his vocal ability and for us to slow it down a little bit. All of us…at least my musical taste, I like heavy music, but I also like pop music. I like a little of everything. As a band, you shouldn’t limit yourself to, like, “You should only write the heaviest songs ever.” For all of us, I don’t think that’s what makes us happy. We want to write songs that feel cohesive and feel like our band, but we want to stretch the boundaries a little bit and test the new territory. We have some singing on other songs, so why not have one that has a lot of it? We just tried to do it the best we can.
The band that it kind of reminded me of was Thousand Foot Krutch. I don’t know if you’ve heard of or listen to them.
Chris: Okay, I’ve heard of them.
Briton: Oh yeah, old school (laughs).
Yeah for sure, and you guys bring a lot of that influence from “old school” metal bands and whatnot — the ones I grew up listened to and I’m sure you guys listened to too. Where does that all come from and how does it come together, especially on this new record?
Briton: Wow, that’s a big one (laughs). I think a lot of us come from so many backgrounds, like pop-punk and heavy metal. I don’t know. I don’t think anyone in this band is like, “We’re metalheads and that’s all we want to play.
Chris: It’s the opposite, honestly. Like, we all like heavy music, but we all just enjoy good songs. I don’t care what style. I used to hate country music growing up, but I feel like it was almost out of ignorance, to be honest. “Oh, you like rock music, you can’t like country music.”
Briton: A rocker (laughs).
Yeah, I was the same way (laughs).
Chris: Honestly, when I joined this band, some of the guys liked country. They would show me songs, and I’d try to have an open ear, and you start to just enjoy good songs — the lyrical content, the way the musicians are. Like Briton said, all of us are all over the place. At the forefront of all of it, good songs are what matter. Just write something with content that’s catchy or grabs your attention, that’s the goal.
And I’m sure playing metal everyday, you probably want to hear something different every once in awhile too.
Briton: That’s true (laughs).
Chris: Yeah, after the shows, when we leave the shows…
Briton: …if someone’s playing metal in the van, we’re like, “Dude, turn it off” (laughs).
Another band that comes to mind is Slipknot, especially when you have a song like “Disdain” (the riff reminds heavily of “The Heretic Anthem”). What kind of effect did they have on you guys, and what have they brought to your band?
Briton: They were the first band to put heavy music on the map, in a way. Like, we have bands like Metallica and Megadeth — true metal bands. But Slipknot had that “pissed off” thing.
Chris: They’re so unique. I feel like not many bands, at least in their time, were doing the same thing.
Yeah, with the masks and everything too.
Chris: Yeah, it’s a show.
Briton: Every metal band today takes something from them. Even all the way back to bands like Linkin Park. Those guys definitely in that band were like, “Slipknot’s sick, I’m going to write a riff like that.” This whole scene owes them a lot.
Now that you have a second album out, where do you hope to go from here?
Chris: Tour as much as we can.
Briton: Yeah, hopefully this record does some cool stuff, takes us to cool places. I don’t know, it’s kind of in the beginning stages, so we’ll see where it goes.
Anything else you have to say for your fans?
Briton: Come out to shows. It’ll be fun…
Chris: …and check out Deadweight if you haven’t already. It just came out. It’s important to us that everyone picks it up. At least check it out, tell all your friends if you like it, and keep coming out.