Equipped with a high-energy brand of pissed-off hardcore, Long Island, NY-based Stray From the Path has been blazing a path all their own as of late, following up a slew of dates supporting Norma Jean with a support slot on UnderOATH's Illuminatour. We caught up with the guys in Stray From the Path during the Grand Rapids stop of the Illuminatour to talk about the band's upcoming full-length Rising Sun, as well as tour life both present and future.
Jason@RRR: Could you state your name and what you do for the band?
Tom Williams: I’m Tom and I play guitar.
Dan Bourke: I’m Dan and I play drums.
Anthony Altamura: I’m Anthony and I play bass.
Drew York: I’m Drew and I sing for the band.
Jason@RRR: You’re currently on the Illuminatour with UnderOATH, Times of Grace and letlive. Could you talk about how the shows have been going so far?
Tom: Well, UnderOATH sucks. [Laughs] No, it’s been awesome, it’s a cool crowd. Especially being the one band on the tour that doesn’t sing. We’ve been playing to different crowds which is why we wanted to do this tour. We’ve been big UnderOATH fans for a long time and huge letlive. fans too. It’s kind of random, in a good way, as far as the line up.
Jason@RRR: How has the interaction been between the bands and crowd?
Dan: Crowd wise, it’s been a little bit weird for us, but like he said, we’re only band that doesn’t sing on the tour. The type of shows we’ve been used to playing are mostly barricade-less, and kind of like, lots of moshing and pile ons. We’re playing in front of a lot of new kids, kids that wouldn’t normally come to see us. And everyone else in every band is fantastic and hangs out and I don’t have one negative thing to say about anyone in any band.
Jason@RRR: You guys are getting ready to release a new record next month entitled Rising Sun. Could you guys talk about what the original plan was when you sat down to write the record?
Drew: We had zero plans. We kinda never really have a plan when we write. It’s kind of like, “We gotta make a record now” and Tom will bring his skeleton of a song to the table and we’ll kind of all attack it and go at it and make it the best song we possibly can. Like if you asked me before we made the record, what it would sound like... I would never even guess that it sounds the way that it does. Same thing goes for all of our previous records. There’s really no, “Oh we wanna do this type of thing,” cause I feel like if you limit yourself to doing something like that, you’re kind of stuck to one thing and there’s no creativity.
Jason@RRR: How would you guys compare it to not only the last record, but to everything you guys have done so far?
Tom: I’ve gotten asked quite often “How is it better than Make Your Own History?” or "Is it better than Make Your Own History?" We went into Make Your Own History wanting to make Make Your Own History. We didn't go into this thinking, "Shit, we gotta make something better than "Negative and Violent" or "Damien"." We just stepped aside and made Rising Sun. We never go into it with the mentality of wanting to top any of our stuff, I just feel like if we put our all, as far as our creativity, in each song, it’s gonna be good. I feel like all of us together, we write good songs. I’m not worried about topping it. It’s just the next level of Stray for Rising Sun.
Jason@RRR: Can you guys talk about the time frame you had to record, who you had to record with and how that affected the process?
Drew: We partnered with Will Putney at The Machine Shop. He’s probably the best dude we’ve worked with in and out of the studio. We spent about two weeks on music. The entire process took about a month total. It was the longest time we’ve spent on a record, by far. We recorded Villians in like, three days. And then we recorded Make Your Own History in like... 12 days. We always track records really really fast. We always tell the producer or whatever, "We're gonna come in for like two or three weeks," and they are usually like, "Oh no, you're gonna need at least a month." I'm like, "No, we don't man, we're just gonna come in and bang it out."
Jason@RRR: Lyrically, how would you say this record compares to Make Your Own History?
Drew: This is a lot more personal. Especially for me, I would say it’s very personal. Everyone wrote on this record. It touches on a lot of stuff that we’ve dealt with, whether it’s with our personal lives, being on the road, or what drives us to play music.
Dan: We all took turns with writing songs. Like we'd say, "Tom, you write this song, Dan you write this song," and we'd pick a topic to write about since we all have plenty of things we want to write about. We would write almost a whole song [on our own], and then everyone would chip in with lines and rhymes. Even when it came to specific words, we spent a lot of time. Like, "What's would be a better word for that?” Almost like we were all English teachers for a day. Like, "You could use a better describing word there." 'Cause none of us are really poets, we’re kind of dumb as far as that goes. But that’s why we put some time into it.
Jason@RRR: Would you guys be willing to talk about a specific song in more detail?
Tom: There’s a song on the record, called "iMember". The thing is, through that title, It’s about bands that use iPods and laptops to play their guitar tracks and bass tracks and vocals through the PA system. It’s basically cheating and tons of bands do it, way more than you think. Whether I like them or hate them, most of them I hate, but that was the inspiration behind the title. But the song is about bands that like, you know, that are around these days like Attack Attack! and shit like that. In that song, there’s a clip from an interview that the older singer of Attack Attack! does with this site called Hard Times, and the question was “What is your band’s connection to the hardcore scene?” And I won’t ruin it... but his answer is completely retarded. So basically that song is about everything that’s wrong in the scene today as far as bands that are driven by money and driven by fame and not driven by passion or creativity which is what you’re supposed to be driven by. And you can tell these kids have no clue what it means to be in the hardcore scene, you know? So that song is basically about how they will be “dead” soon, and it’s er-
Drew: As a band… not like...
Tom: No, personally, they’re fucking dead. [Laughs] No, as a band, they will fade out and it’s already happening with a lot of them, for sure. And so that’s basically what that song "iMember" is about. And it’s not about bitterness or jealousy. There’s a line in the song that says “I would never call it jealousy because what you have is not what we came here to need”. If Stray got sold a million fucking copies of Rising Sun and we were all fucking rich - as long as it’s through what we’ve all been about musically, lyrically and personally - there’s nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with making money off of your band. Of course we’d be better off personally, but that’s not what we came here for. It’s not fair to the kids. These kids they open up these magazines and there’s BrokenCYDE and Jeffree Starr and Attack Attack! And it’s like, they’re seeing that that's what exists. They don’t know about Stray, or letlive. or UnderOATH ever. And it’s a shame. For sure. It’s not about how they’re bigger than our bands, I could not fucking care less. It’s just what they’re doing is they’re playing to thousands of kids a night and they have songs called “Smokahontas”. Bro, it’s like, you have all these kids that love you guys and are looking up to you and this song's called "Smokahontas"? These kids are waiting for what you’re going to say and you’re talking about fucking god knows what, it’s bullshit. It’s just about, they’re doing it wrong and it sucks for the kids.
Jason@RRR: You guys have said before in interviews that this is a very “pissed off” band. Can you guys talk about how that mentality ties into this record in general?
Tom: It ties into what we just talked about. I mean, what isn’t there to be pissed off about? There’s a motto that I go by now that’s “We’re not haters, people just make it easy for us to hate them.” What isn’t there to be pissed off about - whether it’s personal issues, issues within the hardcore scene, etc. There’s a song on the record called “Pray” that is about bands that are using Christianity as a way for financial gain. We’ve seen them, first and foremost in front of our eyes. They don’t actually give a shit about religion, they’re just seeing that there’s a market for it. They’re selling more records than we are because there is one, and they’re using it. And it’s like, but we know. We’re not saying ALL Christian bands are like that – not even close. The prime example is that Corey from Norma Jean sings on ["Pray"]. He actually has a guest appearance on this song, because he backs it, you know? He’s a musician who is a Christian. That’s the way it's supposed to be. The whole Christianity as a genre thing is just weird. We're friends with tons of Christian bands. I mean, the last six tours we did were with UnderOATH, For Today, The Chariot, Norma Jean. It’s not like we have anything against bands that sing about Christianity. It’s about the ones that claim to and they don’t give a shit. We can tell and we’ve seen it first and foremost. Because again, everything’s being driven by finances and not passion. Nobody wants to make a song because they feel it, they’re making a song because it can push more shirts. Or push their pre-orders up. So there’s a lot to be pissed off about, whether it’s personal in the hardcore scene, or our country or the world.
Jason@RRR: How would you compare your mentality to a band like The Acacia Strain, who are also very pissed off but in a slightly different way?
Drew: Well, The Acacia Strain, like if you see them live, Vincent goes on stage and he'll always say, “I'm a miserable person and I hate everything”. They’ve always been that heavy band, like oh my god. When they first came out, they were like the heaviest band ever.
Dan: Can I say something? [Pause]
Drew: SURE! [Laughs]
Dan: I think The Acacia Strain is a negative band that makes it okay to be negative and depressed. I think that’s why they exist – to let kids know it’s alright to be pissed off about things and you know what, life’s gonna throw this shit at you. But a band like us, we know there’s a lot of shitty stuff going on, but we put that spin on it that you can always overcome or you can do something about to make it better.
Drew: Even the sound, not just the message, they’re one of the heaviest bands around. There is a difference between bands being pissed off. What Dan said is absolutely correct.
Jason@RRR: With the upcoming release of your new record, you’ve been playing a couple new songs off the record. Can you talk about how the reaction has been to these songs already?
Drew: We’re playing two new songs. We’re playing "Death Beds" which was released already on the internet like a week ago, and we play a song called "Mad Girl". If kids are into the set, they’ll just keep moving around for the song. They’ll dance, jump and hype the crowd up. We played in Toronto last night and the songs were out for a week, and I couldn’t believe it, the kids knew all the words to "Death Beds" and it was fucking insane.
Jason@RRR: What do you guys have planned after this tour?
Tom: The record comes out August 30th and we have a tour that’s an Ontario and Quebec tour in September and then we’re doing a couple of shows with Periphery on their headliner, we’re playing New York City, Worcester, Massachusetts, Philadelphia and Baltimore. After that we’re doing a full US tour in October/November with a couple of bands that we can’t mention right now. And I hate when bands say that, but you know. We don’t wanna get beaten up. I hear the band is pretty negative sometimes….wink, wink, wink.
Jason@RRR: Do you guys have plans to do another music video soon?
Drew: Yeah, we’re gonna try and do two. We haven’t really spoken about which songs yet. But we wanna get the record out and do the press for it and all that kind of thing. But we’ll see something. Expect to see something in the Fall.
Tom: Especially with how awesome "Damien" came out, that got a good reaction and it got to portray the song well I thought.
Jason@RRR: That’s about all I have – is there anything else you wanna add?
Drew: Go pick up the record, Rising Sun, August 30th, and if you wanna talk to us, talk to Anthony our bass player, he likes to talk about everything. Anthony, the last word!
Anthony: Yo, it’s me!
Dan: Go pick up the record, keep supporting us and come to our shows!
Be sure to check out Stray From the Path's new record Rising Sun, out August 30th on Sumerian Records.