Interview: Obey The Brave

Obey The Brave have quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the metal/hardcore universe. Rising from the ashes of now-defunct acts Despised Icon, Blind Witness, and Darkness Rites, the members of Obey The Brave have dived headfirst into a new journey, bringing the lessons bestowed upon them by every past success and failure along for the ride. The Canadian touring veterans’ new project rapidly garnered a significant online following thanks to the circulation of two self-funded music videos. This proactive effort, combined with a solid chunk of DIY touring, ultimately attracted the attention of some of the most reputable music labels in heavy music. In August of 2012, Obey The Brave released their debut album via Distort Records in Canada, and Epitaph Records worldwide. With a slew of upcoming tours, and a regimen that only continues to accelerate, vocalist Alex Erian was still able to take the time to speak with ThisConnect.ca about all things OTB.

 

You guys released your debut full-length, entitled Young Blood earlier this year via Distort and Epitaph. Now that the album has been out for a while, how would you describe its overall reception from listeners?

Overall, really well. We’ve been a band for ten or eleven months or so; it’ll be a year in January. Things have been going really fast, but we’ve been working hard. We just got home from a four-month world tour; we just did thirteen countries – four tours in four months. Fans seem to be digging the songs live, whether they just found about us, or whether they’ve been into us for a couple of months. And I don’t know [laughs], I’m just riding the wave and having a good time!

 

 Your record also features guest vocal appearances from some of the most prominent names in hardcore and metal. How did these come about?

 Well for starters, we have Scott Vogel on the song “Get Real”. I’ve been a big fan of his, whether it’s back in the day with Buried Alive, or with his band Terror. As far as homegrown talent, we’ve got my roommate Kevin from Ion Dissonance; he’s on our track “Time For A Change”. He’s in a band called Ion Dissonance as I said, and I did a few things on their records, and he’s been doing featuring’s on every single one of my records. Whether it’s with Obey The Brave in this case, or with Despised Icon back in the day. Keith from Ligeia, he and I go back – way back. We used to play shows with our previous bands in the US here and there, so we kept in touch. He knows how to sing properly; I don’t [laughs]. So I figured, “Hey man, come hang out! Try this out!” And last but not least, we have our boy Liam from Cancer Bats. Much respect to him and his band and everything they’ve achieved. So yeah, I’m pretty stoked with the friends that we have on our record.

 

The album also features a track with 100% French lyrics. How has that song been going over live? Are fans putting in the effort to learn the lyrics in order to sing along?

I didn’t expect much from that song, and it ended up being one of our favourite tracks, and one I’d like to consider one of the standout tracks of the record. A lot of people have been hitting us up and being like, “Hey man, we don’t speak French but this is my favourite song!” and all that. I’m quite surprised, didn’t think people would be that open-minded about it. Because let’s face it, English is the universal language. Here I am singing in English, doing this interview in English, but I was brought up in the French Québec culture. I’m just really happy with how that song was received. I’ve seen a lot of people sing along live, more in the French-speaking areas like Québec, or even in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland. People have been singing along loud and proud, and it’s definitely a good feeling. And I think on our next record, our records to come, we’re definitely going to repeat that and do another song in French.

 

That’s awesome. And if I understand correctly, you guys actually finished writing Young Blood in 2011, correct?

Yeah, as I said, I used to play in a band called Despised Icon, which actually played its last show two years ago to the very date. And some of the other dudes in the band used to be in a band on Mediaskare called Blind Witness. And then Greg and Stevie used to be in a melodic death metal band called Darkness Rites. Most of those dudes are from Ottawa; Miguel and myself are from Montréal. We all played shows together with our respective previous bands and all that. So being from the same scene we got to know each other that way. And since all those three projects ended pretty much at the same time, we just gathered up the members that still wanted to play music, you know? As far as my old band is concerned, most of them just decided to settle down and do the family life, and they had interesting work opportunities and all that. So its part of growing up I guess. I just wasn’t ready to turn the page, and was hungry to keep on playing music, writing music, recording records, being on tour, the whole lifestyle that surrounds all that. Once I started talking to Jon, Steve, Greg, and Miguel, all four of those dudes were in the same mindset. So we straight up started Obey The Brave in the course of 2011. We didn’t have a band name; we did everything from a distance, slowly but surely, write a riff here and there, and towards the end of 2011 we had pretty much a record written. And they started jamming in Montréal every weekend maybe in November or so, and then we were like hey man, let’s try this out. Let’s do this. So in December we gathered all our change, hit up my boy Jesse, shot a video, released it in January, announced our band in January, and the rest is history. We didn’t want to just announce our band and then have nothing to follow up with, so we really took our time to write songs – songs that we were happy with, proud of, and all that. We didn’t want to feel rushed or come up with half-assed material just to please a label or people out there, or whatever. It really started as something personal, and then took bigger proportions later on.

Now that 2012 is wrapping up, have you guys made significant progress with the writing of your next release? And if so, how is the material shaping up in comparison to your debut?

We never stop writing. We don’t do it because we feel obligated to, or because we have label obligations or anything. We’ve never actually stopped writing. We wrote a bunch of songs for Young Blood and then just never stopped. So we have a considerable amount of riffs, ideas here and there. Which amount to six or seven, or even eight songs. Obviously nothing’s polished, everything’s very rough. So far I have a bunch of topics I want to elaborate on the next record, but I myself haven’t started writing lyrics yet. But Young Blood only came out about three and a half months ago, or something along those lines, so we’re not going to rush it. We’re going to take our time, but we’re definitely going to have something big to follow up this record. I’m very confident.

 

You recently announced a huge tour in which you’ll be supporting Emmure, Whitechapel, and Unearth. What are you expecting this expedition to be like, and what can fans expect to experience at these shows?

As far as our band is concerned, we’re just trying to cover as much ground as possible, so we’re stoked because it’s a full US tour, but we’re hitting a couple of states and cities that we haven’t played in the past few tours. So we’ll be hitting cities for the first time, and we’re also really stoked because we’ll be playing in western Canada for the first time. So I’m happy to play that part of Canada finally, because we’ve been touring Eastern Canada extensively for the past year or so, all the way to Atlantic Canada, the Maritimes, and all that. So that should be refreshing. Not to mention with my old band I did a few tours with Whitechapel and Emmure in the past, so it’ll be fun to share the stage with those dudes again, definitely. I’m expecting it to be a pretty big tour, so I’m really excited to play in front of our fans and hopefully make new ones as well. And right after that we’re going to Europe with Emmure once again, and Chelsea Grin and Attila. A whole bunch of countries and cities like Scandinavia, Budapest, that we haven’t been to on our last European tour, so I’m very excited to have this opportunity to do it all over again, definitely.

 

 

You guys have wasted no time in designing your very own Obey The Brave skateboard decks.  Is everyone in the band really into skateboarding? And if so, who’s best at it?

Stevie is definitely the best at it. Him and Eric, his younger brother, they’re both great at drumming, skateboarding, videogames, all that. So Stevie would be the man. And I dunno, in the whole merchandise world of t-shirts and hoodies, we figured it’d be cool to actually have a souvenir and do a skate deck. And it’s very limited edition, we’re not really making much money off of it, its just something cool to offer to the fans and it’s just a great souvenir for us.

 

The band has been endorsed by a slew of major companies over the past year or so. If you could choose any company/product in the world to set up a sponsorship deal with, which would you choose?

Well I’m pretty stoked to have Senheiser; they do amazing mics, wireless systems, and all that. And being the vocalist, often you see your guitar players get a whole bunch of free guitars, and low priced amps and stuff like that. And you’re like, “Fuck, I just sing! Where are my freebies?” I’m happy to have top of the line mics. But as far as me, the poor consumer that I am, I just really like collecting Nike sneakers and New Era hats, [laughs] so if I could get an endorsement with either one of those companies, that would be fun!

 

It’s well documented that Obey The Brave was formed by former members of Despised Icon and Blind Witness. What types of advantages does a band like yours, that’s comprised of accomplished touring musicians, have over other bands that don’t have that much experience?

We’ve all done the whole trial and error thing. We’ve learned from our success, but we’ve learned even more from all the stuff that we screwed up, you know? And we definitely don’t want to make the same mistakes twice. We’ve all been doing this for quite some time, I’m not getting any younger [laughs], and so I’ve been in the scene since the mid/late 90’s. So I’ve been in various bands. We all just observed what’s going on, we’ve been on the road, we knew what to expect, and we knew what to do and what not to do. So I guess we’re a new band, but we’re fortunate enough to skip a lot of steps, whether it’s because of the people we know or the experience we’ve gained.

All right! And can you tell us a little bit about your background as a manager for other bands?

Essentially, I got Despised Icon and Obey The Brave signed through people that I’ve met along the way, and I have friends from back home that are also signed at Epitaph; I got them a deal at the beginning of this year. They’re called Skip The Foreplay, they’re friends of mine. Most of them grew up in the metal scene, and then they started doing that whole Dubstep/metalcore thing. I’m part of the older generation; I get why it’s popular and why kids love it and everything – I can’t say it’s necessarily my style, but I think they do it well and they do it for the right reasons. So I decided to help those dudes out, and I’m happy things are panning out for them as well. I help out bands here and there. As I said, when Despised ended two years ago, I was brainstorming ideas to generate income – what am I going to do with my life, where am I at, you know? And I realized very rapidly that I just live for music. This is the only thing I want to do. And so artist management came to mind, I did that for a while, still do it for Obey The Brave. Had to step out of the Skip The Foreplay game, just because as I said, I’ve just been on tour for four months straight, so it gets hard doing everything from the road. So for the time being, I’m just going to concentrate on OTB. And who knows, maybe later on if I ever find any time or whatever, I might start helping out a band or two. But for the time being, like I said, I just really want to concentrate on this band.

 

You guys released two self-financed music videos prior to signing to any labels. Would you say this investment paid off for you guys in the longer run?

Oh, it definitely did. We are part of a scene that’s just flooded with bands, flooded with tours. You know, everybody wants their piece of the pie. So a good way of standing out is just doing those music videos, doing any type of promotional video. I hate looking at it as a marketing plan or whatever, because you know, we’re all about the rock and roll, but if we do want to make a living out of this we have to do everything we possibly can to get our name out. So music videos definitely helped us out. That set the tone, showed people what we’re about, and shared that whole energy – the whole in-your-face attitude that’s part of our music, for the people out there that haven’t necessarily had that opportunity to see us live yet.

 

 

Now, wrapping up: what is the best video game ever?

[Laughs] I’m not going to lie, I’m not really a gamer. I don’t really know what’s being done right now. As far as I’m concerned, just the classic Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64 games. On Nintendo I would say Blades of Steel, an awesome hockey game. I would say Contra, the original Contra with the “up down up down left right left right B A Select Start” code to get thirty lives so that you could actually do the whole game. All the Mario Bros., whether it’s Super Mario, the original Mario 1, 2, and 3, or even Mario 64. Those are fun games. Mario Kart, that was an awesome game on Nintendo 64. Those are the ones that come to mind right now.

 

Who would win in a fight: a taco, or a grilled cheese sandwich?

Good question man! I’m trying to eat vegan more and more, I would say half of my meals are vegan right now. So I would say a taco, but vegan [laughs].

 

Are there any words you’d like to leave with fans who are going to be reading this?

Well, I’m definitely stoked to be back in Toronto at the beginning of February on the Whitechapel/Emmure tour. That’s going to be a good time. And if there’s anybody that really enjoys music out there, just follow that gut instinct man. If you don’t like anything else, just go for it. Don’t take no for an answer, knock on all the doors, and if I can do it, you can do it. It’s just a matter of being hardheaded and persistent. So if anybody out there really wants to make it in this scene, just go for it, man! Simple as that.

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