The five band is comprised of five Christians from Dayton, Ohio. Mike Hranica provides the group's screamed vocals, while rhythm guitarist Jeremy DePoyster balances things out with clean vocals. Chris Rubey (lead guitar), Daniel Trick (bass), and Andy Williams (drums)round-out the group.
The band has been together since 2005, and picked up speed with their third album, With Roots Above and Branches Below, in 2009. They did even better with their next release, Dead Throne (2011), where they explored themes of idol worship and found some potent grooves. We spoke with Jeremy at a stop on the 2012 Mayhem festival in San Bernardino, California. He told us which of their albums makes him cringe, and explained what it was like being a Christian group on the Metal circuit.
Jeremy: Well, it kind of depends on the song. The majority, our guitar player [Chris Rubey], who's standing right over there, creates like a skeleton song on his laptop. And then we'll build off of that. And some of the songs, there's not a lot of differentiation from what he has to what ends up on the record. And some of them are totally reshaped. And then some of the more jammy, chill songs we just bang out as we go, maybe start out with a delay part or something and just build off that. But it's really song by song.
Songfacts: You play guitar and sing in the band, but do you ever sing the screamo parts?
Jeremy: Our singer Mike does all the screaming and I do all the lead singing.
Songfacts: So do you have an input into the lyrics to the songs?
Jeremy: No. Mike shapes pretty much what he wants to do lyrically throughout the whole thing. And then depending on the song, he might give me a lyrics sheet and say, "Make something with this." Or maybe I'll come up with a melody and then he'll kind of fit it in with that. But the further along we get and the more we do it, the more he knows structurally what he wants and then I'm just on the melody end of that.
Songfacts: So when it comes to playing your set, are there songs that you like best that you really enjoy and get into?
Songfacts: What are your favorite songs?
Jeremy: Most of the new stuff, I guess, which is always how it goes.
Songfacts: How did you go about choosing the songs that would be on the live album?
Jeremy: For the new stuff it's just what we felt would work best in a live scenario. And then from all the older songs it's what we felt has worked for the last five years. We have way too many songs to choose from at this point. And some stuff works live and some stuff just really doesn't. So that CD is just a culmination of us finding that balance between what does and what doesn't.
Songfacts: I'm going to keep pushing you. What are your favorite songs when you're playing live?
Jeremy: I like "Assistant to the Regional Manager." That just kind of flows.
Songfacts: That reminds me of The Office.
Jeremy: That's where we got the name from.
Songfacts: Are you guys all The Office fans?
Jeremy: Oh, yeah. Big time. And then some of the newer songs, "Born to Lose," "Constance," most of the new stuff. "Mammoth." Those are also fun live. I just really like those because they're higher energy, but they also flow through the song. I like a song that by the time you get to the end of it you want more, instead of just being like, Oh, my gosh, thank God that's over.
Songfacts: When you do something like this festival [Mayhem] and you have limited stage time, how many songs will you usually play?
Jeremy: I think we have seven songs on today's set.
Songfacts: Have you picked out which songs you're going to do?
Songfacts: So you have a pretty good working relationship?
Jeremy: Yeah, very much.
Songfacts: You don't argue?
Jeremy: We did back in the day. But now we realized life is too short. There not enough time to fight all the time, man.
Songfacts: Yeah. You guys are all Christians. So how does that play into playing like a festival like this? Do you ever feel comfortable playing with bands that have different beliefs? I mean, Slayer, let's face it; they're not exactly the most pro Christian band on the bill.
Jeremy: I don't know, I don't think it really affects us. Maybe the fans or other bands or something, but it's not really a big deal for us. I mean, everybody's got something to say, whether it's metal, or a Christian message, or a song for politics or love or anti-love or whatever it is. I think everybody has something to say or do and I think we're pretty chill about it. It's not overbearing in any way and I would hope it doesn't make other people uncomfortable. And I don't think it really makes us uncomfortable. We just decided a long time ago that that's what we wanted to do and we weren't going to change it.
Songfacts: Do you ever get a chance to talk to the guys in Slayer and do you talk about religious things at all?
Jeremy: We're friends with the Whitechapel guys and they're about as dissimilar from us as you can get when it comes to lyrics and stuff like that, but we're best friends with those guys. So it doesn't really affect us.
Songfacts: So it's all about just kind of getting along with people?
Songfacts: Are you excited about this tour? I mean, do you like being on these package tours or would you prefer to be on something that's your own thing?
Jeremy: I mean, there's obviously a little of both. But this is just ridiculous, man. Like when we got the offer to play with bands like Slipknot and Slayer, we were like yes, confirm now, where's the button to hit "yes"? We've been saying for years the #1 band we wanted to tour with is Slipknot.
Songfacts: Why is that?
Jeremy: They were the biggest metal band there was from my generation. We're young, I'm only 24. So when I was 14, 13, Slipknot was the peak of peak for me. And I still think there are very few people out there that can do it better than them.
Songfacts: You've got to pinch yourself and say, 'I'm on tour with Slipknot'?
Jeremy: Very much so. I pass by the set list and I'm like, "Sick," and I'm like, okay, yeah, this is really happening now.
Songfacts: So do you feel like this tour's kind of like a dream come true? That you've kind of been able to make it a good tour with some of your idols?
Jeremy: Yeah. I think so. And I think also for everybody that's coming out to the tour it's kind of a dream come true. You have have half of the big four here on this thing, and then you put Slipknot on that and Motorhead and all these guys. I don't think you can put together a better beast for the metal community. There may be four or five other names I can think of, but really this is some of the best of the best. So we're just honored and flattered that we get to be part of it.
Songfacts: I was hoping that I could meet Lenny of Motorhead. I don't think I'm going to be able to set up an interview with him. He's an iconic guy.
Jeremy: Oh, yeah. I've heard stories from people that work for them, too, and just how crazy it is and stuff. Man, that's just metal right there.
Songfacts: Do you consider yourself a metal band; or, if push comes to shove to define what kind of music you do, how would you describe what you do?
Jeremy: I guess the term is metalcore. I mean, at our core we're a rock band, like any metal band is a rock band. Two guitars, a bass and drums out there and doing it, maybe some keyboards. But if we really define it, it's equal parts metal and hardcore. We grew up in the hardcore scene and that's how we played. And we were always the little kid, odd man out in it. But that's the scene we grew up in. I think we're equal parts that and equal parts metal thrown in.
Songfacts: I was reading an interview with the drummer with Whitechapel and he was saying that when he listens to music, he listens to anything but metal. I'm curious, do you listen to metal when it comes time to just listen to music, just to chill out, do you listen to metal, or do you listen to something other than metal?
Jeremy: If I want to chill out, yeah, I'll listen to real weird hippie kind of stuff. But there are also times when I'm just putting on Converge or Slayer or something and cranking it up as loud as I can. So it just depends. I think a lot of metal bands say they never listen to metal, but that's definitely not the case on our bus. There's pretty equal parts of anything. We're pretty eclectic.
Songfacts: Who are your favorite guitarists?
Jeremy: Jimmy Page, Kerry King, anybody that has such a definitive sound that they stand out, even from a vocalist. As in, when you hear their guitar work, you know it's that guy playing. I think that's part of what has pushed this one instrument further than any other in the genre of rock in general, it's the growling sound of a guitar and it's ablility to sing in its own way. I think that's very cool.
Songfacts: Are there any songs that, once you mastered them, you thought: Okay, I've got it, I'm really a guitarist now, I can do this?
Jeremy: (Laughing) I've never felt like I can do this. I still don't feel confident in any way. But I remember I learned to pinch harmonic and that was cool. Slayer "Raining Blood," that was just, like, the darkest of dark, the minute I hit that (makes guitar sound), I went, Okay, there's magic to this. And I do some Zeppelin stuff just because of my dad and that influence and stuff.
Songfacts: I have a 19 year old, and when he discovered Led Zeppelin, even though it's years prior to even his birth, he just realized that's great stuff.
Jeremy: Oh, yeah.
Songfacts: It continues to be relevant.
Jeremy: Oh, yeah. It ages well. It really does.
Songfacts: Do you think your music will age well?
Jeremy: Maybe some of the newer stuff. (Laughing) I mean, some of the stuff I still cringe at, but I think that's part of the fun of being in a band is that the longer you go along, the older you get, and the more you want to just make music that has a lasting impact. I think that's definitely an idea that's more important now to us than it was when we were 18 year old kids that, you know, we had no goals, we had no aspirations.
Songfacts: Can I put you on the spot and ask you for any songs that make you cringe?
Jeremy: The entire album of Dear Love: A Beautiful Discord, that entire album makes me cringe. Probably 90 percent of our second one.
Songfacts: We won't be hearing any of that tonight?
Jeremy: No, you won't. (Laughs) It's pretty much from the third record on is what you'll be hearing.
Songfacts: So it takes that long to really find your sound?
Jeremy: Yeah. And I think we were unfortunately part of a new wave of bands that got exposure way too fast.
Songfacts: Before you've really developed an identity?
Jeremy: Exactly. And you don't really know who you are or what you want to write, and you haven't been able to even play it out enough yet.
Songfacts: And you kind of feel like you've found yourself now?
Jeremy: Yeah, very much so. I think so.
September 27, 2012. Get more at tdwpband.com.
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