North Carolina six-piece Alesana have been making music for 7 years now, and with their interesting concept approach to writing albums they always have a story to tell. Having just released their fourth studio album, marking their Epitaph Records debut, Alesana are only looking forward. We caught up with guitarist and clean vocalist Shawn Mike before he jumped on stage, for a quick chat about the album, working with a major label and their recent trip to Australia.
Hey there, how are you going?
Good thanks, how are you?
Good thanks. Thanks for chatting with Kill Your Stereo before you jump on stage.
Could you start off by introducing yourself, what you do in Alesana and your favourite album at the moment?
My name is Shawn Mike, I play guitar and sing in Alesana, Im not sure which record I have been listening to, I have been listening to a lot of old Smashing Pumpkins lately so I’ll go with Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
You guys just released your fourth full length, A Place Where The Sun Is Silent. What was the build up to the release like after doing it so many times?
I guess it is always sort of a new experience, or at least we try to make it different. Being a concept band like we are, we try to have a lot of our photos and our artwork and things like that released to try and coincide with what the story is going to be like and trying to get people excited, not only for the songs but also for the story as well.
The album is a concept record, split into two acts, representing Dante’s Inferno. How did you guys come up with that idea? Was it always the plan?
Dennis and I are the ones who conceptualize everything. We both come from very scholastic backgrounds and we are huge fans of all forms of literature and we have always wanted to write our own short stories. We started that with The Emptiness and it just felt right because the story is a continuation of sorts from The Emptiness. We were really looking for an author and a story that would kind of help us set the scenes for the continuation so it felt like a no brainer to go with Dante.
The album has been well received so far, did you expect that kind of reception for the album?
We honestly never know what to expect, kids can be so fickle these days especially when it comes to musical taste. Some people are so quick to criticize bands for improving their sound and maturing their sound and growing and things like that but luckily enough for us we’ve got a very strong core fan base that are always there and through the changes they really, sort of, grow with us so I don’t want to say that we expected it to do well but we are super proud of the record and its definitely been a breath of fresh air to see so many people respond so well to it so quickly.
What was the writing and recording process like this time around? Was it different to your previous records, or have you guys found a formula that works well?
We have a very specific way that we write, Patrick and I, and we have been writing together for a decade now and we push each other hard. If one of us thinks the other one’s feeling a little mundane or a little lazy we always push ourselves that way and that’s what makes writing our music so much fun and we will take things we have already accomplished and songs we have written and maintain that style whilst moving forward and adding other elements in and trying to make the music grow as much as we can.
What influenced Alesana’s sound, and yours personally for this album?
It is interesting, because I think a part of what makes us the kind of writers that we are is that we’ve never kind of been the band that says ‘alright, let’s start listening to a particular band so we can get this kind of influence necessarily’. I think for me my biggest influence is my band mates; Jeremy, Shane Dennis, Alex and Pat. They are the ones that inspire me the most. But the band I has been listening to the most during the writing process was a Danish band named Mew and they certainly influence a lot of the piano ideas and string arrangements that I came up with for the new record.
This was your first release on Epitaph Records. How different was it releasing an album through them?
It’s a completely different process to the smaller labels that we have been on like Tragic Hero Records, we are a family at those places you know and the release is very, very hands on and I made all of the update videos for our last record and a lot of the stuff was just very dependent on everyone helping each other whereas with Epitaph, it is just so massive and they have all their bases covered. I can send one email and five minutes later it’s done. It’s definitely been a- not necessarily a better experience, it’s a different experience, its more of a sit back and watch it happen kind of thing when it comes to the release
Did you guys find you like that better, or is it just a whole new playing field?
I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to my art so it’s been a little difficult kinda stepping back and letting someone else handle it as much as they have. Luckily for me the label still respects my opinions about the things that relate to the band. If I have ever had an issue with anything they are doing it is definitely up for discussion, which is nice. I have heard some horror stories about labels where you don’t get to say anything so it has definitely been a good growth for us.
Recently Alesana were in Australia for Counter Revolution. How was that tour for you guys?
It was good. It was sort of an adjustment for us because we had done Soundwave a couple of years ago (2009) where it was such a massive festival and this time it kind of folded into something smaller than it was originally going to be but it was fun, it was awesome. It was a little odd being the heaviest band on a pop tour but it definitely went well and I think that actually played to our favour a lot and when you have been hearing the same sort of music the whole day then we get up there and go crazy like we do it kind of helped us capture a few fans that day.
How do Australian music festivals compare to others around the world?
Definitely just as professionally and properly run as they are here in the States. There are some places you go in the world and festivals can feel like nightmares but the way everyone at Soundwave who took care of us was definitely very professional and knew what they were doing.
Have you guys been playing much of the new material live?
We were able to play a couple of tracks over the summer, we didn’t play any in Australia because our set time was so limited but any time we have toured with this record in the states we are playing anywhere up to four and five of the new songs which has been awesome, it so much fun to play new material.
What has the response been like, compared to your older material?
It has been fantastic; in fact it seems like the fans are just as excited to hear new stuff as we are to play it, which is a blessing. Some bands get stuck and always have to play their old stuff or else fans wont even want to watch the band but our fans kind of crave our new material, which is great.
Thanks for having a chat. Is there anything else you want to add before we let you jump on stage?
Just please experience our record as we intended you to experience it. Look at the artwork, read the story and really kind of get lost in the whole experience that we try and create for everyone
Awesome, thanks a lot.
No problem, take care.