Last winter, I sat down with Long-Island natives Stray From the Path and just recently, I had a chance to catch up with the guys while on tour promoting their new album Rising Sun on August 30th through Sumerian Records. This lengthy interview was a lot of fun. Check it out.
Tanner Fisher: It’s been a little while since I saw you guys…how have you been?
Dan Bourke: Great, thanks!
Drew York: Good, fantastic.
TF: How has this tour been so far? Letlive. and Underoath are pretty awesome.
DB: This is probably one of the best tours we’ve ever done.
Tom Williams: Everyone has been really, really cool.
DB: I mean it’s been great. Hanging out with everyone in Letlive., Times of Grace and Underoath is a lot of fun. The shows have been really cool; the shows of full of kids who might not normally see Stray From the Path, so everything about it is great.
DY: It’s summertime too, so we’re doing a lot of barbequing.
Anthony Altamura: Jesse [Leach] from Times of Grace is the best cook in the world, so we have a lot of barbeques, so it’s really fun. Everyone interacts, no one’s an asshole…it’s just been really good.
TF: Tom, I know last time we spoke, you said that Veil of Maya inspired you guys to stay as a four-piece, and now you are able to recreate that on-stage, without a touring guitarist with you. Can you explain what that means to you, to be able to do that?
TW: Yeah, it’s cool for sure. Veil of Maya was that band that made me think like “if this kid can do it, so can I”. Mark [Okubo] is a fantastic guitar player, and he kind of gave me a couple of pointers, saying like “yo, this is what I do”, and I kind of ran with it and did my own thing. It’s awesome. It’s a lot tighter…I don’t have to rely on someone to play as good as I do, because I am the best guitar player of all time. [laughs] No, it’s definitely good. After a lot of money and practice later, it’s finally where it’s supposed to be.
DB: Overall…this sounds pretty gay, but we’re pretty proud of Tom for being able to take the role of two guitar players. It’s not an easy task. I mean we didn’t start out this way; we started off as a five-piece, and now we’re a four piece, and we have this guy whose buying all of the pedals and learning how to use them, and you know, not eating as much sushi as he’d like so that he can buy a pedal. It’s a pretty tough task, so we’re pretty stoked he pulled it off. We heard from guys in a lot of bands that we admire that not only is he pulling it off, but that it even sounds better as a four-piece, so it’s very exciting.
TF: On this tour, you’re playing two new songs. How has the reaction been so far?
DY: It’s been great. We just put “Death Beds” online so people could go and get familiar with it, but even the song “Mad Girl” we’ve been playing, people have been watching live footage of it online. We just played Toronto last night, and it was just crazy. Kids were singing along to every word to “Death Beds”, and usually we’re in to it, but we just had to stop and just completely smile. We were like “Yo, this song has been up for like a week, and already people know it”. It was very awesome, and we’ve got nothing but great feedback from our fans about the songs. Even people who weren’t really in to us are now like “wow, that song was awesome”. There’s been a lot of good vibes about the record so far, and we’re very excited.
TF: Let’s talk about the new record Rising Sun, out August 30th…first off, what’s the meaning behind the name?
DB: This is kind of funny. We got the idea from a street sign. Tom and I were driving, and it was probably three or four o’clock in the morning, and the sun was coming up. We drove through this town, I don’t really know where it is.
DB: Yeah? Well anyway, the town was called Rising Sun. I point to the sign, I was like, “what do you think about that as the album title?” and it was perfect, because it makes so much sense; with our last album Make Your Own History with the lighthouse design…the whole lighthouse thing obviously comes from us being from Long Island. The whole general idea of the lighthouse and Rising Sun is that we’re trying to shine some light on this whole scene in general. There are a ton of bands out there right now who are writing these bullshit songs, and getting huge off of them, because they look cool, and their hair looks cool, and we all genuinely love what we do, and we really give a shit about what we do. So the whole idea behind Rising Sun is that we want to help be the ‘Rising Sun’ and shine the light on these younger kids who might open up an AP Magazine and see a bunch of assholes looking like assholes, and putting out asshole songs.
TW: Yeah it crazy; I have a subscription to AP Magazine, and used to love that magazine. I’m not knocking AP, because one, they give us a lot of love, and two, you can’t blame them, because those are the people paying them to advertise their stuff. But the things that are advertised…there’s a game I play with my friends where we open up the magazine and we’re guaranteed to find something that sucks. I remember the last issue, I went like this [finger pointing straight down], and there it was. Black Veil Brides with a fiery background, where they all look like KISS, and I was like “Boom!” Right away I found the worst thing, I you know what, kids think that this is how it’s supposed to be, and it’s not. It’s all gimmick-driven, character-driven stuff. There’s nothing about the music there. I mean the music is just in one ear and out the other; you don’t get to process anything. When I was a kid, I would take all the record money that I made working at a bagel store. I made a hundred dollars a week, and I bought ten records, and I would listen to those records for a month, and that was it. I would go to None of the Above Records, and I’d buy my records, and I would get attached to them. Now it’s like “Oh there’s a new song here, oh it sucks, oh here’s their Myspace page, oh here’s Black Veil Brides, blah, blah blah…” It’s just trash after trash after trash…I might as well take my headphone jack and put it in the toilet and flush it; it’s the same shit. I feel like people could appreciate us even if they don’t like out music because what you see is what you get. You’re not going to get any more than four kids who grew up in a hardcore scene and have hardcore mentalities, and play music that we love and other people are connected to. To me, that’s Rising Sun.
TF: Stylistically, how would you say the new record compares to the first two?
DY: Well, like you we said before, we’re now a four piece…the first two records were written as a five-piece. This record is a little more personal and raw sounding, especially compared to Make Your Own History. You know how people are always like “how’s this new record going to be?” and the band’s like, “Oh it’s the heaviest shit ever. It’s the best stuff we’ve ever written”. If you ask me record is better, Villains, Make Your Own History, or Rising Sun, I couldn’t answer, because they’re all equal. This record is just the next step for Stray From the Path, it the next step to where we want to be and what we want to say. It’s not necessarily heavier or better, but it’s real and it’s us.
TF: Last time, Misha Mansoor produced your album. Did you guys contact him to do this record?
TW: At first, he was supposed to record this album, but it was just schedule conflicts. If he was home, we were on tour, and if we were home, he was on tour. We were both booked for so long, and he were like “hey, you know, we want to get this record out by summer, we need to go into the studio by February”, and he was like “I’m in Europe, I can’t do it”. We’re good friends with the dudes in For Today, and their record came out unreal. Drew and I actually went out to see Will Putney [producer] at Machine Shop for Drew’s guest spot on For Today’s record. That’s how we met Will Putney. After hearing that CD, we said that we definitely had to go here. He was actually a way more fun experience, because Misha is a musician and he produces on the side. Will is a real producer, you know. It was awesome working with Will, and we’re really excited how it turned out.
TF: I know there are numerous guest spots on this new record. Would you mind who they are and that all came about?
TW: Sure. Obviously, we had [Jonathon] Vigil from The Ghost Inside on the song “Death Beds”. That was the most spontaneous, because Drew and I were in California recording vocals, and he dropped us off, and he was like “you guys should let me do guest vocals”, so we were like “hell yeah. Just come in”.
DY: His guest spot was literally done in less than twenty minutes…actually, when we were there, we tried to have Tom sing the part.
TW: He wanted a low part there, and ugh, it was terrible.
DY: It was really rough, so after we got Chipotle, we were like “hey Vigil, why don’t you track this part?” He bangs it out in twenty minutes, and that was that.
DB: There’s also a song called “Pray” on the record that features Cory Brandan from Norma Jean, and there’s a song called “Bring it Back to the Streets” which features Andrew Neufield from Comeback Kid. What I’m really stoked about is we didn’t pick them just because of it. I know a lot of bands now are like “hey look who we’re friends with” or just to put it on the front of the CD “featuring…this guy from this band”. With “Pray” featuring Cory Brandan of Norma Jean, that song means something that having him on that song would give it that nail in the coffin. It’s something that that person feels passionate about. Same thing with having Andrew from Comeback Kid; having him on that song really put the nail in the coffin. Having these guys sing on a song that they would feel passionate about is huge. Even with Cory on “Pray”, we let him write his own part, because the song is basically about bands that use Christianity as a means to gain money. There are certain bands that we are friends with that are Christian bands, but they’re not using Christianity to gain money. They are legitimately into their religion, but there are bands out there that are straight up using it. Like when they get off-stage, they are swearing and drinking, they’re talking about girls, and this and that, which is super un-Christian.
TW: To me, there are musicians that are Christian, and there are Christian hardcore bands. As if they have their own genre. There are a lot of bands that claim it, and they’re selling a lot more records because there’s a market for it, but then they go off-stage, and we’re like “are you fucking kidding me?” This is not against anyone who is Christian, because like the last six tours we’ve done have been with like The Chariot, Norma Jean, For Today, Underoath, and we’re friends with all of them, but there are certain bands out there that we’re like “are you kidding me?”
TF: Drew, you’ve been on numerous records in the past year or so. Could you tell me how those experiences were?
DY: The first guest spot that was like crazy, that was like “oh my god, I can’t believe I’m on this” was the For Today record. For some reason, this guest spot blew up. I didn’t expect that. They were like “oh, we’re in Jersey, we’re recording, and we really want you to sing on the record” and I’m like “okay, cool”. So I did that spot, and it turned out to be awesome, and we were on tour in California, and I did a song with Winds of Plague, and I did a song with The Warriors. Not many people know about the song with The Warriors, because whether or not that record was properly promoted or whatever, but that was one of the coolest things I’ve been asked to do. I actually recorded both the Winds of Plague and The Warriors spot in that same day. I woke up, did the Winds of Plague song at Andrew Glover’s [bass player] house, then we played the show, stayed the night at the studio where The Warriors were recording and I did their record. The fact is, The Warriors have been one of the hardcore bands that I’ve been listening to since I’ve been super young, so when they asked me to do it, I was like “are you fucking kidding me?” So yeah, I did three in the last year, and local bands and people will email me, asking to do guest spots, but you know, I don’t want to overkill it, you know. I feel that the three that I did are good for the year.
TF: Recently, Ryan Thompson left the band. Could you guys talk about what happened?
DB: The RAT!
TW: The RAT is dead!
DB: When he first joined the band, Ryan was going to college. To my understanding, he had all of these loans out…you know more about it than I do.
TW: Yeah, when he joined the band about four years ago, he quit school to do the band. He did the band for a while…it was kind of a culmination of things, but the main thing was that his school hit him up, and was like “hey, you owe us all these loans, you owe us like $30,000, so you have to give us $500 a month, or you have to come back to school” and he was like “well I was going to go back to school eventually anyway, so September of 2011 is when I’m done with the band”. Ryan finished up a tour in Europe and he did the New England Metal Fest, and he finished recording the record, but then Anthony joined the band.
TF: So Anthony, how did the guys contact you about joining the band?
AA: Well I played guitar in another band for about four or five years, and I did one tour with Stray filling in, and I do want to say that I miss The RAT. I toured with him, and he’s the fucking best.
TW: We all miss The RAT. He was awesome and he was funny; a great musician, a great bass player.
AA: So I have some pretty big shoes to fill, but it’s been awesome.
TW: We started writing the new record with The RAT, and then The RAT quit halfway through.
DB: The RAT is Ryan by the way.
TW: His name is Ryan Anthony Thompson. That’s why we call him RAT. The RAT quit but he was going to finish the record with us. We got Anthony when we had about five songs done, so we were like “how about this…come in and play guitar and if you have any ideas, just spit them out, and if it doesn’t work, just we’ll tell you to step aside and let us finish the record” He came in and the song “Center of Attention” was written mainly by him, which was cool. He still got to put his hands on the record, but the bass was tracked by RAT just because wrote all of the bass parts.
AA: He wrote the parts, so it would have just been a waste of time for me to learn all of the parts then.
TF: I’m going to switch gears a little bit, but in 2011, Sumerian Records has signed a ton of extremely diverse acts. Would you care to comment on what your record label has been doing?
TW: I like it. To me, that’s what a label is supposed to do. If they just stuck to the whole The Faceless, Born of Osiris thing, it was only a matter of time before they went under. Now they’re signing Borgore, Asking Alexandria, whether I like them or not.
DB: …Dead Letter Circus…
TW: Those guys are awesome. They’re like fucking Karnivool. You know that’s cool. You know, regardless of if I like these bands or not, it’s still cool to have some variety. If you look at all of the major labels…I mean Epic Records has Rage Against the Machine and Pearl Jam. They’re not the same at all.
DB: There was that whole ‘Sumeriancore’ thing going on for a long time, which when we signed to the label, I don’t think we sounded like those other bands, the After the Burials, the Born of Osiris’. I felt that we were kind of the outcasts, like we were that weird band on the label, we don’t fit that sound. Now that they’re signing these different sounding bands, I’m psyched. I’m really psyched.
TW: We’re way more comfortable to be on the label now. We butt heads with the label sometimes, but we also butt heads within the band sometimes. That stuff just happens. My favorite thing about Sumerian Record is, and I’ve always given them props for this, is that they signed us when we were drawing nobody, we were selling fewer records, and nobody knew of us, but they signed us and they put out our first two records without any fan base. The stuck by us, and there were bands that were on the label selling the same as us, and they dropped them. They’re gone. You know, Sea of Treachery, Broadcast the Nightmare…they’re not around anymore.
DB: Some of them were selling even more than us.
TW: Yeah exactly. They kept us, because they believed in us.
DB: They were fans of the band before money, and that’s what’s awesome. They’re money-driven, they’re a business, but the first thing with us was that they cared about our band, and they are legitimately fans of the band. I remember Drew and I were in the van with those guys, and they were listening to the record, and they were freaking out. They are fans of the band, and those are the kinds of people we want to be surrounded with as far working with us, because there are a lot of slimy-assed bastards in the industry, so if we can get a legitimate fan of Stray From the Path to back us, it’s awesome.
DY: Another thing about Sumerian is we thought “oh these are label dudes. We need to be calm and collected, and we can’t say certain things” but now Shawn [Keith] and Ash [Avildsen], like I hang out with Shawn all the time when we’re in California. We go out, and we’re friends.
TW: You know, they come from The Calico System and Reflux, so they were exactly like at one point in time, and they still are at heart. That’s what I like; even our booking agent, or record label, or promoters, he all can be cool with each other, and that’s what I want to work with. I hate the business-driven garbage, but it is necessary.
TF: Alright, one last question…what’s next after this tour? Can you say, or is it still secret?
DB: We can’t really say. We know what we’re doing, but we can’t really announce it yet.
DY: Just expect in December, expect a short run in Canada. Also, in October and November a full U.S. tour with bands you wouldn’t expect us to be with.
TW: I guess you see that a lot. I guess you wouldn’t expect us to tour with Underoath, but these bands you really wouldn’t expect us to be with, but that’s cool. We like challenges like that. We just announced today that we are going to do a couple of dates on Periphery’s headliner with The Human Abstract, The Contortionist and Textures. That’s New York City, Worcester, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.
TF: Well hopefully I can catch you guys again sometime soon. That’s it. Thanks a lot guys.