It's no secret among fans of the Warped Tour music scene that metalcore can become a bit tiresome. The only way for a band to truly discover themselves, of course, is to imitate their influences until they find themselves and who they want to be along the way. However, watching this process can be rather tiresome for fans.
Memphis May Fire is one of the bands in metalcore that has never provided that tedious, boring sensation to their fans. From the very second this band jumps onstage or releases an album, it's full throttle ahead until the last note is played. I remember seeing these guys when they were doing support for their album The Hollow in a tiny little club that could hold less than a hundred people. It felt like they were playing to five thousand solely based on their energy, musicianship, and stage presence.
MMF have continued to push the boundaries of the modern constraints of this genre. They've done so on the recently finished Take Action! Tour with Crown The Empire, and they'll continue to do it this summer as one of the headliners for the 2015 Vans Warped Tour. I recently chatted with vocalist Matty Mullins about their plans for Warped 2015, the process of writing their most recent studio effort Unconditional, and much more.
Let’s start this off with some talk about the video for “The Rose”. It was a lot of fun to watch, and it’s clear that there’s inspiration from the hair metal era of bands. Were there particular bands that you pulled inspiration from for the video, or just that era in particular?
Totally! I think everyone watched music videos of their favorite 80s artists. It’s funny, dude. To be honest, I wasn’t allowed to listen to anything like that growing up, so I had to go back and revisit this era that I wasn’t familiar with. I watched a bunch of David Lee Roth videos because that dude is just insane. I watched a bunch of that stuff and just tried to mimic it. It was a lot of fun, man. We had the idea to do an 80s music video like that for a long time, and it just came to life. We’re stoked to put something out there that shows that we’re not always so serious.
I started laughing when I saw Jeffree Star come out and start spraying everyone with hairspray.
(laughs) Totally. We had a blast.
When did the song “The Rose” come into picture when writing and recording the Unconditional album?
Unconditional was a totally different kind of record for me. I spent two months on vocals. I did a month of writing and recording in Phoenix, then we did a tour, and then I came back, did another month and finished the record. That was a really rough time in my life, so I was doing a lot of learning and soul searching. Through that, I was only able to write in the moment. I had a hotel room in Phoenix, so I would just go and write all morning, and then track all night. So I know we did “The Rose” somewhere in the middle of the recording process, probably within the first month of tracking.
The lyrics in the song seem to be very much about strength and overcoming adversity, with the line “we are the rose that grew from the crack in the concrete,” but it also seems like you’re referencing a particular person. Who was the subject?
There was no specific person in general. When I joined this band, the band had only been around for about year, but had established a pretty quick fan base, just from the EP that they did. They signed to Trustkill Records right off the bat. When they lost their singer and I came into the picture, I think everyone was really scared that the band was done, that the music industry in general would just treat us like “second singer, second time around, this isn’t gonna work”. Our management dropped us, our booking agent dropped us. I had so much faith in what we were doing, so much faith in the project, that I just wouldn’t let it go. Kellen [McGregor] our guitar player is such an amazing writer. He does all of the instrumental stuff for our band. I feel like when we wrote music together, it was just magical. I wasn’t willing to throw it away. We spent years doing everything ourselves, and then came back around to kind of surpass a lot of the people that didn’t even want to give us a chance in the first place.
After Challenger, I had promised myself that [writing about that subject] was a phase in my life and that I was moving on, but I really wanted to give it one last huurah. That subject I’ll probably never write about again. With “The Rose”, that song is really special to us. It’s really closure for us from that whole era.
I remember that you had come into the picture of the band a little bit later. I saw you guys when you were on tour with The Hollow years ago. You guys played this really small venue in Los Gatos one time, and to me, it felt like you guys had been playing for years. You guys came out and threw so much energy into it. It’s just funny to me to hear that you guys felt that way a number of years ago, when everything sounded very in-tune and perfect.
Thank you man! To be honest, by the time that The Hollow was out and we were touring, we had been a band for about four years. When I came into the band, we put out a record called Sleepwalking on Trustkill. Two years later, we put out an EP called Between The Lies. Those were the really hard times, and that was the hard era. I felt that by the time The Hollow was out, people were starting to pay attention again. There was some fire there, and we just appreciate everyone that was there along the way, you know?
You guys are currently on the Take Action Tour. What has it been like working with an organization like the Living The Dream Foundation every day?
Dude, oh my gosh. This band is the kind of band that wants to give back. We see this opportunity. With opportunity comes responsibility, and being in this band is an incredible opportunity. We want to give back at any chance that we get. These kind of opportunities don’t always come along. Before this tour started, we got to sit down with the guy who started the Take Action! Tour, the guy who started the Living the Dream Foundation. It’s incredible, man. The stories are so touching. To be able to use our God-given gifts to give back and make these kids’ dreams come true, who are living with terminal illnesses…I mean, what a blessing. This tour has been so incredible, and we’re so thankful to be a part of it.
Living The Dream is such a cool foundation. They’re serious, they’re in it to win it, and they’re really serious about making these kids’ dreams come true. We’re just blessed to be a part of it.
Let’s talk about Warped Tour a little bit. Congratulations on coming back! This will be your third year on the tour, second year on main stage. Have you guys started to line up the details for the kind of set you’ll be bringing this summer? What can fans expect?
It’s funny that you ask that, man. We were just talking about that this morning as the bus was pulling into Tuscon. Man, Warped Tour is so tough. It’s an incredible opportunity to play for a ton of people every day. For a lot of these people, it’s one of the only shows they go to all year because not everyone can afford to buy concert tickets all year long. So we really want to give the best experience possible, but we’re limited to a thirty-five minute set. Every band is. You can’t play for more than thirty-five minutes.
In that time, we can’t even play all of the songs that we’ve put out music videos for. To find the happy medium between that and the two new songs that we want to incorporate into our set, it’s impossible to please everybody. We’re just going to put together a set that we think is powerful and inspiring, because that’s what we do as a band. Hopefully, people are satisfied with it.
Warped Tour is widely known as one of the biggest summer music festivals out there. What’s it like to be part of such a major tradition for so many fans of music?
Man, it’s incredible. I mean, we never knew if we were going to be a main stage Warped Tour band. We always knew we would give it our best and see what happened, but we were able to develop a relationship with Kevin Lyman. He really likes the band, and it’s just so cool. We’re all fans of the tour. Some of the guys in the band grew up going to the tour. We know it’s been iconic for a lot of bands. Paramore, No Doubt, a lot of these bands. It’s so cool to be in that same position and offer this massive group of people that go out to the tour what we think is our best set and live show. It’s just cool, man. The word “blessed” and “blessing” is so overused, but there’s no other way to describe it. Being on Warped is a gift, and we’re just so happy to take it and use it to the best of our ability.
These next two questions I ask to every artist that I interview. First, what kind of message, if any, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
If people learn nothing else from this band, I would hope that they would know, for a fact, that they are loved, that they are valuable, that they are important, and worth it. Some people are going through the hardest times of their life, and music is kind of what they latch onto. In no way do I think that our band is the answer, or that we are the way to solve your problems, but I do think that God allows our music to inspire people and change their lives. For that, I’m thankful.
I see such a huge problem in the scene with self-love and self-worth and value, and I wish that people would really take that away from our music, really understand it, and start to grasp it and believe it. I believe with all my heart, not a single person on this Earth has ever been, or will ever be, a mistake. I think God has a very specific plan. He creates everybody piece by piece, so specially and so perfect in His image and His eyes. I just really want people to feel that.
What does music mean to you?
That’s a big one. It means a lot. I’ve never had a different vision for my life. I’ve never second guessed what I was going to do with my life. I’ve never even had a backup plan, because I knew for a fact that God was going to use me in this realm. I think that music is an opportunity to share something, inspire, and to be a good role model. People listen to music and they sink into it. They allow it to change their lives in a way. Artists can put anything they want into a song and I wish people would pay more attention to that. I wish artists in general would understand a little bit more about how profoundly their music has of an impact on people.
For us, it’s an opportunity to share our story, to share hope, to share love, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Unconditional by Memphis May Fire is available now via Rise Records.
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