How We Came As Romans Found The Strength To Carry On
We Came As Romans have unveiled two new tracks, Carry The Weight and From The First Note – the first music that the Troy, Michigan band have released since the death of vocalist Kyle Pavone from an accidental overdose in August of last year, at the age of 28.
Just a month after the singer’s death, the band made the brave decision to continue and went on tour with Bullet For My Valentine, something that had been in the works for some time. While they could have recruited another vocalist to fill Kyle’s shoes, they chose not to do so, deciding instead to continue as a five-piece, taking care of Kyle’s vocal parts from within their own ranks. As such, with the release of these two brand-new songs, the remaining members of We Came As Romans are boldly taking their story forward. It wasn’t, of course, an easy thing for them to do. Guitarist and lyricist Joshua Moore admits that they weren’t in any rush to do so, either.
“We had to make sure it was the right stuff,” he says, of choosing to honour their late friend and bandmate’s legacy and continue the band without him. Now that those songs are here, We Came As Romans have ushered in the next phase of their career, while continuing to keep their fallen friend very much in mind.
How does it feel to be sharing these two new We Came As Romans songs with the rest of the world?
“I’m really excited about it. We didn’t know if we’d ever be at this point again as a band. When we lost Kyle just over a year ago, none of us in the band knew if we were ever going to play a show again, or ever going to write music again. I’m happy that we’ve made it this far – going back on tour and creating music that hopefully honours Kyle in the best way possible.”
Deciding to go back on the road and making new music are two very different propositions. How did they come about?
“Right when we lost Kyle, we had a tour with Bullet For My Valentine in the States. I remember talking to our manager and saying, ‘We don’t want to do the tour’. At that point we were just trying to figure out how to make it through everyday life, let alone be on the road playing shows. After a few weeks we all reconvened on a conference call to talk through it. If we were all going to go through this immense grief and the reality of such a loss, we might as well be living together every day on the bus, where if you need anyone you just have to look across from your bunk. We ended up going on that tour, but it was fucking awful for me.”
What were you going through on that tour?
“It was maybe the hardest month of my entire life. Every single night we were reliving that loss and grief. I didn’t feel, mentally, that I was getting any better. We sat down on that tour once a week and talked about how we were feeling. There were multiple band members, including me, who were saying, ‘I might fly home tomorrow’, because it was so depressing opening that wound every single night on stage. Half the set I wasn’t even facing the audience, I was crying, looking down and playing my guitar.”
At which point did you decide to write new music?
“After that tour we talked about writing and releasing new music, but it wasn’t time for us yet, so we went on another tour this year [with Crown The Empire, Erra and Shvpes]. I’d say that tour had less bad days on it, though there were still really hard times. When we got home from that tour, we decided it was time to start putting some music together.”
What had changed at that point to make you realise it was time?
“It was just the next logical step. We decided that as a band we were going to continue on – and to be a band, you have to be creating that art. At the same time, there’s a lot on our minds and hearts that we have to be writing about, so all the pieces fell into place. It wasn’t like we were sick of the old songs or that they carried bad memories, because we’re going to be performing new songs that are about Kyle. It’s not something we’re avoiding – it’s something we’re embracing. His legacy will forever be part of our band.”
Let’s talk about those new songs…
“Both songs are obviously about Kyle and his loss, but they both take a bit of a different view on it. I think Carry The Weight has the most depressing lyrics I’ve ever written. They’re really heavy and they’re really sad, but they’re also really honest, which is the reality of what the band was going through. On the other side of the coin, you have From The First Note. I’d written the music for it last July, before Kyle passed. It was a song I’d held on to, because I really loved it and really believed in it. It celebrates Kyle and the memories we made with him. Our lives and this band will forever be changed and affected by us having had the privilege of being friends and bandmates with him. When you’re going through this journey of loss, you feel the whole wide range of emotions.”
You’ve always referenced other songs in your lyrics, and you’ve done the same thing in From The First Note, haven’t you?
“Yes. It’s a reference to our song To Plant A Seed [the title track from their debut album]. It’s what started our entire career. We were just kids, playing shows to 70 people, getting paid $70 a night. That song and that record propelled us into this world we’re in now. In that song, Kyle sang the words, ‘My future started with the first note I ever played / The first note that was ever sang’, which was our way of saying it was meant to be, because we always wanted to be in a band, connecting with people through music.
“In From The First Note, we go back to that. We have Dave [Stephens, vocals] sing, ‘All the words you sang / We sing the back to you / From the first note’. We actually took Kyle’s vocal stem from the first song and put it into the song, so Kyle’s voice is in there. Even though he’s not here with us now, we’re still all in it together, pushing forward. And then, in the second verse, Dave sings, ‘I wanna go back, just to say, to tell you / That your home is in my heart and you’ll always live in us’, which is a throwback to Tracing Back Roots, our third record. The title track on that album was about how we connect with fans and how they make all of the sacrifice worthwhile. I wanted to throw as many references in as possible, to connect everything together.”
From The First Note also features the lyric ‘I can’t replace you’. Did you ever discuss having another vocalist step in?
“There was just no way it was going to happen. Not only could we not consider it because of all the pain we were going through, but in order to celebrate Kyle’s memory and legacy with our music, we had to have the rest of the band pulling together to go forward. It was about making the best of our situation.”
Carry The Weight is a much heavier proposition, lyrically speaking…
“Carry The Weight is about being on that tour with Bullet For My Valentine, and how much we were going through at the time. It’s evident in the lyrics: ‘Carry the weight, broken and chained / All of my suffering on display’. It was no secret what we were going through, and everyone was seeing us going through it, right up on stage. I don’t think I could have written those lyrics the way I did if it wasn’t for that experience, of not being able to get out of my bed until 6pm every day. It felt like the most vulnerable time. That’s why Dave screams, ‘Grief, an open wound never healing’.”
And there’s a connection between the two songs, isn’t there?
“At the end of Carry The Weight, Dave sings, ‘In our darkest days, we will find your light’, which is about trying to find happiness in our memories of Kyle. In the chorus of From The First Note, Dave sings, ‘Every way you changed me still shines through / You’re the light that I follow home’, so that’s acknowledging that light is in the memory of Kyle, and this thing we created together.”
You’ve used the word ‘celebrating’ in relation to Kyle with this new music. How do you get to that point after going such a long period of pain?
“It starts with moments on tour when someone says, ‘Kyle would have loved this’, or ‘Remember when Kyle did that?’ Instead of instantly reverting to that sadness, maybe you smile and laugh about it. Slowly, as you go through it and remember the times you had together, you’re able to look at things from a place of gratitude. I don’t think I could have written the lyrics for From The First Note even six months ago, because I was still fucking depressed about it. It’s a gradual transition – it’s not like flipping a switch.”
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You had to go into the studio to make that music – how was it without Kyle?
“We recorded with our friend Nick Sampson, who we also did the instruments for [fifth album] Cold Like War with. He lives down the highway from me, so I could have a really rough day emotionally, and then drive home to my girlfriend, my dog and my cat. That’s much easier than flying to California for six weeks and sleeping on a bunk bed in a studio.”
Is there more new music to come, or are these standalone tracks?
“For now, it’s just these two songs. We have a handful of other songs written already, and after we get back from this tour we’re about to go on, at the end of October, we’ll spend the rest of the year writing the rest of the record. Next year we’ll have an entire album of songs, and not just these two singles out. The timing with this tour has put the creative side on pause for a minute, but we’ll pick it up in November. To be honest, we really needed that creative break, because writing these songs and lyrics was emotionally taxing. When I was done with them, I talked to the guys and asked if we could take a minute to recuperate and reset.”
Carry The Weight and From The First Note are out now via Sharptone Records.
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