“This Feels Final, This Feels Complete – Almost Like The 20 Years We’ve Been A Band All Coming Together”
On the first day of the year, SharpTone Records put out a teaser of new music the label had scheduled in for release in the following months. Some of the more keen-eared fans among us recognised the sound of Bleeding Through singer Brandan Schieppati’s voice on one of the tracks – lighting up the internet with speculation that the Orange County blackened metalcore quintet would be returning after their four year hiatus. Fast forward a few months later and eighth album Love Will Kill All is on record store shelves and the band are preparing for their return to the stage this summer. Here the frontman explains the story behind the reunion and the lessons learned for the road ahead…
Alright, Brandan! Congrats on your first album in six years. Arriving, as it does, four years on from the band breaking up, what made you realise Bleeding Through were not done yet?
About a year ago, I was in a group chat with everybody and was telling them about the songs I’d been writing in my studio. They were mainly for other bands, but there was one track in particular that sounded like Bleeding Through. So I sent it over asking, ‘Okay, is it time to do this?’ and they all said they were in. I explained that if anyone didn’t feel like it, there was no pressure… it would have been totally fine. I love the guys, so if we were coming back, we all had to be happy about it. Everybody was on the same page, and it was just the right time. All of our personal lives were in a good place in order for us to come back.
What were the issues that forced the band into hiatus, then?
It’s an unpopular thing for a band to talk about financials, or getting older and needing to support themselves and their families. Fans tend not to understand that, almost as if to say, ‘What do you mean? You don’t make a living wage from the band?’ And the answer is no… plus there are others things that take precedence. For us, life was just happening, we had other things we needed to do, and with our obligations to Bleeding Through, it became harder and harder for us to focus on those other things. I felt like everybody in the band wanted to step away and do other things in their lives, like having families or kids or other types of careers. For me, I started a gym in 2011 and I knew in order to make it happen, I had to give it all my focus and get away from Bleeding Through. We needed to make our band the second thing in our lives, because as the main thing, it just got harder and harder. The business was stressing us out and it was unneeded stress.
So, it was the band evolving into more of a business than an outlet for creativity?
Sure – once a band becomes a business, it takes the fun out of creating and playing together. It’s not as simple as writing music because you just want to play it front of people and get a response. That should be the number one goal and we lost that. A lot of bands lose that as they get older, because life creeps in. So we took a life break. We wanted to get our affairs in order and now that we have, it’s become a much more relaxed approach. Obviously we want this record to do well, but we’re not in it for the paycheck or money. We came back because we missed creating and we missed that emotional outlet… that’s why we are here. We’re going to be as active as we can, playing as many shows as possible. Maybe fans that want to see us all the time might get a little bummed out, because we’re gonna adopt a ‘less is more’ approach. If we want to be a band for another 10 years or beyond, we need to stay engaged in this and keep it fun. There were times before we broke up when we were all exhausted. We were so tired of all of it. We kinda knew it was all winding down – the energy just wasn’t there. Now we’ve learned that it’s okay to say no to things… we’re going to be really picky.
At least you were able to recognise your band was becoming burnt out…
There are so many people in music that put the other aspects of their lives on hold to chase the dragon – that dragon being rock’n’roll stardom, or whatever the fuck you want to call it. Their lives outside of music can become a fucking mess. It makes you think, ‘Dude, you need to get your fucking life together!’ We’ve seen it first hand. I remember telling everyone in the band that I would never allow us to get like that – to the point that we’re a desperation band with nothing else in our lives. To purely appreciate our music, it almost can’t be the only thing that we have going on. There’s too much stress. Bands end up making mistakes, writing records that aren’t really what they are about. I hate to use them as an example because I actually do really like the band, but look at Suicide Silence. What were they doing? Why did they do that record? Did they feel they had no choice? A lot of bands make that mistake, feeling like they have to go a certain direction because that’s where the industry is pulling them.
How much is the music industry failing modern artists?
I don’t think it’s failed entirely, but I think the industry has let bands down by being stubborn. Social media has become such a force, while I feel the industry never really took it on board until it exploded and bands with no label backing whatsoever could be crushing it with millions of followers on their social platforms. That made the labels wonder how they could keep up with the Joneses. Now I feel like the music industry is starting to understand. Working with SharpTone now, they totally get the newer kinds of marketing – it’s all faster and more video-led. Before it was just about buying ads, knowing people will see them. Now it’s a little different, I’m not sure if the industry failed bands, it just got stubborn and has had to play catch up. I think we’re going to lose a lot of musicians if they can’t be supported.
More and more bands seem to be going down the DIY route these days…
Bands are going to need to do everything themselves, from their online content to the amount of income they make. The industry and labels aren’t going to be able to sign as many bands, so for most people – if you want to try to make it, you will have to sustain it yourself and treat it like a business. For Bleeding Through, we couldn’t focus every day and do what labels do. It’s give and take, some labels have become very insignificant, but our current label has shown just how much value can come with a label that understands modern business in this industry.
As for the new music, how much of an idea did you have of what you wanted it to sound like before writing and recording?
I almost saw it as a Best Of kinda thing. Before we recorded I’d go back into the studio and listen to every song we’d done prior, even the demo tracks, just to transport myself back to what I was feeling during those times. It was like I was catching up with all that emotion. I’ve always felt a good record is one with finality to it – where you could be fulfilled if it was that final record. Even though this isn’t going to be the last for us, we are already planning to do more, this feels really final. It feels complete. It’s almost like the 20 years we’ve been a band all coming together. We definitely tried new things and looked for ways to expand our sound, but this definitely sounds like a band that have been together a long time, know each other really well and aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. We just wanted to put out a record that felt like it was purely us.
So, you weren’t tempted to make something more radio-friendly?
I feel like people have been expecting Bleeding Through to put out a rock record for quite a long time, and understandably so. A lot of bands from our genre or around Orange County did that. Atreyu, Eighteen Visions, Avenged Sevenfold… all those bands had that rock record. But that’s just not Bleeding Through. We are a metal-influenced band and that’s what we pride ourselves on being. So that’s the kind of record we put out, we want our fans to be proud of something, too – rather than think it’s a bit of a let-down and we’ve become totally different. It sounds weird to have your fans in mind while making a record, but we want them to be as proud as we are. Going into it with that sense of making music with a much bigger purpose gave us more motivation and steered this record into what it is.
There were always more extreme metal influences that seperated you from the class of ’99. Have you ever wondered how much bigger your band could have been if you went down the purist metalcore route?
People ask me all the time, ‘Why not Bleeding Through?’ When I ask them to expand that question, they want to know why Atreyu and As I Lay Dying got bigger than us. And the answer is we were always kinda gnarlier. You have to really understand our influences to get us, while the other bands were always easier to receive and listen to. We still loved In Flames, Dark Tranquility and stuff like that, but we also loved At The Gates, Dimmu Borgir and Emperor. We all listen to a lot of black metal and death metal, whereas other bands in our genre probably don’t, at least not to the same extent. We always wanted to be a bit heavier than everyone else, that’s how we stick out.
Do you think heavy music became a bit stale and predictable?
Everyone is trying to copy each other. They see a formula and want to copy that formula. Every recording sounds exactly the fucking same, like it’s the biggest thing ever made, but then you go and see that band live and it can be totally different. They struggle to live up to it. I think it was different when we started, you couldn’t get a $200,000 sound out of a $5,000 budget. It was all on tape and pre-Pro Tools. I’m not trying to be the old bitter guy – modern bands have their own challenges – but nowadays a band that can’t play can make their first demo sound like the biggest thing ever.
That’s perhaps another area where the industry is failing the artists…
Management tends to get their band to copy what the popular bands are doing. It’s kinda like the Bring Me The Horizon effect. How many fucking bands are going to sound like Bring Me The Horizon now? They are Bring Me The Horizon – you will never overtake them at that. There is nothing you can do that will be better than them in that style. So it does feel like creativity is lacking right now. I get sent a ton of records all the time and every band sounds like Emmure with A Day To Remember choruses and Bring Me The Horizon production. It’s all the same. And that’s because labels know how to polish a turd and turn it into a sound people will buy. There’s a formula, and that’s how the industry is failing. It is not encouraging creativity or shots in the dark, it just wants sales based on what they know people will buy. Whenever musicians ask me for advice, I always say don’t listen to anyone else when it comes to writing your music, unless you’ve asked for that help. Don’t let people in that tell you what you should and should not do…
Do you have any regrets looking back?
There were moments I’d give speeches to a crowd saying goodbye, and maybe I wish I’d made it sound less final, but I honestly didn’t know if we’d do this again. So maybe I’d word it better, I was so caught up in the moment and had so much to get off my chest. To be honest, we chose some markets that we probably won’t go back to now, because of the different way we will have to tour going forward. Additionally, I’ve been bipolar since I was about 14. I hid it from everyone until I was about 32. I don’t know why, I just got into the habit of hiding my mental issues. I told everybody to try to make sense of the days I wasn’t on and maybe I should have done it sooner. It was all about being transparent with each other and becoming stronger as friends.
Words: Amit Sharma
Bleeding Through’s Love Will Kill All is out now on SharpTone Records. Check it…
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