The metalcore band The Word Alive have been issuing albums for ten years now, with Monomania their latest release. We caught up with frontman Telle Smith, who updates us on the album, life on tour, social media and other topics.
Chad Bowar: What was different about the songwriting process for Monomania compared to previous The Word Alive albums?
Telle Smith: The biggest difference was how relaxed the process began. I wrote what would become the first song we picked to keep for the album called “No Way Out” in 2018, because we knew we wanted to take our time and let the songs come to us rather than just pick a 4-6 time period and hope we felt inspired. So we came in with more material than we have had since our first album probably.
How did you decide to work with producer Erik Ron?
Erik is one of my best friends since we first worked together back in 2014. I suggested to the guys we visit his studio for a week and just write some songs and feel out the vibe. The guys were instantly hooked and Tony stood up and said “we’re doing the record with Erik!” which was great because we were all thinking the same thing.
What was his producing style, and how was the experience working with him?
He knows when you need to be pushed and he knows when to let you do your own thing. He’s as hands on as you need him to be without hijacking the band’s album like some producers are known to do. He injects his own personal feelings into the projects he works on so there is a subtle refreshing spin he adds to a lot of bands. I think it was a perfect match.
How has the band’s sound expanded on this album?
We were just more in tune with each other and shared the vision for what we wanted the message of The Word Alive to be. We wanted a diverse record that feels to us, like it’s ahead of the curve.
Did you struggle with track order at all?
Not really, it came pretty easily this time.
What inspired your lyrics this time around?
As always, just life and the experiences I myself have from album to album, stories I want to tell or even a combination of what we all go through together and apart.
Six albums in, have your goals and expectations for a new record changed over the years?
Our goals are always higher, of course. We want to help be a big part of the music scene and leave behind something special that will carry weight for years to come. But our expectations are the same; work hard, be good to others and be honest with our music and what’s meant to be will be.
How was the response to last year’s 10th anniversary tour?
It was a lot of fun. Everybody enjoyed the nostalgia, I think!
Would you consider doing another tour in the future where you play an album in full?
Absolutely, it’s fun for us and at times a challenge. Some of the songs we put on albums at the time, we never anticipated we would play. So album entirety tours are a lot of fun.
Where haven’t you played live that you’d still like to get to?
Hawaii and Alaska are the last two U.S. states for us to play. Russia and the Ukraine have been dying to see us for years and I think South Africa would be a good time.
What’s the coolest site/attraction you’ve been able to visit while on tour?
Probably the monkey temple in Malaysia.
You have songs with millions of streams. What can be done to more fairly compensate artists for streaming, which has become the primary way most fans consume music these days?
Well I think corporations valuing art more and cutting in the bands directly is really the only way at this time. Because now that streaming is everywhere, it’s the number one way people listen to music.
Social media has become the primary means of band promotion. What is currently your most effective platform? Is it difficult to keep up with the constantly evolving and expanding social media landscape?
I would say Twitter and Instagram are the best for us, but it does shift at times. It’s not that it’s hard to evolve with the times so much as it’s just difficult to reach your fans without extending yourself financially due to the algorithms reducing your reach.
What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
I play basketball 4-5 days a week while I’m off tour, it was my first love and I play every chance I can!
What was the last thing you binge-watched?
Probably the show You, but watching Jack Ryan now. It’s not that good (laughs), but once I start something I usually will finish it.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Not a ton right now because I’ve been practicing for tour which means a lot of my own band (laughs) but I really love the new Dragged Under. It’s kind of heavy punk, but catchy which is a huge thing for me. I need melody in my music even when it’s heavier, a great example is Deftones or Killswitch Engage for that.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Just would love to say thank you to anybody reading this and listening to our new album Monomania as we release more and more of it. I hope you’ll love the record and that it speaks to you. See you guys at the next show nearest you!
(interview published February 20, 2020)