Last year’s Rockstar Mayhem Festival saw the roving metal tour unleash a jaw-dropping lineup of legends that included the unholy triumvirate of Slayer, Motörhead, and headliners Slipknot presiding over a marauding metal militia of bands, fans, vendors and in some venues, jumping motorcycles. No shit. In addition to the two main stages, Sumerian Records offered festival attendees the chance to catch quick, blistering sets on a small stage set up at the tip of the festival’s marketplace, and it was on this tiny stage that L.A.’s Thrown Into Exile delivered one of 2012 Mayhem’s most surprising, energetic and pit-friendly sets, formalizing their intentions of staking a claim in the global metal arena.
For the past year, Thrown Into Exile have committed to a steady diet of road campaigns that included the Mayhem tour, the Summer Slaughter tour and the California Metalfest, as well as opening slots for Testament, Fear Factory and Sepultura. 2013 sees the band release their debut four-song EP, produced by DevilDriver guitarist Mike Spreitzer, with their full-length studio debut soon to follow (also to be produced by Spreitzer). The band will also return for this year’s Rockstar Mayhem Festival, which will include headliners Rob Zombie and Five Finger Death Punch, as well as Mastodon, Amon Amarth and Machine Head.
I had the opportunity to speak with Thrown Into Exile vocalist Evan Seidlitz about the new EP, the realities of forming a band and their upcoming touring schedule. We also talked about strippers and opera.
Joe Daly: Talk to me about the EP.
Evan Seidlitz: Since the conception of Thrown Into Exile, it’s been really DIY so we figured that as we approached out debut EP, we’d stick with that motto and just do it ourselves. So we went out and, through our network of people, came across Michael Spreitzer, who plays guitar for DevilDriver; both he and our guitar player Mario (Rubio) as well as our other guitar player Colin (Reed), have had a friendship with him for the past few years, so we brought up the idea of him maybe producing our EP and he was down with it. He liked Mario and Colin as people and he dug the music, so it made sense. They introduced me to Michael and we hit it off right away. It takes a certain type of person to work with when you’re in the studio recording vocals and stuff like that, because you’ve got to be in a positive environment and me and Spreitzer really had that together. We had that connection and he was easy to work with, so we basically just knocked off the songs around his schedule. It was definitely worth it. We’re going to bring him back on board to produce our next ten songs, which we’re going to showcase to labels.
When you got together with Michael to formulate a vision for the EP, what did you all decide it needed to have, in terms of sound or themes?
Unfortunately with the EP, a lot of the drum tracks were already recorded in a studio. Our drummer actually had to dip out because he went out on the road with Otep, playing some shows with them. Basically he went in the studio one day and recorded all the drum tracks, so Spreitzer really didn’t have too much to work with; the songs were pretty much etched in stone once those drum tracks were recorded. We couldn’t do a whole lot of moving stuff around, which makes it really cool with (the forthcoming full-length debut), because we do have the time to record it because he’s got a bit of a break, so we’re able to do everything that much better this time around. Spreitzer has more to work with.
As far as the EP is concerned, we spent more time working on the vocals, which was a big focus. That was the one thing that we could really work on and hash out and spend some time on in order to get the best sound possible. The main focus was trying to catch the intensity of the live performance of Thrown Into Exile on a recording. I think that’s what you want to do with any metal band, you want to capture that intensity live on the EP or record.
With all of the touring you’ve done in the past year, you’ve had the opportunity to showcase your sound to a fairly broad audience. Is there anything on the EP that might surprise listeners who have seen you live?
You’re definitely going to be able to hear all the cool shit that Mario and Colin are doing on the guitars. In a live setting sometimes you miss a lot of the cool shit that’s going on, like all the bells and whistles like the drum rolls, the fills and some of the harmonics. Sometimes that can get missed in a live setting, so on the EP you can actually catch the little intricacies and you might think, “Wow, I never really caught that when I saw them live.” I’ve actually heard that from people who have seen a lot of our shows in L.A. Now they’ve got the EP that they can finally listen to and hear all the harmonies and what Mario and Colin are doing on guitars…their arpeggios and such. It gives people a chance to listen to the album in greater depth.
What kind of themes are you writing about?
Experiences from the past decade, pursuing a career in music. You know, I moved out to L.A. from Cleveland, Ohio, in 2003, and I’ve been in half a dozen different bands, taking lessons from opera teachers and stuff…so lyrically, I took those experiences from the past ten years—everything it took to get where we are today. There were a lot of hits and misses in almost getting signed by major and independent labels, with things kind of snowballing and asking myself, “Man, should I continue with this? It’s been almost ten years…” I knew I couldn’t give up, so lyrically, it’s subtle, but a lot of the content is about overcoming the harder times of being a musician and being able to prevail, move forward and achieve everything that you ever thought about doing. Just sticking with it.
What is that hurdle? Is it a financial hurdle? A creative hurdle? What is specifically the stuff that has been the hardest to overcome?
Everything from finding the right chemistry of members in a band, which I think is probably one of the biggest hurdles for a band trying to get to the next level—finding the right people because there are so many people who say they wanna be musicians and they say they’re in a band, but then when it comes down to it, when it’s time to do the things you’re supposed to do in a band, they’d rather go and hang out at The Rainbow, or they don’t have the time or they come up with some sort of excuse. So finding other like-minded people in a band is probably one of the biggest hurdles, finding people who are as hungry for it as you are, and who are looking to take it to the level that you want to be at, which is basically touring the world and sharing your music with everybody.
I guess other than that, financially, it’s definitely hard to pursue a band seriously and have a full-time job. I’ve been lucky enough that in the past ten years, I’ve had a job pretty much every step of the way while pursuing music. That’s another really tough thing to do, having a full-time job and still pursuing music at a serious level, not just looking to gig at the local bars on Sunset (Boulevard), but to take it to the next level. So financially I think that a lot of people give up because it’s so hard to pursue it while working full-time.
I’ve worked in kitchens and I’ve also been bartending for the past seven years, working five days a week and then trying to work out a rehearsal schedule three to four times a week. But that’s what you’ve gotta do if you’re hungry for it. You’ve gotta pay your own way. You always hear those stories about people coming up in the 80s and shacking up with strippers and stuff… Motley Crüe wrote about it in their book. They were all homeless and they were shacking up with strippers. I guess I have a little more self respect, a little more dignity and integrity. I wanna to it on my own, so it took a long time, but we’re finally getting to the point where things are really starting to happen with this band and I’ve found the right people. It’s really inspiring once you find the right pieces to the puzzle.
As someone who has taken lessons as an opera singer, what similarities have you found between metal vocals and opera?
Lung capacity! (laughing) And endurance. Being an opera singer and being a metal singer, as much as people think that they’re polar opposites, you have to have a lot of endurance and balls to sing opera, as you do metal. I studied with a lady at the Orange County Music Academy. I paid my own way and went in a couple times a week, and she showed me a lot of fundamentals of singing and where it comes from. She couldn’t do a whole lot in terms of telling me how to scream properly…she wasn’t a rock vocalist, she was an opera teacher. But I wanted to learn outside of the realm of what I do because I think that’s the best way to find out what I can do. It taught me a whole hell of a lot about breathing and where everything is coming from, but not too much from and concentrating on where everything’s coming from, but not too much in a live setting because if you concentrate too much, you’re going to more or less overcompensate for one thing or another. She got to the point one day where after a year, she was like, “I can’t really do too much else with you. You basically need a rock vocalist at this point.” She taught me a whole hell of a lot. She really did.
You guys have put together a fairly polished video to coincide with the EP. How important do you think it is for bands to release videos these days? What role do they play for an up-and-coming act?
I think the music video is just as important as having a killer beatdown EP with great songs, because not only is the EP going to put you on the map for having the songs, but you’ve got to put faces with the band and the songs, so to have a performance video showcasing the band members it’s just as important as having killer songs. For us it all came together at the same point. First we released our single, and then we released a four-song EP and then just a few weeks ago, we released the music video for our single. Now we’re writing another ten songs for our debut album, that’s probably going to be coming out at the beginning of 2014. But the video is everything. We were lucky that we were able to record our video with Fabio Jafet, a seven-time Grammy winner. He’s done some stuff for Enrique Iglesias, Pitbull, Motley Crue… he’s worked for CNN and CBS news for the longest time and he really wanted to break into the metal world, so he and my guitar player Mario met up and hashed it out. Fabio flew out here from Florida and knocked out three music videos in a week and we were one of them. We did it old-fashioned style, with him and us down at the L.A. river one afternoon. We did it sort of guerilla-style. We brought a PA system, and I brought a generator, so we could get live playback, and we just went for it. I couldn’t be happier with the way the video turned out. He did a really great job.
So the album would be coming out early next year and you’ve got Mayhem kicking off next month. What else is on tap for this year?
The rest of the year we’re going to try to get as many songs as we can for the album before we leave for Mayhem. We should be able to get the majority of them done. I don’t think Spreitzer’s doing anything with DevilDriver until August or maybe September, so we probably have a month or two after Mayhem when we can get back to work with him. After that, we definitely want to book another tour come fall to follow up Mayhem and just kind of find a home for us. We want to find the right label that wants to put this out. We’ve been talking with a few, and I’m not going to mention any names, but we have some interest right now and we want to knock out another killer ten songs and we’ll bring that home, release it in 2014 and we’re going to tour the world on it. That’s the gameplan.