The Word Alive Singer Tyler ‘Telle’ Smith Discusses Band Stability + ‘Life Cycles’ Album
The Word Alive, like many new bands, have seen their bumps in the road along the way, but feel they’ve got the lineup ironed out that will take them into the future. The group just released their latest album, ‘Life Cycles,’ to glowing reviews and their track ‘Entirety’ recently entered the Loudwire Cage Match Hall of Fame with five wins in a row. We caught up with singer Tyler “Telle” Smith to discuss the new record and how things have come together for the band:
The album ‘Life Cycles’ came about after realizing there was a grouping of songs that had the interpersonal relationship theme. Did that happen by choice and was that part of the initial direction for this record?
These songs, it took a while before it started to take a direction as you say and yeah, we worked really hard all year long last year and we knew that overall we just wanted push every aspect of it, musically and lyrically and just make it happen where we had a record that could stand the test of time. And so far we’ve been really really stoked on all of the reviews about the album and it’s really an affirmation about the album. It’s been a really great past couple of days and now that it’s gone live, we’ve got an amazing amount of feedback. So it’s really exciting.
You say that you want this to stand the test of time, and listening to the album it seems like the band is coming into their own after a few lineup changes in the last couple of years. How are you feeling about the current lineup of the band and where everyone is at musically?
I think the lineup we have now, it works more for the long haul … With this lineup, me, Zach [guitarist Hansen], and Tony [guitarist Pizzuti] have been solid for the last four years and [bassist Daniel [Shapiro] has been in for I think a little over a year and a half now and he’s dedicated and keeping up and we found a very fair drummer [Luke Holland] who hadn’t toured before but he really had a lot of drive to push us and he also had a lot of interest in getting out on the road and playing shows every night for a majority of the year, so I think we found the perfect mix that’s going to work for us going forward.
We’ve got to thank you for letting us premiere ‘Bar Fight’ here at Loudwire. It’s just a straight-up rocker that shows the hard stuff but also works in the melodic. You guys do that so well in blending the two dynamics. Can you talk about the balance and how it plays out within this song?
For us, we’ve always been about dynamics and trying to push the boundaries of our genre, mixing in things that others might not expect or think they’re not able to or are afraid of how people might perceive it. We like to do that and we like to push what our fans have heard and we think that that in turn will help separate us from a lot of bands. As for most of the songs on the record, we don’t sit there and think, ‘Oh, we’ve gone heavy for a while, we need a soft part.’ You just write what you feel and the songs just kind of come together. It’s just kind of crazy how it happens and it’s very very natural and I think that’s why it works right. It’s just natural … If you write what you feel, based off the start of the song, that kind of drives the rest of the song and then in turn the record comes together. And I feel that every song was different from each other and that was very important for us.
‘Wishmaster’ is definitely an early favorite on this record and seems tailor made for the stage. If you could talk about what makes that such a standout track for the band?
What’s funny is that was the very last song that was written and we almost didn’t write that song, it almost never came to be. Zach was like I’ve got this song and he played it to us and said it has to be on the record, it’s that good. And because it was written so last minute, it’s a little bit more raw than the other ones. And definitely that part that Zach wrote out, it’s one of the more standout pieces on the entire record. And we know what the fans like from the last record, and we knew that we wanted to have that outlet on this record as well. So we kind of dug into our past and mixed in that style with a little something new and I think it came out great.
We’ve been playing that song live for the last few tours and it’s been getting a great crowd reaction live. People who haven’t even heard the song before are getting into it and that’s what you want, so I can’t wait to see the reaction once the song’s been out and the album’s been out.
Also, really digging ‘Entirety.’ It’s got everything from the electronic elements to the atmospheric Deftones-y nature and it’s obvious that the crowd could get involved in singing along. As a band it’s gotta be cool when you click on a song like that?
‘Entirety’ is a song that Tony wrote and he wrote it two days before Christmas. And the only reason I remember that is because for the longest time the working title was ‘December 23rd.’ I had been with my girlfriend in Vegas and when he sent it to me I got a mixture of Deftones beats and In Flames feel and the think I like about the band In Flames is that they might be a heavier band, and especially, they’ve written a lot of personal songs. For being one of the bigger metal bands in the world, they’ve written a lot of songs about that and I wanted to write a song that was like that in theory and make it into a song. And I just felt when I heard that song, you know the lyrics I had in my head had that vibe that I wanted to go for.
I didn’t want it to be a preachy song. I wanted it to be something that feels kind of, I guess, very personal but almost kind of a desperate kind of a thing where it’s something you’re going to covet first, and then it hits you. You know. And then after it hits you, you realize how powerful it is. That’s kind of how the song is for me musically. I like it a lot and the more I listen to it, the more I realize how good the song is and so I tried to take that element into the mix and hopefully it comes across that way. That was my intent and I really like how that song came out. We’re going to be playing that this summer on the All-Stars tour, so hopefully that will [get the response].
You mention the personal nature of the song, but we’ve got to say, ‘Life Cycles,’ the title track, that’s a powerful one and we’ve got to know how it feels to basically have the platform to get something like that off your chest and share it with others?
It’s honestly like an incredible feeling and it’s very rewarding and I’m actually blessed to be a singer and a writer and the things that are in my head, I have a band that just comes up with such great songs constantly that sound different and because there’s a lot of thoughts and feelings in my head and different songs bring out different emotions and I love the fact that I just get an idea [and I can share it].
‘Life Cycles,’ that song in particular, I also wrote some lines from and I kept singing the lines over and over and it was just one of those weird nights, I’d had a few beers, and I was just sitting there thinking about what’s important in life, what do I care about, what would I like to see and what would I do for what I believe in, and I just wrote the song. And then Ashley from Sumerian Records, he’s a good friend of mine, and I got to his house … and he heard the song and he heard my demo version and he liked it and then he heard those lyrics and he was like, ‘Man, those lyrics, that’s a title. It’s perfect.’ But he said the thing that’s missing is that I know that you believe it, but I want to feel it … And he had me sit there and sing to him and he said, ‘Make me believe it.’ And so I sang it and then recorded it on the record and he was like, ‘That’s it, we’re going into the studio tomorrow.’ And just like that, I did and we brought it to the band and they just all flipped out.
That is really the song for me. It just really pushed my voice and that transformed the whole album because from then on, I had to come with that intensity and passion in every song and that’s what I tried to do. I tried to fit my voice sonically in sound with the way that I feel and I think that I did that for the most part.
We know Joey Sturgis has done a lot of solid records over the last few years. What made him the right guy to produce this album and can you talk about what he brought to the process?
We wanted to make a change because we try to change album to album. We try to progress and we wanted to try something new, and with Joey, especially, we like his musical decisions. You can hear the bass, you can hear the drums, you can hear all the guitars, all the synths, the piano, the atmosphere, you can hear everything. And we knew that we were going to be doing a lot of things on this record that had a lot of layers musically.
I think he did a great job with that, and contrary to popular belief, everything is real on this record. And we trusted in his ability to make it where every instrument kind of stands alone. And we couldn’t be happier with how this CD came out.
We’ve also got to ask about the All-Stars Tour coming up with Suicide Silence and Dance Gavin Dance among others. Can you talk about your expectations for the tour and your relationships with some of the bands?
We’re excited about it. Our live show we’re going to take it to a new level that people have never seen before from us, so we’re just really excited about it. We’ve got a lot of friends on this tour, and I’m really psyched about Stick to Your Guns. I have their new record and I really like it a lot. I’ve jammed that. And overall, we’re there for our fans to put on a good show and we’re going to play a few of the hits from the last album hopefully everyone is as cool as we think they will [be].