The Word Alive’s Telle Smith Talks ‘Real’ Album, 2014 Warped Tour + More
The Word Alive are back rocking with a new album. The band just released their 'Real' album, featuring the single 'Play the Victim,' and they're spending the summer on the Vans Warped Tour.
During a recent stop at the Los Angeles-area Self Help Festival, Loudwire had a chance to chat with the Word Alive vocalist Telle Smith and he spoke about the 'Real' album and some of the musical growth experienced during the creation of the disc. He also opened up about the single 'Play the Victim,' his thoughts on playing live and what being part of Warped Tour means to him. Check out our chat with The Word Alive's Telle Smith below:
Let's talk about 'Real,' the new album. How do you think fans will react to the disc?
We released our first track "Play the Victim" not long ago. The reaction has been sick. That song is the middle of the road track for the album. There's some that are going to please old fans that just want heavy only and want to see that guitar work, crazy vocals, crazy drums. So we have that, then we also have the other end of the spectrum where we just focused on writing good songs -- really melodic, mostly singing. There are two songs that are 90-100 percent singing, which is something we haven't done since 'Deceiver.' We're just trying to grow over all.
I think the songs show a natural progression for our band. It showcases Luke [Holland] and Daniel [Shapiro] cementing themselves as a piece of the band and not just me, Zack [Hansen] and Tony [Pizzuti] writing everything. Having that influence, I think it's a really diverse record that is going to please the fans of our EP through 'Life Cycles.' If you like anything we've ever done, you're probably going to find something on our album that you think is awesome.
I like what you've done in the past, looking forward to this record. You guys have such energy with your music. Is it a difficult task when you go into a studio environment?
Live is way easier, without a doubt. We feed off the crowd so much, especially me as a frontman. If the crowd is going crazy, I'm going to be able to do things that I would never be able to do otherwise. That adrenaline pump gets you so much further. But you have to find your way to recreate that in the studio. That is something I've learned towards the end of the recording process of 'Life Cycles.' With the new record, I tried to capture that live feel, especially with vocals. A lot of people have said they love the record, but they love it more live.
I appreciate that, but I want to try to capture that live emotion into a record as much as possible. I think we did that. It's really just about understanding what you're going for. And being like, OK this is what we want to capture in our record, every take we do, we have to think about how that is going to translate to live? How is this going to feel to people who see it live versus only hearing the record? Keeping that in the back of your head is -- it makes it easier to try to make sure.
Whereas before, if you do a great take, you're like, "Well that was a great take." Now it's more of, "Yeah, technically it's correct, but it's not the one." We focused on getting the one with as much of our record as we could.
You mentioned more singing on this one. How did you come to the decision of that being the direction you wanted to go.
There's those songs that have more screaming than singing. If i'm going to do both, I'm going to do both to the best of my ability. I want to be up there in the conversations of being the best frontman in our genre. Whether it's present, past or future, I want to get to a point where I can be able to say that, for my family, for being away from everyone I love. It's like, I want it to mean something someday. I work hard at trying to be the best screamer I can. I mean, I couldn't even scream when I joined TWA and I've gotten to where I have in five years. I've been singing since I can remember hearing the radio and it took me 27 years to get where I'm at vocally.
Singing is way harder, especially live to really nail it and come across consistent and strong. I take much more pride in my singing and ultimately I think -- even if you like heavy music there's only so much you can listen to before your need some melody. Why not blend the two? Just because a part is heavy, doesn't mean I need to scream, whereas before, it'd be like, "OK it's heavy we should scream over it."
I wanted to show off different techniques and ideas that maybe weren't what you were thinking would happen. I want you to be surprised when you hear our record, and hear parts and be like, " Oh man, I expected it to be this but I love it so much more that they did that." That's what I went for vocally. I wanted to surprise people, catch them off guard but in a good way.
The new song, 'Play the Victim,' let's get into that.
That is the first song we wrote as a full band since 'Empire.' It was just getting in a room, just jamming. You can feel the jammy-ness to it. It's more rockier, everyone is doing something cool but it lets it breathe instead of each part needing to be crazy. It was, let's jam and naturally feel something out.
The first time I ever heard it, the guys had the song about 75 percent done. The first melody I sang to the chorus [he sings the chorus] I just matched the feeling to words and created the chorus from there, then I built the rest of the song from that.
It has a couple of different meanings. I always see these kids who are complaining about their lives, or even friends. People in general who are complaining. Well you're bringing about that negative energy. If you're only focusing on negatives, you're only going to get negative results. If you're focusing on what you have, being thankful, grateful, those emotions and feelings are going to lead to positive things happening in your life.
The beginning of the song is "You're the one that always falls apart / The one that plays the victim working on your latest tragedy when you should want to fix it." It's like, too many people are focusing on the attention they can get from being negative rather than being like, "OK I don't like this about my life right now, what can I do to change it?" Too many people just dwell and it's about -- we dwell on the negative, we hurt the people we love and then complain about it when we don't have someone to fall back on. You've got to make changes in your life.
It goes even further, I feel like there's this trend of people who are using negative stuff -- cutting, or self harm in some way. It's part of what this festival even today is about, you don't need to have a story. You don't need to have to do that for a band to want to meet you. Just be yourself, grateful for your life and if you don't like something about it change it. Don't end it. Don't do something you're going to look back in 10 years saying, "Man, I was doing that for a few extra re-tweets on Twitter? Or to meet a band?" No one is going to give a s--t 10 years from now, so why are you doing it, because those things are permanent. It's a permanent solution to a temporary problem. You need to re-evaluate your mindset.
This song and several songs on the record are about that negativity in this world that I see all the time and even that I have had and experienced myself. How do I acknowlege it, how do I change it? How do I be more than where I'm at right now? That's what that song is about.
So many aspects to what 'Real' means, it is about being real with yourself, being honest. It goes to our band. We just want to be real dudes. We want to be guys you feel like you can come up to and talk to at a show and be like, "Thanks for your music." You don't have to have a story, just be like thank you. And we'd be like, dude thank you, I'm glad you like that, you know? Because we're no different than any one of these fans. We've been the fans at shows, we still go to shows we love.
We're just real dudes who love music and we've been blessed with enough people who support us that we've been able to grow and do it for more of a larger fanbase all over the world. We never want to lose sight of the fact that we could be just as well as people who are in their parents' basement who are just jamming away, that was us. That's what the record is about, being yourself and being honest with it.
Share one or two other songs you're really excited about on the album.
I'm really excited about the record as a whole. We did two songs with John Feldmann -- one called 'The Runaway' and one called 'Lighthouse' that people are going to -- it's going to be out of left field. People are going to be like what? That's The World Alive? We hope people take it with an open mind and focus more on the lyrics, the song itself. Not thinking that, "Oh it has to be this, now that TWA has to fit in this box." I'm excited to hear the feedback from those songs.
One of my other favorites is -- I won't even say the title because I want people to pay attention to the lyrics but one of the lyrics is also, it goes back to the subject of being honest with yourself. It's a song that in the chorus, it talks about don't believe in me I'll bring your down, I'm water in your lungs. It's about -- OK, how am I affecting other peoples lives? Not just viewing, what's happening to me, but what am I doing to other people? And if I'm a negative influence in someone's life, if I'm dragging someone down, you have to realize that and that needs to be one of the biggest things that people change about themselves. You have to be selfless. You have to take a step back, not what am I getting but what am I giving to people? The song is an honest look at the fact that I've been a really negative person to certain people in my life and I do not want to be that. I hope when people hear that song their reaction is also, "Man who am I? Is there anyone in my life that is how they feel about me maybe?" They might not know it, a lot of times you're at a low point in your life and negativity, you're attracted to it. They might not realize that you're a part of the problem but if you have to be, am I?
Well I care about this person so I either need to take a step out of their life, or I need to make some changes for myself that's going to benefit everyone around me. I'm excited for people to read into the lyrics and really incorporate it into their life and take a hard look at themselves and see where am I at in life? What can I do to improve it?
You're playing Warped Tour this summer. What was your first Warped experience, either playing or going as a music fan?
I love Warped Tour. 2008 was my first year I had attended because I set a goal when I was in a local band that I want to go to Warped Tour until I played it, and I did. I reached that goal and now this will be my fourth time playing Warped Tour. Some people look down on it, oh man that's such a hard tour for bands. What are you talking about? It's great crowds, you're hanging out with your friends, you're enjoying making music and being able to play it for tons of new fans and old ones, I love Warped Tour. I think it's an amazing festival tour.
I hope it's around for as long as I'm alive and beyond. I want my kids, grandkids to understand what a big deal Warped Tour is. We're just excited to be a part of it. We'll be on the Monster Stage all summer long. Hopefully people will check us out and hopefully they'll enjoy it.
Telle, with live shows, there's a lot of energy going into the stage dives. What's one of the craziest thing you've done or have seen bands do live?
There's some fans who get crazy. On this tour I jumped off a balcony into a crowd, did a front flip off a -- it was about 20-22 feet in the air. I jumped and hoped they loved me enough to catch me, that was fun. Last night I did a backflip off the riser and then ran and stage dove, did a front flip into the crowd. I like to have fun. I don't like to plan things out too much, I like to just feed off the energy in the crowd. I actually have a really big shin and knee tattoo piece right before we played yesterday and they told me not to go into the crowd. In the heat of the moment I wasn't even thinking about it and jumped in and got smacked on my leg. Oh yea! I wasn't supposed to do this tonight.
But, when you come to our live show I want you to lose sight of what you think you're supposed to do at a show and just have fun. My motto is, you should be sweaty by the end of our set. Every single time. Granted, there are people who -- I'm not going in the mosh pit for every band I love, it doesn't take away from me as a fan. But, if you're there and that's what you're willing to do then I expect you do it. You can expect from me to feed off that energy and give you that much better of a show.
Our thanks to The Word Alive's Telle Smith for the interview. You can catch them all summer on the Vans Warped Tour. Check here for the stops. And be sure to pick up their 'Real' album, available via iTunes.
Listen to The Word Alive's Play the Victim: