Interview by Holly Aker. Photo by Tim Harmon.
In late 2009, Chiodos, a popular post-hardcore sextet from Michigan, let go of lead singer Craig Owens and drummer Derrick Frost. By early 2010, Chiodos had filled the vacant spots with Brandon Bolmer on vocals, Tanner Wayne on drums and were beginning to record a new album.
Alongside Atreyu and Blessthefall, Chiodos recently wrapped up the Congregation of the Damned Tour, which was Chiodos’ first tour since releasing the new album, Illuminaudio, in early October on Equal Vision Records. San Antonio was one of the last stops on the tour, and Chiodos gave an unforgettable performance that had the whole venue shaking. Before the show, we sat down with Bolmer to talk about Illuminaudio, the stress he felt while writing the album and the rebirth of Chiodos.
Do you know how the dynamic has changed in the band since you and Tanner Wayne joined Chiodos?
Bolmer: Since I joined it’s gotten a little heavier. Not drastically, but I think the vocals fit the music a little more. That’s just my opinion because I’m new, so coming from before and now, if I was to take myself out, and if I was to think of me as someone else and critique both, I would say that vocals fit pretty good.
What about the personalities?
Bolmer: I’ve gotten the story of how bad things were before Craig left the band, how upset and frustrated everyone was, and now everyone seems to be really happy. The attitudes of everybody are a lot more positive, and everyone’s excited again. It’s fresh.
Did the band have you in mind when Craig left?
Bolmer: No. When they let Craig go, they had nobody. They weren’t really looking yet. They started writing a lot of music, and didn’t really have anyone in mind or weren’t really worried about it at the time. Then they started doing their auditions. So I came later. It wasn’t like they had already planned on it.
A lot of fans were really upset that Craig wasn’t in the band anymore. How did you deal with the backlash from those fans?
Bolmer: I knew when I joined the band and was deciding to join the band that that was going to happen, so I was already mentally preparing for it. I’ve seen a lot of that shit online. I’ve seen a lot of people talking. It happens with every band. It happens with bands that didn’t lose their singer and are still just bands that put out a record that someone didn’t like. That’s always going to happen, so to me it’s not childish because I know those people really cared about Craig and enjoyed the music and they’re bummed about it, but it doesn’t really bother me.
Were you involved much in the writing process of Illuminaudio?
Bolmer: In the lyrics and the singing, yeah. That was all me and Brad [Bell]. Mostly all original. Nothing was re-recorded that was already written by Craig. Everything’s original by me and Brad. I wasn’t involved much in the music, but I was there for about half the writing process for the rest of everything.
Given the fact the Craig was the face and the voice of Chiodos, did you feel a lot of pressure while writing Illuminaudio?
Bolmer: There was definitely pressure. I definitely had to live up to the fans’ expectations. At first it was kind of stressful. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t horrible stress or anything, but at times it would be frustrating just wondering what people were going to think about it. I’d say yeah, it was a little hard. A little bit of pressure.
Where did the title “Illuminaudio” come from?
Bolmer: We never sat down and were like, “What are we going to call it?” We just wanted it to come to us. Then one day me and Brad and Tanner [Wayne] and a couple other dudes were chilling at Brad’s house and running over some ideas. We really liked the idea of the word “illumination” or “illuminate” because as far as the band’s struggle and the dark times they went through and how it is now, it represents finding a light at the end of the tunnel for the band. So that’s where “illumination” came from, and then “audio” obviously, it’s a CD. It [“Illuminaudio”] means a sound that will enlighten or an enlightening soundscape. We thought it was cool, and like I said, the band went through a lot of shit, so this is kind of like the rebirth of Chiodos.
Did you have any specific influences while writing Illuminaudio?
Bolmer: Maybe a little bit of Deftones for me. When recording, I don’t really listen to a lot of music because, I don’t try so hard to be original, but I want it to be something fairly new sounding. So I just do my thing really, but I have a lot of influences. Maybe Deftones, Muse.
What is your favorite track off of Illuminaudio?
Bolmer: Favorite song is either “Modern Wolf Hair,” “Notes in Constellations,” and “Those Who Slay Together, Stay Together.”
“Those Who Slay Together, Stay Together” seems to be one of the most powerful songs on the album. Can you tell me a little bit about the meaning behind it?
Bolmer: Well first, I think it’s one of the most powerful because we spent a lot of time on that song. When I first joined the band, they had already written the music. They wrote the song with the intention of having it being a zombie-story-type song. Me and Brad watched “28 Weeks Later,” it’s a zombie movie, or not really zombies but an infected, virus type thing. We got a lot of inspiration for the song from that movie, but we twisted it in a way to where the song goes along with the movie a little bit. We tied this idea into the song of a group of people just basically sticking together for one purpose. So at the beginning of the song, the purpose for the group of people, which could be our band or could be any group of people, a family, a couple or whatever. The idea is that at the beginning of the, I’ll call it a movie, the group of people are uninfected people that are trying to survive basically to avoid this deadly virus. In the middle of the song that’s where there’s an attack scene and the people become infected by the virus. And then their ultimate goal is still to stay together but also to obviously, as the movie would be, to infect everybody possible. It’s about sticking together. It kind of represents the band and how they stuck together through all the tough times they went through. It’s kind of about that.
You’ve been on the Congregation of the Damned Tour for a little over a month now. What has been one of your favorite moments while on tour?
Bolmer: I have a lot of favorite moments. This tour has been really cool. Every band and every person in each band is really down to earth and friendly. No one’s an asshole or cocky or any of that. Everyday something funny happens, something cool happens. One of my favorite shows would probably be Montreal. Atlanta, Georgia was cool. There’s been a lot of cool shit that’s happened. Everyday’s been awesome. I always get this question, and when I’m not asked the question, I know and I could answer, but then when the question pops up and I’m on the spot, I can’t think of anything. There’s been a lot of funny shit. Sam [Carter] from the Architects keeps us pretty entertained a lot. The singer of the Architects; he’s a pretty funny dude.
You haven’t posted any new tour dates for the rest of the year or really at all yet. What do you have planned for the remainder of 2010 and then into 2011?
Bolmer: For the rest of the year, we’re going to chill, kick back a little bit, enjoy the holiday. Then next year we have a tour booked in March. It’s not announced yet, so I don’t want to announce it myself, but that’ll be a good tour. I’m sure we’ll come back around this area. We might even book something before that at the beginning of the year, and if not, we’ll probably start writing something just to use the time wisely. But for the rest of the year, we’re just going to chill.