Interview: We Are The Fallen — "Let's pick the most obvious pop song ever and make it sound haunting and evil, hence Madonna's 'Like a Prayer'"…
Thu, 13 May 2010 12:17:37
We Are the Fallen Videos
We Are The Fallen have officially begun haunting modern rock with their debut album, Tear the World Down, out now.
Tear the World Down conjures a heavy gothic hum that's reminiscent of both HIM and Type O Negative, however, We Are the Fallen's lush orchestral strings and guitars fuel their flight into a realm all their own. At the center of the band's epic sound is vocalist Carly Smithson.
Her voice stirs up a torrent of emotions and feelings over the course of the album, and it seamlessly bonds to Ben Moody's [Ex-Evanescence] viscerally visionary compositions. First single "Bury Me Alive" surges with palpable dark energy, especially during its music video starring and directed by none other than Jaime King.
We Are The Fallen's Carly Smithson sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for this exclusive interview about how Drag Me to Hell inspired "Bury Me Alive," working with Jaime King and the epic "William Wallace" moment at the end of Tear the World Down.
Do you feel like Tear the World Down came together quite naturally?
We worked very hard and not really at all [Laughs]. It was crazy! It was very fluid. I've never been in such a perfect environment. It was amazing to be with four other people that completely understand each other and me. It was an incredible experience, and it will be for the next hundred years!
Did you all instantly click?
Honestly, I met Ben [Moody] one week and, maybe three weeks later, we were announced as a band and had a single. Our original plan wasn't to put out a record; it was to put out two songs every eight weeks. When we sat down to do two songs, we did about 15, so we created a record very fast. It was weird.
At the same time, it probably feels like you've had this record forever.
These are moments, memories and things we've been holding onto. A lot of the songs are ideas that we'd wanted to write about for ages but it wasn't the right situation in the past. There's a song called "St. John." I had the idea for that song for a long time, but it would've been weird to many songwriters. To these guys, it's not. John gave me this incredibly crazy track that was just the perfect combination of music and theme. It creates this Wizard of Oz meets "This Is Halloween" story. As soon as I heard the track, it was perfect for the concept I had.
There are a lot of stories on the record. Is storytelling central to your writing?
Of course! Nothing, other than one song, comes from an imaginary place. Everything is a memory or life experience. I believe there's only one song that was actually written after I read a book. I wrote "Don't Leave Me Behind" after I read New Moon. That's the only fictional piece on the record. Everything else is very precious to us and a great story or memory. I believe there's something for everybody. People who listen to this record are going to be able to relate to everything that we've all had going on in all of our lives. Our band name is We Are the Fallen; we've all had so many ups and downs—the hard knocks in our lives—but you have to turn them into positives and create. Embrace all of your flaws and your darkest, deepest moments.
If you were to compare this album to a movie, what would you compare it to?
Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands and Braveheart! We wanted this to be a record that you could listen to and visualize everything going on. It's a very epic album. For "Tear the World Down" at the end, I almost want one of the band members to come over the hill on a horse and give a speech like William Wallace or something [Laughs]. It's a crazy ending! A lot of bands sit down and they have these ideas of what they need to put out into the world. We didn't really do that. We just got creative and said, "What do we want? What is the record of our dreams that we've always wanted?" We wanted long, orchestral pieces, strings and songs that went on forever. Our label was super-supportive of all our ideas. There was no compromise made. We just decided we were going to achieve everything we ever wanted to. We went ahead and recorded whatever came into our brains. "Tear the World Down" is like a story from a victim's point of view—just about lost hope and lost love. It's so incredibly epic, and the music hits you right in the chest. It's about someone who is such a victim for so many years that they've just agreed to be the victim forever and let life continue and pass them by. From the beginning, we knew it was going to be the end of the record. It has such power to it that you come to this climactic point and it drops. It's like angels are singing you out of the album. We had a full 37-piece choir come in, and we had massive strings that we did in two days because there were so many of them.
Was the concept for the "Bury Me Alive" something you came up with or Jaime King?
It was really bizarre. I'd started the song in Atlanta and when I met the boys that was the icebreaker that started the whole record. It was the first song we did together. We saw Drag Me to Hell one night and, at the end of the movie, the girl falls into a grave. It's raining, and she's trying to get out. We were like, "That's really cool!" I'd left California and gone back to Atlanta where it's quite Southern. I'd been in the entertainment industry for so long and I had so many people that I watched success and fame ruin. They were so pure and lovely, and they fell to the earth. I'd watched the industry consume them and them consume themselves. It's like that line, "I watched you let yourself die." You let the awesome person you are just waste away and now you're just that networker or social butterfly. It's basically that "You stabbed me in the back to get ahead" kind of lyric. After seeing Drag Me to Hell, I changed the lyric to "Bury Me Alive" at the beginning. It means the same thing, but it's a little bit more visual. When we got the treatment in, we'd never met Kyle or Jaime before, but they just had this vision that was mirroring what we were feeling when we were putting together the song. It was honestly perfect. We all agreed on it unanimously. It was like they'd been in our brains. They hit the nail on the head with everything down to a "T". The video complimented the song perfectly with the stained glass—even to be somewhere that was so creepy, because it was a graveyard and a mausoleum, it was so beautiful that you forgot where you were. It had such beautiful marble in the flooring, and everything about it was so stunning.
Was working with Jaime especially easy because she's an actress?
Definitely! For me, I believe Jaime was a massive influence. To have an actress there when you're doing your scenes is incredibly helpful. I'm connecting with lyrics very differently than when I do it on stage. When I'm on stage, I'm in myself and in the moment. On camera, I have to pass it on to the viewer. To have Jaime there coaching me and pulling this emotion out of me was amazing. I definitely learned a lot from her in that day.
Why'd you choose to cover "Like a Prayer?"
We had talked about covers for awhile. Ben went camping on a weekend trip and called us saying, "Let's pick the most obvious pop song ever and change it! Make it sound haunting and evil." So we chose "Like a Prayer." It was such a perfect idea. Who's more iconic than Madonna? She's been an inspiration to so many people including myself. As a first cover, it's so left-field but not. It just works. We had the choir come in and we were chanting and laughing at the end. There are tribal drums. It's just this massive wall of sound. It's a really incredible piece. The bridge feels like Hell has opened up and is hooking you down. It's a very dark bridge when it comes out of that second chorus. It's wonderful to sing.
What records shaped you?
For me, it probably started out with theater like Les Miserables and big operas like Madame Butterfly. When I was a kid, I'd listen to that stuff. I was never into New Kids On The Block, Take That or whatever the boy bands were. I'd always steal my brother's records like Metallica, Iron Maiden and Fleetwood Mac. He'd have those in his bedroom, and I'd go in and scratch the hell out of him because I didn't even know how to use his record player. I always loved Heart. Ann Wilson's voice made me want to better myself every day. You try and live up to a standard of vocals like that. Nobody could ever accomplish what that woman could accomplish with her voice. It's insanely incredible. I was so interested, inspired and intrigued by her voice. Another big inspiration was Shirley Manson from Garbage. I saw her when I was about 15. She was opening up for Alanis Morissette at the Anaheim Pond. That was such an incredible experience. Marilyn Manson was a big influence too. I've had so many. For me as a female, it'd have to be Ann Wilson and Heart. I watched her walk out on the stage at the Greek in LA and she commands everybody. It looks effortless, and you feel like she's pulling you in.
You'll have to do a song with her.
I would fucking love that! That would be a dream. I got to meet her and Nancy when I was in Los Angeles. I met them at Idol Gives Back. They were amazing! They heard that I covered "Crazy On You" on the show, and it was a really incredible. You wait your whole life to meet your idols, you meet them and it's over [Laughs].
Check out our full album stream of Tear the World Down here!
Have you checked out We Are The Fallen yet?