Vocalist Craig Mabbitt and drummer Robert Ortiz of Escape The Fate took some time before their Manchester show to talk with us about the ten year anniversary tour they’re currently on for their album This War Is Ours, and how far they’ve come as individuals and as a band since it’s release…
BM: Its been ten years between This War Is Ours and I Am Human. Do you feel your influences have changed, both musically and otherwise; things you noticed revisiting the older songs?
Craig: Yeah I definitely think so. Your influences naturally change over time, even every day. But a lot of the main influences don’t necessarily change.
Robert: That’s exactly what I was thinking; you still have your favourite bands and everything, but the goal is different I guess. So what changes is that back then we wanted to be this hard rock, hair metal band but with emotion and melodies- and we wanted to be somewhere in the middle of that. Then it progressed into whatever we’re feeling that day for that song, it doesn’t matter if it’s electronic or heavy metal, it’s just whatever we’re feeling.
BM: So you don’t have a specific aim about what you want it to sound like as much as you used to, you just go with what you feel?
Craig: Yeah, I mean I don’t play any of the instruments but I have a vision in my head of what I want something to sound like. If I get the music I just start writing to it, whatever comes to me; lyrics or melody. Sometimes you’ll just get something you weren’t expecting at all that you’ll just fall in love with. That’s why the writing process is always fun, you never know what you’re gonna end up with!
BM: Have you noticed from playing the older stuff, maybe changes that happened without you realising?
Craig: I think for me, the songs I loved when we first released the album are not the same songs that I’m loving when we play that album today. Which is pretty interesting, I definitely liked The Flood and This War Is Ours when the album first came out, but now I’m finding myself all smiles playing On To The Next One and Let It Go every night. It just makes you feel good; it’s good drum beats and catchy-ass melodies, and when you’re singing along you’re like ‘fuck yeah man we should have written more songs like this!’ But it’s an album altogether and it’s nostalgic and you can’t go back and changes. It’ll definitely influence us going forward after doing this ten year tour and seeing what songs make us feel good, and what songs people like from that album and what they like from the most recent album. It’s a good insight into where we want to go next.BM: That was my next question, I wanted to look at what were your favourite songs from the album back then and now, and which are you enjoying playing the most at these shows..
Robert: Well back then This War Is Ours was far and away, and I liked The Flood at first, but then John Feldman changed the chorus and wanted us to do something different and I remember we were like ‘no dude the original way was better!’ But I still love that song and the way it turned out. But there were a lot of different songs on that album, and I guess I liked the heavier ones. I didn’t appreciate the lyrics as much at the time; I think Craig was going through a lot and I had never experienced the things he was experiencing. Ten years later, I’ve gone through the same kind of struggles with relationships and that kind of thing. Now when I hear the words and I’m singing along whilst I’m drumming I’m like ‘damn dude, I get you!’ And ten years later, I finally get it. We’re playing a lot of songs that were more thematically about that, as opposed to the harder-edge, more fun songs that were easier for me to understand back then (or they were just cooler because they had riffs!). Now I can appreciate the others; the feelings behind them and I understand why people liked them all these years; songs like Let It Go or even Ashley, which we always hated because it’s such a pop song. But now I get it.
BM: Yeah completely, that’s what I mean about things changing for you guys, you’ve experienced hell of a lot more of life in the ten years since the release, and I feel like This War Is Ours is a little heavier musically, but I Am Human is thematically a lot heavier. There’s a lot more weighted emotion behind it than probably previous albums.
Robert: Well I think that’s something that we consciously did. I certainly wanted to make sure the lyrics were really in your face, and a big part of it. I transformed from being a drummer to being obsessed with the lyrics now, and I remember Craig showing me the demo for I Am Human and I loved it.
Craig: That’s the first song we wrote as a band where we started out with a vocal. Not a musical demo that I took and wrote to, it was a voice memo on my phone that I then turned into a song, which I thought was pretty cool.
Robert: Also, the song I always talk about, which was my main contribution is If Only, and that was the same thing. I used to wake up at three in the morning for a month straight and add a line to it without an instrument or anything, I just had these lines in my head. I tried to add that to music, and it ultimately ended up being very stripped down. Sometimes we still toy around with the instruments and want to be creative and play around with sounds, but we’ve done it so much that now you want to know what you’re singing about, why you’re playing and know what the song means to you, When you combine melody and emotion, nothing beats that!
Craig: Plus time goes on, and we were all kids. I was 17 years old when I first started music and I was 17 years old when I had my first kid; I was going through a lot of stuff. My thought process when it comes to lyrics is the way you think about life at the time, you just tell yourself it can get better, it will get better… and now being 30 and going through all that stuff, you have this understanding that yes it can get better but it can also get a lot worse. It’s just about accepting that life can get shitty, you’re just wasting your time feeling sorry for yourself. You just deal with life and it comes out when you’re writing stuff. Doing new albums and still coming back to that is always fun and exciting for me.BM: Did you find that it worked better when you came up with the lyrics first, or do you prefer how you say you’ve always done it, where the music comes first?
Craig: I’m not sure! It’s tough for me to think that it works better, because I Am Human is obviously a newer song… For me personally I always end up liking what’s newer rather than what’s older. That was the first time we did it, and we sent our bass player Erik another voice memo and he put music behind it and I was like ‘this is so good!!’. So me personally, I wanna write more songs where it starts off with the lyrics and melody first and see what it comes up with. At the end of the day, you just write in any way and just keep writing until you come up with something that everybody agrees on and likes.
Robert: What I think at the end of the day is that stuff is the heart of it, you know the lyrics and the themes are the heart of the song, and you just build the body around it. You asked about the influence of playing these older songs, and it does make me want to have that foundation laid where you know what it’s going to be as far as themes… Then we should have more fun with it or experiment more. Or focus on writing more interesting musical parts. To me it should always start with that line that just strikes you, and people get it tattooed because it means something to them. That to me beats it all. But playing this stuff makes me think… let’s just work on the riffs a little bit more too!
Craig: It just gets difficult because you have your own life that’s affecting what you’re creating, you look your live shows and what songs get a reaction- and that influences what you’re writing. Then you see what your family and closest friends think about it, and THAT influences what you’re doing. And its tough because sometimes you lose sight of what you really wanted in the first place.
BM: I guess it’s the same with anything though, you listen to so many people tell you what they think about something, you can’t even remember what you thought in the first place sometimes… Are you finding that the guys in the band now that weren’t part of the band (TJ, Thrasher, Erik) when you released This War Is Ours are enjoying playing different songs to the ones you guys are enjoying reliving?
Craig: I think so, because at the same time they were in the scene. They were doing music, and that record ended up being such an influential album for our fans, and for the scene at the time, I’m sure they were familiar with it. I think it’s definitely something cool to be a part of… and that’s me talking through experience because I joined this band too. I had never even listened to the first album; the first time I heard and ETF song I was in Mexico touring with my first band and I thought it was From First To Last. But I got in it, and it’s cool for me to be here and to be playing my album ten years later.BM: I bet it’s bringing back a lot of memories! Does it make you proud too that you can do the 10 year tour, with so many bands coming and going so quickly these days.
Robert: Well to the other question about the other members, its a testament to the songs and our vision and everything. For example Craig and I are SO fucking different, but at our core our goals are the same and it’s like a marriage. You be patient with each other and you grow and you find a way to make it work. Now with TJ and Thrasher, there’s patience because this isn’t the last tour we’re ever going to do. Thrasher gets bummed out because he wishes we were playing more of the new stuff too, but it’s okay because another time we’ll come back and play more of that and make it a longer set. There’s ebbs and flows, and that’s how it works, you just have to enjoy the moment.
BM: Is there anything you would have done differently, looking at This War Is Ours retrospectively now?
Craig: My honest answer would be no! Because obviously whatever we did got us to the point where we’re going around the world playing the album again ten years later, so I don’t know if I would go back and change anything about it…
Robert: Well I could say we maybe could have taken a little more time, and critiqued certain aspects of it a little more, but at the end of it we would have a result where we would have just been happier with different parts. We always have bits that each of us like about what we do, but the thing I would change slightly would be to go back and put out Ashley as a single! I think it would have been better… The label wanted to be we were against it. It’s tough to say, it is what it is and we’re here now.
BM: Does it give you any new ideas for the future, looking back over things?
Craig: I think so. I think it influenced our latest album I Am Human for sure. I remember sitting in the studio and pulling up This War Is Ours, because we were planning on going to Australia and doing the first run of ten year shows down under. I was just looking at this album on our iTunes, and every other album had one or two, but This War Is Ours just had so many- I think that influenced us to release I Will Make It Up To You, which was one of the songs Robert presented to us, and Broken Heart as well. Those songs that were poppy and catchy; the stuff that had always kind of scared us a little bit. We’re all fans of the heavy shit, we love playing the heavy stuff live, but at the end of the day, a good songs a good song isn’t it?
BM: So after this, what’s on the cards for you guys, a full tour in Europe for I Am Human, or some festivals…?
Robert: I think we might be making another album by then!
Craig: The festival thing is definitely a question for a booking agent because I keep asking the same thing. If people are asking for it, supply and demand! We’d love to do some festivals!