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  • Runnin' with the Devil: A Backstage Pass to the Wild Times, Loud Rock, and the Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen
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Sunday
Feb012015

Flyleaf - Sameer Bhattacharya

The alternative, Christian rock quintet, Flyleaf, is a reinvigorated band on a mission to once again be a relevant force in the modern rock world. After a tumultuous year in 2012, in which the Flyleaf's dynamic singer/songwriter, Lacey Sturm, surprisingly decide to leave the band that she co-founded in 2002, Flyleaf is now back with a talented new lead singer, Kristen May. While many long-time fans had difficultly accepting Sturm’s departure, May has stepped right in, and has brought an exciting new element into the band.

Late last year, Flyleaf released their fourth studio release, 'Between the Stars,' on the Loud & Proud record label. This 12-track record debuted at #33 on the Billboard charts.

Currently, Flyleaf is headlining this year's Snocore tour, which also features ADELITAS WAY, Framing Hanley, and Fit For Rivals.

What follows is an exclusive RMS interview with Flyleaf's guitarist- Sameer Bhattacharya.

RMS: Snocore is a big tour for the Flyleaf. Plus, you have a new singer.  With all the adversity that you have faced over the last few years, this is really a great opportunity and a second chance for the band.

SB: That’s absolutely right. it’s a new beginning, and we’re very fortunate to have this opportunity. We’re very excited about Snocore. You’re right; these bands are so great. I remember the first time we did Snocore, it was in like, 2005 or 2006, and we were opening for Seether and Shinedown. It was Seether and Shindown, and Halestorm was the first Snocore tour, and that was such a fun tour. It almost feels like things have come around full circle, with us now jumping back on this Snocore, and now we’re headlining. And, to have this kind of opportunity, after being gone out of the scene for a couple of years and changing singers; it’s amazing. We feel very blessed and fortunate.

RMS: Yeah, and it comes at a time when a lot of people are just dying to get out to a show. There aren’t too many shows in the wintertime. I know, myself, I haven’t seen a show in a couple of months, and I’m just dying to see something. I’m sure a lot of fans are like that, too. So, you’re going to play in front of a lot of music hungry fans.

SB: That’s great, that’s great. We love that.

RMS: I’ve been viewing some of your footage- your YouTube footage- from some of the shows you played later in 2014, right after the album came out. I cannot believe the energy that you guys have on stage.

SB: (Laughs) We love what we do, that’s for sure. And the songs, themselves, have so much energy, it’s hard to contain that while you’re playing it. You can feel it; you can feel it in the lyrics, you can feel it in the rhythms and the approach when we’re writing it. So, when we’re on stage performing it, it’s hard not to just let go and let it enrapture you.

RMS: Kristen, too. I was really shocked at her performance. She doesn’t really seem like she’s the type of person that would crowd surf, but she certainly was in some of the footage that I saw.

SB: She’s nuts, and she loves people. She loves when the listener is involved, and she wants them to feel like they are a part of it, because they are. We wouldn’t be writing these songs, we wouldn’t be doing what we are doing if it wasn’t for them, and she really appreciates that. Her goal is to make sure that they feel every word, and they feel the message, and that they feel involved and a part of what we are doing.

RMS: Totally.  I want to talk about how she joined the band. You guys went through a lot of adversity before the release of ‘New Horizons’ in 2002. Your singer had just left, like a week or so before the CD was scheduled to come out. But, you were able to pick up Kristen pretty soon after that.  Was that the writing on the wall- that Lacey was possibly going to move on, or did you find out when the fans found out?

SB: No, no. We found out before. We actually found out before we went into the studio for ‘New Horizons.’ That’s when she announced to us that she wanted to leave. Actually, her husband was the one that called us and let us know that she wanted to leave. So, we had a fair amount of heads-up, I think, as far as between when she left and when Kristen joined the band. But, yeah, it was a peculiar time (laughs). It’s hard to describe that, you know? In a way, there were so many things going through our minds. It was sort of a roller coaster of emotions. Was Flyleaf going to continue? If we did, how would it continue? I don’t know; it was crazy.

We didn’t even know how we were going to record ‘New Horizons,’ because she had quit prior to recording in the studio with Howard Benson. So, that was an entire discussion, and another set of worries. In the end, she agreed to sing it as an outside artist, or whatever. So, it was interesting (laughs).  But, later that year, is when we found Kristen.

RMS: Well, what an odd situation for a band to be placed in- recording a record and knowing that your lead singer isn’t going to be around after the record.

SB: Yeah. We felt like it was really important for ‘New Horizons’ to be recorded, whether or not we knew what was going to happen, we had spent so much energy writing these songs. The messages of these songs are just so powerful, we were thinking, “What a shame it would be, if these songs were never recorded and never released.” It was very important for us to do that. Whether Lacey was going to agree to do it or not, I think we were going to do it anyway. We weren't sure how we were going to get the lyrics if Lacey wasn't involved. We also considered getting all of our friends from the tours that we've been on over the years to sing a different song.  What if we asked Amy Lee to sing a song? That was a really cool idea that we toyed with. But, in the end, Lacey agreed to take on ‘New Horizons.’

RMS: Wow, you could probably write a very interesting book about that chapter of events.

SB: (Laughs) Our “Behind the Music” special is gonna be a roller coaster.

RMS: So, you guys obviously tried to talk her out of leaving the band, right?

SB: I think we talked to her about it, but whenever she makes up her mind about something, it’s hard to persuade her otherwise. I think, after knowing her for so long, we all knew it was very futile to try to talk her out of it. I think James did, for a little bit. I think he talked to Lacey and her husband- I think they had a couple of phone conversations, or whatever.  I think he knew it wasn’t going to happen.

RMS: It's really unbelievable.  I, like many fans of the band, didn’t realize that Flyleaf was going through such a crisis.  If I was in the band, my first reaction would have been- excuse my language- but it would have been, “What the fuck are you thinking?” It's crazy. The band had so much momentum going into that record, and for her to leave like that… it just blows my mind.

SB: I mean, it wasn’t too shocking. We all kind of felt her pulling away, further and further. As the band progressed, I think- the more we did, the less she wanted to do.

RMS: Okay. That leads us to the new CD that you guys have out. You did something very unique with this; you got involved with Pledge Music and had the fans help pay for some of the costs for the CD. What led to your decision to do that?

SB: At the time, when we got together writing these songs, we did not have a record label. We were going to have to self-fund this album. We thought, “What a cool thing to do.” And there are all these kick-starter and other outlets to self-fund projects. But, Pledge Music, they’re solely music and solely bands and artists. The way that they do it is very engaging. So, whoever is contributing and supporting the band, they can fill out their information, engaging with us, because we give back to them as they give to us. So, if you donate certain amounts, Kristen knits stuff, in her house, for people who donated. So, if you donated another amount, you get to come to California and listen to what we’re doing in the studio. That was awesome; that was probably one of the coolest ones, for me, was that experience. We had the fans come in. It was awesome. We went to Capital Records, which is in Studio A, so it’s like, the big one- the cool one- all of these historical records have been recorded there. The Beach Boys have done stuff there. The orchestra for the Oscars, like all of the background music, that’s all done live there, in Studio A. So, we were in Studio A wit our fans, and we were listening to ‘Between the Stars,’ completely rough. We were still in the studio recording it. So, they got to hear it before it was finished. We had a Q&A. What do you think of the new song? What don’t you like about the new songs? What are you guys listening to now? What would you love to hear on this album? It was a really cool experience.

RMS: Yeah. It sounds like it. It seems like a lot of bands are using Pledge.  Perhaps, it's the way of the future, with the music industry in shambles.

SB: Absolutely. The label we are with now is amazing- Loud & Proud Records. Tom Lipsky is such a music lover, which is actually pretty difficult to find in the music industry. People are just in it because it’s a business to them. But, for Tom, it was really the love. So, he lets us be artists, which is really cool. We’re used to Octone and A&M/Octone. They’re an indie label, as well. But, we have even more freedom with Loud & Proud. It’s really cool, all the freedom that we have to be artists.

RMS: Yeah, they have a really good roster, on Loud & Proud. I really like a lot of the bands, and they seem like they sign some real musicians or bands with real integrity, you know?

SB: Yeah, he does a really good job with that.

RMS: Absolutely. Now, with Kristen in the band, how has your role in the band changed, if anything at all? Have you had to do more songwriting? Have you been involved with lyrics, or anything? Has anything changed, in the change of singers, for you, personally, as far as your responsibilities go?

SB: As responsibilities go, I would say, “no.” But, I think as far as like, my joy level, I think has gone up. She leads a very lively element to the chemistry of the band. We used to be so dark and brooding. It was very heavy. Anytime we did anything, we were so heavy and there was so much rage. Now, I think the sense of responsibility of what we do is still there. Because, I think the songs that we write, and the way that we perform them, and the message behind them is so important. And our goal is to get that out there. But, now it’s so much fun. I think the best word for it is “Rejuvenation.” I think she brought a rejuvenation of Flyleaf. As far as songwriting, I think in a lot of ways, it’s become easier, because Kristen is so open to ideas. So, we’ll try everything, and if it sticks, it sticks. If it doesn’t stick, we’ll move on, and it’s so easy. She’s so easy to work with and to write with. There’s not so much sitting around and thinking about things and contemplating, “Oh, I don’t know about this.” We do stuff, and work so quickly. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, we keep moving. It’s amazing.

RMS: Yeah, it seems like, in the research I’ve done for this interview, she seems like she’s very, very happy that she has the opportunity to play in Flyleaf. She is genuinely happy to be there. I can understand why you would say that, because it seems like she would do anything to help the band continue to success.

SB: Yeah. I don’t even think it’s that. I don’t think that she consciously comes in thinking and acknowledging, “I’m so excited to be in Flyleaf.” I think that’s just her personality. I think she’s just one of those people that, when she walks into the room, the room brightens a little bit, you know what I mean?

RMS: Definitely. That’s all I have for you. Like I said before, I’m looking forward to the show, coming up.  Best of luck, stay safe on the road, and I’ll see you on the 14th.

SB: Thanks, Thomas. Appreciate it.

For more on Flyleaf, please visit www.flyleaf.com

Thank you to Dana Kaiser and Julie Lichtenstein for all of their help with this interview