Fresh on the release of their heavily anticipated sophomore album The Other Side in September, Tonight Alive just wrapped up their very first US headlining tour. idobi writer Catherine Yi caught up with guitarist Whakaio Taahi and bassist Cam Adler to discuss their devoted fanbase, touring so far from home, the darker tones on the new album, and more.
You guys are about to finish your first US headliner. How has it been?
Whakaio: Yeah it’s been awesome, actually, really surprising. We threw it together kinda last minute so we were a bit worried I guess, but it’s really come together. Our fans are awesome. There’s been fans that have come to like four or five shows and traveled a lot.
Cam: We’re playing a lot of the same venues that we used to play as an opening band when we first started touring here, so it’s nice to go back to the same venues and be headlining and have our own kids and realize how far we’ve come.
What’s been one of the coolest experiences on this tour?
Whakaio: Well last night we kinda…
Cam: It’s always easier to remember things that happened yesterday because our memory just fades [laughs]. But yesterday we got to LA, which is where Echosmith live and they invited the whole tour over to their house for dinner. We had like home-cooked pizza and we played a lot of music and just had some drinks and food. It was kinda nice to have that towards the end of the tour, having home-cooked stuff, and it just felt like the tour really bonded well last night.
What have been your favorite songs to play live?
Whakaio: Definitely the new songs now, I think. We wrote them in mind to play them live and they’re definitely coming off a lot better than the old stuff. We’re enjoying them a lot more.
Cam: I agree with Whak, the new songs. We’ve just been playing “The Fire,” which is one of the faster songs on the album and really heavy live and the crowd’s been reacting really well. So it’s just fun to play new songs and see the fans really get into it.
You guys also played Warped Tour two years in a row, which is a huge display of stamina. What made you guys decide to do it again right after?
Whakaio: I think Warped Tour is such a great thing for your band even if it’s not a great thing for your personal hygiene, but it was great because the first year we were like an introductory band and we were playing a small stage, and then this year we were on a bigger stage and there was a lot more going on for us. So it was a great opportunity that Kevin Lyman had us on for two years in a row and it’s definitely paid off because now we’re headlining, so it’s been really cool.
What’s it feel like when one of your biggest markets is halfway across the world and you’re pretty much touring constantly so far away from home?
Whakaio: It feels good now. It feels like all the hard work that we’ve put for over three years is finally paying off. And as Cam said before, we’re headlining some of the venues that we’ve opened up two years ago and it’s like you’re literally seeing the physical growth.
Cam: It’s what keeps you going really.
Whakaio: Yeah, it pays off. We’re never taking any steps back.
What would you say is one of the biggest differences between touring in Australia and touring in the United States?
Cam: That’s a hard one. I guess just seeing how the fan base over here interacts really. Like everyone just kinda connects to each other online and will end up traveling to multiple shows and end up just making so many friends with people that they met at different shows. I guess just the dedication of people here. Like, we didn’t go to Texas on this run just because time didn’t permit and a lot of people from Texas made their way to some of the shows so far and they’ll be coming to San Diego and all that sort of stuff. People over here, like before we even played the show, they’re saying, “When are you gonna come back next?” You’re like, “I don’t know, we haven’t even played tonight.” I guess over here, they’re just really into it and it’s a positive sign.
With this new album, I feel like you guys went for a deeper, more personal, and even darker vibe. Could you talk about the writing and recording process this time around, and how it differed from your previous album?
Whakaio: I think the main difference was we knew who we wanted to be. We knew the band that we wanted to be. We knew what we wanted to sound like. We knew what we wanted to be live and that really came across with recording this album. With the first album, we were kinda just kids and thrust into it a bit and we didn’t really know much. So I guess touring over the two years that we wrote the album, a lot of stuff happened. We grew up, we went through a lot of hardships with the eczema – Jenna was sick for a lot of it. It just kind of made us grow up. It made us mature and I think that comes out. We also recorded with Dave Petrovic who we’ve recorded everything else with except for What Are You So Scared Of? and that was a lot more comfortable for us because we know him on a personal level as well. We had already worked together so many times that it was easy for him to be like, “That’s shit,” and, “That’s not good,” and we’d just be like, “Ok!” because we know each other so well. So it was definitely like a really easy process.
Cam: Yeah, that’s a good summary.
What made you guys decide to go back with Dave Petrovic rather than stay with Mark Trombino?
Whakaio: Mark was the perfect thing for us at that time. He definitely got the best out of us and taught us exactly what we needed to know about how to record an album. But the thing with Dave is that he recorded our first song ever and he really has helped mold how we sound and the band that we are today. It just felt really right to go back to him and he helps so much with melodies and everything that we do.
Cam: We also just really wanted to record in Australia this time. So it just made sense to use Dave as well because we knew he was close to home. We just didn’t want to go overseas again for two months and live in a hotel the whole time, so it was nice to go home and record with him and it just really felt like we were in the right place for that.
You guys have a sound where you’ve been able to tour with everyone from Pierce The Veil to The Story So Far. What would you say have been some of your biggest influences?
Whakaio: I think the biggest influence for us is the live sound. We always wanted to be a touring band and we always wanted to be the best that we could be on stage. I think that was definitely one of the biggest influences on writing this album, seeing bands like Pierce The Veil and being like, “Wow, they really get it, we wanna be like that live.” So it’s definitely come across with the new songs and that’s why they’re our favorite songs to play live now because they feel awesome.
With your last album, you guys released a full acoustic version later on. Do you guys have anything special planned for this one?
Cam: We haven’t had any time to really stop and take a breather, really. We haven’t even learnt like all the songs to play them live. So I think when we go home after this, it might be a possibility to look into doing that again because the fans really seemed to attach to those acoustic versions of the songs last time.
Whakaio: That was never supposed to get released on its own. The thing about that acoustic thing is that was just supposed to be like secret tracks on the album and then Fearless kind of just put that out on Warped Tour and people liked it so…
Cam: We just rolled with it [laughs].
You guys are about to finish this tour. What do you have planned for next year?
Whakaio: So we finish this tour, we’ve got like four shows left and then we do Warped Tour Australia, which we’re really excited about and then we finally have Christmas off to spend with our families and then we start again in February. I can’t say what it is or what we’re doing but definitely starting again.
Going out on the road again?
Cam: Yeah, plenty of plans to come back here and keep on promoting the album and we’ve got a few big tours ready to go, so it should be fun.