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Interview: Bradley Bell of Chiodos

After losing a lead vocalist and drummer, many bands may decide to call it quits.  For the members of Chiodos, giving up was not an option.  Today, the band releases their third full-length studio album, Illuminaudio, on Equal Vision Records.  On release day, idobi’s own Mike Skehan had a chance to chat with keyboardist Bradley Bell about the new album, replacing old band members, fan expectations and more.  The full text of the interview can be found below.

Idobi: What’s going on, man?

Bradley Bell: Not too much, man.   Just driving home from my parents house.

Oh, you’re in Michigan right now?

Yep.     I’ve got a couple hours of driving ahead of me.

Well how are things, other than the drive?

This drive won’t be anything, compared to last night.   I drove 9 hours to get up here from St. Louis.   Anyways, my day is going awesome.   We’re super stoked on today and the rest of this week, just to see what’s going to happen.   It’s going great.

How does it feel for it to be release day?   Does it feel like a weight has been lifted now that the album is finally out?

Oh yeah.   We’ve been sitting on this all Summer so we’re definitely excited and relieved to finally have it to the ears of all of these other people, you know?

Does it feel like everything is finally in place now after the ups and downs of the last year?

Definitely.   We’re very confident right now.   Our chemistry is awesome.   After the last year that we’ve been through, we’re just trying to prove ourselves again to all of our old fans and the new fans that we’ve been making.   It’s been a journey but I believe based on the new reactions that we’ve been getting, we’re very confident with this.

Despite Chiodos forming almost 10 years ago, you guys are back with a new vocalist, a new drummer and you’ve just released a new album. Does everything feel new again or does it feel as if you’ve just gone right back into stride with things?

A little bit of both.   It is like a rebirth, or it feels like it.   That’s good, because we’ve been a band for several years before this and it was starting to take a toll on us as a whole.   In order to maintain what we were doing and to keep going, it was what we had to do.   It’s always nice to get a breath of fresh of in life, you know?   That’s what change is for.   We’re stoked on that.

On the idea of a rebirth, why did you guys decide to go with Brandon Bolmer and Tanner Wayne as the new members of Chiodos?

We had known both of them for a long time now.   We toured with [Bolmer’s previous band] Yesterday’s Rising back in ’05, I think.   We met Brandon then.   We’d known Tanner for a couple of years, too.   We had a talk with him on Warped Tour last year about filling the drummer position and he was stoked on it.   We’d been friends with him and we’ve always been fans of what he brings to the table on the drum set.   Once we got back from that tour, he came up and started writing with us.   Eventually he brought it to our attention that Brandon was interested [in joining Chiodos], so he sent him some demos.   Once we heard him, we knew it was a great fit.   We had Brandon come up and start working with us and right away we clicked.   It’s been glorious ever since.

So what do each of those members bring to the table for Chiodos?

They’re both definitely very innovative at what they do.   Tanner was more productive of a drummer than any of the drummers we had worked with in the past.   He really brought a lot to the table and stepped up in being very creative, as well as many other aspects.   The same [can be said] for Brandon.   He obviously doesn’t sound exactly the same as our previous singer [Craig Owens], which is a good thing.   When it comes to bringing change to your band, I believe that you don’t want to try to live in the shadows of what you were doing before but still try to bring a lot of your history [forward] and hold that to a high regard, as well.  I think with bringing in a singer that has a different style voice, it was a good addition for us.   It was still close enough to our past music that we feel as if our fans can still accept Brandon, too.

Did the addition of new members affect the writing process at all?   I know that you said Tanner brought a lot to the table as far as drums, creatively speaking.   Were there any other differences with Brandon on vocals?

Actually it was pretty similar to our old writing process.   It had always been me and Craig working together on lyrics and melodies and everything.   It was just us sitting down and bumping ideas off of one another.   As soon as Brandon got here, we started doing the same thing.   Brandon definitely came up with a lot of his own original stuff and was really working hard constantly on trying to make every song better vocally and be as creative and impressive as possible.

Speaking of writing and recording for Illuminaudio, how did you guys end up working with Machine to produce this album?

Our manager was good friends with Machine, they had a good working relationship.   Machine contacted our manager and said that he’d been listening to our music for a while and that he loved the music we had been writing.   He told us that he felt that he was the producer that Chiodos needed to respawn and bring the band back to life after the changes we had gone through because he believed in our musical abilities so much.   He felt that he knew what was needed for us.   As soon as we got on the phone with him, we knew that he truly believed that and that he was no joke.   We knew right off of the bat that he was a perfect fit for us.   He got us believing in ourselves once again.

One thing about this album, and it’s been said a few places other than this, is that it feels more concise as a whole.   Do you think that’s true and that working with Machine had anything to do with that?

Yeah, definitely.   I know that it’s vague and that everybody says this a lot, but I think we’ve grown as musicians.   We’re constantly challenging ourselves to do things that we’ve never done before within each other and ourselves.   I believe that the album is more concise, more complex and it just feels complete when you’re done listening to it.   Machine helped us bring that together with the way that he would tie songs together.   There was a well rounded [feeling] that he wanted us to present through the whole album at the end of the day.

Earlier you mentioned not wanting to live in the shadows too much with Brandon sounding differently than Craig.   Do you think a lot of people will be able to see past that and be surprised by the giving the new material a chance?

Absolutely.   There’s nothing that you can do that will please everybody, even if we would have kept the same lineup.   The small amount of people that are going to be hurt about it, we’re not really worried about.   From the reaction that we’ve seen, it’s been mostly positive.   A lot of people are re-gaining faith in us and a lot of people are starting to like us now because they didn’t like us before.   I think for every bit of negativity there’s more positivity out there.   We’re just excited to play to new people and to play to the people who have stood by us.   Those are the people who are important to us and we hope that everybody can approach [Illuminaudio] with an open mind.   We’re still the same core musicians.   We are a band, not just individuals.

Whereas your previous lineup seemed to be somewhat polarizing to listeners, would you say that this new album is more accessible to not only older fans, but everybody else as well?

Like I was saying before, a lot of comments we were hearing expressed people that had never liked this band before but now they do because the vocals are a little bit easier to listen to.   That’s cool, but on the same note, I love all of our old material, too.   I’m not trying to bash on anything, but I would think that it would be a bit easier to reach broader audiences with this new album and maybe get some new publicity through it all.

Right, man.   I know after you guys had done some big shows and festivals, a lot of people were being negative about hearing the old songs with Brandon on vocals.   Is that something you guys pay attention to?

There are more people that are still coming to our shows who still want to hear our old songs than the people who will take the time out of their days to complain about it.   I mean, it’s the songs that we wrote so there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be playing them.   You can’t please everybody.   When we do play them live, I don’t see people acting negatively.   You can still see fans going nuts and enjoying the fact that we’re playing those songs.   That, to me, is way more important than anybody’s criticism.

So the album is out today.   With the current state of the music industry, I know sales aren’t going to be great and there will be people with negative opinions, but how do you gauge success for this record and the band as a whole?

It’s hard to say what to expect from this.   Our last album [Bone Palace Ballet] did really well the first week.   We are aware of the downfalls of the industry over the last few years and the skepticism that a lot of people will have and those who are on the fence about this album.   I’m sure a lot of people are going to illegally download the album first because they aren’t sure if they’re going to like it.   That’s fine with us.   We just want people to hear the music and give it a fair shot, that’s what’s most important to us.   There are a lot of negative bloggers out there, but the time that they take out of their day to be negative is just poisonous to the world and I feel sorry for them for having to even do that.   Like I was saying, I hope everybody gives it a fair chance and I don’t think we’ll really be able to gauge the success of the album right away.   I think it’s going to take a couple of months to cycle through.   We’ll see how the music comes across live and then see which fans are continuing to follow us.

Speaking of the live show, you guys will be on the “Congregation of The Damn” tour with Atreyu and Blessthefall.   Are you guys excited to be out with Atreyu again?

Yeah.   We toured with them…I think it was four years ago, this same exact time of year, too.   Those guys are cool.   We’ve had a lot of fun with them and we’ve gotten along with them so we’re looking forward to it.   We saw them play on [Rockstar Mayhem Festival] this Summer and they’re still killin’ it.   We’re excited and hope that both of our fan bases can come out and support it.   We’re hoping to win over some new friends, as well.

What do you guys have planned after that tour, for December and moving on into 2011.

We have a tour planned in March that I can’t really announce yet.   Up until then, we’re trying to see what’s available overseas and if not much is, we may be looking into a   [US] B-market headliner to hit all of the cities that we won’t be hitting on the Atreyu tour or the tour that we have in March.   I think that will be very smart, so hopefully we can do that.   We’re actually going out to shoot a music video tomorrow in California, so that will be interesting, as well.

Oh, what song are you shooting a video for?

For “Caves”, the second track on the album?

What are your favorite tracks on the album?

My favorite tracks on the album…hmmm.   We haven’t really practiced much yet, so I’m not sure which songs I’m most comfortable with playing live.   Listening to the album, I would say, “Notes in Constellations” and “His Story Repeats Itself” are my two favorites.   Followed closely by “Modern Wolf Hair”.   Honestly though, I’m so proud of all of the songs on this album that I won’t be getting sick of any of them anytime soon.   They’re all babies to me and I have to love them all equally.   Those are definitely some of my jams, though.

Talking about practicing the songs for the live show, was there any getting used to the playing live with the new lineup?

Definitely.   You can feel a bit of a different energy on stage, but it’s very welcoming.   It’s still very energetic, so we’re loving it.   I think it’s still going to take some getting used to.   We’ve only done two smaller tours with the new lineup and I feel like we sound best on the new songs, obviously.     [Brandon and Tanner] do a good job of playing the old ones, as well.

For anybody who may not have seen you recently, or at all, what can fans expect from the Chiodos live show?

Well, obviously we’ll be playing a lot of our new material live.   The experience of that is going to be a new adventure for us.   We haven’t really figured out which ones we’ll be doing on this next tour yet, but we’re going to start practicing this week and get it all sorted out.   I feel like our show is a good place to come to have some fun, let loose and enjoy yourself.   You’ll see us smiling up on stage having a good time, acting weird and shit, just doing whatever we want.   I think that anybody can come out and have a good time with us, as well.

Well that about wraps up our time, is there anything else you’d like to say?

Please check out the album if you haven’t yet.   Keep an open mind.   We’ve always respected what our fans opinions were and we know that there’s always an attachment to a lead singer that is hard for some people to get over.   We feel like we did a good job replacing him and we deserve a new chance with an open mind, so check us out again.   We’ve always appreciated all of the support we’ve ever gotten from anybody.   Thank you.  

Chiodos’ stellar new album, Illuminaudio,  can be purchased from iTunes right here: Illuminaudio

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