t's going to take a while to learn just what business as usual is going to mean when your living under a global pandemic. In trying to catch up with everything having to do with ROCKWIRED in the past couple of weeks, I've continually found myself falling off the saddle. We all want out normalcy back. However, in resisting the urge to keep up with all of the bad news, I uploaded my interview recordings to my transcription software of choice and started typing and in doing so I found comfort in my conversations with bands that had just released a new album in the days before COVID-19 was something that we were all going to have to stay indoors from. Specifically, when I spoke with lead singer JOHNNY DiCARLO of the Pittsburgh-based band NEVERWAKE, I was taken by the bands D.I.Y. spirit in producing their latest music video for their single CALL OUT MY NAME. The story of the band NEVERWAKE is one of people from different backgrounds coming together to make something great, and while everyone is encouraged to abide by the rules of social distancing, the band and their music have come to symbolize coming out on top amid struggle. In speaking with DiCARLO, he mentioned his sense of responsibility as a songwriter and how it is something that cannot be taken lightly or for granted. The following interview took place March 5, 2020.
Congratulations on the release of your new music video for the single CALL OUT MY NAME. Who all did you guys work with in putting it together?
That was done completely in house. I actually run a media company on the side. I've been doing video production for a while. I don't have the most hi tech equipment in the world but I've been doing it for years now. We've set that up and the funny thing is that I couldn't hold the camera while I was performing in the video. The guy that was holding the camera in filming the video was one of our former guitar players JAMES WATSON. So he helped out to film some stuff and the music video was filmed in the basement of my parents house where we actually recorded a lot of music for NEVERWAKE which is pretty ironic. So it was cool.
CHECK OUT THE MUSiC VIDEO FOR CALL OUT MY NAME!!!
Wow! When you said in house you weren't kidding.
Yeah. I actually never thought of it that way before. Even the set and all of that, we got drapes on the walls. We did everything. It just worked out really well and we're happy that we've gotten to a point where we're like this is our vision and lets bring it to life. Sometimes when you have to hire someone to do this kind of thing for you, you end up hoping that it is going to turn out the way that you want it to and you hope that it is as good as the money you are putting into it. When you do it on your own you can make it as good or as bad as you want.
So far what kind of reaction have you been able to gauge from the release of the video?
People have definitely enjoyed it and they like what we've put out there and they like the song itself. It's one of those songs that sounds a little bit more mainstream because of the melody and you can sing along to it and it's got some catchy aspects to it here and there. The funny thing about the song itself is that the main riff was created when I was listening to a band like SOILWORK, which is not mainstream at all whatsoever, but they were my favorite band. So I came up with this riff and it somehow evolved into taking this thing into this mainstream package where people can enjoy it. It's really cool. As far as the video goes, people love it and we're just happy and we're ecstatic that we can keep doing what we love doing. This is the third music video that we have made for us and people enjoy it. We're all around creative people and the more we get to create, the happier we are.
And this single will be finding it onto the EP MISGUIDED that you guys will be releasing soon.
Yes. This will be included as well as the previous single that we released which is ARE YOU IN THERE? We released that one a while ago now. This is going to be a six song EP and we're going to have another single released her very soon and we'll be shooting a video for that one as well in a couple of weeks.
Who did you guys work with in terms of production for this album? Who sat behind the recording console?
We're pretty good friends with JOHN MOYER who is the bass player for DISTURBED. This was the second album that he co-produced with us. It was really cool to have him back in the studio the second time around. The first time around you kind of have the jitters because you're in the studio with someone that you've seen eight times on the main stage of a festival. The second time around it was a little more comfortable and you could say things like "JOHN, I hate that idea!" and you were able to argue with him. It's a funny, weird, surreal moment. So we got to work really closely with him and we recorded it at INNOVATION STUDIOS with MIKE OFCA. But as far as mixing, that is something that we did in house. We took the reins on it and we decided how we wanted it to sound and we made it happen. You find that these musicians have these utility players because when it comes down to it, you don't have all fo the money in the world to pay for all of this stuff and you have an angel investor giving you five thousand dollars. So as a musician you have to ask yourself how you can pull all of this off on your own. That was how my own side business got started. I wanted to learn how to do this. I didn't want to just go into a studio and record. I wanted to know what compressions sounds good on my vocals. We are very attuned to what we are putting out there. We're not just blindly creating notes.
Describe the music scene that you guys are surrounded by in Pittsburgh. Is it supportive? Is it indifferent? You tell me.
Anywhere has it's ups and downs. We've grown up playing in Pittsburgh and over the years it has definitely changed. It used to be standoffish at times and it used to be a little disconnected but as we've grown older we've noticed this mentality of musicians binding together and people helping each other out and lending a hand here and there. That is really what it all comes down to. It's not a competition. I play this type of music that you would call hard rock or metalcore where it's not the same genre as someone who sounds like NIGHTWISH. It doesn't always have to be a competition. We always try to help people out and we love that mentality in Pittsburgh musicians have when it comes to coming together and lending a hand. We're proud of this city that has grown in that way because it definitely was tough growing up playing battle of the bands and stuff like that. These days everyone supports everyone and it is a very welcoming atmosphere.
What was your musical history before this band?
Everyone has their own introduction to music. Mine came from my family. My dad had been a musician for thirty something years. He was a self taught musician. He and his friend one day decided that they wanted to create music and there you go. They started to do it. His friend is our manager now, DINO GIOVANNONE and ironically he is also my father-in-law.
I see a theme developing with this "in house" thing.
Yes! That is what I grew up with. I didn't grow up as this OG metal head. I didn't have an older brother who would wear SLAYER shirts.
Like I did.
I didn't have that. I really didn't. GEORGE, our bass player and JUSTIN - they definitely had those influences. GEORGE has always been into the hard stuff. His favorite band ever is SLIPKNOT and JUSTIN grew up listening to ZAKK WYLDE and stuff like that. When I started listening to heavier music, I started out with GODSMACK and DISTURBED. And then as I grew older, I started getting into AVENGED SEVENFOLD and then I got into TRIVIUM and then I got into SOILWORK. It was this stepladder where you get to where you are. I never started in the metal area. When you look at it from that perspective it's kind of cool because our music tends to relay that message. We're not all metal and we're not all rock. We have that blend of everything. We all come from different areas and we all throw a little bit of what we have into the mix.
Talk about the other members of the band. Tell me who they are and what it is you think each of them brings to the table that make this thing work.
We are like THE BREAKFAST CLUB of bands. I say that because growing up I was the jock in my high school. I was literally the quarterback in my high school. GEORGE, the bass player, was the gothic kid on our class that didn't talk to anybody. MARCUS was in the high school band and he knew how to play every instrument. In this band you've got these three different people from three different cliques. JUSTIN didn't go to high school with us so we like to say that if there was a mechanics class he would've been the guy that did that type of thing. What's nice about that is that everybody brings something different to the table. GEORGE has a little bit more of that dark side and his favorite band is SLIPKNOT. He's got some lyrical ideas sometimes and he's got some moods that he helps portray. MARCUS is very rooted in music and has fantastic music theory knowledge. In terms of time changes and key changes he has a lot of the know how. I always like to refer to JUSTIN as the raw gear guy. I'm the type of person that has only owned four guitars in my whole life. JUSTIN has owned over eighty. He brought to the band an appreciation for gear and to break out of our shell in terms of our comfort zone and what we want to sound like. Everyone in this band has something different and what is amazing about that is that we all have something different to bring to the table. MARCUS loves PERIPHERY, GEORGE loves SLIPKNOT, I love TRIVIUM and JUSTIN loves ZAKK WYLDE. You hear all of those influences from time to time in our music and that's just because of who we are as people.
Describe the songwriting process within this band. How do you guys go about it?
As a band you don't sit around the table and go, "lets write a song guys!" It just doesn't happen that way for us. Inspiration comes from anywhere. I could come from a car horn. That car horn sounds weird. The doppler effect of it passing by made me think of a bomb drop and that bomb drop would be cool with this drumbeat and there you go. We've got his song going. Or the songs could come from an idea. One of the songs, HYPOCRISY, off of our last EP was created from a thread online of people arguing and picking out things that they were saying which were so hypocritical and didn't make sense. These songs come from anywhere but whoever had the initial idea, they take it and they run with it. I don't like to impede when someone's got an idea. I want for them to take it and run with it as far as they possibly can. If they get stuck they can bring it to the table and then you hand it somebody and go "I don't know what to do here," and someone else from the band will go "What if you did this?" At that point it is like a spark because everybody is pumped and we are all in it now and creating something and we're adding our piece to it. That is usually how it is. Sometimes some will create a song from start to finish and it works that way.
You guy recently did a tour with THE VEER UNION. Describe what that experience was like?
It was awesome. It was a great experience for us. It was amazing to be dropped into the middle of the United States and being on tour for 30 days and playing in 25 different cities and getting used to WALMART parking lots and not showering. It was a blast. It is so much fun. It was also a lesson learned. You really have to hand it to these musicians who are out there for months at a time. When you are growing up and you see someone famous at a concert walking backstage and they might not spend as much time with you and they might not be enthused and you might feel let down, but after having gone on tour it was like I get it. These people aren't mean. They're exhausted. They haven't seen their wives, they haven't seen their kids and they haven't had a home cooked meal. They haven't even slept in a bed. It is such a different experience and people don't really get that. What people do is they go to work and they come home and they chill on the couch for a little bit and scroll through their phone. All of the tiny little things that you are used to are gone when you are out on the road and you are living a different life but it's amazing because you get to go off to these different cities and play before people who have driven hours to see you. As a musician you don't see that from time to time when you're at home composing music but when you're out there in the middle of South Dakota and people tell you that they drove six hours to see you and you're like "What? Are you serious?" It is definitely a cool experience and we're so thankful to do that and we can't wait to get back out tot he places that we have played.
With the band's music, what is the big idea? What would you like for someone to come away with after they hear the music?
Lyrics usually come last for us. It is usually something that is up to me and sometimes I will turn to GEORGE and I'll ask for his opinion on things because he can come up with some real deep stuff. He helps me out lyrically from time to time but I like to write about my struggles. I struggle with anxiety and depression a lot. Writing the way that I do helps me to analyze that and it allows me to separate me from myself and look at the parts that I don't like and battle them. songwriting helps me to do that. What I hope people take away is that the music helps them. When you hear that it does it is one of the most fantastic feelings. You don't realize that when you are making music sometimes. Sometimes it is just therapeutic. It's something that you just want to do, but when someone tells you that they were going to kill themselves until they heard this song and that it helped them out at least for that day. When you hear that, it clicks and you realize that as a songwriter and an artist that you have a responsibility. You finally get that "wow" moment an that fuels you to do it even more. People need that oompfh. And if we can give that to them then we have succeeded as a band.
CONTACT BRiAN LUSH AT: firstname.lastname@example.org