Video Credit: Equal Vision Records YouTube Channel
What’s unique about We Came As Romans is not necessarily that they are a metal core band spreading the power of love and positivity.
What’s unique about We Came As Romans is that that has been their mission since the formation of the band in 2008, and through lineup changes, signing to labels and management, and the creation of two EPs and three albums, that message has remained their motivation.
Dave Stephens (Vocals), Kyle Pavone (Vocals), Joshua Moore (guitar), Andy Glass (Bassist), Lou Cotton (guitarist), and Eric Choi (drums) met in high school. They got into music for a lot of reasons, but they started playing heavier music for the energy.
“The energy from the crowd, the energy I felt from the bands playing…I just loved how much people were pitting, how nuts it was, and I remember being scared actually. I thought that was the coolest thing,” Dave says.
When they decided to start WCAR, they realized it was going to take some work if they were going to turn their dream of being professional musicians into reality. Kyle says that first thing was first: commitment.
For many of the guys, commitment was hard to make with family and friends doubting and angry about their decisions to put school on hold and pursue music. “We all had to make that jump, and put it aside. My mom was mad. She was like, ‘alright you can try it for a year, I guess.’ My dad was like ‘yeah give it a year’,” Dave says.
So the guys took a chance, used Eric’s graduation money for studio time, and committed.
“We established that it was something that we really wanted to work for. Like, no more joking around. We wanted to make it a professional band,” Kyle says. “First, we tried to get the more professional sound. So we were all looking for producers, and the best way that we could record our EP. So we went to Joey Sturgis.”
Sturgis who is acclaimed for his production of albums for Asking Alexandria, The Devil Wears Prada, and Attack! Attack!, helped to develop the initial sound of WCAR with their debut EP Dreams (2008). Sturgis would go on to produce the band’s debut full-length To Plant A Seed (2009), and co-produce their second studio album Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be (2011) with John Feldmann.
Feldmann, who is well known for producing albums for bands like Panic! At the Disco, Megan & Liz, and The Used, is responsible for their most recent release Tracing Back Roots (2013).
If their album titles are indicative of anything, it is the growth of the guys as a band over the past six years.
“You can tell how we have grown as a band, and how our music isn’t all over the place, as much as the first two records. Our third record, we did a lot of growing,” says Kyle.
Dave adds in “I think the most obvious thing is how much more melodic our third record is compared to the first couple.”
That more melodic sound is due in large part to Feldmann’s hand in production.
The band had become familiar with John’s style of production through the experience of recording “Hope,” a single that they had put out in early 2013. The guys sought out a similar, catchier sound on their latest release.
They returned to John for the production of Tracing Back Roots because, Kyle says “All of us really believed that John could figure out the best way to put our band into a more melodic feel.”
They went into the studio with their songs, and quickly came to realize that the recording of this album would be a collaborative experience between musicians and producer.
Normally, the songwriting process entails Josh writing songs, having them straightened out by the rest of the guys, and then recording 10 or so once they enter the studio. For this album, they approached writing in a much different way.
“With John, we would write a hook and a chorus, and then we would sing nonsense to it. Lyrics to the nonsense. And then we would build the rest of the song around that,” says Dave. “We wound up writing close to 20 songs.”
The process with John, they say, was really positive, and allowed them to continue to evolve as a band.
“In the end, it was just the seven of us all working together. Whenever he had an opinion about something, usually we’d agree with him, and whenever we had an opinion about something, usually he’d agree with us. It was such an easy process. Like I said, we wrote a ton of material, and we finished two weeks earlier than we were supposed to too,” says Dave.
That’s not to say that there weren’t difficulties for the guys. With so many song options, narrowing down the tracks that would eventually make the album proved to be challenging. Dave sums it up in one word: “arguing.”
He says, “We are always split down the middle I feel like. It’s hard because different members fell in love with different songs. There were songs that I wanted to keep, that other guys in the band didn’t want to keep. In the end though, I think we made the right choices on all the tracks we picked for the record.”
The title track sets the tone for the rest of the record with a hard-hitting opening verse. The lyrics on this album are catchier and more reflective than past albums for WCAR. The opening verse of the whole album talks about the decisions of the six guys and how those choices have impacted their lives since then.
Dave, who sings the unclean lyrics on the album, opens the title track with “Eight years ago I committed a sin/and there were many more that followed with/ some that changed my mind/ some that broke me down/ But all of them made me who I am now.” That kind of set up puts the thoughtfulness and insightfulness of the band in the radar of listeners throughout the rest of the album.
From beginning to end, Dave and Kyle say that the guys devoted everything to this album, and are really pleased with the outcome. As for the differences that their older fans might hear on Tracing Back Roots compared their earlier albums, the guys say that that evolution is to be expected, and they are glad for it.
“I think the fans – we really respect their opinions, and we have to listen to them at some point because they are the ones that keep the band going,” Dave says. “But we have always been the type of band that we write what we like, and we like the music that we write. So far, it seems like our fans like it to.”
Not only are old fans enjoying the progress that WCAR has made, but the band is also attracting the attention of a new, wider audience. While the guys appreciate all their old fans, and the support that they have shown over the years, they are excited about the recent development of these new followers. As far as catering to a more mainstream audience, Dave says “We are always trying to grow. We are never a content, kind of band. We always enjoy where we are at the moment, like, stop and smell the roses. But at the same time, we’re always trying to get to that next level and continue to push. I think that’s a big part of our success so far. And so yeah, the next level would be a more mainstream audience.”
So when talking about a fourth record, a discussion of the type of sound they are going for in order to achieve that next level is crucial. And yes, a fourth record should be expected, but, aside from Josh’s writings from the road, the guys haven’t written anything solid just yet. But that doesn’t mean that they haven’t already set goals.
“A lot of radio stations are starting to realize that this music is pretty popular, actually. And to start to push it a little more. I think that’s the goal, you know? Chart a little higher, have a bigger first week, and maybe grab some new people,” says Dave.
With even radio jumping on board, and heavier bands like Asking Alexandria getting more airtime, it’s a no brainer for WCAR to capitalize on their newfound success. Airtime for WCAR would be ideal, says Dave, but he clarifies “I mean, we aren’t going to write a pop-rock record. I think with the kind of tracks that we put out on Tracing Back Roots, a mainstream crowd would enjoy the record if they heard it.”
In upcoming albums, the guys say, listeners should expect a sound that tends towards the melodic, catchy sounding beats and lyrics that are heard on Tracing Back Roots.
Kyle adds,“I love Tracing Back Roots, it’s my favorite record. But I know that now that that door has opened, for Dave to be singing and screaming at the same time, that once we get seasoned into it, we are just going to write better stuff.”
So far, that approach has worked for the guys. Following the release of Tracing Back Roots, WCAR will tour America, and most of Europe in support of their album through August of this year. Being on tour for an extended period is not anything new for this group, and the guys say that it has changed their perspective on a lot, both personally and musically. In the future, touring will continue to be a priority, says Dave.
But the guys really just want to keep going.
Dave says that the guys are prepared to do “Whatever it takes to keep going. Hopefully we can just keep writing good records.”
But as for right now, “I mean, we are in a pretty sweet spot as it is,” says Dave. “Not all bands get to retire off their music either. That’s kind of the dream.”
** A version of this story was published by Naked Magazine in May 2014