I was able to sit and chat briefly with Ezra Haynes, vocalist for Allegaeon, just before the quick U.S. run they embarked on between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a very interesting conversation. He filled me in on the band’s writing and recording processes past and present, and also revealed to me some rather interesting personal listening choices of his when he’s off the clock. Read on and see for yourselves:
Amps: First things first, how long do you plan to be out on the road? Is Europe next?
Ezra: Only about three weeks on this run here in the States from November 30 till around December 21 back here in Colorado. As far as Europe goes that would be super cool. But at the beginning of the year I think we’re trying to put together another little run here and then start recording the next record. And of course if anything comes in we’re gonna try to approach any type of tour cycle we get.
Amps: Do you have a camera in my house, because my next question was going to be, “What is the timetable for a new record??”
Ezra: (Laughing) yes, I see everything! Yeah, we really wanna get to the new record. We just got a new guitar player, his name is Mike Stancel, he did the last tour with us and it’s gonna be really cool to get him on a record now that we’ve seen what he can do with some new tunes we’ve demoed. We played a new tune on the last tour and we were like, “Dude…you want the gig?” And he said yes, so from there now we’re just gonna see what we can put together when we get in the studio here in Denver in early 2014, and literally try and jump on every single tour we possibly can. That’s the thing, we haven’t always been the best band at touring, so we really just wanna get out there and force people to see us.
Ezra: What happened before is I joined up with the dudes right before we released the EP by ourselves, and that was some songs we had hanging around that we kind of pieced together. Now when it came to the first full-length for Metal Blade (Fragments of Form and Function) we had a lot of material, that was a long time of writing, so we had a long time to piece that together. And we got back from tour, which was awesome, Live Nation venues, House of Blues, you know, very prestigious for what we were doing at the time, in late August. So we had everything written because we record MP3’s over e-mail. So we went in the studio having NO IDEA what it was gonna sound like for Formshifter, and we went out to San Diego and just pieced it all together right there in the studio. I think we were just really lucky, ‘cause everyone’s super-talented, I’m grateful to be rocking out with these guys, and I’m just like, “Wow!” as far as how the product came out with that short of notice. Whereas this time we pretty much have all of our songs in the bag now, except for a few touches and details we need to hammer out. Of course things will change once we get back in the studio but to actually have an idea before we go in, as opposed to Formshifter where we had no clue whatsoever what was going on.
Amps: A lot has happened in the four years since you got signed to Metal Blade. What is different about you, personally, and Allegaeon as a band?
Ezra: What’s different is that it’s interesting to be recognized. You’ll be in some random city and people are pulling up to the venue jamming your album, drinking, hanging out, and being super into what’s going on. Now that it’s had four years to kind of soak in with people it seems like it’s grown so much. That last tour that we did just in the U.S. was a 45 day tour, and it’s cool because every tour we get to go on you see exponentially more people at every venue. And you’re making all these friends all over the U.S., not just fans, but friends that you can joke around with. We talk to a lot of people on social networking sites and you start building all these little jokes with everybody and when you actually see them in person you can thrive off of that and just have a good time with everybody. People are always willing to help out, too. They’ll bring you food, booze, or offer you a place to stay, just really great people. Especially where you are, in Texas. We love playing there because of the hospitality. It’s really cool to be establishing connections as opposed to when we first started out, now we’re a lot more comfortable and the people are more comfortable with us as well. I’ve always really been into that.
Amps: Lyrically, you’re like a heavier Neil Peart. You don’t write about anything typical, that’s for sure. And also musically, you guys are very unique. Tell me a little about that.
Ezra: The lyrics are not death metal at all, that’s for sure. From day one the lyrical influences haven’t been about the typical dismemberment and funeral stuff (laughs), and more about things we’re excited about that are really scientific-based. A lot of them could be about theories in general, because everybody has one. And we’ve even written about media as a whole and how cutthroat that can be and how it can drive humanity in a certain direction. Anything that really sparks our interest at the time and that just happens to be more scientific as opposed to other things.
Amps: What have you learned from some of the bands you’ve toured with?
Ezra: There are a lot of things you learn, like ways to make it easier on the road. The first couple of tours we kind of spoiled ourselves. We’d get a hotel room every night and monetarily we’d come home just breaking even. Looking at it as a business and trying to generate income and such, that didn’t make sense, so this last tour we hit up more friends and if we needed to we’d just crash in a Walmart parking lot for a few hours, wake up, do your shopping, and get out of there instead of spending a hundred bucks on a hotel. And we’re saving that money, which can be dished out to members for per diems, so it’s easier on our wallets. And when we’re out on the road any way that we can generate additional revenue is helpful for each member. Also by getting rid of the excessive hotel stays and whatever we’ve actually been able to pay out each member decently when we get back. So, little touring things we’ve picked up here and there from other bands have helped.
For example, being a newer band when you go out on the road you’re probably not gonna be as tight as you could be, so really getting out there, trying to do things like the New England Metal & Hardcore Festival, and being around so many different bands it helps you grow as a unit and develop your showmanship. It helps to make it more visually appealing as opposed to just sonically. That’s something you gain as you hang out with other bands. You really notice those things.
Amps: Are you doing the New England Metal & Hardcore Festival this year?
Ezra: You know, right before you called I was on the link because the first round of bands had just been announced. We have not heard anything about doing it. We’d love to, we did it last year. We’re trying to get on one of those barges, that’d be super-cool. Hopefully we generate enough interest for someone to ask us to do some kind of touring festival. And maybe go out on a headlining run with a couple of other bands. It’d be nice to help some bands with an opportunity.
Amps: What are you listening to when you’re not working?
Ezra: That’s a loaded question. I’m really bad about listening to metal, so I’m just gonna throw that out there. I listen to a lot of pop stuff, or stuff that evens me out because when you’re doing this kind of music for X-amount of days you can’t be listening to metal ALL the time. I’m listening to Die Antwoord, that rappy group from South Africa, a lot of Lana Del Rey, that girl Lorde from New Zealand. That’s kind of what I’ve been into most recently. The last metal albums I bought were Cattle Decapitation’s Monolith of Inhumanity and the last Dillinger Escape Plan record (One of Us Is the Killer). I tend to listen to lighter stuff.
Amps: Ezra, most of the heavier band vocalists I’ve interviewed ALL listen to pop music, so you’re not alone, my friend. Hell, I do too!
Ezra: (Laughing) that’s hilarious!
Amps: Anything you’d like to say to the fans out there?
Ezra: (Laughing) Buy our albums! That way we won’t have to sweat it out in a van for a hundred more years!