By Stephanie Stevens
Sharptone Records has a gem in the labels arsenal when they signed Lansing, MI band OF VIRTUE. The bands latest disc WHAT DEFINES YOU is the first on the label and is the bands most versatile and most emotional piece of art to date. It embodies the strength, courage and resilience that us as humans needs right now to get through the tough situations this world is throwing at us. Of course the band members aren’t therapists but they have had hardships and had to look within themselves and each other along with fans I’m sure to really embody real and raw emotional content for this stellar album.
Along with the high quality of words the music this time around is so diverse and alluring with elements of metal hardness to sensational moodiness of melody driven attributes. Vocals that are sensitive and alluring and then heavy and penetrating. It’s a journey into the world of, OF VIRTUE and its spectacular.
From start to finish I have nothing negative about the disc. It flows it builds with lush landscapes. Its heavy when u need that punch in the gut and its raw and emotional. Some of my favorites are THANKS FOR NOTHING, IMMORTAL, SURROUNDED. Of course the single and video ALONE is epic because it’s a change and fresh approach to the bands sound.
OF VIRTUE began in 2009 have had countless discs released but in my opinion this is the growth and dedication of a bunch of ambitious talented dudes and they should be over the moon on this collection of songs that compose the new album WHAT DEFINES YOU.
I had a chance to speak with Damon Tate (guitar, vocals) about the album title, some of the new songs on the disc and his inspiration
WHAT DEFINES YOU is your new album release but also was a question u hoped listeners to attempt to answer. With these new songs, how are you continuing to help fans find those answers?
The songs on this record tell our personal experiences with how we approach the meaning of the album. Growing up, I went through years where I lost my way and made a bunch of mistakes that could have left me in jail, continuously hurting people or I could have been dead myself. It was gaining clarity through loves ones and focusing on the one passion I had throughout my entire life that allowed me this second chance at life. I wasn’t going to let my past haunt me or dictate my future and that is where the name “What Defines You” comes from. It is taking ownership of your life and saying that you will do whatever you can to enrich yourself, without hurting others and spreading that love so that others can see your light and do the same. It is not letting mistakes of the past define you as person, rather establish the blueprint of what not to do in order to reach your highest potential. We want people to become a light for others in their moments of need.
Can you tell me what you feel defines you? Have you been able to answer that question?
Determination. Resilience. Stubbornness in some ways because there were points where we could have given up and gone on to do different things in our lives but we felt like this band still had something more to offer.
With Tyler and Kyle being newest in the band how did that enhance the writing process for this new album?
They both come from completely different musical backgrounds so it gave us a fresh palette to work with when we decided to stray away from the root sound of our other records. In all of Tyler’s other bands, he was only a screamer but expressed the desire to evolve into a proper melodic singer as well. I sang on our older records but not nearly in the capacity that we employ now. We wanted more of the dual vocal approach this time around and that has helped our group grow as a whole. Kyle comes from a more technical background and he started playing with us when we were touring off of our old records. That was a perfect match so we can go between more simplistic groove that complements the song, improvised jam parts live, to more of the schizophrenic fills/creative drum parts.
A lot of people might think being signed to SharpTone that now you have the easy road. If it’s TRUE, in what capacity? If not, how does it push you as a band more?
Being signed to SharpTone has been a great experience for us so far but that just means that we as a band have to work 10x as hard. The misconception that comes along with being a signed band is that people do everything for you now and you can sit back and do nothing. Especially in this day and age, labels (or smart business owners/investors) will not want to work with someone who is lazy or not experiencing success on their own and this is the same thing. They cant tour for us, play the shows, talk to the fans, etc. Being apart of the ST family, we could be afforded some opportunities to help our band advance but we have to be prepared to capitalize and make the most of those if/when they come so our work load doesn’t decrease at all.
Your first single and video are for the song ALONE. What made you choose that song for a platform single and what do you feel stands out in the song the most?
“Alone” is probably one of the most different songs stylistically that we have ever done. Its heavy in a more rock oriented way and is dominant clean singing from Tyler/myself and from the day it was finished, we wanted to test the waters with not only our fans but with people from other styles of music. Nowadays, a lot of the bigger artists are able to cross over and occupy space in other genres or morph their sound to reach different audiences while keeping their foundation in tact. This was the last song of the record that was recorded but the one we all felt had great potential, hence it being a single.
THANKS FOR NOTHING I’m utterly obsessed with how did that song come together and was it one of the first that you guys completed?
Collectively, this is one of the band’s favorite songs that we have ever done. This was the second to last song that was completed for the album actually. The night before our session, I was working on the structure of an old demo we were going to reshape in the studio and started playing a version of what would become the opening riff. I tried to incorporate it into the existing demo but then realized “Damn, this riff is too good for this other song.” From there, Josh and I sat down and went through the parts I wanted to utilize. Ultimately, we re-wrote everything on the spot. Similar to “Alone”, we were in a great working groove so everything from the structure to the lyrics/melody came pretty quick and we couldn’t be happier with how the song turned out.
SURROUNDED is another favorite of mine. Lyrically where was the inspiration coming from?
Seeing the discrimination/racism that is still present in the world. Not only in our country but in other places we have visited as well and from speaking to people, the displeasure they also have with how people are still being treated. Whether its the color of your skin, your religion, sexual orientation, etc. at the end of the day we are all human beings with the same red blood coursing through our veins. We all deserve respect for our individuality as long as you aren’t spreading hurtful/hateful rhetoric. For me personally, I still come across pockets of ignorance with being black in a metal band from people in our own community. Instead of fighting fire with fire, I was taught to enrich and enlighten people on how I want to be treated. And inversely, we as a group are always evolving and learning more about our brothers and sisters so we can be an ally to them as well.
Pictures of you has Kalie Wolfe on it how did that Collab come about?
Mike and I were listening to the demo of POY one day and weren’t completely satisfied with some of the vocals we had done in the verse and thought about ways we could spice it up. We have always wanted a female voice/singer on a song and lyrically, the concept made sense to try and involve someone. When we were on tour, one of our friends showed us a band called Rivals and immediately her voice stuck out. We contacted our management to get a hold of her and the rest is now history haha.
What made you guys choose the cover artwork?
We had the pleasure of working with Kevin Moore (Soft Surrogate) for this project and he absolutely nailed the concept. We broke down what the album title meant, what the songs meanings were and how we wanted to overall project to be viewed and he threw a curve ball that none of us expected. Its different, vibrant, dark, conceptually deep, visually impactful/visceral and the response has been nothing short of amazing.
What has been the biggest inspiration for you personally to pursue your love of music and does it still drive you on a daily basis?
It sounds corny and derivative, but music is the reason I am still here today. Growing up, I went through years where I lost my way and made a bunch of mistakes that could have left me in jail, continuously hurting people or I could have been dead myself. It was gaining clarity through loves ones and focusing on the one passion I had throughout my entire life that allowed me this second chance at life. I wasn’t going to let my past haunt me or dictate my future and music provided that outlet for me.
What does the rest of your summer look like?
We are getting ready to head out on our first headlining tour in Asia in July and then once we are home, we are playing a few spot shows and have some other things that aren’t announced yet coming in the next few weeks. Shows, shows and more shows!
If fans could do one thing that would help you guys out the most, what could they do?
Come out to the shows, give us your time and energy and buy merchandise/albums. All of these are the blood of a touring band and we need these from everyone to succeed. When we play a show, talking to people, establishing the connection and learning about different culture/world view is integral to the growth of our band. There is no greater feeling than when you are either on stage or in the crowd and everyone is in sync, sweaty and feeling the same positive energy flowing through the room. We are concert/show goers ourselves and understand that along with the passion and art comes a financial end. If your friend opens a coffee shop, go buy their product if you enjoy it and spread the word. If you don’t, don’t be surprised if they go out of business because they cannot sustain themselves.
On a live show aspect describe your set in three words and what’s your favorite thing to wear while playing?
Energetic. Powerful. Emotional. I like to wear a cut off tee/black joggers or jeans/Nike fly knit shows because they are comfortable to bounce around in. At the end of each set, everything is soaking we though haha.
Our new album WHAT DEFINES YOU is out now via SharpTone Records so go stream/download/pick it up! Let us know on our social media pages where you want to see us and well do our best to get there soon!
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