A Light Divided – Breaking ThroughMonday, 1st October 2018
Building up a fanbase over a few releases, including 2015’s Mirrors, A Light Divided had a modern metal vibe brewing up. But what happens when a band wants to reach that next step in their evolution? What happens when a band pushes a sound as far as it could potentially take them? It’s a question that A Light Divided asked themselves as they began working on their soon-to-be-released follow-up, Choose Your Own Adventure.
Ultimately, just letting things come together provided in an album that sees them take their sound and expand it. Removing certain portions and amplifying others. All of which make Choose Your Own Adventure the band’s strongest to date. Vocalist Jaycee Clark spoke with us about these changes and answers to the questions above, as well as maintaining independence (and its challenges) and what lies ahead.
Dead Rhetoric: Why the title, Choose Your Own Adventure?
Jaycee Clark: Yeah. Our last album was about self-reflection and learning to be able to accept yourself for who you are. For this album, it’s about making choices. Using the knowledge that I’ve learned over my life, and using it to make myself decide on choices that will lead me to a happier and more fulfilling life. We made a play on the books because of the nostalgia, but instead of applying it to a book, if you make the same sort of choices with your life, you find out that ultimately, you can have a happier life if you aren’t holding yourself to certain things because you are too scared to do it.
Dead Rhetoric: So lyrically, is it sort of a building point from your last album?
Clark: So while they aren’t completely connected, the last one was more of a ‘finding yourself’ and ‘this is who you are,’ we went into this record thinking what comes next. Now you know who you are, you can move on and just be who you are.
Dead Rhetoric: You brought up the last album [Mirrors]. There were some in references to pop culture (movies/TV) in the song titles throughout. Anything similar this time?
Clark: I think when we were originally going into Choose Your Own Adventure, we were thinking about naming all of the song titles after an experience we had on the road, or an inside joke, something like that. But as we got deeper into the album process, it seemed too silly and goofy. We wanted to take a more serious approach. There’s one song title on the record called “Another Bar Fight In Brooklyn,” and that is an ‘on the road/inside joke,’ but that’s the only one that made it. There’s another one called “Counting the Sober,” which is an inside joke between me and a friend of mine who passed away earlier this year, so I had to give a nod to her on the record as well. But most of the time, we named songs based on the actual lyrics, which makes me feel a little bit like a sellout, but I think it works.
Dead Rhetoric: What is the path of A Light Divided? What do you see yourselves moving towards?
Clark: With this album cycle, we are basically going balls to the wall. We always try to push ourselves harder with each release, but for this one, we are looking to start touring full-time, which is pretty drastic for us. In the past, we have done a few 10-day runs seasonally, but we are looking to do longer tours for extended time periods. To the point where we are going to quit our jobs and see what happens. When you throw yourself into that situation, you have to make it work.
That was the biggest decision when it came to Choose Your Own Adventure. As a band, were we content with doing the same thing? Doing little tours here and there? Or did we want to throw caution to the wind and just go full force at it? It’s terrifying. I have no idea if I’m even going to have any sort of money on the road or to come home with. But it will be worth it, because at least at the end of my day, when I’m on my deathbed, I can look back and say, “Well, I did it.” So let’s see what happens.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s like you’ve pushed the band as far as you can at one level, so you have to make the blind leap and hope you land on the other side.
Clark: Exactly. All the artists that are doing what I want to be doing, when I’ve gotten the chance to sit down and pick their brain a bit, all tell me that there’s no good time to do it. You just have to decide that it’s what you want and that’s what you are going to do.
Dead Rhetoric: So that being said, what does the album mean to you, personally?
Clark: To me, it means one life, one chance. Make it count. Do the things that you want to do instead of talking yourself out of them. I have a lot of anxiety and that’s always something that holds me back. I think I want to do something but I am afraid I will fail at it. Choose Your Own Adventure is like, “Screw it. Do it anyway. If you fall, you fall.”
Dead Rhetoric: And it’s a nice parallel to what we were just talking about with the band too.
Clark: Every song on the record is about making a choice. The choice to not let frustration get to you. The choice to end toxic relationships. The choice to be vulnerable with the people around you. Stuff like that.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the Kickstarter work out? Did you use it as a way to preorder the album?
Clark: Not necessarily. We did a Kickstarter before with our last record. We were totally tapped out and we needed help to get the record done the way we wanted it to be done. The people that supported us had such a good time with it, and we had such a good time with it, that when we were talking about going into the studio to do Choose Your Own Adventure, people started asking us if we were going to do another Kickstarter. We decided to do it, and keep everyone involved and in the process.
It was a good way to give back to the fans, and give them some stuff that you can’t just carry with you to the merch booth all the time. Limited edition things or experiences, so I would think it’s a really cool way to reach out and give the people what they want, so to speak. If they get a copy of the album with it too, then even better. I’m so excited that people seem to really have our back and be supportive about this endeavor we are about to go on.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel it’s a good way to push yourself, as an independent band?
Clark: Absolutely. We are always stressed out and busting our ass to push the project as hard as we can. The first thing I do when I get home from my day job is just to throw myself back into band stuff. To the point that I’ve sacrificed friendships and relationships because I’ve been so wholly focused, but I’m trying to be better about that. It’s only been this year. I decided to focus on the important stuff, and it doesn’t have to be band things 100% of the time, but it’s hard because I love it!
Dead Rhetoric: How does Choose Your Own Adventure stand out from your previous material?
Clark: This album is completely different from any of our other records, if for no other reason, it’s the first time that we have stepped away from the dual vocals – clean and scream vocals. Screaming is almost non-existent on the record. We really wanted to branch outside our comfort zone to make something more mature and accessible than what we did in the past.
Dead Rhetoric: With that approach, what’s most essential about your songwriting as a band now?
Clark: As far as this album goes, it was a really collaborative effort between all members. We made sure everybody’s voice and influences were heard.
Dead Rhetoric: With a few releases under your belt now, do you feel that you have grown the band in the direction you want to push in?
Clark: I think that with all of our past – especially our first EPs, we were trying to find the band we wanted to be. With Mirrors, I think we sort of grew and became more mature. With this one, I feel we really pushed ourselves. We felt we had been stuck in the mold of all these checkpoints we had to cross for it to be an A Light Divided song.
This time, we figured it didn’t matter – we could still be the band that we are, without having to make sure there was a breakdown or scream part. I think we sort of let the songs organically write themselves and feed off of each other. It almost doesn’t sound like the same band to me! I’m like, “Holy crap! Is this what we were supposed to sound like the whole time?” But I’ve never been happier with something that we have put out.
Dead Rhetoric: So what there that sense of realization that you felt you really hit the point of understanding exactly what the band is, knowing that there’s always room for evolution?
Clark: There’s always room for evolution, and I never want the next record to sound like the one before it. That album already exists, so you don’t have to put out an album that could sound like the previous one’s b-side. That was something we struggled with from the last one into this one, because I felt like we were writing all of the same songs. Nobody wants to hear that. Let’s do something new. Let’s grow from there and start from a blank slate, and I think it was the best approach for us.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s good too, that you can go back and look at what you’ve done, and be constructive about it.
Clark: Another thing I think that really helped us with this album, was that we have gotten two new members and I think both of them were fans of our bands before they were a member. So for them to come in, and have them tell us what they wish they would have heard from us was really a cool, outside perspective.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s tough about staying independent, since you’ve been in that direction for a while?
Clark: Oh man. There’s a lot of hardships that come from being an independent band. I think a lot of times, without having a label, people don’t take you seriously off the bat. You always have to prove yourself. Like, “Oh, they’re just a local band.” But we tour all the time. Just because we don’t have that name behind us, because there’s so many bands out there right now. But it’s hard to have to keep proving yourself, especially when you have been around for as long as we have at this point.
Dead Rhetoric: You brought up having a day job earlier. What does the band do outside of music?
Clark: Unfortunately, that’s not nearly as interesting to talk about. I work in a restaurant, because it’s easy to go in there during the day, and have my nights free. There’s a flexible schedule that allows me to take time off for tours and things like that. Everybody else does their own thing – it can get tough with touring schedules, especially coming up. I’m not exactly sure what everyone else does, to be honest – I don’t know their descriptions or anything like that. I’ve got the worst memory in the world [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: As you were saying, the band is making a big step. What are some of the goals that you’d like to see the band accomplish in order to make that step?
Clark: I would love to play 200 or more shows a year. I want to go all over the US. It would be awesome if we could do Canada or go overseas. To be able to tour, and be self-supported where we aren’t bleeding money. I’d love to tour with some bigger, awesome bands and get in front of crowds that might not see us otherwise. That’s the thing – I love being out on the road, meeting people and talking to everybody. Meeting the other bands, whether they are local/regional/national – I love being in that atmosphere of people who love music as much as I do. That’s my favorite thing in the world. If I can keep that up, then I’ll be happy.
Dead Rhetoric: What type of bands do you see as being good touring partners to get you a bit better established?
Clark: I’m just going to jump to my favorite, I’m the biggest A Day to Remember fan. They have changed my life as far as the way that I perceive listening to music and mixing genres, so if I ever had an opportunity to tour with them, I would poop my pants [laughs]. Even if I did a festival and we are on the same stage, close enough!
Dead Rhetoric: With the sound of this album, do you feel there’s some crossover appeal, not to just metal fans, but you could veer into the rock and pop world as well?
Clark: Oh yeah, and that was a big thing. We’ve done the metal thing for so many years, but there was always an element of pop to it. I think with this one, it was important to push that pop aspect and reach a broader audience. I think that people who still like the metal stuff will be into this record, but maybe people who aren’t so into the heavy stuff will still appreciate it. It’s got the catchy hooks and all of that. I want to reach out to everybody, or at least as many as I can.
Dead Rhetoric: A lack of screams usually gives a wider appeal.
Clark: You just hit a wall where you can only get so far because it’s such a niche group of people. I was a little bit worried about steering away from some of the heavy and thinking that people might feel we’ve sold out and not be into it. But we put the single out, and the reaction to it was so great that I’m not even worried about the rest of it. If they like it, they like it, and if they don’t, we’ll agree to disagree. I think it’s a fun record, and there’s something for everybody no matter what music you listen to. I’m bursting at the seams to hear everyone’s reaction to it.
Dead Rhetoric: What plans do you have for the rest of the year, once the album comes out?
Clark: We have the big album release show and we are going to be following that up with a series of some other shows, including a tour this fall.