Farewell to Fear – Punching ThroughTuesday, 26th July 2022
Producing a cross-pollination of styles across the hard rock/metal spectrum that have influences that are old school as well as modern, Farewell to Fear draw upon their decades of experience as musicians to develop songs that convey a colorful versatility across their discography. Their third album Polarity contains everything from straight ahead hard rock, thrash, modern rock, alternative, and heavy metal aspects – including a heavier take on the Faith No More classic “Surprise! You’re Dead”. A lively collection that launches easily from the studio to the stage – properly impressing audiences wherever they go.
We recently got the opportunity to speak to vocalist Mike Craig and learn more about this band. You’ll hear how COVID-19 influenced the music and lyrical content for Polarity, the message behind the band, lots of insight into their influences, thoughts on the state of hard rock/metal today, how they handle social media and promotion in this ever-evolving industry, plus plans for the future.
Dead Rhetoric: In mid-July you played the Inkcarceration Festival in Mansfield, Ohio with bands like Breaking Benjamin, Evanescence, Black Label Society, and Spiritbox among others. How do you believe your performance went, what were your thoughts on this festival and highlights of the day through your eyes?
Mike Craig: It was certainly an honor to be playing with all of those guys. They are all amazing bands, professionals. The whole entire festival ran by Danny Wimmer, they always do a stellar job. We totally enjoyed it. Our performance was extremely high energy, and the crowd fueled it. It was awesome, we had a blast.
For the shows we were able to take in, because we were limited on time, Saint Asonia was amazing, Avatar is always fun to see, and those were the two that stick out. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to hang for Evanescence or Breaking Benjamin, we have seen them and played with both of them at festivals in the past. They always bring an amazing energy to the stage. We were at least happy to be on the festival on the same day as those bands.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about your earliest memories surrounding music in childhood – how did you make the progression into heavier forms and styles, and at what point did you want to be a part of a band and start performing your own original music?
Craig: My personal experiences when I got into music, giving me the sign that I wanted to be a part of this community and want to create music I was maybe 12, maybe even younger. My uncle comes over for my birthday and brings me an album, and it was Kiss Alive II. I was blown away; this is absolutely insane, and this is what I want to do. That started me at a young age, and then things progress and as you start diving in deeper with different types and styles of music, I wanted to go personally into the types of music and styles ranging from early AC/DC to Van Halen, Iron Maiden to Judas Priest, into Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Black Sabbath, the older stuff like Led Zeppelin. You start putting all those things together, and I think that even after this is our third album, it depicts a little bit of that – going from one spectrum into the other, drawing on multiple influences. And it’s been fun, to see the culmination of all that come together.
Dead Rhetoric: What memories do you have of the early period for Farewell to Fear?
Craig: It was exciting, fun times. I’ve been playing music my whole life but forming Farewell to Fear was a very timely situation. I think a lot of us had gotten a little bit older, everyone has created their own lives, businesses, families, jobs, kids, and we had the opportunity to form this band kind of on the later part of that and gives us a different perspective. When you are creating your band in your thirties and forties, it’s different than when you create a band in your teens. You have different perspective that you bring to the table. This was exciting, you can really realize that what you do and that the message that you are sending through your music has a purpose. As opposed to just jamming and cranking things loud. You can certainly do that too, but we drew on a sense of purpose with Farewell to Fear as far as the meaning and the philosophy behind it. Which was, the concept of fear basically just stops you dead in your tracks. You can overcome that fear, regardless of what it is, maybe it’s a fear of success or not having success, or fear of making sure you have a good relationship, whatever it may be, fear is usually what stops you dead in your tracks. We wanted to create that positive message that hey, life’s not perfect all the time, but if we can punch through the fear and the fear mongering that’s going on, usually you can end up doing about anything that you wish you could want to do successfully.
Dead Rhetoric: Polarity is the third and latest album for Farewell to Fear. Where do you see this record sitting in the catalog of the band, and how would you compare this effort to your first two albums New Blood and Voices?
Craig: I think that anytime you put out anything that’s brand new, you think it’s the best that you’ve ever done. What I look at this as is where we are. We’ve gone through… if you go back and listen to New Blood, it’s got a specific feel to it. Same with Voices. And when you listen to Polarity, it’s got a little bit of everything. I think the reason why, the reason we’ve grown the way we have, a lot of people I hope what they say is good about Farewell to Fear is that they always leave you guessing as to what they are going to do next. I’d like to think that we don’t stay the same. If you look at our earlier albums, New Blood was much more of an active rock/modern rock driven record. I think we did a lot of that because we were not told to, but it was kind of expected at the time to get us to where we needed to go. That was probably a smart move. Voices was an opportunity for us to dive in and do things that are a little darker and a little bit deeper. We accomplished that.
Polarity gives us the opportunity to take a little bit of all the things we’ve done, and the maturity level being a band for ten years, that we can do whatever we want. Let’s just do whatever feels good. If we want to write a thrash tune, let’s do that. If we want to write an active rock song that would be current in today’s radio, let’s do that. If we want to do a song with ten different changes and a minute long solo in between, we will do that. It was refreshing to go and take that approach.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe the pandemic had a deeper effect on what you wanted to get across with some of the lyrical content for this record? How important is conveying the right emotions song to song to match the diverse musical content the band puts forth?
Craig: Without COVID-19, the music would have been a lot different. The lyrical content would have been a lot different. Everything happens for a reason, and this was a unique situation. That impacted not just a city, a county, a state, or a country. It was a worldwide thing, something that we can all relate to, something we all can share in. It’s never happened before in our lifetime. Hopefully, it will never happen again in our lifetime. We were in the writing process through the whole thing that drew upon many different types of emotions. The politics behind it, what we were being fed, to the reality of the situation, we were just bombarded with so much stuff. Because of that, everyone internalizes what’s happening differently. As you look through the songs, reading the lyrics, you realize a lot of this is internal, and how you handle a lot of this.
I hope that we are able to relate to the audience on a global scale. And also deliver an overall message, stuff happens, but there is a bigger picture and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are all on this (globe) together, so you can have some solace in that.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the idea come about to cover Faith No More’s “Surprise! You’re Dead” for this album? As you’ve gained a decent buzz previously for your version of “Diamonds” originally done by Rihanna a few years back – do you believe there is value building credibility in taking songs from other genres and transforming them into your own?
Craig: I think there is. When we did Rihanna, it was kind of an afterthought. And there weren’t a whole lot of bands doing that type of thing back then. It had become widely popular a year or two years after we did it, which was cool to see. It brought some relatability to a new crowd. At the same time, when we looked at doing another cover and putting something like that on an album, I’ve got to be honest when our producer recommended us trying “Diamonds”, I never even heard the song before. It was fun, I had no preconceived notions of what it should sound like. As opposed to picking something like Faith No More, which is one of my favorite bands, Mike Patton is one of my all-time favorite singers. That’s one of my favorite songs. Doing that was a little intimidating. I didn’t know… we couldn’t veer too far from its original form, as that song is already perfect. I think if anything else, we were going to pay homage to those guys. And hopefully, not disappoint them or their listeners, as we are their fans. It’s a little intimidating doing it, publishing it, and putting it on our record. I hope people will dig it and they’ll like it, and that we represented it well.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest assets Farewell to Fear has to ascend up the ranks – especially in an ever-changing, evolving music industry where there seems to be so many artists competing for attention, promotion, and a following?
Craig: Man, that’s so hard! And I say that because… I believe that the makeup of the band is the asset. The individuals, the bandmates, the people themselves, Jimmy, Jeremy, Bill, and Tommy – they are the assets. They are all extremely qualified and extremely talented musicians. That’s not everything. Their attitude and who they are as people, that is really the true asset. Because if you start with that, if you have the right people, anything is possible. Talent, songwriting ability, creative flair is a massive asset. But especially today, more than any other time in the music industry as long as I’ve been alive, it’s the hardest it’s ever been. Like you said, there’s a sea of talent, so many amazing bands out there. Everything has been done – you can’t change the world, or be the first band to do this. That ship has sailed, giving props to all the bands before us that give us inspiration. There will never be another Kiss, another Led Zeppelin, another Van Halen. That is where it is. When you have the delivery mechanism with online media, social platforms, Spotify, the market has opened up.
I believe our asset is our willingness to stay the course. Our ability to grow and delivery new content that is relevant. To stay on the edge of what is accessible without going too extreme, but able to draw from the influences of our past and stay relevant with the new kids growing up. We are older and mature in the fact that we have been doing this for so long, where I see a lot of younger bands growing up have amazing talent, but the turmoil you encounter as a young individual, it’s just brutal. The propensity to continue on over years and years will dissipate over a period of time. I don’t see a whole lot of bands lasting, ten or twenty or thirty years.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess the band in terms of your live performance and what you want to put across to audiences versus what they hear on the records? What have been some of the more memorable performances you’ve done with Farewell to Fear to date?
Craig: We record and produce music so that we can go play live. It’s the point, the purpose. We like the creative process, and that’s our thing – but when you can get out on stage and deliver it the way that people are receiving it, and they truly are enjoying themselves, that’s the pay off. Our show is high energy, even this past weekend, bouncing all over the stage. No breath until we are done. It’s fun, growing up watching live music, I always wanted to go see a great live show, not because I wanted to hear the record exactly like it was recorded, I wanted to watch a live show. The live music was secondary, because I want to see musicians play and have a good time.
Some of our most memorable experiences, the Inkcarceration Festival this past weekend ranks in the top five, that’s for sure. We’ve had an opportunity to play Welcome to Rockville, which was incredible. We’ve played in front of a crowd in Orlando some years back, at the Orlando Convention Center, a little over 10,000 people – that was an insane show. We had a great opportunity to go play on the Chris Jericho tour at sea with Light the Torch and Fozzy, that was a cool experience. That is a lot of different memorable experiences, that’s for sure.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the state of hard rock and heavy metal these days? What excites you most, and what changes (if any) would you like to see as a musician to make things better overall?
Craig: Where I see hard rock and metal today, I see it starting to come full circle. Which I really enjoy. None of this would exist without diving back into the classics, and just old school rock and roll. The roots of where we came from are just derivatives of that. The more I start to see something simple as seeing guitar solos come back into the mix. That’s a big deal. We are not shy when it comes to letting it rip and having some fun. Where a short time ago, that was taboo. Hard rock, there are a lot of young guys coming out that are just getting straight to the roots and being raw. I love that, it’s having an impact for other guys and girls getting into the music today.
Going forward, how I could see things improve or become better. It’s a variable, you don’t know if it’s the industry itself that needs to change or the people creating the music. For me, I’d like to see a little bit of change on the industry side. There are a lot of amazing individuals creating music out there today. But I will tell you, it becomes harder and harder as an artist to keep the bills paid. I’m speaking on behalf of everyone creating music today. Music is important, as an artform it has been for thousands of years. If we don’t as an industry find a way to make sure the people that are creating the music have an opportunity to continue to do so, without quitting or throwing in the towel because they just can’t afford to do it anymore, that would be a travesty, and the day the music died, period. I’d like to see the industry move back towards having a more equitable share in the artist. Because if you told the fans out there that their favorite band will probably never record another album, never go on tour again, and fade into the distance if you don’t spend three dollars and buy an album, they would be like, ‘I’ll give you three bucks.’. If they knew it was that serious, we wouldn’t be having a problem right now.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider three of the most important albums that shaped your viewpoints and outlook on music?
Craig: That’s a hard question. How do you pinpoint that? The guys in the band, we have these questions go back and forth once in a while. You aren’t the same person today, that you were five years ago. You aren’t the same person today that you will be five years from now. When you think of that, and you go back to when you were a child, what was your it record back then, that may be different five years from now.
When it comes to shaping who you are as a musician, one of them for me has to be Queensÿrche – Operation: Mindcrime. Just because it still blows my mind. I can listen to it every day, and it’s an absolute masterpiece. Something that I strive for. You could almost pick any Led Zeppelin album. It’s hard to pick just one. And then I would say, for me Judas Priest – Screaming for Vengeance or Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind. Those set me up as a vocalist, these are the guys I look up to. There are a lot more I could draw from now.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the importance of social media and instant technology in building the brand of the band? Do you think it’s a double-edged sword in putting yourselves out there, while not trying to be too intrusive (or possibly offensive) when it comes to your product?
Craig: It’s a necessary evil, and something that you have to do. I’m a father of three, and I have my own feelings about social media or whether I think it’s positive or negative. Sometimes I say you know what, social media and technology when it comes to accessibility can be just straight destruction. It has a lot of negative downsides. On the other side, if used properly and for the right reasons, it can be a beautiful tool to have a massive reach and expose what it is you are doing. It is an absolute necessity if you want to be involved. If you are not actively putting yourself out there and getting on every outlet to do everything you possibly can, you will get lost in the shuffle. Every other band out there is trying to grab everyone else’s attention.
Dead Rhetoric: What hobbies, passions, or interests do you like to pursue away from music to clear your head and gain focus when you need that energy to do so?
Craig: Being in Florida we are very fortunate to be five minutes from the beach. We’ve got kids, we spend a lot of time being family people. When it comes to hobbies, we like to travel. We like to play golf, I like to snow ski, not that you get much of that here. When we are not traveling, touring, and writing, the most simple things of taking a step back and being thankful for the things that we do have, being thankful that we are healthy and live in a land that’s free for the most part. That stuff grounds us and gives us the opportunity to get back at it.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Farewell to Fear over the next year or so now that the album is out?
Craig: We are already back to the drawing board. Kicking out ideas for new songs. I believe the band is just now at the point where we have grown up. We are ready to do something. All the stuff for the last ten years has just been a stepping stone for figuring out what we want to do, who we want to do it with. Now I feel we have a plan, and the stuff you will hear from here on out is next level. We are super excited about it.