It’s shortly after the release of We Came As Romans’ third album, Tracing Back Roots, and lead vocalist David Stephens says he’s pleased with the initial critical and commercial response. “From what I’ve read it seems like, scrolling down the list, 95 per cent of people are really loving it and records are flying off the shelves and people are really clinging to it. And then there’s about five per cent of people who really want to kill us,” he laughs.
The significant increase in accessible melodic content on this record distinguishes it from the metalcore assault of the Michigan six-piece’s earlier work. Upon release, Stephens admits, he was nervous about how fans would react to the wide employment of clean vocals. “It was really, really scary releasing these tracks where I’m singing, and two songs that are all singing. We were like, ‘Wow, is the world just going to turn their backs on us after this?’”
However, the predominantly positive feedback indicates the stylistic departure has paid off. Stephens attests that during recording the band weren’t particularly hesitant about making the adjustment to their sound. “We did 14 songs in six weeks; we only needed 11 and it was supposed to take eight weeks. It just came together really nicely, and John [Feldmann] is a great producer and it did feel right.”
Producer Feldmann’s inclination towards the poppier end of the punk spectrum (his production credits include The Used, Hilary Duff and his own band Goldfinger) evidently enhanced the incorporation of additional sheen. The vocals of keyboard player Kyle Pavone, previously the band’s sole clean vocalist, feature more predominately on the album than ever. Stephens says Feldmann was instrumental in developing the dual clean vocal format.
“John really pushed the idea of both Kyle and I singing. He thought that was a really cool thing we could use, something that could make us a little different. He really helped me find my own singing style too, which I never really had before. I could hit the notes and everything else but he really helped me find a character for my voice.”
Throughout their career We Came As Romans have projected an essentially positive ethos, made most apparent by their empathetic lyrics. Stephens explains that a newfound writing method furthered the scope of the lyricism on this album. “We have a lot of fans who really cling to our lyrics so they’re a really important thing to write. Normally Josh [Moore, lead guitar] writes all the lyrics and that’s it. Josh still wrote almost all of the lyrics, but he was cool. Me, John, Kyle and Josh would go to Starbucks together and we’d just sit there, talk about ideas, things we could write about. It was cool to have multiple minds at work and I think because of that the lyrics on this record are better than any of our [previous] lyrics.”
Optimal on-stage vocal execution could provide a greater challenge for Stephens now, given he has to juggle singing and screaming. In order to eclipse any hurdles generated by the new album material, he’ll utilise a break from touring prior to the band’s Australian visit and put himself into a vocal training regime.
“I plan on doing some vocal lessons, any way to become better at my instrument. I want to sing and scream for a couple of hours a day, get stronger and better at it. Like a drummer or a guitarist or anybody, you’ve got to practise your instrument.”
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY
We Came As Romans play Vans Warped Tour at Barangaroo, Sydney on Sunday December 1 with The Offspring, Parkway Drive, Simple Plan, New Found Glory, Tonight Alive and more. Tracing Back Roots out now through Equal Vision/UNFD.