Interview with Matthew Caldwell (vocals)
Interview by Annalisa Orlando
We spoke to this Canadian metalcore quartet originally their new album, The Fallen Pillars. This is their first venture into creating an original full-length record. Their energetic brand of metal will interest fans of the mainstream metalcore/ hardcore of the 00’s such as Bullet for My Valentine, and early Killswitch Engage.
For first-time listeners and readers, could you tell us a little about As We Suffer and your new record “The Fallen Pillars”?
As We Suffer started as a cover band called The Cover Boys back in late 2016 or early 2017. We covered Sublime, AFI, NOFX, Rob Zombie, etc. We loved it but we’re more interested in writing original material. We formed As We Suffer in 2018 when Chris Nunn joined the band. He took our music to a heavier place and we started branching out into other heavy subgenres. When Derik joined the band in 2019, he brought a more Metalcore vibe to the writing and again, spearheaded us into new territory with his outstanding writing. Since then Rob Bell has joined the band and is already offering a superbly furious style and giving us another musical avenue to explore.
The Fallen Pillars is a concept album of sorts without a distinct narrative. It’s a take on a concept by Nadav Avni about the Pillars of Truth, which is a psychological exercise in which a person pictures a belief, thought, or theory as a pillar. They then begin striking at the pillar with every counter belief/idea/thought they can think of. If at the end the pillar stands, it is truth. I wanted to write an album where every song represents or discusses the opposite, all of the pillars that have fallen in our society.
You started as a cover band. What made you start writing your own original music?
Writing our own music was always what we wanted to do. Each of us had played in bands before where we did just that but hadn’t been on stage in ages. We decided as a warm-up to do covers but quickly dove into originals after our first stage performance in 2017.
You’ve all known each other for a long time. How have your relationships and music-making evolved over the years?
Our writing style has only grown as a unit and I believe is close to the members is very helpful to the process. Ryan and I are cousins, Jay (former member) is a long-time friend, as is Chris. Derik joined in late 2019 but is already like a brother to us. Rob Bell, who joined recently to fill Jay’s big shoes, is in the same boat. We all get along famously and write organically due to the comradery.
Did you face unique challenges when creating a full-length original album compared to a shorter demo?
Many challenges. Some stuff had to be re-written. Lots added as well but it all helped to create a fantastic sound. We’re so pleased with the work Joe Lyko from Dark Moon Productions did for us. If he heard something “off” or that could be improved, he would immediately jump in and offer suggestions. Doing the demo was a fairly speedy process and we wanted a bit more of that 90s skate punk feel without much in the way of effects or polishing. The Fallen Pillars is still very organic but it’s a far more polished and technically rounded record.
Would you say the record was made with the intention of it being a collection of separate songs or is this something linking each track together?
The record is tied in the way of the central theme of the Pillars of Truth. Whether it be the failure of political figureheads, an unhealthy response to death, religious extremism or destruction of cultures, lyrically the songs all follow that theme. These are the fallen pillars of our world.
Could you tell us a little about your band dynamic? Who does most of the writing? What makes you gel well creatively?
We all write a bit with Ryan Caldwell and Jay Yocom doing the majority on this record. Chris wrote 2 and Derik and I each did one. Derik, Ryan and Rob are doing the writing now and album 2 will be insane. We gel well mainly due to creative freedoms and respect. We try to let everyone work out ideas and let everyone write their parts so everyone feels like they’re creating their art.
Do you have plans to tour one thing again? Any plans to visit the U.K.?
Oh God yes. The second we’re able, we want to tour as much as possible. Absolutely! If we get invited after this insanity is over, we’re there.
Could you describe your dream gig? The lineup, the venue, would you play support or headline?
Each of us would probably have a different answer to this question so I’ll mention my own dream gig. It would be a mixture of heavy styles. I would love to open for the likes of Machine Head, Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying and many others. Ultimate venue? Outdoor festival style, near Halloween. No need to headline (though that’s obviously the ultimate goal) but to be high on the roster would be spectacular at a show like that.
Is there a thriving music scene in Canada? Before the pandemic, do you think there were good opportunities to see and play music live?
The really sad part is that Ottawa, Ontario was getting better every year and we saw a huge influx of A list metal bands (not to mention all sorts of other genres) popping in. I know that Montreal and Toronto have amazing shows but not overly familiar with the music scene across the country.
What things do you think could be improved in the culture of your music scene?
More visibility. We’re a government town so there’s a conservative vibe when it comes to music. Stuff like Metal and Hip Hop aren’t really on the surface as much as I’d like them to be. We don’t have a lot of venues and the ones we do have aren’t really well known outside of Ottawa too well. Would be nice to just get more exposure to our scene as there’s a ton of talent here, practically bursting at the seems and deserving of a larger audience.
Are there any bands whose sound yours is compared to where you feel particularly flattered by the comparison, or dislike?
Yes. We’ve been compared to Killswitch Engage and my vocals compared to Howard Jones. That was pretty much the highlight for me. We’ve also been compared to bands like Death by Stereo on some tracks, and Slayer (which was a bit of a shocker to me).
If you had to choose one style of vocals to sing for the rest of your life (screamed, opera, yodelling etc.) which would you choose?
I would probably go with Opera if I had to choose. The reason being is it’s the best for the vocal cords and it’s how I learned to properly sing back in my formative years. Screaming is insanely fun but if I could only do the screams, I’d get bored fast.
Do you have any hobbies, day jobs or interests (Gardening, Lady Gaga, Hot yoga…) or other such things that might surprise us?
While this may not surprise anyone, I’m an avid horror movie collector. I’ve been collecting horror since I was in my early teens and can’t imagine my life without it. I have a certain fondness for super cheesy 80s and 90s low budget flicks. Other than that, Opera, cooking and I’m a wine enthusiast. This feels like it turned into a dating profile.
What’s your favourite fan interaction you ever had?
I’ll give you one from the positive and one from the negative. After our set awhile back we had a fan walk up to us in a Slayer shirt who was one of the only people in the crowd who looked 100% metal. We were doing a rather eclectic show that night and he was there supporting another local band. He came up super excited and asked me a million questions about the band. It was heartwarming. I don’t think he expected to hear the music he would normally listen to that night. On the negative side of the coin, at one show right before the first lockdown, I had one enthusiastic “fan” continuously touch my junk on stage. He would then proceed to give me the middle finger and steal my beer. I was unimpressed. Bouncer finally intervened and threw him out.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Anything you would like to say to our readers to finish?
You’re most welcome and thanks so much for having me! It’s been a pleasure. I’d like to say thanks for listening and we hope you love the new record! Album 2 is already on its way and will be far darker and heavier than this one. HORNS UP!