Heavy rockers Of Mice & Men are set to release their much anticipated new album ‘Defy’ which comes out January 19th 2018, a return to roots of sort where the band capture their live energy on record. As exciting as that is in itself, the band are also set to appear at the first ever Download Festival in Australia which takes place on March 24th 2018 so there was much to talk about as we spoke to frontman Aaron Pauley about the new record, how touring affected the creation process and what fans can expect at their live show at Download.
Andrew: How’s things with you guys at the moment? You must be pretty excited to be coming back to Australia I guess!
Aaron: Oh yeah very excited, should be a great time.
Andrew: Yeah and it’s obviously a big deal for Australian fans at the moment because it’s the Download Festival for the first time in Australia. How does it feel to be part of a monumental occasion like this?
Aaron: It’s great! We got to play main stage in England and it was massive, it was mental so I think to be bringing such a huge festival that has such a solid lineage is awesome. I know it’s been a few years since Australia has had a music festival so I think it will be great for the fans too.
Andrew: Yeah that’s something that we’re definitely lacking at the moment what with the ending of the Soundwave Festival. How has your experience been in Australia in previous years as you have been here a few times now right?
Aaron: Yeah it’s always been great! We were lucky enough to do Soundwave maybe 2 or 3 times and it’s just a great time every time. To me so many parts of Australia remind me of home in California with the same kind of laid back lifestyle so I’m really excited to get back.
Andrew: You have a new album coming out next year that you will be promoting and supporting, ‘Defy’. From what I hear and from some of the songs I have heard, it sounds like you have returned to a more heavier and aggressive sort of sound. What was the idea behind some of these songs?
Aaron: Yeah I think some of the songs definitely do, some of the songs are not necessarily as heavy or aggressive on the album. But for us the main focus was we wanted to take the energy from our live shows and really try and encapsulate that, both in our song writing and the recording process. So for us a lot of it inevitably ended up coming back to a bit more of an energetic and aggressive, heavy sound and at the same time we have songs that are not necessarily that but still have that same sort of live energy.
Andrew: Was there anything in particular that inspired that idea to capture that live energy? Anything that pushed you guys to go for that sound and style?
Aaron: Yes and no and the reason why I say that is because originally we had recorded ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Back To Me’ because they were 2 songs that we had written with the full intent of playing them live at a bunch of festivals that we had booked. So we recorded those and played a bunch of festivals and just kind of seeing the reaction among our fans over those new songs and then also for people who had never heard us before, those 2 songs in particular had such a good reaction. We basically done April-May in the States playing rock and metal festivals and then we spent June and July playing the rock and metal festivals in the UK and Europe and we were playing really long sets, like 50-60 minute sets. And so we were able to play ‘Back To Me’ and ‘Unbreakable’ and just seeing the reaction and shortly after that, the whole plan was to go into the studio so we told our label we want to go in immediately. Like as soon as we’re off the road, give us a couple more weeks to finish the pre-production on our end and then we want to get into the studio. So it was never really discussed like, ‘Oh for this album let’s return to…’, we never really approached it that way. But having seen what those songs did and in reality those songs were just written to be played live and we just wanted to record them so fans would have a chance to hear them before they heard them live. And since that was kind of the new M.O. for the new material, we were like, ‘Alright let’s just write a ton more live songs’, and it ended up just kind of working out and it turned out that these songs have been hugely successful and even more successful than some of our songs in the past where we were either focusing on trying to get a radio play or trying to get a thing for a movie or something. So having just done something that was so pure as, ‘Oh let’s just write some live songs’. Because ultimately that’s what bands do anyway, everything about rock n roll is all about the live show so for us to kind of return to that and at the same time have that be kind of perceived as a return to roots if you will by other people has been pretty awesome.
Andrew: Yeah you’re right, the whole idea of being in a band is to go out and perform the songs live. In saying that did you feel that maybe some of the other previous albums didn’t really capture what you were doing as a live band?
Aaron: No I think ‘Cold World’ did, pretty much the whole record was written by us jamming together so all of those songs were written to be played live and we did do a couple of album release shows where we played the whole album front to back. But basically we had been off tour for a year so while they were made to play live, they weren’t made with the same sort of compass I guess because we had just gotten off of a tour where we played in front of literally a couple of hundred thousand people over all the festival shows and it’s really crazy because we really felt that energy. We felt like when we were in the studio, we still felt that energy and that connection with our fans being on stage so while ‘Cold War’ was mostly written by playing live together, we hadn’t been on the stage for essentially a year so it can be very myopic at that point so we were focusing on what we were doing and not necessarily how it relates to an audience. ‘Restoring Force’ was kind of the same deal, we used to in the past take a lot of time off so we would take several months off to write and take several months off to record. With this we were basically writing while we were on the road and essentially took 2 weeks and then back in the studio and started making this thing so it was all still very fresh.
Andrew: Writing on the road must obviously have an impact on how the songs come out which explains the more lively sound that you were trying to go for. So has this process of writing inspired you to keep doing that kind of thing for future albums?
Aaron: I don’t know, it’s hard to say. My psychic abilities are very poor! While I can suspect that this is the way we’ll keep doing it, it’s hard to say so who knows. But yeah for this record it was all about that.
Andrew: What normally inspires you guys collectively to come up with ideas? Is it just things that you see around you while on tour or does it come from personal things?
Aaron: It can be anything really. Because we’re in the golden age of technology, any time you get a bit of inspiration you can capture it on your phone and in some instances we have apps now where you can demo songs on your phone and a lot of it comes from real life experiences that we go through. We’re a very communicative band with each other so when I’m working on lyrics and stuff I always have my band mates in mind because ultimately these lyrics are our lyrics and our story and not necessarily just mine. So it’s a bit of everything and I feel like we as musicians and entertainers are supposed to do is report on the world, report on what we perceive, what we see, what we witness, what we hear about and ultimately kind of interpret that in a way that people who speak the same kind of like-minded musical language can understand so it can really come from anywhere.
Andrew: So what inspired you to be in a band in the first place? Was there a particular musician or artist back when you were growing up that helped shape your thinking into wanting to be in a band as a career?
Aaron: Yeah when I was growing up, I grew up in a small town called Vacaville, California which is probably halfway between Sacramento and San Francisco – a little bit more on the Sacramento side – and when I was a young kid there was a skate park and next to the skate park was 3 Oaks community center and when I went to the skate park I used to watch Papa Roach play because they were the local band from my hometown and I just remember watching them in like a 100 cap. room with everybody moshing and going crazy and it was before “Infest” had come out and they were playing ‘Last Resort’ and a bunch of songs from that record that sounded exactly like they do on the record. Talk about a band that doesn’t change, it was crazy and then just watching them literally explode. Watching them from something that was just in our tiny, little small town community center to being a number 1 song. I think anybody who is into rock music that is over the age of 15 knows that song, it’s just a staple and seeing that if that can get out then I can get out and my friends can get out and we can make music and we can have songs that have a similar impact that can get out of the tiny small town. So Papa Roach is definitely a huge influence on me.
Andrew: It’s a great thing for a band to come up with music and help inspire other people and it must be thrilling for you guys to have the kind of success that you have had over the years and to be able to tour around the world. That must be one of the most pleasurable experiences in life for you guys.
Aaron: It is, it’s super humbling and at the same time it takes an incredible amount of work and it’s incredibly straining on our body and on our mental capacity and on our friendships and relationships. But to be given that opportunity and also at the same time for our fans to have given us a platform because essentially no band can create a platform for yourself, it’s the people who consume what you do that can say, ‘Yeah you have a platform now’. So it’s something that we don’t take for granted and we don’t take lightly so we’re absolutely dedicated to what we do because we’re dedicated to our fans.
Andrew: Well we are certainly looking forward to seeing you back in Australia again and certainly for the first ever Download Festival in Australia. Before I let you go, do you have any last words for the Aussie fans?
Aaron: We love you guys, we cannot wait to see our Australian fans. “Defy” comes out January 19th, go to ofmiceandmenofficial.com. We got a bunch of pre-orders and cool stuff with the record, a bunch of different vinyl variants and things like that. We’re still very much a band that believes in physical music and just having things in your hands, just the small of a CD booklet. We’re from a different time I guess [laughs].
Andrew: [laughs] I totally get that!
Aaron: I still remember video rental stores!
Andrew: Blockbuster! Yeah I’m totally on the same page as you, I still buy the physicals. It’s funny that vinyl has had a big resurgence over the last few years which is really cool to see.
Aaron: It’s absolutely great because there’s nothing cooler than the artwork in HD, in full print resolution where you can hold it and read all the lyrics and see everything. That is a whole other side of the art that bands and musicians take a lot of time on but it doesn’t really get appreciated the same way anymore but who knows.
Andrew: Yeah absolutely! Anyway it’s been a pleasure speaking to you today, thanks for your time and we will see you very soon in Australia.
Aaron: Thank you so much.
Catch Of Mice & Men at the 2018 Download Festival Australia
Melbourne Saturday March 24, 2018
Tickets on sale now – www.downloadfestival.com.au
Side shows w/ Limp Bizkit and Ocean Grove
Sydney – Sunday March 25th
Brisbane – Tuesday March 27th
Tickets: Live Nation