Of Mice & Men: Bring On The Pain
The American metalcore band’s frontman Austin Carlile discusses their upcoming album ‘Cold World,’ touring with Slipknot and their special connection with India
According to Austin Carlile, frontman of metalcore act Of Mice & Men, the best part about touring with biggies like Slipknot and Marilyn Manson is being able to play for brand new fans each night. “We’re up there performing our songs so that people can go home and look up and see who we are,” says the vocalist over the phone from Quebec, Canada where they had a show that night. He’s thrilled with the audience’s response to the band, which also consists of bassist and vocalist Aaron Pauley, lead guitarist Phil Manansala, rhythm guitarist Alan Ashby and drummer Valentino Arteaga. “Tonight there were mosh pits and circle pits and the whole nine yards.” Carlile is sitting backstage after completing their set, but keeps an ear on what’s happening onstage. “Slipknot just got done playing ‘Duality,’” he informs.
Known for his screamfest vocals and dynamic live performances, Carlile is soft-spoken and cheerful over the phone as he takes us through their fourth studio album, Cold World. He says, “When we set out to write the album, we didn’t necessarily know what to expect. Anytime you go into the studio, you have to understand that part of the album writes itself.” The three and a half months that led up to Cold World were filled with various challenges for the band members, together and as individuals. Carlile, who suffers from the rare genetic disorder Marfan syndrome, was still healing after having several major medical procedures. The album’s harrowing first single “Pain” [which released in June] outlines part of what he was going through at the time. In addition to songs which tell stories, the album maintains Of Mice & Men’s method of flitting between different metal subgenres and alternating the vocal styles of Carlile and Pauley, something they initially explored in 2014’s chart-topping Restoring Force. “Musicians enjoy making songs that sound different from one another,” says Carlile. “We wanted to make music more like what we actually listen to, what we’ve always really wanted to play but never really knew how.”
In an exclusive interview with ROLLING STONE India, Carlile talks about his relationship with god, the cathartic writing that led to the emotionally-packed Cold World, their relationship with fans and his special connection with India.
What would you say was the theme or the concept behind Cold World? Was there a particular direction you wanted to go in when you started recording?
That’s a great question. When we set out to write the album we didn’t necessarily know what to expect. Anytime you go into the studio, you have to understand that part of the album writes itself. When we were in the studio it was a three and half month period of time of me healing from a bunch of different surgeries and getting through that and creating a record. We used a lot of the songs we wrote in our little rehearsal space in Orange County. We wanted each song to have its own story and each song kind of encapsulates an idea. Musicians enjoy making songs that sound different from one another. Even with Restoring Force, we kind of did the same thing. With Cold World we took a step in the same direction.
Are there particular personal experiences woven into the record you can tell us about?
Oh yeah, absolutely. When Aaron wrote “Game of War” it was the day of the San Bernardino shooting in California. It triggered him into writing and putting that emotion out. It’s very cathartic writing a song like that. When he showed it to me it really stuck with me and with the whole vibe of the record so we wanted to put it as the first song. We wanted to set the tone for what the listeners were about to experience.
It’s not been an easy road for you personally. You’ve had Marfan for a long time which meant a lot of major surgeries, procedures and medication. How do you find the strength to still go up on stage and deliver?
It’s what I love to do. Music means a lot to me. Sometimes I just can’t help it. I’ve learned to take it a little easier now and remember I don’t need to break my body in half everyday just to win over the crowd. It sucks but I can’t do anything about it, so I try not to complain about the problem, I just find a way through it. I do physical therapy and I’m sitting on a giant bag of ice right now. I do stretches and I have a massage person who comes in every day. They [Slipknot] are taking care of us out here and it’s really cool.
Were there any points in the past where you felt you just couldn’t go on?
Yeah that’s one of my biggest…[pauses] I don’t want to say fear, I’m not really afraid of anything. Fear is not a good word. It’s something that would break my heart. I can’t predict the future and I don’t know how I’m going to feel tomorrow. I don’t know what tomorrow will even bring, so I take it day by day and I know I wake up and I try to give that day 110 percent then go to bed and wake up and do the same thing. Being onstage and being able to play music and songs that mean so much to me… That’s why I’m especially proud about the new record. I can’t wait to play all the songs because they come from such a real part of me.
You invited one of your fans, Cassy, into the studio and featured her in the song “The Lie.” Can you tell us a little about that?
Cassy means a lot to us. We originally met her through the Make A Wish Foundation when we were [touring] with Linkin Park and I showed her around backstage and we took her on the top of the stage to watch the show. A couple of months go by and when we went in to make the record, the people that help take care of her messaged me and told me she only had a few months left to live. It was hard to hear because we had kind of grown close to her. I realized that she might not live past a certain time period and she’s not going to be able to hear the record so I told her manager that we’ve got to bring her here. So a foundation that we work with flew her and her family to the studio. We actually recorded her clapping on one of the songs and we wanted to credit her name on the record. We even took her opinion on the music to heart! We told her, ‘You’ve got to tell us if it sucks!’
A lot of fans like Cassy who are dealing with illness and other challenges in life look up to you and consider you a symbol of strength. How does it feel to be an icon in that way and give fans a sense of hope?
I don’t know. I don’t think it’s me. I think I’ll use it as an excuse to point towards god’s grace. Recently, with being baptized, it was like a public affirmation. This is real, this is how I feel, this is how I am. I waited 28 years to do that because I didn’t want to talk the talk and then not walk the walk. I think that I just keep doing this for the right reasons and I keep loving what I do and I’m surrounded by the best guys I could ask for. It’s great to be here and I’m excited for people to hear our new record and for them to take it in and see what they get out of it. Because of what it did for us and how cathartic it was and how much it means to us, we can’t wait to see how much it means to listeners.
Do you think you might tour India sometime soon?
We’ve always wanted to go to India. We’ve always heard about it and we always see pictures of different venues there. We want to come and play multiple cities because we’ve never had the opportunity to go, so it’s always been that one place on our list. Hopefully in 2017 we can make something happen. We had a couple of chances to come but we wanted to make it special and make it a lot more intimate. When we were recording, we were living in an apartment in New Jersey and we had [an Indian] neighbor who would make us Indian food. I actually got really sick towards the end of the record and she brought me Indian vegetarian food and tea. It made me feel so much better. It’s one of my favorite things. Even if we don’t come there to play, we’ll come there to eat.
Listen to “Real,” the latest single from Of Mice & Men’s upcoming album ‘Cold World,’ below: