WOVENWAR + guests AS LIONS
Our choices define us. At heart, we choose between good and evil or right and wrong. It’s not predisposed, but rather something we learn through experience, life’s twists and turns, and the stops along the way. The very moniker WOVENWAR speaks to that truth.
“When we’re born, we’re innocent and blameless creatures with no hatred or judgment,” explains guitarist Nick Hipa. “Along the way, personality and perspective get cultivated. Hate, love, and other influences can be woven into you, but you ultimately choose your path. If you recognize the foundations, you can opt to live differently. It’s a struggle. That’s what the name signifies. It’s about recognizing that and choosing accordingly.”
In the spring of 2013, the members of As I Lay Dying-Nick, Phil Sgrosso [guitar], Josh Gilbert [bass, vocals], Jordan Mancino [drums]-made an important choice of their own. They had seen tremendous success, selling over one million albums, enjoying a Top 10 debut on the Billboard Top 200 with 2010′s The Powerless Rise and a Top 15 debut with 2012′s Awakened, and touring globally alongside the likes of Slipknot, Slayer, Suicide Silence, Killswitch Engage, and more. Facing tumultuous controversy related to their singer and a shattering foundation shakeup, these four musicians decided to press on and do what they do best.
“We had been playing music for our entire adult lives and working towards becoming a better band every year, and then our unit was extremely compromised,” sighs Nick. “The natural step was to let that be and work on something else. We felt like we had a lot to accomplish in terms of our writing and chemistry together. We still wanted to develop. A lot of bands quit because they lose their love for it. We loved it more than ever. That’s why we decided to form something under a new name with no pressure to be anything.”
As they traded song ideas back and forth, Nick reached out to a lifelong friend Shane Blay. The two grew up together in Dallas, TX and even played in Evelynn before Hipa joined As I Lay Dying. In between working with Oh, Sleeper, Shane had begun writing songs with Nick purely as a creative outlet a year prior. Given their existing bond, the transition to writing for WOVENWAR’s self-titled debut proved seamless.
“When everything went down, we started thinking of singers,” Phil goes on. “Nick was like, ‘What about Shane?’ We all wanted to be in a band with him. It was a no-brainer. There were no auditions or tryouts. We just started making music together, and it was very natural from the beginning.”
“I was excited to have the opportunity to play with these guys,” exclaims Shane. “From the first song we worked on, it felt like it was meant to be. I was right at home.”
With Shane officially in the fold, the quintet hit a San Diego studio to record the album with producer Bill Stevenson [Rise Against, NOFX], who helmed Awakened. Immediately, they collectively tapped into a sound that picked up where they left off, while forging new territory altogether.
“It’s more dynamic,” exclaims Phil. “There’s a hard rock element to it. We wanted to utilize Shane’s voice and go bigger. That was important. There’s a different energy, and we got to explore more sounds. It feels more alive than ever. This is the most exciting thing we’ve done. We wanted to keep it familiar but take risks here and there.”
“As I Lay Dying had its sound,” adds Nick. “We expanded it, but we never branched out too far. We could do anything we wanted to here. We just wanted to continue to write music that inspired us.”
It’ll undoubtedly inspire others as well though. The first single “All Rise” threads together precise riffing with Shane’s magnetic vocals, landing a huge chorus in between incendiary instrumentation. It serves as the perfect link between the musicians’ past output and the future.
Shane states, “I felt like the music industry was sucking the life out of me. Then, WOVENWAR happened. It was a chance to do something else and not give up. That’s what the song is about.”
“It bridges the gap between the old and the new,” affirms Nick. “It related to what we were going through in life. We were pretty dejected. We spent over a decade building something, and it had fallen apart. When you find yourself in a situation in which you really have no control over, you have to be optimistic in the way you respond because all you can control is your response. It’s a great introduction to the band.”
Elsewhere on the album, “Tempest” showcases the band’s dynamics, breaking the boundaries of heavy music in the process with palpable melodies. “All of my friends initially made it in music, and I was the guy who didn’t,” admits Shane. “I needed to inspire myself to get up and keep working at it. This was my call-to-arms.”
Meanwhile, the closer “Prophets” begins with elegant acoustic guitars before building into the album’s most dramatic and defining moment. “It’s about wrestling with the notion of blind faith,” says Nick. “It details seeking a transformation, and it challenges the idea of people speaking about matters we don’t absolutely know of. There’s no authority there. That’s faith.”
Ultimately, WOVENWAR deliver an introductory statement that’s bound to send shockwaves throughout heavy music.
Shane concludes, “Something good can come from misfortune. You have to always keep on going. These guys went through so much, and they’re still pushing ahead. I hope this inspires people to keep doing whatever they love to do.”
Nick leaves off, “We dealt with a lot personally while making this album. The way we always handled things was to write music and put ourselves into something that could speak louder. We put ourselves into this one hundred percent. Hopefully, that comes across.” – Rick Florino, May 2014