It’s over a decade into their career, and As I Lay Dying is still charging the front lines of the metal scene with no sign of slowing. Rising in the early ’00s, their perfected melodic metalcore sound has inspired throngs of new bands, and helped them reach insane levels of success where most acts of the same period have seen only a flash-bang of promise followed by failure. With this new decade—and new chapter—in their careers on the horizon, they ready the release of new album Awakened with fresh eyes, inspiration from new sources, and the undying passion for metal that has kept them fighting all these years. Napalm Flesh was granted a surprise interview with drummer Jordan Mancino and bassist/vocalist Josh Gilbert backstage during their first stint on the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Fest tour to get the details on this badass group of true believers.
SLUG: How’s your first time on Mayhem Fest treating you so far?
Mancino: Been great! Perfect tour for us. A lot of the bands and crews we know just from touring and festivals, so we see a lot of familiar faces.
SLUG: Tell me about this new album coming out. How was your writing process on this? Did it differ from past albums?
Gilbert: The writing process is pretty similar in that we all personally demo around by ourselves and then bring it to the band and jam it in person after that. We did it with a different producer, Bill Stevenson [of The Descendents/Black Flag], who is from more of a punk and hardcore background, so it was cool to have that perspective. It’s called Awakened, and it’s coming out September 25.
SLUG: You guys have been playing the new track “Cauterize” here at Mayhem. How is it being received?
Gilbert: Awesome. It’s been surprisingly good, actually, with the timing of the release of the lyric video right before the tour. It usually takes a little longer for a crowd to warm up to a song, and I feel like within the first two days of the tour, I could look out and if people weren’t singing along, they at least knew the rhythms of the song already.
Mancino: It’s one of those songs, I think, that has a lot of elements that you probably wouldn’t hear on previous records, so it’s a cool transition into some of the newer AILD sounds.
SLUG: What’s been the biggest change for you guys in terms of your musical inspiration in your decade-long career?
Mancino: Being on tour—that experience alone changes who you are. You develop different good and bad characteristics. Touring and playing with so many awesome bands is inspiring—listening to new and old music, staying excited about what you’re doing—it’s important.
Gilbert: The biggest difference I can think of is once you’re writing music a lot, you kind of look at the bands you’re listening to and listen to the bands they were inspired by. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve gone back to hear what the bands I liked in the ’90s listened to when they were writing. You’re listening to Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy for guitar inspiration, for example, because there’s been a hundred thousand bands that have ripped them off.
SLUG: Are you guys drawing any inspiration from any of the younger or newer bands that have come after you?
Gilbert: I wouldn’t say there there’s a specific band we consciously try to keep up with, or any trend we keep up with. We draw from either older records or different genres of metal. We don’t listen to many of our peers that play the same genre of metal for inspiration—we listen to other kinds of stuff that would add a little different flavor to our sound.
Mancino: There’s still a lot of bands we would consider peers that we really love, like In Flames, bands that we’ve toured with a lot are a huge inspiration to us.
SLUG: You guys were one of the bands that began the rise of the metalcore sound, and are one of the few remaining acts to survive so long from that period. To what do you attribute this longevity when so many others have fallen?
Mancino: Kind of hard to say. Luck, timing—the general approach to the business, maybe. I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re “smarter,” but we’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by people who love the music we make, the genre we’re in, and helped direct our career in a positive way. There’s always things you wish you did differently, but I think we’ve been fortunate to have good people around us. Obviously, we’re all still very passionate about what we do; we started this band because we love metal and wanted to tour. We didn’t expect things to get to this level—we just did what we did and we’re honest about it. It was a very slow, steady build [where we] just kept doing what we’re doing. Plus, it goes without saying that we have awesome fans.