Sometimes, uncertainty functions as the best foundation for creation. In 2012, platinum-selling rock band Flyleaf found itself at a pivotal crossroads for the first time in its career. After over a decade together, the original lineup of Sameer Bhattacharya [guitar], Jared Hartmann [guitar], Pat Seals [bass], and James Culpepper [drums] amicably parted ways with singer Lacey Sturm. However, the guys held steadfast to what Flyleaf had been since its inception—a musical vehicle for hope.
In Kansas City, another musician faced a similar predicament. Kristen May spent eight years of her life fronting Vedera, and the group disbanded about 3 years after signing a major label deal. While working at a coffee shop and penning solo music, she received a serendipitous phone call. "The opportunity to audition for Flyleaf came at the perfect time for me," she smiles. "It was both challenging and invigorating. I was stepping into a group of artists who already had this deep bond. It was really like diving into the deep end, and it's what I needed as a musician and a person. It encouraged me to grow, and it proved to be a true blessing. I got to join a new family."
After a preliminary meeting at a hometown Texas sushi spot and merely one rehearsal, that "family" officially welcomed Kristen with open arms. Jared exclaims, "She fit right in with us. For a while, we didn't know if we'd ever be able to play again. She brought this incredible energy to the table, and it inspired us."
"It's a rejuvenation of Flyleaf," agrees Sameer. "She came in passionately feeling every word. Her delivery was so genuine, and that's what made us all so psyched."
During their downtime, the members of Flyleaf never stopped creating though. In fact, they each explored other artistic avenues, returning to the fold with a newfound perspective fashioned via personal growth. James continued to build a professional studio in his home. During the process, he developed a knack for fine woodworking. Soon, he became accomplished in the medium, crafting bowls, chairs, tables, and so much more. “I also began cutting custom lumber for other projects. Being able to make something from a tree got my attention," he says. "I was building the studio and reading tool reviews, and I noticed all of these incredible things you can do. You can build something functional or make a piece of art out of a tree. My passion for woodworking keeps growing. It's like music. There's no end to it, and I'm always learning."
Meanwhile, Jared founded EachOther, a musical project with his singer-songwriter wife Kat. The duo also opened up a catering company because as he puts it, "I really love cooking and sharing wonderful food with as many people as possible."
Pat followed his passion for fine art. He studied diligently and worked towards a bachelor's degree, in between showing at various Texas galleries. "My sister showed me how to do wood cuts," he elaborates. "That's how I got into it. Then, the band was cool enough to let me do the album artwork for New Horizons."
Sameer continued to sharpen his musical craft. "I'm always creating music, whether it's with my guitar or messing around on a keyboard. I continue to gain inspiration through reading books and living life." In 2010 Sameer adopted a vegan diet. "Since then my diet has evolved into a lifestyle and has caused me to be more compassionate." Also, Sameer and his wife relocated from Texas to Los Angeles at the end of 2012. "The weather here is so beautiful. It's been refreshing and inspiring to explore my new hometown."
When everyone returned to Flyleaf with Kristen behind the microphone, every aspect was renewed. They hit the road for a co-headline tour with Drowning Pool and started writing simultaneously. Entering the studio with longtime producer Howard Benson [My Chemical Romance, Theory of a Deadman, Skillet], they tracked their first single together, "Something Better" as part of the 2013 Who We Are EP also featuring four live tracks with Kristen.
Merging delicate rhythmic intricacies, kinetic guitars, and Kristen's moving melodies, it signals a fresh start together. Once the foundation had been built, they also invited close friend, P.O.D. main man Sonny Sandoval, to join them for this uplifting and undeniable clarion call.
"The song is about finding yourself frustrated within your life or your ability to be useful," admits Pat. "My wife helped me realized that everyone is trying to transform into what they think they should be. The best good in ourselves is that we share this life with others. Finding grace in someone else is real love."
"It was the first time we'd written together," recalls the singer. "I was nervous and excited. We all brought ideas in. I liked the idea behind it. You strive for something better. With this band, we all have an opportunity to be the best we can possibly be."
That's always been the goal though. Flyleaf never stops striving for something better. Their platinum-certified 2005 self-titled debut spawned the singles "I'm So Sick", "Fully Alive", and the smash "All Around Me", which sold over one million digital downloads. The record would go on to stay strong on the Billboard Top 200 for 133 weeks, reaching Top 15 on both the Rock Albums and Alternative Albums charts. They've shared the stage with the likes of Korn and Deftones as well as Stone sour and Evanescence. Conscious of constantly giving back, they played some very special shows for American troops in Afghanistan. Recently the guys along with Kristen also played for troops in Okinawa, Japan. 2009, Memento Mori, featuring "Again" and "Missing", debuted at #8 on the Billboard Top 200. However, the new chapter looks the brightest.
James puts it best, "The message hasn't changed since the beginning of this band. If we can offer a little encouragement and a little inspiration to anybody who listens to us, that's the biggest blessing."
"I still listen to music at all times," concludes Kristen. "I'd love to be able to provide the same feeling of release I get. I hope we can be a comfort and continue to speak to this band's wonderful fans everywhere."
If there's one thing certain, it's that Flyleaf will do just that.