I sat outside with one of Volumes vocalists Micheal Barr (@atthebarr) on a chilly evening in Portland, OR, outside of the Hawthorne Theater. The band is currently a part of Of Mice & Men's full U.S. headliner. You can follow the band on Twitter, as well as on Facebook. Look for a brand new album from the band in 2013, as well as some cool touring news below.
First off, you're touring with Of Mice & Men - based on one day of tour with them, what are your thought on their live show?
Micheal Barr: To be honest I didn't get to see them last night because I was sleeping, I'm a little bit sick right now. However, I have seen their live show before, we've done some dates with them before in California. They do something to the crowd that's really hard to capture on stage as a frontman and vocalist. Just watching Austin and the band's stage presence, my band definitely learns and takes pointers and hones in on what they're doing to better ourselves. A lot of kids have a lot of fun, so everyone should come out to see them.
And this is arguably one of the biggest tours you've ever done as a band, there's sold out dates all across the board. However, this is a very different crowd than you're used to, as opposed to a tour with a band like Born Of Osiris. What does it mean for Volumes to be on this tour, and what are you looking forward to taking away from it?
Micheal Barr: Well for us to be on this tour is absolutely amazing, I'd like to put that out there first. I think it's making a statement, saying we can do a tour with Born Of Osiris, but we can also do a tour with Of Mice & Men - It's a whole different market of kids that we're just dying to reach out to. So we looked at this tour, and we looked at the bands that were on it and thought to ourselves "Hmmm, maybe we'll be the awkward band out", but we like doing stuff like that. In the end, it only helps your band go further and progress with the most diverse tours you do. In our first year of touring, we were thrown on tours left and right that didn't make sense, so now every tour makes sense...if THAT makes sense.
Yeah. And you know, I started to hear complaints from people in the scene where they'd say things like "Oh, why aren't you doing a tour with a band like Dying Fetus? Why are you on tour with this 'scene' band?". How do you take criticisms like that?
Micheal Barr: If you want to tour with the same type of bands for years, it's possible and you can make that happen, but if you want to dabble in all the different types of scenes and network, then unfortunately you have to do tours that you don't want to do or tours that you don't think are going to be a good idea. And you know what, half way through those tours you realize "Wow, this was a good idea, why did I even downplay this?". Don't judge a tour by it's flier.
You know, speaking of the band's that are on this tour, you have Hance Alligood from Woe, Is Me doing clean vocals for "Edge of the Earth" on select dates. What's your relationship with Woe, Is Me and the decision to include him on that song?
Micheal Barr: Well, we did Scream It Like You Mean it with Woe, Is Me last summer, and then we played a few dates with them and hung out with them a few days. That tour was a weird tour as far as creating relationships go, because the bands were split up and then put back together. Those guys are good friends of ours, they stuck with that tour and they flat out killed it every night; to open up a predominantly heavy tour, and they're playing keyboards and super soft, they kept it going. I had so much respect for them after watching them open up on that tour.
[Woe, Is Me vocalist Hance Alligood happens to walk by us at the moment]
Hance, what are your thoughts on jumping in with Volumes on "Edge of the Earth"?
Hance Alligood [Woe, Is Me]: Well, it's going to be a lot of fun, we had talked it over a few days ago. We're going to do it on select dates, and we tweeted a little something about it, and the response has been huge, people went nuts over it. I think it's going to be a great thing for everybody.
Micheal Barr: Yeah, and we've never played that song live before, and kids have been dying to hear it and we've been trying to find someone who could do that part, and we thought "Well, how about Hance?".
Volumes operates with a "Do It Yourself" mentality: Engineering, Producing, etc. What motivates you guys to do things that way, as opposed to relinquishing control to someone else?
Micheal Barr: The main thing is that we realized we could do it that way. We got an offer to work with a producer, and we thought "Well, let's just try and do it ourselves". It saves us a lot of money, and we retain complete creative control. At this point, we have one EP and full-length record out, in which all the mixing, producing and writing were done by us, and it's going to stay that way for the time being. It's the best combination that way.
Is there one producer that you COULD work with, who would it be and why?
Micheal Barr: Well, to be honest it'd be Joey Sturgis, or Will Putney, we know him and he's a good guy. I would just like to see what we'd sound like with Sturgis.
Well, would you be worried about the stigma that comes from working with him? People attached labels like "Rise-core" to stuff he had worked on in the past.
Micheal Barr: I think we would have to common ground, but we want it to sound like this. That's our thing, we don't want to have tones that other bands have, you know? We've asked producers to leave the studio before, like "Okay, here's your money. Thanks, but no thanks". We're not worried about backlash if we went in, and at the end of the day it's our decision and we'll stick by it.
And Mediaskare is fine with that?
Micheal Barr: Yeah, they're good and they're supportive in every way. If we have a need or a suggestion, they're always quick to respond.
Looking back, what would you say was Volumes biggest moment in 2012?
Micheal Barr: I'd have to say the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, because we played it the year before and it was our debut, and we came back this year and people was expecting a bigger show. For us, that was our realization that "Okay, we need to step up our game and get used to these bigger stages".
That's Scott Lee's festival, right? What's your relationship with him?
Micheal Barr: He's great, he's a really funny dude. He's done a lot for us, as in getting us where we need to be two years ago. We actually met him on a whim, and come up to me and he said "I fucking love your band", and I thought "Really? I have no idea why you like our band, our band sucks". And from day one we played at his venue, The Tavern in Holyoke, MA, and he's showed us love and hooked us up with whatever we wanted from his clothing company. It was weird, us being all the way from the west coming to the east, and him opening up his arms and welcoming him to his network. Our booking agent works for him, so he always comes to our shows and hangs out.
On the flip-side, what was Volumes biggest struggle last year?
Micheal Barr: Staying together, figuring out what's best for each individual. I think not losing sight of the vision has been the biggest struggle, and I think a lot of bands share that struggle too.
What's the band's goals for 2013?
Micheal Barr: We just want to break boundaries. We want to tour with as many diverse bands as possible, and make sure we're not going anywhere.
Is there a particular band in the scene you're really wanting to tour with?
Micheal Barr: Emmure, that's the one band I'd be dying to tour with. Between The Buried In Me probably wouldn't happen, but that would still be absolutely amazing. Emmure, I've got my eye on you!
Via came out a little over a year ago. What would you say is your favorite song off the album and why?
Micheal Barr: That's a good question. I'd have to say Serenity, just because it's super melodic and the lyrics were fun to write. We had Chris Letchford from Scale The Summit come in and destroy the end with a solo.
Does "Wormholes" get the best response live?
Micheal Barr: Definitely.
Looking back on the record, what are you most proud of?
Micheal Barr: I'm proud that it got recognized. A lot of people clung to it and we were really nervous because we were trying a lot of new things and it was an intense moment. Our favorite moment was getting "Album of The Year" on Lambgoat, because I DO NOT like Lambgoat, so that was kind of like a "fuck you" because they hate us. Even though that was miniscule, seeing that on the internet was cool.
You guys have been writing for a new album since last summer. Lyrically, what sets this new album apart from Via?
Micheal Barr: It's not as complicated lyrically. If you look through the pamphlet for Via and look through the lyrics, people are so confused; I get messages all the time from people, asking me to break down some of the songs. With these new songs, I'm not going to compromise the integrity of what I write about. You could say these songs will be more "User-friendly".
Can you tell us some of the topics you hit on this upcoming album?
Micheal Barr: A lot of it is going to be about Government issues. But overall, I'd like to say they're all about issues, as cliche and stupid as that sounds. That's where we're at in our lives, and that word really just speaks to us. So I think the whole album is just going to be about the last three years of the fight to stay together, with some cool shit thrown in of course.
So you could make the argument that this album would be a continuation off of Via, since that album was written about stuff you were going through as well at the time.
Micheal Barr: Yeah, kind of. The Concept of Dreaming EP was the idea of the "Concept of dreaming of getting somewhere", where Via was definitely a progression from the EP, but there was some weird shit I was thinking about so some of the songs don't make sense to the album as a whole. But with this album we want it to flow better, almost like telling a story. We don't want to make a concept record, but it's an album you can play from front to back.
Coming back to the topic of clean singing on Via, I know some people really had an issue with that, and I know you're planning on continuing to include it on this upcoming record. What influenced the decision to keep including those type of vocals? It's not strictly to appeal to more people, right?
Micheal Barr: No, definitely not. I don't think we're ever going to get to that point. I don't think we're a commercialized band, some people say we are, but I think we want to keep integrity no matter where we're at. Deftones pretty much inspired us to keep the clean singing. We listen to a lot of diverse music, and listening to the Deftones and hearing Chino's voice on certain parts on Koi No Yokan, if we could literally have him sing over certain parts, it would sound incredible.
Is that really that big of a stretch though? I know he did guest vocals on Whitechapel's song "Reprogrammed To Hate", which wasn't too long ago.
Micheal Barr: Right. I heard about that, and I was blown away. I was a little bit bummed out that he was screaming, I wanted to hear him sing. I think it's a far stretch to get him on the new album, but if he did I would probably collapse. We're definitely going for that style of vocals on the new album; we're not going for layered and whiny vocals, but masculine, a cross between Trent Reznor to Chino Moreno.
When's your anticipated release date for this album? Summer?
Micheal Barr: Well, that's what is WAS looking like, but right now we're entering some legality issues that we're trying to stay away from talking about. So maybe late summer.
What's the last piece of film or literature to really blow you away?
Micheal Barr: The Dark Knight Rises, I haven't seen anything that good in theaters since then.
What's the band's schedule look like after this tour?
Micheal Barr: Booked until fall. We're doing this tour, then we go home and then we have a few options in where we could do maybe a Chelsea Grin tour or maybe another tour with a band I can't say right now. And then we do Warped Tour for 30 days, which will probably lead to us doing some regional U.S. touring on the way back. We're playing Australia after that in the Fall, and after that, it's up in the air.
Wrapping up, is there anything else you'd like to say?