For the glory of the King

Vocalist Ryan Kirby opens up about the band’s sophomore effort, ‘slave to nothing,’ their Warped Tour experience and the outpouring of love fans have shown for his wedding

Photo by Matthew Defeo

Like many teenagers, Ryan Kirby found himself cutting grass for his first job. It was in the summer, mowing those lawns in the Texas heat, where he was first learned about profit. While some teenagers would save their first paychecks to buy video games, Kirby spent his weekly funds on metal albums at his local Christian bookstore. When he noticed that August Burns Red, Underoath and Demon Hunter all shared the same label (Solid State), it became a symbol of quality to him.

Less than 10 years later, Kirby became the vocalist of Solid State Record’s top new act, Fit for a King. Last year, the band released their debut album, Creator/Destroyer, and it was met with critical acclaim and general appeal. The album broke the label’s record for the highest first week sales of a debut album (topping Underoath’s Solid State debut, The Changing of Times, Emery’s The Weak’s End and Norma Jean’s landmark Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child).It also means there’s a lot of hype behind Slave to Nothing.

Kirby opens up to HM about some of the things he holds on to, as well as some of his favorite Warped Tour experiences and where the metalcore genre is headed.

HM: Hey Ryan, how are you doing?
Ryan Kirby, vocalist, Fit for a King: I’m doing well.

Cool. Where are you calling from?
I’m calling from Arlington, Texas.

For starters, are you familiar with the band called “Fit for a King”?
A little bit. I heard their music isn’t that great though.

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan. I was hoping that you can give me some dirt on them. What do you know about Fit for a King?
I just know that a lot of the guys aren’t really cool.

I know they’re not fun to be around.

They kill the vibe every time they walk in.

That’s what my experience has been with them. Do people ever get the band confused with the 1937 film, Fit for a King?
No, but I learned about that movie because I was trying to look up our own band on Google. They should thank us (laughs).

You guys should watch it at some point and make a tribute album for the movie.
It’s kind of funny because I thought we had a Wikipedia page, and then it was for the film. I was like, well, we’re not cool enough for Wikipedia yet.

Actually, you guys do have a Wikipedia page.
Oh yeah! Our manager finally made one. I was pretty excited about that.

That’s when you know you’ve made it.
You know you’ve made it when your own manager makes you a Wikipedia page.

I looked up (Fit for a King) on Wikipedia trying to get all of the information I could on you guys before the interview, and the American movie is the first thing I saw. So I definitely got sidetracked.
Well, at least you tried looking up our band before interviewing us.

Yeah, I actually went through Facebook (and) quite a few sites to get information.

(Laughs) Yes, MySpace. I looked up Fit for a King on Xanga to see if I could find anything. I don’t think there’s anything there.
Our Xanga presence isn’t as good as it used to be.

Were you guys around at the tail end of the MySpace era?
Yeah, I wasn’t in the band, but Fit for a King started in 2007 and was decently big on MySpace. They had like a 120,000 friends. Then MySpace died and I joined. The band kind of restarted, which is weird, because so did social media. It was a fresh start.

When did that fresh start begin for Fit for a King?
2010. The only original member is our drummer. He has been in it from the very beginning.

Right. Two of you guys have been in the band since 2010. You also got a new member. Can you tell me about him?
Yeah, his name is Ryan. We call him Tuck to avoid confusion. We gave him that nickname because he tucked his shirt in once in the studio because he was going to go out on a date with a lady after. We gave him a hard time for tucking his shirt in. Now he’s called Tuck.

Tucking shirts in is not metal.
Yeah, just don’t tuck your shirt in. Well, the first name we had for him was Fish, so I guess Tuck is an upgrade.

I would go for Tuck over Fish. Personally, I would have just called you Kirby, because Kirby is a much cooler name, but Tuck works too.
For a day or two, we called him Scratch because we thought it sounded hard. But it was just weird and I accidentally called him “Scab” a couple of times. So he has a lot of nicknames.

Tell me about what has been going on lately for Fit for a King.
Well, we just got home. This was one of the largest periods of time I’ve had off with the band. We did a nine-day headliner, then did five weeks in the studio, then another five weeks of Warped Tour and some solo dates. We were gone for a good 10, 11 weeks. Now we get a month off then back out for five weeks.

What was Warped Tour like?
Warped Tour was crazy. It was way more awesome (than I thought). I had never been to a Warped Tour, so I didn’t have a ton of expectations. But everything was awesome. Catering was rid1iculously good (and) every city was super fun. Playing the smallest stage was kind of rough sometimes because you would play during four huge bands that are the same genre as you.

One day, we played at the same time as Parkway Drive, Motionless in White, Attila and Beartooth. It’s every genre. You’ve got Christian metal, you’ve got party metal. It’s pretty much all covered. So we were stoked when a few hundred kids were watching us.

Who were some of the bands you hung around for the five weeks you were on the tour?
We hung out with For Today a lot because we’ve known those guys from the Fight the Silence Tour, and we hung out a lot with them on during that. They had been on Warped before. They helped us figure stuff out, and I did guest vocals for them every day on the tour for “Break the Cycle.”

Then we hung out with Crown the Empire and some of the guys from Chelsea Grin a good amount. Basically, a lot of guys we’ve met from previous tours. We chilled with them.

People can be slaves to happiness. They will screw over other people in order to be happy. At the end of the day, that’s what an addiction is. You put your addiction over other people.

What were some of the most memorable experiences on the tour?
Honestly, we didn’t do much other than play because load ­in is at 7:00 a.m. and we didn’t bring our own driver. We would always leave early and not go to the barbecues because we couldn’t. We would hang out at our merch table all day because we wanted to talk to every person that bought something and say, “Thank you for helping out.” It’s cool meeting everybody in every city.

It’s always funny. They’ll think I’m the merch guy and talk to me a certain way, then they’ll find out I’m the vocalist and they freak out after they had already been there for three minutes blowing me off (laughs). I’m like “Hey, nice shirt” or something and they don’t care. Then somebody will walk up and ask for a picture and then the guys like “Aw, dude what’s up? Oh! Thanks for liking my shirt!” I’m like, “That’s not what you were saying two minutes ago.” It’s kind of funny to see that kind of attitude change.

You could start a non­profit to raise awareness for the treatment of merch guys.
I guess one memorable part was in Chicago. We did a Wall of Death, which is funny because they had a no moshing rule.

What? Are you serious?
They don’t really enforce it. It’s just there in case somebody gets injured. Then they can’t sue the festival. So, I just said, “Split it down the middle, and then when the song starts, you guys can do whatever you want.” I didn’t really promote it; I just told them to split it.

At that same date, someone threw a bra onstage. I guess that’s memorable, considering we’re a Christian band. It turned out some guy had stolen one of his mom’s bras and brought them to Warped to throw on stage during our set.

That’s what you do now, I guess.
Throwing moms’ bras is the cool part of Warped now.

(Laughs) I haven’t been to a Warped Tour in quite a few years. I had no idea that there’s anything relating to a no moshing rule. Interesting.
Yeah, it says no crowd surfing (and) no moshing, but people do it every day. It’s just that bands can’t say to do it, but even then most bands say to do it anyways.

I’m sure.
They can’t specifically say crowd surf, but they can say get to the front and give me a high five or something. When For Today wanted a circle pit, they said they wanted a “flesh vortex.”

Circle pit, flesh vortex. Totally different things, I’m sure.
Flesh vortex sounds worse.

The flesh vortex sounds terrifying. I don’t even know what that is.
It’s our new album name.

I think you should go with it.
I’m sure we can revise the album name even though we’ve already put out singles and stuff. We can just recall all of it.

This album is coming out through Solid State Records. Can you tell me when you first heard about Solid State?
I heard about them a long time ago. I was listening to For Today in like 2001. Wait, no. Haste the Day. I heard Haste the Day’s record back when I was 11 years old and was like, “Oh this is heavy.” I would start mowing the lawn every weekend then go buy a new CD from the Christian bookstore down the street. I would end up getting Underoath and Demon Hunter or something like that. That was my go ­to record label growing up.

Who were some of your favorite former Solid State bands?
Definitely Underoath and August Burns Red. Thrill Seeker was one of my favorite CDs.

That was their first one off Solid State, wasn’t it? Or one of the firsts?
Yeah, it was their first one on Solid State. They had an EP with CI before it or something. (Editor’s Note: Looks Fragile After All EP was released through CI Records in 2004.)

How does that feel, going from listening to Thrill Seeker back in 2005 to setting up a tour with August Burns Red early next year?
It’s crazy even being on Solid State even though the roster isn’t what it used to be. It would’ve been way cooler if Underoath and all of those bands were still on, of course. But being on Solid State and being a band some people see as a role model is crazy. There is probably somebody who’s 15 or 16 that bought our album at a Christian bookstore, just like I did when I was 15 or 16. It’s crazy that I’m in the band they’re doing that for.

Do you remember the first time you were ecstatic to open up for a band?
I was pretty excited to open up for Impending Doom before we even put out our first record on Solid State. We were one of six (bands) on the tour. That was our first time to ever tour with a remotely big band.

The tour wasn’t that huge; there was maybe a hundred people a night. But just opening for Impending Doom was crazy. I was pretty ecstatic to open up for the For Today tour because I’ve listened to For Today since Ekklesia was out.

How many times since then have you been stoked to open up for a show?
I always get stoked for stuff like South by So What and the iMatter Festival, but for tours, it’s just tour. It starts feeling fun. Bands are friends more than big deals to me.

Now if I opened for Linkin Park, I would freak out.

I’m sure that’s happening in the near future.
Me and my fiancé went and saw Linkin Park a couple weeks ago. (She) spent $200 on tickets. She bought them like eight months in advance to surprise me for my birthday last year. So to be able to see them for free would’ve been nice.

Yeah, that was a nice surprise. It ended up selling out, so I’m glad she got them ahead of time. That’s the one band that I would freak out about opening for. I used to freak out about opening tours, but now I’m just stoked to hang out and play shows more than anything.

You guys are going out with August Burns Red pretty soon.
Yeah. We have (a tour with) Emmure and then a co-headliner. I’m stoked for the co-headliner because we’re already really good friends with Gideon and Wolves at the Gate and we’re cool with the guys in Being as an Ocean, so that will be like a hangout tour.

Bands like you and Gideon seem to be leading the new wave of Christian metal. How do you think the genre has changed since you started in 2007?
I think a lot of the bands that do it now are genuine about it. What I’m hearing from other bands that have been doing it for a long time is that a lot of the bands in 2007 weren’t real. Christian music in ’07 was more of a trend. They wouldn’t be true to it; it just helped you sell records.

But now Christianity is not as popular as it used to be because of stuff like Westboro Baptist Church and the gay marriage debate. It’s not as cool to be a Christian band. Bands that do it now aren’t doing it to get more popular. They’re doing it because it’s what they believe and that’s what they stand for.

Have you noticed any crowd changes or style changes?
I see a lot of the bands just go with what’s popular. Being a Christian band doesn’t affect the genre too much. I know we take some influence from Underoath, which a lot of bands now might not take. A lot of Christian bands have influence from older Solid State bands like August Burns Red and Demon Hunter. I guess, a non-Christian band wouldn’t really take as much influence from bands like that. We take those older sounds and then add the newer sound to it. Kind of modernize it.

Where do you see metalcore going right now?
I think it’s only getting bigger. When bands like A Day to Remember have a platinum record, it only bodes well for every other band that screams, sings and has breakdowns. Bands like Asking Alexandria are doing really well. I see the genre, in general, just getting bigger. More and more bands in metalcore are doing top ten Billboard releases. It’s crazy to think about. I mean, I grew up listening to bands like Living Sacrifice and Zao, so seeing bands now with a similar style explode like A Day to Remember is so weird.

And, like, Of Mice and Men are touring Europe with Linkin Park. That’s bridging the gap from mainstream hard rock to metalcore.

I had no idea they were touring with Linkin Park in Europe.
Yeah, they’re a direct support to them. Austin (Carlile, vocalist, for OM&M) came up and did guest vocals on “Faint” for Linkin Park at one of their dates.

I remember seeing Linkin Park were on one of the dates for the Warped Tour.
Yeah. I wasn’t on that date, sadly.

Oh man. That’s a bummer.
Yeah. They brought their own stage and everything. I mean, we were on the Chicago date and A Day to Remember showed up, so that was crazy. They had like 25,000 people watching them.

Let’s move on and focus on your album coming out called Flesh Vortex.

How is this different than your previous albums?
We have grown a lot as musicians over the past year and a half of touring. When Creation/Destruction was written, we were just a local band. Got signed, went to the studio.

Whereas this one, we’ve actually been playing 200 plus days out of the year and have learned so much on the road about being a musician and songwriting. I think you can really hear the growth that we’ve all had over the past year on this new record.

Cool. Can you tell me more about the album?
The album was done by Will Putney. We spent about six weeks tracking it. It has our new clean singer, Ryan, on it. He joined the band a week before the studio. He got busy writing and wrote some killer stuff. We were super pumped on it.

The biggest difference between this one and the last one, recording-wise, was that for the last album, we had a time crunch. We were inexperienced and ended up having to sample a lot of the drums, so they weren’t real drum tones. We had Bobby plug in direct on a guitar, because we didn’t want to spend all the time re-amping because we didn’t have time.

On this new album, everything is natural. It’s all natural drums. It’s real guitar tones coming out of a head and a cab. Everything is done how a real band should do it.

Talk to me about the lyrics on the album. What themes do you see on it?
A lot of the songs follow the theme of Slave to Nothing. People are slaves to different things.

One song talks about how people are slaves to happiness, how they will screw over other people in order for them to be happy. At the end of the day, that’s what an addiction is. You put your addiction over other people.

There are songs about substance abuse, songs about struggling with idolizing material things. That’s not the entire album, but a good half of the songs are just covering different subjects that people struggle with and hopefully shed some light on those subjects.

My favorite song on the album is “Hooked,” which is the one you said is about being addicted to happiness. I love the closing of that song. Can you talk to me a little bit more about what you see the problem is of being addicted to happiness?
I’ve heard that phrase, “Stop worrying about making others happy; do what makes you happy” being thrown around a lot. It’s so obnoxious to hear that, because I’m like, “Oh, we should just stop caring about other people if that’s what makes us happy. Because it’s all about us.” It shouldn’t be like that. We should actually go out and help others even if it’s an inconvenience to us. It would be so much easier for me to sit in our van and not talk to anybody or play our show and not ever deal with a person that likes our band.

But I truly believe that bands should be interacting with fans. Without those fans, you wouldn’t make it. So even though I have social anxiety, I go out every night and talk to as many people as I possibly can and thank them for what they’ve done. I’ve seen other bands do that too. I love seeing other bands put their fans above their private time or their own happiness.

There are bands that avoid their fans or bands that make other people feel worse so they can feel better about themselves. That’s not right.

The album is called Slave to Nothing. So Ryan, what are the things that you find yourself a slave to?
For a while, I was a slave to material things. I’d always want something new; always (want) to spend my money on something else. I feel like it can really damage people. A lot of people are a slaves to money in this world, especially when it comes to bills and all that.

I’m learning to let it go, to let go of always wanting to spend money, letting go of stressing out about bills. Being a musician, money isn’t plentiful. I just need to learn to stop being a slave to money and stop letting it control my attitude and my mood at all times because it can hurt relationships with others.

How do you get around that?
Since I’m a Christian, I just leave it up to God. Mattie and Ryan from For Today say, “It’s a lot of saying, ‘I’m going to trust that God is going to provide. Just do what you believe He is calling you to do.’”

I believe that I am where He wants me to be, and He’s going to provide. I just need trust that. My thing is, stress is a choice. We choose to be stressed about things. Thinking like that (has) helped me a lot.

Cool. What other messages shine through the album?
The rest are kind of random meanings. They don’t really coincide with each other. “Young, and Undeserving,” is about a Christian who struggles with the idea that his non-Christian friend will go to hell. I believe that a lot of people who are believers struggle with that.

It needs to be brought up that not all Christians are happy and praise God without ever questioning anything. We do struggle with faith. I feel like a lot of the songs talk about real world issues to show that not every Christian band needs to be a praise and worship band.

There are dark sides to a relationship with God. There are doubts, there are struggles. It’s not all happy.

For sure. I think it’s important to see that Christianity is not always one-sided, optimistic praise. (If all) you say is “God is so good,” it’s not very relatable.
Yeah, because most people do have a lot of questions or doubts. Like, “Why would this happen if God is real?” Most people don’t go their whole lives asking zero questions about God. There are Christians that struggle with certain questions, but you have to find faith at the end of the day.

Was writing lyrics that show doubt a challenge?
Not too much, because we could write about our old bass player. He had struggled with a lot of questions. He chose not to believe in God, which is fine. People are entitled to their beliefs, and they have the free will to choose to do so.

But hearing what he had issues with really helped fuel some of the writing. I wrote what his issues were and then my take on these issues.

Do you guys still keep in touch with him?
Yeah, we talk to him every now and then. He’s off doing his own thing right now and lives six hours away from us in Houston. Our new bass player lives in New York and the rest of us live in the Dallas area, so bass players have always been far away.

What else would you say influenced the writing on this album?
Our current bass player (experienced the) death of some friends in his life. It’s hard, so that fueled a lot of (the lyrics). I wanted to write around that because I was fortunate to have a year without much loss. So we took the tragedies in his life and put them on paper. It’s therapeutic for him and it’s good for other people that may be going through the same thing.

OK. If listeners hear this album and walk away with one thing, what do you want them to walk away with?
I want them to walk away (knowing) that music is more than how heavy it is or how sweet breakdowns are. There are actually deep seeded meanings that you can take away from the album whether you’re Christian or not.

Last of all, being a musician on tour is not easy, especially if you have social anxiety. That’s definitely tiring. With that said, what keeps you going in Fit for a King?
Seeing how our music impacts other people helps me keep going. I mean, I have a blast performing on stage. I love performing every night, but it’s hearing the stories people say about our music (that) keeps me wanting to go. Seeing them support our band by wearing our t-shirts really keeps motivating me.

Can you think of any key fan interactions that you have that have encouraged you?
A lot of prayer. It has been really cool. I have a wedding coming up and we don’t have much money to pay for it, but so many fans have rallied behind us and donated money. It’s incredible. It feels like we have more of a family going than just a fan base.

Fit for a King was posted on October 20, 2014 for HM Magazine and authored by .