Nature's Animation

Invent, Animate perfects the line between crushing riffs and an ambient backdrop on their second album, 'Stillworld.' Where does the world take them next?


Invent, Animate launched through the scene with the release of their sophomore album, Stillworld. After only four short years, the band is leaving heavy footprints in the metalcore genre, a songwriting balance healthy with tradition and originality, leaving listeners surprised while standing in familiar territory.

Vocalist Ben English is the kind of guy that is relatable and genuine, through and through. Walking around Manhattan at the tail end of their latest tour sharing the stage with The Plot in You and Erra, he shares truth with me about his band. He speaks with a fresh sense of gratitude and a sincere love for what he does. For this Texas-based band, writing and performing is their vision of living the dream. They are eager to learn from each day on the road.

After their self-released debut EP, Invent, Animate caught the attention of Tragic Hero Records, who have since helped craft the band’s sonic identity. Their extreme approach to both heavy music and ambience create a delicate-yet-aggressive dance from song to song. Closely identifying with bands like Underoath and Erra, Invent, Animate continues to foster their own unique sound through the writing process. Stillworld is their collection of stories and realities, pieced together over years of songwriting.

Inspired by nature and legend, English speaks freely of his mentors and the raw materials that make up the band’s musical and lyrical personality. It isn’t uncommon to see bits of Spencer Chamberlain woven into his stage presence or his vocals. As a part of the generation that witnessed the birth of hardcore and metalcore, the band is in a prime spot to take that same genre to the next level.

Part of what makes Invent, Animate so explosive are the band’s multi-faceted beliefs. A good portion of our conversation centered around waht some might misconstrue as spiritual tension; the band’s diversity of thought is inclusive, approachable and humble. English speaks highly of his bandmates, even when I pressed about the role of belief in the band. Their colorful differences break down their music to universal truth, a refreshing quality that is rarely seen in bands these days. Committed to their music and their brotherhood, the band allows space for their personal views to be respected, paving the way for unified music.

First, I just have to say I played Brofest this year in Tupelo. We played on Day 1 and you all played Day 2, but it’s awesome to know we kind of shared the stage.
Really? That’s awesome. We had so much fun. We didn’t really know what to expect there because it’s Mississippi. We had never played there and it was a smaller town but everyone there was super sick. It was awesome.

Yeah, they have a great scene, it’s just really underground.
But it’s got that good underground camaraderie to it; very cool and very tight knit. I like it a lot.

So, new album! Walk me through the writing process. How long did it take you to write it?
Honestly, we’re slow writers because we’re perfectionists. All of us are. So we started writing probably a year before we recorded Stillworld. We recorded back in October, so it was about a year in advance that we started writing songs. I mean, we figured out what kind of vibe we wanted pretty early on, but I would say some songs were written as early as late 2014 to early 2015. Literally, the four of us get together and Trey (Celaya, drummer) and Keaton (Goldwire, guitarist) kind of put songs together while Caleb (Sherradan, bassist) and me sit there and vibe it out with them. It’s a pretty organic process. It really is. I feel like some bands don’t write together anymore.

So you do write as a band. Is anyone the primary writer?
Trey and Keaton, I would say, because Keaton plays guitar and Trey plays drums, but (Trey) could literally play guitar in any band because he’s so sick at guitar. He writes a lot of guitar stuff with drums in mind, and Keaton writes a lot as well. So they work together as a team really well. Caleb wrote the instrumental on the record, the song called “Solace.” So everyone has their role. I play a little bit of guitar, but I’m not anywhere near the level that they’re at. I don’t like to say I can be a producer, but I get to kind of sit back and, if I feel like I need to go in a certain direction with a song, I can visualize that for them. And they can feel where I’m going, you know? I do all the vocals and all the lyrics, obviously. So everyone really does have a role, and it’s cool. We like it that way. We see so many bands that don’t — and it’s not even a big deal — but we like that everyone’s involved.

“We’ve never really wanted to cater to anyone else’s ‘wants’ for us. We wanted to embellish on all the aspects that we brought up on our first album and make them cleaner and tighter and more solid because we’ve grown as musicians ourselves.”

Yeah, for sure. In every album your sound is really solid and consistent. I guess that’s part of it, everyone having their own piece.
Exactly. It’s so much easier to get behind it when everyone’s a part of the process. It’s just better, you know? It’s easier to push it and be super proud of it once it’s out.

How would you say your sound has evolved over the last two albums, and even your first EP?
In a proper way. We’ve never really wanted to cater to anyone else’s “wants” for us. When we put out Everchanger, people were just like, “Please don’t go soft.” A lot of bands do that, but we went heavier. That’s just what we wanted to do and people seem to be happy with that. But we also went more melodic and added some catchiness to it. We wanted to embellish on all the aspects that we brought up on our first album and make them cleaner and tighter and more solid because we’ve grown as musicians ourselves.

We didn’t want to change our sound or pull a complete 180 and go a different direction. I mean, we’ve definitely changed a little bit, but in ways that didn’t bum us out and didn’t bum anyone else out. That’s the best way to say it. Everyone seems to be happy with the slight changes in sound. We’re already thinking of things that we want to do for our next record. No one wants the same record twice in a row, you know? It’s all about growth and it’s a really natural thing, for us at least.

In this scene, it seems like vocalists in particular go through a lot of growth from album to album. Is there a vocalist that really inspires your sound?
Oh, absolutely. I channel a lot of Spencer Chamberlain from Underoath. Especially how he is on stage. I’ve been watching him since I was very young. I can get up there and channel that, and people tell me that all the time because I shake my hair around everything. It’s literally subconscious because, like I said, I’ve been watching him for ten-plus years, and I can’t help it. That’s the guy. When I saw them for the first time, the feeling that Underoath gave me as a whole made me think, “Whatever this is, I want it.” It was my first Warped Tour. I would say, as a vocalist, that’s my number one. He is just incredible doing anything: singing, screaming — he’s just awesome.

How does the studio look for you guys? Some bands find a lot of their creativity in the studio. Do you enjoy it?
It was funny this time because we went to a different studio. It’s ironic because we’re in New York City right now; I’m walking around Manhattan. But we recorded about 25 minutes away from here (with no traffic). So, with traffic, it’s probably, like, three hours. We recorded in this little town called Belleville, New Jersey. And we had a vehicle, but to go to the city it takes a full day. So we went to the city a few times, but for the most part we were just in this little town. There’s really nothing to do there, at all. There are good places to eat but that’s about it.

We would wake up every day and the studio was all that was in our minds. We used to record in Nashville, so when we got done with our days we would go into the city and walk around. I think that may have given our first record a different vibe. With this, we were kind of isolated, and every waking moment was there to do album stuff. I really do think it gave it a different vibe.

We did some studio writing, and we’ve never done that before. It gave some songs a different view. I really got to hone in on lyrics with Will Putney and work on things. It was different than last time and I think that’s good. Every studio trip should not be the same or it’s going to sound the same. Maybe. I don’t know.

“I like to do different things. You’re not going to match the record. That’s not what it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a whole other entity.”

How are people responding to Stillworld?
Incredibly. I mean, we just put out an album so I guess that’s kind of expected. But, by far, these are the craziest reactions we’ve ever had. A good amount of these shows are selling out. We think tonight’s going to sell out at Webster Hall in New York. We’ve had five or six sold out shows already. On any given night, we go up there not knowing what to expect. And then when we start our set, there are way more people than I’ve ever seen that know the words and know the music in general. You can see them playing riffs and doing the double bass or screaming at me. And it’s like, “This album has not even been out for two weeks, how do you know it already?” But I’m cool with that.

Tell me more about your live show. How is it different writing music and playing it for a crowd, in your opinion?
For us, I try to bring another level of emotion to the live set. Yeah, we could sound exactly like the CD. But personally, I like to do different things. If I feel like putting a note on a scream or sing something that’s not on the record because I think it’ll sound cool, I’ll do it. You’re not going to match the record. That’s not what it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a whole other entity.

Overall, it’s just kind of an emotional pour-out every night, and it works out. Some people say, “You guys sound just like the CD!” And some people say, “You sound better than the CD because of the emotion and what happened on the stage just now.” And that’s cool to hear. It’s cool to hear that people like our live show better than the CD. We’ve only been touring for two years, and it takes a while to get accustomed to playing every night and trying to do well every night. You have to play to a certain standard. It’s definitely a learning curve but we’re all to a point where we feel really confident and we love to play.

Is there an overarching theme that you would say Invent, Animate is trying to convey in your music?
Yes and no. Each album, I hone in on a different subject and different things that are on my mind. Lyrically, every song is different. But the theme of our band, in general, is a nature-centric vibe. Anytime we get a chance on tour, we go hike a mountain or swim in a swimming hole. That’s what we’re all about. It’s cool. It’s kind of the thing that stuck with us. You can see some imagery on our albums, that’s really big for us as well. Nature comes out in our lyrics a lot, and I literally think some songs sound like it, you know?

Yeah, you guys definitely have a lot of atmospheric elements in your music.
Absolutely. There is not a second on our new album that there isn’t crazy reverb and ambient guitars behind it. We love that. We like to create an atmosphere and create a feeling for the song. It turns out pretty cool, I think.

Where does that come from? What kind of musical backgrounds do you all have?
Well, we all love ambient music in general. I personally love ambient instrumental music. There’s an artist called Tycho…

I love Tycho!
You love Tycho? Yeah! Stuff like that is what I listen to in the van on a daily basis. If I can bring an element of that to our music, which is so chaotic, loud and heavy, I think it creates a cool combination of sounds. We’re trying to be the most extreme on both ends of the spectrum, you know? When we get heavy, we want it to be nasty. And then when we’re chillin’ out, we want it to be super spacey and chill. That’s the best way to put it. Super icy.

In some other interviews, I read about your different religious or spiritual backgrounds. How do those beliefs affect the band as a whole?
Not really at all, necessarily. I think it gives our band a unique perspective on things. Not everyone believes the same thing, and I would never write a lyric that disrespected or did not convey something that Trey or Caleb feel. They read all the lyrics, and it’s something you can perceive in multiple ways. But it’s not something they can’t get behind. I would never write something that they couldn’t get behind.

It works out really well. I think it makes us more approachable. If there’s a young Christian guy at a show or something, it makes us easier to come talk to. It’s not like we’re a Christian band or a secular band; we don’t care. We just write. Like I said, it really can be perceived in multiple ways. I think that’s why it works out so well. I’ll ride with that too, it gives everyone’s views a unique perspective. I feel like a lot of times, bands are all in the same place when it comes to stuff like that. And we’re all in different places. It doesn’t effect day-to-day interaction at all. When it comes down to the music, I think it definitely does something cool for us.

How is it being with Tragic Hero Records? How did you get signed with them?
We got hooked up with them through Erra, honestly. We were recording our very first EP and they were recording their first full-length with the same guy we used to record with, Brian Hood. We were in the studio and we got to see their album and we were like, “What the heck, this is way better than anything we could ever write.” We were kind of a different band at that point. It made us want to write more technically, more aggressive music. I really think that molded our early sound.

When it came down to it, Erra became our friends, and they heard our newer stuff. They were on Tragic Hero and Jesse called Tommy (LaCombe, Tragic Hero founder). Tommy was considering signing us at the time, and Jesse called to tell him, “This band is the real deal. You need to buy into this band.” I really think that kind of pushed him over the edge to be all about us.

We met up with Tommy yesterday, and we have so much stuff in the works. It’s been a really good relationship with them so far. We have zero complaints, we’re very happy with them right now. They’re awesome guys. They’re “band first,” emailing every day to make sure we’re all good. It’s been really cool.

You just told me you have some tours coming up, but what else? What’s next for you guys?
Well, we just put out Stillworld. And like I said before about us being slow writers, we’re probably going to start writing pretty soon for LP number three. We’re excited about that; we love to write. Our next tour’s not until November, so once we get home from this one in August, we’ll get to be home for a good two or three months to get ready for a very busy season of touring. We’re hoping to land some things next summer that will blow our minds, and it looks like we’re in a good position to do that. We’ll probably do some videos; some guitar play-throughs and drum play-throughs for the new record. We’re going to shoot another music video soon too. So we’re going to keep grinding away and see where that takes us.

Invent, Animate was posted on August 13, 2016 for HM Magazine and authored by .