Battle Tested

My Heart to Fear would like just one, normal tour

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My Heart to Fear caught our attention last winter with their debut EP, Lost Between Brilliance and Insanity. HM’s founder Doug Van Pelt said he wanted them on the cover. I said it was his magazine and he could do whatever he wanted. It went well for both parties: The issue was read, and fans were made. Now if they could only have just one tour go the way it was supposed to, they’d be set.

They got such a great response, they went into the studio to record their first full-length, Algorithm. I had a chance to chat with their frontman Trevor Pool, and I got to ask him about the new record, tour life and the blessings God gives the faithful.

How are you doing?
Great dude. Just sitting on at a Park-and-Ride on tour because Spies Like Us’s van broke down.

When did you start your tour?
This last tour, we started June 13 and we’re just a few days into the tour.

You guys finally have a full-length coming out on Solid State Records. How does that feel, having another record come out six months after your guys’ debut EP?
Well, the EP was just remixed songs off of the album that got us signed to Solid State. We were very eager to be able release the full-length. We were excited about the EP and all the stuff Solid State was going to do for it, but it just wasn’t the same feeling as releasing new songs, you know? It’s really awesome; we’re excited, and everyone seems to be responding to the singles great so far, so hopefully that carries out well with the album.

What is different, and how long was it from writing and recording that record to writing and recording this full-length?
We went on a tour in 2011 for three months, and it kind of fell through, maybe because of the lack of promotion. So we basically had three months of glorified practices, just shows with no people. We just decided to make the best of our time and write an album.

Around September, October of 2011, we recorded the album with Dave Catrone at Ukonatron, and then we released some of the songs, but then Solid State contacted us. They called us and said, “Are you guys the toilet band?” We had sent them a toilet in the mail awhile back to get their attention, along with one of our EPs, a long time ago. They talked to us some more, said they were interested, and that they wanted to see us at SXSW. We toured down there and played for them, and they told us they wanted to sign us. It’s been about two years since we started talking. Well, since we recorded the previous album and then we started talking to Solid State.

That’s just a normal record cycle for any band; two years between records is pretty standard. I’ve seen a couple of bands do a record within a year of their last record. Sometimes that does well, but sometimes it can be a very bad decision.
Yeah, because you’re just constantly spending that large sum of money for the promotion of the record, not really enough time to market it as much. We’re friends with (band name redacted), and they released an EP that was getting big, but then, like six months later, they released their full-length. The songs off of the EP were just a completely different thing. It was really quick, and I feel like people didn’t really absorb as much.

With you guys, the Solid State fan base that just heard of you in December, they didn’t know those songs were two years old. Then you have all the fans you built up by touring being like, “Alright, finally we have some new stuff to listen to.” So how was that, to finally give the fans waiting for a full-length something new?
It’s been awesome. They are all really excited because we have been saying we have new material for a long time, but unfortunately we couldn’t release it until later — but that’s only because we recorded later than we thought. But yeah, the whole response has been great. We hope it just keeps going in that direction.

You guys and August Burns Red are both coming out with new records this month. Was it kind of nerve-racking to write a new record and to find out your release date was around the same time as theirs?
Yeah, we’re not too worried about it. I mean, if people like our music, then we figure they’ll just buy it. If they don’t, then they won’t. We hope we put out a good enough record that speaks for itself, you know?

What have you guys learned with this new record that you didn’t learn on the last record? Like, how to record lyrics, and being in a studio again. Every record is different, and you always learn something new.
This past studio experience was at Atrium Audio, and it was awesome because we got to stay there. What really helped, actually, was that they had two studios there; Carson worked downstairs with all the instruments, and Grant McFarland worked upstairs with me on vocals. The last record was my first time really putting out songs with my screaming on them, because we only put out two (songs like that) for the full-length, and those are the first heavy songs we ever released.

I learned a lot was to be passionate with vocals more, because I was just kind of hitting the notes and screaming the screams on the last songs. But this new record, if people listen, you can feel the emotion the song is invoking. It’s not just the notes being hit. We feel there is a lot of heart in this record because we spent about a year writing it.

That’s a big thing to do. I remember watching an interview with Billy Corgan, and he talks about how it took them a year to write Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and that was the longest they’ve ever taken to write a record.
The thing I’m really excited about — and I hope people recognize this — but I know our band feels every single song on this record sounds completely different. We released “The Witching Hour Part 2,” (from Algorithm), and it’s very progressive and slow-moving, but it’s written in a storyline structure. It escalates and escalates and then resolves in the end. But then, we released “414 Days,” which is influenced a lot more by hardcore, and more of the bare bones sound.

Why did you guys decide to do a record like that, kind of all over the place? The fans could be like, “Yeah, that record’s awesome, but it was just all over the place,” but at the same time, you can get the fans that are like, “I really like this record because it’s totally different.” Why did you guys choose to play the fence on writing a record like this?
Well, honestly, we didn’t really choose anything. Our bassist writes a lot of instrumental ideas and parts. … When we started writing this record, we were just like, “Oh yeah, that one riff is cool,” and then we started writing (from there). What really helps — not helps, but motivated the record were a lot of the things (the band members) went through. We went through a lot of emotional turmoil with family problems and close people to us dying and things like that, and it really inspired us to write in honor of them, in honor of our family and the people that support us, as well.

Because of that, every song is based off of a completely different scenario. There is one song that’s a story; it’s a personal story and it’s meant to invoke a message through the story. And then you have a song like “414” that we just released that says, “This newer generation’s drowning in self-pity,” things like that.

I don’t want to sound cocky or weird when I say that; we literally just kind of wrote and modified the songs for, like, a year straight, and they ended up sounding completely different than when we first started. Also, what helped a ton were Grant and Carson. They really helped us change the songs, especially with the drums, because Grant is incredible with the drums. The record just kind of wrote itself.

What was the most challenging thing about writing this new record, from the music to lyrics?
Honestly, for me, it was working at McDonald’s. I had to make some money to pay off my college bills. I worked 40 hours a week, and it made it really difficult to write vocals. The guys were just like, “We really need you to start writing more,” and I was like, “I can’t! I work 8 hours a day!” But eventually, we figured out a system. It was tough because it was literally like: work, come home, write until two in the morning, sleep, wake up, work. It was like that for a good five months. Then I finally quit, and that was actually just because of touring. Then we wrote the rest of the record pretty smoothly.

The only thing that was difficult, as always, is whenever you go through those periods of time where you have no clue what to write at all. … What also helps is the fact that we live in the middle of the woods, so we are secluded, camping all the time, and writing in the basement.

How much McDonald’s did you consume when you would go home and write lyrics?
I kid you not, man, I gained 20 pounds between the time I started and quit there. It was really bad. I’m actually still trying to lose the weight. It was really bad, and I regret all of it.

Do you have a workout regime while you’re on tour?
Yeah, we bring our weights. Cross and Reverse brought this giant weight set; their frontman is jacked as heck. They brought their weight set, and we brought some weights as well, and a couple of pull-up bars, and that’s what we’ve been doing. I’m really sore, but I still gotta do a show in Connecticut today.

What have been your favorite places to eat while going on tour, things you don’t usually get to eat at home?
In South Carolina, there’s this place called Cookout and it is so good! It sells really good barbecue and burgers for like three dollars, and it’s awesome. It’s like Sonic, except cheap.

What have you guys been doing for your leisure time on tour, besides working out, eating Cookout and bad food?
Honestly? Playing football in the Wal-Mart parking lot. We work out, we’ll call pizza places and ask for free pizza. It always works; they always end up giving us free pizza. We love meeting new people. We meet new people all the time, and have our lives changed from that in many, many ways. There’s been crazy things that have happened on our tours, like a homeless guy fixed our van’s transmission. If you want to hear the full story, I’ll tell you, but I don’t wanna just tell you 15 minutes of a story before you’re ready.

I know a lot of people want to hear it. We posted about it, and I don’t think anybody really knows the full story.
It’s really actually not 15 minutes, but we were at the Wal-Mart parking lot. We broke down in New Mexico and we were kind of upset because we had no money, and we hate making those IndieGoGo things because we don’t want to beg people for money. (But I’m saying anyone else shouldn’t do campaigns, I’m just saying we don’t like it personally.) So we were wondering what to do, sitting in a Wal-Mart parking lot, laughing and saying, “God, I wish you could bring us a six-pack of beer.” It was morning, and this homeless couple comes up to us and they started preaching to us, saying, “God loves you, and He’s there for you, and He’s going to take care of you.” Of course we agreed with him, and we just kept talking to them, and they’re like, “Well, we really need money, and we have a six-pack of beer here if you want to buy it for four dollars.” We didn’t really care if we had beer or not, but we were like, “Oh well, let’s help them out,” and we gave them ten bucks and some granola bars and then they went on their way.

We were just chillin’ and five minutes later, this second homeless couple comes immediately up to me, and they’re like, “God is good, and He’s taking care of you,” and it kind of freaked me out. It was eerie, two homeless couples coming up to me in a row, telling me about God before they even talk to me. The lady prayed over our van: “God, I pray to you this van is fixed today, and they leave today.” I am not gonna lie: I was a little cynical. I was like, yeah, because our van is actually going to leave this parking lot today. Our transmission is busted. We’re not leaving.

After she prayed over the van, they went on their way, and then I prayed. Because I heard her say it, I prayed, “God, if you want us to leave today, then send one more homeless guy to our van by himself, have him ask for a sandwich and fix our van, and then I’ll believe we’re supposed to leave today.”

This is legitimately, word-for-word what I prayed. About 30 minutes later, I notice about half a block away, there’s this homeless guy we saw earlier. He was with his family, asking for food on the side of the road. But he was running towards our van; he comes over and he trips and falls and drops this entire bag of groceries. We help him pick it up, but we’re thinking he’s going somewhere else, like to Wal-Mart because Wal-Mart was right there, but he looks up and hands us the groceries. We’re like, “No, we don’t need this.” He starts making crosses on his chest with his fingers, and then he’s pointing up, like, violently shaking his hands. We took the groceries; we were like, “Alright, man,” because he didn’t understand English and we didn’t understand Spanish. It wasn’t anything we could use, it was just like Worcestershire sauce and cream of mushroom, but it was weird: A homeless guy was giving us his food.

He ran back over about five minutes later with another bag, and in that bag was a foot-long sandwich and two Powerade’s. I was like, that’s kind of weird. Then about half an hour later, this one guy walks from across the parking lot — we didn’t see where he came from — and he comes up to our van. It turns out he is a homeless guy named Mike, and he asked, “Do any of you guys got like a sandwich or something?” I was like, “Uh, yeah. A homeless guy just gave this one to us” (laughs). I didn’t say that, but this whole thing was blowing my mind. I gave him the sandwich and Powerade’s, and he was asking us what was going on, and then he asked, “Do you have anything I can lay on?”

So we gave him a merch bin lid, and we slid under the van. Two minutes later, he comes out from under the van, gets in it, and then drives off with our guitarist and drummer still in it! I was afraid he was going to kill them or something. Eventually, they came back and nonchalantly got out of the van.

I wasn’t really paying attention until Luke came up to me, and he tapped my shoulder and said, “You know, that guy fixed our van.” I’m like, “No, he didn’t. There is no way he did that. It’s our transmission.” He’s like, “Dude, drive it!”

So we went on a drive and it worked. He fixed our van. I prayed all of those things in detail, and all of them happened in detail. And afterwards, this guy pulls up in a car and is like, “Hey Mike, get your $@!& out of here!” and starts cussing him out. We were kind of freaked out at first, concerned. But he was just being his buddy. He was telling us that he picked him up on the freeway, that he was hitchhiking, and he was letting him stay with him for a little bit. So then, the guy that is letting the homeless guy that fixed our van stay at his place looks at us and says, “You know what’s weird? I bought some food for this homeless family a block away, and they gave it all away!” And we’re like, “Uh, you mean this food?” and then he sees it in our van and he’s like, “Yeah! That food!” And we were all laughing and drinking beer and it was a great day and God answered a prayer.

So the worst tour experience you guys have had was almost getting killed?
We were in Seattle visiting a label, and after that, our van’s transmission went dead again, but it was for a different reason. It was because the wiring in the brake came loose while we were driving. So this one guy said he saw our post on Facebook, and he called my dad and told us to go to this one shop. We go out there, and this guy Phil is barbecuing chicken for us. He was this six-foot-seven, ex-Navy SEAL guy. He said he was also in the Hell’s Angels. He was solid muscle, like 370 pounds. He told us he’d fix our van within the week. We were stoked.

Then, things went wrong. He left for a day. We were literally just sitting there all week, and he left for a day, and then he came back around one in the morning, high off of cocaine, meth, and PCP. We were upstairs, and the only way to get out of the shop was through where he was because he decided he wanted to sleep there with us. (This guy is like 50.) He was screaming at the top of his lungs saying he was going to kill his one employee, Rob, and Taylor, Brad, our guitarist Jay and Dale were all downstairs. They start talking to him and are saying, “No you can’t kill Rob! Don’t kill Rob!” He’s all, “I’m gonna go get my shotgun! There’s someone here!”

Our tours are crazy and I don’t know why. They’re not just “normal tour crazy” — they’re insane. Every tour is like this that we do.

He started talking about how he was on the beach at three in the morning the night before, and there was this gang fight between 500 people — that’s what he told us. Then he points to me while I’m trying to sleep and he says, “You!” I’m just thinking, “Oh. No.” Luke was telling me he was high. Then the guy says, “If you bring this to the Navy,” and he grabs my butt. “If you were in the Navy, my Navy buddies would have (Editor’s note: censored)!” That’s what he said to me while grabbing my butt in front of my entire band, and I was terrified. It was awful.

By now it was around two in the morning. We went inside, and he went up to my brother and says, “I’ve killed 32 people, and I have a mass grave at my old shop.” He says to Brad, “Man, when I watch movies like ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ I just want to kill people.” Brad’s says, “Yeah, I know what you mean, man. You get so angry that you just think it in your head,” and I could tell Brad was trying to steer him away from saying anything else. But then Bill says, “No, like, I’ve really done this. I really do kill people if I feel that God wants me to.”

(Later), Dale, Taylor and I decided to leave because we were too freaking scared, and Taylor got his big knife and we walked through the room. Phil caught us and says, “Guys, where you going?” We say, “We’re going to Denny’s, man, we’re just chilling.” (We told him we’d be back in the morning), but upstairs, the rest of my band decided to stay, which I thought was stupid. They slept with knives under their pillows and had a couch blocking the door.

So the next morning we go back there, and you can hear him screaming at Rob. We were upstairs, and we heard him throw Rob into a window. You hear Rob saying, “Phil! Phil! No! You’re on drugs!” He’s saying, “That doesn’t matter!” Rob says, “No! I’m gonna tell my dad,” because his dad owns the building the shop is in. So Rob has his dad come and fire Phil. Phil comes upstairs, high as heck, and he tells me we need to defend him because they’re saying he’s on drugs. So I go downstairs — I was so pissed because I didn’t want to say anything, and I didn’t want to lie. I eventually said I didn’t see him do any drugs, because I didn’t, I just knew that he did because he told us.

So what did you learn from that whole experience?
To not trust mechanics that don’t have a name on the shop or any posters on the walls (laughs).

In the last 6 months since you guys have put out your EP, and now your new full length, can you say that it’s been the most adventurous time in your band’s career?
Yeah (laughs). Yes, we can. It’s been absolutely insane. We can already tell this tour’s going to end up like that last tour. The other night we were all half asleep except for John the Driver. We were on the highway, but he didn’t know the highway had ended and that it was just going into residential areas. Out of nowhere, we ramped our trailer and our van very high in the air and slammed to the ground. We all lifted off of our seats, and we were suspended for a good second.

Our tours are crazy and I don’t know why. They’re not just “normal tour crazy” — they’re insane. Every tour is like this that we do.

Do you think you guys will ever have a normal tour?
I honestly hope so. I love the insanity, but I honestly want to have a tour without van problems. I want that so bad. Anything else? I don’t care. I don’t care if I have money, I don’t care if I have enough clothes or food because I always get it. God provides; it just happens. Our band never literally worries when we’re on the road, because we always get (taken care of) somehow. That’s why we love bringing people on tour because they get to experience it first hand.

Tell us a couple fun facts or some weird thing that either you or one of the guys in the band likes.
There’s quite a few. We can sleep anywhere. We sleep on top of our van. There’s one of us in the band that just so happens to have the ability to fart at will. Luke is a great skateboarder, actually. Jay sleeps 18 hours of the day. Dale is extremely tall and loves country music, and my brother would never be afraid to kill someone because he is psychotic. I am just your lonely front man.

Is there anything you’d like to add about this new record or new tour? Any advice you want to give to bands that think they can handle the road?
Here’s the thing: If you’re like us and you don’t care about money, then your tour will be very crazy, like ours, because we don’t have money. Ever. We only get like a hundred something dollars a show (and we use it) for gas. We’re okay with it. We love living in our van; we put bunk beds in it. But any advice I would give for a tour would be, Do not spend your money at gas stations. You will run out of money so fast.

Another thing is, no matter what happens, from a Christian standpoint, if you trust in God, you don’t need to worry. But honestly, even if you don’t believe in God, you’re on tour! When you have problems it sucks, but what are you going to do about it? All you can do is try to fix them and keep going.

Bands quit because of stuff like that, man, and it’s stupid because it’s so easy. You just anticipate the tour having problems and you be ready for them. And when they don’t happen? Awesome.

Honestly, the best advice would be to make sure that your band is a brotherhood, not just a bunch of co-workers, you know? Keep each other accountable. Treat everyone with respect and love.

The thing is, everyone’s trying to figure out what to say in their 30 seconds on stage to try and change someone’s life. That’s great, but I think what matters more is showing it in your actions off the stage. That’s what our band is about. Showing people love and respect like they should be show.

I grew up with my mom telling me this: If I’m giving 100 percent to you, and you’re giving 100 percent to me, then we’re both getting 100 percent. We’re both being treated with equal respect and love.

You, my friend, have a wonderful rest of the tour, and hopefully you guys come through Dallas/Fort Worth and I will take you to some really good barbecue.
What about wings?

No, you’re in Texas, you get barbecue! You can get wings at home.
That’s true. That is true. Okay.

In Texas, you can get barbecue, or you can try the Midwest California staple of In ‘n’ Out.
When we ended up staying this past time we ended up going like three times in a day. I got like two triple burgers each time. I’m fat, dude.

My Heart to Fear was posted on July 3, 2013 for HM Magazine and authored by .