Rising from the Dead

Now back together, Still Remains hasn't lost a step on 'Ceasing to Breathe'

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I remember Still Remains being one of the biggest metalcore bands the early 2000’s gave birth to. I remember the band when they came out of nowhere and blew up on HxCchristian.com and mp3.com. (Yeah, I am that old.) With the music industry changing — some say for the better — Still Remains rolled the dice, launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund their first independent record.

The fans willingly gave their hard earned money and smashed their piggy banks of rainy day fund money to help the band record a new record. At the end of 2013, after night months of fans waiting while the band wrote recorded at night after their day jobs. We finally have the bands first record in six years, Ceasing to Breathe. I had the chance to talk to founding member Jordan Whelan about the good old day, their reunion, crowd funding, and the future of a band full of family guys.

HM: Tell us who you are, what band you’re in and what you do.
Jordan Whelan: My name is Jordan Whelan. I play guitar for Still Remains. At this point in my life, we got back together just because we wanted to for fun. Pretty much we did it for the fans. We made this record for the fans, and we really mean it wasn’t for us. It was a huge part of our life for so long and we sat hanging for three or four years there. We got together to do one show and we had so much fun. It was like old times.
The band is my best friend again.

Yeah. That one show was Haste the Day’s farewell show.
Yup. I actually got a phone call from our old manager Mark LaFay at Middle Coast Management. Haste the Day was getting off of their last headline tour. I guess they had specifically called him because they talked to Haste the Day and we were like brother bands — how we kind of got a record contract at the same time, and we had the same management company, Middle Coast Management.

We had broken up. I can’t remember a few years previous to that, and they called Mark and said they really wanted us to be part of the last show just for fun. At that time, I wasn’t friends with all the guys of the band; we had not kept in the closest of contact. It’s just … People have kids and getting real 9-to-5s and getting married. It was really like a big family reunion for us, especially showing up in Indianapolis, seeing the original Haste the Day. There were shivers down my spine and I felt like I was 17 again.

What was it like for you guys to get back together for that one show?
Well, it really was nostalgic. … You get so used to performing when you’re touring full time and you get in such a groove. It’s like working out, so I’ll never forget that show. We call them “bang-overs.” I had the worst bang-over and I can barely even hold my head up. Then I realized I was a little out of shape from the shows’ standpoint, but it really was a blast, even just traveling with the dudes again, getting out of Michigan and heading down to Napa. It was refreshing.

Afterwards, we spent a month rehearsing, getting together. After the show, we had so much fun doing it, we didn’t want it to stop, so we decided to try to write a couple of songs. And there you have it.

And then you guys released a song in January (2012-ish) and then a couple of weeks ago on the first of January. Called “The Reading Lips.”
I think we got together in one practice and practically sang that song out, at the snap of the finger. We recorded that song with Josh Schroeder at Random Awesome Studios. Yeah, it was just fun, man. We had so much fun when we recorded that song.
We weren’t planning on getting together and doing a full record or anything at that point, either. I guess we had so much fun at Haste the Day’s show that we said, “All right, let’s write a couple of songs for old time’s sake.” And we recorded that one. We had such a great response from — I hate saying fans; I like saying friends more than fans — our friends and fans that we decided to try to cut a whole record.

You guys launched a Kickstarter campaign this year to do that. How was that experience for you guys?
Unfortunately, I’ve seen those that are fortunate and unfortunate. I’ve seen both. It was kind of nerve-wracking. Like I said, working unadvised for three or four years and stepping out of the whole music scene and then coming back, it was kind of like, well, you don’t really know. Does anyone really care if it’s going to be a laughingstock? … Kickstarter raised, I think, $18,000-$19,000. It was nerve-wracking and (exciting).

I’m looking at it right now. You guys had 500 backers. You guys were asking for $15,000. You guys raised $19,135 in 30 days.
Incredible, man. And it’s amazing, too, because it goes to show our true friends and fans really help us out. You see, the number “500 people” doesn’t sound like a lot, but it just goes to show that people really care about that band. But it was for nostalgia reasons or because they actually really love our music. They made this record. The fans made this record. Without that, there’s no way we could, because we wouldn’t be able to afford it.

Talk about emailing, you guys get funded and what happens next?
We had about half of the record written. We didn’t know if we were going to be able to record it all. But we had the same kind of writing and we came to the idea of, “Well, half of the record is written. We don’t want to do the whole record label thing again…” We just wanted to do something on our own. We wanted to be fun.  We wanted to be just like the old days back when we were 17, jamming in a basement. We didn’t want to be serious and have to sell this many copies and make this much money.

We have half the record written. Once we saw we (had reached our goal) it kind of was just getting down to business and we wrote six more songs after that. Mike Hatalak is the engineer, producer, director, which he actually used to play for It Dies Today. I think he does an incredible job, really great work. He’s a really underrated producer. But hopefully, through this and through some of the other projects he’s working on, I think his name is going to get known a little bit more.

Awesome. How was recording this record compared to you guys’ last two records?
Totally different worlds, to be honest with you. Our first record, Of Love and Lunacy, was recorded in Vancouver with Garth Richardson. Being 19 years old and getting shipped off to Vancouver for four months recording a record in the mountains, it was a pretty exciting, fun experience. There was a lot of money put into the first record, which was fine.

On the second record, it was almost the same thing. It was like a vacation. We spent three months in Huntington Beach, Ca., with Steve Evetts. Steve had done an amazing job. He was really hands-on with “The Serpent.” He knew every song better than we did. He is that kind of a producer. He really had his heart in the band.

With Ceasing to Breathe, the new record, some of the guys have kids. Some of us are married. Some have girlfriends. All have full-time jobs and are going to school. There was no getting away for three months. … It was working 10 hours a day. Mike, he’s a cook. Mike and me were working … and then spending six hours in the studio until 1 a.m., going home, sleeping, working a hard 10 hours, six hours back into the studio. It’s basically like whenever anyone could show up or had a spare minute, they were recording.

Did you guys go in having everything written, or half of the stuff you guys were still writing while you were recording?
Mostly it was written. There was stuff, like solos or maybe a melody here and there. But 90 percent of it was written. Every time we’re in the studio, there’s always going to be something that pops up you want to change last-minute or a drum part the drummer decides to change last-minute. Because of that, we’re shifting whatever, but for the most part, it was all written.

With this new record, you guys recorded it and then it just came out a couple weeks ago. How is the response then with even just the people from Kickstarter?
So far, great. I’ve seen two, three, or four reviews so far. They’ve been outstanding.  We don’t expect it. We don’t want the praise. We don’t need the praise. What I’m trying to say is, it’s just really good to see people whether it was comment on Facebook or plenty of emails or through a website reviewing or a magazine reviewing it, it just makes me so happy because we really put our hearts and souls into this record. Ceasing to Breathe is me feeling like I’m 18 years old again writing with Still Remains for the first time.

With you guys having jobs and families now, not being able to really get out on the road like you guys used to, what are you all excited to do to promote this record in the upcoming year?
We’re definitely going to play some shows. Like you just said, we all have 9-to-5 and careers now. As far as shows go, we’ll take whatever. We’ll see what kind of opportunity arrives, but we’re definitely not planning on touring full-time. If we could, if we could afford to, if our jobs allowed — of course we’d love to. But to be honest, touring — it’s not an easy thing to do.

We all love to play. Of course, what we want to do is play these songs every night in front of our fans or in front of new ears. But, I don’t know. At this point, we’ll probably … do some festivals in the summer. I’d love to get back over to Europe. I’d love to get back to the West Coast and down south. But we’ll see. We’ll see what kind of opportunities come up.

What have you seen, good and bad, in the music industry since you guys broke up, getting back together and now recording a new record?
I don’t want to say bad. Good? I think stuff like with whole fix-over thing. When we broke up, our band could never do this. I’m not sure why. It’s such an easy …

Concept?
Easy process. Concept, too. Yeah. That’s an easy concept: Fans giving directly to see artists make a record. But in 2007/2008 when we broke up, it’s something that could have never happened. I think that’s the plus side.

Personally, I’m not worried that people will still pirate music and take music. But as far as I’m concerned, our real fans will purchase the album. People are going to download it and that’s perfectly fine. It’s a part of the music industry now, and I know our real fans — people who really want to support us and want us to make more music — will purchase the record.

There are a lot of bands who have broken up but then used Kickstarter to get the ball rolling again — not rely on their old label or any label at all. It happened so quickly for you all. “What? They had a Kickstarter? It got funded?”
Yeah. It was a fast process man. That’s the thing, too. Not being on a record label, we’re not going to be on every magazine cover. … A lot of times, being on a record label, you will get a lot more attention. Having Warner Bros. Records; they put on a record for you it sounds a lot bigger than saying, “Hey, there’s this band that just recorded the CD themselves.”

When it happened, were you guys surprised the fans responded as well as they did to the Kickstarter?
Yeah. To be honest, we were shocked. We were humbled because we think of our time as Still Remains as the golden years. Those were the best times of our lives — and obviously, you can’t take that out of context there. We all have families. But moving on, we think (fondly on) those college days with all the boys on the road.

There are a few fans that actually came back that many years later and cared. With the music industry, it seems like you’re in one year, out the next. Every two years there’s a new slate of bands. Who’s the next big male band? Who’s the next big pop band? And then two years later there’s going to be a different one. To see the people actually remembering, it made us feel amazing

How has your faith from when you guys were younger to now translate to being a father, being married? How did you guys put all of that in to this record?
Well, a lot of us in the band are believers. It’s funny because I personally said, “Still Remains: We’re a heavy metal band. We’re musicians. We’re Christians, or most of us.” Alright, so I do a lot of electrical work in my career, I don’t call myself a Christian electrician. I’m an electrician, if you get what I’m saying. … A Christian being in a Christian band, a lot of the lyrics are faith driven. In my head, I’ve always called ourselves a metal band. We spread positivity. We spread love, you know. Like I said, a lot of the lyrics are faith driven and a lot of them aren’t. A lot of them are just personal stuff that you gone through.
But, life has changed a lot from when we were 18 to now. It’s a completely different perspective on everything. I know that I’m definitely very thankful and blessed to be in the position I’m in and never take a day off, whether if it’s us screwing around in the basement and riding stupid breakdowns or heading back Europe or heading back touring or when the record sells a million copies or hundred copies, we’re still blessed and lucky to be in where we are.

Of the guys in the band that have kids, are the kids old enough to comprehend that dad’s in this band?
A couple of guys are new fathers. Evan, who’s no longer with Still Remain, he has some kids. He played on Of Love and Lunacy, but he has some kids that still came up to our stuff.

Sorry, I’m driving in a snow storm right now. I’m from Michigan. We’re from Michigan so this is kind of the worst time of the year to be on the road. But, yeah, Zack’s kid, I know she definitely rocked it, but she’s so young so we’ll see. I’m sure she’ll grow up to be a beautiful little metal head.

I’ve seen studio footage and photos of their kids hanging out in the studio watching their dads record and stuff like that. I thought that was an awesome moment a child, to see their father doing something they love.

Oh yeah, for sure. Even when we we’re writing the record. We used to have what we called “Family Nights” because all of our wives and the guys and the kids and girlfriends, we’d all get together and the girls would sit upstairs and talk. Everyone would bring a dish and we’d go down into the basement and we’ll be writing music and recording music. Meanwhile, our wives are upstairs hanging out with the kids and we’d take a break.

It sounds so old, but to me it was the best part of my summer: having family night, getting together with the guys and jamming and eating.

Awesome. What are we going to expect from Still Remains in 2014? You said you guys were hopefully getting to play some festivals and stuff like that.
Yeah. Definitely getting out to play in some festivals. I have so many songs already written, I have maybe 15-20 songs. It’s crazy. I was going through dark stages where I don’t write. I won’t write a single song for three or four months. Then it all stops. I’m really inspired or I’ll throw on In Flames’ Clayman or Zao or Blood and Fire, suddenly I’m writing song after song after song.

Any of the money we make from the Kickstarter or we’re going to make from CD sales can go straight back into the band. We’re to the point of our lives where we’re all making a living, and I would love to make another record after this one, whether everybody loves it or everybody hates it. It doesn’t matter. It’s just us having fun. If there’s something there to fund it and to help the process go on, then we’ll definitely make another record.

We’ve actually had the idea of doing an EP, doing the six songs and putting our blood, sweat, and tears to the six songs and just recording it and funding the whole thing ourselves through any profits we make from Ceasing to Breathe. That way it’s just something straight to the fans, for the fans. They don’t have to give us anything or do anything for us.

Did you guys ever think about putting this new record or anything else — any of the older records — out on vinyl?
Oh God, I’m not sure. I might be wrong on this. I thought for the Kickstarter we were going to print some vinyl. Maybe we didn’t. I could be wrong on that, but we definitely talked about doing some vinyl or even releasing our first EP, If Love was Born to Die. We’re releasing that on vinyl.

It seems the past couple of years that’s been a big thing for bands to do again, make records on vinyl. I’ve seen some hardcore bands put records out on tape and stuff like that.
Yeah. Sure.

You were talking about putting a smaller release. What about a 10” or a 7”?
I’ve never been like those guys who collect vinyl, but I see other guys in bands do, and they’re die-hards about it. So I’m definitely (in favor of) the idea, whether it’s re-releasing something or printing something (directly). Of Love and Lunacy, The Serpent, Roadrunner and Warner Bros. own those (respectively), so we can’t just go ahead and reproduce it and sell it. But, yeah, we’re talking about doing the EP and Ceasing to Breathe.

“Dying with a Smile” is, like, 10 years old.
It is, which is so crazy. That was the very first Still Remains song ever written. That means, usually, we’re screwing around. It was right after our first band had broken up and we’re like, “Dude, we need to start a band.” Let’s start a band that sounds exactly like Zao. It wasn’t quite Zao. It didn’t sound exactly like Zao, but that was us making an attempt to. People seem to like it, so 10 years later, here we are.

Still Remains was posted on January 9, 2014 for HM Magazine and authored by .