Tear Out the Heart's Triumph Over Death

Tear Out the Heart's Tyler Konersman writes the record of his suffering before it befalls him. Read his stunning interview with Managing Editor Collin Simula about the lead singer's walk alongside a deathly sentence


Pretending we’re not cowards,
that we’re not liars,

  that we’re not thieves.
— Dead, Everywhere

From the mid-’90s through the early 2000s, openness and vulnerability were the highest virtues in hardcore music. Young kids from broken homes and kids from the suburbs who didn’t fit in found a safe place where they could be themselves, a place where like-mindedness didn’t mean you were all the same.

You understood each other even if you disagreed with each other on religion, situation or lifestyle.

In this new generation, a quick search of metalcore on YouTube brings up video after music video of bands infatuated with excess. It’s all machismo and non-stop partying. Openness replaced by hardness. Vulnerability replaced with the substance of the moment. Virtue replaced with vice.

It’s here — in this time in heavy music history — that St. Louis metalcore band Tear Out The Heart’s message is more important than ever. After a tumultuous year including, but not limited to, vocalist and lyricist Tyler Konersman’s girlfriend being diagnosed with brain cancer, not only were Tear Out The Heart forced to push back the release of their proud, new, Caleb Shomo-produced album, Dead, Everywhere, but Konersman was forced to make some major lifestyle changes in order to accommodate his new style of life. I spoke with Tyler about the album, his new healthy lifestyle and where God fits in to all of this.

You’re about to release Dead, Everywhere. How is it different than your earlier material?
It feels like we did a good job branching out with it, doing things we always wanted to do but never really did or didn’t have the time or even know how to arrange or orchestrate. This time, we really didn’t hold anything back.

We tried everyone’s ideas. It’s a roller coaster of an album — it’s got its ups and downs, it’s pretty long — but, overall, it covers all of the bases. There is something for everyone on it.

You begin the record with a fairly poignant spoken-word poem, which is somewhat unexpected in this day and age.
The intro to the record (also the title track) is something I’ve had written for a while now. I often just write without a song in mind, just for the sake of writing. Especially during downtime. I’m constantly jotting down ideas, and the spoken-word intro piece is something I’ve been sitting on since shortly after the release of our first record, Violence.

When I pitched the idea of the record name to the guys in the band — I basically told them — “This is what I have in mind, I want to call the record Dead, Everywhere, but it’s attached to something I don’t really see being anything other than poetry or spoken-word. So you guys are going to have to be really open with me. We’re going to have to try something new.”

Some of the guys weren’t really feeling it. Some were confused or didn’t really know what to expect. Before we recorded any of the vocals, the spoken-word track was the first thing we did in the studio. As soon as I did it, everyone was like “OK, I see it. I see the big picture now.” It turned out awesome.

Talk to me about the title, Dead, Everywhere.
Our first record, Violence, was more about inner demons and struggling with how to deal with them. Topics about insomnia, depression, stuff I’d been dealing with. Dead, Everywhere is more about accepting your problems, accepting who you are and being vocal about it. Being up front about your flaws as well as your finer points. We’re dead everywhere, not just dead inside. We’re no longer hiding who we are, we’re no longer hiding what’s bothering us. It’s kind of forcing us to deal with what’s going on in everyone’s heads, what everyone’s afraid to say.

Interesting how you kind of imply that we are all dead inside in some way. Is that something that you see in yourself as well as everyone else?
I mean it’s not to say everyone is dead inside. But the name of the record is about expressing yourself vocally, about revealing who you really are inside. Everyone has an opportunity in them to be the villain, or an opportunity in them to be the good guy. The main idea behind this record is that today you have the opportunity to choose for yourself. On a day-to-day or even minute-to-minute basis, you have the chance to be the better person, to take the higher road.

Or the opposite. It’s about distinguishing the difference and knowing when to make the right decision.

You mentioned your first album was about dealing with inner demons, so would you say that Dead, Everywhere is more empowering?
Absolutely. At it’s most basic level, it’s a record about growing up. Throughout our lives, people will tell us to “grow up” negatively as well as positively, but this record is about self-realization. It’s about empowerment, taking a stand. It’s saying “This is me. If you have a problem with it, then fk you.” That’s the overall message.

Working on this second record was a really big relief. I hope other people hear it and drop whatever it is they are doing that is making them unhappy in life and find what makes them live it to the fullest instead.

A lot of people struggle with really finding themselves. And once they do, many struggle with being OK with who they are and being open about it. This record is a good push. We want to tell people it’s OK to be yourself, and put yourself out there on an emotional limb. In all honesty, everyone is dealing with the same problems you are.

That element of real solidarity—you’re not in this alone.

The way you talk about Dead, Everywhere, specifically in comparison to your first album, Violence, is very interesting in light of the fact that (Beartooth vocalist) Caleb Shomo produced it. We had a conversation with him a few months ago about Beartooth’s latest album and he had a similar outlook. Much of their first EP dealt with inner demons, their second album more empowering and positive. It seems like that would make him the perfect fit to produce a Tear Out The Heart album.
Oh yeah. Absolutely. Caleb is a great dude, and it was an honor to work with him. He’s a good friend and even better producer. He definitely helped us harness our finer points and bring out the stronger elements in our music.

He told us that it was OK to be vulnerable. He was the mascot for imperfections and vulnerability. We went into it thinking, “Alright, we want to do so something meaningful, but we want this to be a really straight-forward record.” Caleb (got it) and definitely pushed us to open up more in our music and as people.

My personal tastes and background are a bit different than what a more traditional metalcore vocalist would bring to the table. I come from a background of grunge and punk rock, pop-punk and hardcore. So for me, it’s always been about emotions, it’s always been about putting yourself out there. And if someone doesn’t understand, then that’s fine. I’m not really expecting everyone to understand where I’m coming from.

But if someone does, then we have that common ground. That’s what’s strong. That’s what’s beautiful about music. You’re expressing yourself in the most vulnerable state you could possibly be in. And if you can find a group of people who can relate to that and have a common ground with them, that’s amazing.

I did put myself out there a bit on Violence, but I was much more concerned with the typical things. Does this sound good? Are kids going to like this? Is this going to blow up? With Dead, Everywhere, those questions couldn’t have been farther from my mind. Instead, it was, “This sounds right to me. This feels right to me.” It’s genuine, and if it does take off, it’s because people will love and respect the record for it’s genuine nature.

I came up in the Christian hardcore scene in a time where bands got onstage and were very vulnerable about their beliefs. At the time, and this has changed quite a bit, it was less about preaching and more about sharing what worked for you. If others wanted to latch onto it, great. If not, that was fine too.
If people laugh at us or turn their heads or whatever, I don’t care. I’m being myself and that’s all that matters. Like I said, Caleb really pushed us into being uncomfortable because he’s a big fan of vulnerability in music. And I think that place was perfect for this record.

Would you consider vulnerability to be Tear Out the Heart’s message?
Yes, absolutely. It is the same thing as being yourself. Growing up, I was a weird kid. I didn’t really fit in with anybody in particular. I had some friends who were skateboarders, some friends who were the goth kids and punk wasn’t really a big thing with the skateboarders in St. Louis. So I had to abide by some arbitrary rules, to change who I was to really make friends.

As soon as I got to high school, I kind of found the hardcore and metalcore scene — it was about being yourself. You could find other people who were probably searching for something very similar. And I thought I was growing up.

But you get wrapped up in the wrong stuff, and the music industry doesn’t really help. It’s a really tricky business to get involved in; it can really mess with your head. So working on this second record was a really big relief. I hope other people hear it and drop whatever it is they are doing that is making them unhappy in life and find what makes them live it to the fullest instead.

Speaking of vulnerability, tell me the story about you and your girlfriend and about the last six months you’ve had.
The record was done and ready to go prior to anything I’ve had to deal with over the last few months. It was a rough year — for a lot of people I know as well — and I can pinpoint 2014 as being the worst year of my life. I’ve learned some lessons from it, but I’m definitely looking forward to what’s next.

I had just come back from finishing the record. Honestly, I was in shambles already. We were having some inner turmoil as a band and recording Dead, Everywhere was a pretty lengthy, stressful process. We needed to take some time to ourselves and get our heads back after recording this monster of a record.

Shortly after that, my girlfriend was diagnosed with brain cancer. That was as much of a wakeup call as anyone could ever get. I thought I had a grasp on growing up was, but the diagnosis was a violent shove, full throttle, into getting my life together.

She’s been through two surgeries, she’s got one more, and she’s had all of the radiation and chemotherapy treatments. This has really pushed both of us to having a positive mental attitude in all aspects of life. We’ve been learning a lot about health and nutrition, trying to live a healthier lifestyle. We realized how disgusting the things we had been eating really were — you want to ignore it, you don’t want to have to grow up and deal with it, you push it off for as long as you can.

Her being ill was the breaking point. We’ve been doing the best we can to get our lives together, and we’re doing a great job. We’ve been much more open spiritually, turning to God. It’s not necessarily something either of us were shutting out, but when you’re a young, dumb kid, it’s the last thing on your mind. You want to focus on the band, or, “Is this song going to be the song?” or, “Is this tour going to work for us.” You just want to go out and get drunk with your friends and have a good time.
But there’s so much more to the world. You think you’re invincible.

In the end, 2014 was a wake up call, but she’s doing great.

That’s amazing and inspiring.
She’s healthier than she’s ever been. She’s healthier than me! There’s no doubt in my mind that with a continued positive mental attitude and our new way of living that she’s going to be totally fine.

What does “turning to God” look like for you? How does the spiritual aspect of your new, cleaner lifestyle look?
It just feels right, I guess, in the sense that I felt like I needed to abide by rules before but this record, being about opening up, allows me to live life to the fullest extent.

In the past, I always felt uncomfortable with religion. Like you said earlier, a lot of Christian bands and even major Christian organizations are being much more forceful and pushy with their beliefs. It doesn’t really seem genuine anymore.

I remember growing up with bands like Underoath. When they talked about God, it compelled me. It felt comfortable. It didn’t make me feel awkward. I don’t know when it happened, but sooner or later, it just didn’t feel right anymore. I never found the right group of people, the right beliefs. I came to terms with my personal belief system, that I could talk God when and how I wanted to, however it worked for me. I don’t have to do it on other people’s terms. I have nothing to prove to anybody. Because of that, I would never preach to anybody. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like something is forced on them, because that’s the worst feeling ever. The personal realization of God — coming to those terms on your own — is a really awesome feeling.

In a literal sense, you embody the end-of-year phrase, “New year, new you.” It looks like 2015 is going to be a big shift for you. Can you sum up what you want the next year to look like for you and your fans as Dead, Everywhere gets released?
Obviously, I want the record to reach as many people as possible, and, because it’s genuine, when it takes off and people get into it, it’s going to be the real deal. People are going to realize it’s not a gimmick, and it’s not just to be a “cool band.” It’s for the music and for the message we want to bestow on the world.

Tear Out the Heart was posted on January 5, 2015 for HM Magazine and authored by .