You’ve heard of the Whopper Virgin, but the guys from A Plea For Purging just found out that their producer, the much-sought-after Joey Sturgis, was like a Taco Bell virgin. It wasn’t exactly his first trip to the “think outside the bun” fast-food chain, but let’s just say that Sturgis was more a Golden Arches kinda guy. “We had to, like, talk him through a couple things with Taco Bell,” explains vocalist and frontman for the Facedown Records metalcore band, Andrew Atkins, “and we made him get a Volcano Taco, because we were all way stoked on the Volcano Tacos right now and the lava sauce. That was a really good time.”
We had a Taco Bell party the other night, where he took us all out to eat at some Taco Bell and it was really funny, because I don’t think he eats Taco Bell all that often. He’s really into McDonald’s, so we had to, like, talk him through a couple things with Taco Bell; and we made him get a Volcano Taco, because we were all way stoked on the Volcano Tacos right now and the lava sauce. That was a really good time.
I’ve got a couple of dumb questions here: First of all, do you think or do you like A Plea For Purging to be filed under the “A’s” or the P’s in the record racks?
I like the A’s personally, just because, like, it’s what I think of as our band, I think of it as A Plea For Purging. After they started doing the itunes with the Ps and everything, I thought it was kind of weird. I prefer the A’s, I guess.
Not many people have taken their body size and run with it as you guys have. What are the thoughts behind that? What kind of reaction do you get and how have you enjoyed or not that whole aspect of things?
I guess, like… To be honest, it’s like taboo in the music industry – or maybe like in any kind of media and stuff to be overweight or fat, you know? And, without, like, naming any labels or anything like that, I heard early on, like, in other bands that I was in and even when we first started shopping for this band that my weight was a problem and that would need to change to get anywhere in the music industry. So, being that where, it’s not like we’re blowing up or we’re huge or anything, but we’re kind of showing that odds or whatever doesn’t mean anything to us – that we can do whatever we want, despite how fat I am. Instead of it being some taboo thing, where it’s not cool to be fat, we just decided we’ll put it in front of everybody’s face and we’ll market it and make fun of the fact that, you know, I’m a fat dude in a metal band and I’m having a good time with it. It’s been cool. I’m not ashamed of who I am, so I don’t care that we’re, like, talking about being fat or putting me as the image of our band or anything. It kind of started out as a joke to make a couple shirts, but it seems like my face and my characteristics have become somewhat the logo or the face of A Plea For Purging, you know?
That’s awesome! I love, you know, rooting for the underdog and I love people that go against the grain and I love people that are happy for who they are, because, you know, I think that’s how God looks at things. He loves us and made each one of us unique, so that’s just awesome that you wouldn’t, you know, cower in fear to the weird fickleness of the world out there and the messages people send. That’s awesome.
Well, tell me how this new album is going, what it’s feeling like to you and what kind of experiences you’ve had in the recording process so far.
We’re really stoked. The record’s called Depravity and we took off about the middle of August ‘til the end of the year to really put a lot of work into this record. We feel like the first record, A Critique…, we feel like it was really rushed. We signed with Facedown and they were really, like, “You guys can do whatever you want. You can put it out early in the year and try to get it done before the year was over with or we had the chance to wait until this year to put out the record and we just really wanted to get the record done, so we basically didn’t have enough time on the last record and we got it out too quick and we weren’t prepared. Not that we’re not proud of it. It didn’t turn out as good as we wanted. So, with this record, we just really wanted to put as much time and as much thought into it – lyrically, spiritually, musically. So, we took some time off and our bass player’s parents own a lakehouse in New Concord, KY. It’s like the smallest little blip on the map. It’s so small, but we got away from everything and lived in this basement of this lakehouse for, like, three months and just wrote all day every day. Wrote more songs than what we needed for the record, so we could really pick and choose the best songs for it. We think we’re coming out with something really good. The lyrical content and direction that the record is going is a lot different than the last record. We’re really trying to touch on topics that we feel like Christian bands as a whole don’t really speak about, including ourselves. Like, on the last record and everything we’ve done previously. It just seems like it’s really easy to sing about, ‘Oh, how good God is’ and the normal, like, spiritual warfare stuff, but God always prevails, which is true. Our God is huge and He’s big. But this record talks a whole lot about actual sin and actual things in our lives that we’re battling and the feelings that we have against other people when their sins seem to make their way into our lives. It’s just like, it was a very emotionally-draining process to try to write the record, because we wanted to be as honest and true as possible on this record, and really help talk about our lives and there’s just so much in this record that’s…you wouldn’t say there’s a lot of admitting fault and admitting sin in this record that you wouldn’t just walk up to a random person and talk about the sins in your life, but we feel like as Christians that’s what we’re supposed to be to each other. We’re supposed to be open and able to talk about our lives with each other, so that we can hit that next step, which is accountability. So, that whole record is basically about life without God and where you take yourself alone in your little dark places. It’s all about finding yourself in depravity. So, maybe that wasn’t the question you were asking for, but that’s kind of what the record is about. Right now we’re in Connersville, IN, at Foundation Studios with Joey Sturgis and he is making this record sound so heavy. That’s one thing we were wanting to focus on, too, is getting a little bit heavier in the musical aspect. We’ve tuned down. We used to play in Drop-D. Now we’re Drop-B. We’re trying to play a little bit heavier music and just really have a whole different feel and mood to this record than we did on the last record.
In particular, what are some of the themes or songs on this album that you’re really stoked about – besides what you already talked about, with confession. Are there some specific songs or two that kind of express what your’e really glad you’re putting out there?
We have a few songs that really touch on hiding your sin, hiding who you are from your family and friends and just a little bit about our band. We’re five guys that live together all day long, every day, like 300 days a year we’re together. And it’s crazy how you can be so close to each other, but yet keep such a distance in your own life. We really had this turning point mid-summer this year, where we had to really get some things right internally with our band and our relationships together and decided, if we’re gonna be a ministry, we’re gonna be five Christians that are in a band together that are trying to reach other people, we have to, first and foremost, be honest and open with each other. So, there’s a couple songs that are really about that – that are about growing together as a band and about being honest with your friends and keeping your friends closer than your enemies. A couple of those songs, “Prevaricator” is pretty much about that. There’s another song called “Miss Anthropy,” that’s pretty much what that song is about. The title track of the record, “Depravity,” is pretty intense. It’s pretty much about feeling like you’re all alone and feeling like God’s left you and that you’re… No matter what any Christian says, there’s been a time in their life where they’ve questioned their relationship with Christ and questioned God’s existence. I think if you don’t do that sometimes, there’s something wrong – you’re not challenging yourself and you’re not growing and understanding why you say you have this relationship with God. “Depravity” is really just about feeling alone and feeling like God’s left you, when really you realize that you’ve left God, that you’ve turned your back on your relationship with God. I don’t know. That’s just a couple topics that we talked about on the record.
Cool. It’s pretty awesome that you had a chance to write songs for three months. I’m curious as to how that went and how you were able to choose some songs over the others and how hard it was, maybe, to let go of a song.
At first off, it’s like a blessing, for sure, to be able to have that much time. Like I said before, we wrote the last record in two or three weeks and this record we had, like, three months. We seem to have a problem with just writing riffs and riffs and riffs and then putting them together and they just sound like a bunch of riffs in a song as opposed to a song. So, at first it was really hard to get back into the mode of writing, because we tour so much that basically all our minds are just focused on touring, being on the road, playing the songs that we have. So, when you go from doing that from 280 to 300 days straight and then you have to hit this totally new mindset of, “Okay, now we’re creating,” it’s just kind of weird for us. It was seriously such a blessing to really hash out songs and we went about this record a lot different, from starting it from Blake, our guitar player. He’s basically the primary songwriter when it comes to music. He kinda hashed out a ton of riffs and a ton of songs and wrote it on a computer a lot with some drum programs, where he could get a vision for the song before he actually brought the song to the band. Then we’d take the song and play ‘em as a full band and all the guys would put their influence in musically and things would change. Blake would go back and re-write the song. It was really a lot of going back and forth to the drawing board, per se. Basically, it came down to we wrote well over 12, 13 songs for the record and we decided to use 10 of them. We were going for a 10-song record, originally, but we just decided to try and do some extra songs. What it came down to: we had about 10 songs that we thought at the time were pretty solid and we thought that they were going to be good songs, but our drummer, Aaron, had actually wrote a couple of songs on his own that he wasn’t really too sure about bringing to the band, but we started working on them after we had already had ten songs written and thought that both of his songs turned out a lot better than a couple of the weaker songs that we had already been practicing and playing. Lyrically, a couple of the other songs weren’t as great and, just structure-wise and music-wise weren’t just up-to-par with the other stuff that we’d been doing. Plus, we’ve kind of went a heavier direction and we’re still trying to do our metal stuff that we’re kind of known for, but we started writing a little bit different – a little bit heavier, so there’s a couple of songs that really stuck out, that sounded like old A Plea For Purging, as opposed to the newer stuff that we’re going for. We didn’t want to have a record that wasn’t cohesive, so we just kind of threw out those two songs.
How was it working with Joey Sturgis? And can you tell me any stories in particular that kind of describe or exemplify what it’s like to work with him?
It is such a good time. I mean, we’d heard so many different things and didn’t know what to expect. Then we got here. At first we thought it was going to be like … at first we felt like he was not talkative or shy or meek or something, but I don’t know. It seems like we didn’t way hit it off at first, but lately it’s been really funny – super good times. He’s just so fun to joke around with. The other thing, as far as the production and music side of the studio, it’s sounding great. I don’t think we’ve ever had drum tracks sound as good as these drum tracks do. We’re right in the middle of tracking guitars and vocals, kind of flip-flopping back and forth. It’s for sure the best-sounding guitar tones we’ve ever had. Today is my first day tracking vocals. He’s been very funny. I personally hate tracking vocals more than anything ever. I love being in a band. I love touring and what we do. I hate tracking vocals. It’s been a pretty good day so far. Joey’s really easy to work with. He’s really funny. If you screw something up or sound horrible, like, he’s not afraid to joke about it and kind of tear me apart, but not really, ya know? Really poking fun. We had a Taco Bell party the other night, where he took us all out to eat at some Taco Bell and it was really funny, because I don’t think he eats Taco Bell all that often. He’s really into McDonald’s, so we had to, like, talk him through a couple things with Taco Bell; and we made him get a Volcano Taco, because we were all way stoked on the Volcano Tacos right now and the lava sauce. That was a really good time.
I hope we’re doing okay having you talk during your break of tracking vocals.
Yeah, I’m sure we’ll be fine. I’d be in there trying to crack jokes if I wasn’t on the phone with you…
What do you look like when you’re tracking vocals? Are you closing your eyes? Are you spitting on the microphone? Is there a microphone screen? What are you thinking when you’re in the booth? Take us through. Get us in your head while you’re tracking a song today.
This is definitely a lot better session than I have most of the time. We’re so much more prepared this time. Normally, when we’re tracking a brand new song, there’s so many things I have to focus on. I have to focus on pronunciation. There’s screaming and everything. I guess there’s different styles and some people don’t really pronunciate and some people do. We really feel like, if I’m going to be screaming really loud, I want people to be able to understand it. Maybe my mom’s not going to get it, because she doesn’t listen to screaming, but we want kids to really be able to … within the first time or two listening to the music, we want ‘em to understand the vocals. Pronunciation is super key. Tonally, I don’t feel that I’m one of the best vocalists in our scene or anything like that. I feel very mediocre at best. I feel like I focus on my tone so much, like, ‘Man, am I screaming this low enough?’ Or, ‘Am I screaming this part high enough?’ We do a lot of stops. I really get everyone else involved and ask them to really pay attention, that ‘This isn’t my band. It’s four other dudes in our band have just as much say about my vocals as I do, I feel. So, there’s a lot of stopping and okaying certain tracks with everybody. ‘Did you like this take? Do you like this tone?’ But this session has been really cool, because we got to do some pre-production and demo out all these songs before we came in with Joey, so we spent a lot of time talking about that kind of stuff, like, ‘Am I going low here? Am I going high there? What’s the phrasing of this part and that part?’ It seems like there’s a lot less to think about on this actual recording, because we’ve already demoed it out and I pretty much know what I’m gonna do. It’s just really focusing on the pronunciation and the tone. So, it’s been cool. I guess I probably close my eyes a good amount. I’m basically just standing in this room all by myself and I’m used to standing on a stage, looking at kids, getting energy, with kids jumping up and down, dancing and stuff; so, it’s weird to try to recreate any sort of feeling or mood that you have live. So, I close my eyes a lot. This time around we’re working with a different microphone than I’ve ever worked with before. I’m getting to hold it, which is cool, compared to standing in front of a pop screen thing. So, that’s been really cool. It’s called a Shure SM-7. It’s a pretty cool microphone. That’s been sweet. That feels way sweeter than standing in a room by yourself and just yelling real loud into thin air, ya know?