Interview with Brian Carrigan (Guitars) and Dewayne Clifton (Vocals) By The Grim Lord
Oklahoma City’s Curse The Fall released their latest EP Symbiosis just before the end of last year and just in case you weren’t aware, the band is a definite recommend for bands of modern rock like Drowning Pool as well as some of the heavier stuff like Nevermore and mid-era Machine Head. I spoke with the band about their origins, the new disc, some influences, a few tour stories and of course, their experiences in the world of geek culture!
First off, let’s talk a little about your act and its beginnings. What were the early conceptual days of the band like before the debut of Aphelion? How did you get from there to this point?
Brian: We initially began this band as an incarnation called Lock 17. They had been around for a couple of years opening for national acts, and making a name for themselves in the OKC scene. Around August of 2013, a friend of mine and drummer that I had previously worked with asked if I wanted to try out to be the lead guitarist in Lock 17. That drummer was Jerry Gulley who had just joined Lock and was the initial drummer for CTF when we first sprung from the ashes of that band. I tried out for Lock 17 and got the gig. A month later, I played my first show with them as direct support for Saliva. That incarnation continued for approximately a year with the apex being opening for Motley Crue in OKC and a week later travelling to LA to play the Whiskey-a-go-go on a Friday night. Upon returning from LA, the last original member of Lock 17 as well as the bassist at the time, decided to leave the band for various personal reasons. The former individual stated that we could use the name, but we opted to start a completely new chapter with a new moniker. We had the personnel and material available to keep going albeit in a heavier direction as none of us were particularly crazy about the sound of Lock 17, as it was more of an accessible sound on the hard rock side of things as opposed to metal. Enter my best friend and longtime bassist in other projects, Nick Cebalo, to fulfill the lower end duties. Our name originated from the time of year when Lock split up. It was fairly devastating on many levels, our personal lives were somewhat a collective imbroglio, it was fall, and it seemed like there was curse on us as everything kept falling apart. That’s how we conjured the name Curse the Fall. It seemed right during this formative time of the band to name it that. That being said, the four of us began vigorously rehearsing the material we had in Oct of 2013, and we played our first show as CTF in February of 2014, only five short months after the dissolution of the previous project. Surprisingly, we have had a pretty stable lineup in CTF with the only member leaving being our previous drummer. Bill Stephens is our drummer now, and has been for eight months. He has really reinvigorated the group as a collective entity.
What was the writing and recording process like for Symbiosis, and what did you want to improve upon from Aphelion? There are dozens of variations on this album; it shows a great deal of musical diversity.
Brian: The writing process for Symbiosis was fairly similar to the writing process of Aphelion. I write the initial skeleton of the song with the riffs, and basic structure including programmed drums for reference purposes. I then demo the songs out with my DAW and email the mp3’s to the rest of the band. Dewayne and Bill live about an hour and fifteen minutes east of OKC and Nick and I live in OKC, so this process works out fairly well with the distance factor. Dewayne composes the lyrics and melodies at home, and Bill will have ideas for drum parts that he wants to do to make the song come to life. When we get in the room to practice, the final arrangement of the songs presents itself to us through the collective bouncing back and forth of ideas. As far as what we wanted to improve on, we knew that we wanted to go in a heavier direction, yet still maintain hooks that (hopefully) climb into the listener’s head. This process was basically automatic as we knew what we wanted to do and how to do it. The songs basically wrote themselves. We also knew that we needed to improve on the production value of the music. With Aphelion, aside from “Halfway” and “The Deal,” we recorded, mixed and mastered the entire thing on our own. The sound on Aphelion was decent, but we wanted to take it to the next level on Symbiosis. We decided the best course of action was to have Provo Provenzano of Everybody Panic record the drums and vocals for “Race,” “Over Time,” and “Seasons.” He is a professional audio engineer when he is not on tour with Everybody Panic. The soundscapes (“Symbiosis” and “Symbiont”) were created by our bass player Nick who recorded all the original samples himself, and then used his DAW to manipulate it into what you hear. I engineered the guitars and bass on the record. The acoustic track, “Dirt Road” was engineered in my home studio with me behind the console. When it came time to mix and master the main part of the album, we chose to work with Eric Greedy who used to be the in-house producer for Capitol Records, and who previously worked with Fates Warning, Smashing Pumpkins, Hurt, Body Count, et al.
Let’s discuss influences. As I said in my last question, there are so many different styles on this album, ranging from hard-hitting metal to more accessible radio-rock. You sound like so many different kinds of bands on this one, so it’s not really something that you hear often.
Brian: Our influences are completely all over the spectrum within the band, and I think that’s why we sound the way we do. Nobody seems to know how to classify us here in the scene (Laughs). Nick and I come from an extreme metal and punk background, although I am very much into mainstream bands as well. I love everything from Sulphur Aeon to Rotten Sound to Sisters of Mercy to Killswitch Engage to Lady Gaga to Tori Amos…and everything in between. Nick is the same way. Both of our musical palettes are extremely eclectic. I think one of my main influences, as far as songwriting is concerned, was a local band from OKC back in ‘95 or ‘96 called OWL. They opened for a lot of nationals coming through, and I used to study the guitar player / singer’s riffs, and the way he approached chord structures. It was a very unique approach for the time in my opinion. I still jam them constantly. Randy Rhoads is by far, my main guitar influence. Studying his playing taught me how to be fluid with my soloing, and how to approach the instrument. I know that Dewayne is heavily influenced by Myles Kennedy, Jesse Leach, Layne Staley and Lajon Witherspoon. Bill is also from a heavier music background, and enjoys the divine sounds of the almighty Slayer a great deal. If I were to have to say / guess what our overarching influence as a band is, I would have to go with Alice In Chains.
Dewayne: We take that question as a compliment! It’s hard to not make every track sound the same. Most bands that you listen to after the 3rd or 4th song, you get a feel of what’s going on. Since there are so many different influences in this band, it helps a lot.
I’m a vocalist and lyricist myself, so I know that the words are just as important as any other part of this album. When you write, where does the inspiration come from?
Dewayne: I tend to write a lot concerning my own emotional life experiences. In addition to that aspect of my own creative process, I also strive to incorporate what I see occurring in other people’s lives as well when it comes to harvesting lyrical content. When I see troubles, pain, love or inspirational things in someone’s life that impacts me, I write about how that makes me feel, or what I think they are going through.
From my press info here, I can see that you’ve played shows with some of my favorite bands growing up. I’m in my thirties now, but still remember jamming out to Dope, Soil and that first Drowning Pool record a great deal. I’ll bet you have some great tour stories about the time you spent with some of these acts. What did you learn from them, if anything?
Brian: To be honest, the stories I have of performing with those artists aren’t very glamorous as I never met any of them. They’re usually pretty busy on their tour buses, and don’t appear until its time to play. Some of their crews have been pretty rad people though, and have given us pointers and tips. The tour manager and the guitar tech for Terror Universal were extremely cool and professional with us, which is a rarity and very appreciated. Logan Mader and all the folks from Once Human are super awesome people to work with!
Dewayne: I think the most important thing we’ve learned is that you have to always bring your “A game.” You only have 30 to 45 min to impress a crowd when you’re opening for those types of bands. You begin to realize from watching artists such as Drowning Pool or Gemini Syndrome that you have to become a different person on stage, just like an actor. Also, be prepared for snags and mishaps on stage and learn how to deal with those situations. When you’re a professional band, people usually will not notice the “hiccups.”…and believe me, they happen to every band. Last but certainly not least, always have fun, and let people see that. Some of individuals we talk to after shows state they really enjoyed watching us because it’s evident that we love what we’re doing.
The Grim Tower’s mission is to merge music and geek culture, so we want to know what kind of geeky stuff you guys are into. What kind of things do you really geek out on when you’re not playing music?
Brian: I have a serious addiction to purchasing records. I absolutely love going to record stores and spending hours flipping through the bins to find rare first pressing of gems from bands that nobody remembers (Laughs). I’m also heavily into watching historical documentaries or anything to do with science. I rarely watch or read any other type of television or books respectively. Our bass player Nick is actually a Brony (My Little Pony fan) and travels to all the conventions across the nation. Nick is also into acquiring vintage music platforms. He currently owns a working original Victrola.
Thanks for answering my questions and best of luck with your future efforts! You rock!
Brian: Thanks for the interview, man! We’re filming a video for “Race” tomorrow, so we’re stoked to get it out there for everyone to see it!
Curse The Fall’s latest EP release Symbiosis contains a mish-mash of metalcore and radio rock that should really find itself on commercial radio sooner, now than later. The production might not be as polished as several mainstream label acts, but I don’t feel that the performance reflects that, and it feels like a totally listenable experience from beginning to end. Obviously, this is not death metal or anything remotely extreme, but that isn’t to say that the effort isn’t lacking because it has mainstream appeal. “Race” comes in hard and heavy, very much in the vein of furious metalcore, while “Seasons” feels more suited as a radio ballad, along with “Over Time” which reminds me a little of a light-hearted Tool or Chevelle with some more rough-edged moments in the harsh vocal efforts. “Dirt Road” almost feels more ritualistic, making me think of a combination between Alice In Chains and Sully Erna’s solo albums. While definitely in the vein of mainstream rock, there is certainly some promise to be had here and I’d recommend it to rockers and metalcore fans everywhere.
Purchase HERE (Bandcamp)