Artist Interview: Flyleaf's guitarist Sameer Bhattacharya tackles the issue of singer-swap and where the band goes from here
Photo credit: Travis Shinn
Ironically for musicians, having an image is everything in the industry. They can make the greatest music of all time, but if the appealing visuals don’t match up with the attached sounds, it’s usually bye bye and don't call us in the morning. It’s shit, but it’s reality’s shit.
That’s why when Flyleaf amicably lost their lead singer Lacey Sturm it was an unsure future for the band because, while replacing a drummer or guitarist is usually easier, they had lost the comfortable front image fans had grown to love. To continue would be difficult, but continue it did, and is now on a run of shows supporting its new album “Between The Stars.” Flyleaf swings through Denver this Saturday, Oct 25 to The Summit Music Hall.
Flyleaf guitarist Sameer Bhattacharya says that the change was surprisingly effortless and new singer Kristin May has been nothing short of compelling in the rejuvenation of the hard rock act. It’s a move that assures plenty more years ahead for everyone involved.
You guys are in this weird position where fans hate losing Lacey as lead singer, but are absolutely adoring Kristen …
Dude she is phenomenal …
She is! Bands don’t often have to go through losing their lead singer, how did Flyleaf approach it?
I think we went through every kind of discussion about what was going to happen from then on. We talked about everything. Do we want to go on? If we go on do we wanna continue with Flyleaf? Well, can we start a new band? Do we go on as a four piece? Will me and Pat start to sing? Will we even have a female front? Or do we want to go male? All these things, we talked about every possible situation. We went through a lot.
Certainly when you lose somebody like that you have to tailor songs a little differently, not necessarily change your sound, but build around what she’s capable of.
You know what’s funny? We’ve never had to. We play exactly like we always did. She’s so good she just goes with it and delivers.
It seems like you dropped her in and she ran with it?
Absolutely, it was seamless. Not only performing the old songs, but starting to write for “Between The Stars” it was just so easy. The ideas she brought to us were awesome and the ideas we presented to her, she’d make it her own. We work so well together.
Bringing in this dynamic, does it feel like a new band or the same old, same old?
It feels like we still have ten years behind us, but also feels like rejuvenation. We have that same feeling and excitement and energy of when we first started. The excitement of music and the message we’re sharing, and performing again, it’s rejuvenation.
With songwriting, do you write songs as a teacher of ideas, or more as students participating in the industry?
I feel like we’ve always kind of been both. A huge thing with Flyleaf is we wanted to emphasize the fact that we’re all on the same playing field. There’s things we’ve learned that you’ve learned. There’s nothing that we have realized, or whatever, that other people haven’t. It’s just about that boost and encouragement to pursue the things they’ve always known were true.
Do you find that you’re connecting with a younger audience or are they fans who’ve grown with the band?
We definitely are. I’ve seen a much wider audience! It’s hard to put an age range to the new fans we’re making. It seems like it’s just a wider audience and definitely people who have never given Flyleaf a chance seven years ago because we were too intense or too metal. Kids that loved us because of the heavy riffs still love us because of those (past songs).
There’s still that intensity but there’s accessibility on “Between The Stars” that I think was absent from the previous records.
When we talk to rock artists it’s about fifty-fifty of them wishing rock was as popular as it used to be, or they see this crazy resurgence in the genre. How do you see it?
I see a little bit, yeah. I see a little bit of resurgence, sure. There’s a need, I would say, and a craving for real instruments again and that raw sound of untuned vocals and dirty guitars and live drums - I think more than anything, as long as the music and the songs have a raw energy and have some sort of raw emotion that conveys or evokes emotion in you, or a certain feeling that takes you somewhere. I think songs like that will always do well.
Genres, they’re all so intermingled now and each genre is bleeding on to the next. All the lines are blurred. It’s a beautiful thing because now there are no real parameters for what defines rock music anymore. The rules are open and we can do whatever we want.
The Internet has given harder music more of an appeal to fans overseas, it’s more accessible now than ever. Have you noticed Flyleaf’s fan base has broadened, or gotten many requests for overseas performances?
Yah, we do get a lot of requests. Sometimes it’s difficult to get over there with scheduling. We’ve done it in the past for sure, we’ve squeezed it in, but it’s difficult with routing. We want to do a real tour in South America, and a real tour through South Africa, and Australia and Southeast Asia, instead of festival dates and the short spurts that we do. That’d be awesome to have substantial time there.
Making a tour now is necessary to keep bands afloat. Was the current route in the states very calculated to make it as long as possible?
Touring is imperative. If you’re a band you have to tour. There’s no other way around it. You can try and finesse and caress the social media world, but if you really want to have any kind of longevity and a really strong substantial fan base you have to tour and you have to tour consistently.
Are you finding it’s harder now than before?
A little bit. The reason being we’re getting older so we’re married and babies are being born and it’s getting harder to leave the house for longer periods of time.
With the new album you did some crowd funding. Some artists are against it, some are for it; was this avenue one you knew all along you’d take?
It wasn’t something that we knew we were gonna do. The movement is so genuine and so grassroots that it seemed like a perfect thing for us at the time to engage fans with what we were doing on an intimate level.
Christian was like knitting them scarves and Pat was making custom art. Those fans got something really special. He’s a world-class artist. We did studio hangs at Capitol Records in Studio A and that was the coolest experience for me having fans in the room listening to raw recordings, raw unfinished recordings of our album, and hearing their opinions of what was going on and what they wish they would have heard and having that dialogue. It was a really special experience.
You’re coming to Denver on Saturday the 22nd, it’s an area where rock always does so well and bands love it. What say you?
Denver is one of my favorite places. Favorite places man! The weather is beautiful, the people are just amazing and yeah, the rock scene has always been so cool.
Well the weather is 80 degrees today, but we won’t know by Saturday. We’ll try and keep it nice for you.
If it’s bad I’m blaming it on you!