WE CAME AS ROMANS – Dave Stephens; Helsinki, 2012

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We’ve been hearing nothing but good things about the new American metalcore band sweeping the nation, We Came as Romans. On tour in support for their new album, Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be, alongside Alesana, the boys popped into Helsinki to play a gig on January 30th, 2012, and we managed to a get a few minutes with Dave Stephens to chat!

How has the tour been so far?

It’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun. All the guys are really nice in the other bands and the shows have been really great. It’s great to be over in the Europe area again.

Have you been here before?
No, never to Finland.

How do you like the audiences over here? How have they been treating you guys?
Very well. I’m pretty anxious to see how Finland’s crowds are. Tonight, I think it should be a pretty good show.

What do you think of the metal scene over in Europe as compared to other places you’ve been so far?
Europe it seems like is very much more into kind of the traditional metalcore, like As I Lay Dying and bands like that, I’ve noticed. Especially when we go to metal bars or metal clubs, they play a lot of bands like that. It seems like the American scene is starting to get into bands like A Day to Remember really heavily and kind of pop-metalcore sounds, whereas Europe is very into traditional kinds of metal. Like, I know In Flames is a really big band here and Meshuggah, things like that.

So, you’re on tour with Alesana, iwrestledabearonce, and Glamour of the Kill. How’s it on the road with all these guys?
Awesome, they’re all very nice people. Glamour of the Kill and iwrestledabearonce are people we didn’t really know very well before this tour and now I can say they’re some very good friends of ours. Alesana we’ve known for a few years and they’re awesome people as well. We have a lot of fun.

Have you had any Spinal Tap moments going on while on tour with these guys?
Ah, yeah, Dennis, a few nights ago, the vocalist/screamer of Alesana, decided it’d be a good idea to jump off the stage at the very start of their set a few nights ago and smacked his head on the ground and had to go get stitches, so that was kind of one of those moments. All night he was talking about, “I’m going to jump off this fucking stage and it’s gonna be crazy!” and then sure enough, he did it, and then boom, smacked his head and ended the set within about a minute of the start of it.

Do you guys have any pranks going on on the tour bus?
I don’t know about pranks, but, I dunno, we have a good time. Alesana, they love to party, and the same with iwrestledabearonce and a few of us like to party, so it’s been a lot of fun and beyond the partying it’s just fun to hang out with cool people like that and everyone has a great sense of humor, so we have a lot of fun.

Is it tough to be on tough to be on tour with so many people at once, or does that make it better, or how do you feel about that sort of thing?
I think a four-band package like the one we’re in now, I’d say it’s perfect, because you don’t have to really fight over the catering or fight over who gets the last Coca Cola or, y’know, there’s enough food to go around and the night doesn’t seem like it goes on forever. Like, we’ve been on 7-8 band packages. We played Warped Tour, which is an all-day kind of thing, and not that that isn’t fun, but I prefer a 4-5 band package like this. It’s nice, there are still a lot of people you can hang out with but it’s not too crazy.

It’s nicer to get to know people a little bit better.
Yeah, exactly.

Alright then, moving on from the tour, seems like your lineup has changed a bit since you were originally called This Emergency. How did the current lineup come together?
Basically, Josh and I started the band and we had this goal in mind, we had a lot of determination to get the band going, get it started, play lots of shows, and basically we kind of weeded out different people that didn’t have that kind of determination, didn’t have the work ethic we had. So, y’know, through a lot of member changes we came across the lineup we have now, where we all have similar goals in mind, we all have a very similar idea of what we want this band to be, which we didn’t have at the start. I think we’ve had six previous members [laughs]. But with this lineup it really helped accomplish what we wanted to do and it helps having six guys that all work very hard and have a good work ethic.

So where did the name We Came As Romans come from?
To be honest, our old vocalist came up with it and he thought it sounded cool, so we kind of went with it. We didn’t know the band would come this far, we didn’t know that people would care enough to ask us where the band came from. And we were all very young, I mean, I was seventeen or something like that, and we didn’t really know that a band name needed to mean something at the time, so to be honest, it doesn’t mean anything.

The first album was called To Plant a Seed and the second one is Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be. Is there any thematic connection between the two albums then?
Yeah, To Plant a Seed kind of tells how we got started, how we got to be where we were. It’s kind of the story about our band, the way we are as people, and it kind of lays out what the whole goal of our band is, what we’re there to accomplish. And Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be is kind of a continuation of that, where we realize not everything in the world is perfect, not everything is necessarily as awesome as To Plant a Seed made it out to be. We kind of got deeper into the music industry, learned more about it, realized that it’s hard to be gone close to 300 days of the year, it’s hard not to see your family, there are definitely struggles on the road, there are struggles in life, and it’s not all about being positive all the time, it’s kind of like, hey, things suck in life sometimes, you have to figure out how to get through them, you have to figure out how to get over them, basically.

There is a little faceless boy on the first album cover. Is that the same person as the one on the new album cover?
Yeah, because both albums tell, you know, it’s a continuation of the story that To Plant a Seed started, and yeah, as the little boy grows up it’s kind of the story of our band, like he realizes that not everything is perfect.

The lyrics on the new album seem to involve a lot of that struggle to overcome negativity and that sort of thing. Are there any messages that you are specifically trying to get out with it?
It’s basically, if you’re going through hardship, if you’re going through tough times, there are ways around it. There are ways to get over things, there are ways to work through things, and that it’s all possible with having the mindset like, I’m going to get through this, I’m going to get over this, I’m going to overcome this.

So you’re very positive people then?
Yes, we are. I’d like to think so.

The video for the first single, “Mis//Understanding,” is pretty crazy. Is there any story or symbolism going on there?
Yeah, the start of Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be, there’s a lot of confusion where it’s like the story is that we’re kind of lost and we’re trying to find what we’re here for. In that video, the kid that’s running around, he’s battling his subconscious. He’s kind of lost, he’s kind of confused, and that’s what that whole song is about. And then our second video, “Just Keep Breathing,” he starts to come around, starts to figure out what’s going on, starts to try and find himself. Then the third video, which is going to be for “Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be,” that hasn’t been released yet, is supposed to sum up the whole story.

Did you guys have a lot of input into making the video or was that a lot of director vision?
Yeah, we wanted the three music videos that we’re doing for this album to be, when you put them together, a sort of short film, because the whole record is a story and so we kind of wanted to do that with the music videos as well.

And the man covered in the mud with the hands groping?
Yeah, to be honest, I’m not the video guy, that’s more of our bassist. He’s very good, he does a lot of the graphic design. If you were to ask him these questions, he’d be able to explain it a lot better than me. But what I got from it is that that’s him battling himself, battling his subconscious.

So what’s in store for you guys in the future? Anything upcoming when this tour’s over?
A big goal right now for us is that we want to be a world band and we want to be known in as many countries as possible, so we’re really just focusing on going to new places, expanding the We Came as Romans fanbase to beyond just America and Canada. We’re trying to hit Europe a lot; this is our third time to Europe. We’re going to Japan for the first time after this, then we’re going to The Philippines for the first time, and then we’re going to South America for the first time, which is going to be very exciting and very awesome. So we’re definitely trying to establish ourselves as a world band. That’s a big goal right now.

Are you going to be returning to Finland for any summer festivals?
That’s something that we’re kind of tossing the idea around, maybe doing some festivals over the summer, but nothing has been confirmed and we haven’t announced anything yet.

Is there anything in particular that you’re really looking forward to?
I’m excited to go to some new places. This is one of the days I was really looking forward to on this tour because I’ve never been to Finland before, so I was very excited to see what Finland’s about, what Finland’s like. And of course, going to Japan and all those other countries I just listed, that’s going to be a very exciting experience. I’m looking forward to it, I love going to new places and I love learning about new cultures.

Have you learned any Finnish?
Yeah, I try to learn “hello,” “thank you,” and maybe “goodbye” everywhere I go. I didn’t know that – this sounds really stupid, it’s kind of embarrassing – but I didn’t know that Finland spoke a different language than Sweden, which is very stupid of me, so today we were at H&M and I bought a hat because it was really cold, and I said, “tack så nycket,” to the girl and she said, “…you’re welcome,” and I thought, oh, I did something wrong there, so I looked it up online in my translator and I realized, oh, it’s a different language. But yeah, it’s what, “kiitos,” right? And, I forgot hello.

You’ll get away with “hei.”
It’s hei? Okay. Cool. That’s all I know.

Alright, last question then: If you came as Romans, what did you leave as?
I don’t know, everyone always does that joke with us. [Mockingly] we came as Romans, we left as Greeks [laughs]. I don’t know. We left as, winners, I guess [laughs].

Sounds good. Thanks for the interview, have a great gig and tour, and it was nice to meet you!
Thanks, you too!

Text: Amy Wiseman

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