Born from the brains of Joey “Chicago” Walser and Blake Allison and formed in 2012, Devour The Day is living proof that from every end comes a bright beginning. As part of the driving force behind Egypt Central, Walser and Allison found themselves at a major career turning point when two of the band’s former members decided to call it a day. However, the duo fought on and broke out on their own, writing and producing music without compromise. What transpired is an amazing 13-song compilation entitled ‘Time and Pressure.’ The debut album was released May 7 on Fat Lady Music and showcases the talents of these multi-faceted musicians as their powerful songwriting paints vivid pictures in the minds of listeners. The first single from the album, “Good Man,” has taken radio by storm and continues to amass them new fans. Devour The Day’s music is filled with the distinctive Egypt Central heavy beats and guitar riffs fans know and love (their self-titled and ‘White Rabbit’ albums spawned the Top 15 Active Rock hits “You Make Me Sick” and “White Rabbit,” respectively, now a key element of DEVOUR THE DAY’s true core.) They’re the driving force of such songs as “Get Out Of My Way,” “Blackout,” and “Respect.” This powerful wall of sound embodies the perseverance of these two artists, no matter the circumstances. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Joey “Chicago” Walser to discuss the genesis of the band, the blood, sweat and tears behind the creation of the album, what they have in store for music fans in the months to come and much more!
Let’s go all the way back to the beginning. How did music first come into your life?
Honestly, I remember waking up every Sunday and knowing it was cleaning day at our house because of how strict our dad was. The only thing wonderful about those days was that he was going to jam Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Eagles and stuff like that throughout the entire morning! [laughs] I would just dance in my room, jam out and push everything underneath my bed instead of cleaning! That is one of my first musical memories!
What was it about music that made you want to pursue it as a career, instead of following a different path?
It’s funny, we were just talking about that on the way down to practice. I remember being at a stage in life, about 14 years old, where things start to strip away and you realize how the world is. It was around that time I realized music was one way that I would never have to fall between the guidelines of the suit and tie, 9 to 5, ants marching thing, which I never really had any interest in. I thought my way out of that was the music. At that point, I didn’t realize there is a business side to the music business side of the music business. I just thought I could jam out and smoke pot all day, it was perfect! [laughs]
Who would you cite as some of your biggest influences as an artist?
Some of my biggest influences early on were 311, Rage Against The Machine, Pink Floyd, Bill Withers, Jim Croce and some other singer/songwriter stuff that I was into at the time. There was even some cheesy stuff like La Bouche! [laughs] I can’t believe I just said that!
For those who may not be familiar, your latest project is Devour The Day. What can you tell us about the origins of the band?
Blake [Allison] and I had been playing in Egypt Central for a decade. At the beginning of 2012, we got a call from our singer. He had decided, due to personal reasons, he was not going to be able to continue touring, traveling and being a musician. It was very unexpected. At first, Blake and I were devastated because we had put so much work into Egypt Central and we didn’t really know what we were going to do. We started writing songs. That is something we have done since we were kids to deal with situations. The music and the writing process are very therapeutic. We got to a point during the process of writing this music where we started to realize that with Blake singing, there was this incredible sound and possibilities. The possibilities were very outside the box of what we could have ever done with Egypt Central. As we started to mold the first three or four songs, the band really started to develop itself. Off of that, we got some significant interest from some people who wanted to back the band and the label called Fat Lady. We had worked with them before as Egypt Central. It seemed like a really great place to have a second chance at it. We are very adamant that Devour The Day is not a side project, this is an extension of everything we have ever wanted to do! It is wonderful, for Blake, because the process of writing the songs as the two of us and John [Falls] would come in and replicate what Blake and I had done for him. Now, it is more true to the process of how the music was actually written. Since a lot of Egypt Central’s music is about Blake and I’s life, so it is really fulfilling to be able to have this new music and to be able to release it. It is very close to our hearts. Obviously, we were dealing a lot with the end of the first band and all the things that had happened but the other great thing was that Blake is a terrific producer. He engineered the record himself and co-produced it. We had the ability to set up a rig inside my living room. We recorded 90% of the record, before we went in to do the final touches with Skidd Mills, at my house with my kids running around. The vocals to “Good Man” were literally sung in my living room with the front doors open on a fall day! It was one of the best recording experiences of my life. It was so true to what we wanted to do. We didn’t having one influencing us by saying “That isn’t radio enough…” or something like that. We wrote the music we wanted to write and it was very, very fulfilling.
What can you tell us about the songwriting process between Blake and yourself. Is there a formula you use?
There is no particular pattern. I think most of our success in songwriting comes from open creativity. We want to be able to throw any ideas from any influences coming at us from life. You change so much from month to month, you always find different things influencing you. Usually, it just starts with a specific conceptual idea. For example, I might have a lyric idea or Blake might have a riff idea, a drum part or a specific live rhythm and it flourishes from there. The songs, the way in which they are created, we like to keep as different as the songs. I feel if we had the same structure, we would keep writing the same songs.
The debut album from Devour The Day is called “Time & Pressure.” I am sure that title has significant meaning for you.
Absolutely! There is the obvious meaning of both those words and how they are the inevitable forces that keep moving regardless of life, death, tragedy or anything else that happens in life. Those consistent parts of life just keep going and I think there is an element to the idea of being as strong as time and pressure and continually moving on. Then there is also a Stephen King book that they made into a movie called “The Shawshank Redemption.” In that movie, the main character, Andy Dufresne, essentially sums life up into time and pressure. It is a key line in the movie. We just felt we could really relate to that character. Andy Dufresne crawled through a river of crap to come out clean on the other side. I feel like Blake and I can relate to the innocence of being in a situation that wasn’t cohesive to the happiness of our lives. I really believe Devour The Day is the cleanliness on the other side. Like I said, we find it really fulfilling.
With that said, it is safe to assume the band name itself holds a lot of meaning to you as well.
Yeah. We had so many ideas for a band name. You have all these ideas about what is going to sound cool and what is marketable. At the end of the day, Blake and I both felt we wanted this band name to be something that, every single day when I wake up, pushes me just as hard as the first day I heard it. It isn’t something like “Sky On Fire,” “Two Rabbits Running” or some other pointless name. It is literally a challenge for us every single day when we wake up and makes us realize we are part of a project that essentially means “Carpe Diem” — seize the day. If I don’t do that, not only will I let myself down but I am letting other people who are influenced by this music down. We just knew that using Devour The Day would provide us with a kick to our asses and inspire us to continue to work hard.
When you first started out on this new project and to make this debut album, did you have expectations in mind?
To be completely honest, I went in with complete fear and insecurity. You never know how people are going to react. This time it was different. In the past, I felt like Blake and I could always hide behind the fact that we were putting John out front to take the blunt of the criticism, as well as the glory. At the same time, this is very close to home and the lyrics of this record are as honest as Blake and I have ever been, not to take away anything from Egypt Central because I have incredible memories from that period in my life. We had wonderful times and our fans were some of the best people I have ever met! I just know there was an opportunity as I got older to delve even deeper into the subject matters that would be relatable to people on a core level. I feel we have really accomplished that on “Time & Pressure.”
For those who may not have had a chance to hear the music yet, how would you describe it sonically?
I would say we focused a lot more on the rhythm section. First and foremost, this band started with a drummer and a bass player, so it is very rhythmically driven. Egypt Central was more of a guitar band. We started to move away from that in order to really expose our ability to write rhythms and write them well. We were also exploring the simplicity of making solid songs, as opposed to these huge conglomerations of guitars and whatever. There is also a larger focus on the lyrical value in what we are doing with Devour The Day. We make the lyrics and the vocals a very, very important part of the band. We are sitting here at practice and it is so cool to be jamming and hearing Blake on the mic and playing guitar. It really shows his true musical capabilities. Devour The Day is a bit heavier at times than Egypt Central. I think people will really, really dig that. I think people will really dig that we are using double bass for the first time in our careers, so there are some very cool patterns and rhythms that happened because of this new addition of drum style.
How many songs did you guys create for this album and was there anything that didn’t make it on there we might hear in the future?
Absolutely! There are four unreleased tracks we have in the vault. We wrote 50 ideas and were doing a lot of pushing together. We had some really specific song ideas we had written the year before, in the middle of the falling out with Egypt Central, that came to us. Blake and I have been friends since were were 17 and have been working together for 12 plus years. It felt very natural for it to be just him and I. It really clicks and is an awesome experience.
You had time to look back on the entire process of launching a new band and creating an album. What do you consider the biggest challenge in the process of putting “Time & Pressure” together?
I would say the biggest challenge thus far has been coming to terms with the fact that one chapter is ending and a new chapter in our lives is beginning. I think when it first happened, we wanted to see if there was a way to salvage Egypt Central. As we started to write the record and explore the different musical styles, we realized there was something more, something bigger here. We had doubts. We wondered if people were going to take Blake seriously as a singer. We wondered if they would take another band seriously. I mean, if it is a one in a million chance for a band to make it, what are the chances of your second band making it? Ya know what I mean?! There is a rare group of people who have two bands out there, it’s your Corey Taylor’s and Dave Grohl’s who have two successful bands. I think there may have been a shelf that we hit with Egypt Central and there is an ability for Devour The Day to go beyond where we were before. As scary as it was, it was a big turning point for us — having the courage to say “We are going to start over.” We knew that meant going back in a van and going out as humble as we can. We wanted to re-approach this whole thing with a smarter and more organized approach. Everyone has been showing us such love. It has been a real blessing to have that in our lives after all our hard work.
Absolutely. You guys chose “Good Man” as your first single. What made you pick that particular song as the lead off track?
It paints such great picture of why we named the record “Time & Pressure,” has such a great intro and build feeling to it, an epic classic rock feeling and then drops into this almost Rage-esque [Rage Against The Machine], best of the ‘90s music that I grew up on. I think there is something about that song that separates us from the normal Active Rock track that is very cookie cutter, chain wallet and bandana wearing bullshit that’s out there. We wanted something different and unique and I feel like that song does a great job of doing that.
The cover art for “Time & Pressure” is pretty intriguing as well. How did that image come about? It is very eye-catching.
Thank you! It is a pretty wonderful story about the power of the Internet. I searched for literally three or four weeks. It was hours and hours of combing the Internet looking for images that spoke to me. Deep within the webbing of Deviant Art, I found this young Russian artist from Uzbekistan named Dmitry Ligay. He had this incredible art style. It took me a few days to contact him. We ended up talking over Facebook where we discussed some ideas and what we wanted the images to look like. About a month later, he sent us over these beautiful pictures! It was a very meant to be type of feeling. I mean, I met this guy who lives on the other side of the world and his art really connected to us. We really wanted to have our own art style, in the same way a band like TOOL has Alex Grey or other artists that are attached to certain bands and create the imagery. We wanted to have that element for the band, when you see that style, you think of our band. We wanted to have that uniqueness. I feel like Dmitry Ligay really fulfilled everything we wanted in that realm.
Obviously, you are just gearing up to bring Devour The Day to the people. I am sure touring is something you are looking forward to!
Absolutely! We are in rehearsals now for our upcoming shows. We kick off our first show ever in Trent, Michigan at The Machine Shop. They have been so wonderful to us in the past with Egypt Central. It is really a blessing to start out there on that stage. Then we will be doing some shows with Buckcherry and Pop Evil. We will be hitting the road with Hinder in June. July brings the possibility of a lot of other great tours that will be announced. It is time to tour and let people see the band! I am really excited for the live presence of what we do. We are taking the same delicate approach to make sure it is just as badass as anything else we have ever done. I am really excited to get out there and crush some skulls again, ya know!
You are no stranger to life on the road. How do you approach that part of your life differently now, as opposed to your earlier years?
Oh yeah! I don’t drink anymore! [laughs] It is a lot different. I have two young children. You get to be a certain age and the inevitability of life, death and all the things within, you start to the about your legacy and what you are leaving behind. I had that moment of realization a few years ago when my children were born. Since then, everything has been about their future or writing the songs that will ultimately be that legacy. I am really, really happy about that. I am looking forward to getting out on the road, meeting the people and talking to the fans. I want to see what they are feeling. I have really become friend and family to the people who follow us. I am really excited to get out there, hear those stories, hear where people are at and know what is going on in the community of the people who are listening to our music. I couldn’t be more excited to be perfectly honest!
Having done so many shows over the years, have you had your “Spinal Tap” moment yet?
Oh my God! Yes, yes I have. I have had such strange moments throughout my entire career! The one that stands out the most is when I was playing a show in Tallahassee, Florida. It wasn’t that something went wrong but we were in the middle of a song and I saw a guy just throwing down. He was losing his mind and was holding something in his hands and I couldn’t quite make it out. He was head banging and all of a sudden it was clear he was handing me something. He was outstretched toward the stage. As I got closer, I realized it was his right leg. He wanted me to play with it! He had taken off his prosthetic leg and was hopping on one foot. He handed me the leg and I proceeded to do the rest of the song playing with his leg.
I have to tell ya, that is one of the stranger answers I have gotten with that question!
Yeah, that was a pretty amazing moment in my career as far as strange stage activity!
Obviously, you have come a long way in your time in the music industry. When you look back on your career so far, how have you evolved as a musician?
There is a quote that I heard and it has really stuck with me over the last few years — “It takes a great musician to move a crowd with many notes but it takes a true master to move that same crowd with one.” The power of the songwriting has become so much more important than proving to everyone how great of a bass player I am or whatever my ego might slip in there. I realized the only thing that matters are the relationships that are created between the songwriter and the person listening to it. The song and the integrity of the lyrics have become the driving force for both Blake and I. I think we have really evolved to the point where we can write any kind of song. That is great because we shouldn’t be stuck in one genre. We can write anything that we want about whatever we are feeling. I feel secure in that now and it feels really great as an artist!
I feel people can truly look to you for inspiration. What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to those looking to pursue a career in the music industry?
Get educated! Don’t assume the guy who manages whoever is interested in you and is going to do it all for you. You may think, “Oh, this guy books these bands and he is going to do it all for me.” No one is going to do it for you like you will. You have to understand every aspect of the industry. Go to the stores, read books about the laws and how the music business works, find out how much money these major labels really take from you! Then decide if it is really all about jumping on a major label. You have to get educated and realize that musicians have the power. Musicians have the power if they are fearless and take the long road to make it happen. I think that is the best advice I could give anyone. Do not give up and get educated!
Just one more question for you and probably the most important one in a lot of ways. Is there anything you want to pass along to your fans who are anxiously awaiting this release?
Honestly, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. If it wasn’t for you guys, we wouldn’t be having this chance. This is what I feel like I was born to do and you are the people who give me the ability to do that! I am forever grateful. I also want to extend the invite to come party with us on tour! I can’t wait to see you all on the road!
Thanks for taking time out to talk to us today. We are really looking forward to spreading the word on all of your hard work!
Thank you! I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. It is great to met you! Thanks so much, Jason!
To keep up with the latest developments with Devour The Day, visit their official website at www.devourtheday.com. Connect with the band on social media at www.facebook.com/devourtheday and www.twitter.com/devourtheday.