Michael Orlando spent the better part of 15 years cutting his teeth in a plethora of ambitious metal bands, while carving out a unique niche as an artist. It wasn’t until the birth of VAMPIRES EVERYWHERE that he finally spread his wings and blossomed creatively. However, the road to creating his musical vision has not been an easy one as he has faced more than his fair share of roadblocks along the way, personally and professionally. Those challenges fueled his creative fire and led to Vampires Everywhere’s most ambitious album to date! Serving as the much anticipated follow-up to 2012’s “Hellbound and Heartless,” “Ritual” was produced by Matt Good [From First To Last, DRUGS], and mixed by David Bendeth [Bring Me The Horizon, Paramore]. Over the past several months the band released three powerful singles from “Ritual,” “Black Betty,” “Perfect Lie” and a cover of Hozier’s breakout hit, “Take Me To Church” (featuring Alex Koehler of Chelsea Grin). The songs offer a look into the sonic growth of Vampires Everywhere and the depth of the powerful new material. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Michael Orlando to discuss his journey as an artist, the challenges of bringing “Ritual” to life, his musical evolution and what the future may hold for this artist on the rise.
I want to start by asking you about your early years. What are some of your first memories of music and what role did it play on the artist you became?
My mom always listened to bands from the Woodstock era and she introduced me to music pretty early in life. I always wanted to be a part of something like that, whether it was music or acting. My first concert was Phil Collins with Genesis. After seeing that, I was pretty amazed by the whole process. Later on, I got into my punk phase and stuff like that. Currently, I have been listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails, hip hop and EDM, so there are a lot of different things that sculpt what I am doing now, for sure.
At what point did you know music was a path you had to pursue professionally?
There comes a time in your life, when you are playing music, that you have to make that decision of whether you will pursue it full time and put all your eggs in one basket. I found that out around 18 years old and I have been touring for the last 14 years with different bands. It has been a rollercoaster ride for sure!
What went into finding your creative voice early on as an artist?
Most of the stuff I write about centers around revenge. It is kind of an anger outlet for me and a way to get my feeling across without having to state them directly. It has helped me both in my life and musically to have this outlet. The basis for everything for me is trying to feel something from an experience and that is what I’m interested in doing.
Vampires Everywhere has popped up on many people’s radars due to the last few singles you released in support of the album “Ritual.” For those just discovering your work, tell us about how you got to this point and how your past informed what you are doing today.
It is more of a failure thing. If you fail enough at something, something eventually clicks. That is what happened with Vampires Everywhere. We got signed on early, six years ago, and things began to progress fairly quickly and the path is kind of laid before you. We had a little bit of a break, a two year break, where I was trying to find myself. I had a really toxic relationship and that led me into restarting the band again and putting all of my hopes and dreams into this to make it a reality.
Were you able to achieve your creative goals with this album?
It was all about becoming a better vocalist and a musician and creating something I, as well as my fans, would listen to in the car. It has been a crazy process to put it all together but I feel we are at the right spot.
How does this album compare and contrast to what we heard from you in the past?
I think the major differences in this album is the quality and the melodies. We had a great team on this with producer Matt Good (From First To Last). I really bared down and tried to put a lot of hooks into it and a lot of clean melodies, which I feel have been lacking in the past.
How did you and Matt Good originally cross paths and what does he bring to the table for a project like this?
I have known Matt for quite a while. I knew him from his band, From First To Last. The rock community in Los Angeles is very small. Everyone thinks it is a big thing but it is not, it’s very small. Everybody knows each other or knows someone who knows someone else. We hit it off early on. I felt like Matt had the ear for what I was trying to achieve, a transition record from where I was to what I am doing now. I think he really encompassed that and did a really great job with this album.
What can you tell us about your songwriting process? How has it changed and how has it stayed the same?
It has stayed the same for me over the years. It is pretty consistent and I am pretty in the box with it right now. I kind of have Matt write something based on what I want. I then take that structure and write lyrics and melodies to it. I will send it back to him and we will continue to go back and forth until it is something close to the original vision. Then I will go to the vocal production guy, which is in Wexworth over in Salt Lake City. We will go through the melodies to make sure they are tight. It is a bit of an ongoing process to make the song the best it can be with what you are working with. This album is the closest I have come to something I am really proud of. I can listen to it and be happy. There are three or four tracks that I am really excited about.
They say you are your own worst critic, so it sounds like you are doing pretty well.
Which of the songs are resonating with you the most at this point in time?
It is weird, “Perfect Lie,” “Violent World” and “Ghosts Inside My Head” are my favorite tracks, mainly because, lyrically, they make me smile or feel terrible. Anything that sparks feeling in me is what makes a song great for me.
In writing the way you do, from the heart, was it ever difficult to bare your soul to the world in that way?
It is always a difficult process. It just depends on how you want to do it as a lyricist, as to whether you put yourself into a story, are metaphorically speaking or talking directly. It is always putting something directly in your music because you have to sing it every day and it brings back those memories. It is a terrible process if you want to put your life on the line with the lyrics. I tend to do that a lot because I just don’t have any other outlets. I have a lot of trust issues but you can always trust music and the lyrics to follow through.
What challenges have you faced as the driving force behind Vampires Everywhere?
There are so many challenges. When we started, we were on a label that didn’t know what to do with us or what to do with the project. I kind of relate it to Marilyn Manson. In the beginning, he almost called it quits because no one understood what he was doing. It only took one song to click it all together. It is one of those things in music, especially with hip hop and pop dominating everything, where there is a fine line in rock ‘n’ roll as to where you stand. It is a very small, cliquey world of musicians and bands who tour with each other and leave everybody else out. We are almost like the misfits. We are the weirdos. I pride myself on that but it is also a challenging place to be when you are trying to bring something back or make something work again. It has been an ongoing process, for sure.
You spent much of your life touring and performing for crowds. I don’t think a lot of people realize what goes into a live show. What can we expect from you these days and what goes into bringing it all to life?
It is a pretty taxing experience, man. It all comes down to money. From the rehearsals to the stage props to the dancers to the crew, it all costs money. It’s like playing in a hockey game when you are growing up, you need all the gear in order to play. That is kind of what it takes to just get on a tour. For our upcoming tour with Filter, our agent had to negotiate and we had to be in a good spot. There is a lot that goes into the process of being in a band and, you’re right, I think a lot of people overlook that for the whole rock ‘n’ roll glamor parts of it. It takes a lot of work and thinking about what is cool and what’s not cool, what’s real and what’s contrived. We are always going back and forth on that. What you can expect from us this time around is a lot of melody. Most of the people who have seen our band in the past have seen the harder, more aggressive side of it. We still have that but you will definitely see a more musically oriented side of the band on the Make America Hate Again Tour with Filter.
Although “Ritual” is new to fans, you lived with it for awhile now. Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future?
I see myself getting a little more electronic. I am not a giant fan of rock currently. I think it is boring and cheesy. A lot of rock music being put out today is something I just don’t get at all. I think people are starting to catch on to it as well. Gene Simmons says rock is dead right now. I don’t know if it is dead but it is definitely not alive. It will be awhile before it reforms and comes back. When it does, God only knows what form it will be in but hopefully it will be more ‘90s oriented, where rock was actually fun.
Looking back on your journey as an artist over the past decade and a half, how have you most evolved?
I am so absolutely insane. I thought I would settle down or calm down as I became more of an artist but I have found I am out of my mind. I do certain things to push the limits. Whether they are dangerous or not, they do happen. I self-sabotage myself a lot of the time just to feel something as an artist and it just keeps getting worse. Hopefully, it will level off somewhere as things progress with the band.
Are there misconceptions about yourself or the band at this point in time?
For sure. We are rebuilding a brand that was tainted due to timing. We came out during the reign of “Twilight” and people misinterpreted the name. I have had very bad lineups and very bad people involved with the project along the way. It became so toxic, I feel now we are removing the poison, if you know what I mean.
So many things can be said about the music industry today. On a positive note, what excites you about the current state of things as an artist?
It is always exciting to be a part of music but if you are in the middle of it all and your friends are doing it as well, there is really only 1% of people who are making a fair living off of it. It is kind of like we are all in the minor leagues and are hoping we will be drafted. It is very interesting, if you look at what a rockstar is. Some people look at what I do and say, “Oh, Michael is a rockstar.” I guess for most of the people in the world, that is how it would be looked at. However, for that 1%, people like Imagine Dragons or Sam Smith, it is a different world completely. That is always the goal, to get as big as you possibly can and reach more people.
What is the best thing your fans can do to support you as an artist?
Right now it’s just speaking positive words. If you talk about our band positively, I think that goes a long way. That seems to be what is happening lately. We hear people saying, “They have a really cool image. They are really nice guys. They like to party and do whatever … ” I think that is starting to catch up with people spreading the word positively and listening to the music.
You have seen ups and downs in your career and learned a lot along the way. What is the best thing we can take from your journey?
Don’t give up, no matter what! There are always going to be people in real life that will try to pull you down and they will be the closest people to you. Unfortunately, in this industry, you have to keep your enemies close and figure a way through it all. Calculate your moves, that is what you can learn from me. Never give up, calculate your moves and watch who’s around you.
Great advice! I know you’re a huge fan of “Lost Boys” and that is where Vampires Everywhere got its name. I hear you have quite a collection of memorabilia. What can you tell us about it?
Oh man! I have endless posters and a lot of fans send me real, authentic stuff! I have an authentic comic book from the movie in my house. I have film cells, action figures, signed CDs and cassettes. It’s endless! Actually, I had the pleasure of hanging with Kiefer Sutherland at his house. We got drunk together and I got to ask him all about “Lost Boys” and it blew my mind, man! But yeah, if you go into my house, I have a little shrine. Hopefully, Kiefer never comes here because he might think it is a little weird because he is all over my walls!
I am currently sitting in my office surrounded by “Lost Boys” stuff as well, so I can relate!
[laughs] That is awesome!
Thanks so much for your time today, Michael. Keep up the great work and we will be spreading the word!
Thanks, Jason! Take care.