After laying low last year, Abandon All Ships have hit the ground running with their return to the music scene. The Canadian five-piece released their third full-length album, Malocchio, last month on Universal Music, which debuted on the American iTunes Rock Chart at number nine. With former lead guitarist Kyler Browne reprising his role in the band, the group is setting out to make 2014 their year. The Aquarian spoke with lead vocalist and forming member Angelo Aita about the direction of the new record, their Toronto roots, and the current metalcore scene.
Malocchio marks your third record as a band. How does it differ musically from 2010’s Geeving and 2012’s Infamous?
I think this album is a little bit heavier than the last two, honestly. But it’s still 100 percent Abandon All Ships. We wanted to go a little bit heavier and have some fun with it.
What were your influences during the writing and recording process?
To be honest, I couldn’t pinpoint any real influences. We just kind of went for it. Me personally, I don’t like to listen to too much music when I’m writing because I tend to get lost in what other bands are doing right now. So I try to relax and take time to myself, especially when I’m writing by myself. It makes me more comfortable.
I listen to a lot of strange music; The Strokes are my favorite band. Basically, that is where my musical taste lies, but it is hard gaining inspiration for heavy music from that. Sebastian [Cassisi-Nunez, keyboardist] really likes a lot of electronic music and Martin [Broda, vocalist/bassist] likes a lot of acoustic music, so they can probably gain some inspiration from there.
Since everyone has such different influences, is it hard to try to mix all of those elements together?
I would say it probably gives us positive creativity. It makes me feel good when I hear a song that I really like, and that inspires me to write in general. It’s not like, “Oh, I really like this part, I want to write something like this.” It’s more like, “I really love this album this band put out, so I’m going to listen to this and it is going to make me feel good and inspire me to put out a good record.”
Some of my favorite bands have nothing to do with heavy music. And same with the other guys as well. Maybe that is where our unique sound comes from, you know? We have a very broad, strange background (laughs).
“Malocchio” (pronounced “ma-lòc-chio”) is the Italian word for “evil eye.” Why name the record this?
I thought the concept around it was really cool. All these different cultures have a symbol of the evil eye, which means heavy jealousy. The symbol on the record is actually a hamsa. But the Italian symbol, which “malocchio” comes from, is a horn. We thought the artwork would be cool and is still relevant to the evil eye.
The band hails from Toronto. Do you feel like your Toronto roots affect the music you create?
Probably. We’re in a city where a lot of things are very trendy. It’s a very major hub and mixes all different cultures and blends of people. That kind of affects our music pretty well and how we try to mix it up. With Infamous, we tried mixing some hip-hop into the record, and this record is back to the heavy electronic influences and pop choruses.
I guess it kind of reflects us well being from such a diverse place. We all try to pay tribute in some way to some kind of Toronto thing in all our records. “Geeving” is a Toronto slang word for “who gives a shit” or “who gives a fuck.” And “Infamous” has a thing we wrote for Toronto, and the rappers in there are from Toronto. I scream “Toronto” in the song (laughs). There’s a song on this record called “Bloor Street West,” and that is actually one of the most famous streets in Toronto.
Any particular reason why you chose to name the song after it?
I live off of Bloor Street, and I was jogging to my house when I wrote this riff in my head. I sat down at my computer to record it and I named the pre-production track “Bloor Street” because I didn’t know what to call it. And it just kind of stuck. But the lyrics aren’t extremely relevant. The lyrics in the song are about broken friendships and stuff, but I can see how it could tie in. I could bullshit right now and be like, “Bloor Street is a big party scene, I’m sure a lot of friendships die on that street and girlfriends break up with guys.” But it’s not really super relevant.
Guitarist Kyler Browne left the band in 2011 citing personal reasons but returned last September. Why did he rejoin the band?
We all just started hanging out again and he was at a point in his life where he wanted to get back into music. He’s actually not on this tour right now; he’s involved with some girl and I think he’s tying the knot or something. I didn’t really understand it too much but I was like, “Okay, do what you gotta do, man.” He hasn’t left again; it was more so that he’s been busy. But yeah, he’s back in the band and it’s going well. We did a tour together, things are back to normal, and it’s fun.
But he is on the record, correct?
Did his return affect the musical direction of the album or the writing style at all?
If I can be completely honest with you, only Sebastian, Martin and I write the actual music. Kyler came back into the picture after the record was written as well. He’s an amazing songwriter, just we all decided that we work better as a small unit or else we get into way too many arguments. We just sit down with our producer or sit around with just us three and figure it all out. I recorded the guitars and wrote them for this record.
Electronic-infused metal is becoming much more mainstream in metalcore. Do you have any opinion or idea as to why?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s because people are starting to cash in and they like it. That’s probably why and that is why anything starts to become mainstream. Electronic music is very hot right now right so that could be a big reason.
Where do you see this scene evolving?
It’s hard for me to call. I mean, I play in the scene, but I’m not super involved in it. We’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve seen it go through stages of different popular bands and different bands breaking up and doing well. You never know. It could die tomorrow or it could blow up.
Electronic-infused metal aside, do you see a difference in the scene since the band’s formation in 2009?
Of course. I’ve seen bands like Attack Attack! come and then break up. I’ve seen different bands be on the top of the world and now they’re not really doing as well. I’ve seen it happen. I think it’s kind of standard with all music, but music does really shift through changes and different things become the new popular thing, like the revival of the whole “emo” thing coming back. You can never really know. I would have never really thought I’d come in for a long shot.
You’re in the midst of a huge headlining tour right now. How does the band prepare for such a tour?
We just make sure we have our shit together. We meet up the week before, we practice a bit, we make sure everything is running well, like the vehicle, and all the finances are in order God forbid anything happens. Sometimes things break down, sometimes people get sick, and those are the biggest problems I think being in a traveling band. You have to prepare for the unexpected, whether that be a broken engine or a broken voice.
After this tour, what are the band’s plans for the upcoming year?
We want to take it slow this year with the release of the new record. We did take the last year off, so it’s not so much that we need rest; it’s that we want to see where this record goes and give it time to build some steam. We’re not going to come back and do another U.S. headliner right after this one. I think we’re going to take a break, shoot some music videos, and obviously go on some more tours, but probably do some Canadian stuff and figure out the rest of the world.
Abandon All Ships will take the stage at The Stanhope House in Stanhope, NJ on March 5. Malocchio is available now through Universal Music. For more information, go to abandonallships.com.