Interview with Life Of Agony: The Return

Life Of AgonyDelirious with fever, Keith Caputo declared to the audience, “I don’t think we’ve played Roseland Ballroom in 10 years!” If you count the time Life Of Agony wasn’t a band, he’s right.

It was a shockwave felt throughout the heavy music community when LOA, then on Roadrunner Records, called it quits after the release of Soul Searching Sun and departure and short-term replacement of Caputo, but perhaps nowhere stronger than in the band’s home: New York.

I picture Hardcore Brooklynites taking to the streets in teary-eyed fits, clawing at their faces in an attempt to cope with the reality of the situation. “No more LOA? Might as well move to Jersey.” I for one, one already living in Jersey at that, was more than relieved when the band decided to give it another go.

The two Irving Plaza reunion shows became the CD/DVD River Runs Again, released on SPV. More sets followed. Three sweaty, hundred degree August nights at the Birch Hill. A short U.S. tour. Starland. Hellfest. European festivals. The opening slot for Mudvayne that brought them to Roseland. On and on. Still, what everyone had been keeping their fingers crossed for was what would come next.

A new album.

I remember at the Birch Hill, they played a video before the band came on stage in which they speculated as to what a new Life Of Agony album would sound like. Caputo, in his soft-spoken, contemplative demeanor, said he would want to capture the viciousness and the tenderness of the band.

Two years later, with the release of Broken Valley, the mission is accomplished. The record not only is a forward movement in the ongoing evolution of the band, seemingly uninterrupted by their split and reformation, but it encapsulates perfectly the aforementioned duality and puts on a threshold the intense emotional honesty of the music.

From the hurried pace of “Love To Let You Down,” the first single, opening track and first song the band wrote after their reformation, to the NYC-era Lennon-esque piano ballad “No One Survives,” to the sheer acknowledgement of their roots in the title track with the admission that “this Broken Valley is a part of us all,” the album is a triumph of the creative spirit and a shining example of the moving power of memorable, meaningful hard rock when so well executed.

I was fortunate enough to get the chance to talk with guitarist Joey Z., bassist Alan Robert and drummer Sal Abruscato on the bus, just before they hit stage that feverish night of the Mudvayne tour.

How does it feel now that you’ve made the transition from ‘the reunited band’ to ‘the working band?’

Sal Abruscato: It’s a great feeling. We didn’t want people to be under the impression that it was some spoof or that we were gonna milk this reunion thing bone dry or anything like that. We really wanted to get cracking and make a new album, stick with it for a while and see where it goes.

Joey Z.: It’s been great. It’s exceeding our expectations everywhere we go. We went to Europe and did some sold out tours and stuff, sold out shows. We played some killer festivals with some great bands.

Everything’s been going great. The writing of the album was a lot of fun. Instead of being a stressful process, it was actually fun, really rewarding. It was a good learning experience too. Everything’s been great all around. Can’t complain.

Alan Robert: Pretty much what these guys said. It’s been a great journey too. Behind every corner, you never know what’s going to be. It always seems like something good is coming next. Sometimes there’s hurdles you gotta overcome, but it’s a positive thing.

What was it like resetting your priorities to be in this band again?

AR: For me, personally, it was a big change. I was working a nine to five job, but I think this is what I was meant to be doing. To leave that wasn’t such a big deal in the grand scheme of things. If anything, that was like the temporary situation before I came back to what I was supposed to be doing.

JZ: It was a major relief for me. Although I was still in the music industry and making records and stuff and touring, it was kind of a rough road. This was, like Alan said, coming back home for me. I kind of feel like myself again.

I felt a little lost for a while. A lost puppy. Didn’t really know who I was or where I was going. Now I feel very strong again, very confident in this band and what I’m doing now, in my decision. It’s really great. Feel really solid.

You guys seem to have started over with a head start. How do you think the reunion shows helped set the tone?

SA: It helped us out by exposing us to a whole new crowd that never even knew we existed. These kids are really young, 15-16, they were infants, toddlers when we were touring back in the day. And these kids, they grew up when the band was gone, and they look up to bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn and stuff like that, and they see us, and in many ways, we’re starting over again, but it’s a great opportunity because we’re winning these kids over one by one.

That’s the future. It’s nice to try to win over new fans and get this monster to grow a little more. It’s the right thing to do because it’s the only way to get new kids. Bands that headline forever just play for that same crowd over and over.

JZ: And on this tour, it’s been a challenge because we’re kind of the oddball of the bunch. We’re more of a rock band with melodies and all of this stuff. All the bands are great, don’t get me wrong.

Great guys, great music, it’s just we stick out a bit, and I think, especially the ones who don’t know us, like Sal was saying, they’re like, ‘What the hell’s going on?’ at first. Some of them don’t even want to hear it, they just want to see their band. It’s been a little bit of a rough road, but I think we’ve learned to deal with the crowds, and I think over the last few weeks we’ve learned how to win them over, like Sal was saying. Slowly and surely, if we walk away from the shows winning over even 100 kids out of however many, still, we did our job that night, and that’s 100 new LOA fans.