The Color Morale have always been a band with a steadfast message to its adolescent fanbase, full of hope and resilience that has garnered the ink of song lyrics on fans’ skin. While the band toured in support of their esteemed 2013 release, Know Hope, they found time to write an album explaining the stories of fans during their travels.
On Hold On Pain Ends, The Color Morale’s lyrics aggressively capture many of the issues teenagers and young adults deal with today. From depression to suicide and eating disorders, the album tackles a number of troubling problems, but evokes a sense of confidence through both the words and music.
The album’s melodic riffs, thrashing breakdowns, and highly-produced sound still retains the band’s creative and musical talent, but strays nearly completely away from the aggressive, heavy music heard in early The Color Morale albums. This may be a step in a new direction for the group, but they effectively take a unique approach while adding mainstream elements to their sonic repertoire.
From the lineup changes to the label switch, frontman Garret Rapp has been through it all since the band started in 2007, and underwent his own vocal transformation, molding his voice into one of the most unique in the metalcore genre. I got a chance to speak with Rapp as he just returned from a summer on the Warped Tour about the grinding summer schedule, Hold On Pain Ends, and what’s next for The Color Morale.
First off, you just finished up your first Warped Tour. How was the grueling schedule of shows a challenge for the band?
We’re pretty lucky. I mean, it is a pretty demanding schedule tour physically and emotionally, and we got the opportunity to be on a bus. A lot of bands kind of have to rough it on their first Warped Tour and tour in a van and play far away stages, and we were fortunate to play on an awesome stage and have a really easy traveling experience. Touring in a van is nothing new; I mean, we’ve done it for eight years, so to do a tour to the magnitude of Warped Tour, and do it comfortably, was pretty awesome.
How was the response from the audience?
It was insane! Very overwhelming. I guess you don’t really understand when you’re creating a new album or coming off an album release, you don’t really know where the band is going to be when you’re home, so by the time you get back on the road and connect with your fanbase, and you see the response from the songs live, it’s very overwhelming. We had a massive crowd every day of the week, and hundreds of people singing our songs back to us, so it was pretty awesome.
How does the songwriting on the new record, Hold On Pain Ends, differ from last year’s Know Hope?
Know Hope was a very personal record. It was a very raw and organic record, where we kind of went against the norm of what was popular at the moment and kind of just went our own way, really. It was very personal to me; it was something I did for myself lyrically, and kind of made my life an open book. Now with Hold On Pain Ends, that’s the collection of what I gathered from touring the last record for a year.
I spend a lot of time being accessible for kids, hanging out at merch and talking, being on social networks all day every day, just really making myself connected to kids. So the songs on this album lyrically are what I wrote basically after observing everyone for the last year. The album tackles a lot of things that are extremely prevalent in today’s post-teen, adolescent years, with things like self-harm and suicide issues, eating disorders, addiction, internal struggles, a lot of detrimental things kids are going through right now.
The sound on this album is much more refined. Can you describe what the band was trying to capture musically?
This record is a lot more straightforward. A lot more focused songwriting, a lot more structure in the songs. I mean, there’s only one song on this 12-song album that isn’t a verse-chorus track. We still got creative, but these are very lyrically-driven songs, so we wanted to pull back the reins and make more structured songs, more anthemic songs with big choruses. Lyrically-driven songs were the focus for this album.
It’s difficult for a band like The Color Morale because we’ve hit so many spectrums of our genre and what we’re doing, so you’ll have a fanbase that latches on to one particular sound so tight, and then, for us, I always want to push the envelope, for ourselves personally and try new things. Especially from the second to third album, there was a pretty dramatic change in vocals, and I don’t even know if I want to do the screaming thing in the next album. I don’t even know; just go by how we feel at the time.
I think if you’re settling too much on one particular sound, then you’re not challenging yourself as a musician or an artist. So that was the goal for this record, making very focused songs, very big structured songs.
Hold On Pain Ends features guest vocals from some big-time metalcore frontmen, but the album also features a group of The Color Morale fans singing the final chorus on the last song. How did that experience come about?
The last track was kind of an idea that I had. We knew we wanted to make an acoustic track. Kind of something we’re going to be doing more in the future is making more acoustic music, stripped down and raw deliveries of songs. I am always thinking of unique ways to involve our fanbase, and I consider The Color Morale’s fanbase a support system. They are people that I need in my life more than they think they need me, so this was a unique way to involve them and have them actually be a part of our record.
I know for Know Hope that consisted of hundreds and hundreds of Color Morale tattoos made into a collage for the album art. This was just another unique way to involve people even one step further; actually have them be a part of our song.
It was roughly around 30 people singing the last chorus of the acoustic song. It was about the most people we could fit in the studio we were working in. Fearless Records gave us a really cool platform to do that. They had a concept of a contest, where people got involved, and they hand-selected people from the L.A. area to sing-along on record. It was a really cool experience, not only for them, but also for us, for having an opportunity to involve people on our actual record. It’s pretty cool.
You have so many creative opportunities to do things like that. That whole day was just such a cool experience, from having kids lined up outside the studio gate and just making that experience so unforgettable for them and in doing so it was the same for us. Those are the things that I would love my favorite band to do and I would do anything to be involved in, so why wouldn’t we do something like that?
If anyone wants to check out that video, just go on YouTube and type in “Hold On Pain Ends studio update.”
The album has a definitive rhythm and flows really well. Was there an emphasis on song order?
We had different emotional points that needed to be touched upon on the record. Music kind of gives the record its platform for the connection emotionally, and the lyrics speak from the platform. With this album, we wrote songs with ideas of what would be first and what song would be the interlude track, which would obviously be a middle point, and instead of going out with a heavy track as the last track, I wanted to go out with the complete opposite, like have a really organic track as the last track. I already have ideas for the next album of things we can do that we haven’t done yet.
Having an open-ended album with a message like “Hold On Pain Ends,” I kind of felt like the real stripped down, raw, emotional feel of that song summed the record’s meaning in its entirety. The record flows great, I love it. I feel the same with Know Hope. There’s this ebb and flow, push and pull struggle through the whole album, and that’s synonymous to what the album is about, so I think it works really, really well.
Were there any unforeseen circumstances during the recording and producing of Hold On Pain Ends?
We worked with a new producer on this record, Mike Green, from L.A. There’s always that first few days where you’re feeling each other out, both as an artist and producer. It’s very difficult for a band like us because we’re extremely hands on—we’re not one of those bands who shows up in a studio with a song and a half done and expect a producer to write their album for them—but Mike helped us a lot, dramatically, with songwriting, with structure… That was the focus for this record: structure.
Up to this point I think we only ever had like, two songs that had a chorus repeat three times, and with this record that happens all over the record. Making structured songs was the focus for the album. So, to go into the studio barely knowing a producer, then meeting him and completely trusting him with your art is always unsettling, but it was cool. Within the first week we really connected and ultimately there’s a reason we went to Mike, because we knew he was capable of doing what we wanted to do and letting us be us, but also enhancing us and turning it into another learning experience and growing experience as an artist. It was awesome, we loved working with Mike. He really pushed us and helped us make something really special.
You released a few singles off the new album during your Warped Tour stint, but are there any other songs you’re excited to debut live?
It’s funny, because there’s always two or three songs with a record that you just hate, you don’t like. I think every band can say that; there’s certain songs they won’t ever play live. With Know Hope and Hold On Pain Ends, I love every track. I would love to play every track live. I try to sing a good half hour to an hour a day, and with both of those records, I sing-along to every song on the record. I love every song on it.
For me personally, I’m really excited to play “Developing Negative,” the song with Craig’s [Owens, Chiodos] feature on it; that’s probably my favorite song on the record. But even the songs that are not per se what I would be doing if I had 100 percent creative control of the band, they are still songs that I love. Every lyric on this record has a meaning and a point, so yeah, I love every song off this album; I’ll play them all. Hopefully we can do a 10-year reunion tour one day and play the whole album, start to back.
Since you just returned from touring and are awaiting the release of a new album, what have you enjoyed during your time off and what do you look forward to?
What’s time off? With a new record release there’s so many things to do, especially since we just signed to Fearless Records and they are so punctual and hands on. They’re always coming up with new and creative ways to connect to our audience and our fanbase, with anything from designing a new website—which is happening as we speak—to making these videos, there’s just a million things to do all the time.
It’s good, because it keeps me busy. It keeps me from letting my mind wander, so I love it, but we just got home from Warped Tour and had I think five days off between making the new record and Warped Tour. So this is that phase in an album cycle where you really don’t know what to expect. I try to never expect anything so I’m never let down.
We’re doing another tour with We Came As Romans, starting on September 11th, and then we do Europe with The Word Alive after that. So it’s awesome, we’re staying busy and ultimately I don’t really have a home anywhere, so being on the road is kind of home. It’s exciting to have some down time between tours, but ultimately, I’m excited to go home.
Are there any unannounced NJ/NY tour dates upcoming after Europe?
I’ve heard a few ideas of a tour to wrap up the year and every idea I’ve heard is pretty awesome, so I’m sure before the year’s out we’ll be back there and if not, we’ll be on the road all next year touring on this album.
The Color Morale’s new album, Hold On Pain Ends, is out now on Fearless Records. For more information on tour dates, check out the band’s new website at thecolormorale.net.