An Interview with The Word Alive: Burning On

Since the release of their third studio album, REAL., last June, The Word Alive have been touring relentlessly, riding the high of its greatly positive reception. The popular metalcore band—vocalist Tyler “Telle” Smith, lead guitarist Zack Hansen, rhythm guitarist Tony Pizzuti, bassist Daniel Shapiro, and drummer Luke Holland—have set standards high with their incessant guitar riffs, unbeatable drumming and genuine lyricism. As the five-piece’s nonstop touring begins to come to a close, frontman Telle discusses album reception, dealing with online criticism, and what’s coming next.

Your last record, REAL., was released about a year ago. How has fan reaction been at shows now that they’re better acquainted with the album?

The new songs have surprisingly done very well. Some of them in particular have been the best crowd reactions we’ve ever had. We’re pretty stoked about that. Overall, every time we put out an album, it’s a learning process because you get one step closer to understanding your fans, understanding what they like, and what we like and what we enjoy playing to have a balance. It’s been great with the fans really as a whole. Our headlining tour and some of my favorite shows we’ve ever played, just getting to showcase new songs.

REAL. is a mix of some of your heaviest songs with more melodic ones, and reception has been great. Did you guys expect that when you released it?

We knew we’d have some people who would hear “Light House” and be like, “What the fuck is this?” But we also knew we had 13 other songs that covered the bases of heavy and technical, and a majority of our other songs have more screaming than singing in them. But we are a band that likes to experiment, and a lot of people forgot that our Deceiver, which is usually the album people reference the most, it’s really the album that put us on the map I guess you could say, but our only true non-screaming song is on that album and they loved it.

And it’s funny now releasing something five years later reading some of the negative comments that we have. We knew we’d get those just because the longer you do this there’s always going to be fans who are a fan of a particular album, but we try to do our best to make an album that all of our fans can like. We want every fan, obviously, to love every song, but that’s just not possible and you just cannot please everyone. So when we get something negative we really try to focus on the positive side.

The Internet can be a free-for-all for negative comments. Do you guys try to avoid reading them, or do you just brush them off and keep moving forward?

We brush them off. I understand that there’s going to be that. Most of us have definitely read a lot of comments and YouTube stuff. YouTube is where they are the most ballsy, for whatever reason I guess. But as a whole you need to have people like that because half the time they still come to your shows. Fortunately, people who are talking shit about your band are sometimes the ones who spread your band the most. So we just let them say what they need to say because it’s going to happen anyway.

Some of those same people come up to us, shake our hands and say, “Awesome show,” and they would never say it to our faces. None of those kids have ever once said anything straight to our faces like the way they do online. And that’s probably true for any band. I mean, sure, you always have that heckler in the back like, “Fuck you, play that old song!” But that’s a sheep; that’s just one dude that’s trying to get a rise.

On a more positive note your drummer Luke, who’s youngest in the band at 21 years old, has a huge following on his YouTube channel for his drum covers and play-throughs. How has it been watching him grow both as a drummer and in the band?

We definitely talk about it all the time. We got so lucky with Luke because I don’t know how no one scooped him up first. We were lucky that he’s from near our hometown so it was a really easy transition incorporating him into the band, trying him out and practicing and all that. Really, it’s been great to see him grow both as a person and a musician. He’s definitely helped make us better. It’s been an honor to have him; we’re stoked!

You guys have been jumping from one tour to the next lately. How do you deal with transitioning so quickly?

This is going to be the longest we’ve ever been out at once and the most shows that we will ever play in one straight shot. So we’ll see how it goes but it’s definitely going to be exhausting. It’s kind of a mental trip because your body almost thinks, “Oh, you’re done with this so that means you’re going home,” but it’s like you’re done but now you’re going out for six more weeks.

So it’s going to be a little trying on us, but we love each other, we’re all friends, and we all have that dedication to each other to try and make it as easy a tour as possible. Our crew is great, which makes it a lot easier to be gone. They handle so much. So it’s definitely going to be hard but we’ll get through it.

With all of these tours back-to-back, does the band plan on taking time off from touring this summer to relax or work on new music?

Since we’re going to be out for the longest we’ve ever been, we’re going to take a break. We’ve never taken a summer off; we’ve always been on tour during the summer, so we’re going to take off. We’re going to do some vacation and writing sessions and just start slowly feeling out what’s coming next for our band. We’re just going to see how it translates to the future, where we’re all at individually. I mean, we’ve been doing this for six years now, so we’ve never really taken the time for ourselves. We’ve always been go, go, go, and tour, tour, tour. It’ll be nice to have a break from that and just kind of enjoy being a normal person for a summer. But we’ll be back out starting in September so we’ll still be picking it right back up.

What are some plans you have for your summer off?

I think it’s different for all of us. Me and Daniel, he just moved to Los Angeles near me right before this tour, both of us love hiking and going to the beach. We love hiking and exploring. Hiking and being in nature is such a different vibe from what we usually do. We do like urban camping; that’s basically what tour is. So going from that to going to something so peaceful, and your home and exploring and being out in nature is a really relaxing and peaceful thing that we love.

Tony owns motorcycles and works on his bikes and he goes out on rides. He actually loves hunting and shooting and stuff with his dad so he’ll go on trips with his family. Then Zack has a website that he started where he releases new music on the website once a week actually, so he’s pretty busy. And of course he likes hanging out with friends. And then Luke when he’s home, he’s always making new videos and focusing on that. And I have a clothing line that takes up my time when I’m home. So we all try to stay busy.

That’s awesome! But before then, do you have anything you want to say to your fans about upcoming shows?

The Northeast is undoubtedly some of our favorite shows of all time and always is, so I’m really looking forward to when we play out there soon. So get your tickets to the shows and let’s hang out!


You can catch The Word Alive performing at the Theatre Of Living Arts in Philadelphia on April 7, at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on April 8, and at Irving Plaza in New York on April 9. Their latest album, REAL., is available now through Fearless Records. For more information, visit their website