Lighting A New Path: An Interview with I See Stars

Between the release of their first acoustic album Phases in July 2015 and officially parting ways with two of the group’s original members, unclean vocalist Zach Johnson and rhythm guitarist Jimmy Gregerson, you can’t say I See Stars is simply going on with business as usual. Add in the band’s Twitter account itself declaring, “This is a new era…” and it would be hard to argue otherwise. But the remaining members—vocalist Devin Oliver, lead guitarist Brent Allen, bassist Jeff Valentine, and drummer Andrew Oliver—of the electronicore foursome are setting out to calm any lingering qualms fans may be having about the direction of the band. Devin took some time to discuss their upcoming tour and how after ten years together I See Stars can light the way to move forward on a new path without losing their roots.

The band has been teasing some new music from your upcoming album, Light in the Cave, on social media. Any chance you’ll be playing some new songs on your upcoming tour?

Yeah, we’re going to be playing one new song that we’re hoping to have out either sometime during or before the tour. We’ve been teasing but we have ammunition to back it up, so we’re not just playing with people’s hearts out there.

Not only have you been teasing new music, but you’re also going to be doing the unclean vocals now in addition to clean vocals. What has that transition been like for you?

It was hard, honestly. It’s a transition and as a vocalist the one thing you want to be very consciously aware is the fact that you want to be sure you’re doing everything properly. I would never want to risk hurting my voice, my clean vocals. I’ve been singing since I was little and it feels like these last few years I’ve been really in tune with my vocals. I feel like I figure something new out about myself every year vocally, and this year has been really great for me because I feel like I’ve finally harnessed it in a way that I’ve always wanted to. So taking on the screams was kind of a scary decision to make because the last thing I’d want to do is risk losing that bond between me and my voice, so I’ve been really working hard with my vocal coach and learning the proper ways; the do’s and don’ts.

Screaming is a different avenue and it’s completely new to me, but it was fun! It’s always one of those things that, especially as a vocalist in this genre, you’re kind of curious what it would be like to take on full vocals. I’ve always done screams here and there live and I would receive compliments on it, so it was exciting and it was scary but it was an important decision though I think. We weren’t ready to invite anybody new into the band: it’s just me and Brent, my brother Andrew and Jeff. We’ve had chemistry since this whole thing started and I think that for us four continuing the band it was just one of those decisions that if we want to remain the band we’ve always been, then someone has to take on the job and it just made the most sense to be me. And I was excited but I was definitely a little bit nervous about it.

Absolutely. And I’ve seen online that when you teased it the fans seemed pretty excited about it; you got some positive feedback!

It’s been really flattering! And I’m really confident in the way it sounds on the album too. It’s been really exciting hearing it all come together and hearing from my friends and my family going, “That’s you? Oh my God!” My friends are really stoked and my family’s just terrified. They’re like, “That’s your voice?” I’m pretty much scaring the hell out of them. It’s a good thing though. They love what we do, but they were never really huge fans of the heavy aspects of our music. So if I’m scaring them with my screams that’s a good sign!

Taking over the screams came in part from I See Stars and two of your original members parting ways with each other. Was it daunting at all beginning to do the unclean vocals for your already existing songs?

Well, I love those guys [Zach and Jimmy] to death. Andrew and I write a lot of the lyrics together so I feel like it’s not really scary for me to get up there and scream those lyrics. It almost makes the most sense coming from me because they were written by me and they were written by my brother; we wrote them together. If anything it feels like this makes more sense.

Just a sidebar of all the animosity obviously it was a disappointing departure with two of our band members. We’ve been a band built off of friendship and we’ve come a long way. You reach a point where it becomes sad to see two people go, but it’s one of those things that felt mutual and there was a heavy understanding. And now with me being the one doing the screams it was an emotional rollercoaster.

Like I said, I didn’t want to damage my vocals. But I was also super excited because these lyrics are mine and I feel like I need to be the one preaching them. So I’m excited to get on stage and scream these lyrics, sing these lyrics. I’m excited to take on both of these responsibilities.

Aside from new music and your vocal ventures, what can fans expect from your upcoming tour?

We haven’t been on tour in a while so we’ve really been busting our asses brainstorming and thinking of really cool ways to make this tour something special. I don’t want to give it away or anything, but we’re definitely bringing some ammunition on the stage. We’ve put together a set list that I think is everything an I See Stars fan is going to want to hear at the shows. And it’s everything that I, not only as a band member but as a fan of my own band, I would want to hear from us. I’m excited to play.

We’re getting up there and playing all of our hits, you know? We’re playing every song that we feel personally has touched our fans’ hearts the strongest. It’s exciting and there really isn’t going to be a quiet moment. We will be playing “Youth” from our acoustic album, and I really think that’ll bring some really cool shape to the show. I think that’ll be the only really quiet moment, but it won’t be because it’s boring; it’ll be because it’s the way that song is meant to be heard. It’s meant to shut everybody up and have everybody stopping, and focusing and listening.

Awesome! Is there anything you’d like to say to fans coming to the upcoming shows on the East Coast?

New Jersey, New York, you’ve always come through. It’s always one of my personal favorite shows of every tour we end up doing. I’m just excited to get back over there as the new band we are today, and be able to show you that as much as it could be a little worrisome with all of the new changes, this band, and the heart of this band has always really been with these three guys and me. That’s where it started and that’s where it’ll end. We’re not going anywhere for a while and we’ve still got some really cool music for the future!


You can catch I See Stars headlining the “Light in the Cave Tour” in Freehold, NJ at GameChanger World on Feb. 19, in Philadelphia at Voltage Lounge on Feb. 20, and in NYC at The Gramercy Theatre on Feb. 21. For more information, visit their website