Not too long ago I had to pleasure of speaking to Ryan Kirby about the fantastic — personal, yet relatable — music that he and his Fit For A King bandmates make. Kirby was more than willing to delve into the technicalities and stories behind their latest record, Dark Skies. But when the conversation took a more worldly and in-depth turn, he was still as dedicated to telling me about his perspective and his thoughts on all of that, as well. From breakdowns in songs, to breakdowns in real life, Kirby delved into it all, which only further proves that Fit For A King is one of the best modern metal bands to be a fan of, because they’re passionate and knowledgeable in just about every department.
Your latest album, Dark Skies, has been out for about four months now and fans seems to still be in love with it as much as when they first listened to it back in September. In your opinion, what makes this album so special?
Man, I didn’t realize that it has been four months already.
Right? Time really flew by.
Yeah, time does keep on going way too fast. I think this album is the most special, because A) it is the first one we did with Drew Fulk, our producer, he was incredible. We bonded as a band, I think, more than any record so far. I think we put the most work in, which is weird because it’s not even like we were lazy with the other records, but Drew really taught us how to work harder almost, like where to put our energy. I think it was our most concentrated effort so far and it really brought us together.
Absolutely! And for an album that has some truly heavy and important motifs throughout, there must have been a lot of time spent perfecting that. What was the writing and recording process like to get to that stage?
With our past albums, we would kind of just write our instrumentals, I would write my lyrics, and we would put it over what we had and what we were creating. This album was really heavy with the instrumentals, though, so that wasn’t just a simple process of writing it in and placing it down.
With these songs and their focus on both lyrics and it’s corresponding music, it got to the point where I think every song had three or four revisions. Not just, “Oh, this thing changed a little bit,” it was like these songs were overall, almost in full, being changed before I even put vocals on it. That was the first time that we really focused that much on the instrumental aspect. I think focusing that much on the instruments being as good as possible really helps the vocals be as good as possible.
I can imagine that adding these really dynamic instrumentals really played a part in your live shows, especially since performing live and putting on these high energy rock performances is a big part of you guys are as a band.
Oh, absolutely! It’s the most fun album and the most fun songs to play live. It’s special and it feels so much better. When we play these new songs it really feels like we’re playing ‘big boy’ music.
That must be so much fun to be able to do, so to amp-up something you already love and do well — like putting on a great concert — that must be amazing.
It is! It’s awesome.
Speaking of high energy performances and live shows, what are your favorite aspects of touring with the band?
My favorite aspect is really getting to — especially the older I get and the more I come back to cities multiple times — it’s like the world is so small and I know people in each city and I have friends in each city and it’s like the world has shrunk down. Even when I was 20 years old I never even fathomed, especially after having been to places like Japan and South Africa, we actually have good friends there now.
It’s super weird to just have the world at your fingertips. It’s good because we can always go back and play there again and see everyone and everything there again. I noticed the other day when I was just having small talk with a couple Lyft drivers they had been from different parts of the country, but I had been there, and I was just talking to them about their hometown and the restaurants there and I thought, “This is kind of, really cool!”
That’s so lovely! It must only be an added benefit that these are some experiences that you can draw upon for influence and inspiration.
Definitely! My outlook on a lot of things has changed over the times I have toured.
In a world where musical outlets are growing and there are so many ways to grow your brand, per se; not to mention in a world where genre blending is at an all-time high, how do you think the metalcore genre has stayed so popular, but still had the chance to evolve over time?
I kind of said this to my band when we were recording this record, but people will always just love breakdowns. Now, it is kind of what you do around the breakdowns that determine how successful you are, but at the end of the day, people really want breakdowns. I think some bands have figured out that listeners really want some really heavy parts, but then at the same time, we can get really creative around that.
I think the band Architects is a really good example of this because their new record is mainstream, but there are breakdowns within every song. So, there are people who love metalcore saying that they love it, but in reality, the album is so much more melodic than their past work.
I think breakdowns are the signature sound that has kept fans happy, but it has given bands the freedom to experiment around them. The breakdowns are the anchor to that sound, but it kind of boring sometimes and played out or there are too many of them in one record, but as long as you continue to be original around it, it really pushes band to find creative ways to keep that sound there, but also grow for themselves and with the times.
Now, coming around to lyrical content, I know that my two personal favorite tracks on the album are “Backbreaker” and “The Price of Agony.” The lyrical content in both really seem to draw each and every listener in. I know that you have said in past interviews that “Backbreaker” draws on anxiety that you felt growing up both in and out of the band. So, other than putting your experience and feeling into lyrics, how did you grow through that time to get to where you are now: a very successful, humble musician?
A lot of it was being in uncomfortable situations and a lot of forcing myself into it. I tell people, whether it be anxiety or depression, I think the best way to attempt to get through it — because obviously there is no immediate solution — and it took me years and it took almost a threat… Well, not a threat, but the band saying, “Hey, we can’t keep having a frontman that is afraid to talk to people or is scared to look at the crowd.” It kind of just took me and myself throwing myself out there to get through it. It still took years with that. I tell people who faced depression and anxiety that it is always going to be a daily struggle, but you kinda just have to make a commitment to go through it, even for just that day. Even if you fail, just know that you went for it, that will make you feel the smallest bit better.
Definitely! That’s a great way to look at it. Bringing mental health to light is finally getting the time it deserves. How do you think that musicians, such as you and Fit for A King, and people with a platform are really adding to this movement with things in media. What is your take on the stigma that is finally being broken, as someone who can truly relate to that?
I think it’s great. I think it’s just a healthy thing to be brought to light. I forgot what the stat was on suicide, but like 78 percent of suicides are men, and with men, like you said, there is stigma that men can’t cry, men can’t go around saying they’re depressed, because, say, their dad or other men will hate on them or make fun of them. I’ve seen it happen with other friends. I think the stigma is also thankfully being lifted a bit so that men can be a little bit more emotional and open about it. Women are getting into the workforce whereas ‘back then’ when women worked it was almost frowned upon and that’s wrong, so then men had that responsibility, but now that women are sharing it and are taking the lead, I think it is really taking the lead in fixing the state of who can do and feel what. Sorry, my words are a bit jumbled up right there.
No, that’s ok! It makes a lot of sense. There is a more equal balance in how people can react to things and feel things, as well as work towards things and for things.
Exactly! I was talking about it with my grandma, and I know this is a little off topic, but she was talking to my wife — who is a flight attendant — and she just found it so weird wasn’t staying at home to take care of the house and we were like, “It’s 2019. It’s 2018.” She wants to work. I want her to work.
There’s a fulfillment factor and a generational gap that really comes into play into situations like those. Luckily, both seem to be changing which is definitely a good thing.
I think it is, too. I know that I would be way more stressed if my wife was just sitting at home. We don’t even have kids, so it’s like she would be bored out of her mind. I would imagine that she would feel not great while not working. I know that I, too, would be way more stressed out knowing that if I had a bad tour, I would be wondering, “Oh, great, how are we going to pay for the bills?” Because it would all be on me. So, I think it’s great that men and women are sharing these roles now.
Absolutely! Going back to my second favorite song, that also touches upon today’s social climate: “The Price of Agony,” how did that song come about? It’s look into this country is the most honest during some very interesting social and political times. Do you that the message you were trying to convey will continue to resonate with listeners even as times (eventually) change?
I just see it all the time: so many people hating on each other for their political views. Not just, “Oh, I disagree,” but real hate; whether it’s one side or the other, they look at the other side as evil and liars. The media kind of allows for that and pushes for that, because it allows for cliques and it allows for money. It makes people scared and makes people worried.
I posted on Twitter the other day saying that whether you are on the left or are on the right, I think everybody wants people to flourish, they just don’t agree with how. I think everybody wants what is best for the overall. I look at people in a way that shows that they, too, want what is best for everybody, I just don’t agree with how they want to get there.
So, let’s just try to figure out how we can agree to get it to the best spot for everybody. I think that is the best way to start the argument instead of, “Oh, this person is mean and evil. They want the worst for us, they want to kill people.”
I think that really comes full circle with this conversation. It comes down to finding the balance within conversation of two groups of that might be considered different or have different views. Finding that fairness in it might be the best way to approach, as you said, the angst or worries that people may have.
I agree! Being really mean to somebody that disagrees with you is just keeping them where they are at. If the goal is to inform people and change their minds, I think the way to do it is not by getting into an unnecessary, harsh, heated argument with them. It’s not going to change anything if you get angry for a moment, because you really won’t get anything important accomplished. It’s very counterproductive.