(Rules of The Gauntlet: The artist (in this case, the Hard Rock band: Strength Betrayed) is sent a butt ton of questions ranging from standard to stupid from which they must choose at least 12 to answer and return them to us with a minimum of tear stains).
Tell me why your music rules. Or why it sucks
Thomas Smith: Our music absolutely blows chunks. I don’t know why anybody would waste their valuable life listening to us. Yeah, people say they love our music and it moves them deeply. They even say it’s heavy and groovy, and my vocals kill, but we know deep down they just pity us because we’re a bunch of losers who should have found a better hobby. I do hear though that our tracks help with recover after gastrointestinal surgery! Maybe it gives people hope thinking, “Man, my surgery wasn’t near as bad as I thought it was after listening to that track”! As long as we give people what they want, we are here to stay!
Tell me about your new album. The writing, vibe, production/producers, etc.
Thomas Smith: So, our new album is tittles “War-Torn”. We dropped a single not too long ago that is the title track to the album – which you can go check out on YouTube! There are a few more singles on our YouTube channel as well you can check out that are going to be on the new album, like “Sour” and “My Fight”. We had recorded an older EP back in 2015 that was…. rough [chuckles]. It was a very difficult EP to make; we got screwed over at every turn and we wound up just saying “give us the darn thing”. We have grown and matured since then, so we wanted to take things back into the studio and get it right this time. Lucky for us, we had written enough songs to make a full album. We only had the money for eight tracks and an intro so we took what we could get (doesn’t mean we can go back and drop more singles [laughs]). We wanted to work with someone that would take our song and pretty much tell us if it sucks or not, or how we could change it to make it not suck. We recorded with BlackPlate Productions out of Dunn, NC. They helped us out a lot and pushed us to make a great product. The good news was they liked most of our songs and added an outsider’s perspective to make it a lot better. BlackPlate primarily does more “screamo” bands and so with us being more “Hard Rock/ Heavy Metal”, they added a fierce element to our sound that we are very proud of “owning up to” so to speak. After working with them, we literally push ourselves daily and we are never satisfied with our sound, or who we are as a band, because we could always be better. And if we can be better than our current state, then we will get better and be better.
Why should people experience your music?
Thomas Smith: In all seriousness, we do hope to bring a different experience to the table. I believe that nothing under the sun is “new” or completely unique, but we do hope to give the listeners of our singles and new album a different take on what modern hard rock music is these days. While most hard rock/ heavy metal bands are leaning more towards the Djent sound with electronic elements, we hope to lean the other direction and let the ‘heavy’ come from the guitars themselves. The best example of this is Nu-Meal; the idea that the guitars can make people bounce and do more than just guide the song while electronic elements are in the front. There is absolutely nothing wrong with bands letting electronics do most of the “talking” musically. Heck, I even listen to more electronic music now than metal, but we decided to take another approach. If we are going to fuse styles together, we want our influences to be in the metal genre. And if we pull from hip-hop or pop, it comes out of the guitar playing itself and not a mix table. We want the listeners to know that this upcoming album is a labor of love; from the bottom of our hearts to yours, if you give it a listen… Thank you, truly.
Describe your face.
Thomas Smith: It’s a delicate face. A face of marble and bronze. A face that was sculpted in the fires of Mount Doom. A face that the riotous among us fear. A face that if looked upon, would leave you glowing like Moses when he looked at the backside of God. A face that if questioned, will leave you wanting to know more. A face that leaps tall buildings with a single jump. A face that is more powerful than a locomotive. A face that would give sight to an ameba and allow them to question their very existence. A face that would make the most interesting man in the world say: ”Wow”.
Who are your influences?
Thomas Smith: Each of us pulls from our own personal influences in our playstyle and songwriting. When Jacob (our lead guitar player) writes a riff or a solo, its generally influences by 80’s hair metal mixed with modern rock like Alter Bridge. He is definitely influenced by a lot of classic rock and hair metal that I really don’t listen to often. But on the flip side of that, my influences are generally your early 2000’s hard rock mixed with deathcore [laughs]. I listen to a lot of heavy stuff that sounds like gurgling [laughs]. But I also love pop melodies like the hooks that Post Malone puts out, or Juice World with the heavy rhythm focus guitar playing of Static-X and Korn. So, there is a fuse of these different elements that play into our sound. Seth (our bass player), pulls his playstyle from a mix of Tool and Slayer – twoo completely different bands entirely. Taylor (our drummer) is influenced by bands like A Day to Remember and Breaking Benjamin. It’s just all about how you put those elements together that allow for a “sound” (so to speak) to be different enough for people to notice. Vocally, I pull from all sorts of directions, but most of what I hear from people is that I generally sound like Breaking Benjamin, We As Human, Volbeat, Red, and Alter Bridge so it completely depends on the listener on what they hear. It’s always amazing to see what people hear when they come to our shows.
What was the last song you listened to before this interview?
Thomas Smith: “Circles” by Post Malone. Freaking great song! I’m a big Posty fan, so hate me [laughs].
What musicians should quit forever and never be seen or heard from again?
Thomas Smith: I know a few local bands that I won’t specifically that absolutely suck and think they own the music industry. Without naming names, a few years back we played in a battle of the bands at Campbell University. Most of the bands there were really cool including our good friends in the Sherman Neckties. But everything else was horrible including one particular band. Not going on a rant about sound people not knowing what the heck they are doing, there was a worship band there. They knew the judges and were also students. These guys really weren’t all that great. Long story short, they won. Now, I’m not mad that they won. The prize was like $100 so I wasn’t that butthurt. But these guys were complete and total jerks. Out of the many years we have been a band, I have never run into a group more full of themselves than these guys. One of their musicians actually shouldered me while walking past me in the hallway. So, to those guys: I hope your dreams never come true and you waste away in a cubical if you’re going to treat people the way you treated all the bands that were there and that were, frankly, better than you. And to all local bands reading this: stay humble and keep pushing. But stay humble. I can’t tell you how many times bands play a few shows and think they will be the next big thing without really evaluating themselves and their sound and how the crowd reacts to them. Be you, but be the best you.
Where do your song names come from?
Thomas Smith: Either the hook of the song, a repeated line, or if we are feeling ‘artsy-fartsy’, we will use a hidden word in a verse or something like that. Like a book, we want the title of the song to also grab people or have them be like, “that sounds interesting”.
Who the f**k do you think you are?
Thomas Smith: Please refer to the answer about my glorious face…
What master musicians would you like to study with?
Thomas Smith: I’m going to change the question a bit and make it a master vocalist. Honestly, Brett Manning. I used his singing success program and it completely changed the game for me. It really pushed me and developed my voice in such a positive way. I’d love to work with him one-on-one because if his CDs helped me, then I know working with him in the same room will be a life-changer.
Worst thing ever eaten?
Thomas Smith: Freaking sugar wafers. I HATE THEM.
What would you like to say to your fans?
Thomas Smith: Thank you from the bottom of our hearts; thank you. I know it sounds cliché, but this is why we keep going. I can’t imagine telling our fans that we broke up or something like that. Go stream our singles, pre-order/pre-save our album, “War-Torn”. Please support your local bands. Like you, they have dreams and goals, and you have no idea how happy it makes them too have passionate fans show up to their shows. Even if only five people show up; if those five people go HAM, it makes the night!