Interview: Guitarist Andrew Whiting of Attack Attack! on the Band's Evolution and New Album, 'This Means War'
Attack Attack! -- the ever-evolving, electronica-influenced metalcore band from Westerville, Ohio -- have managed to withstand more lineup changes than there are current members, yet still write and produce a new album worthy of breaking the Billboard Top 200.
The current configuration of the band -- singer/keyboardist Caleb Shomo, guitarist Andrew Whiting, bassist John Holgado and drummer Andrew Wetzel -- recorded This Means War, which came out January 17 on Rise Records, amid a busy schedule that included extensive touring. The album was produced by Shomo at his home studio.
Whiting, a founding member of the band, recently braved the flu long enough to chat with Guitar World about the writing process on the new album and the band’s decision to seek -- and most certainly find -- a heavier sound.
GUITAR WORLD: Within a month of releasing This Means War, you guys managed to reach just outside of the Top 10 on the Billboard Top 200 charts. Did you think this album would be so successful?
We definitely didn’t expect it. We just went into Caleb’s studio and did our thing — whatever we felt was right at the time. Just to see that people are behind it and like it is great, you know what I mean?
With you being a founding member of Attack Attack!, can we assume you’re pretty excited about how far you’ve come between your first EP and TMW?
Absolutely. I never even imagined this at all. We’ve done Warped Tour the past three years. I remember my goal when I was like 14 was just to be on Warped Tour once. It’s just funny how that kind of stuff works.
A lot of fans will argue that you guys aren't the same Attack Attack! everyone remembers. What's your take on that?
[Laughs] We obviously are, because it’s the same people that have been in it the entire time, you know? They just have to understand that people change as they get older, and if you’re not gonna like it then go listen to something else. We’re not forcing you to listen to our shit. If you like our stuff, then that’s great, and we love you for it. If you don’t like the direction we’re going, then I don’t really care, because I like the direction we’re going and I like what we’ve got.
How has your writing process changed, if at all, since Johnny Franck’s departure?
Johnny did a lot of vocal stuff. He was obviously the singer, but he had a lot to do with everything lyrical on our self-titled album. He did all the words and crap like that, but Caleb has definitely stepped up since then and obviously the new record is a bit heavier and darker. Johnny was always just a fun and happy-go-lucky guy, and that kind of reflected in our music as well -- the dance element we had, which we still kind of do. He just brought his certain flavor to it, I guess. Now that we don’t have him, it’s a bit different, but I like it.
Would you say you’ve officially grown out of “crab core?”
[Laughs] I don’t know. Not necessarily. We still have some shirts and stuff. It’s funny -- more of a novelty kind of thing, you know?
What inspired you guys to do a concept album about World War II?
When you get older, you start to just think about the bigger picture, and we just wanted to put out a more serious album. None of our songs names have ever been the slightest bit serious. We just wanted to have an overall picture and direction of what we were trying to do and just go.
We just wanted something -- not necessarily easy to write about -- but a broad spectrum. World War II kind of came into it a bit later. It’s a metaphor. We feel like we’re fighting our own war within the music industry and with everybody -— kids, other bands, labels -— all that. All the bullshit, and we’re just trucking our way through it, and we’re trying to just do “us” and trying to just make it out, you know? That’s kind of where that whole thing came from. I think Caleb did a wonderful job of displaying our personal struggle, but also the metaphorically past-tense kind of thing.
How did recording This Means War in Caleb’s studio benefit you guys versus working with past producers such as Joey Sturgis or John Feldmann?
I think both of those guys are amazing, but what we were going for is just the core sound. The four we have right now, that have been in the band the entire time -- we just wanted to keep it that. It was literally us in the basement just writing songs and trying to put it down. That is literally the culmination of all of our inner-whatever-we’ve-been-feeling for the past three years.
Between all of the lineup changes, it’s always been us four that have been here and stuck it out. It’s really just what we wanted to do. I think it’s great that we just stayed with Caleb, because he did a great job, and I actually couldn’t be more pleased with it.
A lot of the guitar on TMW is militant and can even be a bit scary at times. How did you manage to capture the essence of songs such as “The Abduction” in which the content is really intense, lyrically speaking?
On most of the songs, we did instrumentals first, and then Caleb would come in and write. A couple were vocally based. I think “The Wretched” was kind of written around the vocals, but “The Abduction,” like you were saying—that song certainly is very aggressive. The chorus is pretty much just fast two-beat, and it goes into that sort of Rage Against the Machine-y riff. How did we capture the militant style? I guess it’s just what we were feeling. I like angry aggressive music, and I’m glad somebody else understands what we were trying to go for [laughs], you know what I mean?
What equipment did you use to record the album?
I’m not actually really sure. You’d have to ask Caleb. Live, I play out of a 5150. It’s nice. It’s like lime green. It’s pretty cool.
You guys already have another album written. Can you talk a little bit about that?
We actually recorded This Means War in October, and immediately after finishing that, we went out to California with John Feldmann, and through all of November we recorded another album. We probably wrote about 20 songs with Feldmann and came out with 10 or 12, I think. We actually still haven’t heard any of them. I mean, we heard while we were recording, but the finished -- Feldmannized -- product has not been revealed yet. That’s why it’s so hard to talk about. We haven’t gotten a taste yet, you know? We are definitely excited about it. It was definitely a good time.
Attack Attack! will be on tour in North America March 17 through May 16 with Escape the Fate, The Word Alive, Secrets and Mest. For information on the This World is Ours Tour, visit the Official Attack Attack! Facebook page.