Flyleaf have consistently dominated the active, alternative and mainstream rock charts since their eponymous, self-titled debut was released in 2005.
With the arrival of new vocalist Kristen May and the band’s new album, Between the Stars, which was released September 16, that trend is continuing.
Produced by Don Gilmore (Pearl Jam, Linkin Park and Avril Lavigne), Between the Stars is Flyleaf’s fourth studio album. It delivers 12 hook-laden tracks that are deeply rooted in guitar-based rock.
Guitarist Jared Hartmann’s hypnotic riffs are tastefully executed, creating a surreal landscape of infectious melody that takes the listener on a sonic journey. Flyleaf is Kristen May (vocals), Jared Hartmann (guitars), Sameer Bhattacharya (guitars), Pat Seals (bass) and James Culpepper (drums).
I recently spoke with Hartmann about the new album and his musical upbringing.
GUITAR WORLD: How would you describe the sound of Between the Stars as compared to previous Flyleaf albums?
It's going to be a little different than some of the other Flyleaf records. Obviously, it will be different because we have a new singer [Lacey Sturm amicably left the band in 2012], but it’s also going to be a bit different musically as well.
We used a lot of keyboards on this album to add some interesting elements to a few of the songs. We'll see what people think! There’s something that's similar to our previous albums but it’s also going in a new direction.
How did you connect with Kristen?
After Lacey decided to leave the band, we started looking for singers and someone suggested that we check out Kristen. Her band, Vedera, had recently broken up, so the timing was perfect. So Kristen came in, knew all of the songs and was cool to hang out with. She’s the perfect fit.
What was the writing process like for this album?
We were just getting to know Kristen and decided to do a few writing sessions where we all got together for a week and wrote songs. The more we wrote together, the better those sessions became. These songs are from those writing sessions.
How does a Flyleaf song usually begin?
It depends. Songs can come out from a bunch of different ways. Sometimes I'll come up with a riff or a few heavy guitar ideas and sometimes it might be a near finished song. Sameer pretty much had “City Kids” written and Pat pretty much had “Blue Roses” complete before we went in. There are so many writers in this band with so many different ideas. Every song has its own unique story
What was it like working with Don Gilmore?
It was a great, collaborative experience. Don’s really hands-on and was a natural part of the process. He’s very laid back but is really into the music.
What’s your setup like these days?
I use Paul Reed Smith McCarty guitars that I run through a modded Marshall JCM800 and a Diezel Einstein.
Did you always know music would be your calling?
Growing up, I was around music a lot, but it wasn’t something I originally had a passion for. All I wanted to do was play video games [laughs]. But once I got to middle school, my parents wanted me to play an instrument. I remember going to the signups for band wanting to play drums — because I thought it was the coolest thing there. That didn’t work out so I moved on to the sax, trumpet and then clarinet, but nothing seemed to fit.
Finally, my mom said, “Well, why don’t you play guitar?” I decided to give it a try and took a few lessons. It was around the same time Sameer and I became friends. Once we hit high school, we started getting music into more and going to see bands. That’s what inspired me and made me realize that music was something I could do. I started playing all the time and it quickly turned into a passion.
Can you tell me the origin of Flyleaf?
Coming up, we were all in different bands. Sameer and I were in a local band together, Lacey was playing acoustic in coffee shops and James used to play keyboards in a band and then switched over to drums. We all knew of each other and at different times our bands broke up. That was when Lacey and James got together and started writing. Then Lacey called me and invited me to come in and play guitar with them. I brought Sameer along and everything just clicked. A few months later we got Pat and from there, we hit the road.
What excites you the most about this next chapter of Flyleaf?
Completing the new album is great but I’m also looking forward to getting back out there to interact and connect with people again. That’s the most exciting part of it.
For more about Flyleaf, visit flyleafonline.com.
Flyleaf Tour Dates
FRI 10/3 Lubbock, TX Jake's Backroom
SAT 10/4 San Antonio, TX 210 Kapones Live
SUN 10/5 Corpus Christi, TX House of Rock
TUE 10/7 Houston, TX Scout Bar
WED 10/8 Baton Rouge, LA Varsity Theatre
THU 10/9 Atlanta, GA The Loft @ Center Stage
SAT 10/11 Carrboro, NC Cats Cradle
MON 10/13 Washington, DC Rock & Roll Hotel
TUE 10/14 Cambridge, MA TT the Bears
THU 10/16 New York, NY Gramercy Theatre
FRI 10/17 Philadelphia, PA District N9ne
SAT 10/18 Portland, ME Asylum
MON 10/20 Pontiac, MI The Crofoot
TUE 10/21 Chicago, IL Subterranean
WED 10/22 Milwaukee, WI Rave Bar
FRI 10/24 Lawrence, KS Granada Theater
SAT 10/25 Colorado Springs, CO Black Sheep
SUN 10/26 Denver, CO The Summit Music Hall
TUE 10/28 Salt Lake City, UT The Complex
THU 10/30 Seattle, WA El Corazon
FRI 10/31 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theatre
SAT 11/1 San Francisco, CA Slims
TUE 11/4 Los Angeles, CA House of Blues
THU 11/6 Anaheim, CA House of Blues
FRI 11/7 San Diego, CA House of Blues
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.