The hype around Fallujah's sophomore release, The Flesh Prevails, certainly caught my interest, but it wasn't until their most recent record, Dreamless, was I fully hooked. It was undoubtedly my favorite of last year. Naturally, I've felt inclined to catch these guys live every chance I could get and was excited to hear they were coming back to Los Angeles with Decapitated, Thy Art is Murder, and Ghost Bath.
This would mark their first US tour without founding member and vocalist Alex Hofmann. If you’re reading this Alex, your work and performances in Fallujah will never be forgotten, yet do not fret, the throne you left behind is being well taken care of with replacement vocalist Monte Barnard (Alterbeast, The Kennedy Veil) doing a fantastic job tearing it up onstage.
I was lucky enough to speak to guitarist Scott Carstairs backstage at a recent show to talk about the lineup change, how it may affect the band's future, and the group's plans for their follow-up. This interview was conducted before Decapitated's shocking arrest.
I saw you guys last at The Glass House during the Carnifex tour, which was two months of dates. Is that the longest run the band has ever done?
Close to, but we did a run with Dying Fetus in Europe that was seven weeks long with forty-five days in a row without days off. I think that still holds the longest, most gruelling tour ever. The Carnifex tour was pretty long too especially because it was in a van and trailer.
It’ll be interesting seeing you guys tonight because I saw you once with Alex and now I’ll see you with Monte. Do you think there’s anything new that Monte brings to the live set or are you guys still kinda getting adjusted as a band?
I think he definitely brings something new and different and unique. He is getting a really good response from all the people we talk to after the shows. He’s really charismatic and has a cool energy. You gotta see it, you can’t really describe it.
Just for clarification, is Monte a temporary or permanent member, or is it still too soon to tell?
For now, he’s temporary. We’re not rushing anything. And he’s doing an awesome job. We really want to work on a record right now though.
It honestly did break my heart when I saw the announcement Alex was leaving the band. Was it unexpected when he broke the news to you guys or was it something you sort of saw coming?
It was kind of half expected, half unexpected. When you’re doing something for so long, it is shocking when someone finally says they can’t to do it anymore. You can tell he wanted to do other things with his life that are fulfilling for him. Certain people are more fulfilled than others in this job and I guess he wanted to try to do something else.
In his press release of the departure, he said he “will still be involved in a certain respect after [his] replacement is solidified.” Would you be able to maybe clarify at what he’s hinting at there?
We’re still all friends and he’s still really talented with graphic design. If I have any questions with anything, we still talk all the time. I’m sure that’s what he means. If I need help arranging the artwork, why would I call someone else. It’s not like he quit because he doesn’t like us, he just wants to do other things. If he has the time, he’ll help us out, but it can’t be his main gig anymore.
I understand that he wasn't just the vocalist but also a key part of the electronic programming and atmospheric aspects, is that correct?
I would write songs and he would write a synth part for it. Or I’d write a synth part and he would change the tone, so we definitely would work together to make it the best sound.
Do you think you're taking over that aspect moving forward?
I got to see how the album goes. I always write the whole album and then try things over it. Maybe we don’t want to have that same aesthetic anymore and we want to try something else. Just depends on the choices we make in the studio.
Was he the lyricist as well and if so who would take over that responsibility?
Yeah, he was definitely the lyricist, that was his deal. So that’s something we’re going to have to take on. I’m actually really excited about that. There’s a lot of subjects I want the band to express.
Can you tell me about the last show with him at the Bay Area Death Fest, was it emotional?
I would say so with everyone in the back room hanging out. Definitely for Alex, no doubt about that.
Some teary eyes and tissues?
Yeah yeah, for sure. You could tell it was the end of an era of a big part of his life. That’s definitely got to be emotional for everyone. And we were in the Bay Area so we had all our friends there rooting us on. It was a great show, one of our best shows we’ve played there. Everyone came out knowing it was Alex’s last show, so it was pretty cool.
It’s been over a year since Dreamless was released. Have you started writing demos?
Writing music is always happening. I’ll just be recording riffs in the green room at shows on my phone. It’s not something I start and stop. There’s more stressful times of the writing process where you really have to kick it up, but I have endless amounts of demos from the last two albums and a bunch of new stuff too. The longest part is conceptually figuring out what it will be and sounding unique from other releases and other music.
There’s a lot going on in the world politically. Do you feel that current chaos in our country is in a way inspirational for creating and performing music for you personally?
In a way, touring in a band and writing music is kinda chaotic. It’s not like a job where you’re guaranteed this and that. You don’t know where you’ll be in five years. And then seeing how crazy the world is and how no one has their shit together makes me more stoked to be doing this. If nobody else knows what they’re doing, then I can’t be doing too bad.
In a way, you guys are sort of a good example of a rags to riches band going from a high school-based act to being signed on Nuclear Blast and touring with big name bands. What else is on the bucket list in terms of your vision for the band?
There’s always those bands you want to tour with that you haven’t yet. We might be touring with them, so I don’t really want to mention who. I’m sure people could guess some of the big metal and progressive artists. Devin Townsend was one of the big ones on our bucket list and we somehow lucked out when we got put on that tour. We got to knock that off super early. There’s still things we want to do and places we want to see like Japan or just a lot of parts of Asia. Australia was awesome, I’d love to go back there and do another full run.
Thinking back to the earlier days of Fallujah, do you find yourself less connected with that deathcore and death metal style music as your most recent release shows a more progressive and ambient shift?
I guess, I look at our old albums as a record of my playing through time. The first thing we wrote, we were fifteen when we were working on it. The first album, we wrote when we were seventeen. And then The Flesh Prevails came out when we were like twenty-one. And then the last one released when we were about twenty-four or so. We don’t have to consciously think about what we sound like, we just play the stuff that we like at that time in our lives. As you grow up, you discover new musicians and seeing your old song structures and thinking oh god, why did I do that. I still appreciate the old music, especially The Harvest Wombs. It was such a nerdy time for me.
Is this going to be the last tour before you guys hit the studio?
Unless we get some amazing offers, we’re going to really get to doing the album. We record everything at my house, so writing and record is done all at once. The studio time won’t be until the end of the year, maybe the beginning of next year. Hopefully we’ll have a 2019 release, but it’ll be sick to have it out even earlier.