How would you describe yourselves to a new prospective listener?
We like to describe Lifewalker as progressive hard rock set to a cinematic backdrop… so like mashing the 300 soundtrack together with Breaking Benjamin and Tesseeract battling to the death in the foreground.
What’s the story behind your band name?
Lifewalker was actually the original name for what evolved into “Diagnose Me” (the song) while we were writing for our old metalcore band. Once the old project disbanded I (Dan Halen) told Shane (lead song writer) that Lifewalker would make a much better band name than song name and that it encompassed everything that I loved about music. Every moment needs a song and most people relate certain songs to corresponding life events. Music walks with you through life. This is our Lives’ soundtrack.
How did you guys form?
Everyone except for our singer Stephen Dodge was in a metalcore project for about two years together. Our singer at the time didn’t have the singing voice we wanted to evolve the band out of the two dimensions of metalcore and into the multi-faceted monster we wanted. The singer also happened to own the rights to the old band’s name and Facebook page, so we all quit. It was a round about way of kicking the old guy out. Shane and I (Dan) ended up writing most of the EP without a singer until we found Dodge. He was a Godsend.
Your EPK states you came together from the ashes of prog and metalcore bands in Virginia Beach. What was your experience of playing in these other bands like? How is playing in Lifewalker different?
Witness For Hope was a metalcore project the instrumental section of the band partook in during the height of the metalcore scene in Virginia Beach. Our friends in Honour Crest had just signed to Rise Records and gave the rest of the scene hope that they too could break out of the area. When Honour Crest broke up less than a year later, literally every metalcore band of that four-year era diffused within a two-month period. It was eerie. Back then it was almost guaranteed that every show every night of the week would draw a decent crowd. Now, with Lifewalker, it’s like we’re trying to reform the scene but not really finding our niche. We’re not heavy enough to play with really heavy bands (which account for a lot of what remains), and tthere is no rock/indie scene in Virginia Beach. We basically set up our own shows once every two months or participate in events like Lunatic Luau where we can open up for huge national artists. There’s no real in between.
Was there anything different in the writing/recording process between your debut Diagnose Me and the recent Rx EP?
The EP Rx, as I mentioned earlier, was written without any idea of what our vocalist was going to sound like. It was also our transition out of metalcore and into hard rock. On Rx, we kind’ve just rolled the dice and came out sounding great. The songs we recorded for the full length we had more of our identity down. We knew the range and dynamic ability of our singer, Stephen, and we wrote more around his abilities than just to empty melodies we heard in our heads. The full length is an extension of the EP and the entire album is a concept with a loose story line. It culminates in a 13-minute finale with a full orchestra and three separate movements. Dodge is spectacular on it and really shows off his wide range of talents. Both were recorded with Will Beasley at Valencia Studios in Baltimore (Paul Leavitt’s studio).
Both of your releases contend with the issue of mental illness. It’s definitely a heavy subject matter, and aptly reflected in your music’s tense atmosphere. What inspired this choice?
When Stephen was “trying out” to be our vocalist, the second song he worked on was “Hollow Vessels.” I (Dan) had already written lyrics for it that dealt with anxiety and feeling trapped inside your self, feeling like a vessel that was at the whim of those around him rather than a Captain in charge. Dodge has some familiar (as in family-related) experiences with mental illness and I think in the grand scheme of life, we all at times feel crazy or unbalanced and can also see that reflection in mainstream media, politics, relationships, and in our places of work. When Dodge recorded the pre-pro vocals for “Hollow Vessels” I almost wanted to cry, and then when he related the personal story surrounding it I was sold. This was our guy. We wanted both Rx and Diagnose Me to be a story mirroring a Chuck Palahniuk interpretation of Shutter Island while still involving personal stories that meant a lot to us. When Dodge recorded the lyrics to “Exodus,” I had lost a friend to a heroin overdose the day before unbeknownst to him. The lyrics so perfectly commemorated the girls passing that it was bone chilling.
What is your songwriting process? Is one person at the helm, or does it come together as a collaborative effort?
Shane Royer, one of the youngest of the band, is the prodigy behind the majority of the song writing. Shane records and records and records and sends us demo after demo. I (Dan) may rearrange a thing or two or add a part, but for the most part Shane is the centerpiece to our madness. When Dodge and I sit down and pre-pro vocals, that’s where I get to shine in layering things and getting a little crazy. The drums are almost always re-written by Pericles, who is one of our greatest blessings. Until our metalcore project he had never really played any kind of metal, just drum line and jazz. He adds a lot of groove that would not be present with a typical metal drummer. The whole group gets a say in every song though, which can be a huge ordeal at times. For the most part, we know when to fight for something or let things go. Shane wins a lot haha.
You’ve already opened for some big names. What’s your live experience been like?
About eleven months ago we got to open Virginia Beach’s Lunatic Luau at Farm Bureau Live. It was our fourth show and after getting off stage after playing for 2,000 people I got a “killer set” from Danny Worsnop of Asking Alexandria and We Are Harlot and the whole band got to spend most of the day hanging out with him and his bandmates while watching Papa Roach, Godsmack, and Slayer. It was definitely a very early peak haha. When we played Metalcore we would get VIP passes to Warped and get to hang out with Memphis May Fire and Attila but this was another level. Our next big break was opening for Nothing More who had, at the time, become one of our most beloved bands and was also writing a lot of meaningful music about mental illness and the state of the union and society. Best live performance we’ve ever seen (Shane and Matt go back and forth between Nothing More and Dream Theater to be honest). Locally, we’ve been blessed with playing some other big events with some scattered local shows, we did a 1,000 person physical EP release a few months ago (November) and are working on holding our spot for Lunatic this year.
Do you have any hopes for 2016 and beyond?
With the state of the music industry as it is, we’re hoping for an opportunity to be able to venture out on some decent tours and maybe sign with a label that believes in us and has the capacity to get us where we want to be. We are very blessed to have the unconditional support of our media and management team at Digital Thunderdome Studios (Scott Hansen and Desiree Connell) who are constantly pushing our music and image to everyone they know. Come September we’ll be making some week-long/weekend tours up and down the East Coast, recording some new music videos, and digitally assaulting as many people as possible with our music. If Nothing More would take us on tour in support of their new album we’d consider 2016 a win. I mean two bands whose hard rock albums deal with mental illness? #iknowjenny #hinthint
What have you been listening to these days?
Dream Theater, Periphery, Tesseract, Kamelot, Nothing More, Bring Me The Horizon, Monuments, Devon Townsend Project, Breaking Benjamin, Nine Inch Nails, Justin Bieber, Life On Repeat, all things Guthrie Govan, all things 90’s, new BTBAM all day.
What advice would you impart to other up-and-coming bands in your position? Any bits of wisdom you can give to other young musicians?
Be realistic with your expectations and your goals. What is your market? Are your songs good and who is telling you so? Are you sacrificing a large amount of your personal income chasing this dream? Can you sustain yourselves on your own? There is no dream anymore ladies and gents, no one gets “found.” You are a business and a commodity to the industry; can you maintain your integrity and still fit into that mold? If your answer is you don’t care, keep doing it.
Any words for present and future fans abroad?
Hello, we are Lifewalker. We want to live in your head, in your car, in your workplace to irritate your coworkers. We want to be in your bedroom when you hate everything or when you’re about to get laid. We want to give you purpose as you walk across campus or to the local coffee shop. We want to be your break up song, your song of loss and sorrow, your song of triumph and perseverance. We want to be the song you see in that action movie. We want you to know that things probably won’t be all that okay, but your self-perception and strength are all that is needed to survive and flourish. We are coming for you, and the Walkers will rise.
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