Drive Thru Records probably lost more than they’ll care to admit when Senses Fail are concerned. Upstreamed and then ditched, the New Jersey (now) quintet have since signed to Vagrant Records; where, and let’s be totally honest now, they fit like a glove.
Their previous works, the six-track EP “From The Depths of Dreams” and their stunning debut “Let It Unfold You” are prize possessions for those who were consumed by the “screamo” scene when it was at it’s peak, so the new album was always going to be interesting. “Still Searching” surprisingly was deemed by many as better than the previous material. Mature, and a real progression.
Gary Lancaster caught up with relative New-comer to the band Heath Saraceno (yes… the guy from Midtown) to discuss getting kicked in the balls, kebabs, and even the new album…..
Who are you and what do you do?
Well Hi, my name is Heath and I play the guitar in the band Senses Fail!
So for those unfamiliar with the band, please tell us a little about yourselves
We are a five piece band from Bergen County, New Jersey, and our latest record called “Still Searching” just came out. We’ve been over here (The UK) twice to support it so far and we’re going to be back again for the Give It A Name festival!
I was going to ask how you all came together as a band, but I know for a fact that you are the new guy as of this last record, so tell us, how did you come to be part of Senses Fail?
Well, the band were of course already established and touring. Actually they’d had a bunch of tours and for whatever reasons had come to the agreement that the old guitar player should not be in the band anymore… they gave me a call and asked me to learn 3 songs. I learnt 3 songs, then I learnt ALL the songs… went into practise with them, ‘cos I didn’t know if they were offering anyone else an audition or anything, so I learnt all the songs, practised with them and it really just fit like a glove. I’ve been with them since!
So if we have never heard your music before, what should we expect when we hit play on the CD player (specifically with your new record)?
Dan Trapp had a great quote from the DVD which is available free with the new record “It’s gonna kick you square in the balls”. Your balls are going to get kicked, pretty hard. If you don’t have balls…
Ha yeah get some, and THEN get kicked in it.
Ok so I’d like to talk a little about this tour now, how is it going for you guys?
This tour is going REALLY well. We’ve played a bunch of smaller clubs which we’ve not done here before; we just wanted to come back over because we thought we’d laid some great groundwork and foundations playing Taste Of Chaos. We wanted to come back and play small shows after the huge shows of that tour this is the last show now… ironically when we go back we’re playing on the Taste Of Chaos North American tour! This has been really great though.
You guys are not new to the UK, this is your umpteenth tour, how do you find the fact that kids half way across the world love your music?
It’s really awesome. When you start a band and you are playing in like your parents basement, that’s the dream. You know, that one day you’ll be able to go to England, or Japan, or even like Washington. The next big town! To do it on such a great scale is really gratifying.
Has anything surprised you this time round?
Kids are really into it. They know all the words! They are very excited to see us play the new songs live and personally I’m very excited about the locations of all these venues. They’ve been very close to Kebab shops so I’ve been able to load up on crappy food that no one should eat…
Seemingly us Brits are good at crappy food.
Yes… but! It’s flavourful crappy food! It’s good. Like the other day I had fries with cheese and beans and everyone on the bus wanted to throw up. I thought it was amazing.
You’ve got to melt the cheese.
Of course! Great combination!
Apart from dodgy food then, there must be some tour stories?
Well naw we don’t really do too many pranks!
That’s not a declaration of being too old now is it?
Ha! Well kind of. We don’t really mess around. We just tend to hang out. Back of the bus, throw a party you know. A lot of the times when Sean our guitar tech is around we’ll end up listening to like four alkaline trio records, or if it’s myself and Damon our TM we’ll listen to Nada Surf. We just pretty much hang out, drink and fall asleep!
So what can we expect from you tonight then, as the last show?
Well you might be anticipating a couple of high leg kicks, maybe… I might trip on something. I’m pretty clumsy. I might need a drink to steady myself. We’re gonna play a good mix of stuff. Two tracks from the EP, six from “Let It Unfold You” and seven songs from “Still Searching“!
As a new member do you find playing the older stuff slightly strange as you weren’t a member when it was conceived?
Well no ‘cos at first all the stuff was older stuff to me, so it kind of felt like I was in a cover band for a little while which was fun because I really like playing other peoples songs. Doing that you learn a lot about a guitar players techniques and it gives you a couple more tricks in the bag, but I don’t really feel like that anymore, I’ve added stuff to the old songs live I think.
Yeah exactly! Garret and I have expanded a lot of the guitar parts!
Ok, so now let’s talk little more about “Still Searching“. Now the dust has settled slightly, what are your thoughts about it all?
I’m really happy that people like it. We put a lot of work into it and I’m just glad that there are people who appreciate it.
Compared to “From The Depths Of Dreams” and “Let It Unfold You” it seems very refined. Do you think this is a conscious effort from the band to almost, up the ante?
Well if you look at “From The Depths Of Dreams” to this, there is a four or five year gap. Some of them were in high school. They were like sixteen or seventeen years old when they wrote that. Imagine stuff you wrote at sixteen compared to stuff you write now. There’s a definite growth and maturity. BUT, that word has become so… well, it’s turned into such a bad word. So many bands when asked ‘Whats the new CD like’ say ‘It’s gonna be more mature.’
You know the heavy parts will be heavier and the cleaner parts will be cleaner. At the end of the day it’s either going to sound like your band or not. For this record, we tried to do everything that was in our minds, but we also had to make sure that we didn’t go too far.
We wrote probably 25-30 songs. A couple of them sounded like Boston, a couple sounded like straight up metal. They were fun to play but we had to realise that they weren’t Senses Fail songs. We had to draw the line.
I watched the DVD the other night; the recording session seemed all fun and games, was it that simple?
Well… I wouldn’t say it’s simple, but we knew what we were doing. We had already recorded it a couple of times ourselves. Every time we write a song we would demo it and then listen back to it, make changes and go record it again. We knew pretty much everything we were doing on every track. We had plenty of leeway really. We had time to mess around, go play with the dog etc. The first week… pre production, is usually reserved for arranging everything that you come in with, and we went in with 14 songs with very little re-arranging to do. We spent 2 days re-arranging and 3 days writing songs. It was fun, just jamming and stuff.
Did any of those songs make the final cut for the album?
None of them actually but two are available as B-sides. One of them I think honestly should have been on the record.
Which track was that?
It’s called “Stretch Your Legs To Coffin Length“, it’s on the B-Side to “Calling All Cars”.
How do you think your introduction to the band has changed it?
Well I think everyone gets along really well now. I do a lot of back up vocals too and Garret and I like to throw a lot of harmonised leads in here and there just for fun. That didn’t really happen before. I think that everything… well, I’m not just saying this because it’s my effect, but I think everyone has grown individually as both musicians and individuals lately.
So if there was one message you wished to portray throughout the album, what do you think it would be?
Lyrically… I’ve heard Buddy (vocals) talk about, well… I know for a fact that when we were writing this that a lot of his issues came out in the lyrics. Like, dealing with anxiety and depression, and the struggle to figure out what kind of faith you should have and what should you believe in, not just in religion but in every aspect of life.
If you could go back and kind of, alter anything with it, would you?
No not really, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m really happy with it!
Can you pick a personal highlight of the album?
I think the song “Still Searching” is a good climax to the record. It kind of goes in every single direction and we were really proud of the way it turned out. So, if there’s one track you check out, make sure it’s that.
Ok, thanks for taking the time out to speak to us!
You’re welcome, thanks!