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Metalcore has a fairly limited palette of techniques and tones. Were you keen to explore new regions as players?
Phil: “I felt like we did enough of the metalcore stuff. I love that – all of the breakdowns and everything – but we’re a band that wants to keep moving forward. We always want more and we want to be better than everyone else in our scene, so trying rock-style songs was definitely something that we had to do.”
Alan: “The cool thing to me about the band has been that we can do lots of different genres – not pigeonhole ourselves to be a specific ‘metalcore’ band. We’re a f**king rock ’n’ roll band. We like rock music. There’s some metalcore aspects, there’s some nu-metal aspects, whatever, we just didn’t want an album that all sounded like the same song.”
Phil, how did you develop your playing as a lead guitarist?
Phil: “I went from the basics: I started learning older songs and different scales – and just relearning the guitar. I found ideas came out from listening to older songs that I loved. Would You Still Be There, that song was not a normal Of Mice & Men song. When you listen to it, you’re like, ‘Damn that’s like Papa Roach or Breaking Benjamin.’ Or a song like Identity Disorder, there’s barely any guitar in the verse, it’s just the bass part with guitar harmonics and a tremolo in the back.
“They don’t sound like [old] Of Mice & Men, but you can totally hear the band. Both were ones where everyone was like, ‘Jesus, what’s going to happen with these songs?’ But then two days before we finish the record, the guys knocked out the vocals and before you know it, they’re two of the best hits.”
Which guitar moment are you most proud of on Restoring Force?
Phil: “I did have one special moment. Dave was pissed at me – he always got underneath my skin just to push my buttons – it was on the song Another You, then I actually did it in one take. So I definitely pat myself on the back for that, because it was a difficult song to do. That’s the one that I think is the best, mainly because I got the nickname One-Take Phil!”
Alan: “For me, it was a Dunlop Cry Baby wah solo on Bones Exposed. I grew up loving Slash, so I’ve just always wanted to have a f**king Dunlop Cry Baby guitar solo. Everybody was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t really know...’ I was like, ‘Watch this!’ Then I had a few beers, went into the studio for two hours and came out with the solo and everyone was like, ‘Yep – we’re keeping it!’
“There’s also a cool moment on Public Service Announcement where there’s a lot of feedback and it kind of sounds like there’s a guitar just getting thrown around a room – and that’s literally what it was. Dave Bendeth came in and was like, ‘You’re not being f**king mean enough to that guitar!’ He took it out of my hand and was just bashing it up against the cab! So there’s a part at the end that sounds like chaos – and that’s what it was.”
The band will likely go on to bigger things with this record. Do you think you’re prepared for that, personally?
Phil: “We wouldn’t write the album if we weren’t. We didn’t go to the studio going, ‘We’re going to write these kind of songs!’ It just kind of came to us. We just write the music we like and we wrote catchier stuff. You never hope to be one of those Slipknots or Linkin Parks or Blink-182s. You want to be that band, but it’s up to the people and the music that we write.”
Alan: “Honestly? I don’t feel like I’m ever prepared for anything! I just take it as it comes. I feel like the band as a whole is ready. We love playing shows and we’ve been playing bigger shows with bigger bands, so hopefully yeah, that’s what will come with it. No band wants to come out with an album and have less people listen to it. So you could say we’re ready. Individually, I don’t think any of us is ready – we learn as we go, man!”