To say the last year has been an eventful one for Nonpoint would be an understatement. To be blunt, they went through more changes in a year than some bands go through in an entire career. With the departure of two bands members, the addition of three new ones, the change to a new record label and an array of other pet projects, it’s a miracle they found the time to record a new album.
But they did.
We caught up with singer Elias Soriano to go over all the changes in the Nonpoint camp and what it means for band that has worked relentlessly to amass one of the most dedicated fan bases in all of music.
Blog Rocking Beat (BRB): The last time we talked was about a year ago and it has been, from the outside at least, a crazy year for you guys. So let’s rewind about a year and lay all this out, okay?
Elias Soriano (ES): Sure.
BRB: After Ken and Zach left the band, I reach out to Zach to get an idea of what was going on. He said that the relationship had become “toxic” and it was clear that it was time to move on. Would you say that is accurate?
ES: The truth of the matter is that we wanted to move on without Zach and we let him go. We weren’t feeling the vibe on stage. We were getting comments from friends and family. Just the overall vibe of the band was getting to the point where I felt like he was just up there going through the motions. So we asked him to leave.
He and Ken had become good friends over the year-and-a-half he was in the band. Ken decided that he didn’t want to continue if Zach wasn’t in the band. So Robb and I said, “Okay, but we are going to continue with the band and move on without either one of you.” That’s basically what happened.
BRB: Following that, then, how did you guys get hooked up with Dave, Rasheed and Adam?
ES: We’re friends with a lot of people in the industry and Robb asked a couple of his friends if they knew of any good guitar players who would fit our style, a friend of ours passed Dave’s name along. We got in touch with him immediately and he started sending music right away, which was really our biggest complaint and concern with Zach can Ken; there was really no music writing going on. It’s like we were sitting back and waiting for things to happen, so we took the reigns and went forward. Dave immediately started sending music. After picking up Dave, we decided we were going to fill the rest of the slots right away.
As it was, Dave was in a band with Rasheed and Adam and had been for at least a year. They were called Inn Cinema. They all had a great chemistry. We invited those guys to join the band as well and they hit the ground running.
BRB: So it wasn’t so much a conscious decision to go to a 5-piece outfit as it was a happy accident?
ES: That was actually the catalyst that started everything. We wanted to add another guitar player. It was something that Robb and I felt very strongly about. Musically and performance-wise there were some things that were lacking and we wanted to have them in the band. When the subject initially came up, Zach and Ken were really against it. So when we had the opportunity to do it, we did.
It’s not really about the money. I understand that you now have to split the money with another person, but if it makes the music better that’s always going to be our goal.
BRB: So it sounds like they were all involved in the writing process.
ES: Absolutely! They wrote pretty much ALL the riffs. I think Robb contributed to the two of the riffs on the record. They all wrote their own parts and we ended up with 30 songs by the end of the writing. In 15 weeks we had zero songs with Zach and Ken. In less than eight weeks we has 28 songs with Dave, Rasheed and Adam. Their heads were in the game. They weren’t jaded. They weren’t lazy. They wanted to get in and do the work. They wanted to write music. The relationship is great on stage. We get a lot of great comments on Rasheed and his singing—
BRB: I was going to ask, is it nice to have another guy in the band who can sing is ass off?
ES: My God, man! When I have friends, like our brothers in Sevendust and Taproot, coming up to us and saying we never sounded better, it’s great. These are friends and peers and I respect their opinions because they know what we’re about. They know what we have been trying to do for close to 15 years in this band. These new guys, their hearts are gold and they really want to do this. They jumped in with both feet and it shows.
BRB: One of the other changes is that you guys are on Razor & Tie Records now. How did that come about? Did they approach you or did you approach them?
ES: We’re being managed by Split Media and Izzy Zivkovic and he’s really good friend with the people at Razor & Tie; they are in the same building. When we decided we weren’t going to release another record through Rocket Science, we were shopping around. We like that White Stripes approach of going in and doing one record with people and not getting locked down for a ridiculous amount of records or giving away too much percentage. And if the label really wants you, then they really want you.
So Izzy approached them about picking us up because they had such good success with All That Remains and what they are doing now with P.O.D., we loved the idea. Their staff is really aggressive. They are intuitive on the smartest and most current ways to promote bands. They have great connections with music writers and producers. Next to MCA from way back, it is probably the best label staff we have ever worked with in the last 10 years.
It’s good to have these guys. You can tell they really care. They are not letting anything fall through the cracks. They are not willing to let us do things that are mediocre. It’s really good. It’s like having another band member who is just as hungry as you are, without making it seem like they are just there to sell the records.
BRB: So going into the album, then, with all these changes, did you feel like you really had something to prove this time around?
ES: I think that with every record, just because we haven’t had ridiculous amounts of mainstream success—yeah, we’ve have singles and airplay, but when it comes to like Disturbed big… let’s be honest—with every record we feel we have something to prove, because we are trying to stay relevant and stay alive out here. This band has survived 15 years because of the music. This time around, more so than in the past, it was about making the fans understand that we’re still here and we have gotten better. We are writing better music. There is another chapter of Nonpoint and there is probably going to be another five chapters of Nonpoint. But I feel like this record and the music that we wrote and the response that we’re getting from the new music is proving it for us. We like to let the music speak for itself, but we went in with the intent of having a record that had 13 or 14 amazing songs on it and we weren’t willing to stop writing until we felt we had that.
BRB: Nonpoint, as a unit though, strikes me as the type of band that, as long as you keep putting out solid records, the fans will keep coming out to support you, regardless of whether you never have another radio single again.
ES: I have to credit that to one of our very first A&R guys at MCA. His intention was to get us that Pantera type of core following, so that we wouldn’t have to worry about radio. So even after we left MCA, we still toured that way. If there was a town where we were popular, we would hit that town four or five times each year to take care of those people who were supporting us.
It’s about keeping a smart business plan when it comes to the business side of the music. And the best part of this is that is my business and it’s fuckin’ rock and roll, man. It’s fun. It’s fun for me to have to schedule interviews like this. Every once in awhile, you have to put your head in the books to make sure that, financially, everything is alright and that your future is set. I mean, I have a daughter now. So it’s so nice to see when things fall into place as well as they have for us this last year. But I credit all of that to us starting out the right way and having managers teach us that we only spend money when we really need to. And I think we’ve been waiting for this moment in our careers to put everything into it.
BRB: Still, was there any worry about how the fans would take it, especially with Ken’s departure?
ES: Oh yeah. With Ken’s departure and his decision to leave, it was actually a surprise, because I know how much he likes to perform, but I understood why. People were butting heads and it just wasn’t working anymore. But once I saw videos of our new members, I really didn’t worry about it too much. The guys move around a lot on stage, just as much as Ken did. So we are really looking at trying to wipe that background away and focusing on moving forward from here.
BRB: Isn’t that part frustrating for you right now, though? I mean, you’ve got this record written, recorded, mixed, mastered and ready to go. Aren’t you chomping at the bit to get it out there and unleash this on the world?
ES: It drops in September, but I’ve been chomping at the bit since probably February! It’s been a long process for me, but the label really just got the record at the end of June. As soon as they got it, though, they were immediately on it. I’m not worried about them shelving it. They are on it, without a doubt.
BRB: Good, because it seems like it’s that one last piece of the puzzle.
ES: Oh, I know. The drop date for now is the 18th of September—maybe before, but also possibly after. There have been a lot of things I have historically worried about with the releasing of records, but the game has really changed. A lot of the months that used to be bad months are turning into the better months for sales. Things like album artwork now having to translate to an iTunes thumbnail take time. There are a lot of things for Razor & Tie to get around and when they say, “This looks like the time we should do it,” then I trust them.
BRB: More about the record, who was at the helm this time?
ES: We did 90% of the record with Johnny K and he’s a really great producer and great mixer. We did 12 songs with him. When we went to the label, they wanted us to do one more song. So we went back with Brian Virtue and Rob Graves. When we sat down with those guys, I had a song that I had been hanging onto with a riff that the guys just loved. We didn’t have time to get it done at Johnny’s studio. So when they asked for another song, we said, “Well, yeah, we do have another song.” So they said they’d like to bring in a writer who had worked with All That Remains, Skillet, Red and other hard rock acts and asked if I would mind sitting down and shooting some ideas back and forth. Now, I have never worked with a songwriter before in my life. And maybe four records ago, I might have been leery. Now, it’s like, how many more things am I going to write? I could use a fresh idea! So I stayed open-minded to working with a writer and from the first instant I sat down and start talking with Rob Graves, I was like, “Wow!” It was just great idea after great idea after great idea. It was really exciting and we definitely want to work with him on the next record, too.
It’s just nice to work with someone who gets the sentiment of what we are trying to deliver and to be able to trust that person so you don’t have to take care of every single thing yourself. When I hit a wall, he’ll say, “What if you sing this note here,” or “Since you already talked about this idea here, why don’t you change the subject a little in the next verse?”
BRB: So was most of the work done lyrically or with arrangements?
ES: This time it was with melody more than anything else. We covered things like cadence and where I would sing. And together, it got things going really smooth. It really polished it out. It was cool. I was really floored by the process. I mean, this time around, between Johnny and Brian and Rob, I felt like we made a record—a real record. In the past, the label gives you money and tells you to go in the studio. You come out with some songs. They pick a single. And that’s it. This time around, though, I felt like I was really in it. We wrote for months. We recorded for 10 weeks. It was just great for us. I just can’t wait for the people to hear it.
Nonpoint is currently on tour. The first single is “Left For You.” If you haven’t heard it yet, here’s a listen.