Rising from the ashes of Egypt Central, Devour the Day is the brainchild of drummer Blake Allison, stepping up front to handle lead vocals and guitar, and bassist Joey “Chicago” Walser. Much of the material on their debut album, “Time & Pressure,” reflects the uncertainty that surrounded their future after their previous band’s demise, resulting in songs with considerably more depth and a much wider sonic range than anything they did before. In late May, just before the band’s third show ever, Live Metal’s Greg Maki sat down with Blake at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, Maryland, to discuss his new beginning in the music business and what lies ahead for Devour the Day.
LIVE METAL: After 10 years with Egypt Central, how does it feel to be starting over with a new band?
BLAKE ALLISON: It’s a blessing, because not too many people get the chance to do something once something falls apart, especially the way that we did. We were putting these songs together, and Dave from Fat Lady Music was like, “I almost like this better than (Egypt Central), so let’s see what happens.” So we wrote the rest of the record, and by the end of it, he was really happy. Which made us really happy, because we were like, “Yes, we’re gonna get another shot.” So when we started showing it around and started testing it in our specific markets and we started to get a good response, that’s when we were like, alright. But I didn’t realize that it was going to happen again until we went out and played the first show in Flint, Michigan. When I was onstage, I was like, “Oh shit, here we are.” (laughs)
That was just earlier this month, right?
Yeah, I was nervous. (laughs)
When Egypt Central came to an end, did you have an idea of what you wanted to do next?
Absolutely not. When that fell apart, Joey and I … we tried everything. We threw paint against the wall. We were like, “Maybe you”—meaning I—“maybe you could sing.” And we tried that, we did a practice once. There’s nothing against Egypt Central, because that’s my former band, my first child. I love that band, but I couldn’t find myself screaming “Kick Ass” or “Taking You Down.” It’s just not my personality, and this band fits Joey and I—who we are as people—much more. So we’re much more comfortable about playing these songs live and showing them to the public. We don’t have any of the stigmas that went along with Egypt Central.
One of the things I thought right away when listening to the album is that it’s a lot deeper in the lyrics. What kind of things inspire your songwriting and, in particular, to go in that deeper direction?
We knew we didn’t want to write songs for the sake of writing songs. We wanted to write songs that meant something to us, as therapy. That’s the way it started. That’s just the formula that worked for the band, so we stuck with it. None of us felt like we needed to write a song for the NFL, even though we have a great relationship there; we love those people because they treated us so well. But when we wrote some of the songs for E.C., we were deliberately writing for that purpose. We miss the attention that we got from it, but we feel a little bit better personally about these songs.
What are some of your, especially when it applies to this, some of your musical influences?
On this record, between my best friend, Joey—he’s my biggest influence while we’re writing. As a drummer, I have my five favorite drummers. As a guitar player, I have some bands that I really like. But I never really modeled myself after anybody. I take little, tiny pieces from this guy and this guy and this guy and this guy. As a band, we wanted to make something current. We don’t even really know what that is because, there’s a lot of bands out there and there’s all these different genres. So we just wanted to write something that we knew we liked, and that was probably the biggest influence.
The band name, Devour the Day, jumped out at me right away. Where did that come from?
The day that we decided we were gonna form another band is the day that we started working on a new name, and after thousands—I wouldn’t say hundreds, but thousands—of terrible, laughable band names—Joey and I, for maybe three or four minutes, we’ll take it seriously. We’ll come up with something like—I don’t know—Vulgar Visage or something like that, and we’ll just sit there and look at each other, and be like, “That is ridiculous! That’s never gonna be a cool band name.” (laughs)
We got to the point where we were just at wits end after hours and hours and hours of trying to figure it out. So we looked for some help, and Joey’s father is a pastor. So he’s always come to us with ideas that are religiously referenced. After a couple days of trading ideas with him, he came with one that was Devour the Day, and I think Joey knew it instantly when he heard it. So he called me, and he was like, “What do you think?” And I was like, “Yep! That’s the one. Let’s just do it.”
I think a lot of bands—I don’t know if they just don’t realize how important the name is, because you see some just ridiculous names.
I am proof of that. (laughs) Our first band—that’s the worst band name you could have. People would come up to me like, “So are you guys from Egypt? You don’t look like you’re from Egypt.” It’s hard to explain. Never name your band after something that has a country in it. (laughs) That’s like the worst.
Had you done lead vocals in any previous bands?
No, this is my first band singing lead. In Egypt Central, I was singing all the demos, and I was always singing backups in E.C., as well, and a lot of the bands that I produce, I sing backups on and write vocals for those bands. When we were demoing up the beginnings of these records, that’s actually what made the record. But that’s just how it started. We were just demoing it; we didn’t know that we were actually making the record at that point. It just happened.
The first single, “Good Man,” seems to be getting a pretty good response. What is that song about?
Basically, to quote Joey, he was down on his knees crying out and didn’t know who he was crying to. That’s where the song really takes its root from, is the idea that there are no atheists in a trench. That song is Joey, specifically, not knowing what we were going to do next.
It’s kind of cool then to have that as the first single.
Absolutely. We wrote songs about how mad we were, and we wrote songs about how happy we were, but nothing really took a detailed photograph of just the feeling that went along with both of them—hoping that it works, hoping that we can figure something out. The song is a picture of somebody in despair, that needs help, that doesn’t realize that he is capable of doing it—and I won’t say on his own, but I won’t say he needs a superpower either. That song means a lot to all of us.
A couple of my favorites are some of the ones that are a little different, kind of not what you would expect, like the last two songs—“The Drifter” and “Crossroads.” Who is the drifter?
That song is about being on the road. It’s simply, on the road again, Johnny Cash-style. Joey wrote those words right after we got off tour. We put four or five different songs to it, and finally, we were like, “Let’s just see what it sounds like. Write all new chords and all new melodies, and we’ll just make something brand new out of it.” It seemed like the best way to translate that feeling to tape was to just sing it bare bones, as if you were singing it to somebody that you missed back home.
Things in the music business are constantly changing. How does starting a new band now compare to when you were starting 10 years ago?
Ten years ago, I didn’t care what happened. I was just like, beer, pizza, girls, whatever. Now, knowing that it’s what I’ll do for the rest of my life, it’s very important that it works. (laughs) So there’s a lot riding on it. Back then, MySpace was the coolest thing. MySpace was brand new, so if you had a song up that was quality, you were different than 99 percent of the bands that were on it. So when we put up something that was quality, that helped us out a lot. We had friends at radio, and we had a quality recording—that helped us out a lot. Nowadays, everybody’s got a quality recording, everybody has a lyric video, and everybody has a Facebook fan base that’s bot-generated. So how do you stand out? Now, it’s not about writing the coolest-sounding Breaking Benjamin riff or having the trendiest ukulele in your song. Now it’s how do you separate yourself from the pack, and I think—I’m not gonna sit here and act like we know what we’re doing, but at the same time, I think that we put something together that worked, and we got really lucky.
In your live band, you’ve got another one of you former Egypt Central bandmates (Jeff James) and then Dustin (Schoenhofer from Bury Your Dead and Walls of Jericho). How did you decide on those two for the band?
With Dustin, we heard from a friend that he was a touring guy, a live show drummer. And so when Joey sent him the music and he got back to us, he was like, “Yo, I’m down, 100 percent.” Then I watched a video of him performing with Walls of Jericho, and he’s just shredding, just killing it. He can really play, which was great. When we had him down to our first—I wouldn’t even really call it an audition, because it didn’t go like that—when we jammed for the first time, he came in and just started bashing the drums, before we even started playing the song. And that’s how I knew he was totally confident, which is great to have in anybody in your band. Then we played the first song, and he just nailed it. And he knew all the songs right then and there, which was excellent. So he nailed the audition 100 percent, played everything perfect, and he’s very aggressive, and he’s very loud. That’s what I felt was important about the previous band, so to have that again, that’s extremely lucky, too, because it’s hard to find guys like that. A lot of drummers kind of go at it 70 percent, they’re just kind of putzing around up there, and he’s not that kind of guy.
With having Jeff back, what he said was, “I’ve been waiting for you to ask me, because I quit Egypt Central because of the lead singer. So I’ve been waiting for you to ask me to do this, because I just felt like I couldn’t.” So that was just like, “OK, well then you’re back in, because we love you to death, you’re our brother.” He, as a guitar player, was a big influence on me, which totally went to the record. So he kind of knew how to play everything before, because I learned from him. When we jammed as a group for the first time, it was just like, boom, that’s awesome.
You’ve only done a couple shows so far, but how are you feeling as the frontman?
I don’t really know what I’m doing. As each show goes by, I feel like I’m getting better at it. This is the third show. (laughs) So we’ll see, but it’s getting easier. It’s just a different viewpoint. That’s the biggest thing, being able to actually see the audience.
Lots of shows lined up for the summer?
Yeah. We’re touring with Hinder, Aranda, and we’re also touring with Sevendust and Otherwise. That’ll last us for most of the summer. I can’t talk about any more, because I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth. But that’s a pretty substantial run for us, so we’re really, really, really excited.
Egypt Central played Baltimore a lot, and you were building a pretty good following here. How do you feel about the city and playing here?
We’re excited to be back, because Baltimore was home base for us. For us to be able to be back here playing shows again and for them to accept us—for us to be so well received here—we don’t have fans in this city, we have friends and family. We’re just gonna go out there and play a show in front of our friends and family. It’s one of those shows where it’s way more nerve-racking. I don’t know what it is about playing in front of 10,000 people, but it’s a lot easier than playing in front of 10. And in Baltimore, a sold-out Rams Head Live show is like playing in front of your parents. (laughs) Because we’ve known these people for so long. And the new people, we’re excited to see them, too. We’re happy that people are coming.
Looking forward, what kind of goals do you have for this band?
The goal for this band is, musically, to achieve what I would call a masterpiece. I feel like every artist has their masterpiece, the best piece of art that they have put together. That solely is my goal, to put together the ultimate group of songs, the ones that define your whole life—Dewey Cox (laughs)—or the ones that really show you your talents and your artistry. We’re excited to know that we’re gonna continue to make records—with us being able to make them ourselves, too; that’s nice. I guess the other side of the coin is that we want to just continue to do it for the rest of our lives. If we can make that happen, we’ll have made our life goal.