INTERVIEW: KISSING CANDICE

When a metal band dons masks onstage, the comparisons to Slipknot and Mushroomhead are inevitable. Not only do the members of Kissing Candice not hide from those common comments, they embrace them. They aim to be the next in the line of masked metal bands, and beyond that, the next act in the genre to headline stadiums and festivals. Though the band already has released two EPs, “Murder” (2012) and “Conjured” (2013), the quest for world domination will go to a new level June 30, when Victory Records releases its full-length debut, “Blind Until We Burn,” and later this summer, when it performs on its label’s stage at the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. When Kissing Candice’s tour supporting Twiztid came to Rams Head Live in Baltimore, Maryland, Live Metal’s Greg Maki sat down backstage with vocalist Joey Simpson, guitarist/vocalist Tommy Sciro, bassist Mike Grippo and guitarist Walter Dicristina, who devoured a literal stack of pizzas during the interview, to discuss the band’s origins, the new album, Mayhem and more.

Joey Simpson of Kissing Candice

LIVE METAL: Who is Candice?

JOEY SIMPSON: Quick rundown, the shortest way possible without dragging the story, is Candice is a girl that I was friends with during high school, and I had the biggest crush on her forever. I would sit next to her in school, and it was just like something out of a movie. One night, I went by a friend’s house and we were hanging out, and I got to kiss her, and I kissed her one time—once. It never went any further than a kiss. Nothing ever came out of it. It was just one kiss, and I was hooked onto that kiss for forever. I wanted to date her; I wanted her to be my girlfriend. I had this kind of fantasy in my head.

Of course, you graduate high school, you lose touch with people. After a few years of losing touch with her, I found her on Facebook. She’s like the poster board for the perfect American family. She’s got beautiful kids; she’s got a husband. She looks like a mom. She’s got a minivan, a house. It’s like, she’ll never get divorced. She’s not that. She’s a straight-laced type of mom. So that was my one kiss. That was my Candice. Kissing Candice—put it together and it’s always been something that I wanted to make come to life.

It’s definitely a name that sticks out, especially in this genre.

JOEY: You hear the name, and you would never put the image to the name, which I like.

Tommy Sciro of Kissing Candice

So how did you guys get together?

TOMMY SCIRO: Long story short: My best friend, who’s our producer, Jeremy Comitas, I’ve known for 10-plus years, was originally working with (Joey) in Dr. Acula when they recorded “Slander.” I was helping at the studio at the time, just doing editing and this and that, and he introduced me to him. We tell this story all the time, but we hated each other for, I would say, a couple months. The big joke within the band is I’m the jock and he’s the music dude—even though we’re both music dudes, but whatever.

Then, after a couple months of kind of wearing each other down, I guess, the humor thing kind of poked through, and we started to recognize that we both like horror movies. The humor thing, that’s really what keeps this whole band together, honestly. Jeremy had said, “Joey wants to start a side project,” once this Acula thing kind of disbanded. Wasn’t really interested at first, then kind of, little by little, I liked the direction or the concept where he was going, ‘cause I’m a big Misfits fan, I’m a big Mushroomhead fan, Slipknot—once again, we also have that in common. It was good to be with that theatrical tour de force, so to speak. Then (Grippo) joined the band in what, 2012?

MIKE GRIPPO: Yeah, right after “Murder” came out. I originally had been asked, but I decided that I had given up metal to play alternative rock strictly. (laughter) It was like a midlife crisis kind of thing. It lasted about four months, and then, as soon as that ended, I got asked again to join, and I’m like, “Alright. I got asked twice. I might as well take the second time.” So I came in because my friend was playing guitar.

TOMMY: It’s funny, too, ‘cause he was in the band—everybody calls him Grippo because his last name is Grippo—but Joey did not know he was in the band.

JOEY: Yeah, I actually didn’t meet him until I was out on Mayhem Fest with Slipknot selling merchandise for Sid—he has a clothing line—and they were home, and we were practicing because we got asked to do Knotfest. So we needed to get a solid lineup. So like, “Yeah, we got this bass player guy. He’s Grippo.” And I’m just like, “Oh, OK, yeah, sure.” They came up to the Connecticut show, and I met him, and I was like, “Oh, I guess he’s in my band.” (laughter)

TOMMY: But the more and more you get to know the dynamic of the band, that’s really how this whole thing works. Everything is just by the cuff. Nothing is planned out. Everything is always spur of the moment. We live very much on the edge, so to speak.

JOEY: We’re all completely different guys, but when we come together, it works. And it works really well.

TOMMY: I think that’s why no one steps on each other’s feet. He’s allowed to do his thing; I do my thing.

Mike Grippo of Kissing Candice

GRIPPO: We’ve developed a core band now. I’ve been in the band three years now.

TOMMY: I’ve been there since the beginning.

JOEY: We have Walt, which he’ll probably be poking in and out. He was with us, and then he took a leave of absence to kind of figure his stuff out, ‘cause he does a lot of engineering and studio stuff. And then we got a couple replacements and stuff, but it was just like he’s the more normal one out of us, and he kind of balances everything out. So it’s like, he’s the yin to our yang. But he’s great. He completes the lineup. As far as drummers, we had a drummer for a while that just didn’t—it wasn’t there. He’s a great guy, great drummer. It just didn’t click.

TOMMY: The X-factor wasn’t there.

JOEY: We have Tommy (Vinton), who’s drumming for us now. Tonight’s his last show. He’s going to join with Relapse Symphony and do Warped Tour with them. So we have another drummer that’s flying in tonight that’s gonna replace him for the rest of the tour.

TOMMY: From Sea of Treachery.

JOEY: So the drummer situation—we haven’t found that fifth core yet. We will. We’re on the search. It’ll take time, but it’ll happen.

For people who haven’t had a chance to hear the band yet, how would you describe what you do?

TOMMY: It’s definitely contemporary, modern metal, without a doubt. But it’s got definitely a lot of homage to older things. Mentioning again that everybody’s kind of cut from a different cloth but, at the same time, has a center core, everybody’s got vastly different influences. But at the same time, we all like the same central bands, like Slipknot, Mushroomhead—all that stuff.

JOEY: (Tommy) likes bands like Rush, Dream Theater. Some of (Grippo’s) favorite bands are Nine Inch Nails, Every Time I Die.

GRIPPO: I like Southern, groovy stuff.

JOEY: I’m a big Emmure, Asking Alexandria, Slipknot—I have Slipknot tattoos. We all have these different elements that come together, and it just works.

TOMMY: It shouldn’t, but it does

Did the visual side come along right from the beginning?

JOEY: When I first came up with the concept, I wanted something theatrical. I wanted something horror, ‘cause I love horror. So I wanted to take that, and I love Slipknot, so at first, we would do blood. We would do makeup and blood, and by the second or third song, we would sweat it off, and we would just look like a couple of normal guys. (Tommy) brought these clear impersonator masks one day, and he’s like, “We should just rock out with these on and see what it comes up with.” So we wore them to a show, and it was just like [claps his hands].

TOMMY: The hard part here is any time you wear masks and you wear a costume, you’re gonna get the “You’re Slipknot. You’re Mushroomhead.” It’s really hard to get away from that, because they’ve done it first. We’ve tried to stay away from that but also pay homage to it. We want to pay our respects, ‘cause that’s what got us where we are today, but at the same time, we want—We get it every night, right? “It looks like Slipknot. It looks like Mushroomhead.” Which is inevitable.

JOEY: We take it as a compliment. We’re trying to carry the torch. People are like, “You guys are just biting Slipknot.” No, we’re carrying the torch. We want to be the next big masked band. We want to carry that. Slipknot, Mushroomhead, Zombie—these guys influenced us to do what we do.

TOMMY: I think there is a big gap in the market as far as theatrical-style bands. Nowadays, it’s very T-shirt, jeans—which is not a bad thing, but we all agree that we like the theatrical stuff.

kissing-candice-blind-until-we-burn-coverThe album comes out at the end of this month. What kind of goals do you have for it?

GRIPPO: Number one on the Billboard Top 200.

JOEY: We have such big hopes for it. We hope that the kids take to it musically. We went in a completely different direction, still keeping our elements but just bigger sounds. Even the recording quality of it, we went for that big sound. We took out the elements of that kind of tinny metalcore sound that you get from breakdown bands, and we just went for big sound. We have some quote-en-quote radio-rock songs that we want to get on Octane and shit like that. Then we have our heavy songs that we kept. So it’s got a little bit of something for everyone—new fans, old fans.

TOMMY: Everybody says it’s got something for everybody, but we really did our hardest and paid attention to small details as far as appealing to kids that are gonna like the mainstream stuff that also like underground, hardcore metal. Take it with a grain of salt, but we think that there’s something for everybody.

What kind of things influenced the songwriting?

JOEY: We have songs about horror movies. We like to write about horror movies. And then we have songs that mean personal things to us, experiences. And then we have songs that are just balls-to-the-wall heavy. We just kind of took everybody’s ideas. Everybody got input. Whether it was musically, riffs, electronics, lyrics, everybody worked on things together. He would write separately and bring it to the table, and he would bring shit to the table, and then we had our producer, Jeremy, who also had a little bit of a hand in it. He’ll just be like, “That’s gay. You guys aren’t using that”—which works. It’s good for us.

TOMMY: It’s basically like this: It’s a building block. Someone’s got a skeleton, so and so puts their next input on it, constantly just chiseling away until you find what it is. But at some point, everybody’s got their hands in it, whether it’s lyrically, musically, production-wise, whatever.

JOEY: Musically, it’s got those catchy riffs, the big choruses, the heavy breakdowns, electronic parts, a little dancey. (Grippo) likes to do a lot of electronic stuff, which is like Nine Inch Nails, dark shit. We’re just hoping that the kids understand what we’re trying to do and take to it, and not be like, “They’re not heavy anymore!” There’s heavy songs on it. It’s not about being the heaviest.

TOMMY: There are some really heavy songs on there.

GRIPPO: There are songs that are heavier than anything off the past two EPs, too.

You were saying some of the songs are about horror movies. Which ones?

JOEY: Starting from the beginning, “Murder”—there’s a song called “Hunt for the Engineer,” which is about “Hellraiser.” And then, off “Conjured,” we have a song based off the movie “Troll 2,” which is the worst best horror movie ever, if you haven’t seen it. And now we have a song from “People Under the Stairs.” We have a song about “Evil Dead”—“Army of Darkness” and “Evil Dead.” We take those influences and we sprinkle them in.

TOMMY: You can be serious, and you can have a good time at the same time. A lot of people get pigeonholed, and it’s like you can’t be a serious band and also joke around. I don’t know why. Your personality’s not like that. I’m not always a serious person. Why not reflect that as far as music goes?

JOEY: Yeah. It’s like, fuck it. We’re not trying to be tough guys out there. Just ‘cause we play a breakdown doesn’t mean we support violence. One of the songs, the concept was about how Long Island has trash girls and trash guys, and they talk shit, and these girls sleep with everybody within a circle and they think nobody knows about it. We have songs that are super serious, and then we have a song about “Evil Dead.” But to us, they’re all great songs.

What’s the meaning behind the album title?

TOMMY: The easiest way is, most people go through life with a veil, a hood over their face—whatever you want to call it—and they don’t recognize what they’re really involved in until it’s too late—whether that be religion, whether it be a relationship, family, whatever it is. But basically, it’s just about keep your eyes open all the time before it’s too late. Say you’re in a bad relationship, and you think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If you don’t challenge that and you don’t see that other people do other things, it’s gonna blow up in your face. I think it’s a concept everybody can kind of relate to. It’s not too in depth, but everybody can relate to it.

JOEY: It’s a serious title, but that doesn’t mean that the whole album is serious.

What do you bring to the live show?

TOMMY: Whatever we can.

GRIPPO: Whatever fits on the stage. (laughter)

JOEY: I’ll quote Corey Taylor. He would say in an early interview he would expect anything and everything, and that’s like with us. There’s no holds barred. We’ll joke around here, but when we put those masks on, it don’t matter if we have a 20-minute set or an hour set. You’re gonna get the same amount of energy if there’s 10 kids in the audience or a thousand.

TOMMY: I guarantee you we’re not standing still. It’s not gonna happen.

JOEY: Yeah. The way I look at is anybody can come to a show and see five guys standing on a stage making incredible music. If there’s no energy, I’d rather just stay home and listen to it and jump around my room on my bed with a remote screaming. You’ve gotta give them a show. You’ve gotta give them the energy.

TOMMY: It’s a release for kids, man. I know as a kid growing up. Everybody says that. You go to a show to blow off steam or whatever the hell it is. Why not? Every band says this: If the crowd’s energy, if they’re feeding it to you, you gotta give that shit right back twice, three times.

JOEY: We have shows where, on this tour, the crowd’s just like [looks disinterested], but that makes us work harder. We’ve gone on at doors where there’s eight kids and the kids are filing in, and we’ve gotta give it 110 (percent).

Walter Dicristina of Kissing Candice

WALTER DICRISTINA: It’s more of a challenge to make those eight kids move than it is disheartening to play the show. We have fun no matter what.

TOMMY: This is the guy we said keeps us grounded. (laughter) Also note in the interview that Joey’s in his underwear. (laughter)

And you’re all inhaling this pizza.

JOEY: A big part of what fuels this band is pizza. No shit. Pizza, burritos. If there’s one thing that we appreciate, it’s food. But yeah, the live shows are just, give it all you got, especially ‘cause we’re wearing masks, so that’s half the challenge right there. Kids are gonna look at us like that’s hokey, so we’ve gotta really show them it don’t matter that we’re wearing masks. Step up to the plate with us. Put your hands up. Participate.

Do you always wear the same masks or do they change?

JOEY: Yeah. Well, we had the clear impersonator masks, which were plastic, and they were a pain in the ass, especially for us to sing. I had to cut the mouth out. (Tommy) cut straight across so he could sing. So for this album cycle, we’ve started to get more into custom.

TOMMY: But we are definitely gonna do a progression thing. I think every record we’re gonna do or tour—whatever we decide—it’s going to consistently progress. You’re not gonna see the same masks we have now in two years.

WALTER: And before that, our tour in 2013, it was mainly makeup. We were just doing a lot of makeup stuff before the masks even came on.

TOMMY: It sucked.

WALTER: Yeah. It was expensive and gave poor Grip here a rash.

JOEY: You’ll see some sort of changes in the masks as we progress, whether it’s full masks, half masks, different costumes.

mayhem-fest-2015-slayer-king-diamond

This summer, you’re gonna be on Mayhem. That’s a big deal. Are you excited about it?

WALTER: Very excited.

TOMMY: I know it’s gotten kind of a bad press recently because they said the lineup is not as strong as it should be or not enough bands or this or that. I think it’s just because there’s the Slipknot tour going on. What’s the other tour that’s going on?

WALTER: Incubus and Deftones.

GRIPPO: Marilyn Manson.

JOEY: Smashing Pumpkins/Manson. It’s so many tours.

WALTER: All of which I want to go see.

GRIPPO: And Warped Tour has a lot of metal bands on it, too, this year.

JOEY: Warped Tour’s lineup is fuckin’ killer this year. There’s a lot of strong tours that we’re gonna be up against, but they’re doing what they can to sell. It’s Mayhem. People will come.

TOMMY: I tried to preface that by saying that it’s gotten some bad press, but it’s gonna be awesome. And thing is, it’s like real metal bands on this tour, which is awesome. And just the fact to be able to say you’re touring with King Diamond—he’s not getting any younger.

Victory Records has its own stage there, so do you already know some of the bands you’ll be touring with?

TOMMY: Yes and no. We know of them.

JOEY: We’re not close friends with them, but we know them.

WALTER: That’s definitely one of the big things that we’re looking forward to on this tour, is really being able to meet and finally, like, “Hey, we’re on the same label,” and interact and have fun and get to know everybody. It’s a really good opportunity for that. So we’re really pumped about that, too.

TOMMY: Plus, any kind of festival is always fun. It doesn’t matter what the hell the music is. That vibe is great.

And every band I’ve ever talked to that’s been on Mayhem has had nothing but great things to say about it.

WALTER: Yeah, that’s what we’ve heard about it.

JOEY: It’s Mayhem. It’s going to be great no matter what.

Looking ahead into the future, what kind of long-term goals do you have for the band?

TOMMY: I’m gonna just fuckin’ say it for everybody: We want to be a stadium-sized metal band. We want to be the Rob Zombie, Avenged Sevenfold.

JOEY: Five Finger Death Punch. The big metal bands that can headline—

TOMMY: A soccer stadium or—

Mayhem.

TOMMY: Mayhem. Exactly.

JOEY: With our goals and the way we’re pushing ourselves, we have to get there at some point. There’s nothing that’s gonna stop us from reaching that. People can talk shit, they can make fun of us, and it’s just gonna fuel the flames to keep going.

GRIPPO: We’ll just make fun of them 10 times harder back.

JOEY: When I first came up with the idea, people were like, “That’s never gonna work. Putting makeup on and blood—that’s just not gonna work with the music.” Here it is like two and a half years later, and we’ve accomplished a good amount. Mayhem. We did Knotfest. The first two days, we were on the smaller stage, but it’s still under our belt that we did it.

TOMMY: And we did some All Stars dates, too. Dirtfest, we did.

WALTER: Ultimately, as it progresses, we just want to get better at what we’re doing, and we want to, obviously, progressively get better at the show and the music and keep cranking out really good albums and earn the respect of possible fans and people, and just have a really good time doing it.

TOMMY: The most concise thing I can say is I want an army of fans. I want people to associate a lifestyle with that, an image or whatever it is, to the point where that’s how I felt growing up. Even now, some bands make me feel like I associate myself with that. We want the same thing on the biggest scale possible.

Anything else you want to say?

TOMMY: Grippo’s hair looks pretty good today. (laughter)

JOEY: It started out dark blonde, and then we lightened it up, put blue in it, and now it’s that color.

GRIPPO: It went from brown to dirty blonde to, like, platinum to blue to teal. A little bit of green in there at some point, too.

LINKS:
www.kissingcandice.com
www.facebook.com/kissingcandice
www.twitter.com/kissing_candice
www.instagram/kissing_candice
www.youtube.com/user/KissingCandiceVEVO

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