The end of the cycle for its debut album, “Never Alone” (released June 17, 2016, via Another Century Records), brought Stitched Up Heart to its highest peaks yet. The band spent much of the spring playing arenas with Halestorm, In This Moment and New Years Day, and capped it off by making its official Rock on the Range debut. At Rock on the Range, Live Metal’s Greg Maki sat down with drummer James Decker, who reflected on the band’s successes so far and what will come next.
LIVE METAL: You were here a couple years ago doing an acoustic thing, but this is your first time really playing Rock on the Range. How did it go?
JAMES DECKER: It was awesome. We played at noon. We were the first band, and there was a huge crowd. I didn’t expect that many people. I figured they’d all be hungover like I was. (laughs) But it was a great set, it was a great show. Our singer went out, Mixi, and she was crowdsurfing on her dragon, and it totally failed. I was laughing my ass off on stage. But it was great. This is actually our third year here and the first time we’re actually allowed to be here (laughs), which is cool. Thank you for having us, Rock on the Range.
It’s been a busy day. You’ve played twice, because you did the Zippo (Sessions) thing.
Yeah, we did the acoustic thing. It’s always a lot of fun to break down the songs. I just play piano, and Mixi sings; I sing backup. It’s cool to take the songs and do them in a different way. It’s more intimate, and I feel that it’s a cool, different way to spread the same message that we’re trying to get through with our loud rock show, as well.
Yeah, when you hear the songs originally, you don’t always hear that.
Yeah, sometimes the lyrics get lost in the guitars and cymbals and drums. So you just bring it back a little bit, and like I said, it’s a more intimate thing. So we like doing that.
Once you’re finished with all this press, are you going to check out any other bands or anything?
Yes. Once we’re finally done with everything, I figured out in our schedule we will be able to see maybe a few minutes of BABYMETAL and then Godsmack and Tool, who are two of my favorite bands of all time. I’m definitely stoked for that.
What’s next after this for you?
We have three shows on the way home with New Years Day, who are our good friends. We just finished a tour with them, Halestorm and In This Moment, which was amazing. And then once we get home, we’re currently about halfway through our second album. We’ve written about 20 songs, and we’re gonna do probably another 20 or 30 more, because you have to get everything out before you put it all together as an album. So the album itself will tell you when it’s done; it will come together on its own. So we’re gonna finish our second album. Our team, who we put all our trust in, they’re gonna figure out how to release it and everything. Then we’ll go take over the world again. (laughs)
The first album was very well received—singles charting and all kinds of touring and festivals. Does that put any pressure on you for the follow-up?
We didn’t know if people were gonna like the first album. They did, which was awesome. Coming into the second album, you’ve established your sound, so you have to keep it somewhat the same. But we have grown musically, and we want to show that in our writing on the next one. Plus, we have a different message. The first album had a message of “You’re never alone, there is hope.” And now we have something else to say.
Even with “Never Alone” as it was being written, we didn’t know what it was gonna be about. Like I said, it all came together. When you write music, you just pull it out of the air. We can’t plan this out, so we’re figuring out what we have to say as it comes to us, as well. We’ve got some really good stuff so far. I don’t know if any of it will actually make it to the album. Maybe it’ll be the last 10 songs we write—who knows? But I’m excited for it, regardless.
You mentioned the tour that just ended, with Halestorm, In This Moment and New Years Day. That had to be a lot of fun to do.
That was our first all-arena tour. We’d played with Halestorm, and we’re friends with New Years Day forever, but it was the first time we really played with them and the first time with In This Moment. We got to become friends with all those guys and gals. For me,as the drummer, I made friends with Arejay (Hale) from Halestorm and Kent (Dimmel) from In This Moment; me and Brian from New Years Day know each other. We did a drum solo together one of the shows, Arejay and Kent came up every night again to play a drum solo with me. Arejay actually called me up during his drum solo to play with him. It’s so great to meet these bands but also to make friends with them. It’s amazing to play with them, but it’s even more amazing to call them your friends.
Right now, in our society, it’s a very big moment in time for women. Do you think that tour reflected that?
Yeah. I think it was a brilliant idea, whoever brainstormed that, to put the four of us together, because in interviews, we’ve been asked, “Who are your bucket list bands you want to tour with?” We’d say Halestorm, In This Moment, New Years Day. We didn’t expect it to all happen in one tour, but it was a great idea.
I think a lot of agents and promoters can take note from that when they’re putting tours together, ‘cause sometimes it seems like they just throw bands together—“Here, you guys, go out and have fun.” But this time, there was definitely a whole message behind it with the girl power—these badass girls going out and showing what they got. I thought it was great.
Was that tour the high point for you in this band so far?
Well, I would say that today at Rock on the Range was the high point, but honestly, that tour every day was kind of like today in that we were playing in front of huge crowds. I guess it’s different because with Halestorm, In This Moment and New Years Day, we were all hanging out every night after the shows, too, making friends like I said. So it’s kind of a toss-up. I can’t really pick a certain moment, other than me playing Arejay’s drum solo with him, as the pinnacle. We’re on what I feel like is a good, steady uprising, and I’m excited for the future, as well.
I think a lot of people, when they think about tours, they think about all the bands always hanging out and partying together every night. But that’s not really the case. It sounds like that was a little unusual to be hanging out so much on that tour.
It doesn’t happen every tour, although I will say at the end of every tour, we are friends with every band on the tour. But not all of them hang out as much as we do. Halestorm definitely does. They’re there at 5 a.m., and then 19 hours later, they play for 75 minutes, and then they’re partying with everybody—everybody!—until about 1 in the morning. And somehow they arrive at the next venue at 5 a.m. again. I don’t know how they do it. They have teleporters or something. There’s some NASA technology that we’re unaware of, or maybe it’s Tesla—I don’t know. But they’re doing it 24/7 on show days, and I don’t know how they do it. We do it the same way because we look up to those guys, and we’re trying to learn from everybody that we tour with.
That was going to be my next question, if you’re watching other bands and learning from what they’re doing.
Oh, absolutely. I also tour manage our band, so as drummer and tour manager, every other tour manager I get to work with, who is not always somebody else in the band, I learn from them, as well. It’s a huge step to success of the tour when the tour managers get to come together. They also get to maybe be friends but at least respect each other’s work ethics and make sure that when you show up every day, we’re no nonsense, we’re getting things done. You mentioned all the bands hanging out afterwards, so I get to do both things. But when I show up in the morning and until we’re done with our set, I am 100 percent business. Then I get to hang out.
You mentioned those bands being some bucket list bands to go on tour with. Who are some others that you have?
Well, for sure, Godsmack, who is also playing tonight, and we’re gonna watch them. We actually wrote a couple of songs with Sully (Erna); hopefully they make the record. But we’ve become friends. He helped me get some drum endorsements, which was cool. He came to our show in Boston and made dinner for us and brought it to us, which was really cool. So I think that might happen. We love so many other bands. If I just throw ‘em off the top of my head, Slipknot I think would be a great match. I don’t know. I’ve looked up to Tool forever, but who knows if something like that could happen. They’re such an icon at this point. There’s so many to mention, I’m just going blank right now. (laughs)
It’s so crazy when people talk about rock being dead. It’s ridiculous. Just this year, there’s been so many great albums, great bands putting out new albums.
I think it’s a good sign for rock. I think people thought there was kind of a lull, and pop and country and hip hop and rap were taking over. But the rock community has never died. You go to these festivals and talk to the media and people in radio who are busting their ass helping to promote us—rock is not dead, and it’s coming back with a vengeance right now.
Anything else you want to say?
Don’t ever give up on your dreams, ‘cause I didn’t and look where I am.