INTERVIEW: Elias Soriano of NONPOINT (July 2021)

After more than two decades in the game, Nonpoint has gone independent with the launch of 361° Records. With a series of EPs, the band is upending the traditional album cycle release pattern rock acts long have employed and, in the words of frontman Elias Soriano, is writing the most “irresponsible” music of its career. If the lead single “Ruthless” is any indication, this band is on to something big. The song is an instant all-time Nonpoint classic, a bruising anthem destined to drive moshpits into a frenzy whenever it’s played. And those pits will open up very soon, with Nonpoint returning to the road this summer at festivals and upcoming shows with Staind, Atreyu and Seether. Three days before the first show (Rock Fest, July 15, 2021), Live Metal’s Greg Maki caught up with Elias to discuss the band’s independence, new music and more.

LIVE METAL: It’s a pretty exciting time. You’ve got actual live shows coming up this week.

ELIAS SORIANO: I know! Concerts are back, and everybody’s freaking out. It’s pretty awesome. We’ve got some good shows coming up.

Yeah, you’re not easing into it. You’ve got a festival, Rock Fest, coming up on Thursday, a show with Staind and then Upheaval Festival. I’m sure you’re excited, but are there some nerves, too, after not playing for so long?

We’ve never had this much of a break off, I don’t think, ever in our career. So it actually feels good to come back from such a long time. But there was that initial knocking off the cobwebs at the last couple practices. But there were those moments during the practice, too, that you could feel it across the room, that we were like, “Oh man, this is gonna be good.” We needed a good break.

You’re a band that’s always thrived on the live shows. It wasn’t a good time, but the break wasn’t all bad, I guess, right?

No, it wasn’t all bad. Taking that time off, I don’t have that daily show or show every other day to keep my stamina up, so I’m starting to Peloton these days (laughs). I’ve gotta keep my heart going and keep healthy, because the music that we’re writing is very energetic. We’re gonna definitely have to bring it onstage.

Aside from the shows themselves, what have you missed most about touring?

My team. I miss my team. And I include the familiar faces that we always see in the front row, the ones that always come out early to the shows, our friends that we always see. But my crew, all of our peers. Just like everybody else, we’ve been kind of boxed up, and we missed everyone. So I think community is the thing that I’m most looking forward to.

You mentioned the new material being very energetic. You’ve also referred to it as the most irresponsible music you’ve written. What do you mean by that exactly?

There was times lyrically and really image-wise and with the video, some of the things that we realized through the process of building the “Ruthless” EP and the imagery behind it, that we were taking some chances and some risks that, normally, the major label machines and the industry machines kind of recommend against. Bloody images and imagery, violence. I always felt that there’s a level of theatrics that should be allowed in that sense and not be so worried about ending up in court because some kid’s gonna misread what I’m saying or misread my video. We found ourselves a lot of times going, “Can we say that? Is it good? Are we gonna be good writing this? I don’t know if this is gonna fly.” I was like, “Hey, man, we’re gonna write some irresponsible damn music.” That’s basically what we’re doing, and the term kind of stuck.

I think “Ruthless” is such a great song to come out with after we hadn’t heard from the band in a few years. What inspired that one in particular?

Initially, it was inspired by the AEW camp. They reached out to us and asked for a song and to work with us on a song. We were on our way into the studio, so to have an opportunity to go, “Hey, while we’re there, we’re gonna do this,” and then it turned into what it turned into. That was one of those things that was kind of that “aha” moment in the writing process where we realized that maybe we need to be a little bit more irresponsible, because when we don’t put so many rules on us and try to filter everything that we say and we do, we come up with things like “Ruthless.”

Yeah, and you’ve got the freedom now to do that kind of thing since you’ve gone independent with 361° Records. What made this point in your career the right time to take that route?

I think a lot of bands that get to my stage in their career consider it. A lot of them can’t consider it because of deals that they’re in. We happened to be in a situation where we were able to rethink things and have a choice. We had a choice of whether or not we wanted to go down that road again. With a lot of the success that we were seeing with the stuff that we were really driving and leading, we felt like maybe we wanted to lead for a little while. And we built a team around us of like-minded people that, at the same time, gave us that layer of pause. But not enough pause that it put the brakes on, and being able to stay nimble, being able to move at the pace of our ideas past the point of what people might consider fiscal risk probability, that we decide that we want to risk the money, and we want to pay the extra and we’re willing to do this, that we don’t look at backlog dollars and make forward decisions.

It’s kind of like you’re betting on yourselves and also the fans, too, that they’re going to support you.

That’s basically what we’re doing. We’re taking on the risk and taking on the financial risk at the same time. So success or fail, it’s on us.

You have this series of EPs planned, so you’re sort of moving away from the traditional album cycle. Was that one of the driving forces behind this, too?

A little bit. This is not a new idea. I think seeing the model working in hip hop so beautifully and realizing how people are saying, “We need more, we need more, consume, consume, consume.” People only have one song of ours right now. They don’t have a whole record, they don’t have the whole EP, and they’re able to digest the song, fall in love with the song, see our artistic representation behind it and get that full experience that you would expect out of an artist that you revere or want to follow or eventually fall in love with. It’s their entire artistic perspective on that body of work, and what happens when you put records together and you have this large body of work, at rate of consumption these days, you’re going to lose the opportunity to present something on that body of work that could be, for the lack of a better example, another “Ruthless” or another “Bullet with a Name” or an “In the Air Tonight.” Those things sometimes get missed.

Being in my career as long as I have, I have people come up to me all the time saying, “This one was my favorite song on the record. You guys never released this. I wish you guys would have released this. This was my favorite song. I wish I would have seen a video for that. What is this song about?” In the process the way that we’re doing it, we’re gonna give them that experience, we feel like, even on a small scale.

Where are you in the writing and recording of the material for the EPs? Is it all done or is it ongoing?

“Ruthless” is done. The next EP is currently being written, and the first song is playing on the tin man character that we’re developing through the “Ruthless” EP, and it’s going to carry over into the next EP. It’s fun knowing I can have fun with it now, knowing that I get to have that EP, that I’m actually going to put out that song, I’m going to do a music video for it, just if I decide. And when I say “I,” I mean the band. We all decide, because it’s really the entire team.

With these EPs, putting music out a few songs at a time, will you take into account feedback from fans from each batch of songs as you go into the next one?

That’s another thing that we were excited about. We have a basic skeleton of how we want the theme to move from EP to EP, but I get to shift gears. If I feel like there’s something that artistically presents the music better in the second EP, who knows what the second EP could be at this point? And that’s the great part, that it’s not just about the song anymore. It’s everything attached to it. It’s the artist attached to it. It’s their look, their branding, their merch, their video—everything that’s attached to it. When you’re making decisions based on all of those cogs moving together, that’s when I feel like you have the freedom, but you set yourself up to really have a successful launch of your work.

You mentioned your team. It seems like with what you’re doing now that having a good team around you will be more important than ever. How did you go about putting that team together?

We all kind of found each other. It was luck. I’ll be completely honest: It was luck. I met Rob Ruccia, who is vice president and COO, and I met him just because he solicited us, seeing that we were based out of Chicago, and he was working at Uptown studios trying to get bands of our caliber to come in and do full-length records. We fell in love with Ruccia, and it was like we just want to do all of our records here. Then he started to help us figure out some of the technical stuff that we were trying to figure out that even in some cases our label couldn’t even figure out for us. So seeing some of our frustrations behind the scenes, he started lending his help in that sense.

Then break to a year or so later, we get ready to get on the road, we do some shows with a band out of Canada called Sumo Cyco, and we meet a photographer named Francesca Ludikar who they have out with them. We noticed this photographer running around taking pictures of them and realized that there was something else that was missing from our model. So Frankie opened my eyes to the importance of our content delivery, started helping us with a bit of a rebranding plan and then put the bug in our ear about us going independent.

Having Rob Ruccia right next to us basically, with a lot of other technical support, we realized we had our right or left hand man and woman. So we started doing the research of whether or not if it was even possible and what that list was of accomplishing it, and then the pandemic hit. So it literally gave us the test ground to try some of our ideas, to work through some of the  things that we were seeing that we were going to have to be dealing with, with our label situation currently. Then when offers came up, we had an opportunity to either accept or decline, and we looked at the team and said, “I think we can do this.” We were like, “Fuck it, let’s go.” And we hit the gas, man. We hit the ground running, and I’m very proud of my team.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned so far in this process?

That there’s still old systems and still parts of the industry that the major label machine definitely understood and worked really hard and that we had to integrate immediately. We had it set up in our infrastructure, but we didn’t expect the level of competition or the financial curve, to be honest. Luckily we have FM, our managers. We have an amazing radio team leader, Bob Hathaway, working with our label hand in hand and the strategies on how we want to present ourselves. Him showing us, “Hey, these are some realities we’re going to have to deal with. Where can we work together, and how can we crack this egg?” And then here we are, fastest moving single to date.

You mentioned the pandemic. There was a lot of other stuff going on in this country in the past year, with political turmoil and racial strife. How did that influence you?

It influenced me the same way it influenced everyone else. It doesn’t matter which—and I hate to say this this way—but which side of that coin you felt like you landed on. I’m a person of color. My daughter, even though she’s blond hair, blue eyes, she’s part Dominican, part Puerto Rican, part African American, part British. She is the melting pot. For me, growing up in the neighborhood that I grew up in and now being in the industry that I’m in, I’ve seen it in every single form possible and learned how to kind of maneuver around it. And I’ve been lucky. And I’ve been, in a sense, sometimes privileged. Some people aren’t as lucky, and some people aren’t as privileged, and some people don’t have those same instances where they had that opportunity to get this done or as many opportunities and chances.

So when it came to the political side of things, I found myself speaking up for the ones that felt a need to say, “Hey, world, is it OK for me to matter?” That says a lot to the statement. It’s not like fighting for civil rights—let’s just be civil—or fighting for equal rights. It’s like, “We just want to matter.” The fact that so many people were against that, just because of who that was representing—I felt like when it comes to no violence against Asians or the border children that there was nobody really fighting against those groups getting noticed for their fight of saying, “Hey, let’s not beat up old Asian people as they’re walking down the street randomly.” You don’t hear somebody saying, “Hey, well, other people get beat up. Let’s stop all hate, instead of just stopping Asian hate.” Nobody’s saying “all lives matter” in those instances or “all children matter” when it comes to border children. But for some reason, it’s like “all lives matter” when it’s Black Lives Matter. And when it comes to that fight, I felt myself going yeah, that makes sense that that’s something that everyone should be for, but for some reason, so many people are so hard against. That made me sad on the inside.

So when people ask me my opinion, I’m on the opinion that I think everyone should see that this is an issue. And until people like myself don’t feel like they have to move around, dance around the issue or feel uncomfortable when it’s brought up because I’ve been so lucky, it’s time for it to be a hard conversation. I’m OK with being on the side of it being a hard conversation.

You have some more shows scheduled in September. You’re playing some with Atreyu, some with Seether and more festivals. Are there plans for a more full-scale tour?

Yes, there are. It’s getting put together. We’re about to announce the dates here shortly. With the Atreyu dates and the Seether dates and the Staind stuff coming in and then the festivals, we had to put something together. Our agent was saying people were asking when we were going to be back on the road, and we were pushing to be a little bit later in the year. But it was supply and demand. They wanted us out there, so we ramped it up. We’re gonna announce the dates here shortly.

We’ve put together a pretty energetic set. We’ve brought out some songs that people have been asking for for years. We’re bringing “Everybody Down” back, which is from the WWE video game, that people have been waiting over a decade to see us play live. We’re dropping that one in the set. We’re bringing back “Tribute” into the set, a lot of fan favorites. We listen to our fans. Our fans woke us up when we were asking what songs they would like to hear, what do they like to hear in their workout playlist. It was like “Rabia,” “Everybody Down,” all these songs. We were like, “We need to play these songs.” So they’re going back in the set.

Is there anything else you’d like to say right now?

Stay engaged. I can’t say this enough: The more you comment, the more you like, the more you share, the more we’re going to interact with you and the more you’re going to hear about our stuff. Right now, we have a pre-sale that just finished up, but there’s still some items that are left up that haven’t sold out. That’s the way that we push the whole 361 initiative, so if you’re a fan of the band and you like us going independent and you like what you’re seeing and you want to keep this train going, that’s the best place to do it. So hit us there on nonpointstore.com.

It was about 20 years ago that I saw Nonpoint open for Sevendust, and I’ve been a fan ever since. I’m happy to see things going really well for you right now.

Thank you. We’re happy that we can keep doing it as long as we have, and we’re happy that we have fans that adore us the way they do, because it makes it so much easier. 

LINKS:
www.nontpoint.com 
www.nonpointstore.com
www.facebook.com/nonpointofficial
www.twitter.com/nonpoint
www.instagram.com/nonpointband
www.youtube.com/nonpointworld
www.facebook.com/theeliassoriano 
www.twitter.com/eliasblc44
www.instagram.com/theeliassoriano

NONPOINT TOUR DATES:

July 15 – Cadott, Wisconsin – Rock Fest
July 16 – Sioux City, Iowa – with Staind
July 17 – Grand Rapids, Michigan – Upheaval Festival
Sept. 3 – Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin – with Atreyu
Sept. 4 – Newport, Kentucky – WEBN Fireworks Kick Off Party
Sept. 5 – Madison, Wisconsin – with Atreyu
Sept. 7 – Wichita, Kansas – with Atreyu
Sept. 8 – Fort Smith, Arkansas – with Atreyu
Sept. 10 – Danville, Virginia – Blue Ridge Rock Festival
Sept. 25 – Orlando, Florida – Rebel Rock
Sept. 30 – North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – with Seether
Oct. 1 – Atlanta, Georgia – with Seether
Oct. 10 – Tempe, Arizona – with Seether
Jan. 22 – San Miguel de Cozumel, Mexico – ShipRocked

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