It’s hard to imagine a worse time for a new act to drop its debut album than 2020, in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Florida rock band Fame on Fire—due in no small part to its strong social media presence—weathered the storm quite well and, when the world started to reopen in 2021, scored a pair of tours with Ice Nine Kills (which later led to INK frontman Spencer Charnas appearing on album number two). Thus far in 2022, Fame on Fire has played shows on the Trinity of Terror Tour and with Zero 9:36 and Starset, with dates set for the fall with Japanese rock band One OK Rock. The year also has seen the band score its biggest hit single to date, “Plastic Heart,” which comes from its recently released sophomore album, “Welcome to the Chaos”(Hopeless Records). The day before the record dropped, Live Metal’s Greg Maki caught up with frontman Bryan Kuznitz to get all the details.
LIVE METAL: I’m sure the buildup to this release has been a lot different than it was for the first album, both because of the time when the first one was released—right in the middle of the pandemic—and also you’re not brand new this time. What has it been like?
BRYAN KUZNITZ: I feel like it’s gonna be a lot better. We’re releasing an album that we can actually go tour off. We’re going out in September. And so I think it’s gonna be a lot different. Also, we have a lot bigger of an audience now than we did when we released the first album. I’m just excited to get out there, play some of the new songs that people haven’t heard us play before live. It’s gonna be great.
I’m sure the writing and recording was different from the first album. How did it compare?
We moved a lot more meticulously on this album. There was a lot of thought that went into it. For good or for bad, there was a lot more thought put into this album than the first album, because we did not want to have a sophomore slump album. (laughs) We wanted it to be better than our first album, which I believe we achieved. It was a lot slower of a process than our first album. Our first album, the first song that showed up—we came up with an idea and that song made the album. With this album, there was 200 demos, and you had to pick through the 200 demos on top of that while writing new songs. I swear to god, out of those original 200 demos, I think only two songs made it through. And then we just wrote new songs for the album because we wanted better. We really reach for perfection on this album.
Similar to the first album, you’ve got the pop and hip hop influences throughout, but you’ve also really pushed harder on the rock side. It’s a heavier album. Was that intentional?
Yeah, yeah. I think we really want to make music that we love. We wanted to really love this album. We wanted to love every single song front to back. I feel like on the first album, we didn’t really hone in on our rock abilities as much as we did on this album. This album, we wanted cooler riffs. We wanted more dramatic songs. We wanted every song to have its own story behind it. We really wanted to just tell a story. So I think we just went back to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll or just heavy metal in general, where we come from. So that’s what we wanted to do.
Did you find yourself while you were writing being influenced by what was going on in the world around you or is it more personal?
Yeah, definitely being influenced by other rock bands and stuff like that. But at the same time, we just wanted to do what we wanted to do. There’s inspirations from a lot of things. The lyric writing—the inspiration, that’s all personal to me—but I wanted to be more on point like bands like The 1975. I think they have brilliant lyrics, and I wanted to have amazing lyrics like them. Then we wanted it to be heavy, like some of our favorite bands, like an Avenged Sevenfold or a Sevendust kind of heavy. And then in the rock scene, we just wanted to have that cool, modern sound that everybody has, but at the same time, still stand apart, still sound different.
There’s a title track on the album. Why did you decide to go with that title?
Because every single song that we wrote, all the lyrics that I wrote, I only read about chaotic shit that happened in my life. So it’s like every song was almost its own agent of chaos. I was like, “OK, this was a chaotic experience in my life. This was a chaotic experience. This was a bad experience.” And then when we got to writing “Welcome to the Chaos,” I remember sitting down and going, (singing) “Welcome to the chaos,” and I remember (guitarist) Blake (Saul) going, “That’s a really cool line. We should use that.” So we wrote the song, and then a few days go by and I’m like, “What if we just name the album ‘Welcome to Chaos?'” Because I was thinking of all these other different names that were not “Welcome to the Chaos,” and it felt forced. When I said “Welcome to the Chaos,” everyone was like, “Yes, let’s do that.”
So from how it came about? It was fuckin’ random. But it fits. It fits the entire vibe of the entire album. So I thought it was cool to have a title track, because we didn’t have that with our last album.
There’s a feature on that song, and there’s another one on the album. I’m always interested in how those come together. Do you write the song and then think, “Oh, I think I hear another voice?” Or do you think, “I want to do a song with this person” and then go from there?
I really think it could come about either way. But for “Welcome to the Chaos”—for anything on this album—we’ve always just written the song and then I’m like, “Hmm, I feel like I hear somebody else that could rip this, too.” I remember when we were working on “Welcome to the Chaos,” we didn’t have a second verse. And I remember sitting down and going, “Hey, Spencer from Ice Nine Kills could fuckin’ rip this”—because this is right up his alley. It’s very dark, theatrical. It’s heavy. And everyone was like, “Yeah, that’d be awesome,” because we were gearing up to go on tour with them. So we were like, “OK, well, let’s make the main objective of the tour to get Spencer as a feature.”
So that’s exactly what we did. We went up to Spencer, after touring with them for a few weeks, and we were like, “Hey, man, would you be down to be a feature on one of our songs?” He said, “Maybe. Send it to me, let me hear it, let me see if I’m into it.” And sure enough, he was into it. So we were able to secure the feature with him. After we got back from the second tour with them, he tracked it out. He sent over his second verse, and it was awesome.
I remember when I saw you on that tour last year, I was thinking that your voices would sound good together because you’ve got that kind of raspy voice and he’s a lot smoother, and it really works well together.
Thank you. Yeah, I’m so stoked on how it came out.
“Plastic Heart” is doing really well for you. I hear it on Octane a lot. Is that about a specific person in your life?
Yeah, it’s very specific. (laughs) It gets really weird to talk about these kinds of things because I don’t want to call the person out. But yeah, it was written about a very specific person, and it’s all very specific to them. I’m sure they know it’s about them, but at the same time, they might not know it’s about them. (laughs) It can really only be a handful of people in my life at this point. But yeah, it’s a very specific song, and I take many shots at them in that song.
It’s an interesting song. You’ve got the beginning part where you’re rapping, but nothing else like that shows up again in the song. I’m always interested in song structures and how things come about.
Yeah, I remember that being a thing where people would be like, “Why are you not rapping on the second verse?” We don’t like to do the same rinse-and-repeat verses. It’s very rare for us to do the same verse twice. I think that’s boring and it’s lazy songwriting—unless it really fits the song; then it would make sense. But yeah, we just wanted to have a rap part. I remember Blake going, “Hey, the beginning of the song would sound dope if you rapped on it.” And I was like, “I don’t rap, dude.” He’s like, “Just try it.” So I rapped on it. We already had the other parts of the song done. We already had the second verse done. So I rapped on it, and we were like, “Yeah, this is sick.” Like, why not do a song that was rapping, singing and screaming? The trifecta.
How did you get into the production side of music?
I’ve been recording myself since I was 15. The moment I got a guitar, a month later my cousin took me to Sam Ash and he bought me an interface. He was like, “I’m gonna show you how to record, because you’re gonna want to do this.” And I said, “OK, whatever.” So he took me to Sam Ash and he bought me an interface and showed me how to record. He showed me how to steal plugins, steal programs—the whole nine. It was great. That’s really how I got into it, and I’ve been doing it ever since—almost every single day, I feel like. I still do it to this day. I work with all sorts of people.
When it comes to Fame on Fire, that’s how we started. I knew how to record, I knew how to do the production. Nowadays, it’s a little bit more in depth, because we have Blake, who knows how to do production, and (bassist) Paul (Spirou) knows how to do production. Our producer does the production, for the most part, on the album. So yeah, nowadays it’s a little bit of everybody. But yeah, I just got into it because my cousin wanted to get me an interface and I fuckin’ loved it.
Is your approach to it different when you’re producing yourself versus another band?
Oh, yeah. It’s so bad. I have such obsession disorders or some shit. I don’t even know. When it comes to my music, it’s like I get so cloudy. Everything becomes very cloudy, and I’m very indecisive. I don’t know what the right answer is. When it comes to other people’s music, though, I know exactly what they need to do. It’s the dumbest fuckin’ thing ever, and I wish I could like almost flip a switch in my head, because, obviously, there’s something going on there. It’s all in my head. I’m just like, “OK, this band I know how to make exactly what they need to sound like. I know exactly what to do to make them Octane-ready.” For us, I have no fuckin’ idea what to do.
Last year, I really got into the We’re Wolves album. I thought that was fantastic. Are there any other bands that you’re working with or have worked with that you could recommend to someone who’s into your band?
Yeah, We’re Wolves, definitely check them out. That’s a band that I know exactly what to do. That band is super easy for me just to work on. There’s a band I just worked with. They’re amazing, super amazing. They’re called Dark Divine. They just signed their first deal. They blew up on TikTok by just producing a lot of content. Very, very talented, very cool dudes. I love my Florida boys.
Speaking of TikTok, how important has that and social media been, in general, for your band?
It’s beyond important. It’s the most important aspect of us. It’s our strongest suit. There’s two sides to the music, right? There’s the touring, and then there’s the social media. You can be fuckin’ killing it on tour, but if you’re not killing it on social media, you’re missing out on a huge audience. So, for us, it’s very important. The other day we came in here and we’re like, “OK, we need to get a bunch of TikToks done for the album.” Because we’ve been slacking a little bit. It’s release week, so we’re like, we’ve got to start dropping all these videos. So we shot like 20 TikToks in a day. I brought my entire fuckin’ wardrobe, just changing shirts out and doing it again and again and again. It’s what you gotta do, though. It’s massively important. If you want your brand, if you want your music to be heard and seen by other people, then you’ve got to produce TikTok content.
Going back to the new album, I know all these songs are your babies and very close to you and personal, but are there any that really stand out as having extra special meaning to you or just your favorites in general?
So there’s two different things. The song that has the most meaning to me—shit, that one’s actually hard. I don’t even know. I’d probably say “Ketamine” is the one that has the most way too real message for me. But then there’s songs like “Robbery” that the meaning of it—I went through a gambling phase. That’s the entire meaning of the song. It’s a song about straight-up fuckin’ gambling addiction. And I love the fuckin’ song, though. I think it’s the coolest song on the album. And then there’s songs like “Welcome to the Chaos” that I think is the best song on the album. So, I don’t know. They’re all my babies. It’s really hard to pick favorites. It really is.
I really loved back on the first album, the intro, where it’s like, “What is this, a cover band?” Is that something you’ve had to kind of fight as you’ve gone out and gotten this band off the ground?
At first, yeah, and definitely through the first album. And then after, the narrative started changing a lot. We still get asked about covers all the time—mainly in interviews, though. Bands don’t give a shit. I feel like as far as the rest of the industry and the cliques that are within the industry in the rock music scene, I feel like everyone’s just kind of forgotten or just doesn’t give a shit. The stigma’s no longer really there, which is great. But it’s probably not there anymore because we’re able to write original content that’s good.
You’ve done quite a bit of touring so far this year and going back to last year, and you’ve got a run coming up in the fall with One OK Rock. Are you excited about that?
Fuck yeah. I’m beyond stoked for that. I love touring with bands that I am in love with. One OK Rock is one of those bands that I fuckin’ love. I think they’re amazing. I think everything they put out is fuckin’ gold. Even the songs that I’m like, “I’m not really sure about this one” at first—it grows on me, and then I love it. When we got that tour, I was beyond ecstatic, because one, they’re a massive band. They really are a massive, massive band, especially in Japan where they’re from. And two, I’m just excited to go out and watch the show every single night and, hopefully, hang out with Taka and become best friends with him, and then he’ll be like, “Hey, come to Japan with us.”
What are some of your favorite places to play?
I’ve got a couple. There’s some cities that have just always been there for us. There’s some states that have not been. I like to think of venues and shit that’s happened in these venues. Montreal, Canada, goes wild. They go crazy in Montreal. In the Canadian space—we haven’t been over to Vancouver yet—Montreal is way above Toronto. But then in the U.S., really anywhere in the Midwest, East Coast. East Coast is better than West Coast. It is. West Coast is pretty good. Denver always goes hard. We haven’t played Pittsburgh in a long time actually, and I really want to play Pittsburgh because Pittsburgh was the first show we ever sold out. And it was fuckin’ wild. So I’ve got a lot of love for Pittsburgh, but we haven’t been there in like two years, it feels like.
There’s a lot of really good places, and then there’s Southern California, which is just shit. I haven’t played a show yet in Southern California and been like, “Oh, fuck yeah, Southern California.” Even with bigger tours. Something about Southern California is just so not my vibe. It just feels like you’re always playing in front of industry people, and I hate it.
What is it like when you play Florida, your home state?
Oh, it would be so biased for me to pick Florida, because they are fucking insane down here. But I don’t know if it’s this insane for everybody. I don’t know if it’s because we’re the local band. Because when we played Fort Lauderdale, that was one of the craziest crowds on the entire tour with Starset. And same with Tampa. Tampa was fuckin’ wild, too. But we’ve established a fan base in Tampa and in Fort Lauderdale, so those places are always gonna go wild when we go. So it’s kind of unfair to say that they’re better than another place.
Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
The album is out now. Go check out “Welcome to the Chaos.” Find us on socials, follow us. Just look up Fame on Fire and you’ll find everything you need to find. Merchonfire.com if you wanna buy merch.
Buy/stream/save “Welcome to the Chaos”