New Jersey's Beyond Dishonor Talks About Their Debut Album "Travesty," Being an Independent Band, and Writing New Material
New Jersey’s Beyond Dishonor has been making waves in the Tri-state area since the release of last year’s “Travesty.” Their melodic death metal/deathcore sound, along with use of movie samples, made for a debut that had a load of potential behind it. The band is looking to make a bigger name for themselves with their second album, which they are presently in the early stages of writing. I had a chance to speak to vocalist Reese Dunlap and drummer Mike Lock about being an unsigned band, learning the finer points of the music business, and the ambitions they have for their sophomore release.
Since this is the first time a lot of people will be hearing about the band, can you run me down briefly how you guys came together?
Reese Dunlap: Me and our guitarist Mark (Salmon) had just recently left a band that had dissolved and fizzled out. We were looking to start up a project again. We had our guitarist and we had our old bassist, but we needed a drummer. We contacted where we recorded, this awesome guy at 1021 Studios, and said, ‘I know a guy who just got out of a band.’ Got introduced to this crazy fuck, Mike Lock. The rest, as they say, is history. It worked out awesomely. He had in mind a lot of the same stuff we wanted to do and he was the most talented drummer that we met at the time. It just worked out great.
What kind of stuff did you have in mind when you first started this band? What were you looking to get out of this project?
Mike Lock: From my perspective, I was actually less focused on the music and more focused on professionalism, business-savvy, fiscally-responsible individuals that whatever we decided to do, we were going to do it right. I really only had a limited engagement with their music and what I had heard from their old drummer was certainly not my style. So I thought, ‘Well, I’m just going to try and rewrite all of these parts, and play the same songs. When we get into the writing process, we’re going to be able to fine-tune it.’ When I met them, it became readily apparent after about two hours that we were going to start something completely different. We jelled quickly and we all realized that we could probably go in a different direction than what we had all originally set out for. I was confident in their business-savvy and they were confident in my skill level.
Was there any challenges at all in changing the sound up from what it was?
Reese Dunlap: Really, it wasn’t. When we initially started, Mike came in the band thinking that we were a full-set band ready to go on stage within the next couple of weeks, and all he had to do was learn drum parts. He started listening to our tracks and one of the tracks he put drums to and it just worked so perfectly that we were like, ‘Wow, we can start jamming right now and write an entirely brand-new album and start branding a new band.’ It was really a smooth transition.
In a time where hundreds of bands are using the Internet as a platform for getting their music out, what does a band like yourselves have to do to stand out from the rest of the pack?
Mike Lock: You’re right that everybody is just recording a demo in their basement and uploading their music, but early on in our tenure together, we recognized that we all had pretty interesting senses of humor. We were lucky enough to be technologically savvy and we started putting together these small, short, silly videos. What five years ago was spread among our friends has now, in terms of the non-musical stuff, become our calling card.
We enjoy putting together videos that have nothing to do with our music. We’ve had some pretty good success at it. It’s been a bit of a branding for us. We get noticed more when we put up a parody video for a song than we do when we upload a regular song. I think that’s the nature of the beast. It’s the one thing that separates us...most bands are not focused on that multimedia aspect. They think that the music is going to carry them. We have a very different approach to it. We think that the multimedia aspect is what is going to get us noticed and keep us relevant.
Is there any concern that showing the humorous side of the band will take away from the more serious nature of the music itself?
Reese Dunlap: We think about that all the time. When I say we think about it, we think about it for about 30 seconds and we throw it right out the window. The biggest thing that you do in music is to be yourself and let the music speak for yourself. That’s one thing that we all have in common, if nothing else, beside our passion for music, is how much fun we like to have. We say it all the time, and it’s in our bios, we live by the moniker, ‘If we’re not having fun, then the crowd is not having fun.’
Throughout the years and years I’ve listened to metal, metal is very dark and has a horrible stigma that it’s evil and devil-worshipping. Obviously, in years’ past, that has kind of fizzled out, but we stay true to ourselves. We’re fun-loving guys that love metal and that’s one thing that comes across the most besides the actual talent and the live performances. We have fun on stage, we have fun with our videos, we have fun with our lyrics, with our songs, but at the same, it’s heavy, it’s brutal, it’s visceral, and everyone enjoys the music.
Having such a fun-loving nature, did that translate into the studio when the band was working on “Travesty”?
Mike Lock: The person that we were working with was the person that introduced me to the band, so we all had a very good knowledge and were very comfortable going in for this most recent album we released, “Travesty.” I would say that we get down to business when we get into the studio. We do take it seriously; time is money, of course. We did a series of web blogs while we were recording this CD to keep our fans at the time appraised of what we were doing.
Part of the funding for the last CD came from a Kickstarter project that we did before every band and their brother started doing Kickstarter projects. We felt that we owed it to the people who had donated to our album to provide them with updates. We did probably 10 or 12 pretty humorous, but also informative, web blogs. We kept it light, but just like when we write and we’re in the studio, it’s way more serious than we are in real life. We take it very seriously because we know that this will be our portrait world that we only have one shot at it, and we want to make sure it’s as good as we can afford and as the producer can make it. What we’re hoping for with the CD that we’re going into the studio soon with is that we’re going to take it up to another level with the producer.
Since you mentioned it, could you tell me how the new material is coming out? Is it an evolution from “Travesty” or do you see it as a natural progression from that album?
Reese Dunlap: It’s definitely a progression. You can’t do anything in any walk of life that you might have without progressing, where you become stagnant and everyone listening to it is going to know it as soon as they hear it. Just as life changes day-to-day, we grow and change right along with it. This CD is going to honestly be the best example of that that anyone can see from us. We’re still having fun and we’re still us, and anyone that listened to our music five years ago, is going to say, ‘Oh, that’s still Beyond Dishonor. That’s still BD,’ but then there’s going to be people who have never heard of us, anywhere to 12-year-old kids to 40-year-old die-hard metal heads, who are going to go, ‘Oh, this is new. This is fresh.’ We definitely try to keep it enveloping and keep it interesting. Hopefully, everyone else thinks so; they always seem to do. That’s our big goal with the new album is to be us, be fun, be serious, all the same time, but keep it relevant.
Mike Lock: We intend to take some chances with this CD. We’re going to hope that the producer we end up working with will help us with that. We’re not afraid to go in a direction that other local bands might not want to take chances on. We can put a product out there that people will gravitate towards and will have the same reaction that they did to “Travesty,” only ten-fold.
Does the band see this new album as a way to get the attention that you deserve?
Mike Lock: We certainly hope so. We’ve been blessed to meet Natalie (friend of the band), who is providing us with insights of the industry that local and unsigned bands simply don’t have unless you know the right person. We thought that “Travesty” was going to be the thing that would get us some attention, and it certainly did. Some bands say their releases are polarizing, and I would say “Travesty” was not a polarizing release. It was the best we could do with the money we had, and people have really liked it.
Natalie’s help exposing us to people that we didn’t know before, and some of the support we get from the national acts that we support, we’re hoping that this ends up being the thing that gets us to the next level. Quite frankly, we’ve been at this for a long time. We’ve watched a hundred bands that have probably been better than us that have folded, just because it’s difficult to maintain it. We’re hoping that our perseverance pays off relatively soon, not to where we’re living in mansions - we’re not delusional - but we’re just hoping it pays off and we get some attention.
What’s the one thing you’ve learned about the record industry that you think will benefit the band when it comes to releasing and promoting the upcoming album?
Mike Lock: This is going to sound simple, but you have to know somebody. We have figured that out very quickly. You have to know somebody, but even more, in 2012, if you don’t have good direction and production, no matter how good your music is...we’ve been told recently, ‘We really see a lot of potential in you guys. You got to up the production value.’ Here we are, hemorrhaging money to try to get this CD out. It really turns out that we should have spent that money in a better way, and done less songs with a better producer.
Not to take away anything from the great person that worked with us, but simply knowing who you know and making sure the person that is producing your album is somebody that those people you’re hoping to know already know is something that is really important. We were told by a lot of smaller labels that we talked to over the past year that, ‘We were attracted to you guys because of your marketing.’ One thing that is going to serve us better than 85% of local bands is our marketing, our merchandise, and our understanding of the business part of running a band. You can’t just say, ‘Yep, we made a CD in our basement and now let’s go get rich.’ It just doesn’t work like that. If you want to make money as a local, unsigned band, you have to do it through marketing and merch, and that we have in spades.
Reese Dunlap: Just to add to that, especially in metal, it’s not 1981 anyone. You can’t be the fastest shredder and the tighter drummer and have the best vocals and play a show and someone is going to pick you up. It just doesn’t work like that. These people are playing riffs far beyond their talent, and it doesn’t make a difference. There are so many people out there that can shred just as nice as the next person. There are so many people who can write a song as good as the next person. It’s really knowing the right people, and timing is something of a luck factor. You hope you hit that right note, but if you don’t know the right person and also the timing, it just seems like it doesn’t work out for a lot of the bands that we’ve seen.
Could the band see themselves releasing a series of EPs, in order to spend the money on better production values?
Reese Dunlap: We’ve decided on doing that almost days, maybe even hours, after we got out of the studio for recording the first full-length. We really put a lot of heart and soul into it. We really went out on a limb. We thought long and hard about our structures and our time signatures and our lyrics and our title. After we got done that, we were like, ‘We can’t do this.’ We’ll do this one more time and we’ll all be going bankrupt and never be able to make music again, let alone live. EPs really seem like the way to go to be able to keep it fresh and now. Everyone wants it now; they want it yesterday. So if we come out with five or six tracks once a year and keep pumping out new material and keep everyone interested, and by doing that, I think that’s one key that will keep us relevant.
Mike Lock: Doing EPs also lets you be a bit more conceptual because you can have a theme. We took it with “Travesty” to an extreme, but I think The Devil Wears Prada’s “Zombie” EP was brilliant. It was quick and people were into it. We could do something like if we wanted to; not that we’re going to, but we could if we wanted to. An EP gives you a little more flexibility to do something.
If you were to meet somebody on the street and sell them on “Travesty” or sell them on your band, how would you do it?
Reese Dunlap: I could tell you how I did it recently. Everybody in the band has jobs, and me being the vocalist, I’m kind of the big people person in the band. I walk up to people, and as stereotypical as it is, I’m standing at the bus stop, waiting to go to work, and I see someone wearing a band tee looking “stereotypically into heavy music,” and I go, ‘What do you listen to?’ and they go, ‘Everything.’ Then I go, ‘Well, I’m in this band. We play metal that anybody can get into. You should check them out. I think you will enjoy it.’ That’s really what I do, and I leave it at that.
Mike Lock: All you have to say about our stuff is, ‘Do you like music that has a groove?’ 99.9% of people are going to yes, unless you’re a grindcore fan or the craziest jazz fusion guy. That’s why when we play shows, you will see people that you would never catch dead at a metal show. We have a friend who like Adele and stuff like that, but she knows the lyrics to our songs. When I ask her why she knows the lyrics to the songs, she goes, ‘I just can’t help bobbing my head when I listen to you guys. I like your groove and I know the words to your songs.’ She’ll be screaming out songs that we don’t even play live anymore because she knows our old music as well. That’s just one example, but it’s very similar.
If you could tour with any band, past or present, who would it be and why?
Mike Lock: I would probably tour with Van Halen. Back in the ‘80s, drugs and sex and all that and the Sunset Strip in Cali. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but these days is a lot different than back then. You didn’t have Facebook to be your crutch for promoting shows, when you didn’t just post an event or think that would get people there. It was all about tastes and kids walking up and down the street, trying to hear what was coming out of clubs, and going into what they like. That’s really what created the heavy scene, at least on the West Coast in the ‘80s. I’m a closet Van Halen fan (laughs).
Reese Dunlap: I know the specific tour: 1998, Rage (Against The Machine)/Wu (Tang Clan) tour. I think if we opened up for the Rage/Wu tour, that would have been Armageddon.
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