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A Dirty Dozen with OF THE WASTELAND – March 2022

| 2 March 2022 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Of The Wasteland  — lead singer Stefan Rhoades, guitarist Johnathan Flannagan, bassist Alvin Cespedes, and drummer Steven Neevs — are a new band from Miami, Florida. They are popping into your inbox today with the video for their debut single “Midnight Vampire,” which premiered today over at Outburn. The cinematic video is darkly tongue-in-cheek, while the song is a high-octane, high-energy mix of driving punk rock and alt rock. Think My Chemical Romance, with a side of Guns N’ Roses.” We get the guys to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release. What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through? Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Stefan: There’s scenes in the video where I’m sitting in front of the camera while the band rotates behind me, but I’m actually the one being spun around the band on a dolly. We had finished packing up all the band equipment and were getting in my last shots for the performance scenes. The scene was supposed to be me chasing the camera around but when the shots weren’t coming out the way we intended, we made a last-ditch effort and set everything back up as fast as we could and plopped me in front of the camera rig. We spun me around a couple times and had all the takes we needed.

Johnathan: “Midnight Vampire” originally ended after the first breakdown, but we added the build-up into-chorus again because the song was just barely 2 mins long. Now its 3.

Alvin: During the breakdown of “Midnight Vampire,” there is a subtle bell sound when the drums hit. The original demo of “MV” had a bell sound as an intro and we wanted to include something like that somewhere in the track, but we also got to reuse it for the intro in the video.

Steven: We try to learn the parts so that we can play them near exactly to the record, but sometimes, we go rogue. Very slightly though, for me it could be a fill that “responds” to the one on the record, could be adding a note in a very specific part of a song that typically only the guitar hits.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Johnathan: I grew up in the 90’s / 00’s and music videos were very prevalent at the time, MTV was still a thing. I fell in love with the high energy and creativity of music videos, and the expression and freedom of writing and playing my own music. I knew I’d be a musician forever the moment I held my first guitar. I felt like I had something to work towards that was personal to me, but it wasn’t ever about that, I just had so much fun playing guitar and writing.

Alvin: Growing up watching live concerts of 80s rock bands. I was never much into music until I discovered classic rock and listened to “Paradise City.” That song made me want to buy a bass and learn it and show my friends at school.

Stefan: Similar to how I started with Of The Wasteland, my friend had a band called The World Ends With You that was looking for a vocalist. I figured I’d give it a shot and stuck with them for a little while. After that I kept an acoustic project going called The Forest Jamboree with that same friend, my cousin, and a couple of our other friends. The shows I played with TWEWY and TFJ locked me in to wanting to always keep performance/music a key part of my life. I was bullied a lot before high school so having a place to meet people that were just there to have a good time and make friends left a lasting impression on me.

Steven: I started playing drums when I was 13. I started playing worship in church initially. Later on it taught me about playing with discipline and intent but at the time I would play drums for hours a day and wanted to learn heavier rock and metal drums. When my first pedal broke it was replaced with a double pedal. I realized I wanted to be a musician at 16 and I have kind of been obsessively pursuing it ever since.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Johnathan: Too many, but when I was still growing musically, some of my go to bands were (in no particular order) MCR, Blink-182, Prince, Underoath, The Used, Queen, A7X, Slipknot, BMTH, SOAD, TDWP, Tokyo Police Club, The Strokes, Marilyn Manson, RATM, Audioslave, Metallica; and on and on.

Stefan: Count Your Blessings by Bring Me The Horizon and The Yippee EP by Never Shout Never. These two albums worked together as an odd conglomerate that shaped the breakdown hungry folk hippie that I am today. All of the grime and aggression of BMTH drips into the hooks I write for breakdowns, while NSN waxes off my vocal chords for sappy love songs.

Alvin: Appetite for Destruction was always on replay as a kid until I discovered metal. Then a friend showed me City of Evil and I never looked back. Those two albums both got me into music and showed me how intricate music could be.

Steven: I have seen Avenged Sevenfold Live In The LBC and Three Days Grace Live at The Palace a bunch growing up. I learned from watching The Rev a lot and from Neil Sanderson who also plays open-handed on drums.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Steven: Tim Henson. His music sounds ambient and spacious, and he has a really creative writing style.

Stefan: Everyone in Bring Me The Horizon, no questions asked. If we had the chance to mash all of our minds together, I’m sure we could cook up something great. I’ve always appreciated the brutal songwriting of the early BMTH albums, but I also really like the grungy electronic route they’ve been riding. Not to mention everyone in this band has been influenced by them at some point in time, so we’d have no problem matching their mantra.

Alvin: Definitely Corey Taylor. One of the most powerful voices in metal.

Johnathan: 50/50 can’t choose between Brian May and Jack White.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour? What do you like to do to unwind?

Johnathan: Usually gaming, cooking new recipes, or sitting with a guitar /notebook and writing.

Alvin: When out of the studio I like to drive to places I’ve never heard of and check them out. I have impromptu road trips at the last second because I get restless. I’m a big fan of basketball and Sports podcasts.

Stefan: My heart is split between the studio and the wild. You can usually find me in the Everglades looking for reptiles, insects, and other local wildlife. I always take my camera with a few different lenses and anyone willing to put up with a few hundred mosquitos.

Steven: I like to spend time with friends and family, play video games, eat steak, and write more music.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Johnathan: We were described as “genre-bending” and that’s very accurate. No two of our songs sounds the same, and even within the songs there are surprises. If you saw our music playlists, all 4 of us are listening to extremely varied music, old and fresh.

Stefan: The best of rock & roll with a heavy garnish of hardcore/punk rock. The weirdest feedback I’ve received about OTW was when I first joined the band. Someone had told me that we’re basically another Slipknot. One thing’s for sure, that person’s either never listened to Slipknot or didn’t actually listen to our music.

Alvin: It’s hard to boil it down to one thing, and I try not describing us as hard rock or alternative rock but that’s probably the closest thing. Never cringed at a comparison because our influences are probably in your face already.

Steven: Our music sounds like a modern form of “vintage” rock n roll. We draw influences from different eras and styles of music, and we like to make our songs sound unique and with a lot of high energy.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Stefan: John is definitely the chef. He makes some bomb burgers and a ton of other dishes. You can see some of his delectables on IG/tt from time to time. As for the drinks, we all take turns on who’s bringing the beers/bottles. And although I am the dedicated bard, Alvin & Steven also pull through with acoustic serenades.

Johnathan: I usually cook for the band, Stefan is first to pass out drinks, and probably Alvin or Steven know the most tracks to play on an acoustic.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Johnathan: It’s been a long time since a star inspired me, but if there was one it’d probably be Freddie Mercury, or Gerard Way.

Alvin: When I saw Corey Taylor with Slipknot a few months back at West Palm. Also met Billy Dee Williams once and I freaked out for weeks, I love his role in Star Wars.

Stefan: couple years back when I met Yvette Young from Covet *swoons*. I met her and the other members right after the show and they were all genuinely great, on stage and off. They even drew a couple doodles in a lyric book for me.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Johnathan: Writing my own music, something no one has ever heard before. If I could no longer do it, I would still be in the industry, though likely on the back end. I’ve tried not doing music before, and it doesn’t work for me.

Stefan: The best part for me has been seeing the influence our music has brought to the people around me. One of my cousins had sent me a video of her finding her son watching Midnight Vampire on her TV and it took me back to when I’d do the same thing with MCR, BMTH, and all the other bands that I’d sit and drill their videos into my head. I went to sleep smiling from ear to ear that night. I’m actually already working my dream job alongside being a musician. I’ve been a research assistant for about half a year now, working in the Everglades to help account for native tree snail populations. Since being a biologist/ecologist often involves traveling over extended periods of time, I’ve always seen it as the scientific equivalent of a rock star. Coincidentally, I found out a couple of months into the job that my supervisor is also a musician and plays drums phenomenally!

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Stefan: Always wanted to be asked: “Who has been there since the beginning of your venture with music?” My parents have always shown me nothing but support and love for every endeavor I’ve thrown myself at. I owe all of my passion for the arts to them. Tired of answering: “Do you know what time it is?” Time is a construct of man, let’s move past it already.

Johnathan: I wish they’d ask about my public lyrics and not my hidden talents. Much easier to talk about.

Alvin: I’ve always wanted to ask an interviewer what is the worst interview answer they’ve gotten. I do not want to answer what I listen to because it changes so much all the time.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Johnathan: Honestly, no. We know no path but the one we walk.

Steven: I try to learn from single moments and situations so I don’t repeat or make bigger mistakes. If I had a “do over” I would’ve maybe lived through some things more in the moment. Time travel is tricky though. Next question.

Alvin: Not at all. I think there could have been more efficient ways of doing things but it’s all a learning experience for us and I think I’m pretty happy overall with how it’s turned out, mistakes and all.

Stefan: I wish I would’ve stuck with piano class in elementary school. I would’ve been an ivory slapping monster by now. In all seriousness, I do feel my songwriting/composing would have greatly benefited from staying dedicated to music at a younger age. But Hell, I’ve still got time now and there’s always room to improve no matter how many years you have under your belt.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Johnathan: A Night At The Opera – Queen. I spent most of my self-taught time as a musician studying the relationship between vocal melodies and guitar melodies, pulling apart lyrics and meanings, trying to see what made things tick. And so obviously between Mercury and May, I fell absolutely love with Queen. I fashion a lot of my soloing to be more like a melody and less a shreddy bit.

Stefan: I would go back to 1960 for the recording of “Moon River.” It’s my mom’s favorite song so I’d slip an “I love you mom” Easter egg at the end of the recording.

Alvin: Would have to be 2 by Mac Demarco. Every song is a banger, and it was all written and played by the guy. Mixed by him too in his bedroom. Indie music peaked for me with that album. I’d have so many questions for him.

Steven: Oh. I would choose Meteora by Linkin Park. I listened to that album a lot growing up and I connect a lot with it. I wouldn’t want to alter the creative process though I would probably observe and do paperwork or something.




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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