The group's new record, No Rain, No Rainbow, aims its sights even higher, generally eschewing screamo standards in favor of straight-up metal-core, balancing the breakdowns and shredded vocals with witty pop- culture asides.
"Yeah," says frontman Ryan Zimmerman. "We actually wanted to do something different on this record. We loved the direction of our last record, but didn't want to rewrite the same record again. We decided to go heavier on this album and it just made sense to cut out the singing."
The decision to cut out many pop-focused aspects resulted in a distinct new sound for the band. It's a sound that does, however, incorporate plenty of what's made them one of Phoenix's most popular acts.
"It's definitely heavier than anything we have done in the past. We used several things that we did on the last record [like] the creepy vocal samples [that] continue the sound and seemed to give it a unique quality. I think the fact that the songs are very structured but still heavy without clean vocals give it a little bit of different feel."
While many bands in their genre find their songs saddled with pompous lyrics, Zimmerman decided this album was one to not focus too much on being "serious."
"Honestly, on this record I didn't take myself seriously at all with the lyrics," Zimmerman says. "There's definitely some songs that are personal, but for the most part, we just tried to have a good time and write whatever came to mind."
Song titles like "Friends Are Friends for Never" and "You'll Never Leave Vegas Alive," spotlight the band's particular sense of gallows humor.
With new album in tow, the band is on the road, touring with Christian metal-core band The Chariot.
"We always love being on the road," Zimmerman says, noting that the band's subtle changes in direction have been received well by fans. "As far as public reception of the new record, we have never had better . . . The bands are rad, kids are stoked for the new songs, and we love playing it."
The band isn't planning on leaving their hometown out of the fun. The group's Tempe stop, an "unofficial CD release" show set for the Marquee Theatre, is a total blowout. The band will be joined by We Own the Sky, Sharks Never Sleep, Keep Your Distance, Here's to Adventure, Approaching Skylight, Villisca, Red Letter Drive, and Sick But Beautiful. It's a veritable mini-festival of angry, maladjusted angular-haired rockers.
In the meantime, the boys will be using their time on the road to check out new music. Zimmerman rattles off a list of CDs rocking the band's stereo, "Decapitated. Meshugga. [We're] trying to think out of the box as far as our scene, do new things we haven't done before. [We've been listening to] Johnny Cash, Crystal Castles, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Phantogram, KiD CuDi, The Black Keys, Rocky Votolato, Sigur Ros, Slowriter . . . and David [Ludow, bassist] is in love with John Mayer."
One has to wonder whether the band's diverse listening habits is going to result in a weird, blues-folk-rap follow-up to No Rain, No Rainbow.
Um, probably not.
Sat., Jan. 8, 5 p.m., 2011