INTERVIEW: WITNESS [2016]

In 2015, Roanoke Virginia put itself on the heavy music map with the debut ep from Witness, Downcast. I had the opportunity to sit down with the guys (sans bassist Nick Cooper) recently and talk with them about the new material, their progress in the last year, possible tours, and even someone they want to play with that you wouldn’t ever expect. Continue below and see what these dude have to say.

-Haunter

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[Haunter]: Alright, so, could I just have you guys introduce yourselves and what you play in the band?

[Tim (Rindorf, guitar/vocals]: I’m Tim, I play guitar and sometimes vocals.

[DJ (Wright, drums)]: My name is DJ Wright, I play drums.

[Robbie (Alexander, vocals)]: I’m Rob, I do vocals.

[Zach (Carr, guitar)]: I’m Zach, I play guitar.

Fantastic, alright.  First things first, since Downcast came out in March of 2015, you have gone through a rather significant lineup change in that you have a new drummer, a second guitarist, and actually dropped from two vocalists to one. So how has that transition been and how has it been adjusting to everything?

[R]: It’s been awesome, really. Like, having the two new guys has been great. Probably the best decision we’ve made in a long time. Everybody’s cool with each other, you know, we all get along.  Everyone’s good. It works.

[T]: It just makes the dynamic a lot better.

 For sure! How has the writing process changed, is still one guy writing it all or is it more inclusive of a writing process?

[R]: It’s a lot different. Before we went from one person kind of writing on their computer, and sending us skeletons and changing it at practice and stuff.  We just wrote a new song, it started out as just one riff, and now it’s this really cool new song and it’s probably one of my favorites. I was just talking to Zach about how this is the first time we’ve seen an actual idea grow into a full song as opposed to hearing an already finished skeleton and then just going off of that.

 How would you say the new material is similar and also different to Downcast?

[T]: It’s a lot less core-y. It’s less focused on breakdowns and patterns and  weird shit, a lot more difficult and technically evolved than playing something just to please a crowd.

 Would you say it’s darker, kind of more atmospheric?

[T]: Yeah! That’s definitely the right word, atmospheric.

[R:] It’s still heavy for sure, it’s just different.

 Alright, cool! Bouncing off of that, would you say the new stuff is catchier, are you trying to reach a bigger audience this time around? Are you happier with the new material?

[T]: People that have heard the stuff played live kinda told us to ride the whole Nu-Metal Revival train all the way through while it’s still big because they think we could be a big part of that, and to definitely take that as far as it goes?

 Building off of that answer, what would you say some bigger influences are this time around?

[DJ]: I would say Cane Hill. Definitely Cane Hill.

[R]: Cane Hill, the new Darke Complex record-

 Hell yeah.

[R]: That thing is perfect. Even like, my favorite bands put out an album and there’s like one or two songs I don’t enjoy or think are that good, but every song on that record is good. Even the trap song.

[T]: They put out a trap song?

[R]: Dude the trap song is sick! It straight up shits on most rappers and they aren’t a rap group.

[DJ]: Also, our other influences would be Desiigner, Lil Yachty, and Lil Uzi Vert.

[R]: (laughing) Lil Uzi Vert is my biggest inspiration as a human being. That dude’s cool.

 Well let’s keep things moving with some questions more catered to Robbie.

[R]: Oh god.

 Was the decision to carry on as the sole frontman an easy or hard one for you? 

[R]: Well, before we made that decision, I was playing a lot of those shows alone anyway. I never really looked at it like a huge decision. The last like, five shows we did before all that I was doing it basically alone anyway. The hardest part is that a lot of our old stuff was written for two people, and having to do so much of it by myself was hard at first but Tim has been helping out with a line here or there to make it less difficult for me.

 So you guys have been reworking vocal parts here or there to make it less difficult for you? 

[R]: Yeah. After everything was said and done after the first couple of practices, as we would go through the songs I would be thinking about parts that would be good for a break and we just kinda worked it out.

 How would you say you’ve evolved as a vocalist  from Downcast to the new material? Just listening to lotus I noticed you moved out of just yelling your head off and more into an actual range. I’m hearing a little bit of lower end vocals and shrilly higher vocals mixed in.

[R]: A lot of it came from having to re-do everything by myself, I was getting twice as much practice as I was usually getting, and you know, practice makes perfect.

[T]: And to keep that contrast that was in the original stuff, keeping the lows in and stuff.

 Alright, shifting over to you Tim- How has the writing process changed for you since adding a second guitarist?

[T] Well, me and him (pointing to Zach) used to play together as you know, most of us have been playing music together for six years, and coming from a more tech-y metalcore/deathcore sound with a lot of separate guitar parts and like we were saying with the new music being more technically based as opposed to downcast where it was all written on one guitar, especially having to split the stuff up, I’ve been having to get back in that mindset. Plus it helps that Zach can play some stupidly technical shit and we wanna take advantage of that. He can play just crazy stuff and we don’t hear that a lot in the music we wanna play where it’s all a lot more simple.  He’s gonna write that of course.

Alright, for Zach and DJ- how has working with Witness been? Especially since you guys, before Witness, you and Tim used to play in We Burned the Skyline which was more of a deathcore band, and you were in Siege of Tyranny where you played drums. So switching from a more technical deathcore/death metal sound into a more groove based Nu-Metal band, how was that for you guys? Was it weird to write something so different than what you’re used to playing?

[DJ]: It was very difficult for me at first, just being a straight forward 4/4 and blast beats drummer and all of that. I give all of my drum credit to this guy right here (pointing to Tim), he’s got a mind of his own when it comes to the drum world. And he just guided me through it step by step. The transition was very hard, I had a very big learning curve, but these last couple songs he’s been letting me do my own thing, it’s going very well.

[Z]: Yeah it’s been real, real easy.

[DJ]: (all laughing) Oh word, fuck me right?

(laughing resumes)

[Z]: I mean, I like my death metal and shit like that so it wasn’t hard for me but switching styles is fucking weird. Every time we do some slow, rhythm oriented stuff I just wanna jump all over this place. I have to stop and make myself listen to what’s going on moreso, I have to stop myself from just doing flashy bullshit.

 Would you say it’s more difficult?

[Z]: The new stuff? Yeah.

[T]: Zach actually has fun now!

[Z]: Don’t get me wrong I still love the old stuff but man, the new stuff is sick.

[DJ]: The drums definitely are a lot more difficult.

Word. Alright, what would you guys say are your favorite songs to play both old and new?

[T]: I’m trying to bring back Constable, but they’re not about it. It was the only song that was fun to play on the EP but it didn’t go over well because it wasn’t a pit song. But that’s a fun song to play because it was written on a computer so having to learn that was obnoxious. But for old songs, definitely Eyes. It’s bouncy, and simple as shit. It’s just a well written song and I don’t even give us credit for it. Literally our producer (Zach Jones) listened to what we originally had for it and was like “no, that’s stupid. Let’s forget all this weird, taco-y hardcore shit, put that part here again and put this weird flangy lead over it”, and that song’s cool. My favorite new song to play is called Queen Speak and it’s got a little of everything. There’s heavy parts, atmospheric parts, just fun to play. Definitely a well written song.

 You guys announced at your show with Fit For a King that you were filming a live music video for Lotus. When can we expect to hear/see that or any new material?

[R]: We just got the final video back a couple of days ago and we’ve been talking to the people at Chugcore because they did the EP, and they’ve blown up big since then. Ethan has been the coolest dude ever since.

[T]: Also shout out to Kris Creasy (music video director/producer) because that turned out way better than expected.

[DJ]: I’d say expect it by the end of the month.

 Sick! I cannot wait man. So, moving forward- you guys have been a band for almost three years.

[T]: We’ve been serious maybe one.

[R]: I was at timehop today and one of the shows we played in Blacksburg was a year ago today and that blew my miind. That was one of the first shows we played as a new lineup.

 Was that the Eat your Heart Out tour with Villains and 2×4?

[T]: That was in Lynchburg.

[R]: That was a cool little venue.

[T]: It was like a crossfit gym or something?

[R]: I thought I was gonna get beaten up with a barbell.

[Z]: It was a tiny crossfit gym with a bunch of pentagrams on the walls and shit.

[R]: I was in the back going to the bathroom, and Devin from Villains was in the back and there was this coffin and I think an ax right next to it. He was like, “I  feel like I’m in an episode of Danny Phantom” and I lost my shit.

Jesus christ I’m gonna miss that band. So, you guys have played with a lot of bigger heavy bands, some local, some not so local.  Bands like  Adaliah, Barrier, Left Behind, Gift Giver, Traitors, and Yuth Forever. I think you guys played the Widow show in 2014? 

[T] Yessir!

 Hell yes! So, of all of the bands you’ve played with, who would you say was the best, whether it be because they were super cool dudes or because their set left a huge impression/influence?

[T]: The coolest dudes are definitely Traitors. Stephen Arango (drummer) took us aside and was just shooting the shit with us. He’s a genuine dude and Tyler Shelton is hilarious. The vocalist of Widow walked up to Braedon when he was still in the band and was just like, “Fuck yeah, I’m so with this, this is sick” and just walked away and kept being mysterious.

[R]: A huge influence is definitely Darke Complex as far as stage show.  Just the way they build their hype and promote their stuff is next level. Like, the trac-phone thing, who would think of that? Their whole social media presence with the day-by-day videos that lead up to the music video and they’re all connected, that’s sick.

 [T]: It’s all behind the scenes stuff, too, which is super important, especially in the internet age. If you’re not promoting yourself and hype as shit nobody is gonna want to come see you live.

[R]: That’s where everyone gets their information. They’re so smart on that end. Like right before Invertebrate came out, they had those videos and hyped me up. I fell in love with those guys.

So if you guys could play with one band, active or inactive, who would it be and why?

[R]: I want to see what everyone else says first.

[T]: It’s kinda super fucked up and ironic cause since we’ve been a band everyone has compared us to them, but I would love to play with Sworn In just to see what Sworn In has to say. If they should so decide to watch us or even like listen outside the venue, I wanna see what they would say. Like, if they were all “yo, what the fuck?” or if they liked it , also just because they’re one of my favorite bands.

[DJ]: For me it would probably be I Am Abomination. They’re my all time favorite band and Phil Druyor’s voice is amazing. Totally genre clashing but I love that band.

Any band, to me at least, that can pull off a post-hardcore cover of Never Gonna Give You Up is a band that deserves all my praise. 

[T]: They did that?

Yeah, dude, it’s sick. They did that and Dirty Diana.

[T]: Oh word, I’m gonna have to check that out.

[Z]: This is gonna be a little out of character, but Necrophagist.

[R]: How is that out of character?

[T]: They haven’t put out an album in like six years.

[Z]: Or really been a band.

 Robbie, what do you have for us?

[R]: I wanna play a show with Riff Raff. (all laughing) Like Volumes played with him, We Came as Romans got him on stage, I mean even Frankie from Emmure was on a song. Like, it wasn’t Frankie’s idea, Riff Raff’s dudes reached out to HIM for it. I think that’s super cool that Riff Raff got in touch with his dudes and was like “This metal as fuck band… let’s get their singer on a song”. I just think a show with him would be a lot of fun.

[T]: Same with MGK. Like he came out of nowhere and he goes to any metal show he can.  He loves that shit, he always posts videos on his snapchat of him pitting.

[R]: I feel like the people at the Riff Raff shows wouldn’t like it, but…

[T]: If you wear Jordans they might!

[R]: They might get hype, I mean we have 808s and stuff like that.

So, one last question for you guys. What does the future hold for Witness?

[R]: Surprises!

[DJ]: We have a lot of stuff coming up. Definitely expect an album by the end of 2017. We have our stage hoodies so expect to see us play off of that. Releasing this video, pushing it, getting merchandising straight, hit it heavy.

[T]: We’re also setting up a short run with Curses and Pyro, Ohio.

[R]: We’re also recording one, possibly two songs in December.

 Alright, so before we wrap things up, if you guys have anything to say to anyone reading this, take a moment and get it out there.

[R]: I know my mom is gonna read this, so I love you mom.

[T] Definitely shouts out to Zach Magic, good old  Zach Jones!

[DJ]: Also shouts out to Kris Creasy, Zach Jones, everyone who’s been supporting the Witness camp for however long, and all our friends and family.

[T]: Zach?

[Z]: Fuck Donald Trump, don’t smoke meth. (all laughing)

Alright my dudes, I think that about does it! Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and shoot the shit.

[R]: No problem!

[T]: Thank you man!