Struggle has been nothing new for Petoskey, MI’s Famous Last Words. From member changes, to overcoming personal demons, the hardships may have been private but the toll they’ve taken on the band is apparent. As a band who made a name for themselves with conceptual records (Two-Faced Charade, Council of the Dead, The Incubus), it was a hard pill to swallow when fans were told that the next release would not be conceptual. However, what ended up being recorded was one of the most personal, heartfelt and grueling journeys that the band has overcome. Arizona was recorded with Matt Good (From First to Last, Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows) at Good Sounds in Tempe, AZ. The title of the EP borrows more from just the location that it was recorded at. These songs marked a turning point for the band and a step forward into the future with their best material to date. Entirely written, recorded and produced at Good Sounds, these songs take (lyrically) from personal experiences that vocalist, JT Tollas, has been through and give you a deeper look into who he is.
Vocally, Tollas has never sounded better. While The Incubus saw a lot of subtleties to his voice that, honestly, I’d hoped we hear more of in the future, Arizona sees him coming into his own. His range has grown, his screams have gotten a lot more powerful and his breath control is (no pun intended) breathtaking. Having released 3 albums and an EP under the FLW moniker, he’s not a stranger to recording/releasing music and it has always been apparent, from the beginning. On this EP, there are no frills, no strings attached and no gimmicks needed to get the message across. In a way, Arizona is both the band stripping down to bare bones and really projecting their individual talents. Sure, there are some effects here and there but they aren’t so overly-used that you can’t recognize who is performing which part. There’s no competition here, just friends creating beautiful music together. The band is connected in a way that you just don’t hear anymore and it’s evident. This is also the first release to feature the band’s new drummer, Cody Paige, and his playing style really meshes well with the rest of the band. The video for lead single, “No Walls” features a funeral procession, making it a very melancholic experience to watch but lends to the theme of the song. It speaks on questioning one’s existence and wondering if the correct decisions were made, throughout a lifetime. I also believe it speaks on the hopelessness one can feel, when suffering grief from the loss of a loved one.
“Runaways” lends a more melodic sound and speaks on throwing all your trust into someone, only to find out that they aren’t who they say they are. This track has remained one of my favorites, from the time it was released, as it’s an incredibly relatable subject and it’s just so catchy!
“The Game” is JT’s perspective on being in a band and the tough times you can face, along with being away from family for so long. Something that guitarist, Evan Foley, just divulged in a recent live video is that the lyric “Thank God I’ve printed on my skin “Never Give Up” is a reference to a tattoo that each member of the band shares. It’s a reminder of the brotherhood that the band shares and a daily reminder that, no matter how hard it gets, they can always through anything together. This track is a reflection of who the band is and why they continue to push through, regardless of what happens.
“Broken Glass” is another track that features a lot more melody and, honestly, feels like where FLW could fit in if they were ever to send a single to radio. Even with the screams, they lend well to one another and the chorus feels very pop/rock. This track, once again, sees JT reflecting on what it takes to be in a band and, where each step they take to success, can lead to a mile of failure. This track sees him really utilizing his higher range, as well.
“Scream” is as close as you’re going to get, on this release, to heavier tracks in their catalog such as “The Killing Zone,” “Legends and Legacies” and even “The Judged.” Featuring a much faster-paced, thrashier style this track will get you moving in a heartbeat. If no other song on the EP starts a mosh, it will be this one. There is even a heavier edge to the chorus, in terms of how the underlying instrumentals come together. It feels a bit darker than most tracks on Arizona. Also, if you liked the faster screaming style that was prevalent in Two-Faced Charade, you’ll really enjoy the way the verses for this one sound. The theme lends to the idea that we only have one life and the fact that you should live it to the fullest, regardless of what others may think.
Arizona is much more than just another EP, it’s a refreshing look at the direction this already-impressive band could take, outside of their conceptual nature. Allowing for a deeper look into JT’s psyche, this EP allows a more intimate connection to he and the band. Sure, the sound is anything groundbreaking or “new” but FLW has never needed that. They sit at the top of their genre for their songwriting capabilities and JT’s ability to weave a story out of life experiences. Arizona is out today, via SBG Records, so be sure to pick it up or stream it, wherever you listen to music these days! Check out the videos released for tracks from the EP below, “Broken Glass” premieres today so keep an eye on their social media channels for that one!
“Scream” (Official Video)
“The Game” (Official Video)
“Runaways” (Official Visualizer/Lyric Video)
“No Walls” (Official Video)
Purchase ‘Arizona’ here: http://smarturl.it/f99ww9