From humble beginnings at local American Legion posts and VFW halls to critically acclaimed albums, sold out venues and main stage performances on the Vans Warped Tour, Chiodos and blessthefall have both proven themselves as metalcore powerhouses.
Chiodos’s latest album “Devil,” produced by David Bottrill (Tool, Muse, Stone Sour), debuted at number 12 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart and sold more than 18,000 copies. In turn, blessthefall’s latest release “Hollow Bodies” debuted at number 15 on the Billboard Top 200 and gave the band their best sales to date.
“It’s reaffirming to know so many people care about what it is I’m doing,” Owens said. “It reaffirms all the hard work and dedication that I put in, that all the guys put in and what we collectively put in. It’s exciting and I’m really thankful.”
But both bands’ success did not come without some challenges. In fact, both Owens and Bokan each carry two different, very interesting stories.
Former guitarist Mike Frisby, drummer Matt Traynor and bassist Jared Warth founded the Arizona quintet blessthefall in early 2004; however, it was not until 2008 when Bokan replaced original lead vocalist Craig Mabbitt, who later joined Escape the Fate.
“Our band has been around for a while, so I feel like we’ve garnished a great fan base and a lot of the band, even before me, [has been] around since 2006,” Bokan said. “I think some bands that do switch lead singers, kind of see that the band really doesn’t do as well. Where [with] our band, we switched singers and we’re doing better than ever. So that’s just pretty cool.”
Bokan also recently experienced a monumental life-changing event with the birth of his first child, a girl named Rocket Wild. Though he appreciates days off from tour, now more than ever, Bokan said blessthefall have no plans on slowing down.
“As long as the ball keeps rolling and as long as we’re moving forward in our careers and not backward, then we’re going to continue,” he said.
For the Michigan-based outfit Chiodos, things were a little more complicated.
In 2008, Owens struggled with personal issues that ultimately led to a departure from his band. After an alleged drug overdose, Owens took to his personal website to talk about the incident and confirm he had checked into a mental health clinic.
Turning to the interwebs once again, Owens revealed he checked himself into rehab for another time via Twitter on July 23, 2012, just months after he announced his return to Chiodos in April 2012.
“It was nothing in particular [that brought the band back together] other than the fact that we’ve grown up together,” Owens said. “The four of us started this band in high school, and we went off and did our own thing for a while. It felt scary. It was scary. It was overwhelming. I was definitely afraid we’d naturally fall back into bad habits, not work on our communication and things like that. It was scary, but at the same time, calming in a way because it’s like running into an old best friend. At first, it’s a bit heavy if something happened, but it’s very easy to look passed that. These guys are my brothers. We fight like brothers. But we’ve always got each others’ backs.”
During his time away from Chiodos, Owens worked on other projects including the post-hardcore supergroup D.R.U.G.S. (Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows).
“I had a really amazing opportunity,” Owens said. “It was a beautiful shoe, it just didn’t fit me. I was surrounded by leaders and not my family. I wasn’t in the position to lead leaders at the time. It was a nice experience, just not at the right time.”
In the end, Chiodos and blessthefall have come a long way, in both their personal and artistic ventures, since the days of sweaty punk kids packing into American Legion posts and starting mosh pits across the country. Now, two of metalcore’s leading forces can enjoy the benefits of hard work and success. (We’re pretty sure there’s still moshing, though.)
“We’re on a bus,” Owens said with a laugh. “Which is cool. We can pay our bills, which is cool. We can eat, which is cool. We can look our parents in the eyes and tell them it’s our job, which is cool. A lot has changed. As artists, as human beings, we’ve grown up. We’re men now. We were kids when were playing VFW halls.”
“It’s pretty awesome,” Bokan said. “We work really hard … we’ve toured and toured and toured, and we’ve really busted our ass and we’ve really stayed true to ourselves, to our fans and to our music. And to have a record come out with this much success and still kind of maintain our integrity and our pride in our music, it’s awesome. It’s amazing. We’re just proud. We’re proud of ourselves and proud of our fans for sticking by us. And of all the new fans that have never heard of us before and [are] giving us a chance, it’s a pretty humbling feeling.”
However, one thing has remained virtually unchanged throughout the years – the energy-packed live performances. Both Owens and Bokan promise an in-your-face, “very interactive experience” at any and all shows during the Crowd Surf America Tour.
“We like to get people clapping, get them moving and jumping up and down,” Owens said. “Beau and I like to push the audience and get them involved because it makes for a better experience by all.”
“We try to make it as much of a party as it can be where there’s a lot of energy and we’re in your face, we’re down in the crowd and things like that,” Bokan said. “We just want to feel the energy back, and we want you to have a good time and have this be a huge party where you kind of just lose yourself and forget about school or work or any of those types of things.”
As far as what is ahead for both groups, Owens said Chiodos just put the finishing touches on a video for “3 AM,” a track from their album “Devil,” which will be released soon, and Bokan said blessthefall are focused on touring and riding out the success of “Hollow Bodies” for a little while longer.
“We’re excited to come to Mobile,” Owens said. “[There are] a few spots we aren’t used to playing. It’s nice and refreshing to get to meet all the people that support you from different towns that don’t get to really see you very often.”
“I would be pretty bummed if there was no crowd surfing at the Crowd Surf America Tour,” Bokan said. “I’d be really upset.”
Crowd Surf America Tour featuring Chiodos and blessthefall
Date: Monday, Aug. 11, with doors open at 6 p.m. Show starts at 6:30 p.m.
Venue: Soul Kitchen 219 Dauphin St., www.soulkitchenmobile.com
Tickets: $16 advance/$20 day-of, available at Soul Kitchen, online, Mellow Mushroom (WeMo & MiMo) or by calling 866-468-7630. Under 18 with a parent.