A Skylit Drive
It takes great vision for a band to refuse to rest on their previous successes and instead focus on what they need to become. That’s exactly what Lodi, California’s A Skylit Drive achieved with the sextet’s third full-length album, Identity On Fire.
Marrying the defining, intrinsic elements of A Skylit Drive’s signature sound with a bold new palette of tones, textures and song structures, the aptly named Identity On Fire serves up a double meaning, not only standing apart from the band’s prior works but also defining the band from this point forward.
“This record has everything to do with setting fire to the things that you don't want and don't need, and are only slowing you down,” notes Michael “Jag” Jagmin. “It’s about creating your own identity, and being who you want to be. We feel like that's what we've done with this album.”
A Skylit Drive — comprised of vocalist Jagmin, guitarists Nick Miller and Joey Wilson, bassist/screamer Brian White, drummer Cory La Quay and keyboardist Kyle Simmons — officially burst onto the scene in 2007 with the She Watched The Sky EP, followed by 2008’s Wires And The Concept Of Breathing. The album marked the group’s first proper full-length album and the entrance of Jagmin to the fold. Wires hit #171 on the U.S. Billboard 200, as well as #9 on the Top Heatseekers Chart and #20 on the Top Independent Albums chart, setting the stage for a much-anticipated follow-up. The band then joined the Fearless Records family, with their label debut coming in the form of 2009’s Adelphia, which peaked at #64 on the Billboard 200.
With the sophomore pressure behind them, ASD re-entered the studio in the fall of 2010, after a summer of 10-hour days spent writing new material in a blistering warehouse, to record Identity On Fire. All the sweat clearly paid off: Identity captures the group truly coming into their own, at a pivotal stage in their career. The album debuted on the U.S. Billboard 200 at #89 and #16 on the Alternative Albums chart.
“We're extremely excited about the album,” says Jagmin. “We took everything we did on Wires and Adelphia and asked, 'What did we do wrong, what did we do right, and what have we never done, but wanted to do?' We feel that this is the album we've needed to make, and we finally did it.”
The group teamed with producer/mixer Cameron Webb (30 Seconds To Mars, Motorhead, Flyleaf, Silverstein) at his Santa Ana, Calif. studio for the Identity sessions. Identity is the first time ASD have worked with a full-time, hands-on producer, and emerged from the experience all the better for it. There’s a cohesion and economy within the tracks—and a sonic brilliance—that belies Webb’s many worthy contributions to the effort.
“Without a coach, even the best team might not know where to put their talent at certain times,” explains Jagmin. “He was able to guide us. He knew what we're all capable of, so he just pushed us to wherever he thought the piece would fit best.”
It’s tough to dispute the fruits of that partnership: Identity On Fire has all the makings of a breakout release from a band just hitting their stride. From its richly layered guitars and keys to its bombastic beats and scorching vocals, the album is a take-no-prisoners shot across the bow of contemporary post-hardcore, instantly raising the bar. “We wanted to have more energy, keep the tempo up and have a lot of crowd participation,” adds guitarist Nick Miller. “We wanted the contrast—a good balance of heavy and poppy—and I think on this album we've definitely found a good balance.”
Lyrically, the album keeps pace, with A Skylit Drive’s members abandoning the mythical lines of past works, digging deeper into themselves instead. This approach bore some of the band’s most personal, impassioned creations to date, and the newfound gravity promises fans will relate to the band’s music on an entirely new level.
“We wanted to write about real-life stuff that happens to us. In the past we've written a lot about video games and fantasy stuff, which was cool, but we wanted to get real on this one,” explains Miller. “A lot of the songs are about being on the road and its hardships… also some of the struggles I've had in the band and in life. I was able to talk about that, which is pretty cool.”
The combination of inspired lyrics and powerful new music translates into a milestone release for A Skylit Drive; fresh cuts like single “Too Little, Too Late”, “XO Skeleton” and “Ex Marks The Spot” promise to grab listeners by the eardrums and not let go. Jagmin and Miller say they’re particularly proud of “Ex,” which has become a band favorite. With a straight-up melodic hardcore vibe, fist-pumping gang vocals and surprisingly well-honed hooks, it is just one of Identity’s many dazzlers.
Now that Identity On Fire has dropped, A Skylit Drive will be taking what’s arguably their best record yet to an audience that grows larger by the day. They supplemented the album’s release with a supporting spot on tour with Thursday and Underoath, gaining fans and respect with every show. Next up is the band’s second shot at Warped Tour, tackling the 2011 tour in its entirety.
A Skylit Drive’s third album Identity On Fire is out now.