There’s an old proverb that says “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises up again; but the wicked are overthrown by calamity.” No phrase is as fitting as this one for the band Full Devil Jacket, which has risen up again after their time of trial. Back in 2000, Full Devil Jacket was riding high on the success of their self-titled debut album. They toured with some of the rock radio giants, such as Slipknot and Creed, and had positioned themselves to take their place among rock’s elite.
Full Devil Jackets’ rapidly growing success continued… until the night that lead singer Josh Brown overdosed, nearly losing his life. It was a fateful experience which led to Browns’ eventual resignation from the band. Brown reflected on the experience, “I grew up in the Jackson, Tennessee/Memphis rock and roll scene. Back in the day, in my area and in Memphis, rock and roll was really more about a lifestyle than it was music. It was a ‘party hard’ lifestyle. You know, we were pretty legit in our rock and roll, meaning we lived that life and we loved it. But then… it’s hard on the body, hard on the soul. By the age of 22, I’d OD’d on heroin and I’d been doing many, many, many drugs up to that point. But, as far as what brought me out of that… I had a spiritual awakening. I found out that life and the world around us, there’s a lot more to what we can just see and there’s a purpose to all of it. And, you know, I feel like I’m beginning to find out what my purpose is and that’s what kind of keeps me going day to day and that’s kind of what my whole life is about. It’s about growing as a person,” Brown said thoughtfully.
Brown eventually went on to form a new band, Day of Fire. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that the wake of a tragedy brought the former bandmates together again— eventually inspiring the revival of Full Devil Jacket. “It was about four or five years ago, we got together to do a benefit concert for my guitarist Michael Reaves, who passed away due to cancer. And that was kind of the first time that everyone got back in the same room and started playing music together and that was kind of the beginning of the idea of getting the band back together. Since then, we tried a couple times to get an EP together and it just didn’t work out between everyone’s schedules and life and all of that. And finally me and Keith Foster just decided we were gonna do whatever it took to put out a record… and we did! We spent so many years together back in the day… spent a lifetime together, really. When you spend that kind of time with someone, it’s just hard to get that with anyone else. There’s just a magic when we write together,” said Brown.
Foster and Brown used the highly popular fund-raising platform, Kickstarter, to help fund the new album release. Brown said that the support they received in return was overwhelming. “It was an incredible experience. I’d been out of music completely at that time for probably three years and the idea of bringing Full Devil Jacket back… I mean, I never really wanted to do it because I just didn’t feel like it could be done. And, you know, Keith Foster convinced me to do it again and through the Kickstarter program, we realized that we still got a lot of fans out there! It was really an eye-opening experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world. With someone who spends ten to fifteen bucks on a new record… I mean I’ve done plenty of regular work in my life and when somebody spends that money that they left their kids for and spend 50 bucks at a concert or whatever, that really means something to me! People that are into my music and buy those things are helping to feed my children and you know, it just means much more to me than just money. The Kickstarter program, that was a great experience and I wouldn’t change that for the world,” gushed Brown.
Now, nearly 14 years after the release of their prosperous first album, Full Devil Jacket will release their long-awaited sophomore album, Valley of Bones, on March 31 via eOne Music. The band’s current lineup is Brown (vocals,) Keith Foster (drums,) Moose Douglass (bass,) and Paul Varnick (guitar).
Brown credits much of the bands’ success to their honest lyrics and says that long-time fans will recognize many of the same signature elements in Valley of Bones. “I would say it has the same conviction—meaning the first Full Devil Jacket record was written from the heart. It was written using real experiences and real situations. The connecting line between this record and that record is it’s genuine. And that’s what people have really been connecting to. We don’t write songs just because a song needs to be written. It comes from the heart. And that, to me, is what defines a band. They gotta be real and have a purpose. The words need to come from a real place. And when they do, the listener picks up on that,” Brown stated thoughtfully. “When you can go through a situation and then put it to music, you know, it’s like a release. And when it comes from a real place, music can change what’s in your mind and your heart. The Valley of Bones song is a really aggressive, kind of pissed off, song. It’s about the end of a 12 year relationship. So you know, written from a real place about real things and I believe that will convey. It always does,” Brown continued. Full Devil Jacket recently released the music video for their latest single, Valley of Bones, on their YouTube page.
While everything seems to be on the upward slope for the band, Brown is sure to remember where he has been. “Life is a roller-coaster. It’s up and down and good and bad. But the thing is, hopefully as we get older, we get more wisdom. And we realize that if we keep banging our head against the same brick wall… maybe that wall wasn’t meant to be broken. Maybe you gotta take a different path. That’s what I’m doing. I mean, I’m not always on the right path. Like, if you listen to this record… when I talk about the drug addiction and the struggle and all that… a lot of people think I’m talking about stuff that happened years ago– but I’m not. I’m talking about things that happened months ago. Full Devil Jackets’ record is a snapshot of what my life has been for the past couple of years and it’s like I don’t have any of it licked. So I wake up every day and I try to be a better person than I was the day before. Sometimes I hit that mark… a lot of times I don’t. But I don’t let that define me. I just get up and do what I can. Anybody who keeps up with me is gonna see me fall at some point but it’s not the falling that defines you, it’s the getting back up.”
When asked where he derives most of his musical inspiration, Brown said, “As a writer, Pink Floyd is probably my all-time favorite band. The writing of Roger Waters combined with the way the rest of the band performs the music is probably the greatest influence of my life, as far as song writing goes.” Brown then joked, “Every time I write a record, I’m hoping that it’ll be one hundredth as good as Pink Floyds’ The Wall. And it’s always a goal. I don’t think I’ve hit it yet, but that’s why I keep making new records [laughs].”
According to Brown, he was involved in nearly every creative aspect of Valley of Bones’ production. Not only did Brown have the primary hand in writing the lyrics of the new album— he also painted the cover! Those interested can find the story behind the Valley of Bones cover and Browns’ other artwork on joshbrownart.com.
Full Devil Jacket is currently on tour with Drowning Pool and Adrenaline Mob. “Yeah, I mean our plan is to tour all year and all next year, if possible. We plan on touring the U.S. and Europe as much as we possibly can and getting this music out to the fans. So we’re just gonna see what the years holds for us!” The full list of tour dates can be found on the band’s website.
Five years, seven years, 14 years… When a band incorporates as much talent and gritty emotion into their music as Full Devil Jacket does, sometimes it doesn’t matter how long their fans must be patient. Listeners can be certain that the new album, Valley of Bones, will be worth the wait.