Letters From The Fire is built and based on the trials, challenges and obstacles they’ve faced as musicians and as a growing, evolving band. Their moniker and the songs played are both a reminder of the band’s history and a war cry to the future as a modern day new version. The 2016 LFTF is rounded out by new voice Alexa Kabazie, founding member Mike Keller (guitars), Cameron Stucky (guitar), Clayton Wages (bass) and Brian Sumwalt (drums).
The vision that became Letters From The Fire started when Keller went to the 2003 Summer Sanitarium tour in Candlestick Park. Watching Linkin Park, Mudvayne, Limp Bizkit and the Deftones with the mighty Metallica inspired him to pick up a guitar and jam. Between scholarly duties and football practice he jammed with then-guitarist Grayson Hurd. After initial shows as Park Lane they jumped in the studio recording a few unreleased tracks, though the experience was more beneficial to them than the recorded results. Thanks to Craigslist they found Wages.
They began cutting their teeth on the road hitting six states with a multitude of shows. In 2012 they changed names to Letters From The Fire taking the moniker from a song from their earlier release, touring with 12 Stones and The Letter Black.
The Bay Area five-piece found early success sharing national stages with Fuel, Trapt, Non Point and Pop Evil. Taking in studio time with former Evanescence guitarist Ben Moody, they enjoyed radio success with early tunes Zombies in the Sun and Beatles cover Eleanor Rigby.
The voice of the fire kept changing until they found Alexa Kabazie. Keller heard about the singer from Kile Odell, their producer. They flew to North Carolina to make sure what she’d done on tape could be replicated live. She got the job on the first try. Two weeks later, half a record was written.
Kabazie proved to be a multi-tasker with her delivery becoming the focus of several songs. Worth the Pain, out September 9, is 13 new tracks of symbolic, sonic struggle mirroring the blood, sweat and tears shed to get there, saying this is Letters From The Fire 2016. The record is full of stories and wounds that have scarred but healed with songs emerging from those marks; that have helped on a personal level with Kabazie’s vocal fuel stoking the flames.
They plan on hitting the road till they’ve played pretty much everywhere, delivering the goods and the new material with the older stuff in the rearview. The ashes of the past have withered and gone. The flames burn bright, on the sunrise of a new chapter.
Past turmoil has made them stronger, resisting the urge whispered by the voices of repeated setbacks to give up. Like burning lyrics screaming in the blaze, they were tested with trials until they found their, fire woman.
Worth the Pain contains powerful pop-rock songs tackling strong subject matter about relationships, reconciling the past with Kabazie’s serious pipework. The video for Give in to Me begins with an almost Saw like torture scene intercut with the band performing while Kabazie seduces with bewitching eyes while a trapped, hooded victim is taunted with select weapons of choice. The band also has a lyric video on YouTube for Mother Misery.
“The band was looking for a singer and their manager asked my manager if he knew any vocalists looking for a new project,” Kabazie says. “We sent over a demo that was actually on the record called Perfect Life, they liked what they heard, we did a few more demos then put it all together and everything got sorted out. The timing was really great and everything jelled well. Everything was really positive from the beginning. Everyone was into what was going on, it was becoming obvious more and more that it was a really good fit for them and me. It worked out really well.”
Many personal stories were told on the record. “All the songs on the record come from some kind of experience, or feeling that I had, everything was very personal. It was really important to me that everything I was singing I truly felt on a personal level.”
Kabazie spent a little time in other bands before Letters. “I was in a metalcore band called As We Walk, and that was actually the only other band I was a part of.” She was also a temporary vocalist for Failure Anthem with lead guitarist Odell who produced the new record.
While she admires female metal singers whether growling, screaming or singing, she prefers pop with her former band being a great experience towards the next step. On metal singing, “It’s not one of my strong suits,” Kabazie admits. “I totally wish I could. I love metal, especially females in that genre. I just knew that for me personally, I just wanted to be in a rock band.”
Kabazie wanted to sing from the beginning. “I’ve always envisioned myself doing music since I was a little kid. I grew up listening to music since I was four years old. As long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to do music.”
Her inspirations are genre-crossed. “When I was younger my real obsession was Christina Aguilera. She’s one of the greatest singers ever to live,” Kabazie insists. “In the rock genre, Lzzy Hale got me into the band thing. I also love Lady Gaga, I really like pop music. I’m into pop, powerhouse female vocalists.” She also has respect for Stevie Nicks and those of that era who paved the way.
For the Give In To Me song and video they wanted people to take away their own interpretation of meaning though it deals with prescription drugs and dealing with the love/hate feelings with the pros, cons and side effects of taking them. Kabazie says the song is written from the perspective of the drug itself, trying to convince the person to ‘give in’ and take it. That’s where the idea came from. They loved the cool, dark video concept as a different take on the song. Adding to the videos dark, creepy factor, though Kabazie can’t say for sure, she thinks parts of some of the Saw movies were made in the warehouse meat locker they filmed in.
One of the more personal songs on the record is Last December about family members dealing with addiction. Kabazie didn’t quite understand the situation being younger at the time but the song is her way of maturing with years and knowledge and dealing with it.
The band has chosen topics that are familiar to them whether drug addiction, mental illness or emotional topics like extreme anger and feelings of being helpless, alone and uncertain of what to do regardless of the individual situation. They hope through their words and music that their fans and people in general realize they’re not alone and there are like-minded people out there that have been through it and can help others.
Though stigmas may still exist for female vocalists Kabazie thinks women have come a long way in the music business. “There’s things that obviously come with being a female in this genre and especially the front person of a band,” she says. “Some people will dismiss the band without ever hearing them, beause for some reason they don’t like us. It kinda sucks when you’re not given a chance, at all. There’s people who won’t take you seriously because you’re a female. Being a female the bar’s set a lot higher in this genre so it can be tough. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love being the underdog of sorts, defying expectations and restraints set on me.”
One of Kabazie’s biggest inspirations is Lzzy Hale. “She’s great for breaking down boundaries for women in this genre. She went one step further, instead of calling attention to the fact that she’s a female. I want to make it like, so what, who cares? Male, female, cat or dog, it doesn’t matter, it’s about the music. Not what body part I have between my legs.”
Kabazie elaborates on the band name. “We all have letters in the fire, we all create something from all the crap and tribulations we’ve had to go through and the challenges and we’re writing our message as musicians.” They’re treating music and storytelling like their own personal non-violent purging, on stage, in the studio and the small screen. Though if pushed the wrong way, Kabazie and co might have more inner wrath and rage than the purge seen on the big screen.
Kabazie would love to plan future tours with Halestorm. “I think it’d be really cool to tour with Lady Gaga. That would be huge. Alter Bridge would be cool,” and her vintage choice would be music icons Led Zeppelin. “There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big.”