I caught up with guitarist Dakota Whiteside and vocalist Joe Andreani and asked them about the mission and music of their lately defunct -- and now re-formed -- metal band.
A Flame in the Dark: A Christian, horror-inspired death metal band? Let's start with the obvious: how do you reconcile your faith and your commitment to share Christ with your horror imagery?
Joe: Well, I'm not really sure how to answer this question to be honest.
I mean, I don't know if I'd necessarily say that we have a horror-based image (which makes me think of bands like the totally awesome Grave Robber) so much as I'd say\, like how you put it before, that we're horror-inspired.
When we first started I suggested the name Romero as kind of an inside joke/reference to George A. Romero (the 'godfather' of zombie movies) because when we first started playing shows and didn't have a name people would find out that we were Christians and their reaction at best would be a sarcastic reply along the lines of "So, you guys believe that a cosmic Jewish zombie died for your sins and you talk to him to talk to God? Yeah, that totally makes a lot of sense! Stop trying to feed people these adult fairy tales!"
We just kind of shrugged stuff like that off, but funny enough it made us all think "Wow, Jesus rose from the dead, he's the undead... whoa." and it made the name Romero that much better to us; haha.
That's not to say there weren't things that would get to us too, though.
Sometimes there would either be a sudden and complete shunning of us as soon as we spoke out about being Christians (which to me was kind of hilarious because it really shows how hypocritical and narrow-minded people can be, which is the same thing I always hear people say about Christians). I mean it was ridiculous; one moment people would be upfront or in the pit just totally getting into our set and then as soon as we'd drop the J bomb (Jesus) they'd back away from the stage or go sit down or would bash us by yelling things like "F your God!" or just walk around the pit now flipping us off instead of moshing, but it was a two way street; we also had a lot of people who weren't Christians who totally supported us and even yelled at some of the people in the crowd when they'd shout something derogatory at us while we'd be talking between songs; and while I don't encourage that since there were quite a few times I thought a fight was going to break out, it was cool to see someone who didn't share our faith be supportive of what we had to say.
I mean any support we've gotten has been awesome; we really do legitimately love our fans and friends we've made because we also get a lot of flack from Christians too since we don't really agree with the modern concept of church and we're very out spoken about that as well or just because of the fact that we're Death Metal; like one time after a show a kid came up to me and told me a story about how he got in trouble at school with a teacher for playing our music in class when they had a music show and tell day and the teacher thought we were the most evil demonic sounding thing and demanded that the kid turn his CD off because it was a Christian school and music like that was "of the devil."
We also don't like to sugar coat or hide the fact that depraved things happen in this world; and I think sometimes our lyrics can be pretty extreme for a "christian band", but I mean in certain circles I grew up in; it was like taboo to discuss anything bad that happens in this world, but that doesn't make sense to me.
People need to be aware of what's going on; there's way worse things happening right now in reality than what's displayed in any horror movie and that's why it's so important to try and make a change as well.
Sometimes we also feel like you have to kick the devil in the teeth (which; I mean I have no idea what or who the devil truly is; growing up in church with the Sunday-school attitude of him being this red humanoid being who lives in hell and tries to mess with humanity, to different theological views like that the devil is an existing spirit crafted to be a tempter to humanity, or that Lucifer was just an evil king that existed at a point in history and isn't the same as the serpent in the garden of Eden ect.) it's truly hard to really say what's out there I just know that evil exists; and that's where we need to aim any and all anger at is evil itself; which is what the track Aequitas off the second EP is about.
I mean, I'm at a point in my life where I openly admit that I know absolutely nothing; except that I believe God is real and through faith in Christ I'm saved, and I'm clinging to that with everything I have, but back to horror movies....
We all dig horror movies (some of us more than others) but when we hang out we do like watch a lot of random and cheesy horror movies (Like the Evil Dead series) or play Left 4 Dead (a zombie themed FPS video game) at practice when ever we kind of get stuck or needed a break from writing; it's kind of just a part of who we are, something we've always been drawn to or gravitated towards, not all of us grew up in church and I feel like because of that we never really had any sort of stigma around certain things like horror movies.
I mean; even when I was a little kid I never understood why there was such a big controversy around metal and horror movies; despite the fact that the local video stores cardboard cut out of Freddy Krueger use to scare the heck out of me as a kid.
It's kind of like, when I was younger I always wanted to try the doom video game series, but growing up in a christian household my parents were against it; but I just didn't get it, I'd always be like "but you're in hell killing demons; you're killing demons." to me it just seemed like for a christian that would be the greatest game ever; haha, but I mean there's definitely some horror movies out there that I personally wouldn't choose to watch because I feel that they could have a negative impact or that they're just not worth filling your head with; same with some music as well, but then there's other horror movies that I can really appreciate, especially any of the George A. Romero zombie movies and the way they stand as a commentary on humanity and society, but I also really like a lot of Wes Craven, John Carpenter and Sam Raimi movies as well; some of which in my opinion ultimately contain stories about facing and over coming your greatest fears vs just being your average slasher movie with buckets of gore.
As far as sharing our faith or love for Christ goes; it just comes down to that we really believe that Christians should never be passive or silent about their beliefs; though I don't really think ANYONE should be passive or silent about their beliefs either even if someone does disagree.
So, while not all of our songs are directly "christian themed" for say, we always take a moment during our sets to talk about our faith and try to encourage people to come talk to us afterwards if they want prayer or just need to get something off their chest.
That's what our biggest goal as a band is really; to just reach out to people who are hurting; especially those who may be misunderstood, I mean I know what's it like to be the kid in church wearing an Iron Maiden shirt and being called "evil" for it or being out somewhere and someone try to minister to me because of my tattoos, it sucks, but people are people; we all make mistakes, all of us.
AFitD: How did Romero start?
|Romero's debut EP, "The Awakening," from 2011.|
We started hanging out a lot over the summer at my parents and you know, we'd just kick it and sit around playing guitar all day.
After summer; Mitch went off to college and we didn't really talk for a few months, but later he gave me a phone call seeing if I wanted to hang out with him and his friend Aaron who also played guitar.
The three of us got together and we were like "let's start a band" of course, that meant having three guitarists since at the time that's what the three of us did; and well that didn't work out very well, and our search for a vocalist and other members was about the same....
Trying to find people who are into death metal in Shawnee Oklahoma was very hard to say the least.
Eventually; I was like "well, if we can't find a vocalist I guess I can give it a shot".
Shortly after that we found a bassist in a friend of ours (Dylan Herron), and a drummer in Dylan Woody who we had actually met when he came to try out for vocals at one point and later messaged us saying he could also play drums if we were looking for a drummer.
At this point we actually were a secular band called; something like "Plague Upon The Sky" or something super cheesy and "metal" like that. We lasted for, maybe three months before calling it quits.
After that though, Aaron and I started hanging out a lot and started getting into a lot of deep talks about God and decided that we should start a ministry based band; we talked to Mitch about it and he was on board.
At this point I booked a show a month in advance thinking "we can totally find a drummer and get stuff together in time" (to this day I have no idea what I was thinking)
So, our search for a drummer began which eventually lead us to Jeremy Marquez; who was the drummer for Mitch's old band Chaos Control. We found Jeremy and talked to him about it and he seemed really down for it stating that he had wanted Chaos Control to have been a christian based band, but when we did get everything set with him and we were ready to start writing....
We only had four days to practice and get a set together for our first show.
It was the most fun and intense thing I can remember; at that point in time I was no where near use to doing vocals still and threw up quite a few times during the whole process of getting use to using my diaphragm; my sides hurt so bad, but after four days later we pulled it off and played our first show outside of the local game-stop where I worked at the time for the midnight launch of a new game; and that's how we started.
AFitD: You recently decided to call it quits as a band (or at least, as Romero), but then to continue on and work on new material. Can you tell us a little more about what was behind both decisions?
Joe: Well, as far as the calling it quits portion goes; Aaron decided to step down from the band last year for personal reasons; which I think was a huge discouragement to a lot of us. When we started; we didn't want to just do ministry, but be brothers to each other; so him leaving was really like having a family member move away.
Shortly after, our drummer Dylan Woody had also stepped down to move to Texas; which at that point left myself, Dakota (guitar) and Corey Hess (bass) trying to figure out what to do.
We decided to talk to our original drummer Jeremy Marquez about coming back to the band (who had left to focus on work) and he did, and then we went in an attempt to really hit everything harder than we ever had before.
(Though, to be honest through different circumstances quite a few members came and went over the years [one time a friend and I sat down and tried to figure out how many people had been in Romero in total and I think it came to 14] and each time someone left; it kind of became more painful for me personally to carry on; because we all were brothers to each other and after awhile; playing on stage without them felt kind of empty.)
That aside, things were going pretty well; and we were able to do an EP release show in our home town and then our last show we played had been opening for Impending Doom; which to us was huge since we had all been fans since their EP.
Unfortunately, at that last show I had been feeling insanely sick all day; like running a fever feeling like I was going to throw up if I ate anything kind of sick and half way through our set I ended up coughing up a sick mucusy chunk of blood followed by a migraine and my vision splitting; it was horrible and I had to finish the set sitting down against the drums screaming into the mic for the last few songs; it really scared me since nothing like that had ever happened before.
After that show I ended up going to the dr's and then laying in bed for two weeks with a 104 temperature; I kind of thought I was going to die and the doctor thought it was west nile virus and stuff; so I decided to go ahead and step down as vocalist and things just kind of fell apart from there I suppose.
After I recovered I ended up moving out of state and started a new job and spent 5 months without doing anything musically; it just totally ate away at me.
So, I gave Dakota a call and we started talking about forming a new project; after awhile we decided we didn't want to abandon the ministry aspect that Romero had and ultimately decided; why not just start Romero up again?
Dakota - I can only really comment on the reunion part of things. For me, I think it was all of the fans that were reaching out to both Romero on Facebook, and myself. Like; hearing stories of how Romero's music had really touched kids in the music scene, that's something that's kind of surreal to imagine. I used to look to bands like Haste The Day and think the same thing people in the music scene are thinking about us, and it's an amazing feeling! It's the sort of thing that I don't really know what to say, except praise God for using us in that way, because I know that's what I myself am called to do. But in addition, I literally could not get another music project going; and like Joe, it ate away at me as well. So one day, out of the clear blue, I sent Joe a text and suggested getting Romero back up again. After a week or two of prayer and seeking the members, we picked Dylan Woody back up on drums, and our good friend Anthony Knox on guitar now. Life was good once again for me.
AFitD: You've started work on some new material. What can you tell us about it? Are you looking to go back to the more evangelical lyrics of your first EP, or the more horror-inspired themes of the second?
Dakota: When it comes to the actual music; I really want to step it up a few notches from our last release, the 'We're Not Safe' EP. Also; I didn't really get to add to much to that EP besides the lead parts (IE the solo in 'Carmilla'), so now that I get to be involved in the writing process 100%; I feel like this next release will have more of my own stamp on it than 'We're Not Safe'. The direction I've envisioned for this next release is to make it more technical, faster, heavier, and just aim for an all around more mature sound. For the longest time, as long as I've played guitar, I've progressed heavier and heavier with music. Starting with bands like Metallica at a young age and now into bands such as Thy Art Is Murder. And the one thing I've always wanted, was a Christian band to listen to, whose music was as good as the secular bands I was into. So that's something I really want to do with the full length. I want to write music that compares to the likes of bands such as TAIM, Signal The Firing Squad, and Carnifex, but have the message of God behind it. Because I'm sure there are people out there who want the same things I want, and well, I figure if I want something like that bad enough, why not just make it myself, you know? So I'm really looking forward to writing the new material and getting it to ears that I know will enjoy it and be blessed by it. And while I also want it to be a step up, I'd also like the bring back that old-school Deathcore feel. Because I feel like it's just come to a routine of writing generic riffs and breakdowns anymore, and that ends up with everything sounding the same. While we're Deathcore, I'd like to stand out from the crowd as something unique, but also stay a little trendy to keep the audience listening.
Joe: Well, we're currently in the writing process for it and about 75% done with a song that we're hoping to record and have out within the next month to help promote what we hope will be our first full length album and show that the band does indeed still have a pulse.
|Romero's Second EP, "We're Not Safe," dropped in 2012.|
AFitD: So, back together, new material... what does the future hold for Romero, and for the members? I Know some of you had other musical projects in the works as well. Are those still on the front-burner?
Dakota: I know I, myself, plan on staying with Romero as long as God is calling me to do so. I stand very strong in my beliefs and want to do whatever it is God would have me do, which in this point in time, is Romero. As for side projects, I'd really like to get things with Romero running 100% before I branch off and try to do any side projects. I've been practicing vocals a lot here lately and would love to maybe try my hand at those. Whether in a band that plays shows, or just writes music, but who knows. For now though, my main focus is Romero.
Joe: As far as the future goes; I just hope we can pull together and make the full length album a reality. We all have a lot going on in our personal lives at the moment, and I'm currently not even in the same state as the other guys still, but this is really a passion to us and we don't want to give up on it.
As far as the other musical projects go.... My wife and I are still working on an acoustic project called Orphan; Dakota, myself and a drummer named Tyler Fisher, formerly of another Oklahoma based christian band called Teeth Like Lions that we toured with in the past, were discussing doing a project with Dakota on vocals and myself on guitar, but the details on that are still up in the air.