Interview by Tony Cannella
If people think that life on the road is all glamor and fun and no worries, you will think differently after reading about the plight of Conquer Divide. The band is currently on the All-Stars tour, a tour that the band almost saw derailed due to van and financial difficulties, but Conquer Divide soldiered on and managed to continue with the tour. Their self-titled debut is out now and is one the most ferocious and relentless debut’s I’ve heard in quite some time. Not only that, but the band proved to be an excellent live band as I found out when the tour stopped in Worcester, Mass. At the famous Palladium. Following their (all too brief) set I had a chance to talk to the two singers Kiarely (clean vocals) and Janel (screams) – the band is completed by guitarists Kristen and Izzy, bassist Sarah and drummer Tamara – and that in and of itself was an experience. The two vocalists gave a great interview and were a lot of fun to talk to, they also gave great insight into what life is like on such a high profile tour.
Thank you for doing this interview. So, I heard it was kind of an adventure just getting to this gig. Can you tell us what happened?
Kiarely: So basically we had just left a mechanic in Arizona, we went to Arkansas and played our gig in Arkansas, we left Arkansas and we were an hour-and-a-half away from New Jersey. There was a big sign in the road, it was really foggy so we didn’t see it so…basically we ran over this big piece of metal in the road and all of a sudden there was this big pump and we smelled gas. We were like “pull over we’re about to explode” and we pulled over and all of our gas just spilled out of the van. The money we made off the merch and our guarantee spilling out of our gas tank. You know when you see gas pouring out, it’s like money pouring out. It was just spewing. There was no saving it, it was just all over. Me and Izzy, our guitarist we walked towards a mile marker and we saw a cop. So the cop came over and helped us out. The fire department came too. There was so much gas it was dangerous to the public. Our plan was to go to the Jersey shore to hang out. It was a full moon so it was bright as f**k outside at night, we were going to drink our beers have a good time, we had been in the car for at least 24 hours. We literally just got our van fixed. We got to the mechanics house at 9 in the morning in Tucson, Arizona and we left at 10:30 in the morning the next day. We were there for 26 hours. We were so close an hour and a halfnaway… And now our van is just kind of sitting there with our guitarist Kristen – which, kudos to Kristen because she’s staying there by herself. We didn’t want to leave anyone, but at the same time we didn’t want to miss the show.
So how did you get here?
Kiarely: We all split up, we were with different bands. We were with Chasing Safety, a couple of girls rode with Dayshell and iwrestledabearonce. When we were stranded Dance Gavin Dance picked us up and brought us to our show. All the bands have been super helpful.
Janel: Like caring as f**k. It’s literally been a blessing to be on this tour package. The thing is that all of these bands have been through what we are going through right now. Every successful band has been through this. It still sucks, but we love what we do, so we keep going. Even though we don’t have our van, we don’t have our trailer, we don’t have our guitarist – which we need – only because we love what we do.
Your debut album has just been released. Give fans an idea of what they can expect?
Janel: I personally think it is very vintage. There are a lot of older influences on it, but everything now kind of sounds the same, so like bringing a little bit of old school post hardcore, old school shit that was popping in ’07. Now we’re in 2015 it sounds old but it’s still new.
Kiarely: We have stuff for everyone really. We have super heavy stuff…
Janel: Like “Heavy Lies the Crown” and “Lost”. And then we also have stuff like “Broken” and “What’s Left Inside” for people who aren’t into the screaming.
You worked with producer Joey Sturgis on the record. What was it like working with him?
Kiarely: Personally, I loved working with Joey. Me and Joey have worked together for a very long time, when I auditioned for the band, he was the one that auditioned me. When I auditioned, I was like one person and from then to now he coached me to where I am a totally different musician. I like working with him because he is a perfectionist – if something sounds bad, he’ll tell me, “no it’s not good”, and I love that about him. He’s a really cool guy to work with. I know when Janel got here – I can’t speak for Janel – but when Janel first joined the band, she joined the band after learning the songs in five days…
Janel: No, that day. Before we recorded I would wake up early so I could learn the patterns, and he would say “you have to say it like this” and he would clap along. For me as a vocalist I’m really picky on how I record. I like taking take after take and that’s exactly how Joey works.
Kiarely: Honestly, I think we’re very lucky.
Janel: Blessed. So blessed because he knows what the f**k he’s doing.
How has the reaction been from the fans and media?
Kiarely: The media has been good and bad. There are some people who say yeah, girl power, then you got other people who say, “these girls are fat”, “they don’t sound good”, “They’re good for girls”. What sucks is that if we were a bunch of dudes I feel like people would love our music but because we’re girls they think we’re a gimmick.
Who writes the songs in the band?
Kiarely: The music is written by Kristen, Izzy, Sarah, Tamara – they all write their own stuff. As far as lyrics go, what we do is we come up with a melody collectively and then I’ll add lyrics to it. Mostly for this album it was mostly me and Kristen. Sarah writes a lot of really good bridges. Me, Kristen and Sarah, mostly we’ll just bounce ideas off each other. I’ll record something and then send it to them or we’ll meet up and then kind of like practice it. The cool thing is Kristen can sing well, Sarah can sing well, and I can sing well… Janel can too, when we practice we just kind of vote on it. We work together. It’s not like one person writes it. Kristen has written some really good stuff but at the same time, if I’m the vocalist I’ll take what she writes and I’ll tweak it to my style because she has a totally different than me.
Janel: Which makes the band stronger because all of the different influences fuses into making something really good.
Kiarely: We all listen to different music. I listen to pop. I’m a pop lady. I love Beyonce. I love Lady GaGa, Lorde, Miley Cyrus – which is an unpopular opinion. I love all that shit. I don’t really listen to a lot of metal.
Janel: That’s where I come in. Every band we play with, I was like, “we’re playing with them and them and them?” I’m all into that scene.
Kiarely: I know that Izzy has written a lot of scream melodies. Izzy has done a lot of good stuff like “Despicable You”.
The opening song, “Sink Your Teeth Into This” is one of my favorites. It’s got kind of an angry vibe to it. What inspired this song?
Kiarely: The whole thing about “Sink Your Teeth Into This” is that it is written about someone that we used to work with. It’s totally raw with anger. A lot of our songs are about people in general who put themselves before everyone else and “Sink Your Teeth into This” is really focused on like the main part, “Look at me now”. People that have tried to use us and they used us and then left us for dead and left us just dried out and dirty and empty inside. We took that and we found the courage and built it up and it’s like, “look at me now, you tried to break me down, but I’m still here”.
“Heavy Lies the Crown” is another one that I really like. At today’s show, you dedicated it to all the ‘haters.’
Janel: It was mostly Sarah.
Kiarely: When we got signed, a lot of people got really mad about us being signed. A lot of people were like, “they didn’t work for this”, “they got it handed to them”. People don’t see what we go through. People don’t see when our van is broke down and we’re riding with different bands. After the tour we’re in debt. We don’t even have a van to live in. We have nowhere to sleep, we have no money whatsoever, all the money that we do have is being paid back into the negative. “Heavy Lies the Crown” is kind of like a f**k you to all those people. Everyone that hates on us is on the internet. People who go on our music video who call us fat, call us talentless, call us copycats…
Janel: Gimmick, manufactured image, that we’re so generic.
Kiarely: People think we don’t work hard for this, but we really do. People think that because we’re girls we have everything handed to us.
Janel: We do our own merch…
Kiarely: We do our own oil changes, all the mechanic shit, we do it ourselves. Because we’re girls people think we have people who do it for us, like we’re a bunch of princesses. “Heavy Lies the Crown” is basically just a f**k you to everyone that doubts us because we’re females – not because they think that we suck, not because they think our music is outdated – but literally only because we’re female. We’ve had people that go on our YouTube channel and say, “oh, I like the music but they’re girls so I don’t really like it”, “I bet they’re all feminists”. That’s what “Heavy Lies the Crown” is about. It’s for people that sit there in their mom’s basement and talk shit on their computers.
How did Conquer Divide get together?
Kiarely & Janel: YouTube!
Kiarely: For sure, YouTube.
Janel: Literally I have to thank YouTube, because I wouldn’t be here.
Kiarely: I auditioned through YouTube. I was broke as hell, I didn’t even have a way to send my music to them, so I sent them an email and said, “hey, this is my music please check me out”, just hoping that maybe they’ll look me up. They took the time out of their day and looked me up. I had to do a live audition and I got in the band. After that we got Izzy because our screamer played guitar and screamed, and we were like, “well, maybe you should just do one so you can focus on your screaming in your live performance”. After that happened we had a difference of opinion and the direction of the band was not where we wanted it to be, so we got Janel.
So, you are currently on the All-Stars tour. With the incident in New Jersey notwithstanding, how has it been going so far?
Kiarely: Honestly, All-Stars tour has been my favorite tour so far.
Janel: Every band has been so loving, every band has been so caring. Every band has taken into consideration that everybody goes through struggles. We’re fortunate to be on this tour.
Kiarely: I never expected a band like Dance Gavin Dance to take us under their wing.
What are your plans following the completion of this tour?
Kiarely: We have a tour set up in September. We can’t tell you which band. After the tour, we just want to keep climbing. The last tour we were at the bottom rung and this tour we are a little bit higher. We just want to keep climbing and making music that people love and that we love. One thing a lot of bands have told me personally, when this happens to bands like what’s happening to us – right now we’re in the make-it-or-break-it stage, we can either give up or say f**k this or we can keep going. The good thing about our band is that everyone is super excited about it. We’re going to keep going, we’re gonna keep pushing and we’re gonna make better music, we’re gonna have better shows. We’re just going to keep climbing.
We’ve come to the end of the interview. Thank you for doing this. You guys were an awesome interview. To wrap this interview up, is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
Kiarely: I’d like to say to our fans, thank you so much. We have super supportive fans. When our van broke down on our first tour, we had people that sent us money and sent us food. We appreciate all the fans that have seriously been dedicated to us. If we didn’t have fans we would not be doing this. If there was nobody here to see us, I would say f**k the tour. I know that there are people here to see us and people that will literally give us money just because they know we need to eat and or just give us a place to shower because they know we smell bad (laughs). Our fans are literally why we do this.
Janel: It’s a beautiful thing to have random people have so much faith. That’s why we play shows with all of our hearts, because it’s like, “if you have so much faith in us, the only thing we can do is give you our hearts”.
Kiarely: We have 20-minutes to show you how much you guys mean to us. I’m personally addicted to playing shows.
Janel: I am too.
Kiarely: Drugs and alcohol can’t compare to the feeling when you are about to go on stage, then being on that stage and seeing everyone’s faces.