Interview by Tony Cannella
Walls of Jericho is back with their first new record in eight years. Their new album is titled “No One Can Save You From Yourself” and the band is simply on fire with this one. Lyrically, musically, sonically this may be their best album yet. Recently, we had the pleasure to talk to lead vocalist Candace Kucsulain. It was an insightful conversation and she gave us the scoop on what she and the rest of the band (Chris Rawson (guitar), Mike Hasty (guitar), Dustin Schoenhofer (drums) and Aaron Ruby (bass)) have been up to since 2008’s “The American Dream” album was released and where they are headed in the future. Make no mistake about it; Walls of Jericho are back with a vengeance.
Hi Candace. How are things going in the world of Walls of Jericho?
It is a little bit chaotic but it’s going pretty good. We kind of have to do a lot more than we’re used to doing, but it’s all good stuff.
You are set to release your new album, “No One Can Save You From Yourself”. What can you tell us about it?
Something that is pretty interesting about this record for me was that since it has been so long since we’ve had a record, we have to tour on all of the old albums, so we’ve perfected our set-list and we have kind of really developed what we believe is our actual sound. Changing songs, moving songs around, figuring out what creates the kind of energy that we like and the vibe that we like, we have been able to focus that on writing this record. We wanted a record that represented who we are, the energy and the vibe that we have on stage on a record, so that we only had songs that we would want to play live. That is something that I thought was pretty cool. Something different also is that our original guitar player Mike Hasty – he wrote our very first record, kind of on his own – and then Chris Rawson joined the band, and after that, they would both collaborate because Chris is really into writing as well. On this record, Chris has had to pull back because he is in another band full-time and Mike – the music itself – mostly writes it so it kind of brings us back a little bit more to what we used to be, unintentionally. I write about 90 % of the lyrics, for this record it was really like a huge collaboration of the entire band. There were different outlets or point of views. We always sit down, attack issues, political issues, social issues, personal issues and write together. It feels very different from the rest of our records.
I wanted to ask you about some of your lyrics. Specifically, the song “No One Can Save You from Yourself”. What can you tell us about what the lyrics to that one is written about?
The song “No One Can Save You From Yourself” is the title track and it really is about change. It is about changing one’s self; change in the world, no one can do it for you. We really do believe that at this point that it is important that there is more accountability and less apathy in general. It all starts with us. Sometimes if you look at the big picture it is overwhelming, but if you can just stop for a second and look in yourself, change starts here, change starts within you.
Another one that I really liked was “Forever Militant”. What are the lyrics to that one written about?
It really is just about that path that you walk in your life and the struggles that you face and how they are necessary – pain, struggle, it is all necessary for personal growth. Even though it is important to take a positive twist on those things, when you’re walking through it it’s difficult, it is hard and it’s lonely. That song itself is kind of, what I have been dealing in the past year. I have had a lot of change happen in my life. The soundtrack to all of that darkness, pain and chaos has been going on in my brain.
“No One Can Save You From Yourself” is the first Walls of Jericho record in eight years. Why the long layoff?
We had a big break but we never stopped being a band. We never had a final show, we have never done a reunion show, we’ve always kept going, but there are just some personal things that have happened in our live where we had to pull back. After “American Dream”, I decided that I wanted to start a family and obviously, that is extremely difficult when you have a female vocalist. We had been a band for ten years at that point and I knew it was now or never. Right there, that was two years of us having to pull back after we toured on “American Dream” for a couple of years. Once we came back, I wanted a year with my daughter without touring. We came back to touring in 2012 and I really didn’t know what I could commit to with the band, so we didn’t start talking record until a year later. After that, I had more of a mental block with writing the lyrics – as I said before, 90% of the lyrics are written by me on every record – so I really didn’t know how to get back to that. I had been out of it for two years being in mommy-mode (laughs) and didn’t know how to pull it back out. It was all very uninspired. Therefore, Relentless is an organization that we are a part of – we raise money for kids with cancer and life threatening illness – and that inspired the very first song for this record, which is called “Relentless”. We wrote a song for the people, for the kids, for the families about how they relentlessly give hope to one another and are there selflessly no-matter-what. We started writing the record a few years ago and it has just kind of been a process. My brother actually was diagnosed with brain cancer last year and it was terminal. It was during that time when I wrote most of my part of the lyrics. I moved back to Detroit for a little bit to be with my family. Our guitar player Mike lives twenty minutes down-the-road so whenever I could I would shoot over there and that is actually, when we started pre-production for the record. I was going through all that and doing all of that while I was doing pre-production.
Do you feel that what was going on with your brother influenced the vibe of the record?
Yeah, it definitely did in many ways. Because the song “Cutbird” is about him – it is actually a collaboration that I did with his wife – “Here there is beauty in this” is actually the lyrics to the chorus. There are things in life where you have to find that silver lining in a way, you know, you have to find the beauty in the ugly. He reminded me of so many things about myself and about the way, I want to live my life. Through the pain I went through with him, I got in tune with that person again, that person that lived passionately, that lived for dreaming and that lived for a better world, for a better self. There is that darkness but there is also that light in this record. There is definitely a balance of both because of him.
I really liked your cover of the Concrete Blonde song “Probably Will” on the record. Why did you decide to cover that song?
I’m glad you like it.
I’m a huge Concrete Blonde fan.
Me too! I heard that song – I don’t even know how many years ago – and from the day that I heard it, the first time, I was like, “I want to cover this song”. The fact that I got to make it a reality was incredible to me. Usually you have four other people in the band and not everyone agrees with you. The chances of you getting the song that you want might not happen. The vibe of that song, the way we did it, it just fits the record perfectly, I feel. The lyrics to me, it’s about people thinking you are going to fail and you persevering no-matter-what, you believing in yourself and living your dream no-matter-what. I’ve dealt with that a lot in my life and I love the song. I have also been a person that will rebel against myself because I don’t always make the best choices. I have fucked things up in my life and I love that they address that in that song, like “I might fail, I’ll probably fuck this up, I don’t care what you say, I’m still gonna do it”. None of us are perfect people, we are all perfectly imperfect and we are allowed to make mistakes and we are allowed to grow from those mistakes, those are what build who we are.
And I think Johnette Napolitano from Concrete Blonde is one of the best songwriters. You guys did a great job with the song. It’s not one of their more well-known songs but just as powerful nonetheless.
Thank you. It’s hard to take a song and change it. The original version is faster and she can sing higher than I can. We really did feel like it was more our vibe to slow it down. Her lyrics are dark and so we wanted to bring out that darkness of it. I really like the way it turned out and I think it is such a fantastic song that doesn’t enough credit.
Do have any touring plans coming up in support of this record?
Yes. Like I said, we never stopped playing as a band, except when I had to when I was pregnant. We have pulled back on touring a lot because I didn’t want to be away from my daughter so much. She is now 4 ½ almost five and it is very different. Once they gain that mental capacity and understand, like, all these weeks you’re going to be away, or like, maybe what state you’re in, it is easier for us to tour. She has, this year been a huge part of what we’ve been doing, she came and she was part of the recording process in the studio with me for the weekends and she was there for the shooting of our video we just did. She watches YouTube videos of me so she really now understands, so it makes it easier for me to leave. So it opens the door up for us to actually tour a bit more. We really want to hit the U.S. because now I feel comfortable, before I wouldn’t leave longer than ten days and to do a ten-day tour in the U.S. is kind of hard especially when you do’’t have a record. We want to tour the U.S.; we want to do South America, just places we haven’t hit in a while.
Is it going to be a headliner or do you think you are going to hook-up with another band?
We personally like to hook-up with other bands. You build relationships with the people you’re on tour with – and sometimes make lasting friendships. We’ve known Sick of It All and we’re super close with those guys, so for me it would be cool to tour with them. Madball, they are people I consider friends. Not that you can’t do your own headliner. It’s really not up to us, if that makes sense. We kind of want to see what is going on out there and get on something good that we want to be a part of and that we are going to have a good time with. Headlining is hard; it’s not the fun job (laughs).
Are there any bands that you haven’t previously tour with that you would love to share the stage with?
I don’t even know. We’ve been lucky enough, like when we tour in Europe and do persistent touring, you literally get every band. We’ve been on it every year, so we have played with all these bands. I would love to tour with Wisdom in Chains, because I love that band, personally. Suicidal Tendencies is always awesome, but we have actually done tours with these bands overseas. Even like, Bury Your Dead is a band that we used to tour with all of the time when we were younger and it would be great to do something with them in the U.S. Turnstile is another band that I personally really like and we were able to tour with them in Europe. At some point or another, we’ve kind of toured with almost everyone.
For this record, you’ve switched from the Trustkill label to Napalm Records. Why did you decide to make that change?
Well, Trustkill went under and we hadn’t been a part of Trustkill for years. We were label-less, basically, so it wasn’t really like we switched, we had no choice but to find another label. Trustkill is the only label we have really ever been on. Our record was released on a label in Europe because it was a deal with Trustkill but as I said they have been out the picture for a very long time and that is, also what prolonged us in putting out a record is because we didn’t even have a label. We had to find a label that was going to be a good fit for us – it was super important. Because we don’t tour very much we needed a label that understood and respect that, because a lot of labels are a machine and you’re part of that, and if you’re not producing, they don’t really care – I’m not saying every label is like that, but a lot of labels are like that. Napalm has always been very straight-up with us, they’ve always been very real, and they do great things for us, they care about our band and that’s all we can ask for, that somebody believes in us and that somebody that we can believe in. We’re a very loyal band, the first tour manager that we got in Europe is still our tour manager now, the first booking agent that we got in Europe is still our booking agent now. We hold on to people that we think care about us we care about them. We want to see them do well. We think we’re a good fit with Napalm.
We’ve come to the end of the interview, Candace. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to Femme Metal. We love Walls of Jericho and the new record and we wish you the best of luck with it. In closing, is there anything you would like to say to the fans to wrap this up?
We look forward to seeing everybody; we look forward to creating energy with people. To us the live show is the most important thing and to be in a room together and to be one, and to bring it back to that energy, that is what we look forward to doing with everybody.