Ann Arbor, MI’s own Taproot sent their demo to Limp Bizkit’s frontman/business entrepreneur Fred Durst in 1998, not ever thinking Durst would call them back personally. To the band’s surprise, Durst replied, promising the alt-punk metal quartet the world. But Durst apparently took too long to deliver the goods, for Taproot — whose lineup comprised frontman Stephen Richards, guitarist Michael DeWolf, bassist Philip Lipscomb, and drummer Jarrod Montague — landed a deal with Atlantic Records instead. Durst felt betrayed and vented his frustration to various media outlets, but an unfazed Taproot focused on their debut, Gift, which arrived in June 2000 and unveiled the band’s tough thrash sound.
Thanks to support from Ozzy Osbourne’s son Jack, Taproot scored a spot on the second stage on the 2000 Ozzfest tour. Two years later, Rolling Stone hailed Taproot as “the next contenders for the new-metal crown.” The band then spent seven months in Los Angeles recording the fierce, introspective sophomore album Welcome, which earned accolades from such publications as Vanity Fair. The album eventually peaked at number 17 on the Billboard 200. Blue-Sky Research appeared in August 2005; produced by Toby Wright (who also helmed the group’s previous album), it also included three songs co-written with Billy Corgan. A split with Atlantic Records followed, and Taproot opted to independently issue their next record. Our Long Road Home arrived in 2008, having been recorded in the band’s native Ann Arbor with producer Tim Patalan. After signing to Victory Records, the band set to work recording new material. In 2010 they released their fifth album, Plead the Fifth, on Victory, followed by The Episodes in 2012.
Taproot released Plead The Fifth (2010) and The Episodes (2012) with Victory Records.
I SET MY FRIENDS ON FIRE have always followed their own musical path and that's evident by listening to just a few seconds of the band's second full-length, Astral Rejection. The album is teeming chaotic moments, brutal breakdowns, electronica interludes and melodic choruses, however despite how schizophrenic this looks on paper, the band--vocalist Matt Mehana, drummer/keyboardist Chris Lent and new guitarist Ashton Howarth--have crafted a metallic masterpiece with Astral Rejection and raised the bar for sonic innovation and experimentation without sacrificing an ounce of the identity that has already endeared ISMFOF to fans all over the world.
Since forming in Miami, Florida, in 2007, I SET MY FRIENDS ON FIRE haven't wasted any time in becoming one of the most exciting acts in music today. The band were signed to Epitaph when Mehana was just seventeen years old and their second show was at 2008's Bamboozle Festival alongside acts like Jimmy Eat World and Paramore. Since then the band have toured tirelessly on their 2008 debut You Can't Spell Slaughter Without Laughter alongside acts like Chiodos, Silverstein and A Skylit Drive, building a fan base who is certain to erupt with enthusiasm upon the release of Astral Rejection.
Recorded with longtime collaborator and From First To Last/Human Abstract guitarist/vocalist Travis Richter in Los Angeles, ISMFOF second full-length sees them further expanding their musical palette to create an album that's so unique that the typical journalistic adjectives can't apply to these songs. "This time around it felt like we were actually writing a record rather than writing in pieces," Mehana responds when asked about the recording process. "It was definitely a new kind of experience because we were writing music that was unlike anything we'd heard before, but that's been our goal in this band all along... to push the envelope and create something new."
From the Arabic techno influence of "My Paralyzed Brother Taps His Foot To This Beat" to the cathartic chaos of "It Comes Naturally" and ethereal pop of "Life Hertz," Astral Rejection sees the band fully realizing their unique sound and pushes the boundaries of their music further than they ever have in the past. "We really push ourselves whenever we write anything but I have to admit that I was mentally exhausted by the time we finished this record," Mehana explains. "There were nights where I couldn't even sleep because some of the lyrics kept looping in my head; making this album was a huge mental struggle but it was also an amazing process."
That struggle is documented in the lyrics for Astral Rejection, which sees Mehana digging into some deep truths and confronting the bleaker side of technology. "To me the theme throughout the record is just living life unplugged from the source that everyone is used to, which is the Internet," he explains. (The title track directly addresses how we would maintain ourselves without the Web.) "This is a very dark record to me but it's also very metaphoric so that you can find different meanings every time you listen," he continues, adding that the Astral Rejection's meaning and themes are open to interpretation to the band's listeners.
When asked where the album's aggressive side tendencies come from, Mehana says, "A lot of it comes from a build that's been stacking from the time I started playing music--and the fact that it seems like nobody is really taking music seriously right now fuels that as well." However while I SET MY FRIENDS ON FIRE's main priority is creating music that's truly unique and groundbreaking, as you can see by the group's song titles they also have a sense of humor when it comes to their personalities. "We take our music seriously but we don't take ourselves too seriously and we I try to engage the audience onstage and offstage because I love joking around and talking to fans, that's part of the fun of being in a band."
Simply put, Astral Rejection is a huge step forward for I SET MY FRIENDS ON FIRE and Mehana believes that his audience will gladly come along for the ride. "I think that the people who listen to us will continue to grow with us and as we all get older and our taste in music changes I think they'll appreciating us directing our music in a new path instead of doing the same thing people expect," Mehana summarizes. "I like to think of this record as Satan's background music, but I don't really know what to call it... and I think that's what so cool about it. It is whatever you make it to be."
142 Maple St. Wyandotte, MI 48192
142 Maple St..
Wyandotte, Michigan 48192