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The Mythical Phoenix Fully Embodied: An Exclusive Interview With FROM ASHES TO NEW

By Curt Miller, Editor at Large
Saturday, July 11, 2015 @ 5:59 PM

"We have numerous messages in our music and “fuck you” is one of them for sure."

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Live Photos By Curt Miller

Having quite literally formed from the “ashes” of several bands that had either broken up or called it quits, FROM ASHES TO NEW (FATN) created a “new” formula that immediately resonated with fans. The band’s sound is much the brainchild of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Matt Brandyberry. It’s a powerful blend of groove-infused Metal with Brandyberry out front delivering a rapid assault of Rap-Rock lyrics tempered by sections of co-vocalist, Chris Musser, singing more melodic breakdowns or choruses.

With a six-member lineup: including a monster rhythm section comprised of bassist Garrett Russell and drummer Tim D’onofrio, guitarists Branden Kreider and Dan Kecki in addition to its two outstanding front men, FATN is an auditory tour de force. Every track on the band’s two EP’s, From Ashes To New and Downfall, is a fist-pumping anthem, which becomes completely apparent at the band’s live shows. Their fans know every lyric, and audience hands are up and reaching for the stage front the moment the lights hit until the last note is played. What an incredible affirmation for a band that’s just come on to the national scene in the past few years. The time and energy they put in woodshedding all of those years prior to forming FATN really show both in their material and in the positive response they’re getting to it.

I had a great conversation with Matt Brandyberry and Chris Musser prior to the FATN performance at the Altar Bar, Pittsburgh. Here’s what they had to say about the goings on with the band.

KNAC.COM: Having been formed from members of other groups or projects in the Lancaster, PA scene, was that a result of the Rap-Rock/Alternative style having a big presence/following in and around your hometown?

MUSSER: We started out playing in different bands. The style was Nu Metal and not so much the Rap-Rock originally.

BRANDYBERRY: You find that in any scene, though. There’s not a whole lot of Rap-Rock going on and there aren’t that many people attempting to do it, especially nowadays. In our scene it was the Nu Metal thing. That’s what we were doing and it evolved just like anywhere else in the industry. We ended up knowing each other from playing in different bands, so it was cool that we eventually came together.

I rapped a long time ago and played guitar in the last band we were in together. Then, I was like, ‘you know what? I’m going to rap again. Let’s give this thing a shot.’ And here we are.

MUSSER: It wasn’t hard to find everyone either. We pretty much just called up the guys from our previous bands to see what they had going on.

BRANDYBERRY: Yeah! We knew everybody. A lot of it came down to ‘aha’ moments like, ‘oh yeah, him. Let’s hit him up.’ We found ourselves fighting to look for people, but they were all right in front of us. It was really cool!

KNAC.COM: When did you know you wanted to pursue music as a career and how long has it taken since then to get to where you are now?

BRANDYBERRY: I’m thirty now and I probably started rapping when I was fifteen. I gave it up and started playing guitar when I was seventeen. I mean; I never really gave it up. I always wanted it to be my career. It wasn’t until FROM ASHES TO NEW that it sank in that it actually could be my career and, as a full band, FATN hasn’t even been around two years yet. It’s still sinking in. We’re still like, ‘wow! This is our job now!’ You just keep working at it, fighting for it, and hope that it’ll happen.

MUSSER: Yeah, I always wanted it. I started playing instruments when I was in middle school. Then, somewhere in and around high school I began singing. I’ve been in so many bands and wanted music to be my career for so long. I’ve worked really hard at it.

Then, a couple of years ago I switched my focus to a regular job, my house, and things like that. When Matt brought up this project, I was like, ‘oh, hell yeah!’

BRANDYBERRY: [Laughing] Don’t lie to the man. We can give him some good stories here, man. Tell him the truth. Initially, he was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this thing.’

MUSSER: All right, at first I was a little skeptical. I was more into Metal and the whole Metal scene.

BRANDYBERRY: We did some really heavy stuff in a band we were in before this one, stuff like ALEXISONFIRE and THE ARCHITECTS. It was more that style of music, a mixture of Metal-core and Hardcore sounds. Chris was still kind of into that and wanted to do that with this band. I felt as though we weren’t having any luck with that band, so we ought to do something different with this one. I put some stuff together and was like, ‘sing it.’ He came over and sung it. We showed it to a few friends, and then [laughing, pointing to Chris] I think you may have bought in a little bit.

MUSSER: Yeah! It sounded pretty good!

KNAC.COM: It’s been stated that your current release, much due to the circumstances under which it was created, has a lot of “fuck you” in it. Do you foresee that being a theme that will permeate your music going forward?

BRANDYBERRY: We have numerous messages in our music and “fuck you” is one of them for sure. Especially for me, in my lyrics, those are things I’ve gone through. I’ve dealt with the adversity of people telling me, ‘dude, just give up, man. You’re never going to make it.’ I’ve been in several bands where members have said, ‘don’t even think about getting big, ‘cause it’s impossible.’ So, that’s where the “fuck you” comes in. It’s like, ‘who are you to tell me what I’m going to do? I’m going to do what I want to do and see how it works out.’

There are other messages in our songs, too. The world we live in is constantly evolving, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. When it’s for the worse, we want to let our listeners know that we’ve been there, too. I want it to be a big family, especially when it comes to our fans. We want everyone to know that they’re not alone and we can all get through it together if we all just get back to being human again.

There are a lot of different messages in our music, but primarily three or four recurrent themes. A lot of bands and artists do that. They pick three or four topics that they’re good at writing about and focus on them. The writing will evolve as the band evolves. We’ll see. There are no set plans for the future or in what direction we’re going to go. We write what we write.

MUSSER: We try to take the negative aspects of things and put a positive spin on them. We want to let people know that we go through the same things that they do, like negativity and depression.

BRANDYBERRY: Those are really big topics these days, especially in the media. The media is huge and most of the stuff you see is bad. You’re not always seeing the good. You’re not seeing furry kittens. We want people to know that we’re there, too. We’re not invincible just because we’re in a band. We’re right there on the front lines. We’re all in the trenches together.

As I said, we’ll evolve as this band evolves. For me as a lyricist, I always want to keep an edge on my lyrics. I want people to be like, ‘alright, yeah; I can get down with that, I can pump some weights to that, or [laughing] I can smash someone’s face in to that song right there.’ That’s what I always want to do with my lyrics.

KNAC.COM: Who are your biggest influences as musicians?

MUSSER: Being a singer, the bands that really influenced me starting out were GLASSJAW, ALEXISONFIRE and some of the heavier stuff, like PANTERA. There’s a lot of variety, though.

BRANDYBERRY: Most of us in this band are like that. For me, EMINEM is a huge influence. He first came on the scene when I was a young teenager, which was pretty cool. BREAKING BENJAMIN was one of the bands I really got in to when I started going over to Metal music. I didn’t start listening to Metal until I was seventeen. I’d only listened to Rap up until then. One of my buddies introduced me to Metal music. The first album I ever bought in the Metal genre was SEVENDUST’s Animosity.

But yeah, BREAKING BENJAMIN and EMINEM are huge for me. Then, you go back to the RUFF RYDERS, DMX and DRAG-ON. My influences are everywhere, all over the board. I like SHRILLEX, and I even like some Pop music, [smirks] though I won’t name any artists. We’re all over the place with our influences, which is why we like to call FATN a “rock cocktail.” It’s different pieces of Rock, Hip-Hop, and whatever. We just throw it together, blend it up, and it makes our sound.

KNAC.COM: There are power trios, like RUSH, still recording and doing shows 40 years after they got their start. With that in mind, how does a band with six members find a way to write, collaborate and make it all work? Do certain members function as the primary writers or is it a completely collaborative effort?

MUSSER: It starts out with Matt. He lays down most of the foundation for all of the music.

BRANDYBERRY: [Pointing to Chris] More recently, though, it’s been kind of you, Branden, and me working together. Initially, the ideas came from me. Like I said previously, I essentially sold Chris on the concept. From there, it amassed to what it is now. Three of us, half of us, fifty percent get together because, as we always say, ‘we don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen.’ This is especially true during the early stages of the writing process. We get the foundation laid down, the melodies, and the lyrics.

When it goes to production, as with the album we just did, which is called Day One, everyone comes in and lays down who does what parts and when. Every band has its ‘band leaders,’ but everyone in this band has the opportunity to put his “two cents” in regarding how the song should sound. We trust everybody’s opinion. We all know that we’re good musicians and we know what we’re doing. It’s cool to have everyone able to come in and go, ‘hey, why don’t we change that around a little bit? Why don’t we fix something up, or take that out here?’ The writing process is a very collaborative effort fifty percent of the way through, and that first fifty percent is comprised of about three people.

KNAC.COM: With such a quick rise onto the national scene, the recent release of your 2nd EP, and having a full tour schedule, when do you expect to be back in the studio to put the finishing touches in your full-length record, Day One?

BRANDYBERRY: It should be out this fall. It’s tentative. The music is pretty much done. There’s a turnaround time in terms of getting production ready, so we kind of missed a deadline. We’re working to pick it back up and get to the next deadline on time. But yeah, the music is written and we’re shooting for this fall.

MUSSER: It should be out right after our tour with FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, PAPA ROACH and IN THIS MOMENT.

KNAC.COM: This tour with P.O.D. is your second, the first being with HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD. How do the two tours compare?

BRANDYBERRY: It’s relatively the same. The venues and the fans are pretty similar. You know; HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD and P.O.D. have pretty much the same fans base. Both are in the Rap-Rock genre. They’re both fun. We’re trying to do this tour dry, so that’s one difference. [Laughing] We’re not as smashed on this tour. The guys in both bands are great. We’ve had the chance to spend time with guys who’ve been doing this for a long time, watch what they do, and listen to their advice. It’s just great to be out with these guys this early in on our career.

Since your question mentioned our quick rise onto the national scene, we definitely want to be sure everyone gets the right idea about us. We’ve been doing this for a long time. FROM ASHES TO NEW is a new band, but we put in a lot of work in over the years in bands that were going nowhere. I spent eight years in my last band thinking I was going somewhere and it just died.

MUSSER: We spent a lot of time in the trenches.

BRANDYBERRY: We got lucky that all of our different bands died around the same time. If this hadn’t taken off when it did and how it did, we probably wouldn’t be standing here talking with you right now.

It’s funny. Chris stopped doing music for a little while. I would see him out at clubs where he was doing art. He’s an artist, he draws, does photography, and all kinds of stuff. I would seem him out there and was like, ‘dude, don’t stop singing, man. You’ve got talent.’ Every time I’d see him, I’d say, ‘don’t give up.’ Then finally, we got together and created the last band we were in. We knew something was there, but it didn’t go where we wanted it to go. So, we formed FATN and, again, here we are talking with you at the Altar Bar, Pittsburgh.

KNAC.COM: What’s the one thing about this band your fans don’t know (favorite movie franchise, TV show you never miss, etc.)?

BRANDYBERRY: I don’t want to date us, but we’ve got a thing for old ‘80s movies, like: Back To The Future and The Breakfast Club. [Laughing] Also, we are really crude. We have really crude humor that we can’t possibly describe while you’re recording.

MUSSER: [Also laughing] Most of our videos get ruined because of our crude humor.

BRANDYBERRY: Yeah! We’ll do selfie video and we’ll be like, ‘well, can’t use that one.’ We are very sarcastic and mean to each other. I mean; we know that we’re all joking. We prank one another. Honestly, we’re dicks to each other, but we’re nice when we do it. I think that’s why we all get along so well. No one takes it to heart.

Switching gears, though. Everyone talks about our quick rise and everything, but it’s all because of our fans.

MUSSER: We owe everything to the fans.

BRANDYBERRY: We were discovered by Sirius/XM’s Octane Channel. That’s how we blasted off so quickly. They found us when one of our fans sent them a song of ours that was posted on YouTube. It only had about two thousand views on YouTube when it was posted on the Sirius/XM Octane link. The director at Octane happened to stubble upon in, loved it, and started spinning it. So, it’s not just some cliché story. It really is because of the fans.

To this day, we don’t know who took our YouTube video and posted it on the Octane link. We do know that that is how we were discovered and how FROM ASHES TO NEW was born. Now, all we hope our fans will do is continue to spread the ASHES.

After their show, the guys in FATN didn’t hang out back stage or retreat to their tour bus. They were in the back of the Altar Bar getting to know all of their fans. In fact, they were there well after P.O.D. had finished its set still taking selfies with anyone who asked for one or signing pretty much anything and everything fans brought forth.

Both Matt and Chris spotted me after their set and talked with me again about how much they love what they’re doing and how thankful they are to be able to do it. Not only is FROM ASHES TO NEW a great band with great music, they’re genuinely nice guys. Since hearing their material for the first time, it’s been on constant rotation at my place and I can honestly say, unless something dramatically changes about the band’s formula, I’m more than happy to “spread the ASHES.”

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