Bad Omens are gaining some serious momentum. The Sumerian Records five-piece recently released an impressive debut record and are about to embark on the “10 Years in the Black Tour” supporting Asking Alexandria, Born of Osiris, I See Stars, and other genre heavy-weights. With a huge sound and electrifying live performance, there’s no doubt Bad Omens are on their way to great things in the alternative music scene.
I had the opportunity to chat with frontman Noah Sebastian about the origins of the band, their wicked debut record, tattoos, and all things Bad Omens.
Q: The Bad Omens line-up consists of guys from all over the place, from all the way across the Atlantic in Sweden to stateside in Virginia. How did you guys come together and have you all shared the vision of what you wanted Bad Omens to be from the beginning?
A: Well Nick Ruffilo and I have been best friends for almost 8 years now and he plays guitar so he was automatically in the band. Nick and Vincent both tattoo professionally outside of the band and sometimes worked in the same shop and that’s how I met Vincent through Nick and brought him on board playing bass guitar. Shortly after that Vincent introduced me to Joakim via email and after displaying some really impressive songwriting/producing abilities and good character I immediately knew he would bring value to Bad Omens, and that the visa hustle bringing him to America would be totally worth it to have him in the band in the long haul. After that all we needed was a drummer so our manager reached out and found Nick Folio, who then sent us some very impressive drum cover videos instantly solidifying his place in the band.
Q: The announcement of the signing of Bad Omens to Sumerian, coupled with the release of the absolutely awesome singles “Glass Houses” and “Exit Wounds,” seemingly came out of nowhere last summer. How did the signing to Sumerian come to be?
A: Well before I had management I had an EP finished and put two songs from it up online for a very short period of time. Around the time I put them up I met our manager Jason Malhoyt (Imperial Artist Management) who advised me to take the music offline so we could shop the EP to record labels without any potential compromise. After a good bit of discussion and many “Ah-Ha!” relatable instances Jason and I partnered up. He had a good relationship with Sumerian and many great things to say about them so after the long process that is negotiating a record deal was finished, and passing on a few other offers, we with much pleasure signed to Sumerian records April of 2015.
Q: Follow up to the previous: to the casual fan, those behind-the-scenes processes are relatively unknown. How long had you guys been working together on Bad Omens prior to the announcement and single releases? Was it tough to keep Bad Omens under wraps in the months leading up to Sumerian introducing you guys to the masses?
A: Well it started as a solo project towards the end of 2013 and it wasn’t really on the public radar until December of 2015 which made it pretty tough keeping it quiet that whole time. Especially once we went to the studio to record with Will Putney shortly after getting signed, it was all very exciting stuff which made it hard to not share. I remember posting a few vague pictures/videos online from the studio and the recording process and with a few mysterious little hints, but we never mentioned anything specific or put any details online until the announcement with Sumerian.
Q: Your touring career began via several of the biggest North American metal tours in recent years, Sumerian’s two 10-Year Tour (with Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya and others) and the upcoming 10-Years in the Black Tour (with Asking Alexandria, I See Stars and others). How has that experience been thus far? Was it intimidating to begin your career playing to large crowds every night? What have you guys learned about long-term success and longevity from the bands you played with?
A: The experience was totally amazing and very educational when it comes to touring. I like to think that we in Bad Omens pick up on things very fast and we adapt to high pressure situations, good or bad, rather quickly. So by the end of the first Sumerian Tour we had already learned a lot about what to do and what not to do between touring with some very seasoned bands, and overcoming a lot of complications on that tour. By the second Sumerian tour we improved sonically, visually, and definitely improved our efficiency on the road/at venues.
Q: You guys have covered a lot of ground in the past year on those tours. Do you guys now have a favorite venue to play, city to explore, or weird place to hang out?
A: I definitely love most of the northern Mid-west/Northeast because of the weather. Myself and most of the band prefer the cold so it’s always nice to be up north. As far as favorite venues/cities to PLAY just about all of them were really great to us and treated us well. Anytime a crowd didn’t seem into it though we always try to take a look at ourselves and our performance first before we end the night blaming a bad show on the crowd or the city. You’ve gotta keep an introspective mindset if you want your band/performance to improve in my opinion. There are definitely some bad crowds out there every now and then but you also have to consider the possibility that you just weren’t bringing it hard enough that night haha.
Q: The first of the two tours, coupled with the aforementioned singles, and your captivating live performance really helped get the Bad Omens “hype train” going. Thus, your album was released from a different angle than most: debut records are usually not released to much anticipation, but rather build a platform for future releases. Was it ever difficult or stressful to be gaining momentum without even having a record out? How was the production/completion of the record impacted by the steadily building expectations?
A: It definitely made it hard not having an album out/music to sell on tour every night when people asked, but we put so much work into this band and our album that I was confident our growing fan base would trust us to not let them down when our album came out. We put an insane amount of time and thought into every aspect of our band from the music, music videos, and our live performance, to connecting with fans, our content online, and marketing, which I actively read about and stay educated on. So while it was stressful at times I firmly believe that hard work outweighs luck. There’s a lot of really talented bands out there that slip through the cracks because they don’t want to do the work or make sacrifices. Some sacrifices easy as cutting out Netflix a couple nights and spending that time staying up and talking to fans online. Depth > Width.
Q: Let’s talk about that kick-ass debut record. The album features an abundance of influences: you have some neck-snapping, in-your-face metal, arena-ready choruses (with pop-sensibility) like on “The Worst in Me,” a touch of industrial on “F E R A L,” some Slipknot vibes on “Hedonist,” Linkin Park-style electro-tinged anthems like “The Letdown,” and you guys even expose the soft side on tracks like “Crawl.” But even the slower songs are heavy in the sense of atmosphere and lyrics; they’re just as ominous as the metal-side of Bad Omens. What artists would you say are the biggest influences of Bad Omens, and where did you guys draw inspiration for songs like “Enough, Enough Now,” “Crawl” and “The Fountain”? What’s the backstory behind the freaky, unsettling outro to “Malice”?
A: First of all let me start by saying thank you for the compliments! The reality is that we just have an obnoxiously broad taste in music haha. So many bands draw influence strictly from under the rock/metal-core umbrella and I think that’s why so much of it sounds so similar. While there’s a lot of great bands out there worth being influenced by I think a lot of other genres are overlooked when it comes to how you can implement more unique tastes into your music. I’d say there’s definitely some apparent inspiration from bands like Linkin Park, Deftones, Slipknot, and Disturbed in our music, but as our songs evolve in the writing process we like to evolve our influences as well once you get past the rock/metal skeleton of a song (guitars/bass/drums). Vocally and production wise though is really when writing gets more fun and interesting for us as we love using and modifying instruments more foreign to rock and metal. From distorted or bit crushed keyboards/pianos to big percussive sections with timpani drums and native american sounding flutes we really just do whatever we want and whatever sounds cool if it sits well with the vibe of the song. With that being said you’ll find more inspiration on our album from artists like Depeche Mode, The Weeknd, 30 Seconds To Mars, The Neighbourhood, to composers like Clint Mansell (Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain) or John Murphy (28 Weeks Later) as “cinematic” has always been a keyword in our writing environment.
Q: You guys clearly invested a lot of time and effort into the writing, recording and production of the album. Time-wise, how long has the album been in development? Assuming there was an abundance of tracks demoed for the album, how did you guys narrow it down to the twelve that made the record? What was the thought process behind self-titling the album?
A: Well the very first song I ever wrote for Bad Omens was “Exit Wounds”, which definitely underwent some changes after sitting on it for almost three years haha. But the album has many revisited songs from the EP, some other demos from that time, and new ones we wrote together in the pre-pro stage of the recording process. Before we went to record with Will Putney July of 2015 we spent all of June in Folio’s basement with Joakim and I’s collective recording gear just writing and recording 10-12 hours a day before we went to officially record the album the following month. Narrowing down the twelve that made the record was definitely tricky though as we had about twenty extra ideas/instrumentals in a dropbox remaining after we knocked out all the stuff from the EP haha. As far as self-titling the album we all agreed that it feels weird when a band does that in the middle of their career, and we believed it would be a really bold statement and way to introduce our band to the world.
Q: The album art is intriguing yet menacing; what is the significance of the ghostly figure in the red veil?
A: This is one of the few parts of Bad Omens that really had no significance as far as a meaning behind it. We just knew we wanted to capture something cryptic and witchy but also tasteful and regal looking with our album art, and this photo really spoke to us for some reason. We also wanted to implement that dark red color we find ourselves using a lot so we got lucky when we found that photo set and learned that the photographer hadn’t used or sold them yet. Compliments of Randy Edwards photos.
Q: Lyrically, this album reaches some deep personal struggles, some “f*** you’s” and some tracks feature some haunting storylines. Would you say your lyrics come from personal experience, or are you simply telling stories to fit the music? Are there underlying messages or themes throughout the record that you want to convey to your listeners?
A: The lyrics all definitely come from a very personal place or experience. I just make sure they’re parallel with the instrumental. I wouldn’t write a song with a “f*** you” kind of subject matter over a track like “The Fountain” you know? Just wouldn’t fit. So the music and lyrics have to compliment each other tastefully or it just won’t work. As far as messages and themes I think the album sonically kind of has a message in itself when you hear how diverse it is, and to me that message is that you can do whatever you want with music and shouldn’t let genres or labels compromise your creativity. Lyrically though the messages are all over. With some songs I want to share and convey a feeling of strength, empowerment, and confidence. With other songs I want to bring out sad introspective emotions. There’s also one song on the record I wrote solely just for one person to hear.
Q: You guys worked with Will Putney on the album, and he certainly has an impressive resume as a producer (Like Moths to Flames, Northlane, Stay From the Path, among others). How did you guys choose to work with Will on the record? What ideas and influences did Will bring to the table during recording sessions?
A: I record and produce myself so naturally I’ve admired Will Putney from afar for quite a long time and when the time came to find a producer to work with he was number one on my list. Especially after hearing his mix on the album “Strangers Only” by My Ticket Home I was totally sold that he was the guy to capture that raw and real intensity I wanted our record to have. As far as ideas and influences we probably had the most fun doing the production/programming on the album with him as he’s really good at that and because Jolly and I (especially Jolly) love and have a knack for that aspect of producing as I mentioned earlier. So we made a great team. There were definitely some Nine Inch Nails influence in that stage though on the more electronic songs. A mutual admiration we shared heavily with Will.
Q: I’m sure you guys have seen or heard the abundant comparisons of your sound to that of Bring Me the Horizon, specifically their album Sempiternal. In fact, many fans have noted that they view Bad Omens as a better follow-up to Sempiternal than That’s the Spirit. Surely that must be a flattering notion, considering how well-received Sempiternal was and how huge the band has gotten since its release. How do you feel about these comparisons? Was Sempiternal an influential album [on the sound of Bad Omens], or is it merely coincidental that Bad Omens can be considered similar?
A: I’m glad you asked because we have seen a good bit of that, and I actually saw an obnoxious amount of that on the review you guys wrote for our album which is one reason I was excited to do this interview and address it. Yes, while it can be flattering due to what a game-changing album Sempiternal was, and great band Bring Me the Horizon is, it’s definitely frustrating how often our own work and creativity is compared to just one album especially considering WHEN some of our songs were written and how much influence we draw from so many other artists. I think it’s safe to say we definitely share a lot of inspirations with them, and in my opinion some very good inspirations. Since we’re on the topic I’d also like to say that I think That’s The Spirit was a fantastic album, done in extremely good taste, with one of the richest productions I’ve heard in a long time. I see a lot of people giving TTS (and many other metal gone rock albums) shit for being more pop-influenced, and I don’t know when or why that turned into a bad thing, but as a lover of all music including pop, it’s super disappointing to see. Heavy music is music to me, but some of the fans now treat it like some stuck up clique in high-school. I got into rock and metal music when I was young and under the assumption that it was a welcoming community for a smaller subculture of music fans (like it used to be), but lately it seems like a bunch of spoiled elitist brats that refuse to let anyone different than them into their clubhouse. The sooner we can get this narrow mindset out of the alternative music industry the sooner it’ll be in better shape, especially economically.
Q: The singles “Exit Wounds,” “Glass Houses,” “The Worst in Me” and “The Fountain” have all been really well received and are clear fan-favorites. What is your favorite song on the album that wasn’t a single? What songs would you like to get the “single treatment” in the future, whether that is a radio release or music video?
A: Probably “F E R A L.” That song was really close to being the follow up single to “The Worst In Me”, but we wanted to showcase our diversity on the fourth one which is why we went with “The Fountain”. But FERAL is a really cool song to me and I think it’s one of the most creative ones on the record. That and “Crawl” are my two favorites that aren’t singles.
Q: Follow up to the previous; which track on the album is most important to you and why?
A: That’s very difficult to answer because they’re all very special to me, but “The Fountain” is probably my favorite. That song, especially placed at the end of the album, has this intense and powerful but comforting resolve that just really does it for me. I wanted it at the end of the record because it’s the perfect “goodbye” to this album and a great “hello” at the same time for the next one. I’ve mentioned once that I’m a little ashamed of some of the lyrical content on the record because of how authentic the darker parts of it are, so “The Fountain” kind of opens up the door to our next album for me to make it much stronger, and hopefully more positive as I think I’m in a better place now mentally, thanks to this band.
Q: To someone who’s never heard Bad Omens or seen you play live, what can they expect to experience?
A: I’d say a genuine, raw, but still rich in quality experience. I like to think of and try to make Bad Omens a much more artistic approach to alternative music, while still remaining loyal to the commercial world of music. We put so much time and effort into it because we want it to be more than just a product. Because at the end of the day music is a form entertainment, and whether you like it or not you have to accept that it’s a product 99% of the time, but that is in no way a bad thing to me. It’s not impossible to keep artistic integrity and commerce happily married.
Q: Some of you guys are tattoo artists in addition to being in the band, and the other members are “tatted up” as well. What’s your favorite tattoo you’ve designed and did for someone else or had done on yourself?
A: That’s a really hard one to answer because we all travel and go out of my way to collect tattoos from some real talented people (plug @thedrowntown @dustyneal @tonytrustworthy @oilbvrner) and we’re very passionate about tattoos and have worked in that industry in some capacity haha. I’d also like to shout out the tattooers in the band Nick R and Vincent (@nicholasruffilo, @vincentriquiertattoo) they’re really talented guys and I have some tattoos from them too. My favorite tattoo tends to always be my most recent one though which is currently my knuckles that say “Bad Omens” in a really cryptic west coast style of writing, compliments of my man Klaus (@oilbvrner )
Q: What’s one album you cannot live without?
A: The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
Q: What other artist or song would your fans be most surprised to learn that Bad Omens jams out to on the tour bus?
A: Michelle Branch – “Are You Happy Now”
(beautiful minor to major execution in the verses which we are big fans of for anyone that’s heard our album and knows a bit about music theory haha)
Q: Do you guys have any pre-show or post-stage rituals?
A: We recite the Matthew McConaughey chest pound restaurant scene from “The Wolf Of Wall Street” for anyone that’s familiar with that movie haha
Q: Where do you plan to take Bad Omens in 2017 and beyond?
A: I want to take it places that heavy music music has never gone before. There’s a lot of things that need to change politically in the world of alternative music and I want Bad Omens to lead the way in making it better for not just the fans, but anyone that wants a career in music, and we have a plan to do so.