Get Ready to Rock Out with Your Ink Out! INKED Presents Saints & Sinners at the Fillmore Silver Spring featuring Emmure, Alesana, and Woe, Is Me.
Get your tickets HERE and please welcome to the stage, Alesana’s fury of sound and tattoos.
Fitting in was never an option for Alesana, and they’ve gained all the more fans for it. The self-proclaimed “pop metal” band blends fierce growls and smooth vocals in a way that can’t be claimed by the “hardcore,” “screamo” or “metalcore” trends that it’s so popular to lump any band with a screamer into right now. To play on the subgenres, they originally dubbed themselves “sweetcore”—because according to a friend, they were just too damn sweet to be hardcore. Throw in the uplifting lyrics, the literature-based storytelling, and the inspiring messages the band calls “PMA” (Positive Mental Attitude), and you’ve got something that is hard to find in the music industry: originality.
The 6-member band may seem to have too many cooks in the kitchen from the outside, but it’s exactly their number they thank for this creativity. Songwriters Shawn Milke (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano) and Patrick “Peezee” Thompson (lead guitar) craft the band’s inspiring lyrics, while Dennis Lee (unclean vocals), Jeremy Bryan (drums, percussion), Shane Crump (bass guitar, backing vocals), and former Eyes Set To Kill guitarist Alex Torres (another lead guitar) make up the rest of the three-vocal, three-guitar onslaught that is Alesana. “We don’t try to be like anyone else or to be something we’re not,” Milke says. “By having six members we are able to pull off the same guitar and vocal harmonies in a live setting that we have on the record.” That means no autotuning, no backing tracks, no compromising anything for the live performance: something the heavily-themed albums deserve. Since their first full-length in 2006, “On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax,” the band has been choosing a literary concept for each record they put out. Milke attributes this to his obsession with theater and writing: “Dennis and I are both big literature nerds. I’ve always loved music, so I thought it was a good way to get my stories out there in a different kind of way. It separates us from our peers—not many bands do it the way we do it.” And everything they do has this kind of personal touch, down to the name of the band. Alesana’s name was taken from Aliceanna Street in Baltimore, the block Milke and Thompson grew up on.
“Frail Wings” was based on Greek Mythology and was followed in 2008 by fairy tales and Brothers Grimm-inspired “Where Myth Fades to Legend,” featuring slightly darker lyrics than the band’s typical “PMA.” “I wanted to work with fairy tales, specifically The Brothers Grimm because most people don’t realize how dark some of them are,” Milke explains. The darker theme continued with the first album in a trilogy, “The Emptiness,” based on Edgar Allan Poe and released just a year later. The second installment, “A Place Where the Sun Is Silent (2011), focused on Dante Alighieri.
But despite these darker themes, Alesana is still upbeat. The band is adorned in colorful tattoos, ranging from the band-wide PMA acronym and the heart logo from their EP reissue “Try This With Your Eyes Closed” to individual pieces like Milke’s Legend of Zelda half-sleeve. Their uplifting lyrics stick with their fans, both in mind and on skin: “There’s a bit of a cult following with the whole literature theme. People will get lines of the stories we base our music on tattooed to them. The craziest one,” Milke recalls, “was when someone had me write down some of our lyrics and got them tattooed in my handwriting.”
The band is psyched for the INKED Sinners & Saints concert alongside fellow face-melters Emmure and Woe, Is Me, in May. In the meantime, they’ve been working on their final installment of the trilogy. “We never stop,” Milke laughs. “If we had it our way, we’d put out two or three records a year.” And as for continuing their storytelling, the album will be based on A Wrinkle In Time. “I’ve never wanted to be a diary-entry kind of band. That works for some people, but I do enough of that myself. I thought writing stories would be a cool way around that.”