Of Mice & Men’s Austin Carlile wrote a transformative new album “Cold World,” that has cemented him as one our community’s purist troubadours
Austin Carlile is understandably excited. The frontman for Of Mice & Men is still reeling from the release show for the metalcore act’s fourth full-length Cold War at the Roxy in Los Angeles a few nights ago. “It was unbelievable to see so many people sing along to songs we had already put out like ‘Real’ and ‘Pain’ but it was even crazier to see them know all the words to the other songs which were just released that day,” he says via cell phone as he’s en route to LAX to do it all over again on the East Coast. “It was just a really cool feeling to work on something that hard and then turn around and have your fans immediately sing it back to you.”
However it wasn’t an easy road to get to this point and we’re not just talking about the three and a half months the band—which also features guitarists Phil Manansala and Alan Ashby, drummer Valentino Arteaga and bassist Aaron Pauley—spent in the studio with David Bendeth (Paramore, All Time Low), although those sessions were fraught with Carlile’s perfectionist urges which culminated in him re-recording vocals for an entire song the final day of the sessions. See, when he was 17 years old Carlile was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition of connective tissues called Marfan Syndrome that’s subsequently led to countless medical procedures including heart surgery. “I’m always tired and I feel like I’m dying every day so going on tour and playing shows is a blessing and a curse because it’s something that I love to do but at the same time it’s one of the things that can make me feel even worse,” the 28 year old admits when asked how the band’s kinetic live performances affect his health. In other words this isn’t a hobby for Carlile, it’s something that he can’t see himself living without.
That passion for his art is clearly evident in Cold World, an album that sees Of Mice & Men transcending the metalcore tag and working in elements of grunge, nu metal and even industrial music to create an album that eschews the typical verse-chorus-breakdown formula that can be predictably prevalent in the genre. “It’s never fun writing the same record or song twice and we really wanted to push ourselves as musicians to try all of these different things,” he explains.From the Tool-esque introduction of the foreboding opener “Game Of War” to the melodic drive of “Real” and Pantera-worthy riffing on “Contagious,” Cold World is an album that encompasses Of Mice & Men’s myriad influences and lyrically sees Carlile setting his sights on every thing from the military industrial complex to the pharmaceutical industry, the latter of whom he believes “don’t make money if people get better.”
When asked what keeps Carlile from becoming nihilistic when it comes to the current state of the world, he insists that embracing Christ was a huge turning point for him. “I wouldn’t be here without God’s grace, I would have either killed someone or gone to prison because that’s how my life was back in the day,” he plainly states. “Luckily music really helped me at the time that was happening and as soon as I sort of stopped fighting that and started following my heart that’s when things started getting easier,” he continues. “I still don’t have all the answers but I have a reason that I’m here and I feel like I couldn’t have done it on my own.”
Correspondingly it should come as no surprise that two days before we spoke Carlile was working on his left sleeve which is a black-and-grey piece composed of statues at The Vatican in Vatican City, Rome, inked by Franco Vescovi, owner of Bishop Rotary and The Vatican Studios in Orange County, California. However not all of Carlile’s ink is serious and he’s quick to point out that his right leg is covered with everything from the Hawaiian Punch mascot holding a baseball bat with nails on it to a tattoo on his side that says “Must Be This Tall To Ride” with an arrow. “It’s really a mix,” Carlile explains. “I have a lot of really sentimental tattoos and at the same time I have a lot that are ridiculous. But I’ve never gotten any of my old clip art tattoos covered up because those are a part of me, although I know now that I don’t want any more stupid tattoos.”
Pain from tattoos is one thing, but it still would likely be difficult for any of us justify dedicating our lives to something that could accelerate this breakdown of our bodies. However in Carlile’s case he doesn’t find any solace in the alternative. “Am I going to do what I love for a living or am I going to rot for 20 years longer?” He wonders aloud, we assume not for the first or last time. “I’d rather do what I’m passionate about.”