We Are Victory is a metalcore band from Clarksville, Tennessee, and they just released their third full-length album, Afterglow. I got the chance to talk with them about the band's history, concepts behind the album, and their faith, among other things.
Introduce yourself and tell us your role in We Are Victory?
Jay: Hey my name is Jay. I’m the vocalist I yell at people
Bobby: My name is Bobby Joe Witt and I am the lead guitarist/programmer in the band. I also am the songwriter/producer/mix and master engineer.
Lael: My name is Lael, and I put down the sub guitar tones... I play bass.
What is your musical background? What inspired you to start making music?
Jay: So my musical background is anything from acoustic music to deathcore if I had to put it on a scale. And honestly, it was my mother, she was my vocal influence at first cause she is an amazing singer. I always enjoyed hearing her sing and that made me discover that singing was passed on to me. Later screaming and growling with singing and have been progressing ever since. You never stop learning to be honest.
Bobby: I grew up with my dad messing around with an acoustic guitar and showing me barre chords and I was always around so I taught myself the rest very young. It came very naturally. It was then that I got serious with music when I met some friends who wanted to start a band in 7th grade and they wanted me to play drums. I begged to get drums and I first really dug into learning drums and then they wore down eventually and I lived in a small town with no way to replace them. Then one year for Christmas my dad got me a guitar around 7th grade and that's when it all began in my musical journey.
Lael: I got into hard-core at a very young age but even before that the heavier more aggressive or energetic music always stuck out to me and also fed my development and energy as a young man. And the evolution from there speaks for itself.
How did you get into heavy music?
Jay: My mom again opened the door for me. Listening to Candlebox and Ozzy together. Then I got to go to my first concert featuring falling up, Mxpx, and Thousand Foot Crutch. Then on I progressed. I was hooked.
Bobby: My very first introduction to heavy music was my uncle Shawn in Wisconsin. I grew up in the countryside in Wisconsin and as a kid, my uncle would throw huge mudding/monster truck rager parties on my grandparents' property. They would blast AC/DC, Skid Row, Guns and Roses, Poison you know all of the 80's Party metal, and I would just hang out with all of these high schoolers at a very young age, and listen to what I thought was the heaviest music being that I was brought up on things like Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Chris Ledoux, Johnny Cash, Alabama, like I said a lot of country upbringing. Then years later at a family reunion in Wyoming (Told you I grew up country), I saw a music video on MTV it was Green Days "Basket Case". I saw that and it stuck with me. Dyed hair, low slung guitar, all the rest. I was just like I want to do that
Lael: My older brothers introduced me to earlier hair metal and thrash but the real turning point was a good friend of mine in the church my family attended gave me 3 CDs... Korn, POD and Hatebreed.
What is the history of We Are Victory?
Jay: WAV has been a growing experience, to say the least. Every band has its ups and downs, to be honest, but since this is my first Christ-centered band. It’s had a lot of challenges. But I wouldn’t change that honestly cause if we have this many challenges then I know we’re gonna be a helpmate to the growth of God’s kingdom, and the enemy will never destroy us while we trample in his realm. Metalcore will become God’s arrow.
Bobby: That is a very deep question and a very long answer that ties in with my testimony. Too much to type here. But I will be sharing my testimony in upcoming features. I can tell you this much God has directed every single step and I give Him glory for all of it.
Lael: I can’t remember if I answered a few craigslist ads or if Bobby answered one I had posted? And it was a strange road because I had come in to play bass but after some time I switched to rhythm guitar. A couple of years later I took a hiatus but came back on bass. Our legacy thus far is built on spiritual battles, physical attacks more equipment malfunctions than I care to recall but we persevere.
What are your main musical and vocal(Jay) influences?
Jay: Musically I’m set on post-hardcore and Metalcore. Vocal influence I’d say Matty Montgomery(For Today), and Matt Baird (Spoken) those have been my favorite vocalists most of my heavy career.
Bobby: This is so vast. I am very eclectic. If you are talking about just metal/hardcore. I'd have to say Hopesfall, For Today, In the Midst of Lions, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Poison the Well, A Day To Remember, Memphis May Fire, Haste the Day, Gwen Stacy, Misery Signals, The Devil Wears Prada, August Burns Red, Texas In July, The Ghost Inside, Blink 182, Set Your Goals and the list goes on and on. Vocally for me has to be Dallas Green.
Lael: I can honestly say I never looked up to any musician as an influence because I am self-taught, my influence was the passion, attitude, and lifestyle of the hardcore scene. The community, friendship, and brotherhood, all played a part in my Motivation to play music and learn my craft.
How would you describe Afterglow sonically? Was there an intention to be heavier than previous records?
Jay: I describe Afterglow as an emotional journey lyrics-wise and all in all one of the hardest albums to create. Honestly, it just became heavier and heavier as we created and I believe God’s hand was to make it heavy for both the melodic lovers and the metalheads out there to enjoy. It’s got everything to be perfectly honest.
Bobby/Lael: Afterglow was written by inspiration with the intent to express frustration with a lot of the bands we grew up with selling out to the world. Seeing them thinking that was the only way to be heavy is to have to use profanities etc to sell records. Also to prove you don't need 7-8 string guitars ridiculously low tunings and Egyptian-sounding Phrygian/Harmonic minor modal riffing to fit the mold. We use those elements at times (except for the tuning and guitars) but there is a reason for every piece and change, not to just construct the most technical and eye/self-pleasing riff. It is all written to appeal to a very broad audience. There is something for everybody we are not just pigeonholed into one genre or sound while still being able to maintain the overall sound and feel, not over-complicating the music but making it understandable, not what I like to call "riff soup" It is more like a musical theater with the production. We want to let people feel what is played. There is enough music being written where it is not saying anything and people are not feeling anything from it. and if they are it's usually the wrong things (the state of the world proves that) and now with our new live show, we will be able to bring the message sonically and visually to the forefront in a way that no one has experienced. The overall sound is more aggressive, more melodic, and more technical. With a purpose.
How was the writing and recording process for Afterglow?
Jay: The writing was extremely hard because the enemy was always trying to stop us from tech to emotional issues. But I will say through struggles something beautiful came out. See a lot of people are like hey slap some guitar and drums and vocals and call it a day but it’s a process and it can be a challenge.
Bobby: The writing process was very different with this one. I would literally wake up out of a dead sleep every night off and on for a span of about 3 months. Write and record the music, send it to Jay and he would write lyrics based on the feel. Lael would add to and re-track his bass parts. If there was a chorus already laid out I would either stick with it or produce it to be something the same but different. When I produce I take a very long time with building the right feel for the vocals. Jay will tell you that I am not a fan of the "wandering melody" in which it goes on with no resolution to just fit the words. The process started with Prelude, and that created the overall vibe for the record. That came after seeing many bands renouncing their faith. Then the first official track for this one was Words Won't Define in which was written amongst the backlash of people pointing out and canceling Christians lumping all of us into nothing but holier than thou, racist, homophobic people. The recording, mixing, and mastering were all done at my studio xrevelationstudiosx.
Lael: There were many bumps in the road in the production process of Afterglow but all in all it was about timing, so the process in the lab was for the most part smooth sailing.
What were some of your biggest obstacles in the process?
Jay: I’d say wrestling with my soul versus my spirit. Writing to just write wasn’t working. I had to challenge my prayer life while writing. It was all God’s hand the whole way through.
Bobby: The biggest obstacles were scheduling between Jay and Lael, and also above all God’s timing. I'll give you an example. Resurgence was written in Dec of 2019 (Pre-Covid) and all of the subject matter of it about "my world it breaks from all this fear" (you'll have to delve into the lyrics to get the fuller scope) well anyways Covid happened to hit a few months after that was written there was a huge dry spell. Then covid hit and we went back and listened to it and saw what God was saying when it was written. So we released it as a single and then continued to finish out the record which was about 5 songs. It was all based on timing. There were times we would get together to finish and just couldn't or we would have a technical issue or something. When we try to make it happen it never works out. Everything has timing and God proves it everywhere if we are willing to listen.
Lael: WAV has always had a technical element that also has always progressed, So some of the intricacies for a bit more challenging than laying down my bass parts for this record.
You guys touch on a lot of sensitive subject matter on the album like grief and self-identity. What is the concept of the record?
Jay: To keep this simple. This album is a spectrum of losing faith and the fears and issues that will get you to that point. Selling out on a musician caliber I’ve seen it so many times and it hurts to watch and find out that one of my favorite bands that were Christ-centered to give it all up for money or from someone else’s mistreatment or false Jesus propaganda sellers on the label side. There’s a lot of fakes out there and we all gotta be vigilant to not fall for it. There’s a lot of hurts expressed through personal experiences and outsider perspectives in this album. Promise was written for my daughter and anyone hurting from abuse or being left in the cold and for dead. It’s a letter from Christ to stay strong and his love for you. A father's love is important and that’s what I expressed in this one particular song.
Bobby: The start of the concept was the "Afterglow" of life that is left behind. This is multi-leveled. First, there is the sell-out..the Judas if you will - for example, modern era bands that claimed Christianity to sell records and then left the followers in their wake feeling confused and abandoned. Then there is the Afterglow of a life once lived and the lives it affects left behind it (A dedication to my dad who I lost to a tragic accident) The song "So Long" is a dedication to him and for others to know it's not goodbye it's so long until we meet again. Then there is ourselves and the Afterglow left behind by Jesus Christ for us to carry. We are the light of the world, meant to carry the torch to the others who don't know the love of God and our testimonies. We are his Afterglow.
Jeremiah 23:21 says I did not send these prophets yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. I feel like when God led me to this Scripture and laid it on my heart to start the process of this record. This was the main motivation that blossomed into the rest.
What do you hope listeners take away from it?
Jay: I honestly want them to take hope out of this. I strive to write lyrics to inspire and give a positive reaction in someone’s soul to find Christ through the music and the lyrics.
Bobby/Lael: We hope that people can experience God in a new way. A personal way. Unique to each listener. That people will enjoy a new perspective and sound in the genre and just generally enjoy all of the emotions and sounds captured within this record. It runs the entire gamut of the human experience.
How did you come to saving to faith in Christ?
Jay: I was 8 years old when I accepted Christ when I was listening to Carman(rip) while riding home with my parents. I started crying cause I didn’t wanna go to hell cause of something he said in the music. My dad pulled over the car and we had a moment together even though my dad just came to Christ 6 months before I did but I was serious at 8 till I turned 13 then I rebelled and ran from God till about 24-25 due to getting into a cult and I didn’t want their God. Then got married and went through the same process without my dad of course. But I’m still going strong now.
Bobby: This is way too long to type out. I will be making a video of my testimony to share with the world very soon. Let's just say ..through my ignorance, God was faithful, loving, forgiving, accepting, life-changing, and altogether awesome. I feel like I've lived a thousand lives within one, and for a purpose that I will share when it is on the right platform.
Lael: Well I was raised in the church and a very devout Christian home/parents they didn’t drink or smoke and I only heard my dad cuss one time LOL. I gave my life to Christ at a very young age, but, Through force-fed theology/doctrine and numerous bad church experiences I was in and out of my faith for many years but I always found my way back somehow. This band intervened in a time in my life where I was very unsure of my next steps and has been a source of grounding and very critical learning experience on all levels of life and my faith.
What are some of your favorite bands in the Christian metal/hardcore scene?
Jay: I’d say Spoken, Phinehas, Memphis May Fire, For Today, The Persuaded (friends of ours). Few others I can’t think of at the moment.
Bobby: Life-changing for me was For Today, They carried the torch with bold faith. Modern-day bands I like Earth Groans (Jeremy is a really cool guy/ sweet mustache lol) Convictions, also really nice dudes, Bloodlines (Again also really nice guys), Phinehas. Oddly enough a lot of the shows and festivals we get to put on are with these bands lol If you haven't heard these bands, please go and check them out and support them. They are just as good live if not better than the records ( not implying that the records are bad in any way).
Lael: Well POD Snuff The Park is still one of my top favorites as far as albums go but to name a few: Advent, Venia, No Innocent Victim, Figure Four, xLooking Forwardx, Call to Preserve, Seventh Star, and the mighty Sleeping Giant!
As a follow-up, what are some recent releases that you have guys have enjoyed.
Jay: Not gonna lie. I have missed a lot while writing afterglow I’m playing catch-up as of right now.
Bobby: I have not been keeping up with anything. My Family life and We Are Victory, Being on the worship team at my church and My job at my studio xrevelationstudiosx keep me busy enough to not really have any downtime. Our friends in KEEP ME ALIVE just released a record and it's good. Not Christian, but the singer Aaron Ward we got on this record to scream for "These Walls" which is about tearing down the walls of prejudice and hate, which includes intolerance for people who are not of the faith. That's not what Jesus taught as an example he hung out with the ones who didn't know him. How can you evangelize the world if all you are worried about is one circle contained within it?
What's next for We Are Victory?
Jay: Hopefully when this covid stuff stops we can get out to the world and show this album and share God’s love.
Bobby: Next is whatever God has on the horizon. Many things are possibilities, but mostly just being good stewards of the gifts and talents he entrusts us with. Our live show is a huge part of where we are headed. It is a huge undertaking but something we have felt led to do. You will understand when you see it.
Thanks for taking the time to do this. Any final thoughts you would like to share?
Jay: I’d like to say that God loves you and you are not alone. We hope to see everyone reading this. Love y’all
Bobby: Stay in the word. Every day make it your priority to know the Father’s will for that day and your life in general and don't fight the process. Ask for wisdom to endure and understand how he is moving in your life. Build the skills needed for what he calls you to and be faithful with it. Never give up when people say it can't be done or don't understand your vision for things. Find what makes you unique and your strengths and don't worry about the flow of the crowd. Be You. Rep the xJCHCx XXX