RIVALS are a dark pop-rock band from Los Angeles that had a very busy day on November 17th. From announcing their first full length record, to dropping a music video, and ending the day with a show in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, they didn't slow down all day. Damned Soul is releasing February 2nd, 2018 via SmartPunk Records and can be preordered here. “Low” is the first single off the debut album, showcasing a colorful energetic performance in the video directed by Brian Cox. Damned Soul boasts a powerful crew behind the band. John Epsy (Red Jumpsuit Apparatus) and Aaron Edwards (Sick Puppies, Elohim, The Cab) produced the album while Cody Stewart (The Browning, Rings of Saturn, Falsifier) helped with mixing and mastering.
Despite it being a Saturday night, the crowd at O’Malleys is intimate, at best. But RIVALS takes to the stage and singer, Kalie Wolfe becomes a commandeering powerhouse. She is a killer frontwoman, with real emotion in her dynamic performance. Guitarist. Micket Woodle, and bassist, Sebastian Chamberlain are restricted in movement on the small stage, but you can tell these guys are all over the place when the room allows. The crowd is small, but the band storms the stage and involves the audience as Wolfe jumps down into the crowd singing along with everyone in her path. RIVALS skyrocketed in popularity in 2016 with their cover of twenty one pilots’ “Heathens.” Wolfe’s raspy vocals bring a new darker edge to the song, and live she thrashes around the stage swinging her hair wildly. The band performed the hit in the middle of the set, hyping the crowd with a familiar tune. The twenty minute setlist includes three songs off the upcoming album, and if they are any indication, you are definitely going to want to check this album out. The lyrics are catchy, and the music is just the right amount of pop entwined with a harder hitting dark rhythm.
We had a chance to chat with RIVALS before their show in Fort Lauderdale about Damned Soul, touring, and some of their favorite musicians. Check out the interview below, and follow along with RIVALS here.
What was your process for writing Damned Soul? Was Damned Soul a collective effort between all three members?
It was long to be honest, we spent about a year writing, going back and forth between over 50 demos. We pretty much wrote Over It right after completing Haunted/Hunted which is kinda funny. Micket would spend time coming up with demo ideas at work or while traveling and voice memo them to himself and then track out all the parts when he got home on his computer, then he would send them to me (Kalie) and I'd just kinda mess around with vocal ideas. I actually wrote a lot of that record while driving to and from my old job haha but also a lot sitting in the studio. I'd kinda get basic ideas and we'd get together to solidify them together to make sure we liked everything going on.
How was working with Espy, Edwards, and Stewart? Did they approach you, or did you seek them out? How did their inputs affect the album?
I actually met Espy at a show about 6 months after we released H/H and he knew who the band was. He showed interest, we exchanged numbers and we went over to his studio and just kinda showed him what we had demos wise. Ended up vibing super well and just kinda ended up working together.
John knew Aaron but Aaron had also previously contacted me back in the day when I used to make pop music (Aaron tends to do mainly pop/indie artist) but found out I was doing RIVALS. When John had to leave for tour, Aaron ended up helping us wrap everything up on the record in his studio located near Venice (Los Angeles).
Aaron is amazing, he pushes us to do things we normally wouldn't. He really worked with me to get my inner issues out but also went back with Micket to help really shape and define the things he had in the songs to be bigger and more hard hitting. He honestly became one of the bands best friends and is constantly rooting for us.
I had known Cody Stewart for years and when we were looking for someone to really fine tune the record his name came across the table. All of the great work we've heard from him made it an easy decision and when we sent the stuff off to him the turn around was quick and precise and really gave life to the CD.
They were honestly all great to work with and sometimes an unlikely fellowship made in coincidence can produce the most heart filled moments on a record.
What themes and/or ideals can we expect to hear in Damned Soul?
When I went to write the record, I didn't really have a theme, I just knew I wanted it to be emotional and have meaning to me in 30 years. Looking back at it now, with each song meaning in place, I see a theme. I see the struggle of my own mind. My happiness but sorrow, my conflicts, my issues all tied up in 37 minutes.
Are we hearing a lot of material off the record on this tour?
We are playing three new songs off the record! Low, Moonlit and Over It!
Off the top of your head what's a highlighted lyrics from the album that you think will stand out to fans?
"It’s me against the rest"
What hobbies do you turn to when you're feeling "burnt out" or unmotivated to work on music - to help respark the passion?
I think I can kinda speak for everyone in my band when I say this, video games. We all play video games, Micket and I tend to stick to single player games, my favorite being any of the Fallout series. Seb tends to play tactical first person shooter multiplayer games.
What's your favorite venue you've played at thus far? On this tour?
This ones kinda hard haha it’s a spilt between Black Sheep in Colorado and Come And Take It Live in Austin. Seriously both are insanely awesome venues.
What venue or city are you most looking forward to conquering in the future?
Madison Square Garden 3 nights in a row! We’ve been saying this since we started the band and its gonna happen haha
After your success with covering “Heathens” do you have any 'guilty pleasure' songs you'd like to cover?
We always joke about covering Post Malone haha but maybe one day in the future.
If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, on a song who would it be and why?
Micket: Phil Collins because he not only made a good portion of music for so many great Disney movies I watched as a kid but genesis and too many other albums he wrote were the background music to my life
Seb: Freddy Mercury, He was a legend and inspiration to a lot of people. He didn’t care to make people like him or accept him. He was simply himself and love to do what made him happy.
Kalie: Ben Liebsch, the singer of You, Me And Everyone We Know. I’ve loved that band since I was a teenager and they don’t make music anymore. So to have Ben sing on a song with me would be like my teenage dreams come true haha.
What song do you remember most from your childhood?
Micket: All along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix. This song at an early age definitely influenced me to start playing Guitar.
Seb: Shout At The Devil by Motley Crue. My mom was a big Glam Rock fan and would always play that song when I was about 5, because I knew it and when would sing it. She would mess with me and turn it down to hear me singing.
Kalie: Bye Bye Bye by Nsync. I have this crazy memory of when my mom took me to their concert, I ended up falling asleep half way through and all I remember is waking up mid way through “Bye Bye Bye” and watching them go down on that platform thing. I just remember crying cause my mom didn’t wake me up haha.
What can we expect from Rivals in 2018? Is there a tour planned for the release of Damned Soul?
Expect us on the road, we are in the works of a bunch of super dope stuff that I gotta keep quiet but we will 100% be touring on Damned Soul as much as we can this coming up year!
Thanks so much! Any final words?
Stay happy, don’t let your mind control you. You’re strong. You’re beautiful and you’re worth it. Always remember that. - Kalie
Live photos by Megan Garzone, portrait shots by Dan Karanikis