A dark pop-rock band hailing from Los Angeles, RIVALS is a quartet made up of vocalist Kalie Wolfe, bassist Sebastian Chamberlain, guitarist Micket Woodle, and drummer Josh Alves. The group’s debut studio effort was 2015’s Haunted/Hunted EP, although prior to its release RIVALS had found its way onto the 2014 Vans Warped Tour. Gigs have seen been done alongside Story Untold, Best Kept Secret, Assuming We Survive, and Oceans Ate Alaska. Meanwhile, RIVALS’ 2016 cover of the Twenty One Pilots song “Heathens” earned hundreds of thousands of streams on both YouTube and Spotify.
2018 has already brought the release of the first full-length from RIVALS, Damned Soul, as produced by John Espy (Red Jumpsuit Apparatus) and Aaron Edwards (Sick Puppies, Elohim, The Cab). The new release has amassed more than a half-million streams on Spotify and, in support of Damned Soul, the foursome is touring with The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus through August.
We recently had the pleasure of doing Q&A with RIVALS on behalf of PureGrainAudio. The Q&A was conducted during May, Mental Health Awareness Month, and in turn some of the questions focused on how these artists work towards stability and well-being. More on RIVALS can be found online at www.wearervls.com.
Check out RIVALS’ recap of a recent gig in Houston.
When did Mental Health Awareness become important to you? Kalie Wolfe: I stayed pretty much intoxicated for so long that I was so used to suppressing my feelings and emotions that I never really took the time to think about it, until recently. I’ve backed away from that life so much in the last few years, I wanted to change myself, who I was and what I was doing.
Josh Alves: Growing up I was a target for bullying due to me being overweight which caused me to battle depression and a handful of darker thoughts. Music was my outlet and learning an instrument and playing shows as a teenager helped me be aware of all the issues I had. As time passed, I became more aware of my self worth and started to take a closer look at what needed to change in my life to make myself happy.
Sebastian Chamberlain: I was bullied a lot in middle school and high school as a kid. Name calling, insulting my appearance, and making fun of personal insecurities. I was always pushed to be the outcast which led me to a dark void in my heart. I was also diagnosed with severe case of A.D.D. as a kid and was prescribed Ritalin, which caused a lot of my depression. But music saved my life. It gave me a way to put the way I was feeling out to the world and was able to get many things off my chest. I learned to understand that everything given to you in life whether it be bad or good is all a lesson. To make you stronger. To make you have a purpose and to learn to love yourself.
What do you wish more people knew about Mental Health Awareness? Kalie Wolfe: I wish everyone understood that every issue each person deals with, is different from case to case. Everyone deals with problems in different ways, we all in a sense breathe different air in a way. Just because you dealt with it one way, doesn’t mean that others will be able to do that as well.
Josh Alves: I wish mental health was talked about more in schools at a young age. It was a topic rarely discussed during my childhood into high school, which I feel could have helped a lot of kids during their most difficult times.
Micket Woodle: That it’s a real thing that we all face as people regardless of age and should be taken just as seriously as anything else.
As a lyricist, do you ever struggle with the idea of being too honest within your lyrics? Kalie Wolfe: I feel I’m not honest enough, sometimes I want to just blatantly say “I hate myself,” but I just can’t do it like that. I want to some how put it in a way that everyone can understand and vibe with. I try to make them blunt but poetically tasteful. I feel like my mind hits some really dark points and the only thing I really know to do is write about it. My lyrics are for me, but I also write to help others in any way I can, to make them realize that I’m sad too, its not just you and you’re never alone.
Here is RIVALS’ cover of a Twenty One Pilots favorite
When it comes to writing lyrics, are you able to do that on the road? Or is there a setting you prefer to do your writing within? Kalie Wolfe: It can happen anywhere at any point at any time. I was actually out with my boy Adrian [Estrella] in Assuming We Survive and it was kind of a not good time for me. I said something to him, we both stopped looked at each other and were like “Dang that’s gonna be a TIGHT Lyric for the next record.” (laughs) A lot of my lyrics tend to come from random thoughts of an idea and I build around them. I’ve written songs in a day and others took months, sometimes it just really depends. “Damned Soul” was written over the course of a few months, whereas “Over It” I wrote in an hour.
Micket Woodle: Actually one of the songs off Damned Soul was completely written on the road. Musically it was done in a van on the road and then played out on the floor of a venue before soundcheck, and then recorded and polished when I got back and into the studio.
Do the lyrics of RIVALS always come before the music? Kalie Wolfe: Not always! Actually a lot of the time, Micket will send me a full instrumental or even just a verse or chorus idea he has and I’ll write to it and just kind of vibe what comes to my mind at the time. It honestly really depends, we’ve written so many different ways.
Is all of the writing that you do related to music? Or do you do other sorts of writing and projects? Kalie Wolfe: I write a lot to express myself, to release the stuff that’s going on in my head since I’m AWFUL at talking to anyone about anything that’s happening with me. I’m kind of a really secretive person and I’m awful at emotions lol, so really when I do write it tends to be music, poems that could be turned into lyrics. I also tend to write out my dreams when I can remember them because I have some WEIRD dreams when I do dream, which isn’t often. (laughs)
Here is the music video for “This Water Seems Shallow”.
What is coming up for RIVALS in the coming months? Kalie Wolfe: We have A LOT of touring planned, we also want to probably do about two more music videos, but we’ll see what happens. We also are starting to write more music this month as well! So here’s to the start of new stuff! (laughs)
Josh Alves: New music, more shows and great times!
When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time? Kalie Wolfe: All of us are HUGE video gamers. (laughs) I’m currently writing this in-between playing Breath Of The Wild on my [Nintendo] Switch in the van. I just tend to chill, work -- I’m a graphic designer and make a lot of merch designs for lots of different bands -- and play video games. Micket and I meet up a lot to plan new stuff we can do to push us as a band as well! We do little marketing meet-ups to talk what needs to be done and what we could be doing better!
Josh Alves: I love going to the movies and seeing my friends. I often post up at a coffee shop and draw or make designs for clients. Jamming with musicians and being creative with the band is one of my favorite things to do.
Micket Woodle: I play a lot of video games, build stuff and like to learn new skills. Also I’m really into a show called Trollhunters right now on Netflix. (laughs)
Sebastian Chamberlain: When I’m home I like to play a lot of video games, and work, to be honest. If it’s not those two things I’m probably sleeping. (laughs)
Here is an acoustic performance of "The Open Road" by RIVALS
What was the last concert you attended for fun? Kalie Wolfe: I went and saw Purity Ring recently and Two Feet also! Both were KILLER concerts!
Josh Alves:Eighteen Visions at The Roxy in January. One of my favorite bands growing up and they just released a new record.
Micket Woodle: I think the show I went to just to see was Avenged Sevenfold. They had a giant deathbat that lit on fire and it was awesome. (laughs)
Sebastian Chamberlain: Probably the last show I attended was The Plot In You and Sylar.
Finally, any last words for the kids? Kalie Wolfe: As we end every interview and probably will for a while: just KEEP GOING. Don’t give up, never quit! YOU GOT THIS!
Josh Alves: Believe in yourself and always pick yourself back up no matter how hard you fall.
Sebastian Chamberlain: Understand that what you are going through right now is only temporary, that you may not see it now, but there is a bigger picture, and everything in life is a lesson. But it’s up to you to perceive it as one. Be strong. Love and light.