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The PV Q&A: Of Mice & Men's Austin Carlile Talks Work Ethic & Drive: "I don't think anything worth having should come free or should come easily"

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Interview by Jonah Bayer

Life hasn't been a cakewalk for Austin Carlile. The 25-year-old vocalist was one of the founding members of Attack! Attack!, however, he suddenly exited the band in 2008 just as they were starting to break. Not one to take defeat lying down, Carlile immediately announced he was starting a new band called Of Mice & Men. The band has gone on to become one of the biggest bands in the metalcore scene and, most recently, landed Carlile on the cover of the Alternative Press "Most Anticipated” issue.

We caught up with Carlile at his home in Huntington Beach, Calif., as the band are in the midst of writing and demo-ing for their third album, which he described as an amalgamation of his previous releases that would feature "plenty of melodic, singing choruses as well as heavy bridges."

From surviving open-heart surgery to building things up just to start all over again, Carlile's relentless work ethic has allowed him to shine no matter how bleak the circumstances may be.

PureVolume: Of Mice & Men walk a fine line between aggression and melody that not many bands can stand on. Is that a difficult dynamic to maintain?
Austin Carlile: It isn't because that's something we wanted to do when we started out. In fact, it was one of the only things we knew we wanted to do [when we started the band] because we didn't have any idea what we were doing—but it ended up being something we fell in love with.

Our sound comes naturally to us and we don't have to force it. We just write and it's there. Something that's crucial for any sort of musical group is being able to have something that you can write that you’re comfortable with, you're proud of, and that your fans will enjoy.
PV: Is it validating for you to start a new band from scratch and have it be so successful?
AC: I don't hold any light to my other band that I was in. It's not a competition—I'm friends with a couple of them. But I'm proud of seeing where my hard work paid off because I know [I’ve worked] my butt off and there's no way we would have been here today, and doing the touring we do without that work ethic.

It's a really cool feeling to know that I had this once and it left, and now I have something else and it's doing amazing and it's my little baby. Most people aren't capable of doing that more than once.
PV: Your vocal range on the new songs that came out on the re- release of The Flood is really impressive. What inspired you?
AC: Well, I literally didn't play a single show before I recorded our first album, so it was me just going in and not really knowing what I was doing. Then I recorded The Flood after a year off, and three months of being in a wheelchair, and doing physical therapy because of my surgery, so I really had no training.

My voice was as I'm talking to you right now for a year, and then one day, I'm in the studio. When we recorded the songs for the re-release of The Flood, I'd been practicing and I actually had a chance to get my voice up to par with what it needed to be to be good enough to record. People hear it and go, "Oh, you sound so much different" because I actually got time to get my voice conditioned—and that's why we're so excited for the third album.
PV: How did your surgery change your outlook on life?
AC: It changed my entire world, man. My heart was out of my chest on ice for two hours—I was being pumped full of somebody else's blood. I woke up with more tubes in me than Neo in The Matrix in that first scene where he's reborn. It just made me see how precious life is all over again because even though the technology today is good there was still a 30- or 40-percent chance that I wouldn't survive the surgery.
PV: How specifically has that experience changed you?
AC: If you met me three years ago and you met me today, it's two completely different people. You never really know how it's going to affect you until you do it and you experience it, and it's something that I'm really appreciative for and I'm kind of grateful that I got to go through that because I think it changed me as a person and as a musician for the better. I'm really upset that it took something like this to do that, but I am so thrilled that I'm still here and I'm able to do what I want for a living.
PV: Your band is the source of endless drama that ranges from innocuous rumors to people claiming you've been kicked out of your own band. Do you pay attention to stuff like that or just focus on the music?
AC: Two or three years ago, I may have gotten sucked into that stuff and voiced my opinion on this or that. But at this point in my life, I don't need somebody else's opinion. It absolutely makes me sick to see some of the hating on each other online. I think it's bullshit, and I think it's time for people in our industry to grow up. Instead of wasting time trying to be hurtful to someone else, why not try to help yourself and do something bigger?

We do what we do to make ourselves happy and we don't really concern ourselves with any of the crap people want to bring into it. I'm really grateful that's something we've been able to stick to for the past year or so.
PV: What's kept you motivated and inspired during tough times?
AC: It's just my drive. I've wanted to do this for so long, and it was right in front of my nose and it got taken away for whatever reason—and my thing is hard work and being productive. I don't wish for anything. I think if you want to have something, you have to work for it. And if you want to do something, you have to try harder. I don't think anything worth having should come free or should come easily, and that's the work ethic of my entire band. We just have that want for it more than we have in the past and it's something that I think is really crucial if you want to succeed.
PV: I'm guessing that you're not a big fan of The Secret, which is the idea that if you put a wish out into the universe it will come back to you.
AC: Absolutely not. If you put a child out into the universe, it will come back to you someday—but that's the only thing you can just put out and it'll happen. [Laughs.] I believe in working for what you want and striving to be the best that you can . . . and why would you want a handout anyway?

It's a much better feeling if you know you got yourself there. People help and they're responsible for giving you a helping hand, but in the long run, if you did it yourself, that's something no one can take away for you. For me, knowing that I did something on my own makes me proud to be who I am.
PV: You seem so soft-spoken during this conversation but during the band's live shows you're like a different person. Is music your form of catharsis?
AC: It's like that scene at the end of The Avengers where Bruce Banner shows up and goes, "That's my secret, I'm always angry." That's kind of how I am, I always have that inside of me.

I'm an easy going guy, but five minutes before I go onstage, my band knows not to talk to me. While we're out there, I'm a different person and I’m using that aggression. And to me, it's so cool that I can have my normal life and I can use my music to deal with my frustrations.

I have such a connection with our fans because they're doing the same thing I am. They're taking out their aggression and they're having a good time and banging their head, and that's something that's really cool to be able to experience together with someone. It's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for real when I get onstage.

 
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