INTERVIEW: Phil Sgrosso – Wovenwar

By Ty Watkins
Photo Credit: Ty Watkins

Wovenwar are currently touring Europe and the UK on their first ever headline tour. Despite the demise of As I Lay Dying, the former members’ new band is enjoying new life as a band. Jessica Howkins speaks to guitarist Phil Sgrosso before the tour kicked off. Over to you Jess…

I’m Jess and I’m going to be interviewing you today for Distorted Sound magazine, if there is anything through the interview that you don’t want to answer or need me to repeat, just let me know.

Phil: Okay!

How are you doing today?

Phil: I’m doing well, the day is just starting, and its 10:30am, so yeah! So far, so good.

You’re set to be playing the UK at the end of this month, are you excited for it?

Phil: Of course, any opportunity you know for the band to just be playing shows and especially headlining is just, you know it’s always awesome for us and especially going back to the UK and mainland Europe for a little bit too. We’re always excited.

Obviously you’re an all American band and you have only had one release with Wovenwar, how does it feel having a rather dedicated fan base in the UK and Europe?

Phil: Especially for being a new band, then yes, to have any following, especially off the back, you know fans that carried over from our previous band, it’s amazing. It’s like, without them we wouldn’t have the opportunity to come over and you know, be able to play these shows, so it’s great and as a young band we still want to keep growing and progressing with everything that we do so it’s part of the journey is just keep trucking on and progressing.

As you said before about your previous band, was it a tough decision to leave As I Lay Dying behind and start Wovenwar or did you feel like it was a new chapter that everyone sort of needed?

Phil: It definitely seemed like a new chapter everyone sort of needed, we had been doing the same sort of thing for so long and people get burnt out but success kind of makes you still, you know, feel like you can’t leave it but at the same time you’re compromising too much of what makes you happy, so I think it was time for at least a break and then with how everything went down with how extreme it was, there was no way we wanted to take a break or to leave the band or just totally leave it in the past but as we move on we’re just grateful to be where we’re at now.

Do you still have people feel like you might be living in the shadow of As I Lay Dying, maybe some fans that might not be able to move on or do you reckon the majority have accepted it?

Phil: I think initially there was a lot of fans that were able to jump on board with what we’re trying to do with Wovenwar. You can’t please everyone, not everyone is going to be like ‘okay new band, new singer, let’s go.’ It’s hard especially with what the fans were put through with the whole situation, it was just so uneasy feeling and I think it’s just kind of, depending how the level of fan you are, it’s kind of traumatic in a way. For us it was traumatic being in the band, so it’s just if I saw that was one of my favourite bands and they had gone through something like that it would just be strange. We felt like the only thing we could do as musicians is keep making music and kind of figure out what the next step would be like and that was to get a new singer and at least we’re not carrying on as As I Lay Dying because then I would think that would be even more strange for the fans. We’re starting something new and I think people just need to realise this is not As I Lay Dying, this is a new band and you can throw out all the comparisons to it, I think fans, it might take some a little longer but as we keep saying there’s more and more fans day by day. It’s just great to feel that there is a moment of moving in the right direction.

Do you think the response has made you grow as Wovenwar?

Phil: Yeah, with the experience that we’ve acquired throughout the past ten years that we’ve been touring and Shane’s band had been touring a lot as well, I think we all had a lot of experience and sort of know how it goes and what it’s going to take to make things work so, it’s different being a new band again but it’s exciting at the same time. Every opportunity that comes our way, we really go for it. We’re just anxious I guess to just make this work and it takes a lot of work for any young band. A lot of young bands, they start out when they’re 18 and they live at home and they don’t have bills or as many bills, so they can afford to go sleep on peoples couches and sleep in the van and for us, we’re a little bit older but we realised well this is what it takes and we have to make it work or else it will fail.

You’ve spoke about how it’s a struggle financially to be in a band and how you’re anxious to make Wovenwar work, you’re set to play Reading and Leeds, which is a huge achievement, is that something that has made you feel good as a band to get this opportunity so early on?

Phil: Absolutely! To be offered to play Reading and Leeds especially was huge for us because we never got the offer as As I Lay Dying. With being in this new band and maybe a little bit more of a less abrasive sound it kind of opens up these new doors for us so, that was definitely something that was just like wow, an accomplishment as just a new band so yes. That was pretty amazing to play those and I guess that’s it.

Reading and Leeds has just started to open up to the more Alternative scene over the past couple of years, do you think you’re going to be able to draw more people in and show them who Wovenwar are?

Phil: Yeah, I mean that’s the idea for any band, to just go in and do what you do best and so hopefully next time we play there, we can play later in the day, get a better time slot and more people and hopefully we have some more production and stuff like that. We always just want to keep progressing so that’s like I said, as a new band it’s like yeah you’ve got to play during middle of the day and you’re competing against this other stage and as you mature and get older, hopefully you’re working your way up to where you’re headlining the stage and that’s always a goal of ours, is to just keep growing and we want the biggest crowds out there, we just want to have as many fans coming out and enjoying what we have to offer.

As said before, with only one release as Wovenwar and having already being successful in that and gaining a large fan base, it feels like more and more are coming out of the cracks.

Phil: Yeah, that’s amazing, we don’t necessarily know how well, I mean to obviously just to be able to book a tour over there is just like wow, that how quick it’s catching on and being received and stuff like that it’s like awesome. It’s like something must be working I guess.

What can we expect from Wovenwar in the future?

Phil: After this tour, we’re going to be taking the summer off to write for our next album, kind of keep the wheels moving and hopefully get something out next summer, so we got all of this downtime and it’s like, let’s write the next album and towards the end of the tour we have some other offers happening, one in the US and South America, so there’s things on the table and hopefully we can get back over to Europe and UK so we’re not away for too long. Writing for the next album and kind of staying ahead of everything is the plan.

It’s nice to keep on top of everything, some bands go away for so long and you don’t really hear of them within 3-4 years, it definitely sounds like something you don’t want to do as a band.

Phil: Yeah, with how many bands are coming out these days, if you go away for a year and you’re not fully established, you could be a big band, like a big trendy band but if you go away for a year, there’s loads of other trendy bands working their way up and wanting to take your position in the scene. You really have to stay on top of your game and I look back to it and I wish bands would do this still, like Iron Maiden released their first five albums back to back each year and it’s just now maybe that’s not as feasible for bands because they’re touring so much but I think every two years with putting out an album is the wisest thing to do, a good album.

Do you think when they leave it too long, it might impact the album and everything that surrounds like the fans?

Phil: Possibly, yeah, it all depends on the band but it might just be too long, unless you’re writing an epic masterpiece or you’re a band at that level like Muse could maybe, I don’t even think they could go away for that long. It just seems, maybe like Coldplay or someone and it would build up anticipation for the band but for young, heavy sort of aggressive music, I think the scene is just so saturated that you just have to be ahead of things as opposed to behind.

Do you think it’s a downfall that the scene is so saturated, being a young band?

Phil: I don’t necessarily know, I do and I don’t. I think it needs to be viewed as a community, as the more the merrier as long as everyone is supporting each other. When I was younger, I used to be competitive, I would be like ‘why is this band getting this and why aren’t we? We’re bigger than them?’ but then I realised it’s usually those bands that end up getting bigger than us and they take us out on tour and it’s like, look at that they’re now still supporting the scene and supporting us in a way and now I don’t have that competitive feel, I have that competitive side in myself and this band and we are better than where we were at a year ago but I think generally the more the merrier. The more we can do to help each other, the more bands out there selling tickets and taking out support bands is helpful.

That’s a great way of looking at it, there’s always arguments about which genre is better, how do you feel when you encounter people who do that with Wovenwar and in the music scene?

Phil: Oh, I know they won’t be around for very long. I just kind of write them off but the bands that I have had the pleasure of touring with, like Inflames, they’re just a class act. They are the kind of people they run their band and everything about it, is just a professional level and a very caring level and they’re the greatest guys, they’re all just a bunch of sweet dudes that just hang out and they don’t have that ego that’s like ‘It’s all about me’. I think a lot of musicians do things for the wrong reasons but you can tell the other bands that stick around they do it because they have a passion for music and a passion for sharing their experience with other people like minded people I guess.

That’s a great approach, so many people look at it differently and get angry towards it.

Phil: Yeah, I used to be that way, I used to be angry and just unhappy with how I viewed things but now as I’ve matured and people get older, you just realise you could have a positive outlook on things or keep being negative and that won’t get me anywhere.

That’s great, is there anything else you’d like to throw out there on Wovenwar’s behalf?

Phil: We’re just really excited to be heading back over, some of my favourite bands are English bands, like even when we go to places like Sweden, it’s like there’s a lot of culture here, it has inspired so much great music that when you’re there you’re just like ‘what is it about this place?’, they have some of the best music and the best people. While She Sleeps, we toured with them on the Inflames tour and they became our favourite people in the world and we’re just always looking to have a good time wherever we are. We’re excited to get back out onto the road, we’ve been home for almost a month so we’re ready to get back out and play some new songs and have a good time.

It’s been lovely talking to you, thank you ever so much and I hope you enjoy your tour in the UK and Europe.

Phil: Awesome, I appreciate it, thank you.