INTERVIEW: Candace Kucsulain – Walls of Jericho

WORDS: Dean Martin

It’s been eight years since Michigan’s WALLS OF JERICHO last studio record, The American Dream. Eight years off the scene can often result in the band disappearing into the wilderness, but now in 2016 the band are ready to burst onto the scene with No One Can Save You From Yourself. We caught up with vocalist Candace Kucsulain to talk about the new record, the reason behind the eight year gap in between records and  the band’s future plans!

So The American Dream was released in 2008, how come No One Can Save You from Yourself took so long to come about?

Candace: So, what I think a lot of people don’t know about, or just don’t think about is, we did The American Dream and we did a couple of tours off that, I think for a couple of years and we started talking about doing a new record. But I had decided, for myself, that I wanted to start a family. So, for a singer, it’s much harder to get pregnant and take time off and do that kinda stuff, as a female, you know? So in all of 2010 I was pretty much pregnant and then I had to stay home for nearly a year afterwards with my daughter whilst not really being sure if I would return because I didn’t know how I would feel leaving her. Fortunately, our bass player Aaron Ruby kinda convinced me to go back on tour. To just try, not for anything long, no long amount of time, like two weeks at a time, and not do it as often and not do it full time, because before that we were touring ten months out of the year. It was just go go go. So yes, a couple of years after she was born we talked about writing a new record, and I just couldn’t. I sat down to write lyrics and I couldn’t get there. I didn’t know what to write about. I didn’t really have that fire, at that moment like I did before. So, I guess what flamed the fire for the new record was that I became part of an organisation called Relentless and we raise money for children with cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses by doing fundraisers and lifting weights. I’d been power lifting at that point for a couple of years before joining Relentless, and I thought what an incredible way for me to do something I love AND help others. And then I merged the band with that as well there were three avenues. We started raising money for these kids, and that actually fuelled the song Relentless, and that’s what fuelled the record. I felt like I could do this, I was finally able to sit down and write. It was a collaboration with Frankie (Candance’s husband and DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR‘s guitarist) on the lyrics. We did that, and then last year my brother, who is a couple of years younger than me, got diagnosed with brain cancer, and it was stage four so was very short lived. That experience as well brought that back out of me. That kinda chaos, that darkness, the stuff that fuels dark-core metal. That gave me more of a muse, and things to focus on. We actually have a song about him called Cutbird, that’s on the new record. It kinda just went from there. When I was helping take care of my brother and his family I was in Michigan, which is where the band is from, and so we started pre-production in that time. It was a long road, honestly, it was a road of self-awareness, and self-rediscovery. I’d put all my energy into being a mom and I needed to find myself again. And I did.

Now you’re releasing a new album, does that mean there will be more albums to come in the next few years? Are WALLS OF JERICHO coming back?

Candace: We’ll probably start touring more, it was very difficult to tour in the US without a record, and it was very difficult to go to other places, like back to the UK and do things like that, it was hard to get over there without having a new record out. So this opens up those gates for us really. And now that that gate is open about writing a new record, who knows what’s next? We’re just glad to be back on the map with the new record.

You’ve created quite a unique intro track for this album, tell me about the sirens, words of warning, and thousands marching that appear in No One Can Save You from Yourself?

Candace: So No One Can Save You from Yourself is kind of like that cause for alarm, you ARE your own worst enemy. There is chaos in the world, there is all this pain and darkness that is going on and you’re the only one who can make it a better place. You’re the only one who can save you from yourself type of thing. We’re all in charge of our own destiny, no one can do it for you. If there’s damage that’s been created in the world then it’s up to us to change it. You have to find a solution and take action. That’s the warning. I do feel that for most people it’s overwhelming. With everyday life it’s all go go go, like what can you do? What can you do to see a real change? I know people chose not to vote people they feel like it’s not gonna make a real change. So when you feel at that much of a loss, it’s like what else can you do? But it starts with you. You can build a better you, you can build a better world. It’s that whole concept. And I’ve always felt that way, what can I do to make things better? What can I do to make myself better? It’s encouraging to find things to be a part of, Relentless is one of those things. We feel that if you can find things in your everything, even if it’s that you’re challenging the American dream, that you’re stepping outside of that and breaking that cycle, and finding something that you love to do for a living, that can make a real change to yourself, you’re breaking that cycle.

Is there anything you wanted for this album that didn’t happen?

Candace: I wrote half the lyrics, and the guys wrote the other half and normally I write most of the lyrics but for this record we really came together and were a team. We all sat together and wrote lyrics together. We do have a song that’s focusing on violence in the world, but I do like to have a song on every record that’s about sexual abuse, and I kinda didn’t get to address that on this record. Which is interesting for me, because that has kinda been my way of dealing with things for my whole entire teenage life and adult life that I’ve dealt with my abuse through music. This is also been the first year that I’m trying to write a section in an eBook that has to do with what happens to kids, and what happens in their adulthood when they deal with sexual abuse and their families don’t address it. So, in myself, I’m reaching out more into the world in that way to help others, not just through music, so I wish I had time to write a song to address that, but I’m okay because I’m personally addressing it in other ways in the world right now.

Whilst on a break, you’ve been working on THE BEAUTIFULS and Dustin has been drumming for various bands, do you think these experiences have affected the new album?

Candace: Yeah, definitely. What has affected it majorly is our touring, so because we’ve been playing certain songs from our records, and mixing it up but only being able to play older records, and we’ve put a lot of touring time into it we find ourselves switching up the actual set list to get songs that create more energy for ourselves on stage. Then we realised, that was what we wanted this record to be; an entire record that if we had to play it, we would want to play on stage. That we would create the very unique vibe we have on stage, we’re very energetic, we give it our all on stage, and we wanted that in this album. Not just in a few songs. And that’s what we did. It’s still brutal, it’s still rippin’, but it’s got a super good vibe to it, one that works for us together as a band on stage which is what we found out through our experience on stage these last few years. If we’d have popped out a new record a couple of years later, we’d have only taken a couple of songs from that record and continued this thing. Now, we’re super excited to throw five new songs into the mix. It’s cool to be able to do that.

There have been mentions of a new tour, can you tell me about that?

Candace: Oh yeah, so right now we have a Detroit show coming up, we have Groezrock in April, we are looking at Mexico in that time range as well. Then we have a tour coming up in June/July in Europe, hitting those festivals with full force. We’re talking about the UK as well. Right now it’s all in the works. The only thing really definite is the European tour. We’d love to hit Australia, and we’d just love to hit places we haven’t been in a long time.

Can you tell me about your process of writing to recording songs?

Candace: For me, this record was different to other records because what I needed for inspiration was to actually be in the room with the music. Normally, when I was younger, I’d be laying in bed and have idea for a song so jump up and make a pot of coffee and I’d be up all night. But that just does not work for my lifestyle anymore with a four year old, you know? So being able to take time to focus on the music, and the lyrics, I’d go to Mike’s (guitar) house and play stuff over and over, throw out patterns, and write lyrics, bounce ideas off of each other. We still kinda did that in the recording process, we had everything laid out but when you really record things, it just doesn’t sound as powerful as you want it to sound. Or you have too many lyrics and, all of a sudden, you have to chop some stuff off. I love the recording experience, I think it’s so much fun. We work with Ben Schigel who has done our last couple of records. He knows us very well, so for me, what was neat this time was I’d get in, scream a line, maybe like once or twice, then he’d be like, okay, on to the next line, and I was like are you sure? What are you talking about? There’s no way you wanna keep that line! And he’s like no, you sounded fine, and through the experience of the last eight years playing live, we’ve really nailed down the way we sound or the way we do something to the point where we didn’t need to spend all this time in the recording studio trying to get one line perfect. I just kinda did what I do. It was neat that it kinda went fast. It was over before we knew it but it was a lot of fun.

Is there one person, dead or alive, that you would love to get on an album or play live with?

Candace: This is crazy because it all just kinda happened too with Lemmy, Lemmy passing right? Man, everybody’s pictures and everybody’s stories, like he had sung on a couple of hardcore records! He loved music, he loved the lifestyle, and he lived it. Not many people are like that. You know, and he set that path of just do it how you want and he’s a true rebel of breaking the American Dream, for real. Him, he paved many ways and it’s sad to see him go and I just thought of how wonderful it was for him to be part of so many things.

Well that about covers it, thank you very much for your time!

Candace: Thank you!