Brandon Gallagher of Old Wounds on Going from Drums to Vocals, New Music & Success Outside NJ

For the last seven years, no band within the state border of New Jersey has consistently pushed the threshold of metal and hardcore quite like Old Wounds. From playing tiny rehearsal rooms in Red Bank to touring across the country on the Vans Warped Tour, the word relentless feels like an underwhelming term to accurately describe the intensity of Old Wounds.

Their cold-blooded live reputation eventually captured the attention of listeners nationwide. With a darker image and chaotic musical backdrop, Old Wounds felt destined to front the next wave of modern metal. As things started to blossom, they were dealt a huge blow when their singer Kevin Iavaroni left the band to pursue his education.

However, both the band and their former vocalist kept it classy and no bad blood was exchanged publicly from either side. Instead of finding someone to fill Iavaroni’s shoes, the remaining members made internal lineup changes by rearranging roles and instruments. Old Wounds are set to perform with their new lineup at the House of Independents in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Saturday February 11th.

In an exclusive interview with The Pop Break, I spoke with former drummer and current Old Wounds vocalist Brandon Gallagher about the band’s upcoming studio release and their determination to move forward into the next phase of Old Wounds’ career.

Let’s start off by talking about what’s going with the band right now. You guys have been touring for the last month, right?

Yeah, we just did regional weekends. The first few shows were in Toronto, Kingsburg; Friday-Sunday dates. The following weekend was Albany, Wilkes-Barre, Philly, and Brooklyn. We just flew to California and did Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno, and Anaheim. The two previous tours before this one were long tours, one and a half to two months straight. We just wanted to do some shows during a few weekends so it wasn’t like we were playing Indiana on a Tuesday night and saying, “What the fuck is going on right now?”

It was a nice way to get into a good mindset before we start recording our new album in a few weeks. With everything that happened with the lineup changes, it was good to have those shows to really dive into it head first and feel it out. We are laying low for a little while in terms of touring because we’re going to the studio on the 16th, which is like a week or so from now. We will be working on this new record until late spring and hopefully have it out sometime over the summer.

With the lineup changes and Kevin leaving the band, that was obviously a huge loss. How did the band go about making this decision and moving on without Kevin? Your guitarist Matt moved to drums and you moved from drums to vocals.

When Zach and I started the band about seven years ago, I was actually doing vocals and we had a different drummer. The reason why I moved to drums; the drummer we had at the time just wasn’t down with touring so in order to keep the band going, I moved to drums. It was pretty much a similar situation. For both Zach and I, this is our baby. He writes a majority of the music and I do a majority of the arts and aesthetic stuff. This is our creative outlet. Once we figured out that Kevin wanted to go to school and touring full-time wasn’t really what he really wanted to do, we were both like we’ve done this before. As you know, luckily, Matt is a ripper of a drummer. It was a pretty easy and seamless transition given how crazy and drastic of a lineup change and move it was.

How has the transition been for you in terms of moving back to vocals? Also, how has the band’s sound changed or evolved with Matt on drums as well?

I mean, I definitely have a different vocal style than Kevin. I think my vocals are a little bit heavier. He would also sing and I’m not going to be doing any of that on the new record. I think a lot of the new stuff we’ve been writing and even playing some of the old songs live, it has a different element to it. It’s a little rawer and grittier. With Matt being such an awesome drummer, he has a very interesting style. He brings a lot of excitement with his drum parts. My style was a little more heavy-hitting and straight forward. We’ve almost gotten better as a band in a different way, which is cool. We’re pretty deep into writing our new record. We have 13 songs done that we will start tracking in a little over a week. We’re just getting comfortable with playing our new stuff. It’s a little bit of a different vibe for the band but when people hear our new songs or see us live, it won’t be too much of a surprise. It might even make a little more sense in a way.

Who will be producing this record? You guys are aiming for a summer release, right?

Yeah, sometime in June or July is what we’re shooting for. We’re going back with Andreas Magnusson; he’s the same guy that we worked with on The Suffering Spirit. When we did that record with him, we felt really good about his input and ideas. He was in a band called Scarlet that was on Ferret Records back in the day. There were a lot of things about his band that I really liked and I feel like I’m subliminally influenced by when I’m writing stuff for Old Wounds. To work with him is really cool. They weren’t a huge band and I feel like they were pretty underrated. He’s stoked when we go to him and want to be influenced by records that he’s done. We jive with him well and we’re excited to go back there and work with him again because it’s a different lineup and things are obviously much different than last time.

Photo Courtesy of House of Independents

You obviously had successful collaborations with Andreas in the past. Since you’re coming into this record as a vocalist, how has your relationship evolved with Andreas and what kinds of expectations has he thrown your way?

Ever since we did our last record, we have kept in touch with him. We knew even when we were in the studio last time that this was a collaboration that we could build from. As soon as we were finished with our last record, we all stayed in touch and every once in a while, we would be like, “Hey, we really like the guitar tone or sound on this record.” We would send him our ideas and he was always in the loop. We sent him songs that we wrote. We did some pre-production with him before the Beartooth tour last September. That was our first attempt at recording and hearing back some of the new songs we worked on. It was cool to be able to do that with him. He will put things into perspective in terms of what’s an exciting part or what’s boring; what builds up a song or what drags on for too long. He’s pretty honest with us, which is cool because professionally we respect his opinion. It’s not like his word is the be all or end all. If there is something that we all feel strongly about, obviously, we stick with it. It’s nice to have another strong opinion in the mix. Like I said earlier, we’re fans of his work. It’s a good vibe and we’re really stoked to start recording.

For sure, it sounds like he’s become your unofficial fifth member.

Totally, it actually feels good when he tells us, “Hey, this part is lame.” Because you think about it and it’s like, “Yeah, maybe we did force that a little bit too much.” It’s not like he says that all the time. When he does chime in, it holds weight because it’s not a constant thing. He doesn’t really chime in unless it’s something that he feels really strongly about. In some way, when he lets us do our own thing, his influence really shines through when he’s working on the guitar tones or figuring out what cymbals we want to use on the record. He cares more about those little things rather than nitpicking us about the songwriting or anything like that, which is cool. That’s such a big part and underrated element of listening to music; appreciating the tones and the overall production.

The video clip of your new song with the burning coffin, that song sounds very intense and gritty.

Totally, that clip was just a demo we did during the first session of pre-production. We tracked that song back in September and I did vocals with my friend Adam and he plays drums for Gatherers. I’m not sure if you are familiar with them but they are another New Jersey based band. Another cool aspect of this record; we share a practice space with the band Toothgrinder. They are awesome and do a lot of touring. I believe they are working on their third full-length as well. It’s really cool to have them in the same room as us. Their drummer Wills; he’s been tracking a lot of pre-production stuff for us while we’re in our practice space writing. Even just aside from Andreas, during the writing process, we almost been working and collaborating with a lot of local musicians that we’re friends with. Not necessarily just getting their opinions on things but just their influence as we’re writing gives us an interesting and different outlook on the writing process.

That makes sense because it creates a positive environment. You had a strong and successful record and you want to follow it up. It’s good to get different perspectives.

Totally, like I said, it’s a whole new lineup and we’ve sort of been thrown into it a little bit but we’re feeling very confident about what we’re writing. It’s definitely a little different and maybe on a different tip from The Suffering Spirit. At the end of the day, as long we’re proud of it and really stoked on it, that’s all that matters.

I was curious, on The Suffering Spirit musically speaking, it sounded like some of the songs had an early Deftones influence. Did you guys keep some of those groovier and maybe even grungier elements in the new stuff?

Okay. Yeah, I would say The Suffering Spirit has a lot of those rock elements you mentioned. On the new stuff, I guess we’ve kept a little bit of that rock influence but I think it’s more – maybe there is a later Deftones influence. There are definitely a lot of cool rhythms that are gnarly and a bit heavier. There’s definitely more of a groove, which goes back to Matt, that’s an element that he brings to the band. I would say; these songs are a little bit faster and even more chaotic. The songs are less melodic and have more of a noisy and raw sound. Maybe going off the 90s tip, we’ve been listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode and cool stuff like that. It might show on this record a little bit. We’re all influenced by so many different things that ultimately, I feel like on this new record; it’s hard to pinpoint a couple of influences. On The Suffering Spirit, I could listen to each song and I could probably point out each individual band that we wanted to emulate.  

You could usually hear the influences in young bands and that ultimately helps develop your own sound.

Totally, I think because we’re all over the place with our influences, when people hear our new record and go back and listen to The Suffering Spirit or even the record before it For When We Came Is Where We’ll Rest, they might ultimately hear the new one and say, “Oh, I could tell this is the same band but I could hear the progression.” It’s not like we do that consciously. At this point, we’ve been a band for seven years. Zach and I are super comfortable writing with each other. I think we’re hitting that stride, which is cool.

Do you have any songs or working titles that you are particularly excited about?

We have a list of titles. It’s a difficult process for us because with our artwork and aesthetics, we’re trying to build a whole vibe surrounding the record. We have some ideas for songs that would go along with a music video or potential artwork that would go along with a particular song. We want this to be a cohesive – I don’t want to say story, but we want to have a bunch of elements that are built from a common idea. I don’t have anything that I feel particularly comfortable sharing because when we unveil this, we want it to have a heavy impact.

That makes sense just because that’s the foundation of your marketing campaign and building the hype for your fans.

Even with the coffin burning music video, to some extent, that was more symbolic like we’re done with The Suffering Spirit. We’re going to move onto a new chapter with the band. The meaning goes a little bit deeper than just, “Oh, that’s awesome that they burnt a coffin.” There is some symbolism behind it as well.

Symbolically speaking, would you say the spirit carried on once the coffin went up in flames?

Yeah, I don’t know. Its like, “Hey, we’re going to fucking destroy what we just created and we’re going to come back and we’re working on something gnarly.” I don’t know if that’s how other people perceive it. Like I said, we’re on a different tip. I don’t want to say that we’re trying to be ahead of the curve but we always want to feel creative and have a desire to bring something new to the table with heavy music. More often than not, I feel that gets lost with a lot of bands who fall pretty deep with wanting to be or wanting to sound like other metal bands. For us, it’s like what can we do that is a little bit different so we can stand out from other bands that play heavy music?

You guys were never your typical New Jersey hardcore band; you stayed clear of those clichés. There was always something darker and more maniacal in terms of how you presented your music.

Totally, going back to what I was saying about how Zach writes all of the music and how I work on the arts and aesthetics. This is ultimately our outlet and vision. Every time we get together to write new stuff or come up with ideas for visuals, we want to do something, I don’t want to say that hasn’t been done before, but stuff that’s very unique to Old Wounds. Regardless of what the lineup has been, it’s always been the same collective and the same idea moving forward. There have been a lot of awesome bands that have come out of New Jersey and I’m not even just talking about the heavier side. Bands like My Chemical Romance, Thursday, or The Dillinger Escape Plan, all these bands did whatever they wanted. It was super unique and creative and ultimately, I think that’s our biggest influence – not being restricted or tied down to one idea or sound. I think that’s the most New Jersey thing you could do; always try to be on the forefront of developing or evolving what music or heavy music can be.

I totally agree. A band’s catalog isn’t just limited to the music; it’s about the artwork, the live show, and presentation of your music. If My Chemical Romance and Dillinger only had good songs and nothing else, their reputation wouldn’t be as well regarded. That is the right trajectory to follow.

And yeah, it’s not like we’re trying to come off as pretentious and it’s not an ego thing. Growing up, those were all bands that I was stoked on so that’s how I thought it was. I didn’t see too much of that outside of that for a long time. Even a band like Every Time I Die who we have had the privilege of touring with, those dudes put on the best show. I mean, they are right up there. Their energy every night and how they handle themselves is just awesome. That’s how I feel a band should be. I am influenced by those bands and how they do things. As a band from New Jersey, we want to keep that reputation going. It’s crazy to think that we’ve been a band for seven years. Maybe if we’re still doing this in five years, maybe a new wave of bands will take that same mindset of just losing it every night and putting 110 percent into it.

With your experience in the music industry so far, no matter the scene, it’s all about consistency and effort. Has that been the most important lesson and attribute for you guys in finding success and touring outside of New Jersey?

Yeah, obviously, we’ve only toured in the States and eastern Canada. Touring outside of New Jersey, it’s crazy to see how different towns react to you. Even for a while, we were actually getting better reactions in places like Seattle, Southern California, Florida, and parts of Florida. We would have better shows there than our own hometown shows.

Even talking to some of the older dudes who played in different bands in New Jersey, things take a little longer for things to catch on. When you start touring, you get different perspectives and you get to experience different scenes and see how those bands work. For example, bands from the Midwest, I think they are some of the hardest working bands in the world. Anytime they want to start a tour, they have to travel 10 hours to the closest city because they are from Iowa or whatever. They might get a better reaction locally because they are the band performing and the next closest city is a 10 hour distance. For us, we are in between New York and Philly and there are a million different scenes within New Jersey itself. There are a lot more bands to take in. That’s another reason why we give our hardest effort every night. If you play seven local shows in a week, each show would have a different five band lineup all in the same town. There was so much when we started playing and touring. So yeah, giving it your all and trying to put on a good live band is crucial.

That being said, are you really excited for your show on Saturday at the House of Independence?

Absolutely, we have been practicing in Asbury for a few years. We’ve always tried to establish that as our home base as a band because I feel like it’s been a while, really aside from us and Toothgringer, representing this area of New Jersey. Obviously, in North Jersey and different parts of South Jersey always kind of have a consistent scene going. As our bands have been making that jump and touring a lot, it’s cool to stake claim in our hometown like we did after the Stone Pony show with Beartooth, we had an after party show. We’re doing another after party for this show. We try to do as much as we can in Asbury because it’s so close to our hometowns. I’m from Tinton Falls and Zach lives in Long Branch so we’re all a town over from Asbury. To be able to attempt to put together a big hardcore show in Asbury, which are few and far between these days, it means a lot. We have a lot of friends and family coming out and it should be a really good time.

Considering your experiences over the last few years, coming back and playing home, does this feel like a full-circle moment?

Definitely, the last time we did a big Asbury headlining show was two summers ago. We did a record release for The Suffering Spirit at the Asbury Lanes and unfortunately, as you know, that is no longer a venue anymore. To be able to play at a new place like House of Independence, to keep it going and that was one of the first shows we played off The Suffering Spirit. To be able to close it out and I hate using the term “album cycle” but to be able to close out our album cycle with a big show in New Jersey before we go into the studio is really cool.

Old Wounds performs Saturday night at The House of Independents in Asbury Park with On Broken Wings, Sick Shit, and Hounds. Click here for tickets.