Devastating is something many bands claim to be, but few actually are. Poison the Well’s music is, in every sense of the word, devastating. Whether they are playing the most melodic acoustic interlude or some of the most destructive heavy music ever written, this band leaves nothing but complete annihilation in it’s wake.
With the release of their third full length “You Come Before You” and a spot on this year’s Warped Tour, fans and critics alike have been eagerly awaiting the band’s return. With the move to a major label for this release, it seems like all eyes are on Poison the Well. When Modern Fix finally caught up with Poison the Well guitarist Derek Miller, he was unfazed by all the drama.
“You should go see 28 Days Later,” the guitarist raved. “That is the best movie I’ve seen all year. The acting was brilliant, the cinematography was great, good script, good story. It was just awesome.”
To see the guitarist rave about another art form is a perfect example of how grounded the members of Poison the Well are.
With the buzz currently surrounding the band, one would think it would be easy to be caught up in the drama. Poison the Well’s “You Come Before You” is one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of 2003. The beginnings of the Hardcore powerhouse known as Poison the Well can be traced back to the Sunshine state six years prior.
“Growing up in Florida was just very normal. It was a real nice suburban area I grew up in,” explains Miller. “In high school I was very obsessed with music. I guess in high school I was the band guy, who was in bands and loved music. I would bring my guitar to school and play songs for people in like 8th and 9th grade.”
Escalating his love of music from acoustic to hardcore is where the guitarist eventually met up with his current outfit.
“I knew these guys from going to punk rock and hardcore shows. I’d see the same 100 people every week at shows and we’d talk and hang out. Eventually it was, “Hey you wanna try out for us on guitar?”
Both Miller and lead screamer Jeffery Moreira joined the band approximately four years prior.
“Back then they were actually a different band with a different singer, before we joined. Before that they were known as An Acre Lost and before that they were known as Doubting Thomas,” he laughs. “None of them were really any good.”
“Being from Florida the scene was decent when we were coming up,” Miller explains. “Playing local shows was awesome and being in such an urban environment, there was lots of people, which made it easier for a subculture like Hardcore to exist.”
Derek remembers the early days of the band were quite different in many ways.
“The scene in the early days was a lot more fun and there wasn’t as much bullshit. The scene was very small and wasn’t trendy or fashionable. It was just a bunch of kids who wanted to play loud music, that didn’t have anywhere else to go. It’s very different now. The Florida scene is now over-populated with bands, flooding the scene from every inch of the state. Now hardcore has infiltrated the mainstream and it’s not uncommon for hardcore acts to have sell out shows on a regular basis.”
Since forming in 1997, Poison the Well have quickly established themselves in the heavyweight division of hardcore. With the release of their Trustkill Records debut, “The Opposite of December”, the band began to amaze audiences across the US with their blistering live show. Countless hours logged inside of the van helped win the band a core following that they continued to build upon.
“By the summer of 2000, we were all out of high school and were ready to take on the band full time,” Derek remembers. “This meant sacrificing job security, relationships, and financial stability, but nothing excited us more than giving 100% of our time to do what we love.”
The sacrifices paid off in the form of a loyal following when the band unleashed their sophomore effort, “Tear From the Red”. Upon the album’s release, praise and critical acclaim began to filter in almost immediately.
“I can attribute everything we have to touring. We’ve toured a lot for the past five years and we play a lot and meet a lot of people,” says Miller.
The stage is where Poison the Well excels and dominates. No other band in hardcore, Hatebreed aside, has been able to compete with Poison the Well’s live shows.
Fans were rabid for Poison the Well and each subsequent tour seemed to bring more and more die-hard fans out to see the band.
“I think people like the fact that we’re not rock stars. We’re just people playing music and enjoying it. We’re honest and people can connect with that.” Miller reasons.
Now after a few years logged on the road and many sleepless nights, Poison the Well have returned with their third album and first Velvet Hammer/Atlantic offering, “You Come Before You”.
“With this record we feel that we’ve captured the best representation of our band so far.”
Despite excitement from the band and label, some fans have expressed concern about the band’s choice to move on to a major label.
“They should be. They have every right to be concerned,” says Derek bluntly. “Major labels, in a lot of cases, corrupt a lot of bands whether it be with money or taking their power away.”
Miller is right, in many cases major labels go as far as creating the band. One look at “American Idol” or “Pop Stars” and it’s easy to see what most major labels are looking for. If they can’t find it, they create it.
After listening to “You Come Before You” and it’s apparent that this is the record that Poison the Well has been waiting to create.
“It’s obvious we had complete creative control with this record and with our label. The only difference [with Poison the Well on a major label] is our records will be in more stores. The record will sound the way we want it to and our record will be cheaper to buy. As far as our music is concerned, it was untouched.”
The crushing sound of, “You Come Before You” didn’t come all by itself. Credit must also go to super producers Pelle Henricsson and Eskil Lovstrom. They are the duo responsible for Refused’s “The Shape of Punk to Come”.
“Those two are fucking brilliant,” the guitarist jumps in. “They helped us realize, it’s not necessarily about playing the part of the song perfectly or that the singing is perfect, it’s about being convincing. I think that they helped us fully realize that. Working with them in every way has helped us become a better band.”
Not only has Henricsson and Lovstrom made Poison the Well a better band, but the duo has also given them their best sounding record to date.
“I think they knew exactly what we wanted and we knew they could give it to us. We had a lot of confidence in each other,” Miller explains. “When someone is producing a band, you should capture the band in the best setting, in order to capture the best songs and the best performances of them.”
Capturing the best performances meant taking the Florida natives out of their environment, to Los Angeles and Sweden.
“We recorded half this record out in L.A and then the other half in Sweden. It definitely helps because it puts you in a different state of mind.”
The studio in Sweden is actually Henricsson and Lovstrom’s own digital playground.
“Their studio is actually an old asylum, which is very, very creepy.”
Despite the eeriness of the environment, Miller insists nothing strange happened during the recording.
“It has a strange vibe, but nothing too scary. It’s Pelle and Eskil’s studio, so more than anything it was a practicality for them.”
When asked to explain a little bit about the record, Miller lights up like a Christmas tree in excitement.
“For me, the title is about standing up for our integrity. Kind of like you putting yourself before others, whether that’s money or major labels or the people who used to listen to your band,” he says. “It’s about being honest and saying exactly what you want to say, regardless of who it’s going to please or displease.”
When all is said and done the reality is that, “You Come Before You” is a phenomenal record that is sure to win the band a bigger following, critical raves and possibly some mainstream success.
“Well, I guess I’d be lying if I said we’d reject mainstream success. It’s definitely something we’d love to have. I guess you could say it’s appealing but it’s definitely not our motivation,” Miller says when confronted with the idea. “If [mainstream success] was a motivating factor then we’d be writing exactly what people want to hear. Right now we do write melodic and heavy music but we don’t do it on purpose, we just let it happen.”
The objective for Poison the Well is simple.
“We just want to keep making records. As long as we’re still enjoying it and continuing to write what we consider to be our best music, we’ll continue doing it.”
With tours lined up throughout the fall with Every Time I Die and Give Up the Ghost, as well as the 2003 Plea for Peace/Take Action Tour, Poison the Well seem poised and ready to annihilate everyone for quite some time.