words by Maddy Howell
It’s been over a century since Roosevelt asserted that nothing worth having comes easy, and truer words have never been spoken in the case of Alabama’s Gideon.
Taking to the road shortly after leaving high school in 2008, over the last 15 years they haven’t had the easiest of runs. With multiple van breaks in, major financial losses, and touring vehicles totalled with little budget to make amends, for a long time the hardcore quartet felt as though a spiteful entity was desperately trying to derail their dreams, but in 2019 – the tides began to turn.
With the release of their fifth studio album, Out of Control, the scales finally began tipping in Gideon’s favour. Stepping into their own skin and embracing their individual selves more than ever before, it was an album of defiance, brought to life by four individuals with a hard-fought sense of clarity.
“A lot of things have tried to stop us through the years, but we've stood strong and persevered through everything as a team and a family. 2020 was the year where we had paid it all off,” founding member and drummer Jake Smelley starts.
“We thought that it was our year, and everything felt amazing. We were finally able to step into our own skin and embrace who we are as artists and individuals. It was like we had this awakening where we could truly be who we were for the first time.”
Hopes were high, and rightfully so. Receiving some of the biggest offers of their career, Gideon were finally making not just enough to scrape by, but to truly live. A well-earned pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that had often appeared monochrome, they were ready to reap the rewards of over a decade of blood, sweat, and tears… but the world had other plans.
Just seven days into a tour with We Came As Romans in March 2020, everything came grinding to a halt. Flicking on the news in their hotel room to see the world entering shutdown mode at the hands of a global pandemic, the four-piece shortly found themselves piling back into the van to make the 18-hour drive back home from Massachusetts.
“Sometimes when you think the sun's out… that's when it really hits,” the drummer smirks.
“We had to make ends meet, and I’d been working with car parts at a dealership between tours. Before the pandemic, they’d promised me stability if I would give up music entirely. I think it’s absurd to ask someone to give up their life, goal, and passion but I didn't know if live music was ever coming back once the lockdown began, so I started climbing that ladder.”
With the music industry on hold and the world spiralling through seemingly endless uncertainty and chaos, Jake grappled with his purpose. Watching the days pass by from the small Southern town where he grew up, as he sat on his lunch breaks talking to colleagues who felt stuck there and writing songs to expel his complicated emotions, he began gaining clarity.
“I found a book called ‘The War of Art’, and it spoke about resistance and things that will keep you from your true potential and meaning as an artist. I was listening to that book on Audible whilst walking through warehouses every day wondering, ‘How the hell do I get out of here?’” he recalls.
“Music is the only thing in my life that has never really left me, and it's always been there for me, so I couldn't give up on it. I didn’t know how I was going to pay my rent, but I quit that job and we went to the studio.”
Armed with some of the heaviest material they’d ever written, created within some of the heaviest times in human history, Gideon headed to a studio in Belleville, New Jersey to set to work on album six, aptly titled MORE POWER. MORE PAIN.
“It was so dark already, and the day I got to the studio I found out that my friend, Sam, had passed away. I had hung out with him a week prior, and it just kept getting heavier and heavier,” Jake recalls.
“This record came from a very painful place, and whilst it was the most focused we’d ever been, so much was out of our hands. MORE POWER. MORE PAIN. was born from the realisation that to push past things you’ve got to be willing to go through the pain again and again. If you're willing to be broken down by something that you believe in, it truly does make you stronger.”
Fighting back against a world that has repeatedly seemed set to watch them fail, album six sees Gideon standing tall. From the pummelling power and chugging riffs of ‘Too Much Is Never Enough’ to the euphoric sombre notes of ‘I Will Carry You’ – an anthem of remembrance dedicated to Jake’s close friend – each moment within MORE POWER. MORE PAIN. documents a band overflowing with purpose and passion.
“There was always something pushing against us, but there was a distinct difference with this record. We know who we are, and we know what we stand for, but what do you do when everything in the world is still telling you ‘No’? Do you keep going?” Jake questions.
“This is life or death for us, and when you reach the point where you live and breathe your craft, you'll do whatever it takes. I had to accept that this is my life, and this is how it’s always going to be.”
Channelling the darkness in vicious detail, but never once dwelling on it, the four-piece have reached their most uncompromising form to date. Inspired by artists such as Hank Williams Jr. and their insistence on living life by their own design despite the world’s disapproval, MORE POWER. MORE PAIN. presents a band zoning in on their vision and boldly reclaiming control.
“I'm done trying to fit into any kind of mould. I'm done trying to be somebody I'm not, and I'm tired of holding my tongue every time I want to speak up,” Jake asserts.
“When we started doing this there were a lot of bands from the Northeast, but the South has got something to say too. In those little towns, there are a lot of people with big dreams, but you're told from a young age how things are going to be for you. I’ve lost so many friends and family members to suicide because they don't do well living inside their heads in those places. The people trying to tell us that we don't have what it takes don't come from the areas that we're from, and they didn't have to fight to make it out. We’ve got a lot more fight in us than they think we do.”
At a time in which everything feels overwhelmingly negative, and a rolling news cycle pedals more misery into our lives by the minute, MORE POWER. MORE PAIN. is a reminder of the strength in overcoming - a spirit that has defined the last decade and a half for Jake and his bandmates. Detailing a blistering story of sacrifice and determination, speaking directly to anyone struggling to find the light; Gideon have weathered the storm, and now they’re ready to guide the way through.
“Hard times are inevitable, and we've been through so much, but at least we had each other. A lot of people don’t have that family unit, so it's important for them to feel it through our band,” Jake finishes.
“We're just ordinary people who refuse to give in, and that's been the underlying theme of our whole career. When people are telling you what you can and can't do, you’ve got to be the one to decide. That comes with hardships and struggle, but surviving those situations is what makes you a force to be reckoned with. This band will always be here to inspire people to be themselves and to follow their passions, no matter what that takes.”
More Power. More Pain. from Gideon arrives March 17th via Equal Vision Records.
Get the album - HERE
Catch Gideon live on the 'More Power. More Pain.' Tour with For the Fallen Dreams, Orthodox, and Guerrilla Warfare. See a list of remaining dates and cities below. Get tickets - HERE