Though it seems at odds logically, metalcore stalwarts Of Mice & Men have arguably been on the most prolific stretch of their careers and yet were not in the same room together as a creative unit since February of 2020.
In fact, the timeline over the course of the last nearly two year span has presented a significant shift in the culture of a band that has already proved their resiliency only to assert their grit even further. Exactly a year removed from one another, Of Mice & Men began their increase in output by debuting their first recorded effort on SharpTone Records in their poignant Timeless EP.
Crafted and completed remotely, the collection of tracks was an exercise in self-efficiency - writing, recording, mixing and mastering the finished product entirely on their own. Exploring the benefits of that kind of creative autonomy, despite the unprecedented circumstances that forced the band to resort to file sharing to get the job done, Of Mice & Men seemingly turned a corner yet again and found a new iteration of themselves.
Just three months later, the band would resurface with yet another trio of tracks in their Bloom EP. Cultivating what was becoming a series of EPs, both releases articulated a unique kind of humanity that only bolstered the convincingly heavy body of work. The songs that made the cut for both Timeless and Bloom, were anthemic in their quality and seemed to capture the collective sentiment of of an era of introspection that could only come from such isolation.
Not immune from the realities that seemed to permeate life over the last couple of years, Of Mice & Men suffered their own bouts of loss that certainly challenged their drive. Frontman Aaron Pauley endured the loss of his mother-in-law, while OM&M backbone Tino Arteaga suffered the loss of his mother. Faced with such significant life events, coupled with the bizarre reality of coping to life with minimal human interaction, OM&M had plenty of reason to lose focus, and yet, soldiered on.
Though adapting would have been enough, the band actually thrived under the worst of circumstances. When live music went away for the longest stretch in modern history, OM&M began cultivating their own community digitally via Twitch. When getting into a studio was not an option due to unprecedented lockdowns, OM&M refined their writing process and perfected the art of the file share. When life required real confrontation of love and loss, OM&M channeled that emotion into their craft and came out a better collective for their wear.
Completing an ambitious trifecta of EPs, Of Mice & Men punctuate their own pandemic era renaissance with a finale in their Ad Infinitum EP. Assembling all three of the extended plays to structure a complete album, Echo is comprised of all three EPs together and further underscores the band's ability to flourish under the most emotionally exhaustive climates.
Of Mice & Men's Aaron Pauley offered his summation of the last year and half and how the adversity that the band faced, allowed them to not only find a better focus, but allowed the band to find a connection with the rest of the world on a fundamentally human level.
Three EPs all combined into a finale in a full length - was this the grand design from the jump or did each of the EPs just compliment one another in a way that made sense to compile them as an LP?
Pauley - It became the plan around the release of the Bloom EP. We had enough interest from fans and it felt appropriate to eventually offer the collated physical, as well as the digital version of the entire body of work.
Was it a conscious decision to self-produce this series of EPs and now an LP or was that more of a byproduct of having to adjust to working remote in the era of Covid?
Pauley - I think that it was initially born from necessity, but it's something we felt confident enough to attempt. We knew that worst case scenario, it would make for very thorough pre-production, and we could track it and mix it elsewhere, but it turned out incredibly.
There is freedom in autonomy of striking out on your own but there is some pressure that comes along with that too - would you agree?
Pauley - Definitely. If it succeeds, it's because of you, and if it fails, it's because of you. Knowing that, it makes it easier to focus more on the intent than the outcome.
How much of the climate of the last 18 months to two years crept into the creative of Timeless, Bloom and Ad Infinitum? There seems to be a growing sentiment that artists don’t want their work label as a pandemic record but given how turbulent things have been - it had to permeate in your music at least a bit right?
Pauley - As musicians and artists, our job is to live, observe, report. So many people went through a season of loss, grief, anxiety, depression, etc. I think it was a time period in which so many people can relate to one another's experiences, and to be able to share ours and have people relate to it, lightens the load and creates a space to process it all.
The narrative for lots of artists during 2020 seemed to be about surviving but it seems as though OM&M took things a step further and thrived. Was there a change in the culture of the band or was the productivity due to having the time to finally sit and focus?
Pauley - I feel like we dug deeper into ourselves and focused on getting back to the "why" when it comes to making music and sharing your human experience. I feel more entrenched than elevated, and with that, the music has connected in such a real way.
The thematic elements of Timeless, Bloom, and Echo overall underscore a very personal approach to heavy music. It’s a heavy collection of music and yet very human at the same time. How much of the messaging in the music was derived from a personal place especially given some of the personal loss the band has endured with the passing of your mother-in-law and Tino’s mom.
Pauley - It's a deeply personal album, but our music is our way of reaching out and communicating with the world. I know that we poured as much of ourselves as possible, all in an honest attempt to connect with others who may be going through the same thing.
There seems to be unique irony in that the band seems more galvanized than ever, yet the band went an incredibly long stretch without physically being together. Did the distance make the heart grow fonder in that respect?
Pauley - The distance was terrible and I hope we're past not seeing each other for a year-and-a-half, but I know that if push comes to shove, we can still create music. I really missed the camaraderie and laughs that comes with sharing a creative physical space, but I'm glad technology can help bridge that gap.
Every release comes with a sense of pride but to be this prolific during such a stagnant era speaks volumes about the band’s resilience. Given the accolades of your career, where does Echo rank for you personally and what do you hope the fans take away from the finished product?
Pauley - I hope more than anything, that anyone who's going through a tough time feels seen and heard through our music.
Echo from Of Mice & Men is currently available via Sharptone Records - HERE