blessthefall pauses in the middle of To Hell and Back and waits for singer Beau Bokan to exhort the crowd in the pit in front of him. "When I say move, you move. I don't care what you have to do!" The crowd somehow knows they had better not refuse. The song resumes and the floorboards of the Highline Ballroom in New York visibly flex as every single person in the audience jumps up and down in sync with the beat.
Before entering the studio in the spring of 2009 to record the follow-up to their first album His Last Walk, the quintet (Eric Lambert and Mike Frisby on guitars; Jared Warth on bass and vocals, Matt Traynor on drums; Bokan on vocals), resolved to expand and improve on the sound that won over fans with His Last Walk. According to Bokan, "We took all the good parts, the choruses, the heavy parts and we made 'em like ten times bigger. We wanted to keep the same sound. We didn't want to alienate fans or bum them out. Because the sound is what kind of made the band in the first place."
Bokan credits producer Elvis Baskette (Incubus, Escape the Fate, Story of the Year) with helping the band create the heavy, yet accessible sound of Witness . "I would bring a chorus to the table and he would add his little touch to make it amazing. The choruses are huge, because that's what you want to do at a show, you want to sing along."
This strategy must have worked as evidenced by Witness' debut at number 56 on the Billboard 200. The album continues its strong showing on the Independent and Hard Rock charts.
As with a lot of young bands, blessthefall has had its share of growing pains. In the middle of a European tour in support of His Last Walk, singer Craig Mabbitt and the other four members of the band decided to part ways. Warth filled in on vocals as the band went about interviewing and auditioning to fill the space left by Mabbitt's departure.
Meanwhile, Bokan's original band, Take the Crown, was in trouble. With no manager, no bassist, and what they felt was little support from their label, the members of this L.A.-based band sensed the end was near. Bokan waited until Take the Crown had officially broken up before contacting blessthefall in a bid to become their new singer. "They sent me a demo, and said, 'Can you write to this?'" Bokan recalls. "That day I literally sat in my car with my laptop and wrote and recorded a verse and a chorus, the first thing that came to mind. I sent it to them and they're like, 'Oh this is awesome.'" Frisby, Lambert, Traynor and Warth liked Bokan's work so much that not only did they invite him to join the band, but that very first "verse and chorus" became part of Hey Baby, Here's That Song You Wanted , the fifth track on Witness.
Bokan believes that the switch from Mabbitt to himself has been relatively painless for both the band and its fans. While not making any particular effort to sound like the former vocalist for the band, coincidentally, Bokan says, "We have very similar voices. We're just a little bit different but enough of the same so that the fans aren't like, 'Oh no, blessthefall sounds 100 percent different.'" Bokan downplays his own importance to the band, pointing out that, "The singer is not the band. The music speaks for itself. The hardcore fans who are there for the band donít really care who's singing. They want to see the band move on."
As of the fall of 2008, blessthefall's personnel lineup was complete and they were able to devote themselves to writing material for their second LP. Bokan explains that Lambert came up with most of the guitar tracks. Then drums and bass were added to the guitar track of each song and a rough version recorded. That version was given to Bokan to complete with his own original lyrics. "The inspiration comes from real life struggles. For instance I lost a lot of loved ones the past two years. So that emotion comes out in it. Most of the songs are pretty serious, pretty personal. That's good, I think. Kids appreciate when you're honest. Rather than kind of making up stories."
Bokan points out something else kids appreciate, and that's not being preached at. So while all the members of the band are Christian, the guys don't want to be pigeonholed as a "Christian" band. "We try to live good lives, but it's not my place to tell people what to think. We want everyone to like our music." There's one thing Bokan expects from fans in addition to hoping they will buy blessthefall records and come to blessthefall concerts: Bokan expects fans to respect one another. If Bokan spots a fight breaking out in the pit, he will try to stop it. "One time this guy punched this other dude. I stopped the music and said, 'Get over here.' Then I made them hug each other."
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