At first glance, Pennsylvania Dutch country hardly seems conducive to the metalcore musings of a band like This Or The Apocalypse – whose home city of Lancaster is associated “with sprawling rural environments and Amish populations,” as its Facebook biography notes.
However, as far as vocalist Rick Armellino is concerned, such images only tell half the story. “A lot of us grew up with that crazy work ethic: 'We don't wanna hire a driver, we wanna drive our van,'” said Armellino. “And I think that mentality carried through to everything. You'll find bands out here that make their own merch, make their own fliers, book their own shows, do a lot of that stuff.”
Armellino also sees Lancaster's proximity to much bigger cities – such as Baltimore, New York, and Washington, D.C. – and readiness to support the arts as key factors in jump-starting its local scene.
“The town had a lot of money to spend on things – if you wanted to see Broadway shows, you could,” recalled Armellino. “If you wanted to see cool hardcore bands, you could. There was a lot of different resources, which is important for kids.”
Even so, Armellino and bandmates Jack Esbenshade (guitar), Matthew Marcellus (bass, vocals), Aaron Ovecka (drums) and Rodney Phillips (guitar, vocals) are also smart enough to know when they can't handle everything by themselves.
That recognition prompted the band to sign with eOne Entertainment, in North America – an arrangement that provides sufficient resources to handle marketing and promoting without interference on the creative side, Armellino believes.
“We're very DIY (do it yourself) – we bought two vehicles that were just gutted out handicapped buses, and we built lodging inside them,” said Armellino. “We've booked a lot of our own tours. Now, we have a manager that takes on a lot of duties – because the goal is to get to the position where we are just responsible to play our instruments, and write our songs.”
The band will spend January and February on a major tour behind its latest album, Dead Years, and has already stockpiled about a dozen musical ideas for its next effort.“They (eOne) don't want anything changed – they put the CD out, and it sold better than any of our other CDs,” said Armellino. “We've continued touring, like we normally do, and there's really not a big change. You sell to your fans, and that's all you've got to worry about. If a CD didn't sell, there weren't fans to sell it to.”
Recording Dead Years proved memorable for reasons beyond the usual technical issues,. “We got rid of two drummers in the process of writing this record,” said Armellino. “We were dealing with a lot of pressure, because we were switching labels.”
As recording continued, the engineer got served with divorce papers, and the band also had to redo its drum tracks – but the response to Dead Years made those struggles worthwhile, Armellino believes.
“That's what great about this genre – it's made to be unpalatable to a lot of taste, and that's why the genre exists. That's why we do it – otherwise, it wouldn't be metal, it would be popular music. You're not going to be treated like pop artists,” he said.
Having experienced the recording process's ups and downs confirms one other piece of wisdom that Armellino gives to bands that he produces.
“A lot of artists release material they don't even like,” said Armellino. “It just happens to be what they wrote: 'We gotta get our name out there!' No, you don't. You don't take an unfinished product, and show it to people.”
Featured Quote: “We've continued touring, like we normally do, and there's really not a big change. You sell to your fans, and that's all you've got to worry about. If a CD didn't sell, there weren't fans to sell it to.”
Live: Saturday, Jan. 12,
Centerstage Bar & Grill,
1833 S. Plate St., Kokomo, IN.
Tickets: $12, available through www.showclix.com.
Presented by Ardent Entertainment
More Information: https://www.facebook.com/thisortheapocalypse/