Of Mice & Men: "This album is the opposite of Cold World"
Just over a year ago, Of Mice & Men faced an uncertain future after the departure of frontman Austin Carlile. Now, they’re ready to start their next chapter
Aaron Pauley is in a good mood today, but we can’t help detect a wariness in his voice. It’s been just over a year since former lead singer Austin Carlile left the band due to complications with the genetic disorder Marfan Syndrome, which dealt one hell of a blow to the Orange County outfit and something that they’ve been working to overcome.
With Austin gone, it was up to Aaron to fill that void as frontman and take on the overwhelming pressures that the role had waiting for him. In April 2017, just four months later, OM&M dropped their banner-waving single, Unbreakable. It hit social media like a sledgehammer to your mum’s favourite porcelain cat. Undeniably one of their most well-received singles for a while, the heaviness they unleashed took a lot of people by surprise. The band were going big and going fast right out the gate. Was it a statement that they were still a force to be reckoned with?
“For us, as much as that song was to show the world that we’re still here, a lot of it was about showing ourselves that we’re still here,” Aaron explains down a phoneline from their dressing room in Berlin’s Velodrom arena. “Change is not easy and change can be frightening. I would be lying if there wasn’t any apprehension, [it wasn’t] like, ‘Yeah, we’re just going to go out and crush this,’ because we didn’t know what the future held.”
The track would become the first release from their new record, Defy, its title another strong declaration of intent. Whereas Defy is full of massive hooks and bold beatdowns, it’s a stark contrast to 2016’s dark and serious Cold World, an album made while Austin was suffering from medication withdrawal and recovering from surgery. Aaron started writing for it just a couple of weeks after Austin left, and they went into the studio with producer Howard Benson (Motörhead, Papa Roach) in March, picking up again at the end of July.
“This was the antithesis of making Cold World. That was a very sad and dark time for us, but this album was the opposite,” he says. “I made sure that I was telling our story, because it’s never been my story, it’s always been Of Mice & Men, not Of Mice & Man.”