Interviewed by: Chris Martin
Photograph Source: Final Sign Facebook Page
Final Sign hails from North Carolina and they have just released their debut album: “Hold High The Flame.” The band have culminated from other NC based veteran metal bands, to create their own vision of what metal should be, taking a sound rooted in the classics of heavy metal and making them current. The band’s vocal lead, Shawn Pelata, takes some time out to speak with us.
Final Sign is a culmination of a couple other bands. What bands and how did it all come together?
Shawn: Brian and I were in a band called K-Octave back in the very early 2000s, releasing an album called ‘Outer Limits’. I also spent a very brief period fronting October 31 with Brian. Kevin and I were in a band called Trampled Underfoot together. Kevin and Brian were in a band called Obey Bizar together before that. We’ve all known each other for upwards of 20 years, so it felt very natural to come together again. Brian called me up in 2013 and said he had an album recorded, he only needed a singer. I jumped at the chance to work with him again because I feel like we have great chemistry together. He brings out the best in me, in my opinion. His riffs really inspire me to do my best. When he sent me the music and I began writing for it, I could feel it was something special. I love how it turned out.
What’s the origin behind the band name?
Shawn: I’m a big Dio fan, and Dio-era Sabbath fan, so choosing ‘Final Sign’ as the name (taken, of course, from the lyrics to “Children Of The Sea”), just seemed to fit really well. Everyone in the band loves Black Sabbath, Dio and Sabbath did so much for heavy metal music, and I just wanted to honor Dio’s memory in a tangible way. His voice and his spirit permeate the history of heavy metal and left a deep, lasting impression on singers, like me, in terms of passion and artistry. It’s also just a really cool, metal-sounding name, don’t you think? Ha!
The debut Hold High the Flame is a fantastic album. It’s deeply rooted in an old school sound yet fits seamlessly into the modern world of metal. What was the writing process like? Was it a group effort?
Shawn: Thank you so much! For this album, Brian put together the music over the course of a year or so, then got it recorded before calling me. He had a couple guys cycle in and out of the band before settling on Kevin and Howard. When he called me, all I had to do was write lyrics, write the vocal structures, and track my vocals. It took me a few weeks to get everything together, then I went in to record. Like I said, Brian and I have what I feel to be very good chemistry and all it takes is a few Hellstorm riffs to get my blood pumping! We already have new ideas for what we hope will be the next album, the catalyst of which remains Brian’s riffs, but we’re doing those more as a group.
Where was it recorded and who produced it? How did the recording process go?
Shawn: It was recorded and mixed at M3 Studios by Canaan Longworth. Brian and I produced it overall, with some very helpful input from Canaan. Jamie King at The Basement Studios mastered it for Divebomb Records before release. My vocal tracking went very smoothly and quickly. Working with Canaan was very comfortable and he was very intuitive when it came to where I was wanting to go with the vocals. He understood what I was after right away and it was a great experience. I was not present for the tracking of the rest of the album, but I know it took us a while to get it mixed. From what I have been told, Brian had a fairly painless time working with Canaan as well. He really is an easy guy to work with and, as I said, is pretty intuitive about what the band wants.
How has the reception been for Hold High the Flame?
Shawn: The reception has been flat out amazing! The positive feedback we have received has been off the charts. We could not be happier with how the fans and the press have latched on to our music. It seems like each week we get a new review, a new interview request, people asking when we’re playing, etc. It’s very exciting for us. We have all been doing this a very long time, and we are all very proud of this album really love it. So, it’s simply amazing to see so many people latching on to it outside of our inner circle of friends. Metal fans and media from all over the world have come to us telling us how much they enjoy the album, so we could not be happier.
Pick three songs from the album and explain to our readers why you think those songs standout to you.
Shawn: Wow. I had to think about this one. Haha! The first one that really jumps out to me is “Burn The Temple Down”. When I first heard the music to that, I was blown away. It sounds so angry and sinister. The riff just gets into your bones and makes you bang your head and throw your fists. The lyrics put forth an idea of overthrowing the established, oppressive order. I think the lyrics and music fit together perfectly. “Possessor” is another one that I was very excited to get from Brian. I love thrash and love that we can incorporate that into our music. It’s so fast and wicked sounding. Those lyrics speak of possession from the demon’s or possessor’s point of view. I love how they came out and I love that vocal. I suppose the title track, “Hold High The Flame”, would be my third choice. It fits somewhere between the previous two. It has a very anthem-like vibe about it…solid, driving tempo, lots of energy. Lyrically, it’s about holding your ground in the face of overwhelming adversity. “Enemies all rise, surrounded on all sides, but I hold high the flame!”
I learned about Final Sign via social media. In this day and age, social media is crucially important to tap into. How does your band approach it? Why do you think that some bands and labels are still resistant toward using the Internet, despite so many finally making it work for them?
Shawn: We don’t approach social media, we attack it! Haha! We try to be very active on social media because we have seen first-hand just how many metal fans interact this way. I personally interact with metal fans and media outlets almost daily with regard to Final Sign. I think it lends itself to maintaining a personal connection with the fans. Metal is a global culture, with its own language and characteristics and social media really aids in bringing that culture together. A metal fan in Russia, for instance, can interact with another fan in Canada instantly and talk about their love for the music. That’s an amazing thing. It’s really helped get Final Sign’s music and persona out there for people to become familiar with. It’s been an invaluable tool in our marketing, that’s for sure. We have tried to be as savvy as we can be in terms of raising our profile and establishing ourselves on social media. I think it’s worked for us, so far. As to why some bands are resistant to it, I don’t know if I can really answer that. Each band is different. I see some like us who are very active, and others who are not. I don’t know why bands would not wholeheartedly embrace social media to promote their music. It can be a powerful tool.
The business as a whole is much tougher these days to break into. Many bands have even been forced to call it quits due to the financial reward not justifying the cost. What is the best approach for a new band to take when getting started? What is your prime motivation to make music?
Shawn: The only advice I can offer, and this is advice I take myself every day, is to love what you’re doing first. You have to make music, especially heavy metal music, because you love it. If you’re choosing to make music as a career path, the way someone chooses to become an accountant or a lawyer, then that changes the entire outlook in terms of what expectations are being put upon the music you’ll make. First off, heavy metal is not a career path. Making money is nice, everyone needs money. But, the romantic notion of offering your art to the world in exchange for a successful monetary living is an idea relegated to fewer people now than ever before. Unless you were part of a well-established act before the internet took hold, your chances of carving out a career playing heavy metal are devastatingly slim. I know that some will take that as a challenge and go for it anyway, and they should. But, getting back to my original point, it’s about the love of the music, as corny as that sounds. If you’re playing metal, especially now, it has to come from a place of love first. Because, first off, that will translate to the fans and, secondly, it will make the struggle of whatever path you choose more bearable.
You have a fantastic voice; any formal training? Who are your influences, both vocally and musically?
Shawn: Wow! Thank you so much for the kind words. No, I have no formal training whatsoever. In hindsight, I probably should have sought some out. But, everything I do I learned from trial and error. Lots and lots of practice, a little reading into how to maintain my voice physically, what’s good for it and not good for it, etc. Just singing along with the bands and albums that I loved until I got to a place I was happy with. I could list favorite singers for days. All the usual suspects one would expect have had an influence on me; Dio, Halford, Dickinson, Tate. When I was growing up, they were THE benchmark in terms of heavy metal singers. I’m also a huge fan of Steve Perry (Journey), Steve Walsh (Kansas) and Daryl Hall. My favorite band of all time is The Beatles.
If someone asked you to compare Final Sign to some other bands, how would you approach that? It’s tough for a band doing something unique and yet still getting pigeon-holed. How does a new band handle that?
Shawn: I have no problem being “pigeon-holed”. As I said before, heavy metal is a global culture. It stretches across oceans and continents and is much bigger than anyone outside of it knows. Everyone who is a part of that culture knows what heavy metal is and is not. Any form of music that has given birth to a culture of people who love it, follow it as fans, and maintain it as musicians, will adhere to what they feel binds them to that culture. I look at heavy metal in 2016 the way a jazz or bluegrass artist looks at their art. There are traditions and foundational principles to uphold. There will always be bands that push the boundaries of any established genre, but there will also be bands that keep traditions alive long after a style has left the mainstream consciousness. That being said, I see Final Sign as a band upholding and honoring the traditions of our forefathers. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel, or the riff, as it were. We just play heavy metal with as much passion and energy and intensity as we can. So, while we may be a new band, we’re part of the old guard, just in a new configuration. If someone “pigeon-holes” us as “just a heavy metal band”, I am completely fine with that…because we are. Final Sign is a heavy metal band.
What’s the next step for Final Sign?
Shawn: We are going to get on stage. We hope to play as many shows as we can in 2016. The way it looks, we won’t “tour” in the traditional sense. However, we are very excited to play our music for people who want to hear it. We also are working on material for what we hope will be our second album. We have 3 or 4 solid ideas at this point, and more coming all the time.
Any final thoughts?
Shawn: Thank you, thank you, thank you to every single person who has taken the time to listen to Final Sign, buy our CD, share our videos, and read this interview! Words cannot express what you mean to us! We are all greatly appreciative of the enthusiasm and support we have received as Final Sign up to this point, and we hope to continue to make heavy metal for a long time to come! Thank you all so much! Tell a friend and spread the metal!