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Mike Keller of Letters from the Fire talks new CD: “Worth the Pain” Interview

InterviewRobert Cavuoto

Letters from the Fire will release album “Worth the Pain” on September 9th.

Thirteen songs that offer a beguiling mix of melody and heaviness and a CD that offers twists and turns: The slow piano build of “At War” gives way to the harsher realm of “Control,” while the heavy groove of “Last December” co-exists near the perfect mix of pop and aggression in “Mother Misery.” The band is reinvigorated with Alexa Kabazie on vocal, Mike Keller & Cameron Stucky on guitars, Clayton Wages on bass and Brian Sumwalt on drums. An extensive tour supporting Art of Dying and Children 18:3 will start on August 31st and run through October 22nd.

I caught up with guitarist and founding member Mike Keller to talk about the band and their newest release.

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Robert Cavuoto: Tell me a little about the bands origins?

Mike Keller: The band started back in 2009 in the SF Bay Area of California. We were just a group of kids messing around and trying to make some noise.  Originally we were called Park Lane; we did some extensive touring around California and Texas.  By 2014 we had gone through several line-up changes including 3 singers, 2 drummers, and 2 bass players.  As of 2016, we have the most solid line up we have ever had.  We are so excited for the addition of Alexa Kabazie [vocals] and Brian Sumwalt [Drums].  We cannot wait to hit the road this fall with Art of Dying and Children 18:3.

Robert: Your songs merge many different styles of music, how do you define your music and how do you want it to be classified?

Mike Keller: We consider ourselves to be a modern hard rock band.  We mesh our hard rock influences with our metal ones.  You can hear weird time signatures and djenty riffs here and there.  But at the end of the day, our focus is to write the best hard rock song we can.  It’s difficult to be a new classification of music in a world full of noise, but we hope that with time people will say that we sound like Letters From The Fire.

Robert: Where do you get your inspiration from when writing songs?

Mike Keller: I tend to stop listening to music when I write.  I feel like I end up writing what I hear which is never good.  I would say much of my inspiration comes from my life and whatever it is I am going through at that particular moment in time.  My goal is to be able to write my emotions musically.  Alexa is very much inspired by Pop and you can definitely hear a Pop influence in her melodies.  But I know that lyrically she takes from her own experiences and expresses her own stories.

Robert: Tell us about the songwriting process for the band? Does each member contribute to the writing?

Mike Keller: A majority of the music is written by me and Cameron.  We have our own studio at home and just write when inspiration hits.  Generally, one of us will have a skeleton of a song and then we will help each other put the rest down.  Lyrically, Alexa does the lions share.  We did have some awesome writers when we were in the studio who did contribute as well, including Kile Odell [Failure Anthem], Johnny Andrews, Josh Landry, Donny Thomas, and Drew Fulk.  As far as individual instruments, Clayton [bass] will put his spin on the bass part and same goes for Brian [drums].

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Robert: What do you want fans to take away from your music?

Mike Keller: I would say that we want our fans to take a sense of release when they listen to our music.  We hope that they can relate to our stories and understand that they are not alone in the way they feel.  I always feel like rock music has been instrumental in being real and really helping many get through their day.  If we can inspire our fans as much as they inspire us, then we are doing our jobs.

Robert: Who do you hope this CD speaks to and what do you want them to take away from it?

Mike Keller: I believe this CD will speak to anyone who is going through the same things we are going through.  The human experience is universal and can be expressed in so many ways.  Heartbreak, betrayal, love, confusion, and triumph, are all things that we go through every day.  But if anything, we want people to know that they are not alone.

Robert: My favorite song on the CD was “Give in to Me,” what can you tell me about it?

Mike Keller:  It was a very interesting song in how it came about.  We actually wrote it with Johnny Andrews [Producer/Writer: Halestorm, Three Days Grace, etc].  We had that intro riff and just started building up on it.  We ended up using inspiration from a Demi Lovato song for the chorus progression and just kept building.  Lyrically the song is about Alexa and her struggle with Adderall.  The song is basically the point of view of the drug and it speaks to its affect on Alexa.  The lyric “I can lift you, turn you inside out, I can fix you, while I break you down,” speaks to how it helps her but also has serious side effects.  I think the great thing about the song though, is that anyone can take their own interpretation of the song and make it their own.

Robert: How did you come up with your name?

Mike Keller: Letters From The Fire was actually the name of a song when we were called Park Lane.  When it came to our attention that we were going to have to change our name, we started doing the whole process of writing lists and lists of names that we could use.  We realized that LFTF was who we were.  We are the Letters From The Fire.  We are our stories and the music is our message from our own trials and tribulations that we have gone through.

Robert: What does success look like to you?

Mike Keller: You know that is a tough one.  As you go through your career in music and if you are fortunate to continue to grow, your mindset on what it is to be successful continuously changes.  At this point in our career, success would be the opportunity to continue to play music and support ourselves as well as to reach as many ears/eyes as possible and to have a positive impact on the lives of our fans.

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