All photos by Julius Aguilar
For as long as he’s been in music, no one has been able to pin Tyler Carter down. First singing for the beloved, game-changing outfit Woe, Is Me, Carter helped birth a new era of synth-lead metalcore/post-hardcore music.
Then switching gears to form the genre-bending act Issues, Carter and company were able to help transform their music scene yet again with the trendsetting release of their self-titled debut LP as well as the fan-favorite album Headspace.
Continuing to not be outdone by his previous material and push the envelope creatively, the hard-working vocalist went ahead and dropped a new R&B-influenced solo album earlier this year titled Moonshine.
And now with a brand new Issues album on the horizon, the band’s first in over three years, we sat down with Carter to talk all about his creative endeavors including Issues’ direction moving forward following the departure of longtime co-vocalist Michael Bohn.
To hear Carter discuss Issues’ new hard-hitting single “Tapping Out” plus what the future holds for the band with their new long-awaited album – as well as what the heck is going on with all the recent Woe, Is Me social posts and his time working with Post Malone – be sure to read our in-depth interview below. Afterward, make sure to grab tickets to see Issues out on tour with I Prevail and Justin Stone here.
You guys are playing your first club shows in a couple years. How does it feel to be back in the club circuit again?
It’s good. I mean, we love festivals and we love doing festivals. That kind of energy is something that we prefer over club tours. But it’s kind of cool being able to do a light show and do a cool serious club thing. It’s different. Like, the sets we build for clubs, they kind of fluctuate with intimate songs and ballads and stuff like that. When we play festivals, it’s banger after banger. It’s high energy, high tempo. We don’t do ballads. Just like, you’re outside and you want to rage. So it’s cool to be back in a club circuit and actually focus on the presentation.
Was there a little rust starting this tour with I Prevail getting back into the club shows again?
Oh, definitely a little rust. But I mean, we’re pretty conditioned as a four-piece now because we got to do Warped Tour all summer [last year]. And we’ve just recently come off of an arena tour with Don Broco in the UK. So we feel like we’ve shaken the rust off a little bit. This is a heavier tour, so we [also] got to dust off some of our older heavier songs. And, that’s cool. Like when we play tours with different kinds of bands, we don’t typically morph to the vibe of the tour, we still like to be the black sheep of every tour that we do. But it is cool to like, be able to just play a lot more heavy shit because this is a heavy tour.
And you guys are gonna be playing a new song on this tour. How excited are you to get to play that in front of everybody?
Pretty stoked. We’re so fucking bored [laughs] of like – I hate saying that because I know there’s a lot of fans that haven’t even got to see us before and have been a fan since, you know, the self-titled album or whatever. But we’re definitely bored of playing everything. Because I mean, Headspace came out like three years ago. So yeah, we’re definitely ready to play new stuff. And it was obviously great getting to write a new album and create something new again because it had been so long. But yeah, 100% we’re ready to play “Tapping Out.”
Can you talk about “Tapping Out” and what it means to you as well as how it was written?
Yeah, “Tapping Out” is out. And, it was funny because AJ had written the instrumental to that song separately. And I had written the top line to that song with Eric Ron and it was a hip-hop song. It was originally kind of something I was working on for my solo album. And so I put it in the pot, you know, because every time we write an album, everybody kind of – Sky writes songs, AJ writes songs, we all kind of put our songs in the pot. And it’s never like a competition. It’s just like, “What are the best songs?” Whether it starts with an instrumental or starts with the top line, whatever. So I put that song in the pot and everybody liked it. But we really didn’t know what to do with it because we didn’t want it to be too generic. And we didn’t want it to be like trap metal or trap emo or whatever. Like, we didn’t want it to fall into that category. But then at the last minute, AJ turned in an instrumental that worked perfectly, almost down to a tee. Like the pre-chorus, the chorus, the bridge, like everything fit the song completely perfect. So it just fell into place. And lyrically, the song is just about kind of tapping out of a relationship. You just feel like you’re in a relationship, which constantly feels like knockout after knockout – just to shed light on the metaphor.
And you want to keep going, you want to make it one last round, but at some point, you got to do what’s best for you and you gotta tap out and you gotta – I mean, I know some people are gonna be like, “That’s what you do when you can’t take it, you tap out. You’re a pussy” or whatever. But lyrically, I just think a lot of people will connect with it relationship-wise. But also, we kind of realized recently – were about to shoot a music video for the song – after talking with the director, we interpreted it in the music video more about tapping out on yourself wanting to give up or wanting to end it all, or whatever. And just feeling like you gotta like try to make it one last round in life. But yeah, I guess most people will obviously see that it relates to being in a relationship but I think it also kind of makes sense to be more like a relationship with yourself, you know?
So as you mentioned, you threw the song in the pot of potential songs after thinking it was going to be for your solo project. So not only was it one of 50 you guys wrote for the album, but it ends up being the lead single. Were you surprised that it ended up being the first song you guys released or do you feel like it’s the strongest track on the album?
I don’t know if I would say it’s the strongest track on the record. But something that we’ve never had before is the time and resources to make so many songs. So I mean, imagine you write 50 songs and you pick the best 13. Actually, we narrowed it down to like 20 and then we picked the best 13 out of that. So I mean, in our opinion, we picked the best of the best. And every song on the record, to me, is a total banger.
And [all the songs] are great and they’re all at that caliber. And I think [“Tapping Out”] is very strong. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite song on the record. But I do think it’s really cool. And I think it makes sense for the first single. You never really know, though. When it comes to dropping singles, or especially when a band hasn’t put out music in a long time, we don’t really know if it’s going to be the best choice for the first song. But we just have to kind of follow through with it, you know. Like we believed in it, our first instinct told us this should be the first song that comes out. It has a breakdown and has screaming and we think that it’ll be a decent transition for some fans. Because obviously, we really respect the way people feel about Michael’s departure. So we think that this song will help the transition a little bit. And you know, a lot of people also think that we’re just a pop band now, which is funny. So we think that [“Tapping Out”] represents some of the hip-hop and r&b elements and it’s also is really heavy, it’s actually one of the heaviest tuned songs on the record. It’s in double drop d which is obviously an octave below normal drop D. But I think there’s another song that’s like a double drop C sharp. So I don’t know, we just felt like it was a good representation of what to expect. But then again, with Issues, expect the unexpected I guess because we never really follow a criteria.
With every album Issues puts out, it seems like you guys are always ahead of the curve. So when it comes to writing a record, one that took two years to write, was it challenging to stay ahead of the trends?
I think our plan was mapped well because we did spend a lot of time writing – and things, you know, trends come and go. Trends, like music, style, and things that are popular, things that people want to hear, change. Even since we started writing the record to when we recorded it. But you know, we recorded it at the tail end of it all. So I think that the timing was good, but also, we don’t typically try to follow any trends or get on the bandwagon when it comes to writing. That’s something that we are pretty passionate about. We don’t think when we’re writing, like, “Oh, this song could be the one that goes to radio” or “Oh, the song could be really marketable or whatever.” We try to keep that out of the conversation, at least while we’re creating. And then after, we just like whatever great songs we feel like we wrote, then we can have that conversation.
Is it pretty frustrating that as a band, you guys might have certain thoughts of whether your fans might want you to be heavy or people behind the scenes, like a label, might want you to do something different? Is it frustrating as an artist to sometimes have people knowingly or unknowingly pushing those kinds of restrictions?
I don’t know that we let it get to us like that. The label is pretty like trusting. They give us a lot of freedom, especially when it comes to writing. I think we made a really great decision by going with Howard Benson because he’s incredible, he’s a good A&R. He’s got an A&R mind, he knows when he hears a song if it’s a great song or not. And we’re just like, “Here’s all of our songs. You tell us what songs are great songs.” And so we specifically focused on just creating. But yeah, I don’t think we really took it into consideration of like, “Oh, fans want us to be heavy” because fans want a lot of things. But you know, we’re human. And we create at our own pace, and the things we create that we’re proud of, that can’t be dictated by anybody. And we want to give fans what they want because obviously, we need our fans. But I think most of our fans are pretty open-minded and they trust Issues. You know, we kind of bend genres and we break boundaries and I think that they like that from us. We obviously don’t let people dictate what we do. But I also think fans like that we take this is that we…
Yeah, we take risks and we have that freedom. They expect that from us, they expect us to do exactly what we want to do especially when it comes to what the music sounds like. That’s the funny part about people calling us “bubblegum pop” and haven’t even heard anything [new] yet. Because if we were “selling out” – people say we’re selling out – if we were selling out, we would just continue to make the fucking music that everybody wants us to make. We would just continue making the same heavy album or making whatever we know is going to work and we know is going to sell because our fans like that. And we’d be doing exactly what they want just so we can stay afloat and make money. We risk everything by taking a new direction because we don’t know if it’ll work. We don’t know if people will like it. We don’t know if it’ll sell. We believe in it. We’re confident in it. We think it’s our best material ever. But to me selling out would be playing it safe.
How helpful was it for you creatively to have your solo record come out and help you express more of your R&B side, especially if some of those songs didn’t make it on the new Issues record?
Actually, a lot of the songs that we write or that we flip came from that and not necessarily my solo album or whatever, but I’m a songwriter and I have a career in songwriting. So it goes beyond my solo artist performance project or my band performance project, but also, I’m a studio writer so I’m always writing whether it’s country songs or just acoustic folky songs or rap, R&B, pop, you know, whatever. So I mean, I just keep a stockpile [of songs]. I mean, it’s like Prince. You know, Prince had hundreds of songs or Bruno Mars. Bruno Mars writes songs for all kinds of people then he also has the Bruno Mars performance, like his project. So I just keep a stockpile of songs at all times. And anytime I write a song, it goes in there. And I give the band access to that folder when we start writing because it’s like, “Hey, if you hear a new song in here that could be cool or that speaks to you, let’s turn it into an Issues song if it hasn’t already been used or something.” And that’s how a lot of our songs take on different shapes and different styles because if they hear a song that I wrote, and it’s an R&B song, and then we make it a heavy song with breakdowns or something, that’s where that style came from. Or if they hear a song that’s like super upbeat and poppy, then we obviously put kind of a pop-punk twist on it – that’s how songs like “Mad At Myself,” and “Never Lose Your Flames” happened.
With you writing so many different genres and musical styles, what inspires you to write something heavy? Is there heavy music that you’re currently listening to?
I think my heavy is more like punk rock. And just like angsty upbeat emo music and stuff.
What’s your go-to?
I’m a huge Distillers fan. So that was my angsty music that I listened to. I’m not super into metalcore [and] I’m not like hella into screamo. But I like some hardcore stuff if it’s a little more on the, like, punk side. And I like angry pop-punk songs.
Did you get to see The Distillers on their recent comeback tour?
No I didn’t, I was so bummed. But we’re playing a festival together at the end of this tour so I get to see them then. I actually became friends with [Distillers vocalist/guitarist] Brody Dale a couple years ago and I text her, like, I keep up with her every once in a while. She’s a mom and she’s busy with her music career again – thank god. I’m stoked for them to be touring and making music and stuff. But, yeah, so it’s always brief [when we talk]. But I like to say, “Hey, what’s up? Hope the kids are good” and stuff like that. I still haven’t gotten to meet her in person yet but I’m looking forward to like finally meeting at that festival.
Okay, so last question. You mentioned metalcore and screamo music earlier – now feel free to answer this however you’d like – there’s been activity on the Woe, Is Me account recently. Is that something you can comment on?
Yeah, I feel like [Woe, Is Me] had a pretty nice legacy going on with Number(S) and I felt like there was really no place on the internet or like a social media account to reminisce that era. And after just meeting a lot of people in music and meeting fans on my solo tour, people really had a lot to say about Woe, Is Me and a lot of producers I’ve worked with and writers – you know, I did some work with Post Malone a couple years ago and he was a big Woe, Is Me fan. And I was like, “Dude, it’s crazy how many people used to really get down to Woe, Is Me.” So I just felt like there wasn’t a place to really go back and reflect on the legacy that we created with that album. So that’s kind of why I wanted to make Number(S) pages again. You know, not saying anything bad about Hance [Alligood, ex-Woe, Is Me vocalist] or any of the later members or where it ended. But I just felt like, at its peak with Number(S), I felt like that should have a place on the internet. And also, I mean, if we were to do a 10-year anniversary of Number(S), it would have to be next fall. And there’s really no other chance we would get if we were going to do it. Obviously, Michael [Bohn, ex-Issues, ex-Woe, Is Me vocalist] has obviously shut down rumors of that on the internet but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t see something happening next year.
But yeah, I feel like you can’t do [an anniversary] 10 years after that because by then people will have moved on. I don’t think people will remember. And like, the next generation isn’t going to be bred on Woe, Is Me. So next year is really the only chance that you would ever be able to do it. And if we were going to, I would want the social media [accounts] to start growing now. So that we would have a platform to promote it and stuff. So you know, a lot of people are like, “Why would you do that? You’re just trying to get money and blah, blah, blah.” It’s like, “Dude, you think I’m not going to make money between now and next fall? You’re fucking crazy.” This has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with there was a legacy that people really still cling to, to this day. And I feel like we should honor that.
Looking back on that time in Woe, Is Me, how do you feel about it now?
I had a good time. I mean, I think I was young. I was naive. I signed a record deal with no knowledge. I mean, as soon as I graduated high school, I went to the studio. And then right after the studio, we went on tour. So it happened really fast. And I wasn’t educated enough. And I think leaving the band and learning how to be a songwriter, learning more about the music industry, learning about contracts, and educating myself, that was a really, really vital year for me. That was in 2012. That was a really vital year for me. And I think that I wouldn’t have a career in music today if I hadn’t made that decision because I probably would have gotten just swindled or like, I don’t know. I just probably would have made some really poor decisions. So yeah, I mean, I owe my whole career to that reflecting period. And you know, I mean, Woe, Is Me really gave us a platform, it was different. I mean, you listen to it now and you’re like, “God, the quality back then was so bad.” But at the time, that was a staple for a lot of people.
And it kind of set the trend for a lot of other bands.
Exactly. And you know, Fronz [Attila vocalist] hit me up on Twitter publicly and was like, “If Michael [Bohn] doesn’t do [the anniversary], just bring me. I’ll scream.” And I was like, “That would be so bad.” But then fans are like, “That would be fucking badass!” Because fans are like, “Well, if [Michael] doesn’t want to do it, that’s fine. That’s on him.” And a lot of fans are like, “Well, you got to have him. You got to have you and him and the original lineup.” And then other fans are like, “Fuck that! We just want to go to a Woe, Is Me show and reminisce one time. If he doesn’t want to do it, that’s his respectful decision. But like, if Fronz wants to do it, then fucking do it!”