A Few Minutes With Chiodos’ Craig Owens

Pollstar talked with Craig Owens about Chiodos’ latest LP, which marks the first album the frontman recorded with the band since rejoining the group in 2012.

Owens and drummer Derrick Frost both reunited with Chiodos two years ago after splitting with the rest of the guys in 2009. During their absence the post-hardcore act put out 2010’s Illuminaudio.

Now that the original lineup is back together – along with lead guitarist/backing vocalist Thomas Erak, who joined the band in 2012 – the guys released Devil in April.

Owens discussed how the band’s ability to work as a team has gotten stronger since his first stint with Chiodos.

He also chatted about being inspired by Mitch Albom and having a full-circle moment with the writer.

Chidos recently launched the “Crowd Surf America” co-bill tour with Blessthefall that runs through late August. After that the band has an excursion with A Day to Remember, as well as a few gigs with Bring Me The Horizon.

Photo: Graham Fielder
Matt Goddard, Derrick Frost, Pat McManaman, Craig Owens, Bradley Bell, Thomas Erak

Devil marks your first album since you reunited with the band. Did you feel extra pressure with this LP? What was the dynamic like in the studio?  

Not really. I didn’t really feel too much pressure. We had kind of taken some time away from everything to just focus on our relationships and the band dynamic itself. … We’d been touring random weekends, like once every two months or something like that. So we were kind of separated from all that, to be honest. And we just wanted to focus on having fun and making a record we’d want to hear and a record we’d be proud of.

You released a statement describing Devil’s album title as representing the temptations of everyday life and things that became regrets as opposed to the red horned creature otherwise known as Satan. Were there any specific events that inspired the album?

No specific events, no. I think it was just a culmination. Every time I write, I write about experiences that I’ve had. The majority of those are relatively close as far as time period goes, that way they’re fresh. When I sit down I don’t aim to write about anything in particular. I just write and then I look at it a few days later and I’m like, “Oh wow, I didn’t realize how much that applies to my situation.” Because I try not to over-think my writing too much. I try to be as honest as possible and then go back and fine-tune it. But yeah, it wasn’t [based on any specific events.] … It had been a couple years since I put out a record and it was all of my experiences throughout that time.

Photo: Joey Foley / JoeyFoley.com
Vans Warped Tour, Klipsch Music Center, Noblesville, Ind.

You said you don’t like to force your writing so in general is it something where you sit down to write when you’re inspired rather than setting aside a certain amount of time per day?

If I planned out in the morning or something then I won’t do it. Unless it’s a full band and music – I can do music at any time. But lyrically it’s gotta kinda just come. But I do it. I mean, I write every day. There’s always something that hits me and then I write it down or something that I see or something that I experience and then I write it down.

And then it’s a matter of going back and figuring out what pertains to me in that situation. And then seeing if I have any feelings or thoughts on it. Just plot out from rereading that line or that vision I had or that picture that I saw, something that I feel kind of matches the music that I’m writing. And then I just go from there. It’s not like I sit down and write a song in two seconds kind of thing. It’s a continuous process that comes in stages.

Do you usually write the music first or the lyrics first?

It depends. I mean, sometimes I’ll write something and I’ll hear a melody in my head while I’m writing down the words. Sometimes I’ll hear a melody and then words will just kind of come out of that.

I think there’s no right or wrong way for me to write a song. I just write when I can, what I can and make sure that it’s what I want to say and that it’s honest and that it’s not too too much one way or another, not too pretentious, things like that. Just try and just be honest.

Photo: Lisa Johnson

Do you write songs with any of your other bandmates?

Yeah, of course. Everybody puts in a hand, especially on Devil. Everybody added their own little thing to it. Everybody has their own little flavor, but I would say that Brad and I are probably the main songwriters. But that doesn’t mean that other people aren’t included or writing at all. Pat is also right up there with us. But yeah, everybody’s included. We try to include everything but that’s difficult to do sometimes, especially when you have a vision (laughs) and people are steering you away from that vision. You just have to really learn to be open-minded and respectful of every idea that comes across.

That makes sense. Working on music with the whole band you might have to compromise on certain things or …

I won’t really compromise on a vision but I will at least listen with an open mind, which took me a little while to get there.

Do you think that since you reunited with the band that you guys have been able to grow stronger as far as working together?

Yeah, but that applies to everything really. Not just songwriting. I think everybody feels more like a part of a team, which is great for me and for them. Since I came back I think that’s probably our strongest point. … Everybody has their own roles … and that’s a good thing. … I would say that that’s probably our strongest attribute these days.

Photo: Justin Borucki

One inspiration for the album was Mitch Albom’s novel “Phone Calls From Heaven.” Are you a big fan of Mitch Albom’s writing?

Yeah, yeah, of course. I mean obviously I was a big “Tuesdays with Morrie” fan and I’m from Michigan so I grew up with Mitch Album, reading “Fab Five” … his weekly columns, things like that. So I was really stoked when Mitch gave us a shout out, told everybody to check out [Devil track “Under Your Halo”]. I was really excited because in the beginning of all this, I fancied myself a writer (laughs), you know, because I wanted to be so badly, all my idols were [writers], people I looked up to, there’s so much weight in words. And Mitch was one of those people. So seeing him telling people to check out [the song] and thanking us for telling people about the book was really cool. It was kind of a full circle kind of feeling. And it happens often in the entertainment industry. It’s pretty cool.

What are a few of your favorite tracks from the album?

I really love “3 a.m.” I think it’s a little outside of our box and I think that was really necessarily for the evolution of our songwriting … the chords and the style and structure. I think anyone can write a really complicated, crazy record but it’s difficult to pull off simple, yet tasteful at the same time and still kind of elegant and dynamic. And I think we did that. So I really love that track. I really love “Duct Tape,” I really love “Looking For A Tornado.” Those are the tracks I’ve been rocking lately.

Chiodos is touring this summer with Blessthefall. What can fans expect from the excursion?

I think it’s going to be pretty high energy. Expect them to sweat. Your hair is going to look awful; if you wear makeup it will probably all run. It’s going to be a pretty gnarly tour. All the bands are really high energy and I think that the crowd will in turn be just as high energy. Beau [Bokan] from Blessthefall and I are both really high active frontmen. We like to get in the crowd’s face (laughs) so it’s going to be a quite an intense experience. I think it’s going to have kind of a cool punk rock DIY vibe to it but with the evolution of that genre musically.

It’s a pretty heavy tour. We haven’t done a tour in a long time where we’re kind of the softest band on it. We aren’t the heaviest band on this one at all. … I think it’s going to be dynamic and a lot of energy. I’m just really looking forward to playing.

As far as being a really active frontman, do you have to prepare for the tour by working out and staying fit so you can deliver that energy?

You know, I always stay conscious of that [for the live show] but I stay conscious of that [in general]. For my mental health I need to work out because it makes me happy, puts me in a good mood, relieves stress, gets rid of anxiety, all those things, builds confidence. So I typically work out anyways, even if I wasn’t on tour. It’s actually harder to work out on tour. But leading up to tour I always try to get in the best shape that I can, right before. It’s not so much in preparation of the shows themselves but more so the workload that I’m handling right before tour, combined with the fact that I know that I won’t be able to be as active as I’d like to be while on the road. The best way you can really prepare to play live is jump rope… and you have to sing while you’re jump roping. I know Beyoncé does that thing where she runs and sings her whole set while she’s on the treadmill. For us, we’re not dancing or anything but we’re really physically active so jump rope and singing would probably be the best way to prepare – and no one wants to do that (laughs).

Yeah, that doesn’t sound easy.

No, I’m just trying to breathe (laughs).

The co-headline tour is called “Crowd Surf America.” When you were a young fan going to shows, were you a crowd surfer?

No way. I was the dude in the back with my arms crossed. I was a shy, scared kid. … If I really loved the band there were a few shows where I’d get up close, when I knew it wouldn’t be aggressive moshing or anything and it would just be kind of a sing-along. I’d get lost in the sea of people singing along. That did happen. But no, I wasn’t a crowd surfing kind of kid. I was a bit more withdrawn.

I’m guessing there will probably be a ton of kids crowd surfing at these shows.

Yeah, that’s what we’re expecting! … I know Blessthefall and Chiodos will challenge fans and push them so I expect the crowd to do quite a bit of work.

Photo: John Davisson
Vans Warped Tour, Central Florida Fairgrounds, Orlando, Fla.

Upcoming dates for Chiodos:

Aug. 1 – Ventura, Calif., Majestic Ventura Theater 
Aug. 2 – Pomona, Calif., The Glass House Concert Hall     
Aug. 3 – Pomona, Calif., The Glass House Concert Hall      
Aug. 4 – Tucson, Ariz., The Rock
Aug. 6 – Tulsa, Okla., Cain’s Ballroom        
Aug. 7 – Odessa, Texas, Club Patron
Aug. 8 – Austin, Texas, Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater
Aug. 9 – Corpus Christi, Texas, The Pavilion @ Concrete Street    
Aug. 11 – Mobile, Ala., Soul Kitchen
Aug. 12 – Birmingham, Ala., Zydeco           
Aug. 13 – Knoxville, Tenn., International     
Aug. 14 – Wilmington, N.C., Ziggy’s By The Sea    
Aug. 15 – Winston-Salem, N.C., Ziggy’s      
Aug. 16 – Silver Spring, Md., The Fillmore Silver Spring    
Aug. 17 – Sayreville, N.J., Starland Ballroom          
Aug. 19 – Poughkeepsie, N.Y., The Chance Theatre
Aug. 20 – South Burlington, Vt., Higher Ground – Ballroom          
Aug. 21 – Hartford, Conn., Webster Theater            
Aug. 22 – Rochester, N.Y., Water Street Music Hall           
Aug. 23 – Stroudsburg, Pa., Sherman Theater
Aug. 26 – Cincinnati, Ohio, Bogart’s            
Aug. 27 – Bloomington, Ill., The Castle Theatre
Aug. 28 – Milwaukee, Wis., The Rave          
Aug. 29 – Joliet, Ill., Mojoes
Aug. 30 – Columbia, Mo., The Blue Note
Sept. 4 – Pittsburgh, Pa., Stage AE   
Sept. 5 – Baldwinsville, N.Y., Budweiser Paper Mill Amphitheatre
Sept. 8 – Albany, N.Y., Washington Avenue Armory         
Sept. 9 – Lowell, Mass., Tsongas Center At UMass Lowell
Sept. 10 – Wallingford, Conn., The Dome at Oakdale Theatre        
Sept. 12 – Royal Oak, Mich., Royal Oak Music Theatre     
Sept. 13 – Janesville, Wis., Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport   
Sept. 15 – Grand Rapids, Mich., DeltaPlex Arena & Conference Center
Sept. 16 – Columbus, Ohio, The LC Pavilion
Sept. 17 – St. Louis, Mo., Chaifetz Arena    
Sept. 18 – Chicago, Ill., UIC Pavilion          
Sept. 19 – Kansas City, Mo., Uptown Theater
Sept. 20 – Kitchener, Ontario, downtown Kitchener (Koi Music Festival)
Sept. 23 – Fresno, Calif., Rotary Amphitheater       
Sept. 24 – Los Angeles, Calif., Shrine Expo Hall     
Sept. 25 – Los Angeles, Calif., Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall     
Sept. 26 – San Jose, Calif., Event Ctr. At San Jose State Univ.       
Sept. 27 – Las Vegas, Nev., House Of Blues
Sept. 28 – Mesa, Ariz., Mesa Amphitheatre 
Sept. 30 – Grand Prairie, Texas, Verizon Theatre At Grand Prairie 
Oct. 5 – Louisville, Ky., Champions Park (Louder Than Life)
Oct. 6 – Nashville, Tenn., Bridgestone Arena
Oct. 7 – Charlotte, N.C., Uptown Amphitheatre At The NC Music Factory          
Oct. 9 – North Charleston, S.C., North Charleston Coliseum
Oct. 10 – Orlando, Fla., Hard Rock Cafe / Hard Rock Live
Oct. 11 – Orlando, Fla., Hard Rock Cafe / Hard Rock Live

Chiodos appears with Blessthefall Aug. 1-30. Catch the band with A Day To Remember Sept. 4, Sept. 8-10, Sept. 13-18, Sept. 23-26, Sept. 28-30 and Oct. 6-11. Chiodos shares the bill with Bring Me The Horizon Sept. 5, 12, 19 and 27.

For more information please visit Chiodos.net.