Interview: Last Chance to Reason

Last Chance to Reason is a metal band originally from Augusta, Maine. They’ll be playing here in Austin on Friday, March 16 at 8 p.m. at Valhalla (710 Red River St.). WRCT DJ Dan Curhan had the chance to talk to AJ Harvey and Michael Lessard of Last Chance to Reason a few weeks ago about recording their newest album Level 2.

Level 2 just came out. It’s sort of tied in with the concept of a video game kind of thing. Where did that whole inspiration come from? Was it just like, “dude, I fucking love video games, let’s write a record about it?”

AJ Harvey: We all like playing those types of games, like, Super Nintendo style.
Michael Lessard: That and the soundtracks for a lot of the games, like super Metroid and stuff like that, all the music is progressive in itself too. We all just kind of felt like video games and metal go hand-in-hand. Two kick-ass things, you know?

Who wrote most of the lyrics?

ML: Actually, Evan did. I joined the band kind of late in the game, and Evan had a notebook full of lyrics, and pretty much went “here you go” and we went through everything, found stuff we thought could work, and revised them all. And eventually we got what we have on the record. The lyrics go through the story of the game, or the concept of the record. If you read them you can sort of see the story of the game.

You had a video game that people were playing at the merch booth. Who wrote that?

ML: Evan designed it, and he did all the concept art and a bit of the artwork that’s in the first level, actually. He worked with a programmer and pixel artist on it. Pretty much they worked back and forth over the course of two years to put it all together while we were working on the album and dealing with record labels and management, and things of that nature.

How long did the whole level 2 process take?

ML: It’s still kind of going on, so a long time. Three and a half, four years… so it’s been a while for sure.
AJ: Lvl. 1 came out in August 2007, and Level 2 came out in 2011.
ML: Yeah, there was a big gap between albums, and even the second level of the game is in production right now. And there’s still stuff on the album still being worked on, so…

Is it going to carry through? Are there going to be levels 3, 4, and 5?

ML: It hasn’t really been decided on. I feel like the story line will continue, but I’m not sure about everything else. Possibly? Probably? Maybe? I don’t know. Anybody else can chime in if they like, but as far as I know, nothing’s been decided on.
AJ: I like the idea of doing a level 3, but we haven’t really all talked it over yet.

Do you guys know what your next plans are?

ML: Hopefully we’ll do a tour in the spring or the summer — just one — and we’ve been writing for the next album, so hopefully we’ll have it recorded by the fall. It’ll be time. I mean, by the time it comes out, it’ll have been a year and a half since the last album. It seems like it’s really soon, but it won’t be released for a while. It’s a work in progress right now.

On a lot of the online blogs and stuff on the internet, everyone’s putting Level 2 in their top albums of the year lists and stuff, as far as progressive metal goes. How do you guys feel about that?

ML: Flattered
AJ: It’s kind of crazy, and all the lists we do end up on, all the other bands are bands we listen to and look up to.
ML: And actually a lot of them are bands we’ve toured with too, so it’s just… flattering. It’s cool. I mean, we just wrote an album that we enjoyed and that challenged us, and people thinking highly of it is just an added bonus, I guess. A really awesome added bonus.

How was working with Jamie King?

ML: Awesome. Jamie’s hands-down the man.

How’d you guys hook up with him?

ML: Actually, Lvl. 1 was recorded with Jamie King, so we kind of had a history with him, and went back to him. We recorded the guitars, bass, and keyboards ourselves and went down there and re-amped them and did drums and vocals with Jamie.

What did you use to record the guitars?

ML: We recorded direct into ProTools. It was a dry signal, a direct-in track, and then we ran it through a guitar amp and cab with Jamie, and mic’d that.
AJ: It was good, because you got the distortion post-recording. If you don’t like the sound, you can run it back through, re-record it, and get a different sound.

What are your biggest musical influences that people wouldn’t necessarily guess?

ML: Personally, I listen to a lot of real mellow, singer-songwriter type stuff, real laid-back jams, a lot of R&B, a lot of Michael Jackson — I’m a big Michael Jackson fan. Everybody in the band kind of has their own personal taste. There’s a handful of bands that everyone agrees on, but most everybody has their own thing going on, music-wise.

That’s what makes it interesting, right?

ML: Yeah, exactly. Trying to write a piece of music that five people who think totally differently about music have to agree upon is… challenging.

Those high pitched screams of yours are kind of a talent.

ML: Thanks, they’re… a doozie. It’s a lot of push. It’s a pterodactyl scream.

Interview by Dan Curhan