Recently, I got the chance to chat via email with Stephen Cobucci of the stand-out metalcore act, Wolves at the Gate. We got to talk songwriting, faith, and Thrice – 3 of my favorite topics. Check out the conversation below and don’t forget to pick up WatG’s newest album, “Reprise” wherever digital music is sold.
What’s the typical writing process for Wolves at the Gate? Was it the same for “Reprise” as for a full fledged album?
Stephen Cobucci: Typically our songs begin when I present a song idea to the band and then it goes through a sort of filtration process by each member in their own way. Although this time, we already had the foundation laid seeing as the song was already written. So the process was slightly different although most of these songs started on the acoustic first to work out song structure, chords, and melodies. It was a fun and challenging project.
Does the addition of some more “non-traditional” instruments (shakers, percussion, etc.) on the album lead to the possibility of using some of these on future full lengths?
SC: Possibly, there’s no reason to write off any ideas as long as it contributes to the song as a whole and assists the style and feel of it.
What was the thought process behind choosing which guest vocalists to have on the album?
SC: Well the process was quite simple because we just tried to think of guys we had toured with that we could fit into each one of the songs. We tried to fit each vocalist with the right song for their voice as well.
Do you think that opening the doors to guest vocalists on this EP will increase the chances of having guests appear on the next full length?
SC: We loved having different voices on the songs so we are definitely open to the future possibility of having some more guest vocals on future projects.
How were the songs chosen for “Reprise”?
SC: ‘Dead Man’ was the first song we chose due to the great response we received from our fans from a video that was posted of me playing ‘Dead Man’ in the parking after an interview. To help us out, we set up a fan vote to see what song the fans wanted to hear most redone. They voted for ‘The Father’s Bargain.’ After the fan vote we got together and thought about what songs we could picture translating best acoustic.
I know of several people who are not heavy music fan, who have become followers of you guys because of “Reprise”. Was increasing your audience a conscious decision to serve as a vessel to get the message to a broader audience?
SC: We knew that was a possibility for sure, but it was not our intention for doing the project. We wanted to provide our fans with something that they had been asking for. As often as we could, we would play acoustic versions of our songs. So because of this, our fans wanted official recordings of these songs. And you don’t have to twist our arms to get us in the studio. We love writing and recording music which gives us the opportunity to get more content out to our listeners. In addition to this, stripping away all of aspects of a full band really allows the listener to hear the content and heart of each song in a more pure way. As much as the music has its importance, we also felt that people could also hear more clearly the content of these songs. We hoped that listeners would hear new things in regards to what the songs were about revealing the depths of these beautiful truths about God’s great salvation for sinners.
Several readers on our site have notice Abishai from The Overseer has been playing drums for you guys recently. Is he a new addition to the band, and if so, how did that process come about?
SC: Abishai is officially the drummer for the band. Last summer our former drummer Dylan Baxter was planning to get married and so we knew we would need a drummer to fill in for him during our fall tour with Being As An Ocean and Fit For A King so naturally Abishai was the first person we thought of. We had toured with the Overseer a bunch, got along really well with those guys, and knew that the Overseer was going to be taking a break for a bit. So a couple weeks before the tour, Dylan called me to let me know that he and his wife had decided that it was best for him to step down from the band. So after the tour with BAAO and FFAK we spoke with Abishai and asked if he was interested joining the band full-time and he agreed. It’s been a true pleasure having him in the band, he’s definitely the most talented member of WATG.
What are the chances of Waste appearing on the next full length WATG album?
SC: It’s a 50/50 chance right now. We really like the idea of re-imagining it as a full band rendition, but we have a lot of songs to work through at the moment for an upcoming full length.
Can you talk a little about the recent crowdfunding campaign you guys did to raise money after you were robbed?
SC: Our van got broken into this past spring in San Francisco while on tour with Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and A Skylit Drive and had all of our valuables stolen (laptops, books, etc). We tried to see if our insurance would cover any of the losses and after a long process they explained to us that they would not cover any of our losses. As more and more people began to find out about the break-in, they asked how they could help so we decided to set up the crowd-funding campaign. We were overwhelmed by the support and are in the process of sending our supporters a “thank you” shirt that signifies their support of WATG. Thank you to all who contributed and are reading this!
You guys continually have great, story driven music videos. Is that something you strive to put out, or do you just get the opportunity to work with talented directors?
SC: Both. Many of our songs are story driven. We predominately work with one producer named Nathan Lundquist. He has done all of our narrative videos except ‘Heralds.’ He completely understands the content and context of our music. He has been a complete pleasure and blessing to work with. We look forward to people seeing our upcoming video for ‘The Bird and the Snake’ that we did with Nate.
What albums coming out this year excite you the most?
SC: Tough question. Dustin Kensrue put out a great new record. Some interesting records that are possibly coming out are from Brand New, Coldplay, Explosions in the Sky, Four Year Strong, Norma Jean, Come Wind, Juliana Theory, Deftones to name a few.
What books, shows, movies, or music are currently entertaining you?
SC: In the way of books: C.F.W. Walther’s “Law and Gospel”, “All of Grace” by Charles Spurgeon, “God’s Way of Peace” by Horatius Bonar. My wife and I like watching cooking shows and home remodeling shows because I do home remodeling when off the road. And as for current music I’m enjoying: “Carry the Fire” by Dustin Kensrue, “Come Now Sleep” by As Cities Burn, and “Grow My Roots” by Come Wind.
Do you feel like God has been speaking anything into your life lately?
SC: I can obtain all the knowledge in the world but the greatest knowledge that any man can attain is the depth of understanding how beautiful it is that God forgives sin. You see, m sin is far greater than I realize and His grace is much sweeter than I ever comprehended. It is to grow in understanding what Christ meant when He said, “He who is forgiven much, loves much” (paraphrase of Luke 7:47). It simply means that the more we see how much we have been forgiven through faith in Christ’s work, the more we will be compelled to love the God who saves us from the penalty of our sin.
How do you feel about the future of the music industry with labels like Bad Christian coming up and not only being sustainable, but profitable and continually growing?
SC: We just toured with Emery a month ago and it was great talking with Matt about the growth and success of their label. It’s great to see other methods and approaches work well in the music industry.
Chris S. from our site says, “As a Christian, I’ve been thoroughly blessed and encouraged by you as a band. I was just wondering if you’ve ever had any people talk to you who have pointed to your music as being instrumental in them hearing the gospel for the first time, or maybe even being saved?”
SC: By God’s grace we’ve been blessed to hear of and witness people who tell us that they heard the Gospel and believed for the first time from our music or at a show. Regardless of how people hear the Gospel, it is amazing to see God’s work in giving people faith to believe and rest in Christ’s work for them.
Chris S. was wondering if when in the songwriting process, which comes first – the lyrics or the music?
SC: There is no formula to that for us, it generally is a 50/50 split between the two.
Phil R. wants to know – Thrice or Thursday?
In a similar vein, Thomas M. was wondering what the chances are of getting Dustin Kensrue to do guest vocals on the next album.
SC: Haha, you’d have to ask him. We’d be honored to have him sing on a song of ours.
Ryan M. was wondering how you go about preparing for speaking during a set. Is it something you make a point to do, depends on the how the Spirit is moving in the moment, or if it’s something totally random.
SC: Well, it isn’t random. I spend time each day studying a particular passage that I will use to preach on each night. I spend time studying so that I myself have a good handle on what the Scripture and can hopefully explain to people at our shows the beauty of God’s great grace that He has for sinners like us.
Lastly, what’s in store for the rest of the year for Wolves at the Gate as far as tours, videos, etc.? Several of our readers were curious if you guys would be traveling overseas (The UK and Australia were mentioned).
SC: We have an awesome tour in the fall that we cannot announce and a great festival in the winter that we aren’t announcing yet either. We will be at a number of festivals this summer that are all listed on our facebook page. We will be releasing two music videos in the coming month, so be on the lookout for a video for ‘The Bird and the Snake’ and for ‘Wake Up.’ We don’t have any plans for other travels overseas although we really can’t wait for an opportunity to come play in the UK and Australia.