It’s not the typical name you’d expect a band to have. In fact, it seems quite controversial. Slaves.
The connotations are too negative. The history of the word is too dark. It’s too heavy, especially for a group of young musicians from Sacramento, California. Besides, what in the world could post hardcore experimental rock and slavery have in common? But that’s what they call themselves. And the reason why is pretty simple, even if it still causes some heads to turn. “We’re a slave to what we love,” Lead Singer Jonny Craig told Alternative Press, a magazine focused on alternative and punk music. Whether offended or intrigued, one can’t help but wonder about the story, music and people behind an experimental rock band called Slaves.
Despite being formed in early 2014, the band has already released two studio albums. Jonny Craig, the lead vocalist, brought the group together. In fact, Craig revealed the band members via his twitter account. In addition to Craig, there’s guitarist Alex Lyman, bassist Colin Vieira and drummer Tai Wright. With each of them coming from previous music groups, the guys joined their talents together, releasing Through Art We Are All Equals, their first studio album on June 24, 2014. Aware that most either love him or hate him, Craig explained the band’s name a little further in an interview on the Ryan Rock Show, a Los Angeles radio show. “Men have been enslaving men for as long as we’ve had gods to hide behind. Every man is a slave to what we love-whether it be women, drugs, music or sports. Through art we are equals.” Representative of everyday struggles, addictions and decisions, many of the tracks depict a kind of mental, social, emotional and relational enslavement. Heavy metal sounds, matched with pop rock guitar chords and subtle, consistent drum beats combined with Craig’s sultry smooth voice gives the band a very independent feel. While some tracks feel more ACDC inspired, others have a kind of R&B, reflective and emotional tone. From “The Young and Beyond Reckless,” to “Starving for Friends” (which features Vic Fuentes of Pierce the Veil), the album’s lyrics remind listeners of the subtle ways we’re enslaved to various cultural aspects and expectations. Featuring Tyler Carter of metalcore bands Issues and Woe is Me, “The Young and Beyond Reckless,” begins with the following words: A puppet is only as strong as its strings/I forgive and forget, yet the truth still stings/ the lies are all easy, and the words are hard to swallow/the leaders get killed/we’re never fulfilled/yet we follow (we all follow). Like the lyrics, the band itself has experienced both the highs and lows of the young and beyond reckless.
“This band has to fight through each other’s personal problems as a whole, and then the opinions the rest of the world forms of these things as a whole,” Craig told Alternative Press on another occasion. Anyone familiar with the band understands the strong opinions the lead singer referenced. Besides fighting hostility due to Craig’s drug use and internet scams, the band has also had to deny rumors of them splitting up after they were kicked off the Warped Tour due to an altercation involving Craig. Additionally, Lyman, the band’s guitarist was stabbed last year. But through it all, the band remained together. “We have all taken each other’s addictions, family problems, relationship problems on as a group and have each individually became the strongest we’ve been in our lives because of this,” Craig continued to explain in his interview. The band grew financially as well. Fans helped raise $29,000 in less than 48 hours after Slaves was kicked off the tour. Through it all, the band continued to thrive, releasing Routine Breathing, their second album in August 2015.
Today, the band’s twitter account boasts of their latest tour, Us Against the World. In so many ways, the name of the tour speaks to their spirit. In the midst of scandal, addictions, family problems and physical altercations, Slaves proves one thing to be true: there is power in unity. United by their artistry and their personal experiences, the members of Slaves are like a small, everyday family: flawed, human, slightly dysfunctional but talented and preserving. Like the title of their second album, it’s the routine breathing that keeps them going: the day by day decisions that turn experiences into tracks and tracks into albums and albums into tours. Through it all, their music explores the vast range of human experiences.