Scranton metal band ascends to main stage of 2014 Warped Tour

Last updated: July 02. 2014 1:26AM - 3300 Views
By Rich Howells rhowells@civitasmedia.com

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Vans Warped Tour featuring Motionless in White: July 9, 11 a.m., The Pavilion at Montage Mountain (1000 Montage Mountain Rd., Scranton). $36, plus fees.

Josh Balz has been living “nothing but the greatest two years” of his life, as any follower of Scranton metal band Motionless in White can attest.
“It's been nothing but up for the band. I mean, we've been getting great tours and meeting great people and doing great things. It's been unreal. From opening tours and being someone that nobody even knows to doing giant tours like Mayhem Festival to Warped Tour main stage. We just did South By So What?! (Music Festival) in Texas over the spring. We headlined a stage and it was like 10,000 people or something. That's unreal to be where we're from. We're from a small town in Pennsylvania. You don't expect that much from our area; people don't think anything of our area and then bam, here we are,” the keyboard/synth player enthused in an exclusive phone interview with the Weekender last week.
“It feels good to work this hard and finally it's all paying off and everything's going up and everything's going the right way and everything's going as we planned.”
From releasing their biggest and most eclectic album to date, “Infamous,” to being nominated for Revolver and Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards to posing for various magazine covers to touring the U.K. to supporting bands like Asking Alexandria, In This Moment, and All That Remains back in the States, Motionless in White has indeed arrived, though they're really just getting started. The band's new album, “Reincarnate,” has been in pre-production since January and they entered the studio in March, just finishing up in time for the 2014 Vans Warped Tour, which they're headlining this year.
“It's been a long process, but it was definitely worth all the time spent,” Balz said of the album's production.
“It's just an accumulation of everything we've been through as a band. We've been a band for, I think it's been seven, eight years or something like that. I know a lot of people liked (our first full-length album) 'Creatures,' and then people were iffy about 'Infamous,' and I feel that this CD is an accumulation of all of our stuff. You get the super heaviness and cool vibe of 'Creatures,' but then you also get a tiny bit from 'Infamous.'
“I think we grabbed a little bit more from 'Creatures' for this album, which I know kids were really pumped for – the heavy, the fast. I feel like kids are going to be pumped. This is why they love Motionless in White, and this is going to be the CD that everyone's going to love, not be biased against.”
He said fans can also expect the same level of complexity from vocalist and songwriter Chris “Motionless” Cerulli.
“Chris is just a very complex person, and I know the way he writes is just very deep – a lot of his lyrics aren't very straightforward. A lot of them are deeper and have deeper meanings,” he pointed out.
“It's just the way he's always been. He's always written like that.”
Balz's moody and oftentimes catchy keys craft an ambiance that also sets them apart from other young metal acts.
“The most interesting parts are the parts that just find you, not you trying to force yourself to find a part. It's like you're watching a movie or something and you're like, 'Oh man, the vibe of this scene is awesome, and I want to recreate the vibe of this scene to coincide with what I want to do,'” he explained.
“Not too many bands have keyboard players. Anybody that even has electronics is just driven by computers or whatever. Anyone can be replaced by a computer these days, but it adds a certain appeal.
“For me, I love to hear any kind of keys or any kind of piano leads or key leads in songs. They set you apart from every other band because every other band has tons and tons of guitar leads, but… most of our songs are based off of keyboard leads that the song wouldn't be the same without, so I feel like it's kind of a leg up for us.”
Produced by Jason Suecof and Tim Sköld, “Infamous” was a time of experimentation for the group, mixing all kinds of different sounds they had never tried before.
“If you listen to 'Infamous' from front to back, none of the songs really sound the same, but they're just us having fun in the studio and trying to do something cool that we had never done before. On this CD, songs might be different, but you can tell it's one unit, one CD. It'll keep your interest. But with 'Infamous,' we love all the songs on that CD,” he acknowledged.
“It was fun. Some people love the songs, some people hate the songs, but you're not going to be able to please everybody. … We play music that we like. There's not one song on the album that we don't like because who wants to play music that you don't even enjoy?
“I love playing our music. Every single song we put out is something that at least one of us in the band has ties to, if it's hardcore influence or metal influence or pop punk influence or pop influence or whatever influence. Everybody in the band has a certain persona. Not all of us necessarily like the same bands, but at the end of the day, we all have the same interests.”
Set for release on Sept. 16, “Reincarnate” will pull all those influences together to create a cohesive balance that Balz believes will be as exciting to fans as it is to the band.
“This next album is just insane. It's our old stuff and our new stuff – it's just the right feel of everything. I think everyone is going to enjoy this one,” he emphasized.
“Some songs are way heavier, some songs are way faster, but the vibe is pretty much the same. I think people will enjoy it.”
Balz's favorite recent recording experience, however, was their spot-on rendition of Rammstein's “Du Hast” for the “Punk Goes 90s Vol. 2” collection. Their record label, Fearless Records, releases the popular compilations and asked them to pick a song from a list, but “Du Hast” was not one of the options. After Balz “pushed so hard” to make it happen, he convinced everyone involved to release a cover of the 1997 German hit.
“Me and our guitar tech, Rich, actually played the song in the bus once in a while to kind of sneak it into their heads that this is the song we should do. I guess it worked. We did some Jedi mind tricks on them and that's the one we picked,” he recalled.
“I think it's awesome. I think it's one of the coolest songs we've done. It's not our song, but I think it fits us 100 percent.”
They have yet to play it live, however, as they feel many of the “Warped Tour kids” are likely too young to remember it, though Balz is hoping to use the Force to work it into future set lists.
This is the third time Motionless in White has been a part of the entire Vans Warped Tour, and they've played select dates for several years prior, but this is their first experience on the main stage – one that has been, in a word, “crazy.”
“Kids have really been digging us. I was afraid because I don't necessarily think of ourselves as a big band, but I mean, it's been awesome so far. We've got a great response. Everyone said we're killing main stage,” Balz described.
“It's great. Main stage has a built-in crowd. There's never not anybody there. I remember the first time we played there was like five or six kids watching us, and we were super excited. We had to go around with a sign that says, 'Hey, we're playing at so and so time. Come check us out,' but when you play main stage, there's always kids there.”
Despite only releasing a 30-second teaser of the new album's title track, avid fans have already been singing along.
“Kids get super excited – very very very excited. Some kids already know all the words. The teaser is just the chorus, so a ton of people have already been singing the chorus, which is awesome. We've gotten such a great response from it.”
The song will be officially released on July 8, just one day before the tour stops in Scranton once again. More rides on that show than any other during the entire summer, Balz noted, because it took the group about as long to win over their hometown as the rest of the country.
“We just did Mayhem last year at home, and it was one of the best shows of the entire tour, so that's what we're hoping for. We're hoping for our home Warped Tour to beat everything,” he said.
“There's been times where no one in our area has liked us. I feel like it took us a really long time for us to earn the respect of our hometown and our home dates for shows. Recently, it's been getting so incredible and so awesome. We just hope that people still enjoy us and they like to call us their hometown band.”
Balz is still tied tightly to the area despite traveling the world for much of the last two years. Along with his girlfriend, the 24-year-old opened The Strange & Unusual Oddities Parlor in Kingston late last year, a business that garnered attention by selling everything from antiques to taxidermy to animal bones, with many pieces from his own collection.
“It's actually great. It's been getting a way better reaction than I ever thought. Because with a thing like that, you don't think people in our area would connect to it, but actually it's something for them to do that's not going the mall. It's something different. Some people come in and they'll just look around and really don't buy anything; it's like a museum,” he said.
“It's cool. It's been doing well. We have our ups and downs; we have our great weeks, we have our whatever weeks, but it's expected in a business, I think.”
Even with this facet of his personality in mind, Balz admits to being in “one of the most boring bands” on Warped Tour, as none of the members party like the makeup-clad rock stars they've become.
“We sit. I watch them play hockey on the Xbox. We drive around scooters. We do a whole lot of nothing. We're pretty boring for the most part,” he acknowledged with a laugh.
In fact, after original drummer Angelo Parente parted ways with Motionless in White last year, Balz said the main reason things didn't work out with his replacement, Brandon Richter, was due to Richter's more bombastic personality.
“At the end of the day, his attitude just wasn't like us. He wasn't one of us, and that's what we strive to be. We enjoy each other. We don't want to be that band that just tours to tour and doesn't tour because they love it. But the new guy is great. He's just like us. He's very quiet; he's very humble,” he shared, referring to fill-in drummer Vinny Mauro, of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.
“He fit in, first day, fit in 100 percent. The best thing you can do with us is not say a word. We'll sit, we'll watch a movie, and be very quiet. He sat down, he hung out, he just didn't say anything, and I'm like, 'This is a breath of fresh air. You have no idea. You just not saying anything is the greatest thing you could ever do.' He came out of his shell a little bit, but he's funny. It just made sense. He has the same attitude as us.”
While they aren't bringing him into the fold officially just yet, it's clear that they're all ready to shed those docile personalities for a hometown show that promises to be loud, brutal, and – above all – meaningful.
“It means so much. Our friends come out, our family comes out. Not only are we playing for us, we're playing for our area,” Balz said of the Scranton show.
“It'll be a good day.”
Motionless in White 2014 Warped Tour picks
“There's a lot of bands that are just very underrated that are on this tour,” Balz told the Weekender, so we asked him to pick his favorite groups that Scranton fans should catch this year.
Band: Bowling For Soup
Genre: Pop punk
“I've watched them a few times and they put on one of the best shows on Warped Tour.”
Band: The Ghost Inside
Genre: Melodic hardcore
“The Ghost Inside is always a super awesome band to watch.”
Band: The Word Alive
Genre: Metalcore
“The Word Alive is great.”
Band: Attila
Genre: Deathcore
“Attila is cool to watch; they're really in your face. A fun band to watch.”
Band: A Skylit Drive
Genre: Post-hardcore
“I feel like they're very underrated on this tour. They definitely are one of my favorite bands.”

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