Old rona may be hanging around like a party guest who’s overstayed their welcome, but …
Francesco Arusato should be at home right now, but he’s stuck in traffic, that eternal indicator of approximate normality in Los Angeles. His band Light the Torch’s album You Will Be the Death of Me should have been out early in 2020.
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“We finished our record before the pandemic,” he says as he battles the gridlock. “The record was done, and then we left on a tour with Killswitch [Engage], and that was the tour that got cancelled after a few shows. Then after that was all the plans for the year: putting out the record in the summer and then we had tours for the rest of the year. We’ve been sitting on this record for over a year.”
Released at the end of June, You Will Be the Death of Me is a clear celebration of the vocal technique of their esteemed frontman Howard Jones. Artusato explains that was an important aspect of his songwriting process this time.
“The real mission for this record was to give the best backing I could think of for Howard’s voice,” he says. “I love to hear Howard when he just gives 110%, and it needs to be with the right music. He needs to be with the right people, it brings the right vibe, a certain kind of emotion. On this piece, both lyrically and the way he sang on the record, it’s just so special. The one thing that I noticed was, for us, being an old record because we’ve had it for over a year, it still feels so fresh when I listen to it because of how powerful the vocal is. The biggest achievement for this record is to deliver that kind of performance.”
One of the biggest surprises on this album is the final track, a faithful but sufficiently metalised version of Terence Trent D’arby’s monster soul hit from 1987, Sign Your Name. The idea to cover it came as an epiphany to Artusato after a day of pre-production, and as he delved deeper into it, he developed an even stronger affection for it.
It’s true that we have part of the sound of metalcore—or whatever you call it. We don’t even think about the genre anymore. I think to me it’s very important that every record has something that makes it stand out. I really don’t want to put out just a metalcore record.
[ Francesco Arusato ]
“One day we were in the studio and I was making some food, listening to music on this 80s compilation on Spotify, and that song started playing. It’s a song that Howard and I both love. When I was listening to that song, we had just got back from the studio, so hearing that song and still having our sound still fresh in our heads, right away I heard it with Howard singing. So I told Howard right away, ‘Dude, I want to work on this.’ He was kind of surprised! Even when that song came out – it was huge in Europe – there’s something about it harmonically, melodies, the delivery – I’ve always loved that song. When I started arranging it, I realised it was even cooler than I thought. For a very simple song, it’s got interesting things going on, and I felt it was perfect for us to work on.”
For their second album – and fourth overall, including the two recorded under the Devil You Know moniker – the guitarist wanted to ensure that You Will Be the Death of Me had a sound distinctive from its predecessors. He estimates he worked for almost 18 months on tracks that finally became the album.
“What I always try to do is… I don’t want to have a record that feels like it has a bunch of fillers, or, the worse thing, when every song feels kind of the same, the same vibe. To me it’s very important to create dynamics. The way that you might write a book, or watch a good film, you need good dynamics, and a climax. We all wanted to experiment more with a radio-friendly type of sound, but also we still are the band we are, and we think about our live performance. What we like to play is ultimately what we have fun playing. The heavier stuff – there’s something about it. They are always so much fun to play.”
Artusato is cleanly conscious of the stigma attached to Light the Torch’s sound and style, a factor magnified by Jones’ history as the former vocalist for one metalcore’s pre-eminent acts.
“It’s true that we have part of the sound of metalcore – or whatever you call it. We don’t even think about the genre anymore. I think to me it’s very important that every record has something that makes it stand out. I really don’t want to put out just a metalcore record.”
A big step in the band’s songwriting development came once they started touring in the wake of 2018’s Revival album, when they went from playing mainly club shows to festivals.
“I started seeing crowds at festivals that I’d never experienced before,” Artusato says. “When we started doing festivals with Light the Torch, there’s massive crowds singing your songs. When you see a crowd of 50000 people, you can’t expect the whole crowd to know who you are. A lot of people are there to just see the main headliner, or whatever. But then, you see that a lot of them know the singles, or the songs that are on the radio, and to me, that makes playing a whole different vibe. The rush of adrenaline and the emotion of playing to a massive crowd, it’s something else.”
Even as things begin to look up for touring acts in many places in the world, it may be some time before Light the Torch is in front of festival audiences again. Some might think that the enforced lay off would give Artusato plenty of time to create more music, but after spending so long on You Will Be the Death of Me, he needed a break.
“Usually, after we get done in the studio, personally I need time off from writing. I get so obsessed. The fact that I write all the songs… It takes me about a year just writing, then we start in the studio, and when we’re in the studio, we’re working and then when I get home I’m doing revisions. I get up at 6am and do revisions. So when we’re done with a record, I’m so done. Last year was exactly like that. Even when people started realising this was a real pandemic and we were going to be stuck at home for a very long time, people were like, ‘Now you’re going to have a lot of time to write music’, and I was like, ‘I can’t! I’m done. I need to recharge’.”
He’s back in the saddle now, however, and eager to ensure that the next Light the Torch album stands apart from this one.
“Now that it’s so much later, I’m starting to put things together again. I feel inspired to write. I don’t want to just finish a record, I don’t want to be in the same vibe when I write the next one. To me, it’s important that each record feels like a different phase of my life, for us as a career.”