If you have never heard of Arkansas metalcore band, Levels, than stop what you are doing and listen to this: Levels – “Slip”
I had the opportunity to interview the members of Levels along with staying to catch their show later that night. They are currently on the “Bring yo Mouthpiece to the Southeast” tour, so if you live in Panama City, Atlanta, or Memphis you HAVE to catch a show! Exact dates are below.
1.9.17 – Panama City, FL @ A&M Theatre
1.10.17 – Atlanta, GA @ Union EAV
1.11.17 – Memphis, TN @ Rockhouse
Levels is made up of 5 members – Jake Sanders (vocals), Dalton Kennerly (drums/vocals), Jacob Hubbard (bass), Rob Mathews (guitar), and Jager Felice (guitar) – who all met while in college at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Ark.
1) You’re going to be on the road with Voices In Vain for a week. How did this tour come about?
Jake: Voices In Vain were needing an Arkansas date, and I’ve known Jeremy (their vocalist) for a while and I was like “well, what are you guys doing for the next week after this show,” and he sent me the schedule. I asked him if we could hop on board with them for a week, and they were like “yeah, sure!” It was pretty easy.
Dalton: It was super nice of them to let us hop on a tour that they had already booked because it takes a lot of work to book a tour in the first place.
2) Are there any dates in particular that you are looking forward to the most?
Jager: I’m personally looking forward to the Florida show! We’re barely dipping into the top left rectangular portion, so it’s kinda not really Florida, but it’s still Florida. I’ve never been, so it is one of the places I have always wanted to go even though I probably won’t get the full experience.
Dalton: I am looking forward to the A&M Theatre because I think it’s in an old movie theatre, and I just think that’s pretty cool.
3) What do you listen to when you’re on the road?
Jake: Right now, 105.1 The Wolf (classic country) until we get outside of Arkansas.
Jacob: That one Chain Hang Low song!
Jager: I listen to Limp Bizkit a lot, and there is this one great Commission album that we know all the words to because it’s super generic. It’s really fun to sing along to.
Rob: I really like some 90’s alternative like Oasis.
Dalton: Balance and Composure is chill for driving, and then I like to listen to a lot of electronic house music.
Jake: Definitely all country all the time for me!
4) What are you looking forward to the most about touring?
Jake: For me, it is waking up and doing something again. I graduated, and I have just been sitting at home for a month. It gives me something to wake up and look forward to.
Dalton: I guess I am looking forward to meeting a lot of new people. I’m excited to become good friends with the guys in Voices In Vain, and I always like seeing new things. I’m really big on traveling, so I am just glad to be traveling again and not having anything to worry about but playing the show.
Jacob: I’m just here so I don’t get fined… No, uhhh… tour’s tight.
Rob: On this go around, we’re bringing two people, two of our friends, that have never gone before, so what I’m looking forward to is seeing them get into routine. Kind of like we were on our first tour. It’s going to be really cool! I was explaining things to the guys, and they were asking us stuff like what kind of luggage to bring. Personal carry on’s onto the van are pretty much like your room. Every 3 minutes you’ll hear someone going through their bags.
Jager: For me, I think being from Arkansas there is really not a lot of opportunity here. We don’t have the advantage of being from Dallas, TX and seeing the biggest promoters in the Southwest every day, you know? Just from our short two week tour, we made contacts with promoters, bigger bands, and people that got us connected with future promoters and that has helped us out a lot. I hope that we can make some more connections out here, and get closer to living the dream.
5) What sets Levels apart from other bands?
Jacob: Other bands are wack!
Jager: Their gear? Wack! Their music? Wack! Everything they do? Wack! Us? We’re tight as F***!
Rob: Basically, other bands don’t have Jager in it.
Jager: I think we bring a sound that you don’t really hear too often. Yeah, it’s all from the subgenre of metalcore, but ours is just a little bit different. Some of our influences like Novelists and Honour Crest you don’t really hear too often out of this area. We just play what we like, and you don’t hear that too often.
Rob: It’s kind of like before when you were asking us about what kind of music that we listen to, and they were all different answers. That sums us up perfectly. It is so hard to really define what type of band we are because of that.
Dalton: We also are all best friends outside of being a band, and I don’t feel like every band always gets that. Sometimes it is just like a business relationship, and I have been in bands personally that were like that. You don’t really talk to the guys outside of being in the band that we were in. I think what also sets us apart is that we all get along. I’ve known some friends recently that just don’t get along with everybody in their band. If you are looking at that perspective, it can really hurt you working together and getting stuff done. We all get along really well, so I think that helps us out as a band.
6) What inspired you to start playing music?
Jake: I watched this 30 Seconds To Mars music video one time, “Closer To The Edge,” and I was like “man…” I was in Middle school, I guess. I can’t play any instruments or anything, and I can’t really sing either, but that’s why I yell things.
Dalton: Whenever I was in seventh grade, my friend, Tucker, got a mohawk, and I was like “man, you look like you should be in a band!” and he was like “that sounds like a good idea! Let’s start a band.” We started a band, and that’s how it all started. Just because he got a mohawk.
Jacob: In like seventh or sixth grade, Guitar Hero got too boring. I went to a pawn shop and bought a guitar.
Rob: When I was 12 years old, I was playing peewee football and tore my ACL. My dad was a guitar technician for a local music store and I needed something to do, so he taught me how to play guitar. Ironically, that was the same way that he got started playing guitar. It’s kind of like living on the legacy or whatever.
Jager: It was probably like the end of ninth grade into my first year of high school in the 10th grade. One of my friends was playing guitar because his dad had one, and we were really into like AFI and Coheed and Cambria at the time, so I was like “man, I want to learn that one sick intro to “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3,” so I just started playing it. I tried to pick up a guitar earlier than that, and it didn’t work out. We ended up doing a talent show at our high school, and that was kind of like my defining moment to break out of my shell. I was like “I want to be in front of people playing music,” and just from there kind of spiral.
7) Can you pick one of your songs and give some background on it?
Jake: It’s hard to put it in words. “Slip” is definitely my favorite song, I would say. It was the first song, that we had all actually sat down together as a band. We all had input in it. All of the other songs were written a couple years ago by Rob and Dalton and a little bit of Jager: I’m most proud of “Slip,” I would say.
8) You just released a music video for “Slip.” What is your outlook on the success of it so far?
Jake: It’s pretty cool to see yourself in a magazine like Alternative Press, even if it is in Japan and we can’t read the (article). They may be talking bad about us, but if you go to the website, we were like front page right under A Day To Remember or something. That was pretty cool to see, but it’s still early. It has only been a week since we released it, so we’re still waiting to see what happens. Hopefully people have listened to it, and will come to our shows on this tour.
9) What inspired the video?
Dalton: The lyrics. The lyrics just correspond to the video. The video shows a guy walking around and he’s gonna hide away the person that he is and he’s going to be who he wants to be. If you watch the video, there is a box. He’s metaphorically trapping his old self into the box. At the end he’s gone, and that’s kinda how it is. That’s what the song kinda talks about.
Rob: He’s sort of like Pandora basically.
Jager: All of our songs have working titles up until we start writing lyrics for it. I think “Slip” was like “I don’t give a flying f***,” and then we have one called “Harambe” that we’re working on right now. They’re all just working titles.
Rob: I’ve just always loved the content of “Slip” just because I could also relate to his lyrics when we wrote them too. I feel external pressures and forces from everyone else, and a certain expectation. Sometimes I wonder to myself “am I being the person that I want to be, or am I just being the stepping stone to what’s expected out of me?” It really opened up my mind.
10) How does writing music work for Levels?
Jake: I am the lyricist.
Jager: Rob and I kind of share writing riffs on the songs. Knowing us, like I’m really into modern day metalcore, djent, and nu metal like Limp Bizkit and stuff, and he can really hear that in a lot of the riffs. Rob is really big into like 80’s metal, so it’s a new spin on metalcore, but you can still hear those tones in there. I know we all can tell who writes what riff, and Dalton also helps write some of the breakdowns. He just figures out a fun pattern, and then we learn how to play it on guitar.
11) What are your personal goals for the year?
Rob: Warped Tour
Jake: I’d like to possibly dip into Canada this summer if we can get a little tour going up that way. We toured out West this past summer, and we’re doing the Southeast this time. I’d like to hit the North as far as band things go. Just try not to go back over the places that we’ve already been here recently. At least go somewhere new.
12) Is there anything you want readers to know before we end the interview?
Jake: Check out our recent release, “Slip.” Please give us honest feedback on it! Buy it if you can. iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, it’s everywhere. We have merch online as well.
Jager: If you would have bought merch in December I would have gift wrapped it for you, and said “from Levels.” Give us a shot. I know there are a ton of bands in our genre, but we’re just a couple of dudes who are having fun making music we like to play, and everyone seems to be vibing off of it.
Rob: We want more friends.
Jager: Especially if you’re the owner of a record label! We’d really love to be your friend. We’re willing to tour anywhere during the summer. Hit us up.
What do you think of Levels? Let us know in the comments!
Photos and interview by Dominique Benedict. Credit to @dominiquesphoto on social media is required to repost any photos.