Guitarist Travis Richter and his post-hardcore band From First to Last are on a bit of a lucky streak. When it came time for the Los Angeles group to start writing the forthcoming Heroine, the follow-up to 2004's Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has a Body Count, From First to Last had one producer in mind: Ross Robinson (Glassjaw, Slipknot, Blood Brothers). And although it took some convincing for Epitaph, the band's label, to fork over the extra coin for the likes of Ross, the band got its wish.
And who do you suppose Richter and the boys wanted to mix their Heroine, which will hit stores on March 21? Andy Wallace (Nirvana, Avenged Sevenfold, System of a Down), of course. And Wallace agreed. Next, they'd like to work with Rob Zombie.
"We want him to direct the video for our first single," Richter said of the in-the-works clip for "The Latest Plague." "It's going to be the story of how our band got together, presented in a really crazy way. We are all independently living really boring lives, and we're just breaking out of it. It's going to be chaotic. We'll be driving around in a van like maniacs, going like 100 miles an hour, hitting cars and stuff. It's going to be sick."
The way From First to Last see it, getting Zombie to helm the video is not outside the realm of possibility. "We sit around and come up with the ideas and give them to our manager and the label," said the guitarist and lead singer. "A lot of cool stuff has happened to us this year that we didn't merit."
The band has nailed a support slot on the upcoming Story of the Year trek with Every Time I Die and He Is Legend. That'll be followed by the Fall Out Boy tour, which kicks off sometime in March; Hawthorne Heights and All-American Rejects are also on the bill. Oh, and then there was the time they dumped their bassist, Jon Weisberger, just as they were heading into Radio Star Studios in Weed, California, to start recording Heroine, and Robinson called on an old friend to come down and help From First to Last.
"Ross is a really good friend, and he asked me to come play bass on the record, and I just loved it," Limp Bizkit's Wes Borland said. "I think it's really going to break them out of the emo/screamo genre that they're in. Its cool stuff, and they're really talented guys and real young. I felt like a geezer around them. I did it up and played all the bass and wrote a bunch of bass parts and wrote a song with them."
That song wasn't one of the 11 tracks to make it onto Heroine, which includes the songs "Afterbirth," "World War Me," "We All Have a Hell" and "Waves Goodbye." Borland "learned all the songs, and recorded them in just three days," Richter said. "There was just a fire and chemistry with him." Tim Armstrong guitar tech Alicia Simmons has been brought on as the band's temporary touring bassist.
From First to Last have also received an invitation to headline this summer's Warped Tour, Richter said. The band is still weighing its options and hasn't RSVPed just yet. For now, Richter wants to focus on the release of Heroine, the making of which, he said, proved a "life-changing" experience — because of Robinson.
"When we started writing the demos for the album, we just decided to write whatever we wanted," he explained. "Ross adds another dimension to music that you don't even think about as a band. You know, rock and roll has lost a lot of its edge. And that's something we're trying to bring back to the table, an extremely sort of 'f--- it' mentality. And Ross isn't like a lot of producers, where he'll write your songs or try to make them more radio friendly. He'd pick out parts of songs and say, 'That's cool. But let's make it cooler.' And he would make us make it cooler, or more complicated, more intricate, more powerful, heavier. He's like a muse almost."
With Heroine, Richter said he and the rest of the band wanted to avoid making it "too ProTools," and instead capture the raw essence of From First to Last. Fans of the band's debut disc will notice the addition of "heavy pianos" and augmented tone, achieved by "playing our guitars direct, rather than through amps." The chord progressions are "insanely dark — sort of what you'd expect from Cradle of Filth." Richter also thinks it's beyond classification.
"This album is its own thing," he said. "You can't even put it in a genre of music. We could have gone in and written a perfectly pop rock record, but I think there's plenty of that out there already. So we decided to be just real musicians. I want people to see a difference, to see what we're doing and be like, 'That is obviously something completely different from what anyone else is doing.' If that happens, I can go to bed every night with a clear conscience. This album's some of the heaviest sh-- that's been rocked in a while."