One year ago, Flyleaf lead singer Lacey Mosley was sharing a hot tub with a group of overworked child actors, living in Los Angeles party headquarters/ apartment complex the Oakwoods and trying very, very hard not to crack up.
For Mosley — who, along with the rest of Flyleaf, hails from the tiny town of Belton, Texas — it wasn’t just the hectic L.A. lifestyle that was beating her down. It was the songs she was writing: self-lacerating tales of addiction, abuse and dysfunction that had little to do with the sunny Cali climes she found herself in.
“We were staying at Oakwoods, working on the new album, and we would be in the hot tub, and there would be all these little 5- and 6-year-olds in there, just talking about how they blew auditions and how stressed out they were. It was brutal,” Mosley said. “And here I was with all these really dark songs. It was just a bad place. We didn’t see a lot of drugs, but we heard a lot about them. The whole thing was a struggle.”
Working with noted producer Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge), Mosley and Flyleaf worked their feelings of alienation and angst into an album’s worth of chugging, spiky riffs and razor-sharp self-dissection. They released the self-titled disc in late September (on tiny Octone Records) and then did what they’d been doing since they formed in Belton in 2001: They hit the road. Hard.
“Touring is all we’ve ever known. I mean, we started out in an Expedition and two Ford Explorers, cramming all our friends into the car, just to have an audience to play to,” Mosley said. “One time, we had all the equipment piled in a van, and we’re driving through a blizzard in Colorado, and we had a mattress on top of the equipment so we could sleep on top of all that. And it’s really dangerous up there, because if the van flips over, you would’ve been crushed. And we’re all asleep at 4 a.m. and we hear our tour manager be like, ‘Somebody pray!’ because we were sliding off this mountain into this void, and we floated over into oncoming traffic, but luckily we missed all the other cars and just sort of pinballed into the guardrail.”
Aside from nearly dying, something else happened while Flyleaf — which also includes guitarists Sameer Bhattacharya and Jared Hartmann, bassist Pat Seals and drummer James Culpepper — were out on tour. The tune “I’m So Sick” began to pick up steam on modern-rock radio. And before Flyleaf knew it, they saw sales of their album begin to soar. (It sits at #90 on the Billboard albums chart and has sold more than 100,000 copies with little-to-no promotion.)
The song would normally be considered typical alt-rock fare — what with Bhattacharya’s spiky lead guitar and Seals’ thundering bottom end — but “So Sick” manages to separate itself from the pack thanks to Mosley’s lyrical tightrope act, in which she carefully balances between brutal self evisceration and wide-eyed, unabashed spirituality.
It’s a common theme throughout Flyleaf’s debut album, because like Mewithoutyou (see “Mewithoutyou: Not Your Average Christian, Vegetable-Oil-Fueled, Flower-Flinging Rockers” ) and Relient K (see “Relient K Kind Of Like Getting Flipped The Bird” ) before them, Flyleaf are a tattooed, loud, deceptively Christian rock band. But they’re not ashamed to admit it.
“We all share the same faith. And so when we deal with the whole ‘Christian band thing,’ we kind of think about something P.O.D. says, like, ‘If you’re a Christian, it affects everything in your life. So if you’re a plumber, does that make you a Christian plumber?’ ” Mosley said. “I don’t know the answer. We’re a band, it’s part of who we are, so it comes out in our music, and it’s the fuel for what we do. And finding faith saved my life. So I’m not ashamed of it at all. And most of our album reflects that.
“Like ‘I’m So Sick,’ it’s about how we live in a messed-up world and how we’re a product of our surroundings to some extent, and you grow up and you feel messed up,” she continued. “There are parts of me that I hate so much, that I wish would just die, but that’s just me as a person. And despite all that, and despite how I grew up, I can still look at who I want to be and get strength from that. And despite everything that’s going on around me, I can still choose to be the person that I want to be.”
And with a summertime slot on the newly resurrected Family Values tour (alongside Korn and Deftones) on the horizon, there’s plenty for Flyleaf to be excited about. Just don’t expect them to change their thoroughly unsunny dispositions anytime soon. Well, not totally, at least.
“We’re excited beyond words for the future. But we’re going to keep working hard, keep writing new songs, not stopping,” Mosley said. “Of course we’re also going to try and enjoy the things in between. Like on the ['I'm So Sick'] video set. They had a chef there, and you’d be like, ‘I would like some shrimp, and some scallops and a steak. With some frosted flakes on the side.’ And he would make it for you. Which is sort of amazing.”