It wasn't just that Ben Perri left From Autumn to Ashes. What incensed his erstwhile bandmates was the way he left.
"I thought there was a more considerate way he could have gone about leaving the band," admitted Francis Mark, who served as the Long Island hardcore outfit's drummer until Perri's departure forced him to put his lead-singer hat on. "I definitely understand why he did it, now that we've talked. Ultimately I think it was the honorable thing to do. He could have come down to the studio and given a real halfhearted performance. Then we would have been in real trouble. But I think it was cool of him to recognize that he just didn't have the passion for the band anymore and couldn't deliver. It was probably a difficult thing for him to do."
Early last month, in a post on From Autumn to Ashes' MySpace page, Mark announced to the band's fans that Perri had gone AWOL. He revealed that he had ghostwritten the lyrics to the band's previous album, 2005's Abandon Your Friends, for Perri in a matter of days, and that from there, things had just gotten worse within the ranks.
Mark added that Perri hadn't shown up for a single practice during the month of September, when the band started writing material for the forthcoming Holding a Wolf by the Ears, and was later missing in action when the rest of the band expected him in the studio for the first day of the LP's actual recording. Perri responded two days later, in a MySpace posting of his own, saying he'd simply lost "the fire that kept me going for all these years."
"I think that maybe everything happened exactly the way it had to happen to get us to the point we're at right now," said Mark, who also wrote all of the lyrics for Wolf. "At the moment, I am very content with things."
While accustomed to hiding behind a drum set towards the back of the stage, Mark said the leap to frontman hasn't been much of a leap at all. He still fronts his own indie-rock side project, Biology, and as a youth he screamed into the microphone for defunct hardcore act Who's to Blame. With Perri gone, Mark said FATA actually feel like a brand-new band and are composing the finest material of their career.
"Part of me is hoping that some people can look at this as a new band and not draw too many comparisons between this record and the past three, because I feel like it's kind of a new beginning," he said. The guys decided to keep the name because they'd already been recording the disc as FATA when Perri quit. "The hardest part is, I know we're a heavy band, and maybe some people want some intimidating, tough frontman to reflect the style of music we play. But that's certainly not in my personality.
"This record is the closest we've come to capturing how I think this band should sound," Mark continued. "I think it's what we've been trying to do since the start and have come close to before. This time we got exactly what I wanted, and it's exciting to finish a record and have something you're really proud of. I just want to get out and play it for people."
According to Mark, before Holding a Wolf by the Ears hits stores on April 10, FATA will be hitting the road March 1 for a full U.S. tour with Haste the Day, the Sleeping and Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. And now he'll be able to deliver the lyrics he wrote the way he feels they should be delivered.
"I really put a lot of effort into the lyrics and was left with something I consider very personal to me, something I put my heart into," he said of the songs he'd written for Abandon Your Friends and Wolf. "To just have to hand it over to someone else is kind of the musical equivalent of having to put your kids up for adoption. I kind of freaked out when I heard [Perri] wasn't coming back, but then I was relieved that [those lyrics] were mine again and I could execute them the way I felt they should be delivered."
FATA are in the process of auditioning drummers to man the kit for the upcoming tour. Mark said that if the band gets along with whoever heads out with them, they may make that drummer a permanent member of the fold. Otherwise they'll remain a four-piece. Mark said his sole worry with regard to FATA's future is the reaction fans will have to all this change.
"I think a lot of people are probably expecting that it's going to be all, like, singing singing, and no screaming," he said. "People heard that happen with our last record, where half the disc was just singing songs. But I think people are going to be surprised at how aggressive this record is. To me, it's heavier than anything we've ever done. Either way, I personally believe in this record more than anything we've ever done and for that reason alone, it's already our most successful record."