Replacing a lead singer is no easy feat. Just ask Matty Mullins. Born and raised outside of Seattle, Washington, Mullins became the second frontman for Dallas' own Memphis May Fire back in 2008. Since then, the band has continued to expand its fan base while maturing and incorporating new themes into its metalcore sound.
Speaking from his home in Seattle and in anticipation of tonight's show at The Door, Mullins spoke with DC9 about the band's evolution and how, early on, it was a nerve-wrecking challenge to fill another man's shoes.
Do you consider Memphis May Fire to be a Dallas band?
Well, I live in Seattle and that's where I am from. The original line up was really short lived. Our guitarist, Kellen [McGregor], who writes the majority of the music, he was born and raised in Dallas. We still use Dallas as our home town and as the place for rehearsals. We all just live in different areas. Everybody can live where ever they want. Any time we practice or start a tour, we all fly into Dallas. Our guitar player and bass player have connections in the Dallas area. It will always be our home town. When I first joined the band, I moved to Dallas. The city really incubated the band. It has always been great to us. Without the music scene in Dallas, we would have never gotten our start.
Do you think Dallas has a major scene for metal?
I guess some people wouldn't, but bands like Pantera took the area metal scene to another level. If you are not a part of the metal scene, I don't know if Dallas comes to mind. But if you have ever played in Dallas, you know that the metal bands go at it 100% and they will all take care of you.
How often do people think the band is from Memphis?
All of the time; that's the first thing people ask us. We tell them that the band name has absolutely nothing to do with where we are from. That's been a problem since conception; that's for sure.
Where did the name come from?
It actually doesn't have much of a meaning at all. Years and years ago, with the old line up, the name was Oh Captain, My Captain. When they went to sign their first record deal, they found that another band overseas had already copyrighted that name. In order to sign the record deal and get everything done, they had to come up with a new name that week. Everybody got together to figure out what the band should be called. They couldn't come to an agreement. Each member put in one word and the name became Memphis May Fire.
There seems to be a lot of metalcore acts with three words in their name.
There are a lot of metalcore bands with really crappy names. I am not saying Memphis May Fire is the best name ever, but it works for us and it rolls off the tongue. People in the industry have told us that we should have changed our name, but we never did because we like it so much. It has worked out very well for us.
You replaced original singer Chase Ryan. Is it more difficult to be a replacement for a vocalist than any other band member?
Absolutely, especially because the fans in Dallas knew that I wasn't a boy from Texas. I came from Spokane, Washington. It was hard because the band was looked up to by the area metal scene. The band had had success with the original vocalist. Even though his time in the band was really short-lived, what he did for the band was great and he helped give the band their initial boost. Some people were very skeptical of me joining. We had a major falling out with just about everybody who worked with the band. A lot of people say there is no way a band can survive losing their original singer. It is very rare. We had to reprove ourselves. We had to work from the ground up after I joined. But I believed in the music that Kellen wrote. I knew what I was capable of bringing to the table. It was definitely tough, but we got through it. I think it got bigger than it ever would have done with the original line-up.When was your first gig with the band?
My first gig was at the Plano Center. It was on Halloween. There were roughly seven to ten thousand people there. It was, by far, the biggest thing I had ever done. To this day, that was one of the biggest shows we have ever played. It was really nerve-wracking. I can't even describe how nervous I was. It was unbelievable. Knowing that everyone was there to judge you, it was extremely nerve-wracking.
How did you adapt to doing the older material?
It's been years since we have played any of those songs. When the band started to take off with this line up, a lot of people forgot about those songs. When I first joined the band, those were the majority of the songs we played. It was really tough for me to adapt to those songs. Chase's writing style was so much different from mine. He was very abstract and out spoken about some weird dreams he had been having. I am a little more straightforward. It took some time and a lot of practice.
The new album, Unconditional, comes out in March. The band has said that the album is more theatrical.
Kellen writes all the music for the band and he is a movie junkie. He is a big fan of the movie Transformers. If you were to listen to the effort from start to finish, it would sound like a movie soundtrack. It is really epic and upbeat. It has a lot of high energy and we added a lot of orchestration. It is layers upon layers upon layers. It has some whole new sounds that we have never incorporated before. It is epic with or without vocals. This record is exactly what it needed to be.
Are you worried about your audience accepting the changes?
Even though it is fun for us to grow and advance as musicians, we are still going to sound like Memphis May Fire. Just because we are incorporating new elements, that doesn't mean we are changing our sound. We are just maturing and I think the album will be accepted really well. We just released the first single from the record and it has gotten an incredible response. We are not worried about anything.
You are staring the tour about a month before the album hits the streets. Is that odd?
No, there are two different ways of doing things. You can put an album out and try and sell as many copies as you can while you are on the road. Or you can do a tour and promote your album every single day. We are going to play a few songs from the new album, but we want to give the fans what they want. We really want to do a tour that isn't centered on the new record. We want to let people soak in what they saw live.
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Yes, I am. I've never been a big football fan. My wife and I have not been much into sports our entire life. But it is undeniable the amount of joy and respect it brings to Seattle to have that Super Bowl win. It is really cool to be a part of all that. I will be the first to admit that we are bandwagon fans. The spirit that the win brought to the city is amazing. We had to join in on all of the fun.