Indiana-based hardcore band “Church Tongue” recently released their debut full-length album ‘Heart Failure’ on October 21st via Blood & Ink Records. The album contains brutally honest and aggressive lyrics, with content that is dark, deep, and very beautifully written. I had the chance to discuss the recent album release with the band’s guitarist, Nicko Calderon, while Michael Sugars (Vocalist) was kind enough to give us a quick insight behind the lyrics.
Whitney Shoemaker: How did the band end up forming? What were your influences for getting into music?
Nicko Calderon: All of us met from going to shows and playing with each other’s old bands. Mike and I met through our original drummer and then formed Conquerors. As Conquerors, we kind of just recruited the rest of the guys from other local bands we played with. With the member changes and experiences of touring as Conquerors, we decided to start over, take on a new sound, and rebrand as Church Tongue.
As far as influences that got us into music goes, bands like Gwen Stacy, Have Heart, Norma Jean, and The Ghost Inside really pushed me to pick up the guitar and gave me the desire to write something that instigated passion and a real, raw outlook on the world. There’s way too many bands to name that gave me and the rest of the guys the same drive, but we’ll keep it at that.
WS: This is your debut full-length with Blood & Ink Records, were there any nerves leading up to the release?
NC: Absolutely. Mainly our close friends know this, but we actually recorded “Heart Failure” in September of 2014. A lot has changed in two years. We’ve settled into a sound, we’ve experienced more things, and we’ve improved as musicians. So musically, we were nervous that it would sound outdated.
WS: I love the album’s brutal honesty over topics that are not easy to talk about, let alone write about. What was the writing process for the album like? Were there any songs in particular that were especially hard to write?
Michael Sugars: I appreciate that a lot. Writing for this record was a long process. I wrote the songs over the course of two years. We had countless songs written. I cycled through a lot of things during that.
The hardest song to write on just about any level for me was Room In Your Chest. We were set to record that song, Medicine Breath, and Worry Doll last summer. Just before that we would play the MA date of Warped Tour. 5 minutes before I walked on stage I got a call that my grandma was dying, and that I may have to fly home. It was a rough time, and it reflected on us when we played that day. Between that, and a rough relationship, I scrapped everything that I had written for that song. I started from square one, and captured that feeling really well I think. Touring isn’t hard because of the daily routine. It’s hard because you lose time. You miss things. I didn’t get to see her before she died. I didn’t feel like I was enough, and at times I felt like I was too much. I felt like I was smothering, or simply not all there. Everyone out here feels this at one point, or another. It’s still a hard song for me to sing. I get worked up.
It stands as my favorite song I’ve ever been a part of though.
WS: The album includes guest vocals from Davey Muise, Jeff Stuckel, and Matthew Vacaro, all of which are part of some pretty established bands. How did the opportunity to work with these guys come up?
NC: Jeff and Matt were both friends of ours beforehand. Jeff is an incredible spoken word artist that goes by Keyoung and we’ve been friends with him for years now. When we wrote 7:20, we immediately had the idea of having Jeff work his magic on it, and he delivered. I remember him sending us back the track and him just being like “honestly, this song wrote itself.”
Matt and his band Exiting The Fall (RIP) toured with us when we were still Conquerors and we loved seeing that band every night. Recording in Haverhill, MA, we knew that the ETF guys lived near there and invited them to hang out some of the days; so we kind of just said “hey wanna do this part?” to Matt. Those guys are a blessing to be around and although Matt isn’t in it, I will shamelessly plug their new project. Check out Valleyheart. They’re incredible.
When we played that house show with Beartooth and Vanna where the whole fire thing happened, we all went to Denny’s after and immediately became friends. Whenever we asked him to do the part, he was more than excited to. It’s one of my favorite parts on the record.
WS: For someone who has never heard Church Tongue before, what one song would you suggest that they listen to in order to get a feel for your band?
NC: I would say either Die Wild or Acid Jesus. Both of those songs convey the dark, rock ’n roll, raw material that we embody as a band. Lyrically and musically.
WS: I read that you guys have had a few interesting adventures on the road, including winding up in the middle of Mardi Gras as well as getting trapped in Pennsylvania for two weeks. How do you manage to end up in these types of situations? Care to share either of those stories?
NC: Some of our friends like to say that our band has the worst luck. But here’s the story that is Bloomsburg, PA. I’m not going to tell the story in full because it’s legitimately a novel. Here’s the condensed, spark notes version.
So to record “Heart Failure” in Haverhill, MA, we did a tour to the studio through Canada and then had a tour booked home after the studio. The tour leading up to the studio was great and the 10 days in the studio were great. While we were there, we saw event page after event page start to cancel shows. Soon almost the entire tour booked back home fell through. We thought. “Okay. No big deal.” We just scraped up all the personal money we had left to put in the gas tank home. We left the studio to head to the one of four shows we had. We played the first two shows no problem. Our next show was in Lakewood, OH and we were still deep on the east coast. We headed towards Ohio with high hopes of a good show. We never made it to Ohio. We broke down in a college town called Bloomsburg, PA. We managed to get our van to a local repair shop and waited until morning for the shop to open. As soon as they opened, we talked to the shop owner and told him our situation. Later that day we discovered that our transmission was shot and that since our van was a certain model, they had to order a certain part and rebuild the transmission. That part didn’t come in until days later. So while we were there, our friends helped share what was happening on all social media platforms and we met Nicole Galbraith and Katie Castillo through friends of friends. They helped us out with a place to stay, food, and just to keep our morales up. After eight days of being stranded, our van was finally fixed and we set course to Indy. Hopefully to make it to the last and only show we had left. Two hours from Bloomsburg, PA, and a piston in our engine blows. We all hit our breaking point. All of our pockets were exhausted and we had no idea what we were going to do. So our friend Steve borrowed a band’s van from back home, came and picked us up and we finally made it back home right at load in for the show in Indy. If we didn’t just record that record, I don’t think we’d be a band today.
WS: What are you hoping that your fans will take away from ‘Heart Failure’?
NC: If you walk away with anything from ‘Heart Failure’, I hope that it is the realization that it’s okay to be yourself and to let yourself feel things; to be open and honest; to find comfort in who you are; and that it’s okay to have questions.
WS: After writing the album, did you learn anything about yourself or the band as a whole?
As a band, we learned to write unapologetically as well as to be more patient with everything. Whether it’s writing, touring, or just existing. We were also reminded that music is art; not just some riff, catchy lyric, or mosh part.
WS: You’ve added a couple CD Release Shows and just finished up a tour with Household, can we be expecting another tour announcement soon?
NC: As of right now, we can’t really say much. BUT things should start to be cool soon.
WS: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans, or anything you’d like them to know in regards to ‘Heart Failure’ or any upcoming plans?
NC: Just to keep posted and that we’re incredibly thankful for the support and all of the opportunities that they allow us to do. We’re going to be working on a lot of things for the next couple months and hit the ground running early 2017.
Church Tongue’s album, ‘Heart Failure’ is available now on all major music distributors (Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, etc) or you can stream the album in full here: http://www.metalinsider.net/new-music/album-stream-church-tongues-heart-failure
Thank you again to Church Tongue for taking the time to answer our questions. To learn more about the band, follow them on their socials and check them out on Blood & Ink Records’ website, listed below: