If you were living in a cave in 2008, you might have missed the explosive debut album of a little band called Black Tide. Fronted by then 15-year-old Gabriel Garcia, the band burst onto the hard rock/metal scene with the force of a "Shockwave," which was coincidentally the title of the hit single from their album Light From Above.
Since finding themselves on many pundits' "Best Newcomer" lists, including those of Rolling Stone and Guitar World magazine, the guys in Black Tide have racked up thousands of touring miles at home and overseas, trying to prove that, despite their collective youth they have the chops to stand alongside such veterans as Avenged Sevenfold and All That Remains.
Beginning in the early spring of 2010, the band, Garcia (guitar/vocals), Austin Diaz (guitar/vocals), Zachary Sandler (bass/vocals) and Steven Spence (drums), returned to the studio to record their sophomore album with producers GGGarth Richardson and Josh Wilbur. Two new tracks from the album have surfaced on myspace and itunes.
To play new jams in front of packed venues and to get fans excited for their upcoming release (scheduled for February 2011), Black Tide is back on the road, touring with heavy-hitters Bullet for My Valentine, Escape the Fate and Drive A. Backstage at New York's Roseland Ballroom, Shotmonster.com talked with Zakk Sandler and Steven Spence about everything from truck stops to the prom and a whole lot more.
Shotmonster: Hey guys, how's the tour going?
Steven: We haven't toured in over a year, and we couldnít have expected anything better.
Shotmonster: How is it to tour with the likes of Escape the Fate and Bullet for My Valentine?
Zakk: These are all bands we've known forever; we're all friends. It's perfect.
Steven: We feel like we're family with these bands. Bullet, Escape the Fate, Drive A, we've gone back with them for years.
Shotmonster: Do the headlining bands have a say in who goes out with them?
Zakk: Well, yeah, who else could it be? Who else could go out with them? It's gotta be us.
Steven: The headlining band has a huge say, if not the entire say. When we headline, people come to us. If it's local support, they'll give us options. If it's someone we want to bring out, then we'll choose [the band].
Shotmonster: What's a typical day like?
Zakk: Get to the venue at 9am.
Steven: Whoa, that's not where the day starts.
Zakk: The day starts the night before.
Steven: The day never ends.
Zakk: Seriously, it's constant movement. You play your show, you pack up, drive eight hours to the next city, get there early. Hopefully the venue's open or find a bathroom somewhere.
Steven: People ask us, how was your day off? Dude, we haven't had a day off. We've had days when we didn't have a show, but it's not really a day off unless I'm at home on my couch.
Zakk: It'll be a day off when we've got nothing to do.
Shotmonster: Sounds like you don't get a lot of sleep.
Zakk: I got 4 hours last night.
Steven: The back of the van's not too cozy, but for what it was, I got some great sleep last night.
Zakk: It's weird when you say, "I got some great sleep in the van. I slept over 5 hours."
Shotmonster: Where do you guys stay on tour?
Steven: We stay in our van.
Zakk: People's houses.
Steven: It was funny what happened the other day. If we know someone in a city, we'll stay with them, have a shower, grab some food, hang out with the people. But we didn't know anyone in Virginia. Before the show we were thinking about asking the crowd if we could crash [at any of their houses.] Right before the last song Gabriel turned around to me and said, "Should I do it?" and I said, "Yeah, definitely!" So he said to the crowd, "This might sound a little awkward, but we're looking for a place to crash tonight. If anyone wants to party with us six dudes at your house, we'll do it."
Zakk: A bunch of people came to the merch table and said, "We'll put you up." So we stayed at two very nice girls' houses.
Shotmonster: What's the worst thing about being on tour?
Steven: I don't get to practice my drums as much as I would like. Number one, it annoys everyone, and number two, I just don't have enough time.
Zakk: Toilets is the worst thing. Having your own bathroom is the greatest thing in the world. It's comfortable, its clean, it's not a truck stop that 9 billion people have been in.
Steven: Another bad thing about touring is being in the van. It's a cramped space. Four band, two crew. Even though we all love each other, you're always in each other's space.
Shotmonster: Do you hang out with the other bands?
Steven: Hell yeah. All day every day.
Zakk: Craig from ETF has a party RV on this run, so we've been visiting quite a bit. And Bullet's bus is just a party bus.
Shotmonster: You guys started out young. Did you feel in the early days that you had anything to prove?
Zakk: We got stereotyped so quickly. They called us the Hanson of metal, or some shit like that. And you just want to say, hey it doesnít matter how old I am, I can get up and I can play just as good as the dude that's 30 and has been doing this forever. For me I didn't want someone to be sitting there like, "Oh, some punk ass kid got on stage and he's f--ing sucking."
Steven: I didn't want to feel that we're just like a novelty, that we're just young kids that everything's been given to us.
Zakk: And we've all heard that shit like, "Oh you were put together by some label." That's so far from the truth.
Steven: Rumors suck.
Zakk: It really sucks.
Steven: It's tough to hear those kinds of things when the fact is we do work our f--ing asses off and we have invested our lives into this. I think when people come see our live show, then they believe.
Shotmonster: So how do you bring that much energy night after night, on four hours of sleep in the back of the van?
Steven: I don't really know.
Zakk: I only have energy on stage now. We're all very relaxed throughout the day, then you get onstage and you just put it all out there, give it your all.
Steven: What it is for me, I just keep telling myself, that regardless of how well I played the night before, everyone that's here didn't see that. I'm only as good as my last show, or the show I'm playing currently.
Shotmonster: You've spent your teen years basically touring. Is there anything you feel you've missed out on?
Zakk: The Prom.
Steven: Oh, boo hoo. It's tough being on the road because it's hard to keep relationships with friends at home. It's such a sporadic lifestyle. But I feel like our benefits outweigh our losses.
Shotmonster: You werenít on Warped Tour this year. How'd you spend your summer vacation?
Steven and Zakk: Making a record.
Shotmonster: How's it coming?
Steven: It's awesome.
Zakk: Itís great.
Steven: We've put our heart and soul into all these songs. They're all really meaningful to us. It's an evolved sound. I feel like we've matured as musicians and it definitely shows on the record.
Shotmonster: What were your goals, musically, with the new album?
Zakk: If you listen to the first record, you can tell we can play, and we can write songs, whatever, but none of the songs really said anything. They didn't convey any sort of message. You can sit there and be like "I'm a shockwave." Okay, I get it. There's lyrics on here (the new record) that you can feel, anybody can listen to and think, "I get it, you're pissed off about this, or happy about this, or sad about this." We have something to say now.
Shotmonster: What are you pissed off about?
Zakk: Everything. The world. (Laughs)
Shotmonster: What's your song-writing process like?
Zakk: Every song's different.
Steven: It starts with an idea and then it just builds from there.
Shotmonster: Do you work collaboratively?
Steven: Yeah, this whole record was a change. Our first record was mainly our singer, Gabriel, was coming up with a thing, and just being in the studio, and we'd all learn it, work on it together, come up with ideas here and there. This record was a complete change. We got into a room and they're like: "write songs." It was cool, we were all feeding off each other, coming up with riffs, and it just evolved. It's always cool to see something come from nothing.
Shotmonster: Do you think that might account for the deeper, richer sound?
Zakk: Definitely. The fact that we're all so behind every song, every note.
Shotmonster: It's a crowded field out there. What do you do to stand out?
Steven: I think that goes back to one of the questions you asked earlier, and that's giving it our all every single night.
Zakk: There's bands, you come to their shows and some days, and they're just terrible.
Steven: You know they're sick. We just don't let that happen.
Zakk: Even if we are, we never give off that we're sick, or feeling pissed off about something, you just get out there and you do what you do.
Steven: You come out every night to the merch booth, and you smile at all your fans, and you take pictures, and you sign things. Because everyone's important, and we realize that.
Shotmonster: Zakk, I hear you're into reading. Read anything good lately?
Zakk: I haven't had time lately; I've been driving too much. I'm into Hunter S. Thompson though. I'm just trying to explore that area. Everyone says I should read Voltaire and Mark Twain, but I haven't had time. When we get on a bus, I might.
Shotmonster: If there was one musician, living or dead, you could jam with, who would it be?
Zakk: Damn. That's a hard one.
Steven: Personally, I'm happy where I'm at right now. I love the band I'm playing with on stage every night, so I don't really think about that too much.
Zakk: Actually, I did get to jam with a band I wanted to jam with.
Zakk: I got to jam with some of the dudes in Mastodon. That was amazing.
Shotmonster: Where do you see yourself in another three or four years?
Steven: Hopefully we'll come to a place like this [Roseland Ballroom, NY] and be the main event.
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