Fight the Lion causes an uproar

Fight the Lion

October 2, 2010

It has been a productive first year for Virginia’s Fight the Lion. Since forming in late 2009, they have recorded and released their debut album (When the Mighty Fall), played shows with Def Leppard, Poison and Cheap Trick and, most recently, opened the second stage at the Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Va. Prior to their set,’s Greg Maki met up with the quartet—vocalist/guitarist Jake Mimikos, lead guitarist Ron Cruz, bassist Jason Proctor and drummer Shawn Battle—to talk about their formation, influences and more. Uproar Festival is a pretty big deal. How did you guys get this show?

Shawn Battle: We’ve been a Jager-sponsored band for awhile and honestly we just got done recording the CD, sent them a couple songs for some motorcycle video that we’re going to be on, and right after they heard those, they contacted us, called us. Honestly, it was a shock. It was like, “Hey, you guys available?” We’re like, “Hell yeah.” [laughter]

Ron Cruz: They called back immediately with that.

Shawn: Yeah, it was honestly just a call from Jagermeister.

That’s got to be a pretty big confidence boost.

Ron: We were pretty happy about it.

Shawn: We’re very happy about it. We needed it. We’ve all been doing this a long time, and you just need that extra push every once in a while. So Jagermeister’s really been good.

Who are you looking forward to seeing or meeting?

Ron: Stone Sour.

Jason Proctor: HellYeah.

Jake Mimikos: I want to check out HellYeah, too. Stone Sour, Disturbed, of course. I really want to see Disturbed.

Ron: Airbourne. Everybody, really.

Shawn: That’s the kind of cool thing about this. Now we can kind of compare what this is all about compared to us. We’re more of a rock-based band with those kind of Mötley Crüe influences or Van Halen influences.

Ron: It’s familiar, but it still sounds new. We bring back elements that grab the listener, I think. We’re still finding out ourselves, but 13 tracks later, from February to now, to be playing this Jagermeister stage—this is like our fourth gig as Fight the Lion.

Shawn: Yeah, honestly it’s been quick. We were recording this—we finished it in May, we had it out by July. It’s been pretty quick.

How did you guys get together as a band?

Fight the Lion on Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar

Shawn: Craigslist. Jake and I met about five years ago on Craigslist. We had a band for awhile, kicked out some members.

Ron: And then I found them on Craigslist, learned the songs.

Shawn: We needed a guitar player. He was probably our fifth guy to come in, and as soon as we saw him, we were like, “That’s the guy.”

Ron: I said the same thing—“That’s the band.”

Shawn: And then Jason was the last addition. He came in about November of last year, and (he and Ron) knew each other from a prior band.

Ron: That was the fulcrum for everything because once Jason joined, all the songs that we’d been working on were finally written, in a sense where we can go in the studio and Shawn just put a deadline on it. He said, I want to go in the studio by this date. And we were like, “We don’t have enough material.” We went in there and we found out we had an abundance of material. That was a first for me.

Jason: It put a lot of pressure on me, though. I joined the band and about four weeks later Shawn was booking studio time. [laughter]

Shawn: Hey, you just gotta go. I’m getting old. You gotta push this stuff. [laughter]

Ron: His musical clock is ticking in.

Where in Virginia are you based?

Ron: Mount Vernon.

Shawn: Yeah, I live in the Mount Vernon/Alexandria area and they’re all around. But my house is kind of the congregation spot.

It’s kind of an interesting name for the band. Where did that come from?

Ron: It’s the sound of victory, the connection with the lyrics.

Shawn: It comes from our sound, first off. But then it represents any struggle that’s bigger than you. Everybody has a struggle. So we wanted something that encompassed that struggle and said hey, we struggle, too, we’re trying to do this and it’s always hard. So Fight the Lion. You’ve gotta fight your way to the top.

Jason: We wanted to have a unique phrase that captured that. Even if you’re outnumbered or outclassed, get out of your comfort zone, go down fighting the whole way. When the lion grabs your ankle, turn around and fight the lion.

Ron: But the lion’s what you make of it. It could be a struggle. It could be something that you imagine bigger than you. I’m into mythology, and when I think in terms of lions, I think of the stars, not so much a zoo animal. And to me, that’s what my lion is. The band’s energy, that’s what we’re trying to harness. It’s our first effort, so I just keep hoping we continue to have this kind of success.

Is that the kind of thing that you write songs about? Does that kind of theme go through it?

Shawn: Yeah. Jake writes most of the lyrics. I think he writes from personal experience. Tell him how you write.

Jake: That’s exactly why I thought the name was fitting, because a lot of the lyrics have to do with that, with your own personal struggles. I thought it worked really well. A lot of it comes from personal experience, but it’s meant to be taken however you want.

Ron: But he’s got a riff, too. I’ve known guys that were a poet, kind of a thinker or feeler type of person, but they didn’t have a riff. And Jake definitely comes to the table a lot of times with a good riff, a good hook, and we build around that.

You’ve talked a little bit about the sound of the band. Can you elaborate on that, some of the influences?


Shawn: I grew up listening to Mötley Crüe. Tommy Lee, he’s a hard-hitting drummer. Not very technical, just solid and banging. And that’s what I based my playing off of.

Ron: And it works in a stadium, that sound.

Shawn: Yeah, it’s just a big, rock, in-your-face kind of sound.

Ron: The ‘80s used a lot of reverb for that reason.

Shawn: It’s no fast stuff, it’s just a beat that you’re gonna bob your head to.

Jake: All four of us have, probably, different influences.

Ron: Yeah, I was into Van Halen, Led Zeppelin—riff-oriented guitar. So I’m always trying to add some sort of hook that supports whatever Jake’s singing about. I think it’s my main focus.

Shawn: (Jason’s) Led Zeppelin-based, I guess, right?

Jason: Yeah, they’re a big influence. I try to take the rock ‘n’ roll bass playing from root notes. I’m not much of a singer, but I like to pick out harmonies. We’ve got a couple of songs where I’m playing two lines on the bass guitar at the same time, where I’m playing the root notes and I’m playing a harmony underneath the chorus at the same time. So I like to do a lot of stuff like that. I like to watch what the guitars are doing and try to make a harmony that goes through there and get away from riding the root note all the time. I do plenty of riding on the root note, as well.

Ron: It’s interesting ‘cause I could be playing a single-note line and Jason could be doing a harmony underneath it, and we’re able to write like that. Songs don’t need chords sometimes. Sometimes it just needs a cool melody and it definitely enables us to do that.

You’ve only played a few shows with this lineup, and I guess it’s still kind of coming together, but how would you describe the Fight the Lion live show? Can you at this point?

Shawn: Yeah, we can. We’re still building on that, but it’s all about the energy. We’re trying to get that stage energy going. It just depends on the show, really. This one, we’re playing five of our more energetic songs—‘cause you’ve got to. For our record release, we played all 13 tracks. It was kind of a rollercoaster, highs and lows.

Ron: For me, ever since I picked up a record in my brother’s room, before I learned how to play guitar, I was just fascinated by rock stars. Just seeing Jimmy Page on his wall, Eddie Van Halen’s poses and jumps, and that energy. I’m always looking for that in the music I listen to, and I’m trying to project that when we play. And I’m trying to come up with a riff or a melody as a song that brings that feeling out so the listener can connect with what I’m really feeling. That’s what it is. The music’s something that’s bigger than us. You’re just trying to chase it and ride that wave, and I just hope I catch it today. [laughter]

What’s next for you guys?

Jake: We want to get on a big tour. We’re very happy about opening up the show, but our next show, we want to play on the main stage. That’s the goal. We want to get on a big tour after this.

Shawn: We’ve paid our dues playing the small stuff, over and over again. Last year, we played 80 shows. Half of them were good, some were OK. But we’re kind of done with that. We’re trying to be choosy, play the right shows and don’t take steps back—we want to take steps forward. That’s what we’re aiming for, is a tour. We’re trying to get something going.

You’ve played with some big names already. What has been the highlight so far?

Ron: Def Lep.

Shawn: Yeah, Def Leppard. We played here. That was pretty sick.

Ron: Cheap Trick/Poison. I grew up listening to these guys on the edge of my bed trying to learn licks and there they are, soundchecking the song and I’m going, “That’s not how you play it.” [laughter] It’s too much practicing, man. I’m glad I’m in a band now. [laughs]

Jake: Yeah, it was a pretty great show. We played on the VIP stage and then we got to rock out listening to Def Leppard. We were singing along to “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” It was fun.

Shawn: I think, honestly, this show is gonna be bigger for us.

You’re hitting more of the right crowd.

Shawn: Yeah, we’re hitting the right crowd. Hopefully we’re not going on too early.

Ron: The feeling’s magical. This is the first time we’re in a band where we’re sitting around doing interviews back to back and having some kind of semblance of the real industry. The attitude’s there. We just want to learn, and if somebody will give us that shot and put us up there, we won’t make them disappointed—I hope.

The CD is available through iTunes—

Ron: iTunes, CD Baby, yeah.

Shawn: Pretty much everywhere


Shawn: Everywhere online.

Anything else you want to add?

Ron: Thanks, Greg.

Shawn: Yeah, thank you. We appreciate you taking the time, man.