Former Skinlab guitarist Brian Jackson wasn’t thinking much about a full-fledged band when he and In This Moment bassist Travis Johnson started exchanging song ideas via email. But they quickly realized they were on to something, and Invidia was born, with Johnson on vocals, Jackson on lead guitar, Matt Snell (Five Finger Death Punch) on bass, Marcos Medina (Skinlab) on rhythm guitar and Darren Badorine on drums. The band came together quickly, but it’s been a longer road to its first album, which wrapped recording more than a year ago. The wait will come to an end Friday, March 31, when As the Sun Sleeps (pre-order here), one of the more anticipated debuts of 2017, is set for release. Jackson recently called in to Live Metal’s Greg Maki to discuss the band’s origins, the album and more.
LIVE METAL: The Invidia debut album, As the Sun Sleeps, comes out on Friday. I understand it’s been done for a little while now, so what has this period been like while you’ve been kind of sitting on it and waiting to get it out there?
BRIAN JACKSON: A lot of anxiety and a lot of impatience. (laughs) No, we’re excited about the release on Friday, obviously. Like you said, the record’s been done for a little over a year. The mixing and recording and everything–we finished it, I think, late last February, early March when we finalized everything. So we’ve been sitting on it. A lot of that time frame was us shopping for a label, getting the right team in place–publicists and management and all that–so we could make sure that we had the proper set of time for when we did sign a deal to get the record out. Here we are a year later and coming out in a couple days, and it’s about time. A lot of people have been bugging us–”We want to hear more, we want to hear more.” As much as we wanted to let them hear it all, we’re just a couple days away, so we’re all very excited about the situation, finally.
In this band, you’re all veterans, you’ve all been in other bands. So how did you come together as Invidia?
Yeah, like you said, we all have a history together in some way or another. Matt and Travis, they go back many, many years. They’ve been in bands together. They come from the same camp of a group of guys before the Five Finger days. Travis in Flatline was also on the same label at one point when I was in Skinlab. We shared some shows together. Darren, his connection with Matt from Reno–that’s where we got Darren. And me and Marcos’ connection came from he was my other guitar player in Skinlab. We all have some kind of past experiences together.
As far as the forming of this band, it came by a fluke, to tell you the truth. I was in between some time while I was still currently in Skinlab, potentially working on a new record, working on music that really wasn’t the same type of vibe as Skinlab. Outside of being in Skinlab, I was a huge fan, but the music I was working on had taken a different form, different direction. So I didn’t really have a home for it, and just by chance, I had gotten in touch with Travis while he was on a break with In This Moment, and we just connected. I sent him some ideas, and he sent me some ideas, and we just started kind of gelling online, sending tracks back and forth through email. We realized we had something that we might want to dabble a little further into. By the time (manager/producer) Logan (Mader) got back involved, when he came back from Europe from his tour he was on, he heard what we were doing, and he was like, “Man, let’s do something with this. You guys into it?” We were like, “Yeah, let’s try it.”
So we pretty much just jumped into the studio. We didn’t really take a lot of time forming this whole band idea, and getting in a garage or jam room and jamming. We just threw ourselves into a studio with a bunch of great ideas. We brought in Matt as we were doing this process. Like I said, he had a connection with Travis. He also was connected with me back in the early Five Finger days. My old band, Kreep, that was based out of Vegas, played some shows with those guys. Matt also lived here, so we’ve been in communication over the years. When this came about, he was the first person we thought of as playing bass. Then we auditioned many, many drummers, went through a couple different changes before the record came out. And when it came to a second guitar player, Marcos was the first guy that we thought of–great guy, great guitar player; we fit very well together, as far as playing.
It all was pretty flawless, man, as far as how we put everything together. It was very unexpected. Like I said, it came out of the blue. We all like to work on music. Outside of what projects we might have going on, we all just keep writing, keep busy, but we didn’t really expect this to turn into what it is becoming today. So it’s been a pretty overwhelming experience, and it’s been amazing so far.
Things change in the music business all the time. How does putting a band together now compare to earlier in your career when you were starting out?
That’s a good question. Everything is different. I have these conversations quite often, to tell you the truth. I just turned 41, and after all these years of playing and going to being a teenager when you’re in high school and getting excited about wanting to get on stage and all that–everything, to me, now is so different. Back then, you’d be lucky to get a group of guys you could jam with in a garage and have some fun, maybe play some backyard kegger parties or whatever. As you grow older, a lot of us live in different states. Families and work and all that kind of stuff comes up just by being a responsible adult. So there’s a whole different dynamic, as far as the way we all approach things. Luckily, with the internet and technology nowadays, we can live across the country and track ideas and send them through email, and pretty much get the same amount of work done that you could do if someone was sitting right there in your own room. It’s been a completely different process.
This particular project for me has been completely different, because I was there since day one. The ideas came about at 3 in the morning, and here we are–a full band, already done a tour, got a record coming out. It has been a complete 180 turnaround from what I’ve done in the past. So yeah, it’s quite different. But to me, it seems way more productive. I think we’ve gotten a lot farther than trying just to grind away in a local bar scene or a local scene. Nowadays, the music scene’s changed so much, as you know, it’s really hard for even the best of musicians and bands to pull themselves together in a local market, depending on where they’re at, and just go grind away–whether you’re in Hollywood trying to play the Sunset Strip or whether you’re in Vegas trying to play the local bars. It just seems to really not do a lot for bands nowadays. Things have changed so much.
So we decided to build more of a business format around what we all enjoy doing. The music comes first and foremost, but we wanted to build a brand and build it as a business from the ground up. Me and Matt both come from business. We’re both business owners, both business backgrounds, so we really thought hard about how we wanted to approach this. We wanted to try to make all the right decisions. Obviously, nothing’s ever perfect. In a perfect world, things would go a certain way, but we’ve tried to really make the right choices and consider all of our experience–good and bad–along the way.
When this band got together, was the musical direction pretty clear right from the start, or did it take some time to kind of decide where you wanted to go?
We didn’t have an exact direction. We’re all metalheads, and we’re all into good songwriting. We all grew up from a metal background first and foremost, but then as you get older, as a musician, you appreciate songwriting as opposed to just writing a really heavy riff or that pounding drum beat or that guitar solo. We’ve really started to think about songwriting skills opposed to being selfish with our parts.
The direction kind of molded itself. We had these ideas that were heavy and great, but we didn’t know how the whole record was necessarily gonna pan out. It started off with three ideas between me and Travis. At the time the record was done, we listened back and there was so much more that we had to offer that we really didn’t realize we had in us. We have to thank Logan for a lot of that. He’s our manager, but he was our producer, and he really zoned in on the craft of what we all do individually, He knew what we all were good at, what we excelled at, and he pulled it out of us, and he also brought things out of us that we weren’t really sure we had in us, that we maybe never had tried before. As far as myself, singing. I’ve always done background vocals and been a backing and gang vocal guy on stage, but as far as being in the studio, I’ve never really jumped in a vocal booth. It came down to doing harmonies and different ideas that he threw out there, and it just seemed to mesh really well.
So the direction formed itself in the studio, and we’re really happy with the way it came out. Now that we’ve got this first record under our belt, I can assure you the next record we’re gonna have a solid direction. But we’re pleased with everything this record has to offer. It has so many different elements. You’ve got the industrial side of the heavy thing. We’ve got a couple songs that kind of have more of a hip-hop/rock element that’s from the old-school days. We’ve got songs that are just straight rock oriented, like “Feed the Fire,” which is our current single. They all tie together very well on the record, but individually there’s a lot of different elements that we explored that we never had tried in the past.
Do you have any personal favorite songs or songs that are a little closer to you than the others?
Yeah. I’m being biased. I love the whole record, but there are some songs that really touch me. We have a song on the record called “Rotten.” It’s probably the simplest musically on the record, as far as music-wise, but it’s probably the most powerful vocally, just the feeling you get when you hear it. Every time I hear that song, whether we play it live or I just jam it in my car, it just does something for me, man. I get chills. It makes you feel all these different emotions, and I think when the record drops, a lot of people are gonna feel the exact same way. It seemed to be a really good crowd-pleaser, too. When we were playing it live, the crowd really got into it. Really big choruses, and it just has a story to tell.
Songs like “As the Sun Sleeps,” which is the title track, means a lot to me. That song’s more of a guitar riff-oriented, pounding, metal type of song. For me, as a guitar player, obviously, it’s fun for me to play. That’s where the title comes from. That kind of sums up the whole feeling of the record. I like the whole record as a whole. There’s a lot of different stories to tell, going back to even “Making My Amends,” which was our first lyric video. It has a story about addiction, recovery and just trying to mend yourself. A lot of us can relate to that story, and it really hit home for Travis when he was working on the lyrics, and that song came together pretty well.
All the way across the board, everything on the record means something to me, but there are a few–like I said “Rotten,” “As the Sun Sleeps,” “Making My Amends”–those songs really hit home for me personally.
On “The Other Side,” you have Aaron (Nordstrom) from Gemini Syndrome making an appearance on vocals. How did that come about?
Aaron’s been a really good friend of mine for many, many years. During the process of the recording, Aaron had relocated from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. He was staying with me at my house. He was my roommate temporarily while him and his wife were waiting for their new location. While we were recording the record, the song “Other Side,” the music actually had been floating around with me for quite some time. I never had a home for it. It was actually the last song on the record to get vocals. It was there, the music was done, it was great, but we just couldn’t find that top line.
Randomly one night during the recording process, me and Aaron were hanging out at my house in my studio. We were just playing back the songs and having him vibe off of everything, and he heard that song. He goes, “Man, let me take a stab at that top line, that chorus.” I go, “Let’s go for it.” I grab my iPhone, and he sat there and belted out some vocals. Right when I heard it, I was like, “Oh my god, that’s it. That’s perfect.”
So I sent it right over to Logan. I was like, “Dude, I’ve got Aaron here. What do you think about having him do guest vocals on this song with Travis? I think we have something special.” Logan was like, “Dude, that’s amazing.” I sent it to the rest of the band, they loved it, and pretty much the next day, the next morning, we grabbed our coffee, went into the studio, and him and Travis just started knocking out the vocals. They literally tracked the entire vocal line, wrote every word, I think, within a matter of two hours, and it was done, and it came out amazing.
It’s one of those things, man. That song was on the back burner. I didn’t even know it was gonna make this record until Aaron got involved. As soon as he did, it all made sense, and everything came right about. It was awesome.
What are the plans going forward? You’ll have to work around Travis’ schedule with In This Moment, but what can we expect coming up for the band?
We’re working around all that stuff. Like I said, we didn’t expect to have so much momentum so quickly, especially before the record even drops. But with his schedule, we’re making it work. We have a lot of tour offers coming in. We actually have an announcement that’s probably gonna be coming in tomorrow or Wednesday–a big tour announcement–plus multiple other festivals that we just are confirming right now. All those press releases should be made in the next week or so. So there’s quite a bit going on in our camp, actually. We’re intertwining everything to work with Travis and his schedule with In This Moment the best we can and to keep the momentum going to make things work, man. I think if Corey Taylor can do it, we can do it. (laughs)
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I just want to thank all the fans out there that have been supportive, all the guys like yourself that have been giving us interviews and a chance to speak about the band and get our name out there. It’s been amazing. We look forward to hearing the feedback from everybody once the record does drop, and we’re excited to see how things go and hoping to meet everybody on the road. If anybody comes to the show, come say hi. We’re pretty approachable. We’re always at the merch booth, trying to meet and greet new fans, and we’re pretty active on social media, as well. We look forward to hearing from everybody and excited for what the new year has to come for us.