Escape The Fate may be touring behind Ungrateful, an album the band released in May of last year. But the group has a larger overall goal for its shows than just promoting a current release.
“Now is our time to really show people that we’re still here. We’re still a band,” vocalist Craig Mabbitt says. “We’re just going to kind of reintroduce ourselves. We’ve been off for so long that we know our fans that are coming to the shows really want to hear the songs that they like, the popular songs. So we don’t want to come back out after this two-year hiatus and come out there and play nothing but new stuff. But it’s a good mixture. I think fans are going to really, really enjoy the performances.”
Indeed, a reintroduction may be in order for Escape The Fate after all that has happened since the band released its previous album, a 2010 self-titled effort. The band has gone through changes in its lineup, management and label. It also scrapped half of an album on the way to finishing Ungrateful.
Mabbitt is very candid in covering the various transitions, trials and tribulations that have happened, beginning with personnel changes that saw bassist Thomas “TJ” Bell replace Max Green and touring guitarist Michael Money (younger brother of founding member, guitarist/keyboardist Bryan “Monte” Money) get elevated to a full-time band member.
The situation with Green, who was struggling with sobriety, caused no shortage of hardship as Escape The Fate (which also includes drummer Robert Ortiz) toured behind the self-titled album.
“Nothing helped,” Mabbitt says of attempts to keep Green clean. “It got to the point when we went on the Uproar Festival (in summer 2011), and Monte didn’t want to be on the road with Max. So we were like ‘All right, let’s hire a different guitarist so we can show Monte that Max is serious and Max got better.’ I think Max lasted maybe two weeks tops on that Uproar Fest, and then he just completely went M.I.A.”
In the case of Michael and “Monte” Money, their time in the band came to an end in September of last year when they declined to go on Escape The Fate’s tour with Five Finger Death Punch. Green turned out to be a temporary fill-in, leaving the group in May. Bell, who moved to guitar while Green was back in the band, is now on bass and Kevin Gruft is the new lead guitarist.
Such lineup shuffles are nothing new for the band. There have been enough band member changes since Escape The Fate formed in 2004 to give a band an identity crisis. The biggest change involved Mabbitt, who replaced original vocalist Ronnie Radke in 2008. The group has also seen the departures of guitarist Omar Espinosa (in 2007) and keyboardist Carson Allen (in 2006).
So by the time the group made its second album, 2008’s This War Is Ours, only Monte and Ortiz remained from the original lineup. That album, though, gave Escape The Fate reason to believe its career was heading in the right direction.
“That was really the prime time for Escape The Fate, (when) we really started seeing some growth,” Mabbitt says. “We started playing the bigger venues and we started being a part of the bigger festivals, and it was all because of that album.”
The group was then approached by major label Interscope Records. The prospect of having a major label supporting its third album was enough to entice Escape The Fate to leave Epitaph Records for Interscope.
“We were super excited at the time,” Mabbitt says. “We were like, ‘Oh my God, Interscope wants us. Maybe Interscope thinks that Rock’s making a comeback and maybe we can be the pioneers of that. Maybe we can be the new-age new Rock band.’ It didn’t work out that way.”
If it had been up to the band, Ungrateful would have come out on Interscope, Mabbit says.
“It wasn’t our decision to get off of Interscope,” he says. “Interscope made the decision that they just felt like Rock & Roll was dead. They fired the entire Rock department and dropped every band that they had in the genre.”
The group, though, went ahead and started recording Ungrateful as an unsigned band. For a time, it looked like Razor & Tie would become Escape the Fate’s next label.
At the time, the band was between management, and John Feldmann was serving as something of an interim unofficial manager while producing the new album.
“Razor & Tie was ready to go and wanted to release the album,” Mabbitt says. “We flew out to New York and we were going to sign to Razor & Tie, and the album was supposed to come out … last fall.”
The one thing that stopped the plan was the album itself.
“We got the first (half of the) album (done) and we were satisfied with it,” Mabbitt says. “Feldmann started sending us the second half of the album and we were just not feeling it at all. I just think we weren’t satisfied with the songs we chose to record.”
So Escape The Fate put the album on hold, wrote more songs and then did a second recording session with Monte and Brandon Saller splitting production duties. Some of the album’s key songs — including “You’re Insane” and the title track — were written during the second session.
“Half of the album is brand new,” Mabbitt says. “Those are some of our favorite songs on the album.”
Ungrateful won’t hold many surprises to fans. Like the self-titled album, it features the same brutal-yet-melodic Hardcore sound, with Mabbitt switching between sung and screamed vocals.
The album was released on Eleven Seven Music, which seems like a good fit. Eleven Seven helped engineer Motley Crue’s resurgence and is home to Papa Roach, Buckcherry and a number of other mainstream Hard Rock bands.
“I just feel like Eleven Seven is one of those labels that just really believes in the genre,” Mabbitt says. “I feel like it was a good move.”
ESCAPE THE FATE plays the all-day Rockstar Energy Uproar Festival at Riverbend Sunday. Tickets/more info: riverbend.org .