Interview with Wage War guitarist/vocalist Cody Quistad | By Natasha Van Duser
Clean vocalist and rhythm guitarist Cody Quistad is in Orlando, Florida, preparing for his band, Wage War, to play their only set on this year’s Vans Warped Tour. Based about 80 miles north in Ocala, it’s an easy drive for the metalcore group, who are jumping on for a day’s set as practice for their tour in July. Promoting their sophomore record, Deadweight—out Aug. 4 through Fearless Records—this marks the band’s first headlining run. Afterward, they will stay on the road, playing dates all over the U.S. and Australia through October.
“We’re trying to pull together as many new songs as possible,” Quistad says. “We’re really just trying to put together a new set that will please both old and new fans.” Quistad views the band’s first record—the aptly titled Blueprints, released through Fearless in 2015—as a layout for all the riffs and tricks Deadweight now brings to the table. “I’ve been describing [the new album] as, like, the truest Wage War record,” he continues. “I think, lyrically, it’s kind of a darker album than Blueprints is. There’s some songs on there about losing love and relationships. There are also songs on there about inner struggle and not liking the person you are, as well as songs about the current state of humanity.”
Wage War spent about six weeks in the studio with Andrew Wade and A Day To Remember frontman Jeremy McKinnon at the duo’s studio, The Audio Compound, working with both friends and peers to bring the album to life. “Though it is dark, I think the overall theme of the record is letting go of those things and shedding the deadweight, if you will,” Quistad explains. “‘Deadweight, no longer part of me’ are the last words of the record, so it’s kind of like it ends in a freeing stance.”
This last track, entitled “Johnny Cash,” not only pulls together the entire record, it is also probably the most out-of-left-field song Wage War have ever dived into. “I listen to a lot of country music, and one of the things that’s really prevalent through country music is calling on the names of the heroes of country music,” Quistad says. “Johnny Cash is obviously widely respected among every musical genre, so the song, it alludes back to Johnny Cash and the songs that he wrote about. So, I feel like that’s something—though it doesn’t sound like a country record, things like that are things that we pulled from, like different genres or even sound-wise, trying to create environments that aren’t really used in metal.”
While “Johnny Cash” shows more of the band members’ musical roots, tracks like the single “Stitch” play around with just how heavy Wage War can get. “I wrote ‘Stitch’ at my house, and it is literally the exact same song from the first time it was recorded to now,” Quistad notes. “I feel like we really wanted to push ourselves as a heavy band, like, beyond breakdowns. I feel like true heaviness is in things like lyrical content and just aggression. I feel like that song is extremely aggressive lyrically, and I think [unclean vocalist] Briton [Bond] did a really great job conveying all those emotions. So, I feel like that was just a really good snapshot of where we wanted to go, heavy-wise.”
With lines like “I’ll always be your greatest mistake,” there’s a forlorn attitude accentuated by the constant use of unclean vocals in “Stitch,” a sound balanced out by more melodic tracks like “Don’t Let Me Fade Away.” “That one went through a little more work in the studio,” Quistad says. “It just illustrated a lot of the more melodic side of the record. There’s more singing and there’s more space. […] We tried a lot of new stuff on the record, and I felt like that was a good middle ground of the scream/sing split.”
Finally, Wage War have hit the road with their friends in Varials and Gideon, launching their live promotion for Deadweight. “[It’s] authentic,” Quistad concludes. “I think [Deadweight] is front to back, nothing cookie cutter on it. It’s all real subjects, real emotions, real music.”