Darkest Hour has been a band for over 20 years, releasing nine albums under their belts, with progressive touring to keep them active and going as a whole. Guitarist Mike Schleibaum discusses their ninth album, current touring cycle, plus what plans they have for the rest of this year!
1. For people who aren't familiar with the band, how did you come up with the name Darkest Hour?
Mike: It was a long time ago in a galaxy far away! It was September of 1995 to be exact. We had been jamming and playing songs for about 8 months and had finally booked our first show. We put off coming up with a band name till the last minute, but we need a name for the flyers etc. Our drummer Matt had a list of band names and Darkest Hour seemed to hit the mood of the music we were creating so we just picked and went with it. Of course, we all agreed that “if we came up with something better we would change it” – welp, in classic Darkest Hour style, some 21 years later our first impulse was the best and were still called Darkest Hour!
2. Being a band for over 20 years, what keeps the band going, what keeps it exciting for the band members?
Mike: I think it’s a combination of loving music, really loving playing, writing, recording, working on the music AND a love for adventure, traveling, world exploring / cultural studies! You have to love music and love to travel – you have to love the world and you have to love art and this love has to be borderline addiction. – this is at the foundation of why we love this still so much.
3. "Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora" is your ninth album to date. Did you ever think that starting over 20 years ago, you were going to be where you are today?
Mike: I think we always knew we were lifers but the music world is so different from when we started I don’t think there is ANYWAY we could have predicted things would be the way they are. With that in mind, our core reality has stayed the same, put your head down, make your art and soldiered forward, keeping ourselves focused has really always kept us grounded and that’s key.
4. Why did you want your first ever live DVD release to be included with this album, as opposed to releasing it by itself? Does the live DVD include a live album CD version as well?
Mike: The live DVD release was only for our Indiegogo contributors. We wanted to do something really fun and special for them. So the DVD only accompanies the Indiegogo release of the album. We love playing live, it’s always been at the core of WHY WE DO THIS BAND. So why not try to capture that love live, and where better place than in our hometown playing Undoing Ruin! The reason we did not include the live performance on the worldwide release was because we wanted Godless Prophets to stand on its own, which I think it does. We hope to make the DVD available to a wider audience later down the road but for now, the only way to have gotten it was to have been one of the faithful who pre-ordered via Indigogo, after all, we couldn’t be more thankful to those who contributed.
5. You guys have managed to maintain your band's Darkest Hour logo since the very beginning, while other acts have gone on to change their logos if not slightly, why stick to your guns with staying original?
Mike: Actually, I think if you look at all the albums in a row you will see the logo has changed over the years. We even went with a CAPITALIZED totally different font on Self Titled. At our jam spot in DC, we have EVERY album of ours on the wall, I think its good to do this so you are always reminded of how your catalog looks TOGETHER. Once you get them all in a line you can see how the logo has changed, it may be slight but it is different and on this last album we went right back to the classic Undoing Ruin font, but that was on purpose, we really wanted fans to get that vibe when they look at the album and I think to a certain extent we hit that nail right on the head as the albums art just has that classic feel to it.
6. Who was the artist behind the artwork for "Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora"?
Mike: Shaun Beaudry is his name. He is amazing, he did such a great job. He is based out of Savannah Georgia and was a dream to work with. We found him on Instagram actually, surprisingly it’s a great place to find artists! He and john bounced ideas and sketches off of each other and worked out the overall concept. Once we as a band could see where it was going we loved it. It’s rare that we unanimously love a cover but the stars just aligned and man this is one of our best covers yet!
7. Where does the title come from, and does it have a meaning behind it at all?
Mike: This album unlike some of our earlier works has more of a narrative happening lyrically. Rather than this being a collection of songs all about something different, this is an album where all the songs work together to help tell a story.
Now don’t get me wrong, all the songs on the album work completely by themselves lyrically and sonically. But what we are really proud of is the story and content that is discovered as you peel back the message of the album.
Godless Prophets can refer to either us as a band, the powers that be who profess godliness but practice something more sinister, or of course the main character of our story who most of the lyrics are written from the viewpoint of.
The Migrant Flora is the other active force the in the story. This idea is taken loosely from the idea that plant life is the most evolved species on the planet and the earth, “mother nature,” natural order, etc will ultimately have its voice heard in the struggle for planetary balance.
It will be clear to the reader or listener there is social and political commentary on this album as well. Things that are happening in the USA and all over the world are touched on heavily in this album. Since we wrote and recorded this album over the course of the last year, so much has changed, so we must not ignore that influence on the lyrics and sound either.
8. While this album is number nine, do you have any ideas as to what you plan to do for the big 1-0?
Mike: Oh man, right now we are just focused on this one! It hasn’t even come out yet! Don’t worry when it's time to create we’ll get back to the lab and put in work, but for now, it's all about touring, the live show, and pimping this new album!
9. You guys are currently headlining your own touring run, so how has that been going, anything you'd like to say both good or bad?
Mike: Oh man, it’s been a blast, actually, one of the best headline tours we have done in a long time. We went out early before the album hit stores so that we could sell just to our die hard fans that come out. The reaction to the new songs has been great, I can't remember the last time we had such a warm and excited reaction to new music from our fans like this. Combine that with that fact that we have some great bands out here with us, Ringworm, Rotten Sound, Tombs, Rivers of Nihil are all not only killer bands but also great dudes, when we tour we sort of reject the hierarchy of rock and roll life, we try to treat the bands as much as equals as we can and really make friends on tour, we can definitely say, on this one, mission accomplished!
10. Which form of travel do you prefer, touring inside a van or bus, or does it not matter?
Mike: Oh man well, we love that tour bus living but really we travel in all vehicles. Sometimes it may take us a boat, a plane, and a car to get to a show but we don’t give a fuck. It’s all about how the show is, not how you get there, if you rock motherfuckers well, then no one cares what you rolled up in. It's important to stay humble and travel light so we don’t pick favorites whatever is best for the tour and the band is how we roll, I must admit everyone who has been in Darkest Hour is a rock and roll soldier. Tour can take a beating on you but we have always had ride or die band members so it’s always been in our DNA to care first about the show and second about ANYTHING else!
11. What does the band have planned for the rest of this year and for after this tour wraps itself up?
Mike: I’m sure we will make a music video or two and have a few more surprises up our sleeves after all this album rules and we have to give it the full justice but night now it just tour, tour, tour! We have a European tour that jumps off right after this tour ends with Parkway Drive and Stick to your Guns. Man summer in Europe is going to RULE! I’m sure we will make a music video or two and have a few more surprises up our sleeves after all this album rules and we have to give it the full justice!