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An Interview with Theory of a Deadman

By: Sam D'Alessandro

On February 19th I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with, Canadian group, Theory of a Deadman, who is currently touring Canada after the release of their 6th album, Say Nothing. Theory released their new album on January 31st, 2020, four months after announcing their Canadian tour.

Being a huge Theory fan since I was around 10 years old, I was super stoked to ask them some questions about the new album before their Toronto show on February 27th. After listening to the album, it’s apparent that this is not the hardcore, raunchy, angry Theory that we’re used to. This album carries a ton of depth and dives into sensitive and important issues such as domestic violence and mental health.

Wake Up Call (2017) and Say Nothing (2020) have been the albums that really showcase Theory’s change in direction not only musically, but visually as well. The album covers are almost identical except that Say Nothing seemed to be the inverted version of Wake Up Call. Another thing to notice is the introduction of visualizers mixed in with traditional music videos. Dave and Dean explain some of the thought behind this concept.

“It’s a label thing, the label nowadays wants to have some kind of visual way to absorb music as opposed to just putting songs out.” – Dave Brenner

“Well, I think YouTube is a way a lot of people consume music now so in order to have music on YouTube… I mean you could just put the album there for three and a half minutes or whatever but… or you could create a little bit of a story.” – Dean

Another visual aspect that can be noticed is the parallels between the music video for Rx Medicate (Wake Up Call) and World Keeps Spinning (Say Nothing).

“The car thing was definitely done intentionally. There’s no parallels between the two songs but maybe, maybe unconsciously because, Rx was about the opioid problem and I think that using comes hand in hand with anxiety and depression which is what World Keeps Spinning is about.” – Tyler Connolly

The change in musical direction is something that has not gone unnoticed by some of the original, hardcore Theory fans. Early Theory music often contained a heavy, guitar dependant, rock n’ roll sound, accompanied by aggressive and sometimes raunchy lyrics. If you could describe it using a mood, it would definitely be angry or vengeful. Say Nothing and Wake Up Call feature a calmer sound by using piano and channeling undertones of pop music. The question on everyone’s mind is, what caused this change?

“The fans a little bit, I think. I mean we put out a record called Savages which I think was our heaviest record, but we feel like the most well-received songs were Angel and Blow and it was not the heavy songs and for me, it was like a bit of a wakeup call, no pun intended, it truly was because it was like you know we could go try to make another heavy record but it felt like our fans were telling us that that wasn’t what they were wanting.” – Dave Brenner

Tyler went on to explain that the new sound also came from a place of inspiration for him of not being influenced by anything and just making what he wants to make. This makes the music almost purer in the sense that it is a true influence from himself. In the past, Theory has also released a number of cover songs that have been well received by fans. I would consider the most popular being their cover of Hallelujah and their most recent cover of "Wicked Game." Both of these songs are transformed by Tyler’s soothing vocals and soft instrumentals. They can only leave us wondering if their will ever be a cover album?

“We are confused why, almost, why we’re still releasing albums like, and we want to obviously it’s more like the label is… people digest music so quickly now we can’t even make new music fast enough. So I’m all about it, one day you never know.” – Tyler Connolly

After releasing six albums in total, any band must have an album that they’re most proud of or that they enjoy the most and when it comes to Theory, all four members can agree that Say Nothing is their favourite album to date, however, Tyler takes an interesting approach as to why this is his favourite,

“For me at least, the lyricist is that once I write a lot of the stuff it’s like gone, I don’t wanna hear it anymore it’s like therapy in a sense. So like I went back and listened to some of our stuff on our first record because we’re playing some stuff from the first record and I’m like, who is this?” – Tyler Connolly

He expressed that he doesn’t listen to his own music and that Say Nothing is his favourite album for now because it’s still fresh but once it becomes old, it most likely won’t be his favourite anymore.

In 2018, Tyler presented a Juno Award for the late Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. He’s expressed that he grew up listening to The Hip and is very fond of them. Seeing as they are both Canadian bands, I wondered how much influence or how much of a role other Canadian artists have had throughout his career as a musician, "It was just Tragically Hip. All the time. We grew up on it so it’s not even like a musical influence, it was a cultural influence so it was really sad [when he passed away].” – Tyler Connolly

The idea of a musician being a cultural influence on another musician rather than a musical influence was very interesting to me because this isn’t a concept that you see very often when musicians are asked about influences. While still on the topic of Canadian musicians I was curious to know a little bit about Theories relationship with Nickelback seeing as they were once signed to Nickelback’s label. When inquiring about whether they would tour or collaborate together in the future, Tyler suggested they’re open to anything but Dave brought up an interesting piece of information, “We’re actually not on his label anymore, not on this current record so uh we don’t know maybe he wouldn’t wanna collaborate with us.” – Dave Brenner

To end off my chat with Theory I decided to talk to them one more time about Say Nothing and the fans reactions. In the past, Theory hasn't been one to hold back with their lyrics. Songs such as "Bad Girlfriend", "Blow and Bitch Came Back" all contain very blunt and straight forward messages. The tracks on Say Nothing also contain similar messaging, the difference is, these tracks talk about more serious issues, especially domestic abuse. So how have people reacted differently to the rawness of Say Nothing versus other Theory albums?

“It’s interesting because to me, the old stuff you’re talking about, "Bitch Came Back" and "Bad Girlfriend" and stuff… To me that makes me feel, that seems to be more squirmy lyrics which is ironic because I think with a lot of our fans they’re much more comfortable listening to "Bad Girlfriend" and "Bitch Came Back", the more misogynistic stuff where our new stuff I feel so comfortable talking about but it seems like it’s very squirmish for a lot of our fans.” – Tyler Connolly

It was an interesting and surreal experience to talk with Theory of a Deadman about music styles and their new album seeing as I grew up listening to them, similar to how Tyler grew up listening to The Tragically Hip. I’m super excited to be attending their show on February 27thand am also excited to see what they produce in the future, whether it be a cover album or new music. If you’re not really familiar with Theory, I suggest giving them a shot! They’re super easy-going guys and they’re Canadian! What’s there to lose?


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