November 28, 2016 Interview – Kyle Nicolaides of Beware of Darkness
In a time when Rock-n-Roll music, in many cases, has become sterile and uninspired, there are few bands breaking through who dare to be different. Popping up here, there, and everywhere, one such act that should be in the conversation is Beware of Darkness. A Southern California outfit come together in recent years, Beware of Darkness has been grabbing attention since the debut of Orthodox back in 2013. A record that had enough edge to find the band on Hard Rock radio, but enough thought-provoking lyrical content to strike the interest of Alternative Rock listeners, Beware of Darkness are nothing short of unique. Taking a risk, they look to take a much needed shot to the arm of modern Rock with their latest album, Are You Real? A record that hit the public in late September, there is no question, slowly, but surely, it will continue to find an audience. Recently we caught up with Lead Singer/Lead Guitarist Kyle Nicolaides to talk the path traveled by Beware of Darkness, looking to push the envelope of Rock, his source of inspiration, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Beware of Darkness came together around five years ago. In that time, the band has been featured on Rockstar Uproar Festival in 2014, toured Europe with Smashing Pumpkins, and reached peak chart positions with the singles “Howl” and “All Who Remain.” First, tell us, what has this unpredictable ride been like?
Kyle Nicolaides – It has been pretty mind-blowing. To think I wrote songs in my room with honestly no expectation of anyone hearing them and then being able to travel around the world and play music for people, when you think about it like that, it is a miracle. It is a miracle that I have been able to write and record two albums and put them out to the world. It has been hard, there have been ups and downs, but I think the overarching thing is it is mind-blowing and has been a miracle.
CrypticRock.com – It has to be. The band’s sound is rather unique to what others are doing on the modern scene. You mix Classic Rock with Garage and Alternative Rock stylings. How did you guys go about crafting your sound?
Kyle Nicolaides – That is a good question. Are you Real? is more a concentrated effort than Orthodox. When we were making it, and when I was writing, all I was listening to was Hip Hop. We had a lot of goals when we were writing the record. One of the goals was to push the Rock genre forward and take a lot of risks with the songwriting and sound. We really just wanted to make something new, make something unique, and make a record that sounded fresh. With Are You Real? we wanted to ask a question, “How can we merge Rock and Hip Hop and it not sound like Limp Bizkit or really bad Rap Rock?” If you listen to the record, there are tones of Hip Hop influence everywhere. I think that is it. Rock is a genre that got really stale and I feel like so many bands are writing really lame, pentatonic riffs. We wanted to try and do something as fresh and original as we could.
CrypticRock.com – Are You Real? has accomplished that. The Rock genre has become rather contrived. Not to discount other band’s talents, but it seems a lot of bands are doing a lot of the same things. Beware of Darkness is not.
Kyle Nicolaides – That means a lot that you say that. The album has been out for around two months now and I am looking at it with fresh ears opposed to what else is going on. We took a ton of risk with it, because it doesn’t really sound like anything. That is good and it is bad, but I am really happy with what we did with it. I hear so many new Rock bands come out right now and they don’t care about the lyrics. They just have no motivation to push the genre forward. It is why Rock is losing to Hip Hop. We felt like it was a responsibility to try and revive the genre a little bit.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and the album does so. Speaking of lyrics, much of your lyrical content is about loss and mortality. Interestingly, the songs do not come across as depressive, but more reflective. What serves as your lyrical inspirations?
Kyle Nicolaides – With Are You Real? I wanted to ask the question to rewrite a lyric that will make you think different about the way you live your life. It is easy for a rapper to rap about wealth, the girls he is sleeping with, or fame. Beware of Darkness, I want to write a line that totally stops you in your tracks, to talk about the meaning. The biggest impact of touring Orthodox had, for me, and the band, was to really put into perspective what purpose was of the band and the music. That purpose is to help as many people as we can. It it is hard, because at the end of the day, it is just music and it is entertainment. If I can write song that helps somebody, or write lyrics that help someone overcome something, that is the purpose of art. I hope that is coherent (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) It does make sense. What helps people are sincere lyrics, and Beware of Darkness’ lyrics seem as if they are coming from the heart.
Kyle Nicolaides – Yes. Someone wrote a review of Are You Real? and they said I don’t believe anything said on this album, saying it is not sincere. I was thinking, every single one of these songs there is a real story behind the lyrics and music. It is is funny you said the thing about not coming across as depressive. When we put the first record out, my biggest fear was, “Oh my god, I just put so much poison out into the world.” I felt people were going to be completely turned off by it because it was so depressive. That was my biggest fear with that record, being a big bummer, but it turned out not. It turned out to actually reach people. Are You Real?, the biggest thing is, overcoming whatever adversity you face. When we are faced with hard times and challenges, we have two choices. You are either going to overcome it or you are just going to let it just run over you. This album was a conscious choice and decision to say I am stronger than what I am being confronted with.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and Are You Real? is quite strong. You said how you were fearful that Orthodox would come across depressive. It did not, it connected with people. Part of that is because the lyrics are compelling and sincere. Also, some of the lyrics have a sense of sarcasm. That also adds to a lighter mood. Is that a correct analysis?
Kyle Nicolaides – It is funny you say that. Yea there is. One of my favorite things in life is, you can have your first instinctive reaction toward it and you have your first bias toward it. You react, and if you can get past that initial reaction, you can see it as it is. My favorite example of that is the band name. People hear Beware of Darkness and they just think of a Heavy Metal band that wants to kill babies. If you get beyond the initial reaction of the name and look at beware, it is cautionary. It is saying be aware of darkness. That echoes through some of the songs on Are You Real? You take a song like “Beware” and the first line is, “I am jealous of my dead friends for leaving me among men who do not take the time to think.” You are right, that can be taken as sarcasm or absolutely, utterly ridiculous. If you get beyond that, there is actually some meaning and truth there. I do not want to dismiss the depth, I think there is definitely room for both depth and sarcasm.
On our last tour, we were opening, and when you are up in front of 300 people saying things like “I kill myself to make a point,” you are going to get half the room look at you thinking, “What did he say? That is weird, I just want to play Pokemon Go.” Then you are going to get another half who are actually going to look at it. One of my biggest influences growing up into my twenties was Sylvia Plath. I think she had so many lines in her poems that were otherworldly. They make you think about life differently, because she had such a unique perspective on the mundane. I think she was just able to look at life in such a different way, making it almost seem as absurd and change the definition of what life’s meaning was. I am attracted to that and I think it is pretty spectacular. If you sing like that, you are going to reach a different audience.
CrypticRock.com – It is that abstract approach that makes the music much more interesting. It makes the songs more compelling. You have been on the road a lot in recent years touring. You have toured with a very wide range of acts in different genres. It is almost as if Beware of Darkness fits everywhere, but nowhere. You really cannot put your finger on what Beware of Darkness is. Is that something you are comfortable with?
Kyle Nicolaides – You are absolutely right. I want to give you kudos, because I think you are the only person outside our immediate team to point that out. We have had a hell of a time, and to be honest, we still are, we are trying to figure out our lane. We came out when Alternative music had this whole Folk revival, which I think is a bunch of BS. We came out and we were too heavy to be played on Alternative radio. We got embraced by active Rock radio, which are bands like Korn and Asking Alexandria. We got caught in this weird in between. For the first album, we went from zero to hundred. We thought, “Let’s do anything we can to get the name out. Let’s play any shows we can, let’s just get in front of any audience, people are people.” It was insane because we would be playing a Metal festival in Texas and we would come out in pink flowered pants singing what you and I are talking about. People looked at us like we are aliens. Then we would get a chance to play Alternative festivals, and we would be the heavy band. It was a weird thing to fit into, because we didn’t fit in at all.
It is funny, I have been reading about bands that I like that came up having the same problem, they didn’t fit in anywhere, they had to make their own lane. It has been a challenge and frustrating. Putting out Are You Real? there has been a real struggle with the decisions we make and the path to break this album. We are trying to do a entirely new thing, go in a new direction, and break it to a different audience. I feel like music in America is a lot more segregated than in Europe. I think people are not willing to give you a chance if you have a different path that is in a different genre. Where in Europe, they just care if it is good music or not.
CrypticRock.com – You hit the nail right on the head there. A completely true statement. Also, in American culture, when it comes to art, it is “what have you done for me lately?” Many times, in American culture, people may have liked something at one point, but discount it now as silly. In Europe, they are dedicated and appreciative to music regardless of its age or style.
Kyle Nicolaides – You are right. Another thing, lately I have been anxious, figuring out direction. I was thinking about it, I remember making a conscious decision when I was around twenty or twenty-one of the career path I wanted and the direction I wanted to go. I was looking up to bands like Kings of Leon, The White Stripes, as well as Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. They are all artists who put records that they wanted to put out and it took them a minute to connect with people. Bright Antenna has been the best, they have been very supportive in letting us tour. It has been great to be putting records out that they believe in and I believe in and tour. We just got off tour and the part that made me the happiness was people coming up to us saying, “I don’t even know what I just saw, but I loved it and I can’t really describe it.” To me, that is the highest compliment, because it means we are going in the right direction. I rather have that than someone come up to me and tell us we are a reincarnation of another band, that is just the worst. It is a risk doing it, hopefully it will pay off.
CrypticRock.com – It absolutely will pay off. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of the genres, what are some of your all-time favorites?
Kyle Nicolaides – I just love movies in general. You know what movie blew my mind? Under The Skin (2014), I think that is my favorite Sci-Fi movie. I think the scariest movie I have seen was The Conjuring (2013). I wasn’t a fan of the second one, the first 45 minutes were really scary, and the last 30 minutes got really weird. The first season of American Horror Story terrified me. I recently saw The Babadook (2014), it was good. Also, I saw Don’t Breathe (2016), that was pretty scary as well.