July 3, 2020 Interview – Grayson Hurd of Lightworker
Let’s just be blunt here: If you haven’t heard the name Lightworker, then you haven’t been paying attention to Cryptic Rock magazine. First spotlighted in August 2017 when the young Metal band had just delivered their debut EP Resilience, they are now celebrating the release of their debut full-length, Fury By Failure. Combining infectious hooks with vicious sonic might, and the technical prowess of all things Prog Metal, the quartet have been blazing their path since 2014.
As proof of their upward trajectory, Solid State Records delivered the Northern Californians’ debut in mid-June. A crowning achievement, the LP features 10 tracks that are both raw and refined, balancing melody and aggression alongside the light and dark of their lyrical poetry. To discuss the album in further detail, we recently sat down with Guitarist Grayson Hurd to talk about the material on Fury By Failure, musical influences, what’s next in these uncertain times, and more.
Cryptic Rock – As an outsider looking in, it feels like the past three to four years have been a pretty steady uphill trajectory for Lightworker. What has the time been like for you and the guys?
Grayson Hurd – The last three-four years were really just us chomping at the bit to write a full-length album. By no means were we on a time crunch to write a new album and get it out, but our EP had already been fully written for two years before we had released it. So by that time, we were already itching for something new. It has felt like a very busy few years, for sure—writing the album, gathering the team to create it with us, linking up with our manager and signing to Solid State Records. We’ve been pretty busy but the journey has been great.
Cryptic Rock – Obviously all of that hard work has paid off, and your debut album, Fury By Failure, arrived on June 12th. Congratulations! In discussing the album, let’s start with the obvious: What does the title “Fury by Failure” mean to you, and how does that gorgeous album cover play into that meaning?
Grayson Hurd – Thank you! “Fury by Failure” comes from the idea that we will all experience failures and endure hardships in our lives, whether they be big or small, and we all have to make the choice of how we’re going to respond in the face of them. We can be angry and lash out, allowing our mistakes and misfortunes to overwhelm us and sometimes even change us, or we can choose to see our failures as opportunities and use them as fuel to learn and build something better. So in the title, “Fury” can really be interpreted through two different lenses: anger or passion.
As for the artwork, I think Ryan Clark at Invisible Creature absolutely nailed it and the concept of butterflies really embodies the meaning of the record perfectly. When you see a butterfly, you tend to just notice the beauty of it. But it’s also easy to forget that it was once a caterpillar that had to go through a crazy transformation with a lot of time and hard work to turn into a butterfly. Just like how a butterfly has to transform, we often have to transform ourselves to achieve what we want. We have to endure people saying “no” to us, or even life saying “no” sometimes. But if we do, and we choose to treat our failures as progress, we can come out the other side better for it.
Cryptic Rock – This segues perfectly into our next question, actually. Throughout the album, the topics differ but there’s always an underlying sense of immense hope. Was it important to you, as a songwriter, to deliver that message on your debut?
Grayson Hurd – All of the songs on the album address failure and hardship in a lot different areas we can experience them. Some songs are written more from an initial point of anger and some from a lens that’s more positive, but regardless, all the songs definitely have an underlying glimmer of hope. That’s kind of just how Joe [Calderon, Vocalist] likes to keep his messages and we’re all about it. I think delivering that message is always important. We don’t want to hide the grittiness of the truth because it’s always going to be there and I think it’s important to acknowledge it. But I also think it’s important to know that there’s always something we can do to make things better. It might not always be in the way we hope for, but it’s there.
Cryptic Rock – That’s a great point. For those that do not know, who are some of the band’s collective musical influences?
Grayson Hurd – Oh, collective is hard! We have some agreed influences but we can also be all over the map. I also completely understand that’s probably most bands out there! Similarities probably land with bands like Killswitch Engage, Haste The Day, As I Lay Dying, Thrice, even bands like The 1975—so not all Metal! Individually it spreads much further, and other non-shared influences definitely find their way into our music.
Cryptic Rock – Still, those are some diverse and wonderful collective influences. That said, let’s get back to the meat of the album. You have several guest contributors, including Daniel Gailey, Ryan Kirby, Carley Coma, and Laura McElroy. How did they become involved with Lightworker?
Grayson Hurd – Daniel was involved from the beginning. Joe has known the Phinehas guys for years, and Daniel was someone we had considered early on to approach for producing. After we had confirmed that, adding him in as a guest solo made a whole lot of sense.
For Ryan, I think Joe actually had a vocal lesson with him a couple years ago and Joe hit him up the following year inquiring about guest vocals. I’m not 100% sure if that was exactly how the conversation came up, but I know it was after Ryan had known of us for a bit. He also knew we were working with Daniel on the album, so I think everything kind of just came together naturally there.
Carley and I go back to late 2010 when we were actually in a band together for a couple years. We’ve been talking about doing something together pretty much since back then, so having him guest on the album was kind of inevitable. I think he and I had talked about him doing a guest spot on the album long before we had even started writing. So throughout the writing process we were subtly feeling out which song he’d eventually be in.
Laura is someone Joe had met a while ago through her band, Comrades, and I’m pretty sure a lot of it had to do with Facedown Fest. “Cholera” always had a female vocal in it since the very first demos Joe did years ago, and he really wanted someone who could bring a gentleness to the part. He had the idea of Laura being it, and we think she was definitely the perfect fit for the song.
Cryptic Rock – She is. All of the guests bring something special to the record. Now to delve a little deeper into a few of the tracks, “The Willing Martyr” is full of gorgeous, lyrical poetry. Was there a person or specific event that inspired the frustration in that song or was it just life, in general?
Grayson Hurd – Joe guided the skeleton of that song around an abusive upbringing, and for so long having the feeling of being trapped with no way out. He also worked with some lyrical contributions from our old guitar player Dhruva [Noel], while I did what I could to help make sure the message came out the way Joe wanted. Overall, the song is about trying to break out of a toxic situation.
Cryptic Rock – A personal favorite track on the album is “Losing Ground.” Can you share something special about that song, whether it was something funny that happened in the studio, the inspiration behind it, etc.?
Grayson Hurd – That song was always kind of an interesting one for us even from its inception. It came about when Joe and I were working on some songs in my old bedroom. I think I was working on the guitar solo for “10/18,” and then Joe started strumming a chord progression for what would become the chorus for “Losing Ground”. I remember turning to him saying “That’s kind of cool, we can do something with that.” He misinterpreted it as me wanting to work on it right then and there, so he had me pause working on the solo and we just started working on that song instead. I think it wasn’t until a year later when he told me he didn’t mean to start working on it and only did because he thought that’s what I wanted. So funny enough, “Losing Ground” is essentially a song we wrote because we thought the other person wanted to do it. I’m glad we did though.
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Clearly it was meant to be written that day. “Remove the Earth” and “Beyond the Pale” are two great, catchy bangers. What can you tell us about the writing and recording of each of these tracks?
Grayson Hurd – “Remove the Earth” was a song I wrote that actually wasn’t originally intended for Lightworker. Long story short, Carley, who is on “Losing Ground,” and I had been talking about doing a project around the time we had the first Lightworker lineup, and I hadn’t started writing for the band yet. The song was meant for that project, but would have sounded way different considering that wasn’t going to be a Metal/Rock project.
Ultimately, his band Candiria got back together and signed to Metal Blade around the exact same time I became a primary writer in Lightworker. So “Remove the Earth” became a Lightworker song and pretty much stayed how I had originally had it. I know Joe was super pumped because he wanted to sing on that song for a long time. I’m really glad it’s on the album. I wrote it very much for this style of music and honestly can’t really picture it being anything else.
In terms of recording, we fully recorded this song before any of the others on the album. Back then, we thought we might release it as a stand-alone single to hold people over while we were finishing the album. We ended up not doing that in the end—I think that idea died pretty soon after we finished recording it.
It’s pretty funny you chose these two songs for this question, because “Beyond the Pale” was also written as a stand-alone single. There was another song we had that was supposed to be on the album instead, but it was canned once we got to tracking vocals with Beau. I’m glad it was; I think “Beyond the Pale” fit what the album needed much more. This is also the one song on the album I did all the music for in my home studio. Since it wasn’t originally supposed to be on the album and we didn’t know until after we had finished recording with Daniel, I had to track and edit it myself so we could get it on the record. It was a fun process, though, since that’s the first time I had really ever fully done that with a song.
Cryptic Rock – There’s a rumor going around that I might be psychic! (Laughs) Do you have a favorite lyric on the album, and which song are you most looking forward to playing live?
Grayson Hurd – Ahh, that’s a tough one. I honestly probably have at least three favorite lyrics on the album. There are lyrics in “Losing Ground” and “See the World Like You” that I really like, but I’ll say this one from “Cholera” because I think it does a pretty good job of embodying the theme of the album: “Now this is all I have left in pieces, but just enough to begin again.” In terms of playing a song live, I think I’m most looking forward to playing “Empyre.” Actually, that and “Words Dissolve.”
Cryptic Rock – Well, we are anxious to hear the album live. That said, what has the reaction been to the album, thus far?
Grayson Hurd – The reaction to the album has really been amazing. We didn’t try to hone in on a specific direction and instead decided to write what we wanted. There are many different things we like to do musically so it’s been great to see people really enjoying both the heavier and melodic sides of the record. Thank you, everyone, who has listened!
Cryptic Rock – And if they haven’t listened yet, they need to do so now. (Laughs) Almost every band, especially a younger band, has goals for their career. What are some of your hopes for the future as far as tours and collaborations with other artists?
Grayson Hurd – Touring with bands like Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying, Slipknot, Trivium etc. would be awesome! I’m just thinking of all the bands I grew up listening to and who really got me into this genre—it would be insane to tour with any of them, really. So things like that are big goals for sure. Collaborations are actually something Joe and I talk about a lot just for fun, but we haven’t gotten too depth on it. We were able to work with four extremely talented artists on this record, so who knows who could be on the next album?
Oh, and a random note while we’re on “future hopes”: I want to meet Nick Hipa, for sure. I don’t know if it’s a hair thing (partially, maybe), but Daniel has toured with the As I Lay Dying guys and he’s told me every time he does that Nick reminds him a lot of me.
Cryptic Rock – Ah, you have a doppelganger hiding out in As I Lay Dying, huh? Okay, to be serious, understanding that 2020 is still a very uncertain time, what are your plans for the remainder of the year?
Grayson Hurd – The remainder of this year we’re trying to see what we can do in place of touring. The album just came out and we can’t tour, which is a bummer, but we’re just trying to think of what else we can do instead. We’ll be doing live streams, trying to find other ways to connect with people, and we’re also super interested to hear what people want. So feel free to reach out to us if there’s anything you’d like us to do and we’ll see what we can make happen!
Cryptic Rock – Live streams are great for connecting with fans, actually. Now, as you well know, Cryptic Rock covers music as well as films, particularly Horror and Sci-Fi. Are you a fan of either of these genres and, if so, what are some of your favorite Horror and/or Sci-Fi films?
Grayson Hurd – Oh. Yes of course. I’m definitely both a Horror and Sci-Fi fan, though I admit I think I’ve been neglecting the genres for more than a few years now. I don’t know why, but the first movie that comes to mind that fits both genres would be Cabin in the Woods (2012). I love that movie. I think a big reason I liked it is the fact that I got dragged by a friend to see it in theaters and had absolutely no idea what it was about; I hadn’t seen a trailer for it, I hadn’t read a review; nothing. I won’t say anything for those who haven’t seen it, but if you haven’t, watch it without seeing the trailer on YouTube. I saw the trailer afterwards and was so glad I just let the movie be my first experience.