July 3, 2015 Interview – Valentino Arteaga from Of Mice & Men
Evolution cannot be ceased, it is something that happens every waking moment. For Southern California band Of Mice & Men this progress has become the cornerstone of their success after the release of their highest charted album to date in 2014, Restoring Force. Harnessing heavy emotion into melodic music, the album has been one of the most talked about in Hard Rock/Metal, and assures Of Mice & Men their best years are ahead of them. This humble bunch of musicians have seen their share of growing pains no different than any other, and does not take their rise for granted. In fact, they look at each night they take a stage in a given city as a gift they want to share with all who turn out to see them. As the heavy touring winds down for the band for a Summer break, we caught up with drummer Valentino “Tino” Arteaga for a closer look at the mindset of the band, their love for music, plans for the future, and more.
CrypticRock.com – Over the past five and a half years or so, Of Mice & Men have really grown into being one of the most talked about and biggest bands in Rock/Metal. What do you think has been the key to the bands success thus far?
Valentino Arteaga – Perseverance, dedication, integrity, passion, and a really head-strong mentally. When we started this band, we wanted to make something amazing. I think when we started it ,we knew we wanted to do that, but we did not necessarily know how or even if the team would be able to create the music we had all dreamed of in the many years, before Of Mice & Men; playing music and dedicating ourselves to the art. It was not until this time recently that we were able to find that, and it is because of those ways that I listed earlier, that is why we are still here, because we persevered through everything and stopped at nothing.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, and that definitely is the key to success with anything in life. Like any band, obviously, there have been growing pains, but Of Mice & Men have stood above them and progressed each step of the way. Would you say that, artistically, Of Mice & Men are where they want to be at this point after the release of Restoring Force in 2014?
Valentino Arteaga – Yes, definitely. I feel like this record, and the making of this record, really opened our eyes to being able to click with all the musicians in the group and be able to bring forward some material that we feel is a true sound to our band, as well as to us as individuals. We are all adults now, and we have really realized what we have got. We have realized the way that we can write that music and collaborate with each other. It is something that we really wished that we would find, and its so great that we have found that now.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and it really has worked out excellently. The record, Restoring Force, received an excellent reception when it came out last year, and you just re-released it as a deluxe package. Overall, as stated, it has been one of the most attention grabbing albums from the band to date by mainstream. How redeeming is it to see that fans have been so receptive to the band’s progression?
Valentino Arteaga – It is so exciting and inspiring for us. We really put our heart and soul into those songs, not that we had not done that in the past, but I do not think we had firmly grasped what our listeners, ourselves as individuals, and musicians. I feel like with this record we really captured that. We were very raw, and the album almost made us feel very vulnerable because we did not know how our fans were going to connect with how we portrayed ourselves with that. We felt so great about it, but at the same time we never actually found out until the fans hear it. We really felt deep down that our fans would love it because we loved it. Ultimately, that is how it ended up working out and we could not feel more grateful to all the fans that have bought the album or supported us from day one. It is just an amazing feeling to have reached the level where our fans really show us how much we mean to them by buying our albums. It is such a great feeling as a musician to be able to reach our fans like that.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, and as you say, there is that feeling of not knowing what the fans are going to think until they actually hear it. Any band hopes and wants their fans to grow with them. It seems like Of Mice & Men fans have gown with you as well as taking on some new fans along the way.
Valentino Arteaga – Yes, that is something that we have always watched our favorite bands do. The bands that have been around for a long time, and the music that we really grew up listening to, playing learning how to play. That kind of music grew with these fans. Bands grow with their fan base, and it is such an important process. I feel like we knew from the start that was how we were going to do it. Today things are different and bands have different agendas these days. To us its simple; evolution.
CrypticRock.com – Right, in support of the new material, the band has been touring, even on the road a lot in 2014 and now in 2015, you were on the road with Volumes and Crown the Empire. The band obviously, as well as the new material, you are definitely known for a very intense live show, you bring it each night, night in and night out. How do you gear up for a show and how do you sustain that level of consistency that you have attained?
Valentino Arteaga – We talk about this all the time, it does not come without its problems. Austin was performing with a broken rib and Aaron shot his voice out. In fact, he lacerated his vocal cord. We go hard and we bring an intense show because music is our platform to be able to express ourselves in ways. For the most part, we are pretty relaxed and love to chill out and all that, but when we get on stage, something clicks and the music kind of takes over. That is the way music effects us, and for us, it just comes with the music. There is no real way, we try and keep in shape and this and that, but ultimately we are just up there baring our souls with the music. It is different from everyone else because it is just honest and as individual as our band. We are acting as a unit and then engaging our fans, or potential fans; people who have never heard of us. It is hard to ignore five dudes who love what they do on stage. We are always smiling, always having a good time. Ultimately, it is not work for us, it is enjoyment; a way we can connect.
CrypticRock.com – That is the most important thing. You have to enjoy what you do, otherwise what is the point of doing it?
Valentino Arteaga – Exactly right, we are not selling anything that we do not back.
CrypticRock.com – It definitely shows for sure. The band clearly has made a statement with Restoring Force and you have broken a lot of boundaries into a broader audience as well. With that said, has there been any discussions of new material in the foreseeable future, and if so, what direction do you think the band will go?
Valentino Arteaga – Definitely, we are already wrestling new ideas and got stuff together while on the road. We are consistently writing, little tidbits here and there. Now that the tour is over we get to spend the whole Summer at home in Southern California working on new music, relaxing, and really starting to plan our next record. As far as what it is going to sound like, all I can say is, it is going to sound like Of Mice & Men. There will always be some evolution in the sound, and we are always going to want to bring new dynamics, because not everything can sound the same all the time. I already know it is going to be awesome, it is going to be heavy, it is going to be melody, it is going to be emotional, it is going to be everything that Of Mice and Men is already. I think we have really found our footing with our writing. Everyone is seriously on the same page with all this music, and it is a very exciting time for us. We cannot wait to show our fans what we have in store for them. We want to get it out as soon as possible. We are going to be working all Summer and throughout the rest of the year. Hopefully we get something out in maybe 2016; sooner than later. We owe it to our fans to give them as much music as we can because that is all we are here for; we are just here to make music.
CrypticRock.com – That is definitely something to look forward to for fans. Now, as you mentioned, you want to get it out there as soon as you can. That is probably a good idea with any band, one would think. The music industry has really changed dramatically in the lsast fifteen years. Of Mice and Men are part of what many would call “the digital age of music,” but it seems like there are a lot more bands out there than ever before, because of the internet. With that said, what advice would you give to a young up-and-coming band looking to make their way?
Valentino Arteaga – Work hard and practice. By work hard, I mean practice, rehearse songs, get in the garage and make noise, send your friends computer files, and do whatever it takes to find yourself some good musicians. Challenge yourself musically, learn knew things, and do not be afraid if you feel like your band is good enough to go in front of an audience. Do not be afraid to go to a club, or something like that, and talk to somebody, get your band out there, and get yourself, as a musician, out there. It is something that I feel like anyone nowadays is going to appreciate that personal level, because things are so digital all the time. Right now, it is even more important to focus on the roots of how all music can happen. That is by playing locally, getting a fan base, and also put your videos up on YouTube, do the cover songs, do anything, as long as it is with the music and you are expressing what you love to do. Somebody is going to come along and find that. As long as you are doing what you are doing because you love doing it, nothing else matters. Somebody will come along after long enough and never give up, it could be just around the corner. You never know, just keep on doing what you love.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that is some pretty good advice right there. As we spoke about earlier, perseverance, and that is the best advice you could give.
Valentino Arteaga – Yes, seriously, you cannot get anywhere without it. If we stopped at every road block we had, we would have been dead a really long time ago. You have to dedicate yourself to it, you have to persevere through the BS, and eventually you will come out on top. You never know when that is going be. You just keep on going because that is what you do.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, and nothing worth getting is ever easy, it is always going to be hard. What are some of your personal musical influences yourself?
Valentino Arteaga – For me, it ranges so far. I love Rock music; Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Metal music; Slipknot, Korn, Deftones, more Rock; Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters, Audioslave, and even bands today like LetLive and Islander. We all listen to a lot of music and it is because we all really like music, so we have always got something new playing in the dressing room. We are always listening to everyone’s new material just to see and enjoy what the current state of music is. My personal influence is, and I know I can speak for most of us, we derive our personal influences from so many different artists. I could stay on, forever listing who some of my favorites are, but it even goes so far as say Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, something with a good hook, a great melody; great songs are great songs. It does not matter who sings them, it is music that has to captivate you and whatever, whoever, that might be. We recently played the House of Blues. I never would have thought Of Mice & Men would get into the House of Blues, that is awesome, that was only for House of Blues groups. Music is awesome.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, and it is definitely important not to limit yourself on what you are going to listen to because you might miss out on something really special.
Valentino Arteaga – Exactly, that is the beauty of music, and it is happening all around, you just have to tune your ears in.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, agreed. One last question for you. My last question is actually pertaining to films because at CrypticRock.com, we cover all types of music, but we also have an interest in Horror movies. Are you fan of Horror movies, and do you have any favorites?
Valentino Arteaga – Yeah, I love the Halloween series, that is always a great one, the new and old. I know a lot of the old movie buffs and critics do not really like the remakes, but I think it is a cool way to see the interpretation with newfangled graphics. We all just went and saw the new Mad Max: Fury Road , it was the most insane visuals. I think that is cool with how they remake Horror movies, they make it for this next generation, and it has to be up to the special effects standard and stuff like that. It is just so cool, really cool, I think.
CrypticRock.com – Like you said, it is just a new generation thing that people need to understand because they are not going to appreciate an older Horror film maybe as much as something new because they cannot relate to it.
Valentino Arteaga – Yes I remember seeing A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) for the first time, and the woman was throwing up. Just the graphics at that point, I felt oh my god, how did she do that? I did not even think about that it was a costumes in a movie you know, or movie magic. You kind of have to feel that way with the new generation because technology is always evolving, and it will always be that way.
CrypticRock.com – That is very true. Speaking of remakes, have you seen the new Poltergeist yet?
Valentino Arteaga – I have not, but a couple of the guys went to go see it the other night and they came back saying it was pretty good. Not like the first though, I guess.
CrypticRock.com – Of course most remakes never live up to the originals. Yes, it looks pretty interesting though.
Valentino Arteaga – We try and get to movie theaters on a day off or on days off on tour, so I will try and put that one next on the list and we will see how that goes.