Sometimes, uncertainty functions as the best foundation for creation. In 2012, platinum-selling rock band Flyleaf found itself at a pivotal crossroads for the first time in its career. After over a decade together, the original lineup of Sameer Bhattacharya [guitar], Jared Hartmann [guitar], Pat Seals [bass], and James Culpepper [drums] amicably parted ways with singer Lacey Sturm. However, the guys held steadfast to what Flyleaf had been since its inception—a musical vehicle for hope.
In Kansas City, another musician faced a similar predicament. Kristen May spent eight years of her life fronting Vedera, and the group disbanded about 3 years after signing a major label deal. While working at a coffee shop and penning solo music, she received a serendipitous phone call. "The opportunity to audition for Flyleaf came at the perfect time for me," she smiles. "It was both challenging and invigorating. I was stepping into a group of artists who already had this deep bond. It was really like diving into the deep end, and it's what I needed as a musician and a person. It encouraged me to grow, and it proved to be a true blessing. I got to join a new family."
After a preliminary meeting at a hometown Texas sushi spot and merely one rehearsal, that "family" officially welcomed Kristen with open arms. Jared exclaims, "She fit right in with us. For a while, we didn't know if we'd ever be able to play again. She brought this incredible energy to the table, and it inspired us."
"It's a rejuvenation of Flyleaf," agrees Sameer. "She came in passionately feeling every word. Her delivery was so genuine, and that's what made us all so psyched."
During their downtime, the members of Flyleaf never stopped creating though. In fact, they each explored other artistic avenues, returning to the fold with a newfound perspective fashioned via personal growth. James continued to build a professional studio in his home. During the process, he developed a knack for fine woodworking. Soon, he became accomplished in the medium, crafting bowls, chairs, tables, and so much more. “I also began cutting custom lumber for other projects. Being able to make something from a tree got my attention," he says. "I was building the studio and reading tool reviews, and I noticed all of these incredible things you can do. You can build something functional or make a piece of art out of a tree. My passion for woodworking keeps growing. It's like music. There's no end to it, and I'm always learning."
Meanwhile, Jared founded EachOther, a musical project with his singer-songwriter wife Kat. The duo also opened up a catering company because as he puts it, "I really love cooking and sharing wonderful food with as many people as possible."
Pat followed his passion for fine art. He studied diligently and worked towards a bachelor's degree, in between showing at various Texas galleries. "My sister showed me how to do wood cuts," he elaborates. "That's how I got into it. Then, the band was cool enough to let me do the album artwork for New Horizons."
Sameer continued to sharpen his musical craft. "I'm always creating music, whether it's with my guitar or messing around on a keyboard. I continue to gain inspiration through reading books and living life." In 2010 Sameer adopted a vegan diet. "Since then my diet has evolved into a lifestyle and has caused me to be more compassionate." Also, Sameer and his wife relocated from Texas to Los Angeles at the end of 2012. "The weather here is so beautiful. It's been refreshing and inspiring to explore my new hometown."
When everyone returned to Flyleaf with Kristen behind the microphone, every aspect was renewed. They hit the road for a co-headline tour with Drowning Pool and started writing simultaneously. Entering the studio with longtime producer Howard Benson [My Chemical Romance, Theory of a Deadman, Skillet], they tracked their first single together, "Something Better" as part of the 2013 Who We Are EP also featuring four live tracks with Kristen.
Merging delicate rhythmic intricacies, kinetic guitars, and Kristen's moving melodies, it signals a fresh start together. Once the foundation had been built, they also invited close friend, P.O.D. main man Sonny Sandoval, to join them for this uplifting and undeniable clarion call.
"The song is about finding yourself frustrated within your life or your ability to be useful," admits Pat. "My wife helped me realized that everyone is trying to transform into what they think they should be. The best good in ourselves is that we share this life with others. Finding grace in someone else is real love."
"It was the first time we'd written together," recalls the singer. "I was nervous and excited. We all brought ideas in. I liked the idea behind it. You strive for something better. With this band, we all have an opportunity to be the best we can possibly be."
That's always been the goal though. Flyleaf never stops striving for something better. Their platinum-certified 2005 self-titled debut spawned the singles "I'm So Sick", "Fully Alive", and the smash "All Around Me", which sold over one million digital downloads. The record would go on to stay strong on the Billboard Top 200 for 133 weeks, reaching Top 15 on both the Rock Albums and Alternative Albums charts. They've shared the stage with the likes of Korn and Deftones as well as Stone sour and Evanescence. Conscious of constantly giving back, they played some very special shows for American troops in Afghanistan. Recently the guys along with Kristen also played for troops in Okinawa, Japan. 2009, Memento Mori, featuring "Again" and "Missing", debuted at #8 on the Billboard Top 200. However, the new chapter looks the brightest.
James puts it best, "The message hasn't changed since the beginning of this band. If we can offer a little encouragement and a little inspiration to anybody who listens to us, that's the biggest blessing."
"I still listen to music at all times," concludes Kristen. "I'd love to be able to provide the same feeling of release I get. I hope we can be a comfort and continue to speak to this band's wonderful fans everywhere."
If there's one thing certain, it's that Flyleaf will do just that.
New Horizons Bio
Flyleaf comes full circle on New Horizons, their third full-length album for A&M/Octone. The platinum-selling hard rock outfit blazes with a fresh fire and uncontainable energy. Marching to heavenly melodies and incendiary guitars, the group—James Culpepper [drums], Sameer Bhattcharya [guitar, vocals], Jared Hartmann [guitar], Lacey Sturm [vocals] and Pat Seals [bass, vocals]—arrives at another dawn.
There's always hope around the corner. When the night is darkest, the sunrise is brightest. Through the toughest trials and tribulations come the best rewards. For every death, there is a birth. At the end of the day, life remains built on cycles beyond our control.
Flyleaf finished touring late 2010 behind their second offering, Memento Mori, and took a break. Throughout 2011, they were writing for what would become their next record. "It was simply about writing and seeing what happened. There was so much freedom in that" Jared exclaims. Sameer excitedly echoes that sentiment. "There was more of a natural feeling, and there were absolutely no boundaries or rules. We've grown as songwriters. It's nothing we try to force. We let the songs be themselves."
At the start of 2012, the band regrouped in Los Angeles with longtime producer Howard Benson [Bon Jovi, My Chemical Romance] to record New Horizons. Having built an unshakable trust with the musicians, Benson captured them in the moment, preserving the urgency of the initial tracks without tinkering or altering the initial blueprint much.
Within merely six weeks, Flyleaf emerged from the studio with their most explosive, expansive, and enigmatic work yet. The title track stands emblematic of the album's spirit. Taking a cue from Hartmann's eclectic pop influences, a clean guitar melody builds into Sturm's inspiring and invigorating refrain just before crashing back into warm distorted bliss. "It's a very hopeful song about looking forward," continues Sameer. "You put aside unhealthy fear. Instead, you embrace excitement for the future and the unknown. You can only be excited for what's ahead." Jared agrees, "That sense of hopefulness will always be a crucial element of what we do. It's a big part of New Horizons."
Meanwhile, "Great Love" remains one of the group's most uplifting and undeniable pieces. "It's anthemic and definitive of our sound," adds Pat. "The lyrics, to me, admit the need we have for fellowship with what is greater than ourselves."
"Fire Fire" resounds with an infectious unpredictability from the staggering guitars and percussion as well as Sturm's inimitable delivery." A lot of it is metaphorical," reveals Sameer of "Fire Fire". "When you're young, you feel like nothing can touch you or impact you. You think you're invincible. A realization that you're not immortal comes as you get older and progress. There's always a battle between the spirit and the flesh. We're all flawed and corrupted, but there's redemption beyond this world."
Even with the smooth creative process, Flyleaf faced true tragedy together upon finishing recording. Their front of house engineer and close friend Rich Caldwell was killed in a car accident just outside his home in College Station, TX. The group banded together and held a benefit concert to aid Caldwell's wife Katy and two-year-old son Kirby. It was also a chance to celebrate their brother's life. Sameer sighs. "I still can't believe it. Rich got to come out to the studio while we were recording in L.A. He wasn't there very long, but he heard some of the music. I feel really fortunate we spent that time together. He was pretty much the sixth member of the band, and he'd been there since the beginning. Outside of the band, he influenced us more than any other person as far as music goes. He'll always be one of our best friends."
As all of their records do, the album remains cathartic for the band. They convey a deeper message with the songs, emerging from life's battles triumphantly and positively via their music. Sameer elaborates, "There's a lot of struggle on New Horizons. In the midst of all these grandiose ideas, there's an underlying tension, which humanizes the record. It addresses some darker things, and it feels the most human to me. It discusses the conflict we face trying to figure out if we're doing the right thing and walking the right path, even when people tell us we're not."
Ever since they unleashed their first record in 2005, life's been a bit of a rollercoaster. Flyleaf exceeded platinum status on the strength of singles including "I'm So Sick", "Fully Alive", and the platinum-selling staple "All Around Me". It also remained on the Billboard Top 200 for 133 weeks, hitting the top 15 of both the Rock Albums and Alternative Albums charts. Meanwhile, they performed across the globe with everyone from Korn and Deftones to Stone Sour and Evanescence. They've even touched down in Afghanistan to play for American troops. In 2009, Memento Mori, featuring "Again" and "Missing", debuted at #8 on the Billboard Top 200 with sales in excess of 56,000 units that week. Still, they continue to break ground and forge ahead.
New Horizons exists not only for Flyleaf, but for their legion of fans as well. "If a song makes someone feel better, that's incredible," concludes Jared. "We try to share something special with listeners."
Pat exclaims, "When listening to New Horizons, I would hope that fans would be able to lose themselves in the story of each of these songs and form their own connections to them—as we have in the band. There is a great deal of our souls laid bare on this record, and I feel like it really comes through on the tracks."
For Sameer, it's about recognition of truth on a larger scale. "One of the struggles of the human soul is trying to distinguish between truth and lies. We want people to understand that Hope is real. We all have a higher calling, and it's something we should strive towards. That's the real new horizon."
Heavy music and pained lyrics go together like cake and ice cream, and Belton, Texas quintet, Flyleaf, aren't about to break with tradition. But while many loud rockers reopen old wounds by singing about their broken homes and broken hearts, Flyleaf confront past traumas to heal old scars and prove in the process that hope shines brighter than despair.
"I used to be in a really negative band, and that seemed to almost fuel my emptiness because that's what the songs were about," says charismatic singer Lacey Mosley. "That's why I think what we're doing is important because there needs to be something heavy out there that has a positive message so people see that it's possible to get through the worst situations."
Flyleaf's self-titled debut album echoes with songs about abuse, neglect, addiction and dysfunction, and messages about overcoming adversity. And the band's wide array of brooding beats, atmospheric textures and lunging riffs compliment Mosley's emotionally revealing lyrics, which range from breathy and beautiful to scathing and aggressive.
"I'm So Sick," starts with a moody bass line throbbing over a haunting ethereal vocal before guitars crash in like a rock through a plate glass window. The track see-saws between rage and reflection, guitarists Sameer Bhattacharya and Jared Hartmann providing textural flourishes and atmospheric touches that bridge the emotional shifts. "Cassie" layers stop-start guitars atop an urgent backbeat and builds to an exultant chorus. "All Around Me" augments a wall of power chords with evocative jazzy licks and "Fully Alive" is a cinematic number with angry muted riffs that segue into another glorious refrain.
Flyleaf's infectiously heavy positivism is all the more surprising considering Mosley's struggles while growing up. "My mom was a young single mother of six," she explains. "We didn't have money and things were hard for all of us. We moved whenever we couldn't make ends meet in one place, and that happened pretty often so there was a lot of struggling, suffering and character building.
"It's easy to get depressed when you're dealing with that kind of stress," she continues, "especially when it looks like things will never get better. There was nothing constant in my life, and nothing to believe in. I got into some really bad stuff that I thought would make me feel more loved, or maybe just numb, but it cost me everything that was important to me, and literally almost took my life."
When you take a dive, sometimes you have to hit the bottom before you can swim your way back to the top. For Mosley, writing songs about survival helped her reach the surface and breathe again. "I had to lose everything to look up and see that there is a truly constant hope of a happy ending and that's what we make music for," she says. "If my music helps one person, than it's worth having been through what I've experienced."
Five years ago, Mosley started playing music with drummer James Culpepper. The two joined up with Bhattacharya and Hartmann, who were in a local band that had just split up. "Our first practice together was awesome," Mosley says. "Sameer and Jared are really experimental with melodies and pedals, and we all had different influences that were all blending together with the same passionate and hopeful heart, and that brought out this beautiful feeling. It was magical." Bassist Pat Seals joined in 2002. "The doors were open and I just happened to walk through at the right time," Seals says.
Flyleaf played anywhere they could slowly but consistently increased their fan base with local bands and national acts like Riddlin Kids, Bowling for Soup, Fishbone, and Evanescence. Eventually they landed a show at Austin's legendary annual music convention South by Southwest in 2003.
Although their set started at the un-rock n' roll time of 5 p.m., they rocked the house, which lead to a showcase for various labels. After many meetings and much deliberation, Flyleaf signed with Octone.
Then in early 2005 the band's self-titled debut EP - produced by Rick Parasher (Pearl Jam, Blind Melon) and Brad Cook (Foo Fighters, Queens of The Stone Age) - was released and listeners got a taste of the band's poignant song craft through tracks like "Breathe Today", "Cassie" and "I'm Sorry" which also appear on Flyleaf's full length. To support the EP, Flyleaf toured with Saliva, Breaking Benjamin, 3 Doors Down, STAIND and Trust Company, though many of the audiences at these shows had no idea who Flyleaf were when they started playing, every night their spirited performances earned them new fans. To launch the LP, Flyleaf is touring with Cold, STAIND, POD and Taproot.
"We think about where we started and where we are and realize, 'wow, we are playing in front of 1000 people tonight.' And then we just can't be thankful enough to those bands who gave us a chance to play with them, even though we are sort of nobodies."
In spring 2005, Flyleaf recorded their full-length debut with acclaimed producer Howard Benson, who has previously worked with Papa Roach, My Chemical Romance, POD and All American Rejects. Flyleaf stayed in Los Angeles for two months and worked on more than 20 songs with Benson at Bay 7 Studios. Together they decided on 12 of them to arrange, fine tune and shape so they best reflected the group's powerful messages and experiences.
"He really took an interest in what we had to say and helped put all the parts in the right places," Mosley says. "We were so used to recording with our friends and finishing whole EPs in a few hours. So it was great to spend 2 months with Howard having this surreal professional experience in every part of the process."
Flyleaf originally called itself Passerby, but another artist trademarked the name before they had the chance. Ultimately the group decided to change its name to something far more befitting of their personal, confessional songs.
"A flyleaf is the blank page at the front of a book," explains Mosley. "It's the dedication page, the place you write a message to someone you're giving a book to. And, that's kind of what our songs are -- personal messages that provide a few moments of clarity before the story begins."
With their tight knit chemistry, compassionate approach and songs that haunt the mind hours after they've stopped playing, Flyleaf are turning heads and leaving crowds wanting more. Indeed, their story has just begun.
Out of the small, quiet town of Temple, Texas emerges a rock band that is about to take the world by storm. Fronted by Lacey Mosley, Flyleaf is comprised of members James Culpepper on drums, Sameer Bhattacharya and Jared Hartmann on guitar, and Pat Seals rounding out their sound on bass. Not just your average angry rockers, this fresh and innovative group cites influences such as Rage Against the Machine, Incubus, Nirvana and Foo Fighters. Yet, Flyleaf is a hybrid of both the music of their influences and a sound crafted by their own personal passions.
Behind Lacey’s slight presence hides a powerful and strong voice that is as magnetic as it is surprising. In fact, not only Lacey but all these five young Texans will catch you off guard. Get them on stage and they explode with an energy and a passion that is rarely witnessed amongst today’s young bands.
Flyleaf’s music is probably best described by Lacey herself. “Our music is passionate and on purpose. It’s angry and sad and urgent and loving. It’s about our experiences and passions and how we have overcome. Our message is to encourage the hopeless people to have hope, and the apathetic people to stand up in their destinies and purposes and believe in something good and world changing.” Their music is filled with pathos and positivity all in one breath. When watching this band perform, it’s hard to see how one could not be inspired.
The band members met through going to the same church and local rock shows. Since forming the band they have played all major cities in Texas and have headlined for hundreds of fans in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and of course, their hometown of Temple. They’ve also opened for national acts such as Evanescence, Bowling For Soup, Riddlin’ Kids, and Flickerstick.
Flyleaf signed to Octone Records, an artist development co-venture with J Records and home of Maroon 5, in January of 2004 and is about to release their first EP. The band spent time recording with legendary producer Rick Parasher (Pearl Jam, Default, Alice In Chains, 3 Doors Down) and brought in Kevin Shirley (The Black Crowes, Aerosmith, Silverchair, Our Lady Peace) to mix the tracks. The final EP, produced by both Rick Parasher and Brad Cook (Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters) is a great taste of the passionate energy the band conveys on stage.
In the summer of 2004 Flyleaf toured the country with Platinum selling artist, Trust Company. With an upcoming tour supporting Saliva and Earshot, and even more to come, Flyleaf is poised for breakout success. “What sets Flyleaf apart is that it’s not just a job, there’s a passionate message and an urgency about our message that we try and convey every time we perform.”
Temple, Texas is about to earn its place on the map.