When We Came as Romans recorded its 2008 debut EP, “Dreams,” the group approached the project with a do-or-die attitude.
“Dreams” was either going to get the band off of the ground, or the band was going to crash and burn and the group members would go to college and get on with their lives.
The EP did what it was supposed to, allowing We Came as Romans to tour nationally and paving the way to deals with management, a bigger booking agency and a deal with Equal Vision Records.
These days, that sort of uncertainty doesn’t surround We Came as Romans. The band is coming off of a successful first full-length CD, “To Plant a Seed,” and is established enough to headline the first tour the group is doing behind its recently released second CD, “Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be.”
Does that mean the band members can exhale now, and no longer feel the pressure and urgency that started with “Dreams” and extended into “To Plant a Seed”?
Not really, according to guitarist Joshua Moore. Yes, the band, which formed in Troy, Mich., in 2005, is in a good place and its future looks bright. But there was still plenty at stake with “Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be.”
“We had a really good start with ‘To Plant a Seed,’” he said in a recent phone interview. “But once you start, you have to sustain, and you have to be moving forward. I think we did a really good job of that just by setting goals, always having something to reach for. And once we attain that, to keep moving and have goals after that.”
The goals for the latest CD were different than they were for “To Plant a Seed” – and reflected the different stages in the life of the band, which also includes vocalist Dave Stephens, singer/keyboardist Kyle Pavone, guitarist Lou Cotton, bassist Andy Glass and drummer Eric Choi.
“‘To Plant a Seed,’ that whole CD was really about establishing ourselves,” Moore said. “It was our first full length, and we had to, I guess, really appeal to people. We hadn’t had too much touring under our belts or anything, and it was really going to be a lot of people’s first impressions of us, so we had to make a really good one. And with ‘Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be,’ we really focused more on establishing a sound that is our band, that if someone were to hear it and not be able to see what was playing on the iPod, they would hear it and say ‘Oh, that’s We Came as Romans. I know their sound.’”
“Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be” carries forward many of the stylistic elements of the two earlier albums. Once again the group employs the tag team of gravelly screamed lyrics from Stephens and the smoothly sung vocals of Pavone. The band also brings its mix of mayhem and melody to songs like “Cast the First Stone,” “Mis//Understanding” and “Views That Never Cease, to Keep Me from Myself,” as the band rumbles between grinding lower register guitar parts and slightly lighter, more melodic sections.
On tracks like “Everything as Planned” and “The Way That We Have Been,” the band sweetens things with string-like parts – another musical element that carries over from “To Plant a Seed.”
What also defines We Came as Romans are the positive messages in its songs – something that’s fairly rare in the metalcore/aggressive rock genres. The title “Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be” relates very directly to the overall theme of the CD, according to Moore, who is the band’s primary songwriter.
“It’s about figuring out how to be happy with the life that you’ve chosen, trying to be the person that you want to be and figuring out how to be happy with that and how to retain that happiness, how to not be constantly be searching for a different thing that’s going to make you happy based on the day of the week,” Moore said.
That encouraging spirit is something the band tries to bring to its live performances, as the band works hard to involve its fans in the live show through its music, a strong visual presentation that uses backdrops and a light show and the energy and spirit the band members themselves bring to the stage.
“We’ve always tried to be a real inclusive band live, always trying to keep our fans moving as much as we are,” Moore said.
“If they see us just kind of slacking, just kind of playing through the songs or whatever, I mean, that’s going to be a bummer for everyone,” he said.
“Fans, they want to see what your band sounds like. They want to see what we’re going to do with the songs. They already know what it sounds like. They’ve heard it on the CD many times, probably a lot of times, actually. And so they want to see what that’s going to feel like live. They don’t just want to hear whatever you’re going to play.”