Misery Signals Midwest metalcore group Misery Signals recently released their first new album since 2008's Controller. Since then, members have worked on other projects, joined, quit, rejoined, and crafted the new album Absent Light (released July 30, 2013), the band's first self-released full-length record. The band launched a successful crowdsourcing campaign which doubled their target goal, and used the proceeds to produce and release the album themselves. Punknews staff interviewer Gregg Harrington recently talked to Misery Signals guitarist Ryan Morgan about the band's history, crowdsourcing and working on both sides of Absent Light.
It's been about five years since Punknews last spoke to a member of Misery Signals, and a lot has happened with the band since then. Could you fill us in on what you guys have been up to?

Sure. Five years ago with the release of the last record we were touring a crazy, crazy amount of time. In 2008 and 2009 we were on the road for a majority of both of those years. That slowed down a bit afterwards. In 2010, my son was born and I moved out west for a bit to make the situation a little more manageable and the touring had slowed down around that time. And also a couple of our members left around then. So we had a little slow period there where we were trying to adjust and figure things out. In the meantime we never really stopped writing. I was writing on my own since I didn't live near any of the guys anymore. A couple of the dudes got impatient so we all put out things individually in between Misery Signals releases. But we weren't able to really get back together and get our lineup all figured out until the last couple years when we started writing Absent Light. Stuff has been pretty crazy as far as our personal lives and other projects. In the past couple years we've been heavily dedicated to writing and recording this album that just came out.

The new record Absent Light was recently released. After taking a few listens to it, I think it's definitely the most mature and solid Misery Signals album to date. What was the writing process for the album like? You mentioned you were all brainstorming on your own, but how did you put all those pieces together.

We did have material in all stages of completeness. I had stuff that I gave different members to work on and brought to the table and stuff I collaborated with my brother a bit. There was also stuff we recorded in ProTools too. It made an interesting process to have all these different phases of writing. We were always sending each other ideas and eventually put it together. It was a lot different than jamming, I guess. It was interesting because instead of one focused session, it made for a greater diversity on the record. Just that road to get to the end. Greg Thomas is our new member out of Connecticut. We've known him for a number of years, he's toured in bands like Shai Hulud, Enabler and The Risk Taken. He was a great addition to the writing process because he's just as mental as we are in regards to the band. He would write stuff and would have a very symphonic mindset on the song. I knew getting him into the band would be a cool benefit. It takes a little bit to adjust to people but he clicked right away with me and my brother.

Awesome, I definitely picked up on a lot of the symphonic element you mentioned. He arranged a lot of that, correct?

Yeah, him and a guy named Randy arranged the string parts on the record. All the string parts are actual players, not keyboards. Greg and Randy put all that stuff together. In regards to his perspective, not only with symphonic instruments, he can also layer and create the songs that stand independent of the string parts as well.

You guys are self-releasing it with funds earned through a very successful Indiegogo campaign, which doubled your initial goal. How did the band decide to go the crowdsourcing route?

Well, one thing I didn't mention about the break in between albums was the struggles we had with record labels. We put out our first three releases on Ferret Music, and the guys that were running Ferret kind of lost control of the company. They were partnered with a major label, which shall remain nameless. So we found ourselves in a situation where we didn't have a functional relationship with our label. It was actually pretty dysfunctional now that I think about it. We were communicating with them only halfway. I would try to talk to them and they didn't really have a perspective on who I was or what they were going to with our band. We were on the hook for another record with them, and it seemed like a dead end. It even got to the point where they weren't allowing some of the side projects we wanted to do because we were under contract with them. They wanted us to do our side projects the way they wanted and on their label. We didn't really want to do those bands in the same creative context as Misery Signals, and to have someone else controlling them kind of defeats the purpose. So we knew it was something we had to get out of, because this big company didn't know what to do with us. We weren't going to be able to make the record we wanted to make. We wanted to get out of our contract. We played with a couple options, and after having dealt with the label with its size and scope, we were really attracted to being the bosses and releasing the record ourselves. Crowdfunding has yielded a few great albums, and we thought that would be the best way to have a workable budget. That was the main thing we wanted to benefit from. It has been cool to interact with people as directly as we have, because we did all that ourselves. It's all been really rewarding because all these people wanted to have a hand in making this record happen and put in their own money. It's an awesome thing.

Were you surprised at the support given through that?

I was definitely surprised at the figure. I thought people would be stoked on the idea because we were stoked on the idea. It just made a lot of sense. I always get empowered when I see other artists doing things without a middleman like Radiohead or something: releasing albums for free or pay-what-you-want. Louis C.K. did that as well, he put out a DVD on his own with no compromises. I think that's the silver lining of the whole thing; the artists have all the control. We were stoked about that, and I thought people that like Misery Signals and people that have the same hardcore, punk rock, and DIY upbringing that we have would be into it and say "hey, that's pretty cool." I definitely didn't know people would come out in droves and double the dollar amount that we threw out there haphazardly. I'm glad we did because we never really budgeted out a record and manufacturing like a label does so we kind of undershot some of those figures so fortunately people were as generous as they were to support the album.

You and Misery Signals guitarist Greg Thomas produced Absent Light. Was this your first job as producer and how different was it to work on both sides?

That was the first time I had produced anything on a major scale. Greg and I both work in studios but this was a large-scale undertaking. It was the first time I was this involved in anything, with writing and putting the record together. It was a big task and gave me a good perspective on the record. And I guess it was a lot more nerve-wracking not to have someone double-checking your work. That's a big part of a producer's job, to check on everything and give advice. It was liberating but it also came with a good deal of anxiety as well.

After the release of Controller in 2008, you all took some downtime to focus on various side projects, including your band Burning Empires. Do you think the break helped out Misery Signals as a whole?

It's hard to say. It helped me focus on what Misery Signals actually is. I'm not sure if that make a lot of sense. I guess more so than the other projects, the amount of time that passed helped me gain perspective on Misery Signals. There's a tendency for anyone that puts so much into their work to be over reactionary because you do spend so much time working on something and then you have to live with it. You tend to try and overcompensate for those kinds of things. The fact that the dust was allowed to settle on the last record and take its place in our legacy allowed us to make a record with a new perspective and we weren't focusing on the last one.

You're currently in the middle of tour right now, how is that going?

It's going well. We're playing a good amount of new stuff but we're covering every album. We don't want to commit too much to playing a lot of new stuff right away. We're super happy to be out on the road. It's been so long so to be back out here playing and kicking as much ass as we have, it's been awesome.

What has the reaction been to the newer songs in the set?

We're definitely feeling positive about it. I think people are fine with the amount of time they had to wait for it, so finally delivering it is good for us. For a number of years I felt like I was blowing it to an extent because the record wasn't done yet, but for it to actually be out there is really fulfilling. For people to react as they have so far has been really flattering. I think the only negative things I've heard about it so far from talking to a lot of people is that it's a lot to take. I'm not sure that's really a lasting criticism though. Even that negative-ish criticism is encouraging to me.

Any additional touring plans coming up in support of Absent Light?

Nothing set in stone yet. We still want to feel out the record, and we're not really in a place where we can play 300 shows a year, but things are in the works, just nothing I can promise at this point.

Awesome, thanks so much for talking with us.

Thanks, take care.