Just when the world needs a lift the most, Armored Saint is here to deliver us with their new album Punching The Sky which comes out on October 23 via Metal Blade. Bassist and songwriter Joey Vera was kind enough to share a few minutes with us. We chatted about coping with the pandemic, memories of when he has punched the sky, and their upcoming show on October 10th at the Whisky A Go-Go.
The pandemic which hit the world hard at the start of 2020 still rages on. I asked Joey what has been the biggest challenge in dealing with the pandemic and how he is coping with it. Joey responded “Staying sane probably (laughs). Yeah, you know it’s just kinda been this process of like you know evolving with the world; what’s happening with the world. We’ve gone through so many different states of mind along the way. It’s actually still changing.”
With regard to coping, Joey relayed “I just try to stay focused on work. Luckily we have a record coming out, so there are things to do. I’m kind of the acting manager of the band so, I do plenty of stuff working with the label and working on releases, videos. We have this live stream coming up. So, I’m pretty busy and I’ve been busy. I’m pretty lucky in that sense that I’ve had ways to keep my attention. So that’s been my outlet for kinda like trying staying sane. The occasional beer doesn’t hurt either (laughs)”.
Given that music is a lifeline for many of us in these troubling times, we turned the conversation to the new Armored Saint album called Punching The Sky. The title reminds me of being at a show and sending my fist into the air when I hear one of my favorite Armored Saint tunes or making eye contact with the band. I was wondering what is one of Joey’s best memories of when he felt like he was punching the sky?
“You know, we’re having a moment right now” Joey answered. “We wrote this record before any of this stuff, before COVID. The songs were already written by the time this thing came into our lives…In a sense, punching the sky or raising your fist into the sky is a way like saying of victory or success.”
Joey continued “The fact that we have this record that’s coming out now and a lot of the things on it, they feel current. They feel like they are in the perfect place at the perfect time. Poignant if you will. We didn’t really plan that. It’s just the state that we’re in and where we are now. We’re stoke that this record’s coming out when it’s coming out (laughs), as weird as a time it is. I think that people are really starved for music. No one can go to shows anymore; at least temporarily. And people, more than ever people really need and want music. And maybe that was something we all took for granted before this…maybe this is reminding us all that we can’t take it for granted.”
Having had a chance to listen to the new album all the way through, I told Joey that I felt it had that trademark Armored Saint sound, yet still has elements of experimentation and exploration. I wanted to know what would be a key takeaway that Joey would hope fans will grasp when they listen to Punching The Sky? Joey answered “We’ve always been a band that had a little bit of diversity along the way. Like with each record there’s always something on it that’s a little bit different than the other songs; either It’s maybe a bluesy rock song or a hard rock song, or a ballad, or maybe some interesting ethnic instruments. Things like that. And this one is really no exception in that way and I hope that fans come along and they will appreciate those efforts again.”
As with most Armored Saint songs, the tunes on the new album are infectious. One aspect that stands out to identify Armored Saint music is that the bridge/chorus typically has a very uplifting positive quality. I asked Joey if that positivity was a conscious decision to write that way or if it was an unconscious reflection of him and the band’s personality? “That’s a good question and I think it’s definitely intentional.” He added “Even if it’s a subject that’s a little bit tough or something that’s on the edge of being a social commentary. We won’t necessarily say this is what we think, you should think this way too. We always leave it up to the listener. But, without a doubt, almost 100% of the time we’ll leave you with; it will be something that will be giving you some sense of hope.”
On Saturday, October 10th, Armored Saint will be playing a concert at the Whisky A Go-Go that fans can attend virtually. I inquired about how the band was preparing for a show where they won’t have the audience physically with you on-site? Joey laughs “Well, we’re currently psychologically preparing for it because it’s a little bit odd and unusual. We weren’t really into the idea at first; in fact, we kinda shot it down. But, once we realized what the state of the world is in. It was like you either do this or you do nothing.”
Joey continues “Our state of mind is let’s just play as a band, play together. We’re going to rock out like normal. We’re playing a full set. We’re playing four brand new songs from the record. It’s only ten bucks to get in. People can go check it all out at the website Armoredsaint.veeps.com. And all you gotta do is sign-up for an account which doesn’t cost anything. And then you can check it out for ten bucks. It’s going to air for a whole month. Even if you can’t watch the stream; the first stream is on the 10th of October, but it runs all the way until November 8th. So if you can’t make the 10th, you’re busy or whatever, you can watch it any time you want for that month”
Finally, we wrapped up with a question borrowed from my friend Matt McGachy of Cryptopsy. He asks this often on his podcast Vox & Hops. I asked Joey when he was growing up, what kind of music was on at your house that his parents were playing? Joey replied “Well, fairly early on it was the Beatles. It was a little bit later Beatles. My parents didn’t have the early stuff. They had the little bit later stuff, so my first introduction was more from the psychedelic side. So, Abbey Road, The White Album, and Sargent Peppers those three records were like non-stop at my house. I wore those records out.”
Check out the full recorded interview with Joey Vera of Armored Saint for much more. It was an honor and a pleasure to talk with him. Can’t wait for the new album and to see them virtually live.