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.