Interview: Of Mice & Men’s Valentino (Tino) Arteaga On New Album ‘Earth And Sky’

Interview by Tracey Moyle – Music Maven Events

Californian metalcore band, Of Mice & Men have released their sixth studio album ‘Earth And Sky’ and despite many line up changes in the last 10 years, the band remains rock solid.  Over 10 million streams of the album already, on Spotify alone, indicates that the love the fans have for this band is as hard-core as the music itself.

This week co-founder and drummer Valentino (Tino) Arteaga, had some time out from their current tour of the U.S. to have a chat about ‘Earth And Sky’, the importance of community in the metal scene, the depth to their music and much more. 

Thanks for taking the time out to chat to Good Call Live and congratulations on the new album, ‘Earth And Sky’, it’s brilliant, I love it!

“Thank you so much! We’ve been sitting on it for quite some time now. Were just happy it’s out and everyone seems to be enjoying it and we love it too.  So everything just kinda feels right in the universe.”

You and Phil are the two longest serving members, a lot has happened over the last 10 years. But you’ve stayed on top of it all.  It’s seems to show the strength in the band.  It’s like you’re constantly evolving.  How has the song writing process changed with the different line-ups over the years? 

“Yeah, its been crazy. It’s always been a collaborative effort. Everybody always contributes their own ideas and kinda what they want to hear from Of Mice & Men and we’ve always kind of created albums that way, so in that way it remains pretty much the same throughout and then at the same time I feel like we’ve only gotten better at speaking our musical language together.  After doing this for so many years we all know and understand that now and we enjoy the music that we create.   We know what kind of material to bring to the table and then at the same time get in a studio and hash out ideas and not have any egos and its all about what’s good for the songs and not every idea is a good idea. It’s all just ideas. We don’t’ know if it’s good or bad you know, until we try it.  Like we’ve learnt to be very open minded and we work together a lot.  That comes from years of doing it, and in the  beginning it wasn’t as easy to do that, but at the same time we weren’t as experiences as we are now.”

It sounds like you have a great partnership working together?

“Yeah and that’s because we all contribute everything.  We contribute our passion and our feeling, and what we want to do in this world is create music and we have this amazing opportunity and this amazing vessel to do so, and so we always want to make sure that it’s the best representation of Of Mice & Men that it can be each and every time.  And the most honest representation to.”

Which is exactly what the fans after as well…  I wonder if the music that you are all individually listening to at a certain time influences any new sound or new idea you have with the songs you’re writing?

“We draw inspiration from all sorts of stuff and we really love metal and all that.  We draw inspiration from bands we see at festivals and like you know fans that have stories to tell us.  It’s pretty amazing what music can do and when you’re in tune with that and you understand how and what it means to create something you hope will last.  The people who put importance on it are the fans, its important to us because it’s our story, it’s just our story, we lived it , that’s it..  It’s up to the audience, its up to the listeners to understand it and interpret it in their own way and hopefully take something away from listening to the music instead of just listening to the pop culture, pop media marketing garbage that is just bubble gum, cookie cutter stuff.  I mean, Of Mice & Men they are a dense layer cake (laughs).”

I totally get that it’s not just the music that your fans love, it’s the whole package, the lyrics are felt pretty deeply by a lot of them, especially songs like How To Survive the first single off the album.  Music plays such an important role in so many lives, to feel like somebody out there actually understands the place your coming from is sometimes life saving for people.  It must be a great feeling knowing that your music is resonating with people in that way?

“Absolutely.  Music for me is the most powerful force in the universe because there is just no telling what the full effect of it can do to you in a positive, or negative, or anyway.  The effect that it has is so amazing.  And the effect it had with us growing up with idolizing bands that made us want to get on stage and play, and now were here hopefully doing the same for future generations and without even realising we’re doing it.  And so for us, for people to tell us their stories about how music helped them or saved them or something like that, that’s exactly what we tell our hero’s.  That’s it’s that somebody understands you at all times and you’re not alone, and I feel like in this community of music, we have a responsibility to each other to look out for each other and tell each other stories, you know, life isn’t always easy, it makes you want to scream or something, sometimes. It makes you want to get angry and do whatever and it’s not like all of the music is like that, some of the music can be empowering, it can be about strength or unity or you know stuff like that.  A whole wide array of emotions, you can find that on our entire discography and on our new album ‘Earth And Sky.’”

There’s no exception to powerful lyrics in this album. I love the pretence of Gravedancer – of all of us dancing around the grave, that’s just how life is really.   Some of us might dance closer to the edge than others though.

“Yeah, of course.”

I know what you mean about music changing somebody’s life and I speak to a lot of musicians and also people who are just passionate about music, like myself and I can’t tell you how many stories where I’ve heard people say, ‘I was in such a bad place and then I heard this band and their music got me through this time in my life.’  So you’re so right about music being empowering.  It’s like a kind of magic.

“It helps people get through it you know, it helps reaffirm your mind or realign your mind to rise to the occasion to face the challenge head on, what ever it could be, you know what I mean?  Whether it’s yourself or the pressure that’s outside or even stereotypes, whatever it could be.   I mean, we as humans are so capable of literally doing ‘Anything’ we are the highest form of a cognitive being in the universe that we know of.  With our minds we can do anything and I think people need to remember that.  I think with our music, with our message and with what we do out here, that’s why I call it the metal community, and like if you’re coming out here you’re a part of a mass of people who feel the exact same way you do, and when you come out to the concert and when you wear your shirt in your home city and somebody says, ‘Hey cool shirt’ you know that, that person knows what’s up and they know they’re a part of something that’s larger than themselves to and that’s awesome.”

I know what you’re saying.  We need to learn to use our intuition more and if we do we can manifest anything in our lives and make it better.

“Yeah, absolutely.”

I think my favourite song on ‘Earth And Sky’ is Taste of Regret. I love the power of the words in the chorus.  

And every time I think about the words you’ve said
I’m reminded just to bite my tongue instead
Until every last lyric’s left covered in red
Because the taste of blood is better than the taste
Better than the taste of regret”

I interpret it as forcefully holding back. You just want to say what you think but you don’t want the backlash.  Or about watching what you say, being judged on your opinions.  Was this the feeling behind the song?  

“Of course, yes. We’re at a very outspoken time, in an outspoken era where everyone gets a platform and that’s not always a good thing, you know.  Some people need to know when to shut up.  I think being aware of that will make you a more mindful person, to realise ‘I will not be that person.  I will be the restrained, I will be the bigger person in knowing that I do not want to make myself a fool’, you know.   Aaron (Pauley) has such an amazing way with words and the way he can describe things.  That lyric is really cool for sure.”

The drums on Mushroom Cloud are manic.   How did this song come together? Was it the mood?  It must be fun to play.

“Absolutely.   It all just came from, in my mind I was like, I gotta write something with the craziest drums that I have played in a long time. I was kinda just going for madness and going for broke on my speed.  I want to run a marathon on this.  I want a marathon song that’s just a barrage of noise.  And that one just came together great.   It sat as an instrumental for a little while and then Aaron had a very unfortunate but a pretty big anxiety attack and all of a sudden the lyrics just poured out of him for having the mind like a ‘mushroom cloud’ and it was the most explosive, like, he really snapped on this one.   It matched the instrumental so much, it really sounds like a crazy person.   And you know that’s what this extreme music is all about.   It’s about turning what you feel and see in your head into music and music videos.  So it’s pretty cool to see material like that come together and you’re only going to see that cool stuff in metal music. You know, like Katie Perry’s new song does not do that, you know what I’m saying.  This kinda music makes you feel it in a whole other way.”

It’s raw emotion…

“Yeah, exactly.” 

You  guys are good at getting that light and shade sound like you have in Pieces, that the fans love.   Do you consider a particular sound when you’re putting something down?

“Absolutely, I think every song has a purpose I guess.  And certain songs having more melody, its purposeful and having songs that have a heavier aspect is there too.  And I think that a part of Of Mice & Men, we have a pretty balanced sound like that and its not necessarily intentional but that is part of the Of Mice & Men formula I guess, and what we come to know about that and what we come to expect, well who better to write that then Of Mice & Men, the people who have been writing the music through the years.”

I won’t go through every song on the new album because we don’t have time but I do love Mountain .  I think the lyrics get me. I get “The Curse of Empathy” like you wouldn’t believe.   The drums give it an almost battle cry feel for me.   I love it.

“Yeah that’s true, I always picture that movie Labyrinth when I hear The Mountain ‘cause to me that song just takes me to a whole fantasy world and listening to the story that Aaron tells is descriptive and interesting and introspective and self reflective.  It’s a really important song to that record.  That’s one of the songs that was the earliest to poke its head out as a for sure thing for the album, as in like, this is definitely a song that’s going on the album.   It’s cool to see how well received that song is now too and that breakdown is so furious.  So I love that to.”

Were you always musical, from a young age?  Was it always drums or are you a instrumental maestro?

“I started playing music when I was four years old and I learned violin and then I learned piano, and then I learned the flute and then I played saxophone for almost two decades.  Then I picked up a guitar, then I picked up a bass guitar, then I picked up drums and then when I picked up the drum sticks I was like ‘oh I like this instrument cause no one can tell me what to do.’  I’m a drummer and I make the beat you know.  And it was kinda funny, you know, of all the music I played, I still play many instruments, but the drums is the instrument that I get on stage every night and play.   It’s not necessarily funny but like it was the one instrument that I was like, ‘I’m just going to do this to have fun.’  And now it’s like, my job.   But this knda job it is fun. And you can tell by all the silly faces I make in the back and I point to everybody in the audience and I have a blast out there.  So to be able to live a musical life, I never wanted anything else. There was never any other plan, there is no back up plan.  The plan is music for me.  My whole life has been about that.”  

It’s like writing about music, it’s a job of passion.  I have a different job that pays the bills.  

“That’s the whole thing music is, you don’t get in this business to get rich you do it because your passionate, you love it, you want to be, as I said, a part of a community, a part of changing peoples lives with the power of the song, the power of art or whatever it might be.   You never know how important a connection like that can be in your life.”

Tino, I could talk to you forever but I need to let the next phoner chat to you as well. (laughs)  I hope to see you guys back in Australia as soon as you get some time.

“Fingers crossed.  Follow us on social media, we have Instagram , Twitter and Facebook. Look for the blue check mark so its official and the internet will be the first place we go with the news of our return to Australia.  And we need to go back.  We’re bugging our agent.  Hopefully we can come on a festival, if not we’ll just come out and headline.  We’ll come out and bring ‘Earth And Sky’ and all of our songs and just have a big old party.” 

Purchase and listen to ‘EARTHANDSKY’ HERE.


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