Give me a reason…I’ve been waiting for so long. It’s never enough. Escape the Fate is running away. From what?
Singer Ronnie and guitarist Omar both will say failure and irrelevance. And aside from some basic agreements that contemporary rock n’ roll is bad, that’s the last time they’ll agree. Theirs is a combustible, but constructive, discord that propels them away from an end that nips at every band’s heels. This and the gnawing truth that, for rock bands, There Is No Sympathy for the Dead.
“I don’t wanna come off like an asshole,” says outspoken Ronnie, “but we’re gonna be that change in music. I have a vision. I want people to have fun, put their fists in the air.”
Ronnie’s vision is of himself as a jukebox hero playing to arenas packed with fans—many of them horny groupies, that would kill or die for him. And maybe, if they’re lucky, he’ll deign to acknowledge them. “I don’t want to blow the mystery away [by letting fans get too close].” He wants to be the faceless waving hand behind the tinted limo window—“untouchable.” Omar’s is a more upright fantasy: though as appreciative of randy fans as the next guy, he feels a duty to be appreciative and accessible.
What they agree on is that mainstream rock music has become irrelevant, and such insignificance is inversely proportionate to success. Whore yourself out and you hit the jackpot. Stick to your guns and earn the empty wage of creative integrity. WTF? There must be a way to do it right, and for real. Because there is no sympathy for the dead of heart.
“Rock, dude,” says Ronnie. “I want it back. It needs to come back. The music industry now is all about—God, it’s just annoying. It’s not right.”
Escape the Fate knows something about lame entertainment—they’re from Las Vegas. Elton John, Siegfried and Roy, Wayne Newton, Circus Circus and ((((shudder)))) cover bands. Bad buffets. Showgirls wearing smiles like decals. Hotels that look like toys but smell like stale cigarette smoke, Freon, and the double-whammy of old people and unrequited dreams. It’s Warped Tour 2035, where plastic acts go to die and young acts are lucky to get a look. This sun-baked Hell on Earth might be home, but it’s not necessarily hospitable. In order to be successful and relevant, they need to escape.
Except you don’t have to leave town to run away. Sometimes you can avoid your darker destiny by running headlong toward it. Omar tells the story: “Ronnie and Max were in a band and they were doing so good. Then it just died.” They contemplated forming another band, but were wary of a very real possibility: they could die twice. Somebody said “we need to escape the fate.”
As Ronnie and Max were looking for new bandmates, so was guitarist Bryan. Omar, new to Vegas after leaving Hollywood and his band Lovehatehero, met Bryan through MySpace. One day Bryan messaged Omar to say he’d met “two guys that he really liked” and Omar should check them out. “It was Ronnie and Max,” Omar recalls. “It was amazing what they were doing and I couldn’t believe the voice that Ronnie had on him. I knew it was something I couldn’t pass up.” Drummer Robert came in through Ronnie and Max.
It was barely a month before Escape the Fate debuted at the Cheyenne Saloon. With only two weeks notice, the band hit MySpace to promote the show. Their efforts were handsomely rewarded. “We almost sold out,” Omar beams. “It was a 21-and-over show, of all things, and there was probably a good 200 people inside.” It wasn’t just a friends-and-family event; Escape the Fate already had fans—the know-all-the-words kind.
Energized, ETF continued to gig. Arriving at Gameworks for their first all-ages show (as main support for another Vegas band), Ronnie learned “everybody was [there] for us.” Omar, incredulous, went down the line asking fans who they came to see. “Escape the Fate, Escape the Fate, Escape the Fate,” was the answer. “I was like, ho-lee shit,” says Omar. ETF treated the crowd to their trademark captivating, energetic live show and left everyone gasping. “One of the guys that worked there came up and said they’d not seen a crowd go that crazy since Saosin played there last.”
Before long, Escape the Fate were local heroes—rock stars, often being stopped for autographs. They amassed a very large, very devoted local fan base, selling out smaller venues and drawing thousands to larger shows. The overwhelming crowd response led ETF to airplay on 92.3 KOMP, and the volume of calls necessitated two ETF spins in one show, which a station rep says “has never happened before.” And in September, Escape the Fate won a contest sponsored by X107.5. The prize was opening for My Chemical Romance. Shortly thereafter, the band was contacted and signed by Epitaph’s Brett Gurewitz, who promptly had them craft the EP and an as-yet-untitled album slated for a winter release.
About that EP: There Is No Sympathy for the Dead is a symphony of many things. Combustible-constructive discord. A frustrated type-A, caffeine-addicted firecracker of a singer who longs for fame like an orphan wishes his parents were still alive. Add an equally hungry guitarist with a measured intensity and gracious sensibility and three more guys just as starved. Press “record.”
In the first 22 seconds of the first song (“Dragging Dead Bodies In Blue Bags Up Really Long Hills”), you hear the history of Escape the Fate. A taut snare roll (the sound of something about to burst) underscores tense, cutting octave chords (clarion concerns clamoring for attention). This unravels into tom-tom drubbing not unlike a 10-move Mortal Kombat kombo that gives way to a brief double-kick-drum blast and a final, ominously ringing chord. (Wait…wait…) Then, one-two-three-four—unh! A sinewy guitar run, another quick double-bass salvo, and ETF is locked in, driving toward and away from fate as Ronnie tells their story: “Not fictiooooon…”
Truly, there is no clear narrative—this song and the others could be about many things (ETF likes it that way). There is only the implicit confidence of a young band in a full-tilt sprint away from failure and irrelevance. Simultaneously, this impetuous, intelligent mélange of metal and arena rock shows Escape the Fate running straight for rock stardom, making rock what it used to be.
“It used to be fun,” Ronnie says. “Girls used to come to shows and show their titties. They had big hair and there was stadium reverb on the drums. If that doesn’t come back, I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”
Hey Ronnie, you and Escape the Fate know better than anybody that if you want it, all you gotta do is go for it. And believe. Remember, there is no sympathy…
“It’s gonna happen,” he concedes. “Watch. I’m not jokin’. We’re gonna be the biggest thing. So huge. I know it.”
That’s more like it.
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