First Decree is a Cheyenne, WY-based alternative hard rock/metal quartet influenced by groups such as Avenged Sevenfold, Creed, Alter Bridge, and Sevendust which, though young, retains a maturity and level of songwriting experience that belies their age. Recently we caught up with drummer Zachary Lopez-Smith who helped us get to know the band, and their forthcoming album This Is Our Rise (pre-order it here).
For those not familiar with First Decree can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Lopez-Smith: We are a rock/alt-metal band from Cheyenne, WY. Our band consists of 3 brothers: Dane Lopez-Smith on Guitar, Isaac on Bass, and Zachary on Drums. And our lead singer Travis James. We are just a hard working band from a small town, with big dreams!
Your new album, This Is Our Rise, is about to be released. Now that it is complete, how do you feel about it and what has been the response so far?
Lopez-Smith: We are very proud of the songs on that album and we can’t wait for the release. We have been playing the songs live and have gotten a really good response from the crowd every night. There is a little bit of everything on this album that we feel people can relate to and love. We hope that people will gravitate towards this album when it is released and that it makes an impact in the rock community.
What is your writing process like?
Lopez-Smith: We usually come up with ideas on our own and then bring them to the group where we elaborate and form the idea into song. Travis and Dane will also write a lot together and then bring those songs to the rest of the band. It might be a very unorthodox way of writing. We all do a little bit and bring it to the table. There isn’t really one person in the band that does all the writing like you would see in some other bands. I feel like that brings different styles and a good blend of songs to an album.
When you write, do you do so with the live setting in mind, or do you write a song just for the song’s sake?
Lopez-Smith: I feel like it’s a mixture of both. We write songs that mean something to us, but at the same time you always have to think about how that song will translate live to an audience. More so now that we are playing in front of bigger crowds and touring more. In the beginning we never thought we would be touring like we are so writing wasn’t necessarily about how they would sound live. Now it is definitely something we think about.
Along those same lines do you take advantage of technology and email riffs and parts back and forth, or do you get together in a room in a more traditional sense and write together?
Lopez-Smith: We all live together so that makes it a lot easier to get a riff or melody over to each other. We do take advantage of technology with our phones and their ability to record rough tracks. That helps in not forgetting an idea before you are able to bring it to the group. The tools that bands have nowadays are endless so taking advantage of everything you can is essential to growing as a band.
What’s the story behind the name of the band?
Lopez-Smith: The original name Travis and Dane had in mind was just Decree. A decree is a statement or an official order declared by someone and that’s exactly what they wanted to make as a band. They Googled the name to make sure no one else had it and, sure enough, there was another band with that name. While they were trying to think of another name a Tenacious D song was playing and they said something about a “FIRST” decree and Dane looked at Travis and said, “That’s it!” It fit along with what we wanted the meaning of the name to be. This is the first band that we’ve all been in where everyone is willing to do anything to make that statement so First Decree fits pretty well.
What is the story behind the name of the new album?
Lopez-Smith: The name of the new album actually comes from one of our songs called “Lost in the Crowd.” We see this album as our opportunity to get noticed and gain some national recognition. We don’t necessarily see it as our rise to fame or anything, but more just our rise as a band. We are excited with what the future holds and this album is our stepping stone to that future.
Check out the song “Phoenix” here.
You have toured the U.S. Is there anywhere you would like to go that you have not been, especially outside the U.S.?
Lopez-Smith: We would love to go over to Europe and do a tour there. We always see bands post pictures or videos of their shows there and they are always huge. Rock seems to be bigger over the pond and there are very passionate fans there. Hopefully we can get over there soon and see what it’s like.
What do you think of the current state of the rock/metal world?
Lopez-Smith: I could talk about this forever. The way I see it is that rock/metal is coming back to where it was 15 years ago. But it is up to the rock community to make that happen quickly or slowly. I believe that there needs to be more chances given to younger bands to headline some of these huge festivals. If older bands keep headlining then of course people are going to give up on rock. Young kids don’t look up to 50 year old rock stars. They want younger bands to look up to. The music industry needs to stop being afraid to pass the torch and force these young bands to headline. If one band can’t handle being a headliner than move to the next young band. Another thing that really bothers me is how rock and metal bands are always trying to cover pop songs to gain popularity and get big off that. I feel like that is automatically saying that rock has no power in the music world and that it needs those songs to survive. It’s fun to do covers, but just not to get big as a band. Like I said I could go on forever on this topic. I do believe that rock is coming back up though. It is definitely not dead! It was just dormant for a few years.
What are some of the newer Hard Rock/Metal bands that you are listening to or enjoy?
Lopez-Smith: I am really digging all the new Nothing More stuff! They are really blowing up right now and rightfully so. Their album is good from start to finish and is always a go-to when I’m at the gym or on long drives on tour. I also just got into the band Beartooth. I just recently got their album and have been jamming it pretty nonstop ever since. Both bands are everywhere right now and it’s exciting to see some newer bands getting lots of national recognition.
What’s the Rock scene like in Cheyenne? Do you receive a lot of support from your local scene and fans in general?
Lopez-Smith: There are a lot of rock fans in Cheyenne, but there aren’t very many rock shows there. There are some local metal bands that play around town and they are really doing a good job of building the scene up. There just aren’t many young bands forming right now. Hopefully we can help spur it along. We have quite a few fans in our hometown and I think it is always growing now that we have been gone on tour for a while. People are starting to notice us more. Whenever we play we get a lot of local support which is huge for us. We want to make it big for Wyoming and our hometown. It’s one of the reasons why we do what we do.
Do you have any rituals before you hit the stage? If so, what are they?
Lopez-Smith: We don’t have any rituals before we hit the stage, but when we first get on stage we always huddle up in front of the drum kit for a prayer and a little saying that we always do before we kick off into the show. I think at this point it would throw off our entire show if we didn’t do it.
You’ve been touring a lot in 2015 – what are your touring plans for the rest of the year and into 2016?
Lopez-Smith: We are heading out on tour with Avatar and Gemini Syndrome starting at the end of August and running through September. Immediately after that we will be heading out on a tour with Otherwise and Like a Storm through October. We will then be hitting the road with Black Veil Brides to put us through the first week of November. We won’t have many breaks during all that, but we are excited to be touring and staying busy!
If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only take 3 CDs with you for eternity, assuming there was a solar powered CD player, what would they be?
Lopez-Smith: I have 4 CDs because I have a tie for my first pick. I would go with Avenged Sevenfold’s City of Evil and their self-titled white album as my first go-to CDs. Those are just my favorite albums of all time. Then I have to go with Breaking Benjamin’s Dark Before Dawn. It’s their new one, but I’m a huge Breaking Benjamin fan and I know that I will never grow old of that album. My last pick is kind of weird but it would have to be Ed Sheeran’s album X. I would just need an album to chill out to and that would be the one for me to do that.
Check out the song “Lost In The Crowd” here.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?
Lopez-Smith: I think going and playing a show at the Events Center in Casper, WY. It was the first arena show we have ever done, but what really made that show special was that it is in our home state and very close to our home town. We had tons of family and friends that came out for that show and it was just cool to be on that stage. We have been there to see shows, graduations, and even arena football games, but we never imagined that we would one day be on that stage. It was really special and something I will always remember.
Give us your best “gear goes wrong” story.
Lopez-Smith: Our best story doesn’t even involve our own gear! We were playing this bar in North Dakota with Pop Evil and during our set the power in the whole building went out. We immediately all thought that our gear was going out so each of us was frantically checking guitars, cords, amps, and mics until we noticed that all the lights in the bar were out. It took a couple minutes for them to regain power and we went ahead and continued our set. I would like to think that we handled it well. It definitely makes for a good story.
Have you seen any fans with a First Decree tattoo, anything crazy memorable?
Lopez-Smith: We haven’t seen any tattoos yet. I don’t think we have been around long enough for that yet. But we have had some fans bring some cool fan art to some of our shows that they have us sign. It’s really cool and humbling to see that stuff because it shows that you are making an impact on somebody and there are some diehard fans out there that you know will be at every show when you come through. It always makes our night when we see that kind of stuff.