Wayland Interview By Alexx Calise
Meet the LA-based (by way of Wayland, MI) alt-rock band, Wayland. For the past 8 years, these impressive road warriors have been touring incessantly, playing some 300 dates a year, and sharing stages with hard rock heavyweights like Shinedown and Greta Van Fleet, to name a few. They’ve recently come off the road to refocus their energies and write / record their next EP, and in the interim, they’ve released an anthemic new song called “I’m Not Alright,” which deals with the very touchy subject of mental health, an issue that runs rampant especially in the music community. We chatted with lead singer, Mitch Arnold and guitarist, Phillip Vilenski about how they recruited some of their famous friends for the song’s campaign, and what’s next for one of the hardest working rock bands in the biz.
TMI: Firstly, congrats on the release of the new lyric video! It’s so wonderful to see that so many artists like yourselves are really trying to advocate for mental illness and erase the stigma that sometimes surrounds it. In the creative field especially, depression is very prevalent. What do you do personally when you’re not feeling “alright”?
Wayland: We find that it is human nature when we are asked if something is wrong to respond with an answer that avoids the topic. We tend to say “we’re fine,” and Mitch and I are absolutely guilty of that. For some reason in our society, we all put pressure on ourselves to wear a certain mask which we think could possibly be what leads to certain feelings building up inside of us like depression and anxiety. We have realized that opening up to a friend or even opening up to ourselves through writing or music can be the first step in healing the beginnings of those dark feelings inside.
TMI: “I’m Not Alright” was co-written with Brandon “BSAMZ” Sammons, (Bad Wolves) and Grammy award nominated artist and industry veteran Keith Nelson, (Buckcherry, Blackberry Smoke, Alice Cooper, Ricky Warwick). How did mental health specifically make its way into the conversation during the writing process? Did you consciously think about it beforehand, or was that a cause that all of you agreed needed to be discussed and advocated for?
Wayland: We weren’t thinking about anything bigger than a common feeling between us all. We started a simple conversation about what we had each been going through, which led to laying it out within the lyrics. It wasn’t until we started playing the song live over the summer, that our fans started to resonate with the lyrics and share stories about how stating that it was okay to be not alright was so powerful.
TMI: You spearheaded a star-studded campaign called the “I’m Not Alright” challenge, which featured videos from members from Pop Evil, Shinedown, and Hinder. Can you tell us more about it, and how long it took to put together?
Wayland: It didn’t take any time at all, we knew that as the message took shape that our close friends within the music community would all be on board to help share it.
TMI: Did you find it difficult to enlist people to talk about such a sensitive subject?
Wayland: We have been absolutely overwhelmed and shocked by how many people have posted public messages along with videos and private messages to the band sharing their intimate stories with mental health struggles. When we start to talk about it, we truly believe that that is when the healing begins. It has been a trickling effect.
TMI: Have you linked up with any charities that advocate for mental health awareness?
Wayland: We are working with international charity, LIVIN, who preaches “it ain’t weak to speak,” and we are proud to work alongside them. As a band, we don’t know the answer to ending mental health problems within the human race, we can only offer this song. We just feel like the idea of saying out loud, it is okay to be not alright, and understanding we are not alone in that feeling can become a mantra that supports healing.
TMI: What do you hope people will take away from this song at the end of the day?
Wayland: We hope that people realize that when they are having any sort of darkness inside, that they are not alone. These feelings are shared by the human race and can be dealt with with the help of your friends, family, church, counselors, whoever you feel comfortable with. The point is to start the healing process as early as possible so it does not grow into something like substance abuse or suicide.
TMI: Is this song going to be a part of a greater body of work, like say, a new album?
Wayland: Maybe, we know we definitely want to record more songs right after the new year.
TMI: Will you be performing “I’m Not Alright” at any upcoming charity events? Wayland seems to be very involved with charities as of late.
Wayland: We have played several charity events the past few months, however we have taken “I’m Not Alright” more intimately into hospitals bedside, homeless shelters, women’s homes, and mental health centers to personally play acoustically for patients, survivors, and caregivers. We try to spend at least a few hours every week in a different facility to bring this song and this message to life.