You don’t have to read the tea leaves to know that there’s an impending wave of content – music, books, film and beyond – set to the backdrop of the past 18 months of awfulness; one of the most gruelling periods that the western world can recall.
This is a good thing. After all – we the untalented, unwashed masses – have looked to society’s creatives to articulate the things we simply can’t since time immemorial. Because things are rarely just ‘good’ or ‘bad’; there is always nuance. Even the past 18 months have come with varied ups and downs – most of which marred by the monochrome veneer of sheer anguish, though undoubtedly there. And not only have Wage War explored those nuanced ups and downs in depth, they’ve put them all to music, hashing out one of their most striking bodies of work yet in Manic.
While havoc and destruction have seemingly reigned supreme since March 2020, we’ve also experienced some radiant good – communities have come together like never before, and many have achieved once-unachievable life goals by embracing their government-mandated free time in lockdown. How are we meant to parse all of that?
Fortunately for us, Wage War did the heavy lifting – as we learned speaking with rhythm guitarist and clean vocalist Cody Quistad.
The idea of Manic and mania… It’s such a powerful and baffling concept. What was it like to invite that sort of energy into the room, to court the idea of mania and being manic?
‘Manic’ was probably the fourth or fifth song that I wrote for the record. And as the record ended up tying up, I was thinking about what really sums up the past year. The one thing that I didn’t want to do is write a COVID record, if you will – something like an entire record about COVID. But I’ve always said that records are yearbooks. Y’know what I mean? I wanted to write about the past year of my life: we got three tours into our last record, Pressure, and then that was over.
Last year was a really dark year for a lot of people. And then there were also parts of last year that were some big victories and some big wins. A couple of my guys got married and were able to be home with their wives for the first year of marriage – which is huge for them. Even being able to see family that you haven’t seen in a while, or make personal strides in your passions…
So, you have these really high highs, but then you have these really low lows, just experiencing what’s going on in the world. Like people passing away suddenly. It was just really such a crazy time. And I feel like ‘manic’ was the best word because [to describe it] – you almost feel like you’re living two different lives in the same year. When you wake up every day, you have to ask yourself, which one are you going to feel? Do you feel the darkness or do you feel the victories?
One thing I did notice is that this album is not an ode to defeat. Despite the name and despite all the downs it explores, the optimism wins on the album. Is that an accurate take?
It definitely can be. We’ve been a very mental health-based band. Even if the songs themselves aren’t positive. I feel like that’s a big thing for us. I think there are some victorious moments on the album, but the album is very much what you decide to take from it. We really tried to write lyrics that take a little bit of time to digest. I’ve always been very straightforward in [my] lyrics and there’s still a lot of that on the record, but I do feel like there’s quite a bit of dissecting to do, if you sit down with the lyrics and find what’s in there for you.
As one of the people that wrote the album, who’s now spent so much time studying this concept of mania, what have you learned?
As far as lyrically and dramatically speaking… Life is short, man. We never know what’s going to happen. I’m sure two years ago we thought the world was as crazy as it was ever going to get, and then 2020 happened. I remember when my biggest problem was that I got a cold, y’know what I mean? And now we’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. There’s all this tribulation and different ‘sides’.
And then in America, we have all the politics and a lot really divisive stuff going on. It’s really taught me to be thankful for the time that I have on Earth and just make the most of it. I hope that a lot of people feel that. I’m not someone that lives in fear or someone that lives in this, “I’m going to die soon” mindset, but yeah, just being thankful for the time that we have and making the most of it – loving the people around you and making a difference that you can put into action.
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Manic is out now via Fearless Records
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