Interview with JC Charles and Bret Von Dehl of The Relapse Symphony

No matter what the world throws your way... just keep going.” JC Charles of The Relapse Symphony

07/2015- Song River 

JC Charles
Bret Van Dehl

We were able to catch up with JC and Bret early on as they stopped off in Arizona during the Vans Warped Tour 2015. A positive group of musicians, connecting with their fans, making new friends, and never backwards in stopping to chat with anyone who happens along. The release of their latest album, “Born to Burn,” without question has solidified The Relapse Symphony's sound with a force of hard rock, meant to bring down the house. To their audience they connected and made them a part of who they are.

Song River: It would seem that The Relapse Symphony has settled into itself; your sound, direction, projection, and goals. Do you find this has motivated the groups dynamics, songwriting, and performing?

JC: I think as a band we have figured out who we are. We have a better handle on what kind of band we are, and the sound we are going for. I think it took us a couple of records to figure it out and some experimentation, and there is still some of that on our new record; we tried some different things. “Born to Burn” though really personifies what our band is about more than anything. We are just a hard rock band. On our first release, the EP, we had only been a band for a week or two, when we started recording, and then on the album, “Shadows,” we wrote that about a year before it came out, so we sat on that record for a while.  We know many people thought we had just written it, but we were already on to the next thing by the time that came out, so it was fun to do, “Born to Burn.” We did it in about a month and it still feels like what we are about. I think that definitely personifies our band more than anything.
JC Charles Photo Credit: CowGirlZen Photography

SR: It's been heard that you all say the Relapse mission is; “There is no mission.” You've explained that this is kind of how rock n roll is. It shouldn’t have any rules.

JC: To an extent. It just seems today you hear, or maybe it's dying out now, but for a good while it seemed you always heard every band was saving the world. (paused) And, that's great. I am fans of bands who are all about that, like My Chemical Romance. You know a lot of fans said that MCR saved their life and that is great. (paused) But when I was growing up, music saved my life, but also I had a big part of that too. And we want to empower kids, and help them realize too that a band didn't save your life, YOU saved your life, you are the one with the power, and it was you who got through the rough time. It's great if music can help you, but our band isn’t about saving people's lives. It's about us expressing ourselves, playing rock music and kicking it on stage. (paused) It seemed there for a while music was depressing, and about how sad everyone is and that’s great and all, but you got to deal with it. We just want to get up there on stage and have kick rock show.
Ray Miller Photo Credit: CowGirlZen Photography

SR: On this Warped Tour, Tommy and Adam have joined. Do you think you’re going to keep them for future use, permanent members, or just see where it all goes after Warped?

JC: Adam is an old friend who is filling in on bass, our bass player had left about nine months ago at this point and we don't want to fill the position until we are sure. We've talked a lot to other bands members on the Warped Tour and getting good feedback and advice. We just don't want the fans to get to know another band member and have them leave. We recorded bass ourselves on the new album, we have Adam filling in on tour, we have other friends filling in on future tours, we are just taking our time with this. As far as the drummer situation, Tommy is helping us out. We literally had a line-up change a week before Warped Tour. We called Tommy and said look man we aren't going to be able to do the tour if you don't help us out and he came out and its been going great! That’s all we are going to say about it at this point, but we are going to have a solid lineup very soon and we just want our fans to know that the band is good, we are here and ready to rock it hard for all of you and continuing to tour!

Tommy Vinton  Photo Credit: CowGirlZen Photography
Bret: It is also been the best band that ever been.

JC: Our friends who have seen us before are coming up to us and telling us we've never sounded better. You know sometimes bad things happen, and you just have to push through them, and ya know... sometimes they are a blessing in disguise when something bad goes down, because sometimes it turns out better than it ever was.

SR: After your full length album, “Shadows,” you all did an acoustic version. Why and would you do something like that again? Would you also consider doing an “On the Road” DVD?

Bret: Yeah, I'd rather do that than another acoustic record. For me personally the acoustic record was a fun experiment, but acoustic stuff has never been my favorite thing. We were just looking to put ourselves to the test, stripping everything away and putting those songs into the most raw element possible. When we did we just went maybe and did a couple of takes. Who knows maybe we or maybe we won't do it again, we don’t really know, but that's the way it happened with “Shadows,” so we'll see.
(laughed) Hey, Guns n Roses did

JC: The acoustic record really happened at a time when we knew we weren't going to be producing another recording right away, and we wanted to give our fans something. We all know that we need, bands need nowadays, to be putting out a single or something about every nine months. There is just so much great music out there, and you have to keep yourself out there to stay relevant, because today's album cycles are getting shorter and shorter. So, we said let's go in and change the songs, and change the tuning and have some fun with it to hold over our fans until “Born to Burn” came out, which it has while we are on Warped Tour.

SR: Going back to “Born to Burn,” do you feel that you have produced something now that is more you as you shredded it down yourselves?

JC: We should clarify something a bit, as we do throw around, “getting told what to do,” a bit carelessly. I think with “Shadows” what happened was we weren't ready to make that record and so we kind of leaned on our producers to help us with a direction for some of those songs and I love that record, and I am still proud of it, but we were ready to make a record this time. We probably wrote over thirty songs during this time and so its just been a whole different process this time around. Before we hadn’t been a band that long, we had only been a band for less than a year when we wrote “Shadows.” This time though, even though we had stuff going on behind the scenes, it made us tight as a band and we put it on tape and we are stoked about it. Over this process, and in writing more songs as we were going along, we chose the best of the best and that is what is on “Born to Burn.” Reviews are rolling in and the worst rating I have seen on it is 4 out 5, so the fans are loving it, our friends on the Warped are loving it and it really is the best of the best of The Relapse Symphony... We are so proud of it.

SR: Each one of you bring something completely different to the band. How has that helped you?

Bret Von Dehl Photo Credit: CowGirlZen Photography
Bret: I really think that is the reason why our band stands out. (laughed) I think if all the band members were cartoon characters, I mean we all have such strong personalities and we all have such a passion, so when all of that comes together that’s what makes our band what it is. I think that’s what makes great bands.

SR: All of you play multiple instruments?

JC: Honestly, thank goodness we do. I mean we needed to be able to create this last album, so it's a good thing that we all can. We all helped out on drums, the bass, harmonies, collaborations on the lead stuff. I mean literally that is what made this record so fun. We are all sitting there literally passing the bass around, while the song is happening. It was a whole team effort. We would get to a part and I would have no idea and Bret would step in, I mean honestly I would love to do it the way we just did again. It was just so much fun.

SR: As a band you all are very socially connected to interacting with your fans. How do you keep up?

JC: Well on this tour, due to lack of WiFi and charging stations sometimes its a challenge, but we've been trying really hard to stay in touch with everyone. Our first day in Pomona we were just so shocked for all of our fans were coming out to see us, and hang all day. Everyday has been great.

Bret: The fans have just been coming out and support us, it has been great. We appreciate just hanging out with everyone.

SR: You've talked about early influences, did they come into “Born to Burn?”

JC: Those formative years have been influential, when you're young those bands and their influences stay with you, but having Ray Miller (Lead Guitarist) with us helping out on this album and his technique end of hard metal- its been heavier and more technical sound. It really shows.

SR: Any side projects? Bret you do some artwork here and there, so?

Bret: Maybe, musically if I ever did it would be something that wouldn’t conflict with Relapse. Who knows maybe in a few years?

SR: If you could create a board game that describes the life of The Relapse Symphony, what game would it be?

Bret and JC: (laughed)

Bret: JC you have to answer this one.

JC: It would be Monopoly and instead of buying houses... we would circle the board in a van and avoid jail.

"Die Alone" from The Relapse Symphony's new album: "Born To Burn"

Social Media
Twitter and Instagram:
Vocals Twitter: @BretVonDehl Instagram: @BretVonDehl JC Charles - Guitar Twitter: @JCCharles8 Instagram: @JCCharles8 Ray Miller - Guitar Twitter: @RayMiller_ Instagram: @RayMiller_

Adam Peters Photo Credit: CowGirlZen Photography