Austin Carlile's Departure Shook Up The Plan, But Replacing The Singer Wasn't An Option

2 March 2018 | 3:39 pm | Brendan Crabb

"The last thing you do is honour them by trying to find somebody to just stand where they stood and do what they did."

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Californian heavy-hitters Of Mice & Men are part of a generation of metalcore and deathcore acts who don't conceal their allegiance to nu-metal or its impact on their own music. Of Mice & Men have toured with Linkin Park, and will be appearing at the Download Australia festival, a bill topped by forebears Korn and Limp Bizkit. Of Mice & Men will also appear on the latter's sideshows.

Nu-metal evidently retains a fair amount of cache among heavy music devotees. "It's either a revival or it's nostalgia, and I think either/or is great," bassist/vocalist Aaron Pauley enthuses. "I think all of us in the band are either 30 or approaching 30 so, for us, that's the music that we grew up on. And, also, as you go from a child to pre-teen to a teenager, a lot of that music you kind of discover on your own, for us was that '90s nu-metal. That was the differentiation between the music that we were raised on and what we discovered on our own. So once you get - I feel like at a certain age or certain point in your career doing music, you want to inject those influences in at some point. For us I think that started happening a few years ago." 

While the melodic-metalcore crew's fare may draw from that particular bygone era, from a career perspective, Of Mice & Men appear very much focused on the future. This includes new album Defy, which followed 2016's Cold World. Vocalist and beloved metalcore pin-up star Austin Carlile again left the ranks in 2016 due to his long-time battle with Marfan syndrome. He now resides in Costa Rica and Pauley says they keep in contact "as much as [they] can".

The band opted against recruiting a new member and thus continued as a quartet, with Pauley also assuming the lead vocalist role. "Before I was doing about half the vocals and playing, and for me now I'm just in a different part of the stage and, where I used to not do vocals, I do vocals now," he laughs.

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Pauley believes the personnel shift galvanised the remaining musicians, forging a tighter bond. "For us, this was a life change. It was heavy." Was there any temptation to recruit a major name to front them? Or did anyone express interest? "No, not really. I mean, nothing super-big or anything. I think there is always a little bit of a tendency for human beings in general just to want to cling to either what is current, or what is in the past. It would have been really easy for us to say, "Well, let's just find somebody to fill that spot on stage, or find somebody to fill that bunk spot on the bus'.

"So it's really easier to do kind of that, to try and stay in the past. But, for us, we wanted to acknowledge the fact that it was going to be different. I think if you have such an integral part of your band that has to leave because of their health, the last thing you do is honour them by trying to find somebody to just stand where they stood and do what they did. Especially if we felt like nobody was going to be able to do that. The best people to carry on the legacy and bring in the new chapter of Of Mice & Men is Of Mice & Men, so while we did have discussions about bringing somebody else in... Even Austin had suggested a couple of people to us. We were just, like, we didn't really want to introduce anything new. If anything, we wanted to continue on without having that kind of jarring new element, I guess."

Throughout the globe-trotting act's career, Pauley has become accustomed to having his life planned out well in advance. That said, recent years' events have necessitated re-evaluation "just because of circumstances beyond [their] control with regard to schedules having to be changed and sometimes whole years being wiped out", Pauly explains. "That's why now we just take it show by show. I know where I'm going to be, like, in a few days, but I don't really look too far into the future anymore. I used to be that guy that was looking two years ahead trying to figure out where we're all going... Now, I don't know; it's just too much. The best-laid plans of Of Mice & Men often go awry," he laughs. "We live our band name on an almost daily basis."