A Lot Like Birds respond to Kurt Travis's statement

4 March 2016 | 1:33 pm | Alex Sievers
Originally Appeared In

A Lot Like Birds' screamer Cory Lockwood and guitarist Michael Franzino have publicly responded to former singer Kurt Travis claiming the band is drastically changing their sound.

A Lot Like Birds' screamer Cory Lockwood and guitarist Michael Franzino have publicly responded to former singer Kurt Travis, after the (now) former member claimed the band was drastically changing their sound.

In an op-ed piece for US publication Alternative Press (which you can find here), Travis stated that the band was changing their sound and moving away from the frenzied, heavier side of their music and, instead, toward pop, "ballady" songs. The piece accounted for the reasoning behind his departure from the group, with the musician stating, "I came to the decision that I would rather leave ALLB and be proud of the albums that I’ve been a part of than to keep going with this new version." Hey, fair enough, and it seems that the same is true for the other members continuing the band.

Franzino's lengthy follow-up statement, in regards to what Travis had claimed, can be found below. Strap yourselves in, it's pretty damn long.

"Hello, this is Michael Franzino speaking.

I have had a lot of people messaging me since Kurt's article with the wisdom of knowing there are two sides to every story and seeking mine. I am not here to give you that story because it is a personal one that concerns only the people that I have been married to for 7 years and it is wrong for anyone to try and make you pick a side or air out dirty laundry. I don't want you to pick a side, I want everyone to succeed, with or without me.

There are many things I have read that have deeply hurt, but the thing that hurts the most is for anyone to question my/our artistic integrity. I founded this band on the sole foundation of making ambitious, heartfelt, honest music. Of all the things people have had to say about my career over the years, those things have never been disputed. I truly don't even understand how someone can listen to anything I've done and think I could "Sell out" if I tried. I would be an utter moron to think ALLB was my ticket to the radio. If we wanted money, we are smart enough to know music is the wrong business for it.

That being said, I am an extremely different human being than who I was when I was 18 and began forming ALLB. I am 26 years old. I have grown so much that the person I was at that age is a foreigner to me that I couldn't even begin to relate to. My values, philosophies, inspirations, hopes, fears have all evolved, just as they have for you and your journey. The art I am a part of has been a reflection of this growth (Of all of our growth), every step of the way. This record is no different and it would be disingenuous for me to try to be someone I am not anymore.

The unfortunate(/fortunate) reality of ANY relationship is that you are two different people experiencing two different journeys and you are going to change with time. You can either grow together, or grow apart. Cory, Ben, Matt, Joe and I have decided to grow together. Kurt has grown a different direction and that is what’s right for him. It is a simple and sad truth. The only thing all parties involved can do is make the art that is true to ourselves and we believe in, and that is what all parties involved will do.

We could have ended A Lot Like Birds at Kurt's departure. When we accepted him into our tribe he assumed part of our identity, and that is a hard thing for fans to let go of. We understand, and it is not taken lightly. We could have ended it but didn't, because this record means something to us and we believe it to be worth sharing. I have watched Cory tap into potential I don't think he even knew possible within himself. I've watched the incredible influence of our new member Matt shape our music and lives for the better. I've watched all of us hone in our skills and improve as song writers and people. And despite all that is happening right now, it is fucking inspiring and I can't wait to show what I've witnessed to the world.

Whatever it means, this record is who we are, and who we are is not who we were three years ago. We hope that fans will choose to grow with us and are sorry that you have to wait for the music to speak for itself."

Now, we're not out of the woods just yet, as Lockwood also released an even longer statement addressing what was said in the AP article, and that the screaming of the band won't be removed from the band completely.

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"I want to say some things. I want to say them because I spent too much of yesterday browsing different places reading comments and doing my hardest to make myself upset. It’s weirdly difficult to stop yourself from doing. If you ever have the opportunity to read a stranger’s critique of your character, don’t do it. And I read hundreds yesterday. Nothing personally regarding me, (with some exceptions that I’ll kinda talk about in a bit) but a lot of stuff about the band. Which I end up taking personally even though I tell myself I shouldn’t. Because this is what I’ve done for seven years now and what I plan to keep doing until it’s impossible. It’s a blessing that music has given me an opportunity to meet so many people and have people I’ve never met be able to listen to things I’ve helped to create. But it also puts you in this difficult spot where your every move is critiqued, and often in a pretty temperamental way. When it was first announced that Kurt had left the band, I saw a lot of positive support pour out towards both us and him. And it made me really happy. I’ve spent more time with Kurt then I’ve spent with almost anybody else in my life and I want the best for him. It was exciting to see that people weren’t taking something that can be so easily dramatized, like a member leaving, and causing an uproar. And I think that’s maybe because there was no story to tell. I’m glad we didn’t tell it because it was a sad one and I think that it’s too easy, when details pile on, for people to pick sides or try and find someone to blame. But obviously there were details added in yesterday’s article and it started people going.

And I want to say in the clearest terms that I can, that it’s alright. Kurt wanted to tell people how he felt and why shouldn’t he be able to? Nothing I write in all of this is a response to Kurt’s article. It’s an explanation of my own personal experience to people who are curious where I might be coming from.

In fact, if I can have people take away just one paragraph from this, maybe it should be this one. Nothing has changed for me. I wish Kurt the fucking best in everything. Not just in music, but with his record label, his family and otherwise. I had a couple people look to me to respond to the things he said and there’s no reason for me to, because he and I discussed them at length before all of this happened and I have nothing to argue with him about. So the fight that is imagined between us is never going to happen. Instead, I’d rather talk about some things I’ve read that were either hurtful or strange to me. And how much it sucks to feel like an inanimate object when things like this happen. Where you can’t move out of the way or respond, you just have to absorb it.

Also, I think it’s important that I make sure people know that this is all personal. I’m speaking entirely for myself right now. Nothing that I say is representative of the band. Hell, they don’t even know I’m writing or posting this. And if I mention anything that somebody has said, I’m only trying to provide some background, not speak for them or bely their intentions. It’s easy to latch onto small quotes and chew them up. Context is everything though and I can imagine everyone knows how it feels to have a picture painted of them based on a single sentence in a conversation that spanned hours or days.

I guess the first part is an explanation of the two differences. I don’t want to spend too much time on this though because this conversation is really really circular, so much that it caused the band to talk about it nonstop and I think if we all got together, could probably keep continuing until one of us died of hunger. But the short part is that there were two opposing ways of looking at the new album and BOTH of them were right. One way was to follow a change and tread some foreign and scary territory with new music. The other was to continue to make aggressive music, sticking to some of the tried and true ways we had gone about things in the past, especially with the way Kurt and I had found a niche with playing off of each other’s different vocal styles. Now, this battle had happened before. On a smaller scale, but still fiercely. There were six of us and we all have different preferences and opinions on style or direction. The fights were natural and it was mostly a...do we write another Think Dirty Out Loud/No Nature or another Truly Random Code/Kuroi Ledge. And again, both ways were right. But this time was different, because it was album direction, not individual songs. And so, the shortest way of looking at it, from where I stood was this. The music was moving into new territory. Kurt did not feel a connection to it. If the music were to be changed, the person tasked with writing the songs wouldn’t feel a connection with it. It was an awful place to be in. Both people had perfectly good reasons, and passionate ones, for feeling the way they did. I will never blame Kurt for leaving.

So, I want to talk direction. Because this is the part that I think has gotten nuts. I want to give a little perspective on the strange life of this band. I met Michael in...I wanna say, 2007. Ben and I were playing a show in our band, and Michael’s band was on the bill. He’s going to absolutely hate that I’m talking about this but he was in a ridiculous ska band. There were about 12 people on the stage at any given time and the songs were “ska-like” but also had these strangely metal guitar solos and long epic buildups to what I can only describe as a “ska breakdown.” It was confusing. And after the show, he came up and talked to me about my band. He had been listening for a while and enjoyed the lyrics and asked if I wanted to be a part of something else he was working on. I told him to send me some stuff and I’d listen. When he did, I was hanging out with a good friend and said he needed to hear these song with me because I had NO idea what to expect. And what I heard was a song called When the Wolf is Counting Sheep. Michael had written it for a full-length he was recording called Plan B. And I was blown away. I didn’t understand how he had gone from nightmare chaos ska to this. And then I heard the instrumental track “How I Parted the Red Sea” and the ballady “Hallows or Horcruxes.” I was in, I wanted to guest on the song, which turned into a couple songs and then it was permanent. I didn’t understand how there was such a huge spectrum of music coming from him and I was ready to see how far it went.

So here’s how things went. I meet Michael while he’s writing ska. Then Plan B happens, which I guess would just be an mix of different styles with some post-hardcore elements. Then comes Conversation Piece, which is half-aggressive/energetic and half-sad and moody. (I hate this by the way, trying to analyze the things we’ve done. At the end of the day, it’s how the people listening to it interpret it, but this is just how I see things.) So at this point, everything is sort of all over the place directionally. We decide to hone things. What better way to focus than a concept record? I’m terrified of the idea but it comes forward and I’m so damn proud of it. I know it’s personal and I know everybody has their favorites, but for me, I enjoyed No Place the most because it had a single mood to it that I could pour a lot into. STILL, there are outlier songs on it like Recluse and No Nature. And now we’re here. There seems to have been a line somewhere leading each album to the next and changing each one. The nature of this band is always going to be to change. It’s the scariest part of it, but it’s rewarding. It’s forced me to adapt in so many ways and made me better for it. And the line is a natural one.

I saw a lot of people throwing the term sellout around, which fucking floored me. I think it’s one of those contextual things. When Kurt disagreed with the musical direction, the discussion was pretty much on Michael to try and convince him to stay. I stayed out, because I didn’t want to try and convince somebody to do something they’re not into. If the direction was something I didn’t enjoy, I would have been out too and no amount of conversation would have changed it. But in the conversation, everything was brought to the table. And one of those things was that we, having always been a little unsure at where we stood in this genre, might not have a place in it anymore if we continue to change. But who knows, if that’s the way things go, possibly a wider audience is out there. Now, here’s the thing. Possibly is the heaviest word in all of that. It was an optimistic way of looking at things, because god knows that change is scary, so you have to find some silver lining. The truth of the matter is, Michael called me with a ton of fear about all of this and said that if he needed to, he could try and force himself to write the record that would have the highest chance of being received well, a more stable move: another Conversation Piece-style record. But that conversation was fleeting, because he can’t do it- and if we’re being honest, that’s the sellout move. To do something without your heart in it. Michael’s heart wasn’t in making an album he’d already made before. (Also, on a sidenote there should probably be some sort of discussion about how selling out has a lot more to do with personal integrity than it does money, because the move to make money is an easy one: stop making music and work absolutely anywhere else) So I don’t know, that was weird to see. I know it was a knee-jerk reaction to just one line of Kurt’s explanation but it’s still crazy to think about. I don’t know how losing our singer would be the financially stable decision. Hell, we lost some people with just the move from Conversation Piece to No Place. And I don’t regret that we made that change. It’s the honest move if the songs are coming out that way, and it was Kurt’s honest move to step out. Two directions, no wrong way.

Also, here’s just a little thing about the direction thing also. I have no idea what this album is going to sound like when it’s finished. That’s probably the most unsure thing about it. It’s a change but I honestly can’t even tell you where it’ll put us. I’m as much along for the ride as anybody else, but I get to help shape it, which is all I’ve ever done and wanted to do. I’ve just wanted to push myself and write along to whatever music comes along. And this stuff is nothing if it isn’t inspiring me to push myself.

So, there’s a lot of talk about me screaming or not screaming. And I wanna give a little background. I’ve been screaming for ten years. That is such a weird sentence but I think I like it more than “harsh or unclean vocals.” I started because of a band called CIrcle Takes the Square. I had heard screaming in music but never really got it until I heard my first Circle song. Non-Objective Portrait of Karma. It was like...three minutes of hushed talking and a buildup that ended in forty five seconds of INSANE screaming. The whole time, I was able to make out the lyrics and I loved them. Everything I didn’t understand about screaming suddenly clicked. And then something even deeper clicked for me. I wanted to try it. I had been writing since I was a kid and I hated showing it to people because the only way to describe it was “poetry.” And people hate being shown poetry. I tried doing slam poetry and that felt even crazier to me. I was bad at it and I was embarrassed and so I would just write for myself and show absolutely nobody. But I wanted to try this. I’ve never considered myself a good writer. I should have kept going to school for it if I wanted to really learn and move forward. Looking back at a lot of the things I’ve written, I’m ashamed of a lot of it. But I still do it because it’s personal to me and I’d rather have those feelings somewhere than to just forget about them. So I approached Ben, who was living with me at the time. He played guitar in a band when we went to school together and...I had once tried to pick up the drums and failed miserably, so I had a drum set in the garage. I asked him if he wanted to maybe try covering a Nirvana song. Tourette’s. I had heard another band cover it (the Jonbenet) and I wanted to try it too. He agreed and we recorded me horrendously slamming about on the drums and he played guitar and then I screamed into his laptop, butchering the timing and blowing my voice out. And I fucking loved it. I wanted to keep doing it, but didn’t know what else to try. Ben suggested that maybe we put some of the things I’d written into a couple verses and try and record that. We did. The lyrics were awful, but they were fun to scream and the song sounded pretty cool to us. We kept going. We found a drummer, and then a bassist. We booked a show. We kept self-booking shows. I was obsessed. We wrote constantly and played more and more shows and I had so much damn fun. We played to 40 kids at maximum most nights and huge ten band bills where people were only there to see their own friends, but I felt alive on stage. We played a show at the Boardwalk in Orangevale and I met Michael. Ben and I joined A Lot Like Birds. I had a way to write, constantly, and to show people. Screaming has always been that for me. I wanted to try more. And with Kurt and I playing off each other, we talked a lot about blurring the line between who was singing and who was screaming. So we worked on it. I sang two or three lines on Conversation Piece when we recorded it. And then a few more lines on No Place. I started easing some singing into our live set but I was nervous about it. I wanted to take lessons. I talked about it a lot but never did it. It was intimidating. But I knew that ALLB IV was coming and I needed to prepare myself for it. So I started. It was brand new all over again. This was an entirely different voice and entirely different format of expression. I had spent so long finding ways to fit words that felt right to have screamed into songs, and if it didn’t feel right, I’d put them into spoken word. And here was a third option. And this one was challenging. But I want to explore it. And the truth is, I could scream all over this new music. And it would sound awful. There’s a natural inclination for me to figure out when a part seems to be a good spot for screaming and it didn’t happen with this material. It’s massively open for singing. A lot of people have said some things about how disappointed they’ll be if I stop screaming. And I’m not going to. I want to write as much as I possibly can. I want to scream in bands for as long as I keep going. I have things I’ve been working on, including the sufferer project, that are all of that voice. And ALLB IV is a different voice. And if you don’t like your music without screaming, you probably won’t like this. And that’s fine. But I’m terrified and excited. It’s scary new territory and I’m doing my best. For those who want to hear me scream, you’ll always be able to, I promise. And for those who have been supportive as I explore my voice in this direction, thank you so much. And if you’re not supportive, I want to thank you anyways. I’m proud of everything that Kurt and I did together, and I always will be. Again, this is all just me getting some of my feelings aired out, to you guys. This isn’t a rebuttal, it’s just my feelings about some things.

If Kurt reads this, all I have to say is that I love you, respect the path you take and I hope that you have the best of luck in every single thing that you do, and I know that you will."

This could have gone down in a very messy manner but props to all parties involved for not making this ugly.

A Lot Like Birds fourth studio album is currently being written/recorded and is expected to be released later this year.