With Blake Allison moving from behind the drum kit he manned for Egypt Central to the frontman’s spot for his new band Devour The Day, the question has to be asked: is he giving hope to a legion of drummers who always wanted to take the microphone?
“I wouldn’t wish this curse on anyone,” he laughs. “I’m just winging it; I have no idea what I’m doing. But I’m having a good time doing it, and I’m learning as I go and trying to develop as quickly as possible while trying to pretend like I’ve been doing it for a long time.”
He seems to be doing just fine, as he and his other former Egypt Central bandmate, Joey “Chicago” Walser have drawn rave reviews for their first album, Time & Pressure, and their tour, which sees them hitting New York’s Irving Plaza on Thursday with Candlebox, Hinder, and Open Air Stereo. It’s a far cry from where the duo were a year ago, as Egypt Central basically ground to a halt.
“The band was getting close to being done,” Allison recalls. “We didn’t know what we were going to do because we hadn’t played shows and hadn’t done anything in so long, and we were sitting on this group of songs that we were really, really proud of and that we had demoed out for the band. When it became apparent that the band wasn’t going to be able to tour for a long time, Joey and I just decided that we were gonna start something new. And we’re really glad we did.”
The decision came as a shock to longtime fans of Egypt Central, and many wondered why Allison and Walser wouldn’t just continue with the same name and new members. It was something the two pondered for a bit.
“We thought about maybe having me sing for the group, and at the end of it, we felt like we were limited creatively with the group because of the music we had released before,” he said. “So we just thought, why not start something fresh, something new, where we can take a different direction and relieve ourselves of some of the stigmas we had developed over ten years of trial and error.”
The result is Time & Pressure, a hard-hitting yet accessible album that builds up to an epic conclusion with songs like the crunching “Handshakes to Fist Fights” and acoustic closer “The Drifter.”
“The song (“The Drifter”) had a couple different faces before it became a stripped down acoustic song,” said Allison. “The first demo of it that Joey put together on his MacBook using GarageBand was this loungey, Jazz-type song that was very, very old western-sounding. You can almost imagine whip cracks in the song. And then we put together some music for it that is actually the music to “Handshakes to Fist Fights.” We sang “The Drifter” over “Handshakes to Fist Fights,” but we decided that we were going to scrap that because the sound of the song didn’t match the lyrical content. But we loved the music and we loved the words, so we decided we were going to make two completely different songs.”
They are polar opposites, but DTD makes them work, and if you listen to the lyrics on “Handshakes to Fist Fights,” you can almost hear the end of Egypt Central being described lyrically, with the line “I found redemption from that road that buried me” particularly telling.
“That’s one of those songs where if you think it’s about you, it probably is,” said Allison. “It’s an explanation of what happened to Joey and I, and that line in particular is about our previous group and the way it fell apart.”
But that was then and this is now, and Allison and Walser have moved forward. And all jokes aside, Allison is enjoying his new role and the freedom it affords him.
“It was quite an adjustment, but it seemed natural, especially when we played our first show,” he said. “I really enjoyed the process of learning to be a singer, and creatively, while making the record, we didn’t have to run our ideas by anybody or teach somebody a part or explain why we wanted to do anything; we could just do it, and in the moment of its inception. That was the fastest we’ve written and the most fun we’ve ever had doing it. And we’re lucky enough to have the same people on the business side of things with us. I’d say that’s the biggest asset that we have, the ability to pick up right where we left off.”
And now a year later?
“A year ago, this was an idea and we had half the songs put together,” said Allison. “A year later, we’ve got a song on the radio, a group of guys that we love dearly with us, and we’re driving to our next show. You’ve got ups and you’ve got downs, and when you’re up, you don’t know how up you are, and when you’re down it seems like you’ll never get back up there. So we’ve got to keep doing what we do and try and be as happy as possible, no matter what.”
Devour The Day play Irving Plaza on Thursday, September 26. For tickets, click here