There aren’t too many bands that can say that their music has saved someone’s life; that’s the last thing you would expect to hear about a metal band. After all, those guys mostly sing about death and destruction, monsters and meanies and all things negative, right? That’s not the case with Righteous Vendetta; the Wyoming-based metalheads are just as raucous as any of their peers and lead singer Ryan Hayes is just as likely to scream a few lines as he is to sing them, squeezing his words in between fast and feral guitar riffs and pounding, machinegun-fast drum beats. But those words, reflecting the band’s Christian beliefs, tend to be full of hope and positivity. And in the case of “This Pain,” the hit single from Righteous Vendetta’s just-released new album “The Fire Inside,” the words actually kept one man from killing himself. “Heavy” metal indeed. Hayes called in from a tour stop in Sarasota, Florida to tell us a little more about the message in the music, the inspiration behind “This Pain” and all about an embarrassing but funny situation that occurred elsewhere on the road.
Examiner: The band came together while all of you were going to community college. Where was that?
Ryan Hayes: That was at Northwest Community College in Powell, Wyoming.
E: Were you all taking music courses?
RH: I was studying math and our guitar player was studying music technology and we started playing with our piano professor, who was a total metalhead. We’d go to class and then after we’d go practice with our professor. It was a pretty interesting scenario. But we all had similar interests and we just started jamming in the practice room at the college.
E: With Wyoming being the least populous state in the nation, how did you go about building a fan base from Powell?
RH: We did a lot of work and played locally as much as we could in Powell and Cody but keep in mind there are only 8000 people in those cities. You can only play locally so much before it becomes tiring. We’d go play Gillette, Casper, Cheyenne, Greybull; every small town we could play, and that’s how we built our following in Wyoming. The first tour we ever did we booked all on our own and basically got paid nothing. We didn’t care how much money we got paid; we just decided to grind it for two weeks. We just made it happen. We forced it.
E: Has your faith always been a part of your music, or did having a message in your music come along later?
RH: We started out, all of us, in a faith-based mindset. We didn’t start the band with the intent for it to be as much of a message as it is now. It evolved into something much greater; there’s a much greater meaning behind it now than there was.
E: Is there a particular meaning behind the band name, or did you choose it just because it sounds cool?
RH: I never know what to tell people about that. We just thought of it. When we were thinking about it we were trying to think of something that was kind of oxymoron-ish, like Led Zeppelin. You know, you can’t have a lead zeppelin. We were going along those lines and we thought Righteous Vendetta was very oxymoron-ish, being words that don’t really fit together. We Google searched it and nothing came up. No one has used anything like it.
E: So now not too many years later Righteous Vendetta has fans all over the world and you’ve even toured Eastern Europe. Have a favorite story from your time over there?
RH: (Laughs) That’s really funny that you would ask that. Europe was amazing! Eastern Europe was kinda scary though. Americans aren’t exactly accepted there. We’re going through border patrols and there are dudes with AK-47s around you and searching your vehicle; it was just very different but kind of a cool experience. The story I have from Poland…well this always comes out but I have to say it. We played this sold out show in this small club in Rybnik and on the last song I did a “kick plant” off the front railing of the stage and fully crapped my pants on stage! What was even worse about it was that our liaison from the hotel was an extremely attractive woman and she had to drive me, with my pants completely defecated, from the venue to the hotel. And she knew what happened. So I pretty much lost all possible means of finding a wife from Poland.
E: The song “Defiance” from “The Fire Inside” sounds, with just a casual listen, like it might be advocating violence and war. But a closer listen reveals a sentiment just the opposite. Can you explain that imagery?
RH: There’s a lot of violence happening in the world. That’s where the pre-chorus line comes in; “Great is the power of violence, but greater is the power of defiance.” It’s kind of an anthem; a calling out. We need to stand for what we believe in and not be cowards. It’s meant to not be a violent song at all. It’s more about what the world is trying to teach us.
E: If someone just digs the music and doesn’t get the message, is that cool with you?
RH: Absolutely. There are a lot of people that have no idea that we’re a Christian band. We don’t force it on anyone and we don’t go out of our way to tell them “this is what we are.” We want people to know that on their own without having to tell them. When someone says “This song means this to me” and that wasn’t our intent---to me it’s like someone pulled something out of this song that meant something to them. My hope is that they pull out what I want them to but then again that’s not what music is, what music is for. If people pull something else out of it that’s totally awesome.
E: The video for “This Pain” has quick edits between the band rocking out and shots of a very distraught-looking young lady who is preparing to hang herself. What was your inspiration for the song and the very heavy imagery seen in the video?
RH: Almost every single person you talk to has had the experience of having someone they were close to kill themselves. For me personally, there was someone that I knew that killed themself. That song is literally just an outcry of…there’s so much pain in the world, but it can be taken away. It’s hard to explain the depths of where that song is in my life. I just hope that when people listen to the song that they get it. The response to the song has been amazing. The other night at a show something really touched my heart. I was in tears with this guy. He came up to me and said “Your song “This Pain” caused me to take a gun out of my mouth.” It was one of the heaviest moments of my life. He said he came to the show to tell us that the song literally saved his life. In that moment everything was worth it, you know? There’s so much pain. And not that I’ve experienced that pain on a level that some people have, but I have friends that have. It only gets better if you stay alive.
E: On a lighter note, what’s something that you like to do that might surprise your fans?
RH: A big thing with our band is that we play a lot of Pokemon. We’re into really nerdy stuff like Magic: The Gathering, World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons. That’s kind of a weird thing people don’t know about this heavy metal rock band.
Visit the official Righteous Vendetta website