Strong Management’s Vaughn Lewis wasn’t sure what to expect when he and co-manager Kenny Gabor saw As I Lay Dying perform in two venues in two days – Hungarian Hall in Long Island and Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia. It was an eye-opening experience.
“The first show was at, like, a VFW hall. There were hundreds of kids and the band was set up on the floor. You could barely see them but there was all this energy,” Lewis told Pollstar. “The next night was at the Trocadero Theatre and the band was just as at home on that big stage. It was unlike anything that I’d ever seen.
“There was just this energy – a connection going back and forth – with the audience. They seemed very adaptable in any setting as a live band.”
Changing pre-conceived notions has been part of life for San Diego-based AILD since forming in 2001 when playing metal wasn’t the most popular choice. In addition the band members are Christian, which led many to assume AILD was a Christian metal band.
“When we first started out, there wasn’t a metal scene in San Diego. Punk and hardcore were popular at the time but we knew we wanted to play metal,” frontman Tim Lambesis told Pollstar. “It was a weird scene with all of us being Christians ... but there’s definitely not an agenda to tell people what to do. The Christian influence comes from lessons I’ve learned [but] our goal was to play good music.”
Despite being pigeonholed, AILD kept chipping away at building a name for itself with its live shows wherever possible.
“We didn’t have an agent or a label. I was the guy who called [venues] every day. We’d play in somebody’s basement. It didn’t matter how many people,” Lambesis said. “We played local gigs for about six months and then we started traveling. It was pretty terrible.”
A friendship with fellow San Diegans American Tragedy yielded a split CD featuring both bands that was released in 2002, which added to the buzz on AILD.
After signing with Metal Blade in 2003 and releasing Frail Words Collapse the band started getting a lot of attention from the masses and, subsequently, artist reps.
Around that time, an industry friend told Lewis that Metal Blade was looking for management for AILD.
“We were getting a lot of demo tapes ... but we just felt like none of them were very original. At some point somebody sent me [an AILD] CD,” Lewis explained. “When [the friend] called me to see if we were interested, I had literally been listening to their CD for about a week straight.”
Lewis said he and Gabor, who also manage Killswitch Engage, were intrigued by the band and its approach to its music. They had heard AILD described as “Christian metal” but could see that label wasn’t accurate.
“What I noticed from afar was that they do all kinds of tours with all kinds of bands. They’ve done the Warped Tour, Ozzfest, Sounds of the Underground,” he said. “The band’s overall message is a positive one so that message can appeal to a very broad group of people.
“As heavy a band as they are, I think we’re seeing that translate. It’s good metal with a positive spin.”
That positive attitude also carries over to how the band members handle the day-to-day rigors of touring.
“They’re very bright guys who are very focused on building their career in the best way that they possibly can. They’re not looking to take shortcuts,” Lewis said. “They’re just the classic band that wants to get out there and play in front of people and try to win fans.”
AILD’s current headlining trek in support of An Ocean Between Us has a run of North American dates including the Christian-based Sonshine, Cornerstone and LifeLight festivals, and the first part of the Warped Tour. Stops in Canada and European festivals will keep the band on the road through late August.
One recent milestone was the band’s performance at the Dubai Desert Rock Festival in March on a bill that included Korn, Velvet Revolver, Killswitch Engage and Machine Head. Plans are in the works to tour South America and Mexico, Lewis said.
But along with touring the world, certain areas won’t be forgotten when it comes to routing.
“Another big thing about this band and their kind of connection is the amount of work that they’d done in the smaller markets before we even got involved with them,” Lewis said. “Now these are the places they have to play because they have such a rabid fan base.
“They are true road warriors. They’ve done so well in so many parts of the world that there’s always somewhere to play and they’re always willing to do it.”