The Evolution of Gideon

Derek Jones / Photojournalist

“You have to be a little crazy to be so devoted to something, so driven to just make it work.”

The story of Gideon begins like so many other bands before them. In 2008 a group of friends form a garage band in a small town, just a group of friends who just wanted to play music and emulate their musical heroes. Anyone who has ever grown up in a small town and had creative talents knows the frustrations of feeling trapped by their surroundings. The small town for Gideon happens to be Woodstock, Alabama. And for those who aren’t familiar it’s kind of In-between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. What once began as a teenage dream has evolved into 4 studio albums and tours around the World. However, it wasn’t always shows in Japan or music festivals. The struggle was definitely real for Gideon. We had the opportunity to catch up with Jake Smelley, Drummer from Gideon prior to his show at The Lost Horizon in Syracuse NY. He gave us some insight into the new Album Cold and spoke about the hardships faced when trying to make a name in the music industry as well as the new direction for their latest album.

“Before we would tour, we knew that in most places we wouldn’t even get paid. So we would save up and budget. We were eating dry ramen noodles and off the dollar menu for years. I remember in 2010 it didn’t even cross my mind what it would be like to be able to afford a hotel on tour. We would get soap, lather up and jump into random swimming pools. It was literally like Lords of Dogtown. We were young and wild. It’s cool to go back and to revisit those memories. It makes you so appreciative of what’s going on. I am very thankful to be on our fourth record cycle. We are very thankful to be where we are now. You have to be a little crazy to be so devoted to something, so driven to just make it work.”

While some might consider pursuing a dream so hard a little “Crazy” others will see it as passionate. The ability to persist when everything seems to going the opposite way you want them to. The album to me feels like it’s an attempt for Gideon to open themselves up to their fans emotionally and philosophically. In an attempt to show how they have matured over the last 9 years. Lyrics such as the ones taken from the song “Cursed” which features Bryan Garris from Knocked Loose touch upon the frustrations of the band the inner reflection of why things happen as they do.” Take for example this excerpt from the single “Cursed”
“Everything around me falls apart. Is this punishment or just a test of heart? Or did Lady Luck just give up? And turn her back on me!”

“In one week we had totaled our van we were also got robbed, it left us feeling like why doesn’t anything good ever happen to us? It kind of left us feeling “Cursed” I was raised on Country music and old Rock and Roll. I really like how a lot of those people wrote songs about bad luck, you know, suspicious songs like that. I thought it would be cool to write a song about bad luck. I have never been honest enough to write a song about something like that. Also during that time Bryan Garris from Knocked Loose was on tour with us and we wanted him on the record already. So when it came time to pick a song for him to sing on I thought “It’s just gotta be cursed”

The fourth studio album “Cold” was released in early May and while you can still hear that traditional hardcore Gideon metal sound, you can tell something has been changing in terms of lyrical depth and content. The album as a whole sounds a lot more personal and honest. If you have been a true Gideon fan throughout their history you cannot argue the growth and maturity presented on this album. While previous endeavors definitely focused on positive messages such as overcoming self-doubt, depression and anxiety, Jake feels as thought something was missing on previous albums. So he set out to express himself in ways the band had previously not done.

“As far as lyrics, “Calloused” was very vague when it came to writing. I was so concerned with people being able to relate to it, I almost made it too vague. They were just songs on how to make it through struggle and how you were gonna get stronger if you just push through. “Cold” however goes into the stories behind all that, it goes into where we are from. We even talk about being from a small town in the middle of the south. The mental battles you have to face to get out, just believing in yourself enough to make it out of your town. “Cold” basically talks about that underdog mentality and feeling like you have the world against you but it also goes deeper into some of the stories that led me into feeling so cold.”

In addition to a new album and tour, Gideon find themselves on a brand new record label. After completing a 3 album stint with Facedown Records they guys found themselves signed to Equal Vision Records. When asked about the reasoning behind the switch Smelley stated,
“We love facedown, if it wasn’t for them we would have never made it out of Alabama. We owe everything to Facedown. However, after the third record, Calloused we felt like it was time to move on. We felt like it was time to try something new. We have no hard feelings toward Facedown at all. One thing going into Equal Vision, making the switch we just wanted a family feeling that Facedown has. If you know anything about Facedown, you know it’s “Facedown Family” So anyone on the label were considered Facedown Family. So we were a little scared to get into a contract with a new label. We met with Dan Sandshaw from Equal Vision and we immediately clicked. He took us out to get to know us better. He just wanted to talk and see if we were on the same page. We knew instantly they were who we wanted to partner up with for this new album. He wanted to push us to be the best us we could be. So any weird ideas we had for music or things like that he said “if this is what you guys wanna do, you can do it” We are very happy with the switch but we are also very good friends with Facedown.”

With a fresh start and creative freedom the guys in Gideon decided collectively to delve into the darker topics now found on Cold. Topics such as feeling down on your luck definitely resound with many fans, but how about politics? The cover of the album features an image of a blindfolded boy with his hand over his heart. I felt compelled to ask Jake about them meaning behind this powerful image. I wanted to know if it had any correlation with the new direction for the band. Gideon has never been a political band but I felt as though they might be trying to make a political statement with the album artwork.

“The whole band wanted to have an album that had lots of imagery. An album that made people question what it’s about. There is a line in “Champions” that sums up the main feeling behind the whole album. It says “Born to believe anything, so sure you can see it all clearly. Feeling your way through the dark, set up to fail, hand over heart” The imagery of being a young child and blindly following anything you are told. If you think about it as humans we are born into an area and families that believe a certain way so that is how you are brought up to do life. You are blindly following and blindly believing anything you are told. That is the whole thing behind the pledge of Allegiance. You never stop to think “Why?” Why do I believe these things and why do I live life the way I live it? It’s a very real and vulnerable thing. It gets to a point in your life where you start asking yourself “Why, do you believe the things you do? Is it because you really believe these things or is it because these are the things that have been put into your head your entire life. The struggle of finding yourself, as a man. This album had a lot to do with going through struggle and finding your place. It’s kind of where we are at as a band. We are all at that age where if you don’t ask those hard questions life starts feeling kind of …..fake. Ya know?

Fake is definitely something Gideon is NOT. In my opinion the conversation I had with Jake was one of the most genuine and thoughtful I have ever experienced. My only regret is that I couldn’t include every single quote from that interview. In summation, I hope he ends up getting his chance to play with Slipknot, Hatebreed and Knocked Loose. I hope that he has a great time in seattle and I cannot wait to catch these guys on tour with Wage War. Some fans may have a hard time adjusting to the new Gideon, but I can assure them all that they are the same hardworking, intelligent gentlemen they have always been. Catch them in a town near you!

7/21 – Atlanta, GA – Masquerade
7/22 – Louisville, KY – Diamond Pub Concert Hall
7/23 – Springfield, MO – Outland Ballroom
7/25 – Denver, CO – Marquis Theatre
7/26 – Salt Lake City, UT – Loading Dock
7/28 – San Francisco, CA – DNA Lounge
7/30 – Santa Cruz, CA – Catalyst
8/1 – Tucson, AZ – The Rock
8/3 – Los Angeles, CA – The Roxy
8/4 – Anaheim, CA – Chain Reaction
8/11 – Kansas City, KS – Aftershock
8/12 – Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen
8/13 – Lakewood, OH – The Foundry
8/14 – Syracuse, NY – Lost Horizon
8/16 – Boston, MA – The Palladium
8/17 – Hartford, CT – Webster Underground
8/18 – Amityville, NY – Revolution
8/19 – Virginia Beach, VA – Shaka’s
8/20 – Charlotte, NC – Neighborhood Theatre