By John Parks
Mindset Evolution formed in 2005 and has risen from their beginnings in Peoria, Ill., to a series of big steps toward national recognition. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but the guys in the band have nonetheless enjoyed every step of their rise, including winning spots on the coveted Rockstar Uproar Tour, a spot on the 2012 Warped Tour, and recording a great new album produced by the legendary Johnny K (Stained, Disturbed, Megadeth), preceded by their new single/video, “Burn It Down.” It’s all pretty cool stuff, a path that’s led the Mindset Evolution guys to where they are today, which includes their current tour opening for Fight Or Flight (featuring members of Distrubed and Evans Blue), which will be stopping here in Rockford at The District (205 W. State St.) Aug. 14. I recently talked with lead singer Rob Ulrich about everything going on.
Q: Hi, Rob. Thanks for talking with me. The band is on a nice little tear right now. Has your summer been filled with a lot of the regional festivals and those kind of shows?
A: We have been fortunate enough to be invited to a lot of the big radio shows and were also just invited out on Uproar again for some dates. We’re doing all kinds of those shows that are moving around right now, which has been pretty exciting. It’s always been a really cool thing for us to be able to play outside, of course. Being a Midwest band, we get the opportunity to enjoy all the seasons. I can remember being a kid growing up and going out to parks where they would have pavillions with plug-ins and just setting up and playing out in the park in front of the picnic tables. Now, we’re on all these shows outside this summer and also have a bunch of dates with Avenged Sevenfold towards the end of our tour with Fight Or Flight, which is starting up now.
Q: How was the process of recording your album with Johnny K in Chicago?
A: It was great. He put us up at Groovemaster studios, and we lived there. We were there for about a month-and-a-half, working nonstop with him every day. I think we’ve created some of the best work we’ve ever done. In my opinion, it’s my favorite piece of work that we’ve put out thus far. I am really excited to see how people receive it as it gets out there.
Q: One of the first things I noticed when listening to your music is that it definitely straddles the line between heavy, groove-orientated metal and a strong sense of melody. Is that something that just materializes naturally while the band writes material?
A: I think most everything we have always done has been rooted strongly in melody, but what we do around the molody constantly changes. Every time we release a new track, the melody is the one consistent thing; tons of guitar melodies and vocal melodies, but the way that we use the music around the melody is what we try to approach different every time. We try to stay true musically to the band’s name, Mindset Evolution, as we possibly can in essence. I think on this record, for me, the idea was that a scream should always be a punctuation point. In other words, if you go around in every conversation with every person just yelling all the time and always angry, then when it comes time to actually be angry about something that’s done you wrong, no one takes you seriously (laughs).
They’re like: “OK, this is a guy who yells about everything. Who cares if he’s mad? He’s probably not even mad.”
Q: You are one of those bands where you write things that truly relate to a lot of people going through trials in life. It’s not preachy, but it’s also not your typical lyrics about going out and having a good time. Is that fair to say?
A: Yeah, I’d say that’s a fair assessment. We’ve always tried to have something real there. I think that music is the heart for people who can’t feel their heart. I think it’s words for people who can’t find the words. I feel like, if you’re not doing something special with it, then why even do it? You have to try to do something with it that moves people. It’s supposed to be art, it’s supposed to be creative, it’s supposed to say something. I think that’s something that we got away from in the 1980s, and we still haven’t quite made it back to yet. I think there are some bands out there right now that are doing it, and I call it the “rock revival,” because it can happen again. There are some bands who are doing an incredible job of creating music that affects people and have substance. That’s what we are trying to do, and in a way, it’s almost the same approach that old folk music writing used to have, just set to hard-rock music.
Q: The song “Burn It Down” more than stands on its own as a track, but I think a lot of fans could relate to the video you made for it, which definitely has elements of real life not being so pretty in it. Is the creative/artistic end of making a visual presentation of your music something that you get excited about?
A: Absolutely. We have the honor and pleasure of working with a very good friend of ours named Dave O’Paul who very much relates to us and the idea of what we do and operates much the same way. A lot of our fans do relate to it, and the clip has gotten a fantastic reaction. It’s unbelivable to me how exciting everything is right now for the band and how excited all the fans are for us. We’ve all been family now for seven years, and for us to be here now, all together, watching this happen together and experiencing this and pushing it forward together, is just a big, amazing rush to me.
Q: If someone was reading this the wrong way, it would almost seem like you guys are this stone-serious band. But the fact is, the shows are a lot of fun and you guys are very enthusiastic. You mentioned playing in bands when you were young. How long have you been at this, Rob?
A: Ever since I was a kid. I mean I was 14 or 15 years old when I started playing in bands, and our guitarists Brad and Skyler and our drummer Joey are the same. Our bassist Josh got into it a little later at like 19 or 20, when he heard me messing around with some stuff on acoustic. He was like: “I’m buying a bass, dude, and we’re starting a band. We’re doing this.” We met in high school and started collaborating sorta musically, but didn’t officially start playing until he basically prodded me and got me out of the house a little later (laughs). It’s been a very cool, always interesting ride, for sure.
From the Aug. 7-13, 2013, issue