Published Nov 14, 2018There aren't many things that Kevin Iavaroni likes to wake up for, but the Old Wounds vocalist affirms that the group's morale has never been higher.
"It's the only thing where I can truly let off steam. I need it," he tells Exclaim! from a Hartford, CT tour stop. "It's very therapeutic for me, especially with a chronic illness. One of my coping mechanisms is playing in this band."
The New Jersey metalcore unit just released their latest effort, Glow, but things were not always so bright. In the fall of 2015, Iavaroni had expressed an interest in finishing cosmetology school while Old Wounds were supporting Beartooth and Every Time I Die. He was in desperate need of some time off "because we were going so hard. It took a toll on my body."
Iavaroni, who has Crohn's disease, suffered a flare-up halfway through the run. As the route came to a close, Iavaroni's bandmates sat down with him to make a final decision. In poor health and facing an opportunity to complete his education, Iavaroni exited Old Wounds. He describes the feelings that followed as "an instant regret for both parties."
"I found myself distancing myself from the guys and being a complete bummer," Iavaroni says. "They wanted me back. There was promise of no more inner turmoil — cutting the head off the snake, if you will. It's not that I wanted to quit the band, but I was in a really bad place."
Shortly after his departure, Iavaroni was hospitalized and had emergency surgery on his stomach. Then-drummer Brandon Gallagher, now of Coarse, took to covering vocal duties. Iavaroni explains that upon Gallagher's live debut, he received messages from friends and fans alike that the band were not the same. Shortly afterwards, other members of Old Wounds asked him to come back.
"I wish [Gallagher] all the best," Iavaroni offers. "In the career that we had together, we never saw eye-to-eye, and that's fine. You're with people 24-7 when you play in a touring band, rubbing elbows, getting on their nerves. It's completely understandable if he has resentment for me. I can have it for him too. That's part of being in a band. It's just a little more aggressive for us. We couldn't see things in the same wavelength."
Gallagher exited the group in July 2017, citing creative differences. On the heels of announcing Iavaroni's return to Old Wounds that October, founding guitarist Zak Kessler also announced his departure.
Kessler's decision was because the band were participating in a weekend of shows with Eighteen Visions, Knocked Loose and Tourniquet— the latter of whom have an alleged abuser in their ranks. When Kessler came to the band with the situation, Iavaroni upholds that the entire band believed him.
"We had his back. I spoke to psychologists, people who work in the field of aiding victims of abuse. We worked very closely with A Voice for the Innocent, a foundation for victims of abuse," Iavaroni explains. "We don't know this girl, and it's not my place to tell her story. It's not my space. I had no idea that Tourniquet were playing these shows when we'd accepted the offer. We were asked by Eighteen Visions to play, and that band has influenced me a lot. Zak had agreed that the way we wanted to go about things was the most beneficial for our scene and culture. He wanted to paint himself as a hero and acted in a particular way, when I've seen him act another way. I don't see us making peace any time soon. It only stings because I loved Zak like a brother. We were trying to be positive people. I really only want to be surrounded by positive, good people."
Enter Ben Waugh; the Kitchener-based guitarist, who also plays in Exalt, joined the group that fall in Kessler's place. Iavaroni explains that he and Waugh had a particular connection through Old Wounds and Exalt's tour history together.
"We pay attention to the aggression of music, but also the melody. That's something he brings to the table as far as songwriting goes. I used to tell the band what I wanted songs to sound like. Now I can leave it up to Ben. I don't even have to tell him. He comes to me with songs and I know that they are so in touch with what I'm influenced by that I have no worries. It's so organic, and moves like a well-oiled machine. There are no more wrenches."
The end-result is Glow, a contrasted serving of metalcore magnificence and melodic intel inspired by Thursday, Poison the Well and My Chemical Romance. At the forefront is a newfound emphasis on Iavaroni's singing voice, which began developing during early stints in youth choir, explaining that he always "loved being in front of an audience."
"I can yell into a microphone and get a splitting headache, which I'll always enjoy doing, but I wanted to add something to Ben's songs beyond me being this aggressive, ferocious, maniacal thing."
As for Iavaroni's health, he says that for now it is manageable, but he is always cognizant of it. His struggles shape the majority of Glow's dark lyrical metaphors.
"It's always a scary thought in my head. I was bed-ridden for quite some time. I touch upon a lot of the inner turmoil I have with myself. My mind goes to very dark places, especially when I'm sick. It didn't make sense to have a bunch of breakdowns under something so poetic to me. If everything that happened to me last year was a sign, it means that I should do what I love for as long as I can. I'm not going to be around forever."
Glow is available now via Good Fight Music.