For All I Am stand front and center on the stage of the famous dingy basement known as The Studio @ Webster Hall in New York City. The post-hardcore group has fans lined up against the base of the stage waiting for the first pinch harmonic-filled riffs to come in. Vocalist Aria Yava breaks into a guttural growl and immediately there is newfound community, as kids who have seen the band a hundred times and kids who’ve never even heard of them head bang to the beat. Before long Yava is handing off the mic to various guest vocalists who are coming up on stage and roaring out each lyric with as much gusto as they can muster and admiration in their eyes as they look over at Yava. Together they share the stage, bouncing energy off one another for a few bars before the cameo-vocalists step aside. But they are not walking off stage back with the rest of the tour crew. These kids are walking back into the crowd as fans who just got the chance to sing alongside their favorite band and convince the crowd it was all meant to happen instead of being a spur of the moment occurrence. This happens several times throughout For All I Am’s set; Yava even brings local scene star Christopher Tito of Zoúme on stage with him for a verse. At this point even the club’s bartenders and bouncers are watching. Suddenly, the entire venue becomes the stage.
After the incredible live performance these Illinois natives brought to Manhattan, we needed to know more about For All I Am. So we hit up Aria Yava to chat about the band’s latest album, their experiences playing live, and of course, their incredible fans.
HXC: Congrats on your latest release, No Home. What was the inspiration behind such a bold album title?
Aria Yava: It’s not like a literal title, it’s a kind of an analogy for your mind. Your home is known as a comfort place. So “no home” actually means you don’t have comfort in your own skin.
Is that idea of “no home” where your mindset was when you went into that album?
It wasn’t just me, actually. It’s the whole band. We went through a couple things together personally where we did feel like that and that’s why we wrote that album together and for anyone who kind of feels that way. I know people go through rough times and have different phases through their lives. A lot of people I’ve talked to at shows actually feel like they don’t have a comfort of their own skin or even in their own homes, literally, because of their family or because of insecurities. So we wanted to write an album that relates to those kinds of people.
Do you think people can kind of find that “home” then at local shows?
I don’t know if shows are a home, but they’re definitely more of an escape from whatever they’re dealing with. When I go see my favorite bands I feel like I don’t have any problems. I just kind of forget about it for a little bit and just enjoy some good music. Sometimes that’s what people need just to keep moving forward.
Who would you say is your favorite band?
As of now it’s kind of hard to tell. I haven’t been going to a lot of shows since I’ve been on the road lately, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Define the Great Line by Underoath. My favorite artists, my whole life, have been Underoath, Paramore, Architects, those kind of bands, just like the raw bands that don’t use too much production with sounds that really rock.
Are these the kind of the bands that initially inspired you to pursue music?
Going to see Underoath for my first time really changed my perspective on music. That’s when I really wanted to play music and do the help-people-that-are-helping-me type thing. I kind of discovered the power of music and how it moves through people. It’s like a universal language; no matter what language you speak, you can still understand what music is.
We caught your New York show on the Mind Games Release Tour. You had fans getting up on stage with you to do guest vocals with you. It was crazy.
Yeah, I know. It’s like a regular thing. We don’t hold ourselves to any entitlement, to having the stage to ourselves. The show is for everyone there, for everyone to have a good time, us as artists, listeners and even the staff and the promoters. Everyone just wants to have a good experience, so we make sure that’s easily achievable.
Do you have any favorite venues?
I definitely like the Ground Floor in [Williamsport], Pennsylvania. Their hospitality is unreal and they have a built-in fan base which is really cool because all the fans check out all the bands that go through. They all give them a chance, which is awesome and that’s what every scene should kind of do. Everyone should be open minded and just enjoy the music.
“We don’t hold ourselves to any entitlement, to having the stage to ourselves.”
Do you prefer playing shows with barriers or ones without?
You know, unpopular statement: definitely both. They both have their own vibe and both have their own experience. Sometimes I do like stage diving and I do like when people grab the mic, but I also like when I can have the stage and I can lose myself in the music and in the performance aspect.
Do you have a favorite track to play live off of No Home?
I definitely like “Six Souls.” It’s really heavy and hard hitting, but the other song I like is “Out of Line” because it kind of relates to what I always go through all the time and it helps me cope with it. It’s also a really good, energetic song for the crowd to have a good time to. So, I think those two are my favorites for sure.
You said you really liked to play “Six Souls.” Is that why you wanted to do the video for that song?
Well actually management and the label chose the songs that we shot for, so it was up to them, but we were stoked on their decision and we fully agreed with them, too. There’s also more [videos] coming, so I’m going to be working on those soon.
Do you have any concepts for them yet?
Yeah, we’re running a lot of storyboards and coming up with more specific ideas. We want to go in more with the concept of the songs and the messages in them are going to be more symbolic with our band and kind of go a different route.
Would you say that’s something you prefer to do, something more theatrical than just the minimalistic club show vibe?
I believe so. There’s a lot of bands that are all kind of talking about the same thing lyrically, so we want to do what we do as a band and kind of go in specifically. I feel like more people relate when you kind of relate to them more closely because they’re dealing with something more specific. We kind of like make lyrics so people can take it with them and progress and move forward with what they’re doing rather than just say ‘Hey, we’re here for you.’ Realistically, we can’t be there for everyone all the time; it’s impossible. No one can do that, so we want to really lay it down with the music and help them take away something from it.
You can tell you really care about your fans.
Oh yeah, it’s definitely important. If you don’t pay attention to that you’re kind of leading a pointless career in my opinion.
So if you could sum up For All I Am in one word, what would it be?
Real. That would be the best way to put it. Nothing is fake. We don’t do anything for image. We don’t sell ourselves, we just kind of put everything out there genuinely and hope people take it as genuinely.