It’s been 15 years since the inception of Misery Signals, a cornerstone band in the hardcore scene, and only now is their full story being told. The band, who have been a major influence on many contemporary hardcore projects, have just released an emotional documentary entitled Yesterday Was Everything, directed by Matthew Mixon. Guitarist Ryan Morgan fills us in on what the film means to him and the effect it has had on his relationship with his bandmates.
“It was emotional to be there for sure,” Morgan starts, “but watching it is kind of a different experience. It puts kind of a magnifying lens on everything that was happening and everything that we were going through and sort of weaves everyone’s experience together. It was definitely very emotional for me, but it was also really nice in a way.” As many fans will remember, the split the band had with original vocalist Jesse Zaraska was anything but amicable. As frustrations grew on both sides, the band simply sent Zaraska home one day, just like that. So how did Morgan arrive at an emotionally sound place after all these years?
“We had a lot of stuff between us that was just hanging out for a decade and not really something that either of us engaged. We had a pretty abrupt separation so there’s a lot of unresolved things between us, and [the 10th anniversary of Of Malice and the Magnum Heart] was really the first chance we had to spend extended time with each other.” The road to any kind of reconciliation was tough, however. Zaraska even took separate transportation from the rest of the band throughout the 2014 run. While the shows were met with great love and success, there was still a lot of pain that needed to be dealt with.
“The fact that we were doing the film,” Morgan continues, “[and] we were doing these interviews all the while throughout the tour, forced us to sit and think and unpack a lot of that stuff. It really kind of made me, at least — I wont speak for Jesse — but it made me acknowledge my part in the split between us and sort of take some time to accept that I could’ve been a lot cooler about it. We were both pretty young and not always the kindest to each other. So we were able to take a lot of that head on and I think it was important for us to sort of digest it a bit. He and I were great friends and I feel like we are again. It was a really important part of the healing process for sure.”
But it wasn’t just their relationship with each other that needed airing out. Misery Signals had another story that they felt needed to be told and shared with their fans, and that was the fatal car crash that Zaraska’s previous band, Compromise, was involved in in 2002. The entire band suffered various degrees of injury, but two of the members, Jordan Wodehouse and Daniel Langlois were killed.
“We wanted to do kind of an origin story,” Morgan explains. “Talk about how the band started and really focus on telling the story of the Compromise accident, where Jesse’s whole band crashed and the guys lost their lives. That was sort of the genesis of Misery Signals and we always wanted to tell that story in a little more detail. We deal with it a lot on the content of the album, but not a lot of people know the in’s and out’s of it.”
After the devastating crash, Zaraska went on to do vocals for the newly formed Misery Signals. Writing, recording, and playing hardcore music was a way of trying to work through all that had happened, and it’s the hardcore ethos that made this documentary what it is. “In punk rock and hardcore specifically,” says Morgan, “there’s less of that divide between the audience and I think the really good bands are the ones that are able to show some vulnerability. Really good art in general is art that shows its worth and its vulnerability and is really relatable. So I think in a lot of ways the documentary fits in with the band’s mission and the way we approach music as well. It has an earnestness to it…You definitely get a really close look at us.”
Through it all, it seems the band have finally arrived at a decent resting place. For Morgan’s part, he has reached a state of acceptance which has helped him to move on from the negativity of the past. As for the future, Morgan teases that new music from Misery signals is on the horizon. Whether or not that means Zaraska will be part of the lineup remains to be seen, but the guitarist leaves us thinking about it, saying, “We’re good friends again and we want to make music together again.” So, what do you think will happen next?