We Came As Romans: ‘We were barely making it through sets. We were on our knees crying’

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We Came As Romans: ‘We were barely making it through sets. We were on our knees crying’

We Came As Romans
Words by David James Young

For a conversation that is largely centred around the processing of grief, Beat's conversation with We Came As Romans guitarist and co-founder Josh Moore begins in good humour.

He’s at war with the bizarre placement of the webcam on his laptop, which is at the bottom of the screen as opposed to the top, and he’s also decked out in golf clothes after getting out 18 holes with frontman Dave Stephens on their day off.

“I have a handicap of 16, and I mostly shoot high 80s,” he says. “I’m definitely not a great golfer, but I’m far from terrible. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think I should just wear my golf clothes on stage. If August Burns Red can wear flip-flops, I can wear this… right?”

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The cordial nature quickly subsides, however, as talk turns to the band itself. After experiencing the tragedy of losing vocalist/keyboardist Kyle Pavone in 2018, the band have been soldiering on in tribute to their fallen friend.

This was channelled into the band’s sixth studio album Darkbloom, which was released last year – just over four years removed from Pavone’s passing. Still in the midst of touring in support of it, Moore views the record through two lenses: The destination and the journey.

On the former, Moore sees Darkbloom as “the most special thing that we’ve ever made” due to its deeply emotional content. “It’s the first record I’ve ever made where I genuinely wouldn’t change a thing,” he says.

“I still listen to it front-to-back at least once a month, with no shame. I truly value everything that we created on this album.” On the latter, however, Moore makes no bones about the “fucking awful” process that came with going into the studio for the first time without Pavone by their side.

“There I was, in the deepest of fucking depression, writing song after song about what that feels like,” he says.

“It hurt. There’s no other way to put it. But I knew that if I didn’t do it then and there, it was always going to hurt. I was never going to be able to look back on any of the time we spent with Kyle while he was alive with any kind of joy if I didn’t get through making that record.

“It’s the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do – not just as someone in a band, but as a person.”

When the band returned to the stage, they were greeted with sold-out crowds and an audience that was ready to embrace them once again with open arms and collectively commemorate the life tragically lost well before their time.

Even with that safety net, the touring experience in support of Darkbloom has remained a confronting one for Moore and his bandmates.

“Even though it’s therapeutic, it doesn’t mean that the pain’s gone,” he says. “There are moments of such deep pain on this record… I don’t know if I’ll ever get through playing One More Day without crying. That’s OK, though. It’s part of the journey.”

Moore recalls back to the months following Pavone’s passing, where the band had been booked in on a North American tour in support of Welsh metalcore veterans Bullet For My Valentine.

Rather than completely understandably sitting it out, the surviving members decided to go ahead with it. “We figured that if we were all going to be wrecked in this grief, we might as well be together,” Moore reasons.

“It was the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life,” he says. “There were multiple times on that tour, once a week, where someone in the band would be like, ‘I want to go home, I don’t want to fucking be here.’

“There was a song that we released after that called Carry The Weight that I wrote specifically about that tour. There’s a line in the chorus… ‘all of my suffering on display’. That’s what it felt like to be on-stage. We were barely making it through sets. We were on our knees crying… it was brutal. But it was the only thing that we could have done. We needed to be together in that moment.”

A similar path is currently being undertaken by Australian band Polaris, who are proceeding with the release of their third album Fatalism next month in spite of the recent shock passing of guitarist Ryan Siew.

Having toured with the band previously, Moore was quick to reach out.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘what did I want to hear at that point?’,” he recalls. “I told them that if they felt like they needed to talk with someone that has been through something like this, do not hesitate to hit me up.

“Importantly, I said that they don’t have to respond. You can’t expect or ask for one. It’s crucial to take time for yourself. Just letting someone know you’re there for them, and checking in, is the best thing you can possibly do as a friend.”

We Came As Romans are playing the Croxton Bandroom on September 1. See the full tour dates here.