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March 2020

Smile wide: ROAM are finding their feet and becoming who they want to be

They've been through their ups and downs, and have come out more confident than ever.
Published: 12:01 pm, September 04, 2019Words: Steven Loftin.
Smile wide: ROAM are finding their feet and becoming who they want to be

It never hurts to be ambitious. Everyone wants to make a mark on the world, and you definitely can't blame 'the bands' for wanting to step their game up on each new album, trying to find that 'thing' that'll make them stand out.

For ROAM, their third outing into the world, 'Smile Wide', is just that - an ambitious approach into becoming a band with a sound rather than "just another pop-punk band, or another band doing that thing," as vocalist and guitarist Alex Adam puts it.

While 'Smile Wide' may be built from this centrally focused idea, it also stems from another facet of both being a band, and life itself - control.

"I just felt like there were a lot of things that I wanted different for myself," Alex explains. "I wanted a lot of change in my life, and I realised that the things I wanted changing weren't necessarily things I could change at that point."

We've all, at some point or another, felt like we've lost control of our lives.

"There was a lot of career stuff - money stuff - just issues that affect everyone, but for me, it was very much an 'Oh shit, I'm going to work as hard as I can, but there are some things that are just out of my control'."

Most of these thoughts appeared once Alex found himself some respite from the world of ROAM, and a moment to breathe. "There are some things that you don't realise until you sit down and think about it and go 'shit, I've been taken advantage of here'. In a situation that someone else is telling me what to do and I'm doing it, and I'm not necessarily seeing the benefits.

"I think the awareness came where I was like, I'm not totally secure in my life, which is fine, but there's not a lot I can do about it. That's the thing that got to me, and that's what a lot of the emotion in the songs comes from.

"There's not much I can do, even if I wanted to, and then you get that awareness and start to pick up the pieces; and what it is that you need to take control of your life. To make yourself feel better and I think that's the main journey of the album and overcoming it but a lot of the time realising it."

Unafraid to get into the ins and outs of what happened, he continues: "We've been messed around by management so many times. [We] had to fire [them] because there were just absolutely rinsing us for the things we didn't need, and spending all of our money."

“I sent the album to my girlfriend, and she texted me like, 'are you okay?’”
Alex Adam

While the situation is far from ideal, the one thing it did bring upon ROAM is a unity in the material based around control, which Alex was piecing together for 'Smile Wide'. "Everyone had a bit of this feeling in them, whether it had materialised in the rest of their lives or not."

"There was at least some common ground on a lot of it, which I think is rare because normally the lyricist is writing the lyrics and if the band are going through what they have then great, but for the most part, it's quite personal. This record, to me, feels super personal because there are some deep references, but in the same way, everyone in the band relates, which is a rare thing."

Trying to put all of this into a record that felt representative of the ROAM Alex and co. wanted was the most natural part. Heading out to "the middle of nowhere" deep within Austin, Texas, ROAM, with the help of producer Machine (Lamb of God, Fall Out Boy), set to work piecing a new sound together. One of the real catalysts for this decision was retrospective upon their current back catalogue.

"The first album [2016's 'Backbone'] for us was us trying to be something, and I don't know that it necessarily came across that well because I do think it was a little bit disingenuous," he admits. "And I love those songs and those songs mean a lot to me, but listening back now it doesn't feel like us as people."

"Maybe it was us as people at the time, but now it doesn't feel like that. And the second album, I think that was a really solid album, but to me, it felt like it maybe was just 'of the time', I don't know that it's necessarily the most original album in the world. I think it's a great album, the songwriting really stepped up, and I'm proud of it, but you could've probably put a different vocalist on it, and no one would've questioned it."

Which is where 'Smile Wide' finds its confident approach. It's ROAM finally finding their feet, becoming who they are, and accepting all that's happened around them. Going forward Alex wants to "be listening to a band that's just come out and be like, 'oh they're ripping off us!' Rather than just another pop-punk band." It's these confident statements, with heads held high that show ROAM aren't going to take anything lying down.

"Yeah, it's cathartic, but it's not been dealt with entirely yet." He mentions on the fallout of the past couple of years, which took more a toll than he initially realised. "The weirdest thing is I didn't know I felt like that, and then I sent the album to my girlfriend, and she texted me like, 'are you okay?' She listened to the lyrics and was like, 'what's going on?'"

"It's not anything super over the top serious but when she said that I read back through it with fresh eyes - because I'd written the lyrics a long time ago - and didn't realise when I was writing them that's how I was feeling, and that's how it came out. I know that sounds super cliche and like, 'Yeah man, it just flowed out', but it was just writing lyrics to me, and it wasn't cathartic at the time but reading back it was, 'damn, how I was feeling'."

One thing none of this makes ROAM, however, is naive. They're astutely aware that music will drain you of everything if it gets its claws into you. "I mean, I love it, but there are so many things with that lifestyle that are uncertain," Alex pauses reflectively.

"That brings this feeling, and obviously everyone feels it to a different extent, but it comes with the lifestyle. There's huge uncertainty. [It's] like playing the lottery every day of your life and never winning, but always being like 'Ooh, we're close to winning this time!' It's just the way it is."

Fingers crossed 'Smile Wide' is the winning numbers, then.

Taken from the September issue of Upset. Roam's album 'Smile Wide' is out 6th September.

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