Rebuild: An Interview with The Letter Black's Mark Anthony

We got the opportunity to talk to Mark Anthony from The Letter Black about the band's current album, Rebuild, gear, and how the band maintains their signature sound while growing as musicians.

The timing of this interview is rather bittersweet. In the days leading up to the kickoff of the Snocore 2014 tour, the band was anticipating a winter tour that would help them showcase their recent kick-ass album. No one was more disappointed than the band when a just a few days before the tour was to begin (January 29) it was announced that Taylor Momsen, the lead singer for The Pretty Reckless, was suffering from lyrangitis and walking pneumonia and had been put on vocal rest. Since The Pretty Reckless was headlining the tour, Snocore, which has been absent from the winter concert scene since 2012, has been cancelled. I can't imagine how the band must feel, because I know as a fan I was extremely disappointed. Living in the cold northeast makes us hermits, and having hard rockin' shows to go to helps us get through the winter.

That didn't stop Mark Anthony, the guitarist - and half of the vocal team that is led by his wife Sarah - of The Letter Black from answering some questions for our readers. If you haven't checked out the band's latest offering, Rebuild, do yourself a favor and pick it up. It's only $5 at Amazon, so you really have no excuse.

Playing With Chaos (PWC): For fans that are new to the band, how did you meet/form and how long have you been together?

Mark Anthony (MA): We met at our church and started writing and recording together in 2006, but we got signed in 2009 so its been 5 years now.

PWC: Who are some of your influences/inspirations that made you want to be rock musicians?

MA: Definitely Metallica, Alice in Chains, Guns n Roses, Stone Temple Pilots, and other bands like that.

PWC: On your most recent album, Rebuild, you give fans some of the duet vocals that made "Hanging On By A Thread" so sonically pleasing, but it's still a distinctively different album. How do you approach the songwriting process in the band so that your music still has a chance to grow while remaining "The Letter Black" style-wise?

MA: People change as time goes by, so growth is inevitable and even unavoidable. Even with time passing and inspirations changing, we are still grounded on the sound/style that we fell in love with when we were young and new musicians, so we'll always have a signature sound because of that.

PWC: There are several songs on Rebuild that seem to surround the theme of facing a challenge or rebirth, specifically "Up From The Ashes", "Found", "Break Out", and "Rebuild". Today's world seems to focus on negativity quite a bit, so it's a refreshing message. What inspired these songs and those themes this time around?

MA: We write from life experiences, whether personal or from stories we've been told. The first record was really about being at a hopeless place and the process of being pulled from that and healing. This new record is about the rebuilding process, standing up once you've fallen and not letting the past shape the person you are. You have the decision to become bitter and shut down, or to be strong and move on with a smile on your face and a hope for a better future.

PWC: Sarah has mentioned that she seeks to give people hope through your music. Many bands/acts in today's scene seek simply to pay lip service to that, but your lyrics on Rebuild are a testament to that dream. How have fans responded to the hopeful tone of this record so far?

MA: We get feedback all the time about how our music has inspired and encouraged people. I think fans are fans partially for the simple fact that we aren't the typical rock band talking about sex, drugs, and rock n roll.

PWC: We're guitar geeks at Playing With Chaos, so we always ask: What type of gear do you use in your live sets and in the studio?

MA: Live, I use a Gibson Les Paul that has an Evertune bridge that keeps my guitar perfectly in tune the entire set. I swear by this. The Evertune is the best piece of gear I own. I run my guitar through my Mesa Triple Rectifier and Mesa straight cabs loaded with Celestian Vintage 30's. My pedal board is pretty simple. I have a tuner, noise suppresser, delay, and a wah. In the studio, we use Gibson and Paul Reed Smith (PRS) guitars. I typically use 4 amps depending on the song and sound we're going for- Mesa, Bogner, Diezel, and Marshal. I always use at least 2 of these at a time when recording. Mesa is a staple of my sound. All my tone comes from my Mesa head. (Ed's. Note: The Letter Black also use Westone and DDrum products on stage and in the studio.)   

PWC: Many musicians practice endless hours in between gigs, while others never touch their instrument when not on stage. What does your practice regimen look like? Is anyone in the band classically trained or is everyone self-taught? How do you approach your "craft" of playing guitar in that regard?

MA: We are pretty relaxed. We do write songs in between tours, but we only have tour rehearsal a day or two before a tour. We're all self-taught. I don't pick up guitar and practice scales but I do write songs and play our songs and other artist's songs that I like between shows.

PWC: Today's music scene seems lost at times, and yet when I've attended live rock shows I see that rock music is alive and well. How do you survive/navigate such an industry that seems to be rewarding short term "viral" pop stars as opposed to a talented band like yourselves? Do you have any advice for young bands just starting out in terms of how to survive?

MA: We don't worry about the industry too much. It'll make you crazy if you do because its so wishy-washy. We just try to focus on writing songs that we like, want to play and hope other people like it as well. The best advice I can give new bands is to give it time. If you look at all the great rock bands out there, you'll realize it takes at least 10 years before you'll start to see success. If you're not willing to put that kind of time in, don't bother.

PWC: Any parting messages to your fans, friends, and family?

MA: Thanks for the support and encouragement! If you didn't buy our cd, merch, and didn't come to shows, we wouldn't still be here. So thank you.

With Snocore being cancelled, fans may have to wait a short while before they can see The Letter Black head out on a full scale tour, but rest assured that the band has a plan to get out there and do live shows to support their great new album. The band will surely take its own messages of rebirth and rebuilding as they plan their next steps. There is no doubt in my mind that you will be able to catch them at a local venue in the near future. In the meantime, and to keep up to date on tour dates and the band's happenings, check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram, as well as on their website.

Thank you to Mark Anthony for answering our questions with such honesty and candor. Just another reason to love this great band - they're class acts! And that my friends, there is no endorsement deal for.