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Articles Home » Music Talk » DESPYRE Interview with with Rob Malvagno
DESPYRE Interview with with Rob Malvagno

Interview with with Rob Malvagno

By: Nina McCarthy, Senior Music Journalist

Boston Rock Radio



“DESPYRE hails from Suffolk County, Long Island, N.Y., and is made up of seasoned musicians who’ve been influenced and cultivated in the shadow of the long traditions of N.Y. heavy metal.” (DESPYRE bio)


Thanks to Rob for sitting down with me at The Cove in Worcester, MA to discuss working with Life of Agony’s Joey Zampella, their video for “Irritation” and what it takes to stand out.


BRR:  To start, can you just give me a brief history of the forming of the band.


Right now it's been over two years.  We've all known each other for a really long time.  We've played in different bands together and then we formed this band about 2½ years ago.  We got together and wanted to just write originals because we kind of left the original scene for awhile because everything went to tributes and all that kind of stuff.  I moved away to Vegas and then came back and wanted to put the band together again, so I called everybody up.  We had recorded some stuff back maybe 10 years go and through mutual friends it got into the hands of Joey Z from Life of Agony, who heard my voice and what we were doing then and he thought I had a great voice.  We got together basically to start writing some originals, of course always trying to further the band but we just started writing.


BRR:  The name is very interesting and I know it comes from the combining of 2 words.  Can you elaborate?


Despair and inspire.  Well, we were racking our brains.  We had another name years ago, Detriment, and we were going to go with it, but there were a ton of other bands with it and we wanted something different.  We sat back and thought about what we've been through personally and then just in bands in general, the ups and downs you go through with the way the industry changes, the highs and lows.  Despair, meaning at your lowest point whether it's in your life or doing music, you're always going to hit rock bottom and there's always ups and downs.  We figured to take those two emotions where you are at your lowest and then you find what's going to inspire and get you out of there and keep you going.  So we figured we'd put the two words together and add the “y” to make it look different.  That's when we designed that logo; we call it the distorted “d” and “y”.  We wanted to have kind of a positive note to it because a lot of people go through a lot of stuff in life or even in careers and people need to find that inspiration that's going to take you to the next level and keep you going.  That's what defines everybody, how we keep ourselves going.


BRR:  I'm finding a lot of bands are turning to that positive message to get us all through.


The world itself has never been so bad.  Back in the 80s the music that was out was all party and fun, really there was nothing serious about the music.  Then we got into the grunge area where everything was serious and it was all dark, and “my life is terrible.”  Life is good and that's why we wanted to have the yin yang kind of name.


BRR:  Going along with the name, what message does your music spread?


It's really just a feeling, based on each song it's different.  It's kind of cliche but they're all based off of real experiences of maybe what I've been through, am going through, or has happened.  I do 98% of the lyrics writing and then we all write the music together, so every song on the CD has a different meaning and it can relate to people whether it's relationships or whatever.  “Blue Sky” is about suicide.  I've had my cousin and a lot of people close to me commit suicide, like four people in a two year period.  But I wanted to write it from the perspective of the people left behind.  Everybody's always talking about the people who commit suicide but it really leaves a void and an empty space in the people that you leave behind.  Family members with questions of why did you do this and how am I going to move on.  That's what that song is about.  “Voodoo Fix” is about drugs and I've had my issues through the years.  We try to tap into what people are either too afraid to talk about or things that they've experienced.  Music relates to people's lives and that's what sparks the chords for people to enjoy your music, because they can relate to what you're talking about.  The message is just that they can listen to our music and know where we're coming from, enjoy it and take them out of the reality zone and keep them going.  You can do that with metal.  It doesn't always have to be happy chords but we want to give metal that good name.


BRR:  You've been technically called  “alt-metal” but I can't stand that term personally, nor can I keep up with all these sub genres...I would consider you guys straight up metal. What is your opinion and how would you describe your sound in your own words?


I feel the same way with all these different genres and subgenres.  You have the classic rock, like Led Zeppelin, hard rock is like Ozzy and Kiss.  To me, metal really encompasses everything from Iron Maiden and Judas Priest to Metallica.  Then there's the thrashers, which to me is like Slayer and bands like that.  Then there's death metal, but to me that's really where it should end.  I call us a metal band because we are heavier and a do a few growls, but we aren't death metal because we have melody.  You can sing to it and understand what I'm saying, so I just lump it as a metal band.  I don't want people to be confused and say we're a hard rock band, because we're not.  I think we're straightforward metal. You can hear the guitar harmonies. You can hear the influences we grew up on like Iron Maiden and Metallica and we try to get a little bit of the newer style metal that's coming out where they mix the heavy death metal vocals with regular singing.


BRR:  You answered my next question about if you write all your own lyrics.


Yes, sometimes the guys come in with stuff.  We're very receptive to everybody's ideas.  But when you're singing something you try to fit it into proper phrasing, so a lot of times I'll change them or come up with the melody, but we're all open to everybody's ideas.  We don't have one person that says “I have to write the lyrics.”  It just so happens that I'm always writing so I usually have tons of the lyrics.  When I sing someone else's music or their lyrics, it doesn't mean as much to me because I can't put my experience in it.  That's why I kind of like to have my lyrics because I can feel it and the emotion is really what sells with music.  When they can feel what you are saying people like it more.


BRR:  How did you end up catching the eye, or should I say ear, of Joey Zampella?


An old CD that I had recorded through a mutual friend gave it to him and he got in touch and loved my voice and what was going on.  He heard I was putting a band back together and he asked me to send him some demo stuff.  He basically has to handpick who he works with.  You just don't go to him.  He had come down to a rehearsal of ours.  It was during his touring, so it was a good four month period of going back and forth and he finally came down to listen to us play live and he was like, “ I want to work with you guys.” Then, everything was history and Joey became a great friend. That was one thing that was great about it because he is a really down to earth guy and we became friends.  Family-wise too, I've eaten dinner with them and he's come out with us and we call him our Miyagi.  He’s so talented and knowledgeable and he really brought out the best in us and helped us through this whole process and got the sound.  His vision was exactly where we thought we should be too.  We wanted to be a live sounding band, like on the CD, we wanted to be as close to being live as you can get.  We don't like running backing tracks and that kind of stuff, so if someone makes a mistake, you're going to hear it.  To me, that's part of live music.  We wanted that sound because we're heavy and more aggressive, we wanted that sound on the CD and he knew right where we wanted to be.  I've always been a Life of Agony fan and if you listen to their stuff, it's very raw sounding, there's not much effects going on.  It's just, turn your amps up and play.


BRR:  I just saw them in Providence a month ago.  It was a great show.


Oh man, the new album is incredible.  I'm so proud that they've come back.   But that's basically how Joey came into the picture and we're actually slating to use him again to help co-produce the next CD, which we're still writing.


BRR:  It must be really competitive in NY, so what do you think you did differently to stand out from other bands in your area?


Luck!  I'm going to be honest with you, everybody out there is trying.  It's really who you know, being at the right place at the right time.  Yes, you do have to have a substantial foundation to be a good band.  You have to be tight and you also have to have pretty good music.  You can't suck, not that everybody's music does, but there is just certain music that is just better than others, so you have to at least have that foundation.  But there are a lot of amazing bands out there and talented musicians that unfortunately are at the wrong place at the wrong time, they don't know the right people.  Also, I hate to say this, but money plays a big part in this.  Now that we are where we are, we see that the more money you have you can pretty much get whatever you want and get you places.  We've seen people on tours that we have been doing and you wonder how they got there but they had $20,000 to buy themselves on the tour.  If you put yourself in front of the right people, there might be someone that catches you.  It's the same with radio too.  Some of the commercial stations are different because you get one program director that has to approve say 12 different songs, it depends on what his mood is in for the day, so a lot of it is luck.


BRR:  We do submission campaigns from ReverbNation and with the hundreds of submissions, my boss says that if it doesn't catch his attention in the first few seconds, on to the next.  We don't have time to listen to every song all the way through.


That's where good music comes in and you have to have something.  But again, if you don't have the money to do it or you don't get signed, you have to pay someone to publicize to get you on these radio stations.  You can't just knock on doors.  It's hard and a lot of times they shut them on you.  Reps don't go out looking like they used to.


BRR:  You've already touched on this, but what was the experience like recording with Joey Z?


It was great.  To me, it was a bucket list thing because I always was a fan of LOA.  As I started getting to know him and seeing what he was bringing out, especially when it came to vocals.  He wanted me to close my eyes and become part of what I was saying.  I have a great respect for him and his knowledge of music and recording and just being a genuine guy, so it definitely was one of the most enjoyable and humbling experiences I've had so far in this two year journey.  I've really enjoyed it and usually recording is just a pain but I didn't care if we were there for six hours. It was great because there were stories and I definitely enjoyed it.


BRR:  Your debut EP, Irritation, was released in October on Pavement Entertainment.  How has it been received?



So far, so good.  We're getting good reviews and we're getting the spins.  We've actually been on the metal charts, Metal Contraband, basically the whole time but one week when everybody didn't put their submissions in.  This last week we got to number 26, so people are spinning it.  When we go out and we play we have been getting really good responses.  People are coming out, they're buying the CD, they're telling us it's good and the reaction from the crowd has been really good. With M7 Agency we kind of get to pick who we go out with on tour and what's going to fit and to put us in front of the most people we can.  Same thing with Bobaflex.  We felt this was the right move to get to our next level for our first three or four week tour.


BRR:  The video for the title track, “Irritation” is lyrically pretty self explanatory.  I love the whole toilet seat thing.  Who came up with the idea for the video?


I'm a horror fan, so I always liked Evil Dead where there was that dark comedy.  Some people nowadays get offended and take this game the wrong way.  I wanted people to know, because I was irritated when I wrote it, but there's always someone at some point throughout the day that is annoying you, but we wanted to be a little lighthearted with it.  


BRR:  I was laughing when she fell in the toilet because the seat was left up.


That's typical stuff that annoys people, so that's what we tried to strive for.


BRR:  Whose idea was that for the video?


Myself and Heidi, the girl who produced it.  We sat down and kind of storyboarded which way to go with it.  


BRR:  You mentioned “Voodoo Fix” being about drugs.  Can you give me a little more insight on that?


I had my battles with substances for a long time.  I, luckily, was able to stop.  Basically “Voodoo Fix” is about how stuff can really take a hold of you and get out of control, but you need to find your way to look for help or not be afraid to ask for it.  “This is my battle cry….” when I say that line is yelling out and telling you what's going on with me, now help me.  I say in it, “ I sin, you sin,” so we're letting people know it's ok.  Even if you have these issues, the best thing to do is let people know about it.  That's loosely what it is.  It's ok to talk about it and ask for help.  One of my ways was always writing music and finding out it's better to be alive.  Life is better than not being here, so enjoy it while you're here. You count your blessings and enjoy every day.  


BRR:  Thanks for sharing that.  I always like to hear the inspiration behind it because it means so much more to me when I listen.


The same thing I tell new people coming in the music industry, don't let anybody tell you different.  If it's in your heart and you want it bad enough, then go for it.  There's nothing worse than God forbid you die saying, “What if?”  You never want to have those questions.  Whether you make it in not, I'd rather fail knowing I tried my hardest than to say, “What if I did do that?”


BRR:  To be honest, I had never heard of Despyre until I received the press release about your debut album.  I sent it to Allyson to review it, and after reading her review, I had to take a listen.  I loved it and jumped on the chance to interview you when I saw you were coming with my friends in Bobaflex!  I'm actually glad we had this chance because I love to discover new music and spread the word.


Read Allyson's Review Here!



I appreciate your time.  It's awesome because it is hard to get yourself out there. Even though social media is a big help, it's still hard to get people to listen to expand yourself.  That's why we're thankful for Pavement because they've taken us to where we wanted to be basically.  The idea of the first EP was to get our name out there.  We weren't expecting huge expectations but at least people are like, “Ok” and now they're waiting for something new and that's what we're hoping to do next.  It's people like you and us getting out there to play in front of people, whether there's 10 people or 2,000.  One fan tells their friend and it snowballs.


BRR:  You're actually playing smaller clubs this tour with Bobaflex.


It's an East coast thing.  Down south and the Midwest is a whole different animal.  As soon as you pass the Virginias and come up this way, it's not as big.  We are lucky that we draw good, but that's only on the weekends.  You try to get people out on a Wednesday or something, forget it.


BRR:  Yeah, I know, it's sad.  You've shared the stage with some big names in your short history.  What are some of your favorite memories?


Drowning Pool!  It was awesome.  There, again, another batch of guys that were really, really cool.  One of the highlights was that he loved us so much he called me up onstage to sing “Bodies” and it was cool.  That was fun.  All of them had their moments, even when we did the DevilDriver, Death Angel tour.  That was at the Emporium, which was a huge venue for us.  They were cool guys too.  Death Angel was awesome.  I've met some bands that kind of kill your expectations a little bit.  There's a few bands we won't say much about that we've played with and I got a bad impression.


BRR:  Oh, trust me, I know!  What advice do you have for all these bands out there trying to make a name for themselves?


Don't stop!  Don't give up.  Don't worry about what people say, if it's in your heart, do it.  And as I'm learning very quickly, practice, and complete dedication.  You either do it or you don't.  You can do it for weekend warrior stuff or you can make something of it.  It's a lot is sacrifice, which means you're going to miss a lot.  You've got to be willing to miss out on a lot of stuff. We rehearse four nights a week when we're not on tour and we have a business meeting, and it consumes you.  But it's the only way to make it to the next level, especially in this day and age.  And, you have to leave your hometown.  You will never get discovered playing in a club circuit in your area.  My father passed away two days before the tour and I didn't think I'd be able to even be at the wake, but we happened to be playing the area, so it worked out, but sacrifice and practice are the two things.  You've got to practice because there's a different level from where we are at and the bands we are playing with, as far as being tight and knowing your stuff.  Drummers play with a click track, they have to be on time.


BRR:  You have to have that family support behind you too.


You need that support, but again I stress this so, so much is to believe in yourself.  Don't listen to what other people want.  Some people are jealous.  Some people don't understand what we do as artists; to them they think you can't do it as a job.  Even like the position you're in interviewing people, they just don't get it. “What do you mean you're going out to interview someone?”  You enjoy it, it's something you want to do, you do what you want to do.  I think that's the best advice I think I can give someone.


BRR:  That's great advice, and you're right, I don't make money, but I love what I do!  Is there anything else you'd like to add that we haven't covered?


Check the CD out.  Download it, buy it. I think everyone is going to like it.  Definitely support bands and local music.  We need the people to come out.  I like a good cover or tribute band, but that doesn't help the music scene.  The music that these local bands are writing today is the music of tomorrow.  It's the new stuff that's going on and in this day and age, you have to support bands.  Record companies don't give out advances to touring bands.  You need to support to keep the clubs open, so it's important to go out and check out new bands.


BRR:  Exactly, it's going out there, buying their music, buying their merch.


Definitely check out the CD, watch the video.  I think everybody will like the video even if you aren't into metal.  You'll laugh.


"Irritation" Official Video







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