With anger, fear and hatred running riot through news media and the obsession with status in danger of drowning out the meaningfulness in everyday life, Awake At Last are taking a stand for positivity and hope. “I think that we tell a very unique story and our positive spiritual theme can bring a lot of value to the lives of those who listen to us,” states vocalist Vincent Torres. “There is a lot of garbage in the music industry right now as far as the kinds of themes that are pretty heavily pushed – a lot of ‘party here’, ‘hook up there’, ‘buy this because it’s status’ – but we want to elevate and inspire the people who believe in us. We want to be living proof that if you believe in something enough, and work towards it through all the obstacles, you can achieve anything.” With their six-track mini album, Life/Death/Rebirth, the unsigned quintet have come into their own, and pushed things to the next level. Revolving around Torres’ thoughtful and relatable lyrics, it has been described by Alternative Press’ Taylor Markarian as “dark pop, hard rock, and post-hardcore com[ing] together for a powerful and entirely unique sound”, and it is unquestionably the work of a dynamic and engaging young band who want to make a difference.
Awake At Last were not born of any scene, in part because their native Dover, Delaware lacks anything cohesive. Still, the individual members – Torres, guitarists Imran Xhelili and Eric Blackway, bassist/vocalist Tyler Greene and drummer Jon Finney – cut their teeth in the few local acts in the area before forming the band in 2014. “Being eager to get out onto the road, we were able to start building up a dedicated following with our hard work ethic from the beginning, as we continued to develop the music and the brand,” says Xhelili. From their inception, they knew that if they were really going to connect with people and encourage them to follow the band they needed to offer something more: inspiration, hope, and purpose. “The name Awake At Last represents the spiritual awakening we felt as individuals when we realized that music could be both a catharsis, and a way of life,” Torres explains. “When we decided this is what we wanted to do, no matter what, it was reminiscent of ‘waking up’ and finally realizing what kind of project our art was going to be.”
2014’s King Of The World EP was the first introduction to many who have since become ardent followers. A concept record that pushed the themes of “overcoming the obstacles and fears that tend to hold us back”, it struck a chord with those who found their way to their shows or their social media, and the band toured off the back of this for several years. Word of mouth soon spread about their high energy live show with a theatrical flair – the quintet giving 100% of themselves whether playing to a sold out room or half a dozen people, always taking the time to be available to those who showed up afterward. “We pride ourselves on being able to connect with fans every night and hear their stories,” says Xhelili. “That’s always been a mantra of the band: to meet fans one by one, and maintain those relationships and have it be known that the fans always come first.” Still, like any band without the backing of a label, touring independently can be tough, but regardless of the low points faced at times Torres acknowledges that nothing worth having comes easy, and they “always try and use that to power our music and get through these periods.”
In 2017, everything stepped up a gear for Awake At Last. Named as one of Twelve Bands You Need To Know in Alternative Press, playing the main stage of Warped Tour when it hit Columbia, Maryland, a string of dates with Hawthorne Heights and shows with the likes of Marina City, A Killer’s Confession, The Funeral Portrait and Leav/e/arth, the band started to make serious waves, and in July they dropped Life/Death/Rebirth. Demonstrating a profound evolution from the sound showcased on King Of The World, it draws from a much wider range of influences and is a much heavier and intense collection, without compromising the more uplifting qualities of their music. The central concept of the record is embodied by the title, Torres stating that with this core theme in place the record took on a life of its own. “I knew I wanted to tell a story about the afterlife. Each of the songs is a representation of myself, which became these experiences that shaped the fictional afterlife of the character in the story of Life/Death/Rebirth. They touch on everything from crippling anxiety and fear, to loving and losing, and to finally seeing the bigger picture and learning some of the most important lessons I may ever learn in my life: that it’s not about me. It’s about the tapestry our band is a part of, and the lives of the people we get to experience this with.”
With the help of Andrew Baylis, who has handled production for bands including Sylar and Forget Tomorrow, the songs were brought vividly to life in the studio. “Andrew has a great feel for both rhythm and melody, giving more of an edge to our rock sound and allowing us to be more creative and open to where the music was going,” enthuses Xhelili. Dropped thirteen months after it was tracked, there was a great sense of release when it debuted in July 2017, landing on the Billboard’s New Artist and Current Hard Music charts. The addition of standout track “Purgatorium” to Spotify’s Official Hard Rock playlist has seen it rack up substantial plays, and the their following is continuing to grow. The band also finished the year on a high, topping Sirius XM’s Octane TestDrive Poll against stiff opposition after garnering almost 3000 votes, further demonstrating the passionate support they receive from their fans. This has only served to make Awake At Last even more determined to reach more and more people while embracing their growth, both personally and as musicians.“We want to see all the beautiful, amazing people we’ve had the pleasure of meeting and be a symbol they can all be proud of and stand behind,” Torres adds. “We want to bring everyone together, and we can’t wait to bring more music to them and connect with them even more.”