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Over a year ago, we spoke with vocalist Benjamin Green about the “vocal movement” he was pushing for in the Virginia metalcore scene with his band WITNESS FOR HOPE. Since then, the band has solidified their line-up and recently added pop singer ELISA MERI to help them stand out for the rest of the bands in the area. Green and Meri’s fellow bandmates include rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Dan Halen, bassist and backing vocalist Matthew Evers, lead guitarist Shane Royer, and drummer/programmer Pericles Underhill. The band recently released an EP titled A Thousand Voices, which features guest vocals by Frankie Palmeri of EMMURE, Lucas Borza of HONOUR CREST, and even ELISA MERI. We spoke with Green and Meri about how she got involved with the band to becoming a permanent member, their latest single “BornDead”, as well as the steps they have been taking their music to the next level in the Hampton Roads music scene.

Your band has had a great deal of success and gone through quite a few line-up changes, most recently adding on ELISA MERI. That being said, I am curious as to how you decided on her for the band?

Benjamin: Our last EP was mostly post-hardcore, but we had her do a guest vocal spot on the song “Zero Hour”. We thought she was a really strong and good [as a vocalist]. And after that, the songs felt empty without the blend of her vocals with mine. Her voice gave the music so much more depth.

Elisa, how has your transition been going from making pop music to singing for a metal band?

Elisa: It’s a funny story, but I am a very versatile singer. I sing opera as well, but when I sing pop songs, I also used rock and metal influences. So it was a pretty easy transition for me, and they are a great band to work with. I think we work well together. It has been a great experience, and we have gotten a lot of positive feedback.

Has your songwriting process changed since Elisa was added to the line-up?

Benjamin: It has allowed us to write more harmonies, and Elisa’s involvement with the band has made everyone want to step up and improve. Before, I was the primary songwriter, but now everyone is involved. We write so well together, and it’s really run to bounce ideas off her and Shane.

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Is Chad Orange of HONOUR CREST still involved with your band?

Benjamin: We used to use him for programming, but we have finally started to stray away from that and grow into our own sound. We still go through him for shirt designs, but our drummer Pericles has stepped up and grown to fill that programmer role. We have evolved into a much more self-sustaining band.

Recently, you released a new single called “BornDead”. Can you tell me what that song is about?

Benjamin: We wrote it four our buddy Mike Greene after his passing. Both Dan and I were good friends with him. He had a big heart, and he was also really big in the music scene. We wrote it as closure for Dan and I to help us come to grips with his death. Mikey wasn’t super religious, and he didn’t really believe in life after death, so that is what inspired the line, “Who do you pray to when you are born dead?” We just wish that there was something that we could have done to make it better for him and to make him feel like he wasn’t alone. It’s definitely hard to play live, not because of the technical aspect of it, but because of how emotional it is for us. A lot of other people that were close with him have also told us it has helped them find closure with his death. We just hope that it keeps pushing the memory of him forward.

I saw on your Facebook page that you are working on a booking a tour for this summer. Where are you heading?

Benjamin: We have been working on a tour of the Northeast, like New York, Connecticut, Maryland, and more, but there is nothing set in stone yet. We are shooting for a 10-day tour.

Elisa: We get asked by people from all over to come play shows in their area. It’s really just a matter if time.

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Are there any cities in particular you are really looking forward to playing?

Benjamin: Any of the New York dates, but I am especially excited to play in Poughkeepsie, NY.

A few weeks ago, you guys headlined a show at the Norva for the “Keep Calm Chive On” Black Lager release party. How were you selected for that?

Benjamin: It’s kinda funny how it all came together. We booked a local showcase at the Norva, because we were tired of being one of the million bands trying to make it playing the same shows at the same venues to the same 40 or so people. We really wanted to stand apart from the rest of the bands in our scene and prove that we have what it takes to push ahead of the pack. So [after we booked the showcase] I reached out to a local VA Chivers group, and they got us in contact with Hoffman Brewery about using our show for its launch of KCCO Black Lager. We really wanted to do it big to show other local bands that with the right motivation you can be successful.

Elisa: According to them, we sold more tickets than any other local band had before [at the Norva].

Benjamin: It really helped to expand our fan base too.

Elisa: We had people come to the show from as far away as Ohio and Florida. It’s really an inspiration, and it allows us to spread our message of positivity that will take us to the next level.

In July of last year, you released a music video for your song “Welcome Home”, which features Frankie Palmeri of EMMURE. Can you tell me about how he got involved?

Benjamin: Frankie started a promotion against bullying, and we were looking for a strong vocalist to be featured on the track. The song is about my relationship with my dad, and how I wanted to live my own life and be my own person. We reached out to Trevor of OUR LAST NIGHT, and he was going to do it but that fell through because his band’s tour plans changed. With the help of a friend we reached out to Frankie, and he really liked the message, so we sent him the track and he recorded his vocal part over it. When it came time to shoot the video, we really wanted to get him in it to set ourselves apart. So I reached out to him again over email, and he said he was down. So we took a seven hour day trip to New Jersey/New York, and we shot the video with him and Scott Hansen in an elevator shaft at Ill NIÑO’s practice space. It goes to show that it never hurts to ask.

What is next for WITNESS FOR HOPE?

Elisa: Recording our full-length, shooting videos, touring, and hopefully getting signed—in that order.

Benjamin: We hope to be done with our full-length by summer.

For more updates on WITNESS FOR HOPE, be sure to “like: their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, and stream their current EP A Thousand Voices on Spotify.

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