Once known as WITNESS FOR HOPE, which was formerly led by vocalist Benjamin Green, LIFEWALKER has risen from the metaphorical ashes of that band and given the remaining members a new voice and the opportunity to pursue a heavier musical direction. Since discovering vocalist Stephen Dodge, the band has quickly regained momentum.

Building on their notoriety in the Hampton Roads metal scene, Dodge and guitarists Shane Royer and Dan Halen, bassist Matt Evers, and drummer Pericles Underhill, recently earned the opportunity to open the annual FM99 Lunatic Luau, which features bands of punk, metal, and hardcore genres at Farm Bureau Live in Virginia Beach. Following their victory in the battle of the bands to play the luau, we had the opportunity to chat with the band about their psychological concept record and the music that tells the story.

Congratulations on winning the battle of the bands to play this year’s FM99 Lunatic Luau. What do you feel like were the keys to your success in winning the battle?

Stephen: It was tons of preparation and tons of time writing and recording. We were very detail-oriented when it came to writing and recording everything, and that translated into practicing live. We put the same dedication and amount of work into our live performances as we did into the writing of the songs.

Dan: Also, our building anticipation for our first couple of shows. We went through Digital Thunderdome to release a teaser video for “Genesis.” People started getting really excited about the music, and just having people excited to hear us from the get-go was kind of cool.

Since you mentioned it, how would you describe the concept behind “Genesis”?

Shane: Basically, with “Genesis” we wanted [it to be] the big opener to signify what was to come on the album and be about the chain of events it will take you through. It’s like the beginning of a rollercoaster. It’s the first big drop. That song is from the doctor’s point of view in the story, so it talks about the advancements of science and what are the costs of disregarding anything that the patient cares about. It’s also very historical based on [World War II] with Nazis experimenting on people. It’s the premonition to “Diagnose Me,” which is the following events where the patient is admitted to the hospital, and the doctor is picking at the patient trying to get inside their mind. The album follows the story of that patient through a bunch of events.

Can you tell me about your song “Diagnose Me” and what the meaning behind it is?

Stephen: “Diagnose Me” was probably about the fourth song that we had written collectively. Shane wrote all the guitars for the song and then presented it to me after the structure of the song was already there. He left it up to me to make the melody and the vocals. At that time, we had written four songs, and we had started [developing] a theme. We wanted to continue to build on that theme of mental illness and psychology, so “Diagnose Me” was the next step. Everything up to that point had been very psychological, and we chose to get more technical with it.

Have you planned to release any music videos for the songs on the album to help provide a visual representation to that story?

Stephen: We are considering doing that, but we are not sure if that will come to fruition. A lot of that has to do with who is backing us, and right now Digital Thunderdome is looking at us pretty hard. They want to work one-on-one with us to get the multimedia side of it and our vision together. They actually produced “Genesis,” and it was their guy [Scott Hansen] who produced our lyric video for “Diagnose Me.”

We absolutely want to continue the video side of everything, and we have been brainstorming a timeline, as well as the multiple characters that we come to inside these songs and how they have interlocked. What we would like to do is create something like the Marvel cinematic universe in our own inside the album.

Does that concept have any relation to the meaning behind your band name?

Stephen: It was Shane and Dan who came up with the name LIFEWALKER.

Shane: It’s basically [about] going through the trials and tribulations of life. “Diagnose Me” is the first step in the sequence and talks about the breakdown of somebody from “normal” to “crazy,” and I guess it’s just what we go through in life, generally.

I know that before this band began, most of you guys played in WITNESS FOR HOPE, and I initially heard about your band through your former vocalist. How has the transition been going from that band to this one?

Dan: It was very easy (laughs). The instrumental side of the band had been working on LIFEWALKER even before the end of WITNESS FOR HOPE. When we all decided to part ways with that project, we wanted to stick together and keep continuing our musical vision, even if it wasn’t with the same vocalist. So Shane and I were recording demos for four to six months before we actually got into the studio, and we recorded all the music before we found Stephen and had him come in to do vocals on it. It was kind of a two-part process.

As far as the transition, the biggest difficulty was finding the person who was going to deliver this album the way we wanted to, and Stephen came in and completely blew us away. He outdid our expectations.


Have you guys set a release date yet for your album?

Stephen: We have been playing that by ear. We have been keeping that real close to our chest, majorly because we really want to get some professional distribution and management, people that can come behind us and hold our hands through it. We can write music all day, but we are not very good at the other side of [promoting] it.

Do you have any prospects for who you are interested in working with to release it?

Stephen: We have had a few prospects that have been looking at us, but we are trying to feel it out right now. We are drawing as much attention as we can. We are not going to reel it in until we catch the “big fish” that we are after.

For more updates on LIFEWALKER, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, and subscribe to their YouTube channel.

Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

As editor-in-chief, Joe is very passionate about promoting music and culture in Virginia and DC. A resident of Fairfax, Joe enjoys going to shows, checking out local breweries, and trying new foods with his girlfriend Alex.

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