The Future of Metalcore is Across the White Water Tower

Meet Across the White Water Tower, the latest trailblazers in the new generation of metalcore acts to burst onto the scene in the past couple of years. With an eclectic mix of vicious riffs and breakdowns, scorching hot screams and blistering electronics, the Rockland County band has very little trouble getting bodies moving and heads banging at their shows. But listening through any of their bodies of work, it’s obvious that the group’s musical aspirations are aimed a good bit higher than simply setting off the mosh pit.

Formed in 2016 roughly an hour outside of New York City, Across the White Water Tower was brought up on the wilder, weirder and unapologetically heavier side of the Warped Tour era of music as well as essential heavy foundations like thrash metal. Fitting along the lines of bands like Of Mice & Men, Woe, Is Me, I See Stars, The Devil Wears Prada, Asking Alexandria and others, the six-piece fusion of metalcore, electronicore and deathcore have already proven themselves to have a unique ear for uninhibited and rewardful experimentation in their music.

Soaring synth arrangements are layered on top of crunchy and distorted guitars, glitch effects, orchestral pieces, and bits of electronic flair are sprinkled throughout crushing breakdowns and speedy double bass. Distinct and audibly interesting instruments like a Japanese koto receive prominent play on tracks like ‘White Light’. The occasional hip-hop or trap beat comes in to carry a song or two. When the band wants to showcase just how massive and lumberously heavy they can get, they drop a song like ‘No…I’m Dirty Dan!’, which most definitely would kill a Victorian child (or adult, for that matter) if they ever heard it.

Led by a truly exhilarating dual vocal assault from Matt Sosa and Devante Wyatt, the music can shift from high-pitched screams to clean melodic choruses to rap verses to brutal death metal growls all within moments of each other. Stephen Feuer provides the drums, Evan Fortgang and Niko Karras cover guitar duties while Myles Weinfeld brings the bass and additional vocals to the band. Together, they make for one of the most exciting and impressive acts that's guaranteed to blow up even further very soon.

Immediately establishing a wall of sound all their own with their debut EP Phantom Pains in 2019, Across the White Water Tower have fittingly played with bands like Attila and Bad Omens and recently wrapped up a tour with fellow genre pioneers I Set My Friends On Fire. They're currently riding high off the release of their first full-length album If You Died Right Now, What Would They Remember? and are in the middle of a run of shows with the iconic Attack Attack! alongside Until I Wake and Conquer Divide. We sat down with Evan Fortgang, one of the group's primary songwriters, as well as longtime member Stephen Feuer to discuss the band's distinct sound and inspirations, their current momentum and what the future may hold.

How did this band come together?

Evan Fortgang: Our vocalist Matt Sosa started the band in 2016 and he kind of collectively got all the different members at different times throughout the years. Stephen and Myles, our bass player, came first and clean vocalist Devonte, who's now our co-vocalist with Matt. He was our second guitar player and came in around the same time I joined the band in 2017 as a live member, and then officially in 2019-2020. My first music with the band was our new record that we just released. We're now a six piece band and have a new guitar player named Niko. So it's just been an amalgamation of different things. We're all from the same area in Rockland County, New York. Matt found me on like, Instagram. He knew Myles from…what exactly? I don't know. Myles knows everybody. That's the weird thing.

Stephen Feuer: Yeah, it’s weird. We can’t go anywhere here without our bassist, we’ll just run into someone he knows.

Evan Fortgang: It just kind of all happened. We're in the same scene and just kind of met each other throughout the years and here we are.

What were some of your musical inspirations as far as your sound goes?

Evan Fortgang: Earlier, we were more of a deathcore based band. We were metalcore kids playing deathcore, that's more or less what it sounded like. Almost like Make Them Suffer, As I Lay Dying, Asking Alexandria, some of that. As time went on, we started incorporating more electronic stuff in our music, which is definitely going to be a mainstay and that's not going to go anywhere. We really like the electronics and how that's sounding so far. Nowadays, we're definitely more a metalcore band that experiments with weird sounds. There's no limits or rules to our music, we have rapping, screaming, clean vocals, Autotune vocals, clean guitars, overdriven parts - there's no rules at all. We just like to have fun when we write, you know? Especially on our new record, there's so many different sounds. We just wanted to experiment and have fun.

I feel like with Phantom Pains, you already had such a defined sound even with the experimentation. For some bands, it takes them a little bit to figure that out. Are there ever moments where you're like, maybe that's too much and we can pull back? Or, does this feel like it’s not enough, let's add something to it?

Evan Fortgang: I came into the band right after Phantom Pains was recorded. Since I was playing live for the band, but not a studio member, I wasn't a huge part of it even though I was there for a lot of the process. But writing the new record, I personally went through a lot of what I would call imposter syndrome, I guess. I had no clue where to go with the direction. Phantom Pains has such a defined sound and at the same time does not stick to one sound. I was somewhat anxious about going into the process of writing the first piece for myself with a band. After we wrote ‘White Light', which was the first song we wrote for the record that ended up on the record, I kind of just let all that loose and cleared my head. I was able to forget all that BS and just write what felt right.

I love the imagery and the kind of aesthetic you guys bring to the music. The album artwork invokes fantasy-like stuff, you've got your merch with stuff like anime and SpongeBob and Ed, Edd n Eddy. Do you guys put a lot of thought into that aspect of the band?

Stephen Feuer: The merch has consumed my life. I take great pride in it. I try to think outside the box. I know our merch is crazy, but I don't know, I feel like we have fun doing it. The artwork though, that is awesome. That came about with Mark Cooper. He does all the artwork for Rings of Saturn. Prior to me even being in a band I emailed him and I was like hey, when I'm in a band, you're gonna do my band’s artwork. Matt came up with the name Phantom Pains and I went to Mark’s page and he had this speed drawing and it was a phantom like the one you see on the cover but with a red background and not too much detail. It was like it was meant to be. My jaw dropped. I bought that on the spot, we flipped it and made it the purple background. I really think purple is a good aesthetic color. The new one was a little similar but sort of a commission, it was drawn and then we just expanded it out, if you will. Little details that probably a lot of people don't care about but I love. It gives a deathcore vibe and we have deathcore vibe vocals with metalcore instrumentals. We just try to just do whatever the fuck we want.

What bands were you listening to growing up? What was your foundation?

Stephen Feuer: The gateway for me was For Those Who Have Heart by A Day to Remember. I was like “A breakdown, what's that?” Then you get to the rabbit hole with Someday Came Suddenly and Stand Up and Scream. But my favorite band is Erra. They are the best band ever and it's not an opinion. They kinda ruined metal for me because I can't find anyone better. I was a Rise Records kid, I just loved any Rise Records release. Woe, Is Me, Of Machines, Like Moths to Flames, The Plot in You. But Erra is numero uno. Do you know the album Augment by Erra?

Evan Fortgang: It ended up being way more influential for our new record than I had anticipated. Erra has been one of my favorite bands for a long time too. But going back and just listening through their discography, I really jammed some hard progressive metal going into the writing process for this one. They're always up there. I grew up a thrash metal kid. Slayer, Testament, Exodus, all that shit. My dad and I would go to fucking Gojira shows and all that. My dad's a drummer, we share this studio. We used to be a jazz band together. My dad's honestly one of my biggest inspirations. He played in some progressive rock bands and some jazz bands back in the 90s. Just growing up in a musical household has been a good environment for me to do what I do. A lot of my modern influences are stuff like Periphery and Animals as Leaders. I listen to a lot of really weird shoegaze stuff like Have a Nice Life and weird 90s music, Joy Division, stuff like that. But Matt, which is where the electronic stuff comes in, is a big fan of this Japanese band called Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas. They. Are. Sick.

Stephen Feuer: How I am to Erra he is to that band times one hundred. You think I’m nuts? Oh my god. He is their number one fan, I am pretty damn sure. Easily.

Evan Fortgang: They're a huge influence for all of us at this point. They're such an amazing band. It's metalcore riffs with heavy electronics, Our song ‘Reasons of Recall’, like, that is that sound. That's the sound we want to go for.

Let’s talk about your tour with Sink In and I Set My Friends on Fire earlier this year. What was that like?

Evan Fortgang: I think I cried. Shout out to John Damiano, our manager.

Stephen Feuer: We did three presale shows with ISMFOF before. That's also one of Matt's biggest American influences. He knows all the words. So he was like, making sure that Matt Mehana knew who he was and stuff. So they knew us prior and we were trying to pry this out of them for a while but you know, when you don't really get the opportunities it's kind of hard. Then thankfully Attack Attack! blessed us and when that tour was announced, it was a little easier to get a run with ISMFOF.

Evan Fortgang: Every single day was a fever dream.

Stephen Feuer: I still think it was a dream. I still don't think it was real. Six of the seven shows sold out. It was just nuts. It was just like everything you want to do. We're used to cool presale shows once every few months, not on a consistent basis every fucking show. This is nuts. This is crazy. It really is bizarre.

Evan Fortgang: People singing our words in Florida and we’re from New York was mind boggling.

Stephen Feuer: There's at least one person I did not know who existed who knew our words, which I then had to make sure I knew existed. That is the best, the most mind blowing thing to me too.

Evan Fortgang: It's crazy that you can just connect with people through the internet nowadays. You can reach so far and then you actually go to those places and there's real life people that care about your art. I'm very grateful for it, I couldn’t be more thankful.

A photo from the Orlando, Florida show with I Set My Friends on Fire and Sink In

Are there any moments from out on the road that really stuck with you?

Stephen Feuer: The pinned post on ISMFOF’s page is the Orlando show. We're all in that photo. That show particularly stuck with me because it's the epitome of everything you want to happen in a show. There's people that already come to see you, then you meet a ton of new fans and there's so much love being shown.

Evan Fortgang: Good air, good energy.

Stephen Feuer: And ISMFOF’s fan base, oh my god, If there's a word for beyond loyal that's what it is. They are nuts in the greatest way. They fucking love them.

Evan Fortgang: They're all really about this vibe. They all talk about the vibe, they're like “the vibes right now”. I hear everyone say that at their shows.

Stephen Feuer: ISMFOF themselves are the nicest fucking people as well. I was worried about so much, especially sharing a bus with them. But it’s all love, man.

What was it like to just start building up the momentum of the band only for COVID to come shut off the live music portion of it?

Stephen Feuer: Between 2017-2019 we were just taking really dope presale shows for bands that come in the area. So we had momentum on I guess you would say the local level but we would play two three hours away in PA or New Jersey. We’d draw people there as if we were to play locally, I guess. But there's nowhere local to play. There’s no scene here. So when shows shut down, we obviously had to keep doing something. My idea was to fund vinyl, which was the absolute greatest idea I think I've ever had. Shout out to the Metal and Core Collectors Facebook group. Vinyl collectors are awesome and we were able to fund our vinyl. The vinyl community is a community all its own, doesn't matter if it's metal vinyls. They just kept checking out the work, checking out Phantom Pains. It's crazy because we think it's dated, but so many people still have never found it. That worked out well. In 2020, while we were doing that, it was the perfect time to write the new record.

Evan Fortgang: We started the initial writing process in November of 2019. We played our last show with Bad Omens on March 4, 2020. That was honestly a good way to go out. Unfortunately for the world, you know, a lot of terrible things happened. Fortunately for us, we were able to take a lot of time to ourselves and really think about where we want to go with the music and ourselves as people. We all grew quite a lot and we learned about each other more. If COVID didn't happen, the record probably would have been out in like, June 2020 and it probably would have been rushed. Initially we had all of April booked with Chris Wiseman from Shadow of Intent and Currents. He's been our producer since Phantom Pains. We had to cancel all of that. But we were able to keep to ourselves and really think about the direction we wanted to go. And the direction we wanted to go was every direction! There was no direction. We just wanted to sound like us.

Stephen Feuer: The first thing I watched this guy play and try to create was the riff to ‘White Light’. I looked at him and I was just like, “What the fuck? That's the first thing that you write? I can’t wait for this album, I can’t wait to see what we create.” I feel like I waited for so long to get him into the band to start writing. This kid's incredible. He’s an amazing songwriter.

Evan Fortgang: Thank you.

Stephen Feuer: And he’s so young. I hate him. Fuck him. Fuck you, bro.

Evan Fortgang: Being home, I was able to learn how to become a producer. I'm sitting now in my built up home studio where I actually bring bands over to record and produce and it's what I do when I'm not on the road now. It helps a lot for the writing process because I've learned so much about recording and audio. The record definitely would not be as synth heavy or technical or as thought out. It's a beautiful clusterfuck, the most go-go-go shit ever, there's no breaks, there's no fucking stops. There's surprises around every corner and I’m really fucking proud of how it came out.

How did this upcoming tour with Attack Attack! come about?

Evan Fortgang: They heard ‘Reasons of Recall’ through the grapevine before it came out and they liked the direction we were going. We fit the electronicore vibe. I think we're really fitting for the bill. They gave us a chance and we're really grateful for the opportunity. It's huge for us.

Stephen Feuer: We had a recommendation. I'll just say one thing. The people that a lot of people might talk shit to or openly talk bad about might be the actual best people to help you if you actually just get to know them a little and understand them and work with them. One recommendation is probably the reason that this has all happened. And it's gonna hopefully snowball into whatever the hell we can create out of this.

What’s next for you guys?

Evan Fortgang: As far as touring, we have some things in the summer that are happening. That'll be announced soon. As far as music goes, there's definitely a lot of fun stuff in the works that's gonna be coming up way quicker than people think. We’re gonna keep the content going as much as we can and not let anybody wait, but not sacrifice quality either. There’s always something cooking.

Stephen Feuer: I also want this album to marinate for a little while.

Evan Fortgang: We just have such a passion for music. We're all musicians, but we all really are such music nerds at the end of the day. I think we are really picky. We just have an ear for everything. It’s why we're perfectionists about our own music. So it goes both ways.

Across the White Water Tower are currently on tour with Attack Attack! on the East Coast Scuttle Tour.
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