Smile Politely

Buffalo’s Until I Wake addresses heavy social issues with matching sounds

Band Until I Wake, four white men in dark, goth-metal-like clothing standing in a parking lot. It looks cold, and they are all wearing black jackets.
Until I Wake on Facebook

Until I Wake, a band from the resilient, blue-collar town of Buffalo, NY,  has been winning fans and critics over with heavy guitars, catchy melodies, and lyrics that real people can relate to. In an interview with lead singer Cody Johnson and bass player Ryan Ridley, I discussed the impact of growing up in Buffalo had on their music, their upcoming nationwide tour, and their latest album Inside My Head, which includes their hit song “Octane.” Their music tackles difficult subjects and heavy social issues, with the aim of bringing attention to them and inspiring listeners to speak out. 

Johnson spoke of his natural gravitation towards the hardcore scene growing up in Buffalo, where he found a sense of belonging. “Back in the day there was a big [hardcore] scene in Buffalo. It was a tight-knit community that felt like family, and so growing up as kind of a different kid, a kid that didn’t like anything mainstream, I gravitated towards the scene and felt really at home,” Johnson said. This background has influenced their intense sound as well as Johnson’s lyrical sensibilities.

As they prepare for their first nationwide headlining tour, they reflect on their previous experience touring with Crown the Empire last year. Although the tour will be similar in some aspects, they are looking forward to visiting new places and the opportunity to play in warmer states. And of course, they look forward to headlining. I asked them what they looked forward to the least.

“Being in close quarters with these guys for the better part of two months,” joked Johnson. “At least we have a bus now. On previous tours we were all crammed into a van or a camper,” said Johnson. “But even on a bus, it sucks not having privacy to use the bathroom or to take a shower,”  he lamented. 

So what was the best advice anyone gave them for going on such a long tour?

“We all have Planet Fitness memberships, and they’re everywhere, so that’s how we’re going to shower on the road,” said bass player Ryan Ridley. “All our musician friends said ‘Make sure you have that Planet Fitness membership!’”

Their debut album, under Fearless Records, has been a significant turning point for the band. Their new label has given them the freedom to create music on their terms. Ridley spoke of the support and respect they receive from the label. 

“Signing with Fearless has been fantastic. Our A&R rep is the man. We can pick up the phone and call him or anyone at the label if we ever need anything. They’ve always been very receptive to our ideas, and haven’t tried to control us at all. They’ve always been open to the band’s ideas and have helped us make them real.” Ridley said.

One of the tracks on their latest album, “Octane“, has been very successful, gaining over four million streams on Spotify alone. The song’s catchy melody and meaningful lyrics resonate with their fans. Johnson spoke of the inspiration behind the song, stating that it is about leaving behind people who hinder one’s success. 

“It’s about people you have to leave behind, or in the past because they’re not helping you achieve what you want to. It’s about succeeding in spite of those people,” Johnson gave as the reason he believes the song has resonated with so many.

Until I Wake’s music tackles heavy themes, such as mental health and addiction, with the hope of bringing attention to these issues and encouraging people to speak up. Johnson discussed the importance of addressing mental health in today’s society, as so many people struggle with it. He also drew on his own experience with addiction to write about it: “I use the experiences I’ve had, but also draw from other people’s perspectives when I write about addiction.”

In today’s music scene, social media plays a crucial role in building a fan base and connecting with fans, but Johnson does personally struggle with it.“I’m not a big social media person. I do engage, but it takes a lot out of me. I know it’s useful for the band, so I’m willing to take part in it because I know it’s important,” he said. “Ryan likes it though.”

“I love interacting with the fans. I love reading about how they are getting into the music and the shows, and I don’t mind taking the time to acknowledge their support. I know they get a thrill out of it, and honestly I do, too,” said Ridley

Until I Wake is a band that is committed to making music that speaks to the struggles and challenges that many people face in their lives and they hope that their music can serve as a source of comfort and inspiration for their fans. Urbana will be the second stop on their national tour with Dark Divine and Catch Your Breath in support. Friday’s show will also feature Peoria hardcore act, Corrupt the Masses. You may also be able to catch them at a local Planet Fitness near you. 

Until I Wake
The Canopy Club 
708 S Goodwin Ave
F  Mar 17th; doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m.
$15 Advance / $20 DOS

Music Editor

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