Through the Darkness is...
Cameron Stevens - Vocalist (Boone, IA)
Andrew Gathercoal - Vocalist (Perry, IA)
Tyler Gathercoal - Percussionist (Grand Junction, IA)
Kristopher James - Lyrics & Guitar (Grand Junction, IA)
Justin Saffell - Lead Guitar (Jefferson, IA)
Joseph Swanson - Bass (Purchased the band van)
So where did Through the Darkness originate from? Their manager, Tyler Gene Gathercoal, actually began working toward his place as song composer/percussionist since he was just three years old. Born in 1992 to James and Donna Gathercoal, Ty garnered a lot of inspiration from his father.
"My dad always listened to Rush. He was really into Neil Pert and that's how I started setting my standards as a drummer. Everyone said Neil Pert was the best and I also wanted to be remembered as the best. I haven't quit working on those drums ever since.... almost 20 years now."
"Did you always want to be in a band?"
"I didn't want to be in a band until I reached High School. At first I wanted to approach the music industry as a solo artist.. After years of playing solo and competing in talent shows, I received a phone call from local guitarist, Justin Saffel, about working together and writing some new material. After a few months we had about ten songs. Eventually we went our seperate ways. No longer having someone to jam with is what really opened my eyes to how awesome it was to play in a band."
"Rush and Hard Rock/Metal are pretty different from one another. Was there anything else that shaped your style as a musician?"
"I was in Jazz Band, Concert Band and Music Theory. They all helped me write the diverse material, and instrumentation, that I've been writing over the course of the years. After the departure of Justin I had to start writing my own songs on both piano and guitar. I wrote Our Darkest Days, Uncertainty and The Falling of a Dream around that time. I'd like to say that the teachers I had, Diana Hannah, Bob Palmer, Matt Schutt and Todd Woodard really helped me progress as both a musician and stage performer."
"What convinced you to write for a heavier genre of music?"
"I never take the easy path, just the path that sounds right. That's why you hear the songs I write and the beats I play today. I've been through many different stages of inspiration and influence ranging from Rush to The Devil Wears Prada. However, my main influences are Breaking Benjamin, As I Lay Dying, and A Day To Remember."
Outside of TTD, Tyler works a full time job and has attended college for personal fitness training. Eventually he switched to management and marketing to improve band promotion.
"What's the hardest part of managing a local band?" Ty's expression is priceless.
"Getting any of the other guys in the band motivated to do anything. Kris showed up to practice too drunk to play or Andrew bites off a piece of Kris's arm. Cameron didn't show up... Joe's grounded again... You know. The usual. Noooo I'm just kidding, the hardest part is time management. When it comes to having practice, I have to work around 6 guys' schedules and it can be very frustrating."
Kristopher James Gathercoal
Kristopher James doesn't have much to say about his history as a musician. Other than taking some piano lessons as a child, he didn't pick up the guitar until Tyler had already started the band.
"Tyler involved me in writing lyrics and helping to create the artistic vision of the band but I never planned on being a guitarist. I knew some of the chords for our first real rough draft of a song. Eventually I could play well enough and joined the line up."
Born in Glenview, Illinois not far from the Chicago area, his family quickly left the city for small-town Iowa. "I spent most of my life wanting to go back to that place. A lot of my writing was a way for me to take out my frustrations of being in such a desolate town," Kris has been writing some of the lyrics used by Through the Darkness since he was just 16 years old. "I started writing for fun when I was about twelve. Sometimes I wrote poetry.. The Falling of a Dream was originally a poem my father wrote while he was in High School. I changed it a bit so that it fit our song better. Our Darkest Days was orirginally a poem I wrote under a different title. Most of the time I wrote fictional adventure stories."
"Is it weird you're not the person singing your lyrics?"
"Nope. I have anxiety issues. I'm suprised every time I get on stage, let alone getting my voice anywhere near a mic."
"Anything you'd like to say to the Dark Army?"
"Yeah. Do your best to support other's dreams in all forms, especially art. Whether it's painting, photography, music... Cage Fighting, you know... Anything. At least let yourself experience local talent and when you find something you enjoy, support them. I pour my heart into my lyrics, sometimes several years worth of learning and growing go into one song to capture the truth of whatever emotion or topic I'm writing about. So much time goes into one song... one set of lyrics hoping that others will relate to them or be inspired. I know I'm not the only one who does what I love, and I hope everyone else out there can successfully chase their own dreams as well."
Andrew Steven Gathercoal
Andrew Steven Gathercoal was born in 1994 and has been raising Hell ever since. When asked about how he got started as a musician before joining up with his brothers, Andrew laughs.
"I played the clarinet for about 5 years. Choir for a bit too. Started a rock band with one of my buddies but it didn't last very long. Kris came up to me with a DVD called 'The Zen of Screaming' and a list of videos to search up on the net. All of it was aimed at turning me into their screamer using a technique called fry."
"You didn't plan on being a heavy vocalist before that?"
"Nope. I think my impressions and all the voices I could make pretty much convinced Kris that I was capable of learning the style. 'Couple months later and he was sure that I was right for the spot. I've improved a lot since than and am still improving today, though."
As of 2013 Andrew held two state records in Bench Press, a WCAC Conference Record for Bench Press as well as won a Powerlifting Competition. In his freetime he plays basketball, took martial arts lessons with Kris (lyrics/guitar) and went snow boarding.
"What's your favorite song to perform live?"
"I want to say The Falling of a Dream but I don't really do much in that song. I'm going to go with 'How Does Richard Taste?', the last 30 seconds or so really stick out to me. It was one of the first times Cameron and I really got involved in writing the vocal melodies."
"Is it weird to share the stage with Cameron after being the sole-vocalist for so long?"
"Nope. We always wanted a singer, we just never came across any during those first years. It's nice to have someone else on stage who isn't playing an instrument the whole time.. we can really get into the music. We both have a couple songs we don't do much in which gives us a chance to jump into the crowd and interact with them. The fans really like that."
Cameron Shelby Stevens
"Through the Darkness was originally formed some years before you joined the line up. How did you go about joining the band?"
"I knew of the Gathercoal family long before Through the Darkness came around. The guys had been looking for a vocalist for awhile. One day Tyler sent me a text asking if I was interested in singing for them. All I felt was absolute fear, It was about two days of just contemplating a decision with my girlfriend at the time, Felicia, who told me that if I didn't go for it I'd end up regretting it."
Cameron graduated from Southeast Webster Grand Highschool in 2008. Aside from raising twins, he is also employed to the City of Boone Public Works Department.
"How did you get into singing?"
"I've always loved music and sang in my car to my friends. They encouraged me to try for something more, which I loosely followed up on by singing at practices when Justin was still in another local band called Balizen. Now that I'm passed try outs and performing as part of Through the Darkness, I really look to the singer for Capture the Crown for inspiration on stage presense. But all around, I've probably listened to more Asking Alexandira than anything prior to joining the band."
"What did you listen to while growing up?"
"Candlebox is what really got me into Rock n' Roll. It was my first CD, given to me by my babysitter at the time. Eventually I started listening to Breaking Benjamin, Killswitch Engage..... Secretly, I'm a giant fan of country music."
"What are some of your favorite memories of being in Through the Darkness, so far?"
"Hands down our first show as Woolys. The size of the crowd and support from our fans at the Lazer Battle of the Bands was something I'll never forget. Then there was my first show, where I hit on Andrew's girlfriend without knowing who she was. And of course, the first time we rode in Joe's Band Van with our previous guitarist, Matt, who looked at us and said 'Our Van smells like Chemicals', to which we all burst into laughter.
Joseph Levi Alexander Swanson
Born on September 24th, 1991, Joseph Swanson is a proud father and currently works at Tyson in Perry, IA. Joe was one of the first people to befriend the Gathercoal family after their move to small-town Iowa in 1995 and have remained close friends. Aside from playing in Through the Darkness, Joe also participated in school band from sixth grade and through graduation. In 2007, during their Freshman years in Highschool, both Ty (percussion/manager) and Joe placed 2nd in the Iowa State Jazz Band competitions.
"When I was fourteen I bought a guitar. I never took it very seriously, even while taking lessons from Ben Christopher of Patient Zero for about 6 months. Nothing really ever came out of it other than jamming on my freetime. But, I never missed a TTD show. Sometime in 2012 I realized the guys never had a bassist other then some fill ins. Ty asked if I was interested in trying out for the spot and I immediatly went out and bought new equipment, including a bass guitar, and have been in the band ever since."
"What influences you as a musician?"
"Honestly I try to refrain from taking influence from any other musicians due to my respect for the originallity of TTD's vision. They write uniquely and sound unlike other bands of the metal or rock genres... But I used to listen to a lot of Linkin Park, Slipknot and Bullet for my Valentine. I mostly listen to A Day To Remember now."
"What are some of your favorite memories of being in TTD so far?"
"It may be a little cliche, but honestly every show is an amazing experience and has it's own epic moments. We've met a lot of amazing people. The overpowering TTD chant at the Lazer Battle of the Bands was absolutely incredible, and it was only Justin's second show with us."
Justin Saffell was born in Des Moines, IA on June 22, 1988 and originally played lead guitar with Tyler (percussion/manager) before Through the Darkness had officially been named. With limited musicians in the area, the two of them were unable to build a band or complete many songs. Eventually Justin was recruited to play guitar for a different local metal group. However, five years later and after about a year of no longer playing for a band and , Justin was asked to re-join the TTD line-up only two weeks before entering Sound Farm Studio to record the final three songs of the band's first release, 'Into the Unknown.'
"Sound Farm was an amazing experience and was definitely somewhere I had always wanted to record. Lucky for me, I got to record there my first time ever being in a professional studio. Some of the riffs they play are riffs I wrote when I was originally in the band years before. I was very greatful that the guys thought I was capable of learning and recording the songs in such a short period of time. It felt like a big testimont to my talent as a guitarist."
A month after going into the studio for the first time, another suprise was waiting for Justin and the rest of Through the Darkness. With only one show under his belt, Justin played in front of several hundred people for the Lazerfest Battle of the Bands.
"The response of the crowd and the appreciation of the fans for me as the new guitarist made me feel accepted despite being the guys biggest show and relying on me to complete the set and perform well enough to be top competetiors in the scene. It was something I'll never forget."
Justin has been playing guitar to bands like Metallica since about 2006 and was influenced by a long list of musicians.
"Thats always a hard question to answer because I draw influence from so many different styles of metal and rock depending on the mood Im in or the kind of song Im trying to write. There's Lamb of God, Trivium,, As I lay dying, In Flames, Miss May I, Of Mice & Men, Periphery, Shadows Fall, Slipknot, Sylosis, We Came As Romans, Born of Osiris, Like Moths To Flames, Rise To Remain, Asking Alexandria, The Color Moral, Dream on Dreamer, I the Breather, A7x, Killswitch, BFMV, Atreyu, Stone Sour... Probably a lot more then that too haha."
"What influenced you to play the instrument you play today?"
"Well growing up my dad and uncle were always into rock and metal and I always wondered how they made so many different sounds on a guitar. As a kid I was exposed to a lot of bands lilke Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, Guns & Roses... Stuff like Ozzy, Megadeath, Pantera... The list goes on and on and everywhere in between but naturally I think growing up around that was a big part of what influenced me, some of the first songs I learned were from all the bands I grew up listining to with my dad but as time went on I started getting into heavier and more modern metal. I wouldnt be the musician I am today without Zach and Chaz Wessels. They really pushed me to learn new things and excel further as a guitarist.
"What are some of your favorite memories of being in TTD so far? "
"I remember seeing that they needed a new guitarist and running through my head was 'they need a guitarist... this could be my shot... I hope they ask me...' As luck would have it, later that day Tyler contacted me and things started taking off from there."
2014 Lazerfest Battle of the Bands
So what is the vision, and meaning, behind Through the Darkness?
"It means friendship and bringing together different kinds of people regardless of differences and creating a unique bond with and between others through music."
-Joseph Levi Alexander Swanson, The Bass of TTD