The band's new album, the forthcoming May Your Ashes Have Stories to Tell, is more punk than folk, but it still retains elements that have made the group such a standout on the South Florida music scene. There’s still plenty of banjo, stand-up bass, some violin, and, of course, Sergio Witis' gravelly, hardscrabble vocals.
From start to finish, May Your Ashes Have Stories to Tell does just that: It’s a journey that actually tells a story. And it's not just the tale of the one man who wrote it, but of many men — of every man, in fact. "You could take all the lyrics and create a collage of the struggle of how to become a better person," Witis says.
It's a recent evening as he wraps up some time with his bandmates. As each member leaves, he doesn't miss any opportunities to let them know how he feels. As they walk out, Witis says to each of them: “Later, dude. Love you.” That happens at least three times; Witis barely breaks his verbal stride, effortlessly returning to the business at hand of discussing the new album and touring plans later this spring and summer.
The album is about “the inner struggles we all have,” he says. Some of the struggles the Everymen have experienced have been very public; the new record details the private turmoil within. It’s about that voice that “justifies certain actions, whether they’re good or bad.”
One of the best songs on the record, and certainly one of the hardest-hitting, “Annihilation,” is about how fast his “perception can become distorted” to the point where it all becomes one big tangled ball of negativity.
That being said, Witis proudly proclaims that his life is in a positive place now. He and the rest of the Everymen may not be purchasing that private jet anytime soon, but with a new record, a reinvigorated outlook, and solid 9-to-5 jobs, it’s a life worth living.
“The biggest struggle for a band, for us, is to stay friends, to get through it together. No matter what someone is going through, we still have to get through it," he says. "I felt like this record is my one [chance]. We’ve had people in our band pass away. I was thinking, Man, I want my ashes to have a story to tell. I want somebody to know I struggled as much as they did. The destination may be different, but we all struggle through the same things.”
The album has some very clear intentions. It’s about making the right decisions as much as it is about making the wrong ones, regardless if it’s based on “ego or perception or where you’re at and how you learn from those mistakes.”
In addition to the creative and spiritual efforts behind the new LP, Everymen also slowed down and for the first time recorded an album in a proper studio, Goldentone Studios in Gainesville, instead of “someone’s warehouse.” With as much touring as the band has done the past few years, Witis hardly had the time to sit and write thoughtfully. Previously, he wrote to have fun onstage; now he has a purpose — but still plans to have a blast onstage, make no mistake. Perhaps that's why they re-recorded fan favorites “Waking Up Hurts” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade” in order to have something studio-quality.
Witis and company know they have something special on their hands. Their harshest critics are also their closest.
“Our girlfriends and wives are pretty honest," he says. "My lady was like, ‘This is a really fucking awesome record.’ It felt really good because usually she’s like, ‘I like those two songs; I don’t really like the rest.’’
Everymen Album-Release Party
8 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at Respectable Street, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-832-9999; sub-culture.org/respectable-street. Tickets cost $10 at the door.