[AltWire Interview] JJ and Jeff of Wither Away
- Posted on September 13, 2017 at 6:46 PM by Derek Oswald
AltWire owner Derek Oswald recently sat down with JJ and Jeff of Wither Away. Read the interview below!
[Derek Oswald/AltWire]: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us today. For our readers who don’t know about you, can you tell us who you are and your current band members? How did you all meet each other?
[JJ Heliger/Wither Away]: Hi everyone, we are Wither Away, located out of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Our band members consist of J.J. Heliger (Vocals), Jeff Pettinato (Guitar/vocals), David Young (Guitar), Connor Reading (Bass), and Russell Hall (Drums). Jeff and I played in heavier projects earlier on, which led to us meeting David because our band played with his from time to time. Jeff and I then met Connor while working at Best Buy and instantly became friends. Russell reached out to us after the release of Sentiment, and we were extremely impressed with his drumming. Everything seemed to fit really well. Not only the chemistry of the writing process, but just the friendships overall. Couldn’t really wish for better guys.
[AW]: AltWire itself is headquartered out of Reading, PA so it’s always great to speak to a hometown band. How would you describe the music scene in Reading? Do you feel the city of Reading is positive and welcoming to rock music?
[JJ Heliger/Wither Away]: In some ways, I like to think the music scene is starting to surge here. Bands are taking a more professional approach likely because we’re getting older and have more ability to do this in comparison to when we were 15 years old. It’d be really cool to see more of the youth getting involved, but as a whole, metal/rock has been pretty welcomed here.
[Jeff Pettinato/Wither Away]: The music scene is great honestly. I’m always keeping an eye on all the groups and the community. I feel like the majority of the scene from reading has shifted a little closer towards Philly now, which isn’t a bad thing! Philly shows are great. I will just forever miss going to the Silo when I was 15 and knowing everyone there.
[AW]: You guys started out as a duo, and later became the five piece you are now. Given that J.J and Jeff were likely used to writing together by themselves, how did the addition of David, Connor and Russell impact the songwriting process? Do J.J and Jeff still write the majority of the songs, or is it a collaborative effort?
[JJ]: Bringing David, Connor, and Russell into the band really raised our standard for what we are capable of writing. We’re challenged constantly by each other, and it really gives Wither Away a sound of its own. It is a collaborative effort as a whole. If we’re not all writing together, we’re writing songs we can pass off to each other to vet and adapt to each of our style of writing. I (J.J.) like to write the majority of my songs on acoustic guitar to get a rawer feel before adapting it to electric guitar. The guys are really good with taking an idea and rolling with it.
[JP]: When David (Guitarist) first came in the mix he was living in Myrtle Beach, SC and we started bouncing ideas back and forth. But when David flew down to hang out and write some music we ended up putting together Hopeless and I could tell from there this was going to work very well. David lives here now and ever since then we’ve been collaborating on our music and writing together. I’m very glad to have more minds in this band.
[AW]: With the majority of the band members coming from metal-core backgrounds, I’d imagine that Wither Away is certainly a change from what many of you are used to. What challenges did all of you face when writing “The Words We Live By, The Actions We Don’t Take”? Do you apply any of your metal-core knowledge to these songs?
[JJ]: The biggest challenge, yet contributor to our sound is the fact that we were writing in a field we were not familiar with. This gave us a completely fresh and risky approach to the record, but in the end, we were stoked with what we created. Though we play in E Standard, our guitar tones are anything but lacking, and our drums could fit into any metal-core outing. Heavier drums and guitar really give us a big sound, something we all loved from our metal-core past times.
[JP]: Switching from Metal-core to this was definitely different in the beginning. After releasing Sentiment and Yuno we started getting a knack for knowing what should be where and what would sound good. It was a bit of a challenge in the beginning but then it came natural. I believe coming from that background into what we do now is a huge contributor to why we have the sound we do and what can set us apart from others.
[AW]: Branching off of that, Wither Away has a pretty diverse sound. Individually, what would you say are all of your influences?
[JJ]: There are a lot of them. Brand New and Taking Back Sunday are just a few of mine. But I know the rest of the band ranges from The Contortionist to The Dear Hunter. We have a wide variety of influences.
[JP]: My biggest influence was Citizen, I was a little late to the game and just started checking them out when JJ showed me their most recent release at the time (Everybody is Going to Heaven). They quickly became my favorite band in that genre and moved me onto listening to bands like Turnover, Have Mercy, and Balance and Composure.
[AW]: Your earliest releases (the single “Sentiment”) and your latest release (“The Words We Live By, The Actions We Don’t Take”) were all self-released, but have been fortunate to receive great exposure and promo by Dreambound. Given the early success you’ve found without a label, do you feel you’d prefer to remain unsigned and in-house? And do you feel this offers advantages that a label contract couldn’t allow?
[JJ]: We’re super thankful for what Dreambound has provided us with so far. I think I can speak for all when I say this is the first band where we’re actually receiving funds to pay for other assets in the band. It’s a really cool feeling, because though we do not have a label pumping us up, people from all parts of the world are listening, enjoying, and purchasing our music. We want to continue DIY until we cannot handle it ourselves. The best thing about being unsigned is that we do not have to answer to anyone about anything we do. So if we want to release a new song, we record a new song and release it ha.
[JP]: I must also mention Dreambound, and how grateful we are to have them by our side. Their support is unreal. Currently we enjoy the idea of staying DIY. I love the fact that everything we release is under our terms and our time. It’s more freeing to be able to work by our schedule at this point in time. With all the support from our fans world wide we’re also able to front stuff like merch, studio time, Which is a huge blessing and helps us get to work quicker!
[AW]: Wither Away formed only last year, but incredibly your music has already received nods from Alt Press, and UK magazine Kerrang! How does it feel to already have such a decent buzz, and to have your music receiving plays from all over the world? Hazel eyes is already over 100k views!
[JJ]: It’s pretty humbling. We did not expect this to transform into what it is today. We made music we love and ran with it. Truly blessed to have the support from listeners around the world.
[JP]: It was such an unreal feeling to get the response we did after releasing even Sentiment. I never thought starting this “fun” project with my best friend would turn into a what it has with 4 of my best friends. I can’t express how thankful I am to have all the support nationally and internationally that we have.
[AW]: What are your plans for the future? Anything else you’d like to add?
[JJ]: We will be playing some shows very soon, and we may have some new/revised content on the way. Stay tuned.