Time encourages growth. It allows for bonds to strengthen, visions to clarify, and statements to be made.
Since their emergence in 2015, Saint Asonia quietly positioned themselves to progress and push hard rock forward in the process. Founded by Adam Gontier [vocals, guitar] and Mike Mushok [lead guitar], the band pivoted from the multiplatinum chart-dominating success of the two musicians’ histories in Three Days Grace and Staind, respectively, and stormed new territory on their self-titled full-length debut, Saint Asonia. Upheld by an unshakable foundation of off-kilter grooves, pummeling guitars, scorching solos, and searing songcraft, Loudwire christened them, “Best New Artist,” at the Loudwire Music Awards as their rise would be covered by Alternative Press, AXS, Tattoo, and more. Within a few years, total streams crossed the 50 million-mark with “Better Place” and “Let Me Live My Life” both cracking 10 million on Spotify. After making their debut at a surprise, unannounced performance at Rock on The Range in 2015 before a sold-out audience, they toured with everyone from Seether, Breaking Benjamin and Disturbed to Mötley Crue and Alter Bridge in addition to making appearances at Welcome To Rockville, Fort Rock, and beyond.
With release of Flawed Design, their debut for Spinefarm Records, Saint Asonia fully realize the scope of their ambition.
“I like records that take you on a journey, so it’s not the same thing over and over again,” explains Mike. “Now, there’s a broader spectrum for us musically. We love the first record, and we really enjoyed making it. However, the second album is the next step of where we needed to go as a band. I’m happy to play with really talented musicians I respect. Everything is in a good place.”
“It’s a natural evolution for us,” adds Adam. “We’ve been working on these songs for so many years and have added different elements to them. It’s bigger and more epic in a way. This is definitely a step up.”
Returning home from the road in 2017, Mike and Adam both enjoyed a well-earned reprieve. The guitarist took advantage of “the longest break in his career and focused on being a husband and father and spending time at home.”
Meanwhile, the frontman became a dad for the first time as his entire world changed.
“I’ve got a different perspective on life in general,” he elaborates. “My view has changed; it definitely comes through in the music. Of course, it’s still heavy, but there are cool, new elements and a lot of hopeful positive songs. I also address some ongoing battles with personal demons and trials. That stuff will always be there.”
Additionally, Saint Asonia welcomed two longtime collaborators into the fold. Adam’s cousin and Art of Dying bassist Cale Gontier joined alongside Staind drummer Sal Giancarelli. With the lineup solidified, they entered a practice room in Massachusetts during January 2019 and got to work.
“Cale and I have played music as a team forever,” says Adam. “We’re basically brothers. We grew up together and jammed as far back as I can remember. We were five-years-old banging on guitars and drums, so it’s a really special moment to be on the record together and bring that out to the public. Sal killed it too. We’ve got an amazing group of guys.”
Together, they hit the studio with producer Brian Sperber, who previously had worked on Staind’s seminal platinum #1 album, Chapter V. Additionally, they welcomed an all-star cast of co-writers into the process, including Dustin Bates of Starset, Stevie Aiello of Thirty Seconds To Mars, and Keith Wallen of Breaking Benjamin to expand the sound.
They introduce the latest chapter with the single “The Hunted” [feat. Sully Erna]. Co-written alongside the Godsmack frontman along with producers Johnny K [Disturbed] and Brian Sperber, the track hinges on guttural guitar punctuated by harmonic squeals before descending into a trudging beat. Adam and Sully lock into a hypnotic and hard-hitting harmony, uniting these two dynamic rock forces on one anthem as they declare, “Now I’m the hunted.”
“For me, it’s a symbolic song about feeling alone,” Adam remarks. “It’s as if you’re always trying to do things for others and can’t get out of this situation. It’s like you’re trapped and being hunted.”
“‘The Hunted’ basically led to the start of Saint Asonia,” Mike reveals. “I was initially going to do a solo record with different vocalists. I was a fan of Three Days Grace and wanted to collaborate with Adam. I also hoped to do a song with Sully since Godsmack and Staind actually played together before either of us were signed back in Massachusetts during the late nineties. I was kicking around the song with Johnny K, and Sully sang on it first. Adam added his parts after we got Saint Asonia up and running. It really brings everything full circle on the second record.”
A co-write with Bates and Wallen, “Ghost” haunts with its stirring keys, orchestral electronics, and towering hook.
About the song, Adam reveals, “It’s about two things that I have become much more aware of and in tune with as my life continues to change and I get a little older. It’s a song that touches on losing a loved one, and it’s a song about the constant struggle with addiction. I’ve learned a lot about both of these things. One thing I know is addiction is a never-ending battle. No matter how strong I feel and no matter how amazing things get in life, addiction is never far behind, waiting for me to slip and waiting for me to convince myself I don’t have a problem. The ‘Ghost’ is the addiction. It will always be there watching and waiting for me to fall. It may be my favorite song on this record.”
Meanwhile, he pays homage to deceased icons on the heartfelt “The Fallen.”
“It’s my tribute to the three of the most influential artists of my career: Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell, and Gord Downie,” continues Adam. “It’s a song that asks why we seem to lose important people in our lives at certain times. I had a lot of built up frustration and anger after they passed way, and I put it all into this song. I hope Gord, Chris, and Chester would be proud of it.”
Flawed Design sees Saint Asonia reach an emotional artwork over a symphony of distortion and nimble fretwork, perhaps no more evident than on “This August Day,” which reaches an emotional peak with Adam revealing the most intimate narrative of the album.
“Two years ago this August, I went through the single most trying time of my life,” he admits. “I had gone to a very, very dark place, and, to be honest, I didn’t know if I would make it back. Not only me, but people who know me and love me didn’t know if I’d ever be back. After a long and very difficult relapse with alcohol and substance abuse, and with the help of some very close family and loving friends, I found myself at a treatment center in Nashville, TN. Not only that, but I found myself in an emergency room, hanging onto life by a thread. At that exact moment, on the other side of the continent, my life was changing in the best possible way. My son was being born. Not being physically present the day my son came into this world is something I will look back on and regret for the rest of my life. Albeit, I didn’t have a choice. For me, to be the father, the son, the brother, the husband, and the person I want to be, I had to go through that darkness, to finally live in the light. ‘This August Day’ is about all of that. It’s about that one day in August that completely changed me. Forever.”
Now, Saint Asonia level up again on Flawed Design.
“We’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this one over the past few years—more so than I can remember,” Adam leaves off. “When you’re done with the record, you should feel like you went on a trip. I’m really proud of it. I think these are close to, if not, the best songs I’ve written to date in my career.”
“As with any record, I hope you want to listen to it again,” Mike concludes. “We’ve got a passionate group of fans who have stuck with us through so much. It’s important to deliver something for them. That’s what we tried to do.”