North Carolina Rockers, Hopesfall, shocked long-time fans who continue to spark their Hopesfall fix with classic albums such as ‘A Types’, and ‘The Satellite Years’ in 2018 with an unexpected yet well-received comeback with the release of their fifth studio album, ‘Arbiter’. I caught up with Guitarist, Josh Brigham, for an in-depth conversation about ‘Arbiter’ his challenging and impactful journey with chronic pain and choosing to be proactive with Foundation Training, less is more mentality, the world being full of amazing people and more.
Congrats on the recent release and success of ‘Arbiter’. Tell us about the creative and recording process this time around and what you learned along the way.
Honestly the process was the same as our other records. A bunch of us get in a room together and we play each other riffs that we’ve written individually and then we jam on them until the energy feels right. Sometimes we stumble across ideas and write music on the spot which may sound simple but it can be a painstaking process. I’d say for every 20 hours of passing ideas back and forth we’ll come up with about a minute of usable material. It’s all about capturing a vibe and everyone has to agree. Recording is the payoff for all the hard work that the writing process is. Getting to go to an awesome studio to work with talented engineers and a great producer is work, but it’s really fun work. Those guys help you bring to life a sound that’s only been playing in your head. You get to make it real, it’s exciting!
I’ve been listening to you guys faithfully ever since the ‘The Frailty of Words’. I can truly state with ease that I have listened to ‘The Satellite Years’ at least 100x in full. Tell us about your time away in Hopesfall and how it served to enhance your experience in the studio while creating ‘Arbiter’.
We thought Hopesfall was dead and buried. Everyone moved on with their lives. We got jobs, got married, bought houses you know; the grown up stuff that you have to do in your 30’s. I think the time away let us appreciate all the things that were good about Hopesfall. The bonds that you make when you write together and play together. It made us appreciate how special it is to get to create music. It made us more grateful for the opportunities that have recently presented themselves.
Showcasing the human in you, what is a challenging thought that you recently had and were able to overcome over time?
Chronic pain. I know you asked for a thought, so I’ll need to unpack that statement. Dealing with chronic pain is a battle of will as much as it is a physical sensation. I have a wrecked spine. Years of bad posture, living in a van, headbanging, combined poor self care routines left me with a severely ruptured disc between my C6-C7 vertebrae. This disc lodged itself inside the neural canal leading to my right arm. The result was a “dead limb” and an eventual surgery to install an artificial disk. When reviewing my MRI’s after the surgery, the neurologist told me that I had the spinal health equivalent to that of a 75 year old brick mason. My spine was massively degenerated. I would have to stop doing all the physical activities that I was involved in. Long distance running, mountain biking, etc. He told me I would need a fusion surgery in my Lumbar spine in the not too distant future, a surgery that could potentially cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and put me on my back for up to 6 months. Over the next 4 years, as I tried to go about my normal life, I began paying a heavy physical toll. Cortisone injections every 3 months, muscle relaxers, pain killers all with lessening degrees of effectiveness over time. My life became muted, the pain began to take away all the activities that I enjoyed. Chronic pain eventually robs you of your identity. You become a shell of your former self. Pain turns into fear. Fear takes away hope. Essentially I was a person living in a headspace that was completely dominated by avoiding pain. That’s not living.
Eventually I found “Foundation Training” which is a practice, a series of corrective exercises designed by a doctor who avoided surgery and had gotten himself out of chronic pain, that turned my situation around. But finding the will to embrace a new technique, to put the effort into healing your own body when everyone in the established medical field is telling you to take more pills, to have a surgery, that there is no way out; that’s a mountain to climb. Choosing to move threw pain and fear was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
What is your perception on the digital world that we live in and social media culture?
It is what it is. I try not to judge it. The world is changing rapidly around us and I just try to keep adapting to it. Whether I think social media is right or wrong, good or bad, is of no consequence. Social media just IS, and it’s not going away, so how can I use it to help me? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself.
No career path or amount of followers negates the fact that you are a human being that has feelings. Tell us about some parts of you beyond being a musician that you take pride in.
I alluded to this earlier when talking about my degenerated spine and living with chronic pain. Besides meeting my wife, finding Foundation Training, finding a practice that empowered me with the knowledge to fix myself is the most important thing I’ve ever done. I was recently certified in FT and look forward to sharing this work with others who are suffering from chronic pain.
As you are exposed to tons of stimulus, how do you proactively take care of your mental and emotional health when you’re out on the road?
Nowadays, less is more. We don’t play out nearly as much as we used to. On our most recent adventure, which was only 3 shows in 2018, I just tried to stay in the moment and enjoy what was going on around me. Getting to share the music you make with your fans was something I took for granted before. This time, I just focused on the here and now. Back in the day, I would escape into books. I would just read and when it was my turn to drive, I would just listen to my favorite bands. I wouldn’t say I was operating at a high level of emotional stability back then, books and music were my outlet.
You have toured with a wide variety of musicians over the past years and have played at some major festivals. Tell us some words of wisdom that you collected along the way.
The world is filled with amazing people and amazing places. Try to see as much of it as possible!!