AN NRT EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
Flyleaf Cries Out "Memento Mori"
Lacey Mosley of Flyleaf speaks with NRT Senior Editor Angel about the group's new album, Memento Mori, and how we can fulfill our purpose in life.
 


A focused fire burns bright at the heart of Flyleaf's second full-length album, Memento Mori. The platinum-selling Texas quintet's latest offering is a collection of poignant, passionate and pensive hard rock songs. From the kinetic first single, "Again," to the touching album closer, "Arise," guitarists Sameer Bhattacharya and Jared Hartman trade orchestral riffs that seesaw from soaring to searing. Drummer James Culpepper smoothly propels every groove forward, while Pat Seals' bass anchors unforgettable hooks. Gliding across this majestic melodic backdrop, Lacey’s vocals build into beauty from pain. Her voice reaches transcendent heights on songs like "Set Apart This Dream" and "Missing.”

Flyleaf began composing the songs for Memento Mori as they toured the world on the 2006 and 2007 installments of the Family Values Tour and on a European trek with Korn. Sharing the stage with the likes of Stone Sour, Deftones and Evanescence, Flyleaf captivated fans everywhere as their self-titled debut continued to ascend the charts. Singles such as "I'm So Sick," "Fully Alive," and the RIAA gold smash "All Around Me" pulled audiences in, and Flyleaf reached RIAA platinum heights while the band toured endlessly. The album spent 133 weeks on the Billboard 200 while staking claims in the top 5 of the Billboard Hard Rock Albums chart and the top 15 of the Billboard Rock Albums and Alternative Albums charts.

In October 2008, the band entered a Los Angeles studio with producer Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Papa Roach, All-American Rejects) to record the follow-up to their self-titled debut. The band's early success seems poised to continue as Momento Mori recently debuted at No. 8 on The Billboard 200, selling 56,400 copies in its first week of release.

NewReleaseTuesday.com's Senior Editor, Angel, recently spoke with lead singer Lacey Mosley about Memento Mori, the intricate artwork that surrounds the new release and how the hope that Lacey has found can fulfill a greater purpose in all of our lives.

Hi, Lacey. Welcome to NewReleaseTuesday.com. We're so glad you could join us to talk about Flyleaf’s sophomore project, Memento Mori. What an intriguing album title! Can you explain the meaning behind Memento Mori?

Sure! In ancient Rome, when a Roman general or King would come back victorious from battle, the whole kingdom would celebrate and throw him a parade. As they sang praises to welcome him home, a slave travelling behind him shouted, “Memento mori!” which is a Latin phrase meaning “Remember that you’re mortal; remember you will die.” In other words, the slave was saying to him that we ultimately share the same fate. At this moment, you are on top, but tomorrow is another day and our positions can be reversed. So “Memento mori” really was an amazing phrase to find, and it just sums up what we’ve learned over the past 7 years of being together.


How did you find the phrase, “Memento mori”?

My husband, who was an art major in college, had shown me an amazing painting called Memento Mori, and that’s when I first became aware of the phrase.

As one of the songwriters in the band, were there any personal experiences you drew from when writing for the new album?

Because of the way I’m wired, I can’t perform unless I’m singing honestly. I have to draw from my own personal experiences in order to get the songs to be conveyed honestly, otherwise I feel like I’m betraying myself. When we were on the Family Values Tour with Korn, I was sitting outside of our tour bus while I wrote the lyrics to “Again.” The premise of the song has to do with the weight that we carry from our fans. Our fans seem to go through a lot. The problems they’re dealing with are very deep and way too difficult for any teenager to experience. They’re so deep that whenever I interact with our fans, I can feel that weight. Whether I’m singing to them, reading their letters or posts on the Internet, talking to them when I’m signing their CD or giving them a hug, I can feel that. I want to cry with them when they’re hurting and get excited when they talk about how they overcame a difficult challenge. It’s as if I’m walking with them and carrying their weight. At the same time, I have to release those burdens and let it go because I have to keep on going. Of course, I'm just like everyone else, with the weight that I carry in my own life and the personal struggles that I have to deal with.

The lyrics say: “Here you are down on your knees again/Trying to find air to breathe again/Only surrender will help you now/ I love you please see and believe again.” When I wrote that, I wanted to encourage people and let them know that God loves us, and no matter what we’re going through, He will give us hope.

How did you come up with the concept for the video, “Again"?

Our guitarist, Sameer, is a very big Radiohead fan who loves cinematography and has a lot of creative ideas to offer. He worked very closely with our director to come up with the concept and even drew some of his inspiration from the Radiohead video, “Like Spinning Plates.” Sameer explained the style and energy he wanted to see, and the video came out phenomenally!


The imagery throughout the video is absolutely stunning! I noticed at the end of the video someone is etching a heart onto a skull. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Our bass player, Pat, was doing that. He’s an amazing artist whose primary focus is creating woodcuts. Whenever he’s not playing music or watching a movie, you can find him making a woodcut. If you’re not familiar with woodcuts, it’s a technique where an artist creates a stamp by cutting out a piece of wood, which is then used to print on different kinds of fabrics or materials. In the video, as we’re performing on stage, Pat’s artwork appears whenever the background lights up. So when you see the mountains, clouds and images that represent the wind, most of which was set on fire behind us, that’s Pat’s artwork. Then, at the very end of the video you can see Pat doing a woodcut. In fact, Pat’s artwork is also featured in our other video, “Beautiful Bride.”


Would you explain what the imagery on your album cover represents?

When this whole thing started, everything was centered on the art. Initially, when we went to the label to present our ideas for the album cover, we had Pat illustrate what the phrase, “Memento mori,” meant with a woodcut. The original illustration depicts a parade with a slave, who is shouting, “Memento mori!” behind the king, as well as an army and the band members. Pat made me represent the slave and portrayed the rest of the guys in the band as other characters. The illustration also has an image of a dark battlefield with skeletons and a background that goes from dark to light. We specifically wanted that design to be on our album packaging. So when we went to the label to present our ideas, they began to figure out how to incorporate photographs with woodcuts, and we ended up with the imagery you see on our album cover. It still includes a parade, I still portray the slave who is shouting, “Memento mori!” and the king’s crown and the design on his jacket are actually woodcuts. As we do different art projects, we’ll probably add more elements and explain a little more about the theme, but the imagery on our album cover really defines what the phrase, “Memento mori,” means.

What message do you want people to come away with when they listen to Memento Mori?

There’s a song on the album, called “Arise,” which sums up the message we want people to walk away with. We want them to come away feeling empowered to arise and be all that they were meant to be, so that they can ultimately fulfill their purpose. The lyrics say, “Arise and be all that you dream”—but I believe most people have a purpose for their lives that far exceeds any dream they could ever have. Even on our self-titled record it says that our lives should exceed all that we can dream, and that’s how I feel when I’m singing “Arise.” I believe there’s a purpose for your life that only you were meant to fulfill. So our prayer, for anyone who listens to the message on the record, is that they would fulfill their purpose and answer the highest calling for their lives.

What Scripture has played an instrumental role in defining your music? [A question submitted by jtdeadeye25 at the NRT forums.]

Isaiah 61:1 says: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor,” and that one Scripture has been the inspiration behind our music. God has written His Word on our hearts. He’s anointed us, just as Christ lives in us, to bring good news to the poor, and that’s why we go out and do what we do. In fact, it wasn’t until after someone once told us the good news that we got saved. So now the purpose of our lives is to go out and share the good news of God’s love with others.

Speaking of faith, I understand that throughout much of your youth, you were once an outspoken atheist who also experimented with drugs, and at one point you even contemplated suicide. Would you explain how you went from being an atheist to embracing Christ?


I had to see for myself. I really admire people who have been able to put their faith in God right from the very beginning. Back then, I just wasn’t able to believe in anything I couldn’t see with my eyes or figure out in my mind. Whenever I was in a situation where people couldn’t offer any evidence to back up their faith, I’d immediately call it out. I was kind of a loud-mouthed atheist who thought she knew it all. [Laughter.] I’d end up saying things like: “Do you believe in God? Then, where was God when my 3-year-old cousin was beaten to death by his step-father?” People would go, “I don’t know?” Then I’d say: “Do you believe God loves us? If God loves us, then why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? Where is He?” My behavior was hateful, in some sense—but I was searching for the truth. I only wish I could have known sooner that there really is a loving God who intervenes in people’s lives; I just never saw that.

God was so gracious and patient with me, even though I went my own way. As I headed down a path of self-destruction, I became very depressed and disillusioned with life—so much so that I reached a point where I no longer wanted to live. Sadly enough, I was only 16 years old when I made the decision to commit suicide—I had it all planned out. In fact, I literally would have died if God hadn’t intervened in my life! And the issues I was struggling with were very deep. I didn’t have any hope in the world, and I didn’t have any hope in humanity. Everyone I knew had let me down – no matter how good their intentions were! But now I know that it’s not their fault, they’re only human. [Laughter.] Human relationships will only satisfy us to a certain extent. Sooner or later, we’ll start to feel an empty place deep within our souls— because the only one who can truly fill the void in our hearts is God. He’s purposely created us that way, so that we’ll always keep searching for Him.

I had often thought about committing suicide, but on the day I decided to carry out my plan, my grandmother forced me to go to church. And even though I had been dragged to this church before, I never really paid attention to what anyone said. I didn’t even know anyone there. But this service was different. This time the pastor, whom I had never met, started to tell my life’s story. As he approached the end of his sermon he paused, and while tears filled his eyes, he said, “There’s a suicidal spirit in the room.” The moment he said that, every hair on my arms stood up, and I thought, This is weird! I’ve got to get out of here. He went on to say: “Please come up and let us pray for you. God wants you to know that He loves you! He’s created you for a purpose, and He has something far greater for your life.”

That’s when I came to the realization that God really does exist, and not only is He here alongside me, but He also cares so much about my life that He’s going to intervene to prove to me that He’s real and that He loves me very much.


Did you make a decision to follow Jesus at that time?

I really didn’t make a decision to follow Jesus that night in church, but it started in that moment. At that point I knew God was real, and if it was Jesus, I wanted to find out for myself. So I started to study the Bible, and miracle after miracle kept occurring, which proved to me He is real. Although I was once an atheist, I’ve discovered that [coming to faith in Christ] is a supernatural thing you have to experience for yourself—and I really have experienced it for myself!

Lacey, thank you for sharing your amazing story of redemption. Your testimony really struck a chord in my heart and reminded me of what David wrote in Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” Before we go, do you have any words of encouragement you would like to offer to someone who is in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation and feels like there’s no way out?

Every day that you’re alive you have an opportunity to fulfill your purpose, so don’t ever stop searching. Don’t give up hope! I’m talking to you from my heart and telling you what I believe and what I know to be true. You should cry out to Jesus because He draws near to the broken-hearted, and He will answer you.

Angel, a concert photographer and writer, frequently conducts artist interviews for NRT. She loves Christian music and currently lives in FL with her husband.

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