Q&A with Jinji Thompson of the Skyline Surrender

With the recent release of its sophomore EP, This is Character, Denver metalcore group the Skyline Surrender is starting to gain ground in the local scene--although it hasn't been an easy victory. The original quintet of singer Josh Viles, bassist Jinji Thompson, drummer Ben Scarbro, and guitarists Justin Williams and Jake Parsons went through major upheaval over the past few months, with newcomers Anthony Archuleta and Ryan Simms replacing Viles and Parsons, respectively. With almost an entirely new front end, the band has hit the road and cultivated a solid following among kids weary of glamour and gimmickry--and more interested in earnest, soaring, brutally melodic metal. Still surfing on the energy of Character's release, and with a show at the hi-dive on Saturday, Thompson spoke with Westword about the group's journey so far.

Westword (Jason Heller): You've had two huge lineup changes in the past year. How has that affected the band?

Jinji Thompson: The first change we had was our singer. He wasn't really feeling the whole band thing, and he was getting less and less reliable. He wanted to go back to school and do other stuff, so we all said okay. He still hangs out and comes to all the shows. Then we found Ben, who's an even better screamer, and that just upped things even more. The second change was this last summer; we went on tour, and our guitar player kind of got on everybody's nerves. He was already the guy in the band who didn't really do anything, so we talked to him, and it was kind of mutually decided that he leave the group. Now we've found another guitar player, and he really adds a lot to the group. We're a lot better now as a whole.

WW: How so?

JT: The stuff we're writing now is a lot more original and musical. Justin and Ryan write real well together, and Anthony really has a stage presence and this unique sound to his voice.

WW: The title of the new CD, This is Character, sounds like a statement of intent. What are you trying to say with that title?

JT: We weren't exactly trying to make a statement or anything like that. But we do think it labels the CD really well, because we don't think there are many other bands who have played this kind of metal before. We've been through a lot, and here we are. [Laughs.]

WW: What exactly have you been through?

JT: The lineup changes. Financial struggles. Going on tour requires a lot; you have to get the bus and the merch together, and all of us have to take time off of whatever day jobs we're doing right now. We've gone through different booking agents that haven't worked out. We haven't quite found our break yet. There's just been a lot of drama. [Laughs.] We always say we're the cursed band of Denver. Being on tour and having this CD out, though, I think people are starting to look up at us instead of looking down on us.

WW: Looking down in what way?

JT: Not in any kind of personal way. I don't think people hated us or hated our music when we started out. It was more like, "Oh, they're just a young band that doesn't pull any kids." We were definitely working on getting tighter as a band. Everyone just assumed we were more of a garage-band kind of thing. Now that we've grown, all those bands that were looking down on us are kind of eye-to-eye with us. You don't get a lot of respect when you start out, but once you start writing better music and drawing kids, everyone wants to be your best friend.

WW: The band has stated that it's not that into gimmicks. Do you think being a more straightforward band made it harder to get noticed?

JT: We've just grown out of that gimmick phase. When we started out, we thought it was real cool to use low-end bass drops and to sample clips all the time. Now we use those thing, but we use them in a more subtle way, if we use them at all. We're getting way more into the actual performance of the show. I guess we still use some gimmicks every now and again, but we try to make them more meaningful and melodic and powerful.