“I’ve been meaning to get it,” he says. “I’m just like, 'You know what? Fuck it. I don’t care. Kill me.' Like if you really think it’s some sort of, you know, GPS targeting or some bullshit the government is doing, it’s like whatever, dude. If it means I can go to shows, just do it. I don’t care.”
The journey from unvaxxed to vaxxed has been fraught with familial peril, as Johnston says he has “really right-wing parents” — who he’s quick to say he loves to death and appreciates deeply — who have been outspoken against the vaccine.
Or they were, anyway. His dad called the other day to say that he, too, went out and got his first shot.
“I’m like, ‘Dude, what? Okay, what the fuck, bro?’” Johnston recalls. “‘You're preaching this in my ear, and then you go out and get the vaccine?’ You know, I was like, 'I’m just fucking fed up with it. I’m going to go get it.'”
Johnston is quick to join in bemoaning the COVID pandemic and its terrible impact on musicians everywhere. His band was planning a tour last year that was canceled. On the bright side, they group stayed productive and is set to release its first full-length on September 10.
Staying in and playing guitar partially contributed to his vaccine foot-dragging. (It should be noted that Johnston isn't lazy, and he is the duly elected "band dad" who motivates his comrades to put their all into We Are William's success. He also works a full-time job and maintains a marriage — no easy task.)
“Part of the reason that I [hadn't] gotten [the vaccine] yet is because I’m playing guitar or working my ass off,” he says. “I don’t really come into contact with a lot of people, and I’m usually socially distancing and shit. For me, it just wasn’t a necessity right off the bat.”
The procrastination has cost Johnston attendance at at least one show, and he didn’t want to miss any more. He says that he couldn’t see his friends in Liontortoise play recently because he couldn’t provide proof of vaccination at the door or proof of a recent COVID test.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed with his bandmates.
“Trust me, they’ve been like, ‘Dude, fuck you doing? You’re fucking up. Get it,’” he says. “I’ve just been procrastinating like a motherfucker, so I finally made the appointment. I was like, ‘Just poke me.’ Whatever happens happens.”
Getting his shot was important, as We Are William has its own show coming up tonight, an album release for the band’s self-titled full-length debut. The venue requires proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test.
Most of the lyrics on the new record deal cover singer Sebastian Lawrence’s trials and tribulations during the past few years, including the loss of his father and his own personal issues, Johnston says. He adds that his bandmate often laments the fact that it’s easier to write about sad things than happy things.
“He feels so very strongly about his lyrics and writing through his emotions,” Johnston says. “It’s helping him understand things he can’t process in his mind. We let him have that creative role because he’s good at it, and it’s a good outlet to get these things out.”
The music on the record includes a mix of growling vocals and mournful singing coupled with dynamics that shift between soft, melodic, intense and ragey. He says it’s difficult to structure songs that go from one sonic extreme to the other.
“It’s very rewarding in the fact that it brings a whole new energy to some sections given what the lyrics mean, how we are trying to portray certain emotions in certain sections and the layered vocals,” he says. “My vocals and Sebastian’s vocals will go back and forth from clean to harsh, and that can add to the intensity as well."
Johnston says the band fits perhaps most easily in the progressive-metal genre and its subgroup djent, but he adds that his influences probably aren’t what most think of with regard to metal. He credits his eclectic taste to his wife, who turns him on to a variety of new tunes.
“I listen to like the fucking Smiths and sad-boy ’80s new wave,” he admits. “The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen. I listen to a lot of Depeche Mode. I’ve started getting into — I know it’s silly to say — but like MGMT and a lot of that electric stuff.”
Johnston, of course, loves metal and heavy music and can tell you a half-dozen or so bands that he’s found influential over the years that he listens to regularly and would love to tour with. The same goes for the rest of the bandmates, who all have a wide range of tastes. Nine times out of ten, they aren’t listening to metal in the van.
Johnston says the eclectic palette of music comes out in the songs.
“How can we write a really, really well-put-together composition that people can sing and hum?” he asks. “That’s a big thing for us. Is this palatable? Can people, when they hear these melodies, sing them when they're doing the dishes later?”
We Are William plays at 8 p.m., Friday, September 10, at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins. Tickets are available at the Aggie website. Proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours is required to enter the venue. We Are William’s full-length becomes available on all platforms the same day. For more information, visit We Are William online.