Just Exist: Reflections’ never-ending struggle to survive

photo: Tyler Andrew

If there was ever a time when Jake Wolf felt a sense of accomplishment throughout his life, the time is right now.

“It was always my greatest fear/Everyone I love would disappear/Just like the color clear…”

After Wolf penned the above lyric during the writing of his metalcore band Reflections’ third album The Color Clear, something made him realize he could make a statement.

“It’s like the feeling you know you’re there,” begins the frontman regarding the album’s title. “You know you’re a part of everything and know you’re around other people. You know that you, as a person, are alive but you’re not actually there. All of the things around you that you take for granted. It’s just letting yourself kind of go away. It means so many different things it’s just something that’s there that people don’t see, something that gets overlooked. It’s about being hollow and about being empty and is about losing everything.”

Through the many hardships Wolf has went through in his life, he certainly has ghosts from his past that make it clear he really did lose everything. The difficult years leading to the release of The Color Clear begins during the time of Reflections’ second album Exi(s)t while touring. About a week before leaving for tour, the house Wolf was living in caught fire. His best friend couldn’t make it out of the house in time, and died as a result.

“Seeing someone that you are so used to seeing everyday just laying on the ground in front of you is really surreal,” he says. “We stayed in a hotel for a week, just sitting in our hotel room waiting for tour to leave. [Then we went on] tour and it was really rough for me.”

Around the same time as the house fire, Wolf had already been going through issues with his bandmates, guitarist Charles Caswell and drummer Cam Murray. He says there was always tension between himself and the two other musicians. Murray decided to leave the band during the tour, which the singer said made Caswell upset. When Wolf made a remark that was not intentionally directed at Caswell during a show later in the tour, the issue became worse.

“We were playing a show and I commented between one of our songs, ‘I realized something today, that you have to be careful who you consider a real friend,’ and he took that personally without me directing that toward him,” says Wolf. “After that show, I left the venue right away. I was so overwhelmed with what was going on after the fire.”

He ended up at an old train bridge where he sat for an hour-and-a-half by himself. After finally making it back to the venue, he saw Caswell was extremely upset; for the rest of the tour, Wolf was forced to ride with a separate band to each show. After the tour and finally making it back home, guitarist Patrick Somoulay and Wolf unloaded their gear while Caswell drove off. That was the last time Wolf ever saw him.

But even before Exi(s)t was released, Wolf had personal struggles he was dealing with as well. Growing up, he went through an abusive childhood, became a drug addict and went through an abusive relationship. He was homeless for close to a year until he finally got a job working in demolition and was able to afford to live in a house in Golden Valley, Minnesota. But it was in that house where he had to be hospitalized after the person he was dating at the time severely severed an artery in his arm after throwing a broken cymbal at him. (It was a 16-inch China cymbal, details Wolf will never forget.) Before he went to the hospital, he bled for three straight days, and still allowed his girlfriend to stay with him in the house.

“I was sleeping with her in my arm that wasn’t cut and the next morning we were in a puddle of my own blood and I was like, ‘You have to go. I can’t do this,’” he recalls.

After Wolf returned from the hospital, where his heart briefly stopped beating from so much loss of blood, he allowed the same woman to continue abusing him for the next three years.

“I thought it was okay because that’s what my dad used to do,” the vocalist says. “I just wanted to fix everything. She made it seem like she could fix everything for me and I gave it a shot and it was worse than ever. That’s when more lyrics came out, and it was just a very trying time because the older you get and the more you try to get something through to someone and it just doesn’t happen, you feel defeated and just want to go home.”

He started doing LSD, more so as a therapeutic treatment than for recreational use, and material started to come out. Reflections had a few songs written with Caswell before he left the band, but Wolf decided to trash the material and start completely over.

“This record was our chance to start over,” he explains. “This is our chance to restart and try to come off as a different band with a different message and have some meaning to people. We wanted so badly to be looked at in a different way. We wanted to be a band that could help people. For me music helps me not hurt myself. That’s what we have to do. We have to help people not feel like this.”

Aside from everything Wolf has had to deal with throughout his life, The Color Clear is finally something toward the light. Reflections is finally at a stage in their career where each person is comfortable being in the band.

“The things that I express with this album are things I struggle with everyday,” Wolf admits. “You’ll always have time throughout the day where you’re distracting yourself. That’s when things are tough. I understand people have that feeling too. Those feelings don’t ever go away, and all you can do is find new things and doing new things in the hope that one of those things may fix the problem and will give you that sense of belonging and that sense of purpose. The person I used to be was the really messed up drug addict that took out all of my childhood aggressions on other people and on myself because I didn’t understand why I had to go through those things and watch other people not go through them. I see that person every time I see myself. I have to try to know the person I am on the outside doesn’t really have anything to do with who I can be.” S

A version of this piece was published in Substream #49.