It’s a cold night in January, just a few days after the world welcomed in 2016. It’s the start to another year for vocalist Tyler Kasch (formerly Konersman) and his St. Louis-based metalcore band Tear Out The Heart. While some people might have the cliché “new year, new me” mentality it’s absolutely true for the vocalist.
“This is what this band should’ve been sounding like and should’ve been about since day one,” Kasch says during a phone call from his hometown of St. Louis.
When the band released their debut full-length, Violence, in 2013 on Victory Records, everything seemed like it was going right for the band.
“Everyone in the band had a smile on their face. It was a fun record. Even though it was a fun record, it was aggressive and a well-rounded and better record,” Kasch says comparing the band’s first album to their second.
After touring and promoting the album throughout the next year, it was time to start getting ready to release a second full-length, which ultimately became known as Dead, Everywhere. But that process came with heavy pressure from deadlines and the need to live up to the previous album.
Kasch said the pressure was unhealthy for everyone in different ways. The vocalist said there was even stress about his weight and living/health habits.
“I went and started reading up on dieting and eating healthier,” Kasch says. “I didn’t know that would come into play in helping [my wife] Jess, because at that point we didn’t have any idea of her health situation.”
Kasch was hit with some news that would change his life forever. He had been in a relationship with Jessica Sides for three years prior to August 2014—the month they both found out she had a cancerous brain tumor behind her right eye.
Jessica went to an eye doctor, who dilated her pupils and found there was pressure coming from inside of her head. She then went to the hospital for MRIs and CAT scans. Doctors then confirmed she had a golf ball-sized tumor behind her right eye.
“It all went by really fast,” Kasch remembers. “Honestly, the whole time we didn’t have any idea of the severity of it, I guess. We didn’t for a second think it could have been cancerous, or anything deeper.”
The devastating news meant Tear Out The Heart had to be put on the backburner. The release date for Dead, Everywhere had to be pushed back while he focused on Jessica’s health.
Before the couple or their families knew the tumor was cancerous, Kasch wasn’t getting along with anyone in the band. Despite lifelong friendships, everyone in the band was angry at each other.
“I told them that my heart and focus was on Jessica,” Kasch says. “We had a few shows we had to cancel and the record got halted and got numerous release dates pushed back. It ultimately led to the album leaking early because it was such a clusterfuck.”
Jessica’s surgery to have the tumor removed ended up being about 10 hours, which Kasch says was a “massive surgery, and a crazy day.”
“I was pretty much living at the hospital and just waiting for her to recover and to go back to our regular lives,” Kasch says.
The vocalist said he still played a few shows during that time, but it was difficult to play those sets.
“Even just leaving for 12 or 14 hours to go up to Chicago to play a show, even that was tearing me away,” Kasch says. “I really couldn’t put my all into it because I had my own shit going on.”
Kasch and Jessica had to rethink and re-evaluate everything in their lives, which started with changing up their diets.
“He never left my side the entire time I was in the hospital,” Jessica says after Kasch hands over the phone. “We had to fight with nurses to get him to be able to sleep in the same room. He was so great.”
Jessica says after her third surgery while in the hospital, the vocalist would leave to cook organic food at home for her because she couldn’t eat the hospital’s food. But, believe it or not, she said the two were a “train wreck” before the cancerous tumor, which included many fights.
“I would constantly pick fights all of the time and I would be the one to start everything. Now I get why I did that,” Jessica says. “I talked to doctors and they said it was because the tumor in my head, and since it was cancerous it caused all different types of things and all of the pressure and the headaches.”
Jessica says she is afraid of the future, but her doctors seem confident. Sometimes she will go through depression and wonder if she will be alive in the next five years. Every three months she goes to get an MRI to see if the cancer is coming back.
“It’s a struggle,” Jessica says. “Right now, I’m confident, and Tyler keeps me confident, no matter what.”
Dead, Everywhere was finally released in January 2015, and Tear Out The Heart hit the road for touring. Kasch felt as if the band was just not giving its all during the sets on the tour, and knowing he had left his sick then-girlfriend at home only contributed to his lack of energy.
“I was still willing to climb into a van and eat McDonald’s value meals three times a day and willing to put that effort in, even with a record I didn’t believe in at the time.” Kasch says. “It’s unfortunate to say that, but we knew some things had to change, and I feel like going through all of the bullshit that me and [Jessica] went through—it changed us as human beings.”
The tour ended and in the second half of 2015, guitarist Matthieu Murphy and bassist Isaac Etter decided to leave the band. But Kasch doesn’t feel like the band is faced with defeat. In fact, it’s the strongest he feels the band has ever been.
“If anything, he is so much more ambitious now,” Jessica says about the musical growth of her husband. “He’s changed for the better. He used to be a very angry person, and I think I might have brought that out in him before and then when [the news of the cancerous tumor] hit, it hit both of us really hard. We were like, ‘Whoa, this shit does not happen to people like us.’ Tyler is all about the soul of music, he has grown so much.”
Kasch refers to Dead, Everywhere as a step back in the band’s career, even though there are still elements he is proud of. However, the new material, which he hopes to have out by summer, is heavier, more driven and well thought-out, something the vocalist says is “this is growing up.”
At this point in Kasch’s life, his wife is healthy and Tear Out The Heart is writing material for another full-length. Even more so, Kasch is older now, and wiser. There isn’t anything the world can do to prevent him from making music.
“The music itself to me is starting out to be more passionate and more this is what we have to prove and not like, ‘Oh, we have to prove ourselves in the face of the industry and get this person to think we’re cool,’” Kasch says. “I don’t think we’ve done a record that will define us as a band to where we can look back and be like, ‘That was our absolute best record.’ I 100 percent, full-on believe that’s what’s about to happen.” S