INTERVIEW: Ryan Kirby of Fit For a King on confronting darkness

FFAKresize Fit For A King

With over a decade of making music, Texas-based metalcore band Fit for a King had one of  their most successful album releases in September of 2018 with Dark Skies. The single “The Price of Agony” alone has over 5 million streams on Spotify. This album is also the band’s heaviest yet, not just with the aggressive guitars that Fit For a King are known for, but also the incredibly intense and personal themes such as depression, anxiety, politics, and religion. Wanting to build upon that success, FFAK hit the road with metal giants Devil Wears Prada a couple of months ago and are currently taking part in the “Dangerous Tour” with August Burns Red and Miss May I. We caught up with lead singer Ryan Kirby on the New Orleans stop of the tour at the House of Blues to discuss Dark Skies, faith and finding light at the end of the tunnel.

SUBSTREAM: Can you tell me how Dark Skies differs or compares to Fit For a King’s past albums?

This album deals a lot more with internal struggles while a lot of things on past records were external, like stories of other people or stories about the events in our lives or things we’ve been through. This [album] deals with anxiety, depression and the overall dealing with death; not just in day-to-day life but internally how you deal with it.

When going in a different direction with your sound or lyrics, do you ever worry how the fans will receive that change?

I would say when we put out our first records I was way more stressed out because it was kind of the first time that a bunch of people were going to be judging what I was writing. I think the biggest thing is fans opening up and sharing their stories with me. It almost became therapeutic writing lyrics because it was my way of getting all of that off my chest and in return, hearing what other people had to get off their chest was really encouraging to me.

Were there any creative differences within the band when writing this album?

I would say this album was the most cohesive in that we all agreed on the direction. On past records we definitely had some kinks on where we wanted things to go. I would say on this record we were all pretty much on the same page which is why I think it turned out to be, in my opinion, our best record front to back.

Let’s dive into some of the songs off the album. On the song “Tower of Pain”, the lyric “Hell shouldn’t draw me closer to Heaven, death shouldn’t pull me closer to faith” really stood out to me. What does that lyric mean to you?

I had realized growing up a lot of my obedience and trying to live like Jesus was based on being terrified of Hell and being terrified of God punishing me. The whole Bible talks about God being love but my whole relationship was based on being scared. If it was any other relationship, whether it’s with our boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, we would call that a toxic relationship.The lyric  “I will climb the tower of pain” is life and just dealing with life and having a relationship based on love, which may be difficult and challenging but its a lot healthier than a relationship of being terrified all of the time. I think that’s what pushes a lot of people away from faith because they hear more about Hell than they do about love.

Your song “Shattered Glass” speaks about depression, specifically the lyric “can’t find the cure for something no one can see”. Can you talk about what kind of headspace you were in when you wrote that?

I have never experienced depression myself and I’ve talked to hundreds of fans that have been depressed or are currently depressed and it’s really sad. They are like “people just don’t get it” and unless you’ve been depressed, you’ll never understand. So not ever having it and fully understanding it, you can’t find a solution. So the song was my attempt to try to put into words and summarize what they all feel in a way that people who aren’t depressed, can understand. If you can attempt to understand [depression] you can be so much more helpful to people around you that are feeling down. I have awful social anxiety and the band has really pulled me out of that. My first shows when I was 14 or 15 years old, I couldn’t even look at the crowd. With my experience from anxiety, it came from me deciding that I’m just going try every day and I might fail, but as long as I tried every day, it got easier and easier.

What would you like your listeners to take away from the Dark Skies album?

I think confronting darkness and not just dwelling in it and accepting that it’s there. There is light at the end of the tunnel but some people are just way further back than others.

What’s next for Fit For a King?

A lot of touring in Europe. We are touring with Emmure in April and we have an even bigger tour later in the year that I can’t really talk about. I’ve probably already said too much. [laughs] And we are hoping to do our first real headliner tour at the end of the year.

If there is one message you could put out in the universe, what would it be?

For me its “take nothing for granted”. I used to take a bunch of stuff for granted. I’ve had a great life and I would complain about little things as dumb as if they messed your order up at a restaurant. Now after traveling to places like South Africa and seeing people live in real poverty, I think “wow, I was really dumb to complain about almost everything in my life.”