In Falling Through April’s 2021 single “Paralyzed,” Mikaela Salazar’s impassioned vocals depict a tipping point, the moment you realize that you’re trapped in a toxic cul-de-sac and only you can change it:
“Tell me why should I believe in you/ When every kiss leaves an open wound/ I’m not waiting up all night/ Happier than ever out of sight out of mind/ I don’t want to hear it/ I don’t want to talk about it…”
The accompanying guitars by Jim Siani and Dan Candia are elastic and sinuous, looming like a dark thunderhead, before striking cobra-like with blinding force. A slippery grinding bassline skirts Salazar’s melody and Jerome King’s pummeling drums, undergirding the song with an elastic chainsaw roar.
Shunning rock conventions, Salazar eschews delivering her kiss-off/declaration of agency with a piecing scream, rather she drives the point home with a soaring, heartfelt croon.
The result is powerful, melodic and relatable rock, tuneful as a pop gem, harder than a diamond.
“Paralyzed” is arguably Falling Through April’s hardest rocking tune to date, but Candia promises harder, more driving music on the way.
“The next single we’re going to release is really heavy,” Candia says.
Fans can judge for themselves when “Worlds Away” drops on Oct. 7.
The once Charlotte-based band is now a hybrid quartet. Multi-instrumentalists Siani and Candia — both guitarists share bass-playing duties — recently moved to Tampa after over a decade in Charlotte, while Salazar and drummer Jerome King continue to call the Queen City home.
Falling Through April will connect with their current and former hometown when the band plays The Milestone Club on Oct. 12. It’s just one stop on Falling Through April’s current Worlds Away Tour, which has already taken the band to Louisiana, Texas and the Midwest.
Despite the somewhat anguished and angry tone of “Paralyzed,” accompanied by a video where the band plays in a dungeon-like warehouse surrounded by darting flames, the foursome is quite playful when they chat with Queen City Nerve on a rare day off from touring.
Candia even catches me off guard when he volunteers to interview the interviewer. He asks if anyone ever said I sound exactly like Muppets founder Jim Henson. Regarding soundalikes, King offers that his voice gets compared to Chris Rock’s and Chris Tucker’s.
“I’ve got that typical Black thing going on,” King says.” When I get to talking fast [my voice] goes up.”
Finding the perfect lineup
A transplant from Baltimore, Candia moved to Charlotte in 2009. At the same time, Pennsylvania native Siani also decamped for Charlotte. A pair of Craigslist ads brought Candia, Siani and bassist Dave Piontek together for the first iteration of Falling Through April in 2011.
The band subsequently went through series of personnel changes before solidifying into a lineup of Candia, Siani, Piontek and drummer Taylor Foster. That version of the band recorded an independently released debut LP Take Flight in 2012. An EP titled Risks and Rewards followed in 2015.
“Take Flight was us figuring out each other musically,” Candia says of the self-produced LP. “[It was] an experimental album, trying to figure out what we were going to do as a band.”
He says he has no regrets about the fledging effort. “It was where I was in my musical journey at that time.”
Siani professes similar feelings about the project.
“Everything you do in life is about evolution and growth,” he says.
The band went through the ups and downs of a touring rock band, including a Fourth of July show at now-demolished Charlotte venue The Chop Shop at which drummer Foster was struck by a bullet from nearby celebratory gunfire and was taken to the hospital with a minor injury.
Then in 2016, the band made what is perhaps the most consequential change of its career.
“The glue that brought it all together is Mikaela,” Candia says. “Jim and I had been writing together for a while at that point. We had discovered what our chemistry was, but having a female vocalist changed the [songwriting] dynamics.”
Salazar says she was born into music, thanks to her musical family.
“I grew up in Sacramento, California,” she says. “My Hispanic family would always pull out that acoustic [guitar] and sing some mariachi.”
Salazar moved to South Carolina in 2012 and started looking for people she considered serious about making music. Yet another Craigslist ad, this one posted by Falling Through April’s then-producer Jon King, brought her to the band’s attention.
“I was really shy, and didn’t make the cut in the beginning,” Salazar says.
Fortunately, the band saw potential in Salazar, reconsidered their initial reaction and gave her a shot.
“They helped me get out of my shell and find my inner rock goddess,” Salazar says with a laugh.
Some of her initial awkwardness may have stemmed from singing material she didn’t help write. When she first auditioned, she sang songs from Risks and Rewards and later performed them live.
“It stretched me to work on my voice. The guys were super patient and helped me find my voice and strength behind the mic, [but] It was difficult,” Salazar says. “At last, we [said], ‘Let’s make our own songs.’”
As Salazar joined in on the songwriting, the process of creating Falling Through April’s sound evolved. On “Desperate Measures,” the first single released with Salazar on board, she remembers asking the other members what they were feeling when they crafted the music and lyrics. Then she interpreted the material her way.
“Often [my interpretation] was the same mood [and] vibe they were having while they were writing it,” Salazar says.
The band devised a songwriting formula to start with the chorus and work around it. Soon, the formula was no longer needed. “Nowadays we jump into the studio and do it all at once – everything together,” Salazar says. “It’s so much fun.”
“Mikaela writes a lot from her personal experiences — deep and from her heart,” Candia adds.
“We’re all individuals but we share a similar dream,” Salazar says. “What we get out of [songwriting and playing] is that music is the greatest connection.”
From ‘Zodiac’ to Big Greg
In 2017, the band decamped to Nashville to record the album Zodiac with producer Jon King. Candia remembers winnowing down 54 songs to 10 that could fit on the album.
“Zodiac was a great album,” Candia says, “[but] Jon was trying to push us in a direction of being more of a pop-rock band.”
The record was well received, but soon after its release, Falling Through April went through another wave of personnel changes. Bassist Piontek had been discussing leaving for several months. He had just become a father and couldn’t find the right balance between playing in the band and being a parent.
In 2018, he left after 7 years with Falling Through April.
“We respect his decision, and we all remain good friends,” Candia says.
Instead of recruiting a new bassist for the band, Candia and Siani decided to share bass responsibilities in the studio and onstage. That same year, Foster also left the band. After first relocating to West Memphis, he later moved to Tampa, where he now frequently socializes with Candia and Siani.
In September 2018, Jerome King joined the fold as Falling Through April’s new drummer.
“Jerome is definitely into a heavier style of music,” Candia says. “He keeps pressing us for more driving music.”
“Impact matters,” King says. “That’s not just with music. I’m big on impact on everything that I do.”
Candia says King’s personality and influence has impacted Falling Though April’s writing style and approach to making music.
“The chemistry of the band members is what changes the dynamic of the group,” Candia says. “With each member change, each iteration of what we do, we continue to build.”
The next step in the band’s evolution grew from dissatisfaction with continuing down the pop-influenced direction espoused by producer Jon King.
“We wanted to get back to our roots,” Candia remembers. “Jim and I kept talking about how we loved the music, but it just didn’t feel the way we wanted it to feel.”
The remedy was writing harder, heavier, more rock-based songs, with less pop elements. Despite Salazar’s melodic, soaring and supposedly pop-friendly vocals, a harder rocking approach also proved to be the perfect choice for her.
“You could argue her voice is better for pop. It’s grungy, [or] gritty” Candia says. “But once we got into harder rock, I feel that is where she shines.”
While maintaining their friendship with Jon King, Falling Through April began working with other producers, crafting a cache of harder edged songs. Next the band began releasing a series of singles with accompanying videos, directed by Alex Heider.
“One of the best things our former manager Alex did for us was introducing us to Alex Heider,” Candia says, adding that the band is currently self-managed. As the group moved back to its rock roots, they began self-producing during pre-production of songs, then bringing them to Nashville-based producer Kile Odell.
“Kile is in tune with our style, and the chemistry [with him] is good,” Candia says. He believes that the material released after Zodiac is where Falling Through April has matured as a band.
The band’s burgeoning maturity has manifested in song and video combinations that tackle serious subjects, like the powerful anti-drug abuse polemic “Recover/Relapse.” While the song incorporates an infectious electro–dance sound in places, the video follows an attractive protagonist into a downward spiral of addiction that leads to an early grave.
“Who doesn’t have that in their family or in themselves?” Salazar says, referring to struggles with addiction. “With every song, I usually like to end it with a glimpse of hope, but if you go too far, it’s a dangerous place.”
“I’ve lost some of my best friends to addiction,” Candia says. “It’s a difficult topic, but if we don’t talk about it, who will?”
In 2021, Falling Through April branched out into a collaboration with Raleigh-based rapper Big Greg. In “Poison,” Salazar portrays a woman flitting through a relationship devoid of feeling, viewed from the bottom of a bottle. Candia remembers the band members being aware that they were venturing into uncharted territory with the collaboration.
“We were always open to the idea, but we had never done it before so we were a little nervous,” Candia says. Falling Through April need not have worried. Once Big Greg and the band got into the studio, “Poison” came together in less than 24 hours.
“We started playing a little riff, and added a little beat,” Candia says. “The next thing you know, Mikaela and Big Greg step into the vocal booth, and boom, ‘Poison’ was knocked out in one take from Big Greg.”
The result is a rumination on lost connections. In its way, the song/video combination is as much a warning as “Recover/Relapse.”
Whether it’s another collaboration or a live show, Siani hopes people who hear Falling Through April’s music experience something that takes them out of their normal day to day routines.
“It’s something where they’re interacting with us, being engaged [and] having a meaningful and positive moment,” Siani says.
On a similar note, Candia recalls a touching encounter he had with a friend and fan of the band.
“[He] shared a personal thing with me, and said that we were the reason why he felt so inspired, and positive about his life,” Candia says. “That means the world to me.”
Like her bandmates Salazar cherishes the communal connection the band has forged with fans and concertgoers.
“We’re all feeling the same song, all singing the same words from the bottom of our hearts,” Salazar says. “That’s why I love sharing our music live.”
SUPPORT OUR WORK: Get better connected and become a member of Queen City Nerve to support local journalism for as little as $5 per month. Our community journalism helps inform you through a range of diverse voices.
This work by Queen City Nerve is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.