And, Stephens adds, there will likely be some material that Pavone was working on before his death.
"He was always writing, and I'm pretty sure he gave Lou (Cotton), our guitarist, a few different things he wrote," Stephens reports. "We're gonna try and get into his laptop, too, 'cause I'm sure he had just files and files and files of stuff there, too. So that's a goal. We would love to include him in this record as much as we can, aside from just writing about him."
The group is also holding to its stated intention to not replace Pavone. "There's just no one who could replace him," Stephens says. "I feel like if we added another singer it would feel like replacing him, whereas if it's just me then I'm just covering his parts. It wouldn't tear at our fan base or our hearts as much as seeing someone else up there singing those words and these songs."
Stephens, who was able to visit Pavone in the hospital before he passed, says the singer's absence still weighs heavy on WCAR. A tour shortly after his death, opening for opening for Bullet For My Valentine, though encouraged by therapists and others around the band, was "gut-wrenching." The current trek with Crown the Empire, which runs through April, hasn't been easier, but Stephens reports that "everyone's having a little more fun, and we've just gotten better at handling our emotions around it. It's something that's there and will always be with us, and we've all just learned to deal with it better." For Stephens, meanwhile, handling all the vocal parts has provided a bit of solace.
"It's pretty difficult," he notes, "but I like to rise to the challenge and rise to the occasion. I just had to work really hard at being able to take on a bigger responsibility vocally, and there's different things I had to do to take care of my body more and make sure I'm giving my voice every advantage it can have. It's not easy, but it's something I'm getting better and better at. But singing along to his voice makes me feel like, spiritually, he's there with me in a way, singing through me."