Even when Brandan Schieppati was the singer of California metalcore act Bleeding Through, weight training was a huge part of his life. Now though, some six months after the break up of that band, the sole focus of his creative energy is Rise Above, the company and Orange County-based gym he founded back in 2010. But, as Schieppati explains, his gym venture is not just about physical fitness – it’s as much about mental well-being and breaking down stereotypes as it is pumping iron and building muscle.
**Tell us about how Rise Above Fitness came about… **“I started the company Rise Above Fitness in 2010, so the existence of the company has been in existence for closing in on six years now, but when I first started it I was training out of a different facility, but the plan was always to open my own spot eventually. It kind of happened a little bit sooner than later. I told myself when I went out and started training people that I’d give myself a year and see where I’m at and if I had enough clients to move then I’d move, and after eight or nine months, I had about 50-60 clients and that just seemed like the time to open my own spot.”
**Were you surprised at the way it grew so quickly? **“I was. The thing is, initially, because of my band and because of my history of touring and music, I got a little bit of recognition at first. And people ask me all the time if the people I train are just fans of the band and I’m like, ‘No, not at all, actually’. I’d say there’s only five per cent of the people I actually train on a day-to-day basis that actually know I was in a band before. So it’s really crossed over into the realm of fitness. I will say that being in a band definitely helped initially. The way I came up playing music and building that brand recognition and culture with music is the same way I approached the gym. So for me, creating a company first and foremost even before I had a gym, so you can call it something so people can identify themselves with it, and then when I opened the gym they want to be part of that culture because it spoke to them in a certain way. It wasn’t a normal gym. You go there because you want to be part of something. So from day one I really just tried to work on the branding of the company, and because I did a pretty good job of branding it, it made people want to pay attention. At the time, it wasn’t really the norm to have tattooed people working out and doing videos, so it garnered a lot of attention. So I am definitely surprised by the way it’s taken off, but we put a lot of work into it. There’s 18,000 times more work that goes into it than doing the band.”
**Why did you choose the name Rise Above for the gym? **“I was listening to the Black Flag song, Rise Above, and it made me feel a certain way. Fitness to me has always been a release, it’s always been a way for me to deal with my anxiety, and being bi-polar it helps with that as well, and so what I wanted to do was create a name and an environment that is not just a gym but is something that’s inspiring and that people want to be a part of, that helps people deal with the day-to-day grind and the things they do on a daily basis. Fitness is kind of weird because there’s people who are like ‘It’s all about the gains’, but sometimes it’s just therapy. Sometimes you want to go to the gym and work out because it’s going to clear your head and help be a step in a positive direction.”
**Is that why you started training in the first place? **“Yeah. It was such a release when I was on tour, because I was always really stressed out on tour. I can honestly say that for 15 years of being a frontman of Bleeding Through, half the time I was so stressed out about it I didn’t really enjoy it. Obviously I loved it, but there’s so much of the business aspect that’s so stressful to me, so part of the thing that was a really big release was that I really started dedicating myself to the fitness side of it, and that took my head out of the stress and helped me really gain the happiness to keep doing it.”
**There is a huge connection between physical fitness and mental well-being… **“Absolutely. I think it naturally releases certain endorphins in your body that create happiness. For me, I know if you’re doing something that’s going to better your life, and if that workout is going to better your life by even 0.0001 per cent, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s all about looking at where you are now and trying to make that step forward, as opposed to a step sideways or a step back. I find that no matter what your day entails, if you go to the gym and get a good workout, it’s a step in a positive direction and it’s going to do something to better your state of mind and better your health, and when you’re healthy you feel better, your attitude’s going to change. There a lot of things that change with it.”
**You mentioned Black Flag earlier. Did Henry Rollins inspire you to lift weights? **“Definitely. He’s someone I’ve looked up to since I was probably 12 years old and was into Black Flag and then Rollins Band. The thing that drew me to him was just how imposing he looked onstage. I never really wanted to be a frontman in a band, but I always looked at him as being the way you’re supposed to look. I looked at Henry Rollins as the epitome of what a man was. That’s just my personal opinion. But once I started researching it I found out that fitness was what really helped his mental state of mind when it came to playing music. It was his yin to his yang, and I feel like for me that music and fitness always went hand in hand. I don’t thing that I could have done one thing without the other. The ultimate discipline in life is putting in the work in a weight room, having the discipline to actually go and put forth that effort. Because if you do, it can translate to something else, whether it be your work, your music, your crafts, or anything like that.”
A promotional video for Schieppati’s new gym, Rise Above Fitness
**How did you maintain your physical fitness on the road? **“I always found a way. Early on when our band was touring, I would bring minimal things and I’d work out before the rest of the band woke up in the hotel room, or the house we were staying in. I mean, I’ve got workouts in in people’s bathroom or in front yards or back yards or in kitchens. I’ve worked out on the venue floor with some weights that I brought because we didn’t have a backstage room, and the headlining band was soundchecking. I’d just get it done any way I could. I’d bring weights on the road and work out in the parking lot with people in my band or other bands that we toured with, and that’s really where I got the idea that after my music career I wanted to get into the fitness industry. Because I saw the difference it made in the bands we were touring with and how they were so stoked to work out and how they felt so much better and the difference that it made in them physically and mentally just in a short period of time. So I felt like it was a natural progression to get into this industry because I could offer something that most people can’t in terms of inspiring people from the metal scene and the punk scene and the hardcore scene that may not really know anything about working out and might think training is something for jocks and meatheads and so they don’t have a place. But I show them that I’m a total punk and metalhead and fitness has always been part of my life.”
**Do you get a lot of musicians training at your gym? **“There’s a few that come and go in between tours, like Scott [Lewis], the singer of Carnifex, and Brandon Saller from Atreyu, just to name a couple. And some bands have come in and worked out while they’re on the road, and it’s a really cool thing to have that happen. M. Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold has worked out in the gym before and James [Hart] from Eighteen Visions and Burn Halo, and Dave [Peters] from Throwdown – a lot of people in the area. It’s a cool environment too, to have people come in and see those kind of people working out. It inspires them as well.”
For more information on Rise Above Fitness, click here.