Issue 18 of Stencil Mag

Page 1


Editors Note...

Paramore are set to play an intimate show at London’s Garage on April 5th. City and Colour has announced a one-off London show at Bush Hall on 5th June. The show is part of a European tour.

The Defiled have signed a worldwide deal with Nuclear Blast Entertainment. Their second album, ‘Daggers’ will be released in the summer.

Funeral For A Friend have announced their debut album, ’Casually Dressed & Deep In Conversation’ will be repressed on vinyl for Record Store Day 2013.

Stagecoach has unveiled details of their debut album ‘Say Hi To The Band.’ The album is due for release on 13th May through Alcopop Records and will be released on vinyl, CD and MiniDisc.

Black Sabbath have confirmed their new album, ‘13’ will be released on 10th June. Watford good time rockers The Social Club are set to release the third installment of their trilogy of EP’s. The EP is called ‘For Conversation’ and is due to be released via Alcopop Records on April 29th.

Streetlight Manifesto has announced a run of UK tour dates which will be the bands final tour on these shores.

Rolo Tomassi will head out on a UK headline tour in May. Support comes from Bastions. Sharks have confirmed that their new album will be titled ‘Selfhood’ and that it will be released on April 29th through Rise Records. Sheffield emo duo Nai Harvest will release their debut album, 'Whatever' on April 15th via Pinky Swear Records and Dog Knights Productions.

Gnarwolves are currently recording a new EP. Reading’s We Are Lost Boys have announced a May headline UK tour with support from The Oceans Eyes.

Anti-Flag will be celebrating their 20th Anniversary with a special UK show at London’s Electric Ballroom on 4th July. Support comes from Sharks and Gnarwolves. Dublin band Fight Like Apes have joined Alcopop Records. A new EP is expected to be released in May.

Sylosis and Heartist have been announced as support for Killswitch Engage’s forthcoming UK tour, which takes place in early May.

Dance Gavin Dance have announced a headline UK tour which will feature support from Closure In Moscow, Affiance and Violet. Over at Already Heard you will find music news daily, tons of album reviews, live photos, interviews, tour blogs, exclusive streams, acoustic video sessions, features and much more. / @AlreadyHeardUK

Interview with Sam

You're about to release your debut album, 'Always Lead, Never Follow', and it's been a while in the making, so with this in mind how has the journey to this point been? Well it has been a pretty long journey actually. We’ve been working together for over five years now, and we’ve played enough shows to be well into triple figures I’d say. We’ve been lucky enough to share a stage with some great bands as well (Hundred Reasons, Pure Love, Canterbury, Don Broco, Twin Atlantic and Hell is For Heroes to name a few). The album is made up of our best material over the past few years so there are a few different styles and directions and we had to choose carefully in order to create a coherent record.

What are the themes and influences that run through your upcoming record? The songs on the album are mainly observational or from personal experience. Many of the songs are about society as a whole, for example Hydrochaesin is about miracle cures and mass hysteria while Damage is about the British press and Bad for Business is more or less about greedy businessmen. I try very hard not to ‘preach’ though so these are just observations, people can decide for themselves what they think. Always lead, never follow!

Has there been a weight of expectation on the album considering that it's been in progress for a while? I think there has been a lot of anticipation and certainly people have been asking for it for a while but we’ve been releasing new material pretty consistently over the years so I don’t think we’ve starved those who are interested. The response to the new songs we’ve played live has been really great so I’m excited to hear what people think.

You've made your name as a live act, so does this translate well onto the album? It’s always very flattering when people say they enjoy the live show. We did a lot of pre-production work on the album and we purposefully went for big upfront guitars and an in-your-face sound to try and capture some of the live energy. I think it’s different enough to keep things interesting and let the songs themselves do the talking. I always think it’s great when I hear a band I really like on record and then they step it up an extra notch live.

Where did the name 'Always Lead, Never Follow' for the record come from, and what does it mean for you personally? It was actually a slogan on one of our t-shirts before it was an album title. We had been looking for an album title that suggested we were trying to do something different as we’ve always actively tried to avoid simply replicating music that we like. We had no luck for weeks and weeks. Then we came across a shirt that happened to have the slogan ‘Always Lead, Never Follow’ on it when we were looking for new designs, and it took us a while after having sold a few to realise that it would fit perfectly as the title for the album.

How did you end up working with Larry Hibbitt (Hundred Reasons), and what was he like to work with in the studio? We had already played a few shows with Hundred Reasons and we’re also linked to them via Gravity DIP who manage and look after us. Larry recorded a single (Fractures / Tornadoes) and a few extra tracks for us back in 2010 and it was just an ideal sound for us. He’s really into his gear and he’s the master of huge guitars. Plus he’s got tons of great ideas and he’s not afraid to suggest any changes so it was really valuable having him shape the songs with us. We’re really happy with how it all came out.

What have you learnt the most from creating 'Always Lead, Never Follow'? I’ve learnt more than I would have imagined possible to be honest. It identified kinks in performance that needed to be ironed out. It also made us think about song writing in a different light and to consider which elements will stand out the most when they’re recorded. I wouldn’t necessarily go back and change anything about what we’ve done but we always strive to better ourselves, so I’m already excited to get writing again so we can apply what we know now.

You recently put out a video for the track 'Black and Blue' which sees you playing while a gymnast swings above you, so can you tell us a bit about how this video came together, as well as what the initial concept is behind the video? I think we had a stroke of luck with location and Cadence (our wonderful trapeze artist) coming together at almost the last minute. We knew we wanted it to be dark and a bit more ‘rock’ than our previous efforts, we’d also discussed the reversed elements of the video and learning the song backwards (which was great fun actually). We only finally settled on exactly what we were doing less than a week before the shoot, which was to have Cadence embody the heart-breaker devil woman that is the focus of the song. She’s beautiful and graceful, drawing you in, but get too close and she’ll claw your eyes and tear out your hair.

How would you say the music scene has changed since you first started out? It’s undeniable that the internet is changing the way music works more and more every year and I’d say there’s no longer so much a scene as there is a worldwide community of people with a shared interest in music. It’s a blessing and a curse as it’s a great platform with which to reach everyone in the world but there are so many bands doing their thing and putting their music up online that it’s really difficult to get your head above water and make people take notice. Our policy has always been to just do whatever we can as much as we can for as long as it feels right. We play as many shows as possible and if music is on Youtube and Spotify these days then that’s where we’ll be.

What else does 2013 hold for Scholars? We’re really just looking to get out there and play as much as we can. We’ve got an album to show the world now so it’s just a case of getting folks to hear it. We’re also really excited about getting down to some new material so we’ll be on that soon too. There’s also the potential for more singles later in the year.

Interview with Jamie & Rebecca

Can you tell us a little bit about the formation of Anavae? We were in a band together previously to Anavae which we felt extremely confined and frustrated with. We discovered we were able to express exactly what we wanted, and create the sounds we most loved when we worked solely together, which is how Anavae was formed.

How did you get to the band name Anavae and what does it mean to you? It's a word that we created ourselves and it means absolutely everything.

So how did you end up signing to LAB Records, and what has it been like to work with them so far? Beccar's a YouTube junkie so we upload regular acoustics online which LAB happened to stumble across. It's been an absolute joy to work with them so far so we're very happy and definitely feel like we've made a great decision. They really get what we're about and what we're trying to do.

Your new video for 'Storm Chaser' is great, can you tell us how it came together, as well as a bit about the narrative/meaning behind the song? The song is initially about frustration, in all its many forms. The frustration of reaching out to those who are stuck and trapped inside their own existence and routines. It's a huge scream at those who are wasting away their lives.

Like all of the things I write, they jump between what I'm feeling about the things around me, how I relate to the world, and then ultimately how I feel about certain individuals. I crave movement, and discovery, I crave the 'storm chasers' of the world, the quirks, the ones with too many corridors in their heads. I'm in love with the word adventure... but an adventure shared. I touch on general internal struggles that I face day to day. A history with panic attacks, my view of what I generally want (or don't know what I want), the general hysteria of lifes confusion and the pain of not being able to fully and perfectly express yourself creatively in the way that you really need to.

Your video for 'Storm Chaser' is nearly at 65,000 views on YouTube, so how does it feel to have this kind of support for a track/video just weeks after its initial release? Well, absolutely incredible, it goes without saying! To have so many people listen and watch something that means so much to us is definitely an amazing feeling.

How did you end up working with Outhouse Studios, and what was this whole experience like for you guys? Working with Outhouse is always a lovely experience. We're good friends with John now because of it and feel like we connect with him on the songs etc. We're very much on the same page which makes everything flow a lot easier. We can't wait to get back in there to record our next EP! (And experience the hilarity of Johns sugar rush fuelled bass solos).

As an up & coming band, what would you say separates you guys from everyone else? We like to play with synths, subtle electronic sounds, along with the occasional drones and sound effects. We also like to experiment with voice clips and movie quotes. We're extremely inspired by movies which is how the narrative for 'Storm Chaser' came about. We wanted that Sci-fi vibe we love so much. A lot of the video ideas were inspired by the movie 'Contact' starring Jodie Foster. Her frustration at not being able to contact 'other life' tied in so well with what we wanted to express. We also like to think that Beccar's lyrics express things in a slightly different way to everyone elses, as they're pretty ambiguous and mysterious.

How excited are you for your upcoming tour with I Divide? We've never played shows up north before so we're extremely excited to be playing and exploring cities that we've never visited before. We also love being on the road, so hours spent travelling will be extremely inspiring.

What else does 2013 hold for Anavae? Hopefully anything and everything. We're just about to head into the studio to record our next EP which we're incredibly excited about. We're completely in love with these songs so we can't wait for people to hear them. We're also going on our very first tour in April, so hopefully there will be many more to come!

Interview with Andrew

How did your recent tour go with Awolnation and Itch? Certainly the number one highlight for all of us was going to Gruyères in Switzerland. It is a very small town, famous for its cheese, but also the site of the H.R.Giger museum, which is situated at the top of a mountain. We were informed by the venue that it was a must-see and so we headed off after our soundcheck with Hayden from Awolnation. We drove up the steep mountain roads, parked up, and all stood back in wonder at the most incredible and peaceful view of the surrounding mountains, covered in snow, with the sun setting and lonely villages huddled around their base. I'd never seen anything like it, also the museum was an eye-opening look at such an intensely detailed and visionary artist. Another personal highlight was meeting and befriending Thomas Pridgen. We were all big fans of his work with The Mars Volta, but had also been aware of him in other projects and The Memorials. He was drumming for Itch on the tour and we all shared a dressing room on the first night and got to talk. We ended up hanging out a lot over the tour and became friends. I never thought Thomas Pridgen would ever watch our set, let alone want to be our support for our UK headline tour in May.

How did you get to the album title ‘Blood & Chemistry’, and what do you want it to mean to your fans? The title of the album actually came around pretty easily, and was one of the last pieces of the album to come together. Blood & Chemistry is the juxtaposition of science and feel, neither can be explained without the other, and yet at the same time they contradict each other. For me, that is the nature and the confusion of the world we live in. Hopefully, everyone can relate to it on a universal level, as an attempt to make sense of the darker aspects of life and find self-belief and understanding, even if it's just knowing that someone feels the same as you.

What are the themes that run through your latest record ‘Blood & Chemistry’? I wanted the entire album to be linked together in the same way that our lives are presented, with parts, lyrics & themes recurring and appearing again in a different form, the ideas evolving and modulating over the albums course, asking and answering questions throughout but in an phantasmagoric manner. Much like the films of Michel Gondry. The main lyrical theme of the album is the juxtaposing of science & fact against emotion & feel. Life, death, love and belief can all be explained scientifically, but do not necessarily equate to how it feels and the effects that they have on a person. We have many musical influences but The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails, Ex-Lives by Every Time I Die, Man Alive by Everything Everything, Shallow Bed by Dry the River and Free by Twin Atlantic were big influences on us at the time.

How would you say this album compares to your last release ‘Left Fire’ ? We finished Left Fire over two years ago now and we've grown a lot since then, both as people and musicians. We wanted the album to really extrapolate in every direction from Left Fire, to be both heavier and more technically proficient as well as being more melodic and well crafted. We had really found our feet as a band in the last few months before recording, and spending a month together writing and rehearsing for hours everyday was invaluable to the process of making an album that reflected that. We also had a lot of ideas to fit into five songs for Left Fire, so it was nice to make the album more expansive and cover more ground with the songs, to really expand upon our ideas of an album and what it should sound like.

What was the hardest part of this record to put together for you guys & why? The hardest part of this record was living up to our own expectations of what our debut album should be, let alone our label and fans. For us, a debut album is the biggest statement in a bands career and the most important. We had a lot of ideas and directions for the album, but to make them into a coherent and effective album was challenging to say the least. It was easy to fall into doubt and frustration over our own abilities and my role as a songwriter, especially when listening to the albums that inspired us to become musicians in the first place and wanting to make something that could stand amongst them.

The artwork for this record is really cool, so can you tell us how your very own Daryl Atkins went about putting this cover together, and also what does the cover mean to you? We have been very lucky to have talented friends who are willing to help us out with the visions we have for the band, whether it be our music videos, artwork or the music itself. It's invaluable for us as a band to have someone like Daryl who can visualise the feelings, meanings and stories behind our music and help us make them stronger and create a more immersive experience for our fans. We spoke about the themes and ideas behind Blood & Chemistry and then Daryl put together a composite of images and textures to create a rough image and painstakingly drew over the composite for around three weeks. He drew thousands of tiny little lines, all on photoshop! The cover symbolises the energy and nature around us, from the blood in our capillaries to the currents in the sea, it is all one and the same and Blood & Chemistry is about trying to make sense of that.

What’s it like to have people like Simon Neil support your band? Biffy Clyro were obviously an influence on us growing up, and so to have Simon say such positive things about our music is a very surreal experience, and it only gives us more respect for him and the band. We have been very lucky to meet, and now some of our influences have become fans of our band, it’s an experience which will never ever get old or any less surreal.

How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what should attending fans expect? We've been playing tracks from the album on our last few supporting tours and they have gone down really well, so now we really can't wait to play them in front of our own fans, especially now they will have actually heard the songs. Our last UK headline show at the Old Blue Last in December went absolutely mental, so if that's anything to go by then this tour is going to be awesome. Daryl has also just written a piece of software that allows us to control an entire lighting rig while were on the stage, so we will have a full light show for the first time too, which will allow us to really take our shows up a level. We've been completely re-working the set for the tour so now we just can't wait to get playing it every night.

Interview with John

How would you describe the bands progression since day one? Well, when we first started making music it was just Robin, myself, a laptop and some guitars in a bedroom at university. We're now a five piece, and although the laptop is still there, there's a lot more going on. We're very much a unit.

Being an instrumental and independent band, can you describe how a song comes together for you guys? Being independent doesn't really affect how a song comes together, but we do have to take into consideration that there won't be lyrics over the top to make any lazy songwriting. Each part has to be thought through to make sure it doesn't sound like it *should* be sung over‌ if that makes sense, and hopefully we achieve it. Sometimes songs have started with us playing together in a room, or sometimes a band member will bring a more fully formed electronic idea to the rest of us, it just depends on the song i guess.

What bands have majorly influenced you guys since you started out, and why? All sorts - we all have very different musical tastes and Maybeshewill is a product of that. I think we all like Mogwai, Radiohead, M83, Sigur Ros‌ But beyond that, it spreads out in all directions. Hip-Hop, Hardcore name it really!

You’re beginning work on your fourth album, so at this point what can we expect, and how much do you think it will differ from ‘I was here for a moment, then I was gone’? It's still early days, but we've got three or four fairly fully formed songs and a thread is starting to appear. We're hoping to up our game with everything on this record, which is what I think we did with the last one. It'd be presumptuous at this point to suggest any real direction changes though.

You record, mix and master your own records, run a record label, booking agency, recording studio and promote your own shows, so with this in mind, what made you want to take this D.I.Y. approach, and how rewarding is it for you guys? It's hard work, but we'd rather be in control of our own destiny I guess. Being the band that we are, the 'mainstream' music industry wouldn't really work for us at this point, and though we're required to be part of it to some extent, we tend to find our own weird way through it. It's very rewarding to think that we've gotten to most of the places we've been to so far off our own back I guess. Though sometimes it's a little scary not having a safety net.

Again being instrumental, how do you reach out to the crowd when playing on stage? Hopefully by caring, being ridiculously happy to be there playing for people, and appreciating that they've come to see us. We also try and be as visual as we can on stage, Jamie in particular can be a treat...ha!

You've toured the UK, a lot of Europe and a part of Asia. Where would you love to tick off the map next? I actually have a map of the world covered in pins for places we've been, and I think it's getting on for over 300 cities now. The next ports of call for world domination are hopefully The US and Canada, as we've been wanting to get out there for a long time and we get asked by so many people, so fingers crossed.

How excited are you for your upcoming slot at this years Hit The Deck festival, and what should attending fans expect? Very excited, the nice thing about being Maybeshewill is that we fit into festival bills across such a wide range of genres. There's a lot of stuff on the Hit The Deck bill that I personally really love, so i'm looking forward to it on that level especially.

You guys are also hitting ArcTanGent this year, so how excited are you to be involved with the festivals first year!? We've been huge exponents of 2000 Trees, so to be asked to help launch ATG by those guys is a real privilege. Again, there are tonnes of bands we love at both of their festivals this year, so i'm sure we'll be hanging out and watching music at both events.

Are there any up and coming bands that you think we should keep an eye out for? Loads, we're fairly heavily involved in our city's music scene up in Leicester so there are a great deal of bands from there that we think people should check out. Having a look on the robotneedshome band camp page ( is a good start - we put up loads of free compilations and downloads there when we can, along with full releases from bands involved in what we call 'the collective'.

2012 was an incredible year for you guys, so what are your goals for the next nine months? Get the fourth album finished and recorded and brace ourselves for another long run of touring i guess. We'll be doing plenty of festivals, but not a lot of real touring before the end of the year.

Interview with Rory

It's safe to say that 'Gangs' really helped take you guys to that next level, so for you, looking back now, how happy are you with this record, as well as what's it done for ASIWYFA? We're happy with all of our records, and Gangs was what we made at that time in that place and we love every track on it, we're very proud of it and that people got into it. But really it’s like every record in a way, as it’s something you pour your heart and soul into and then it allows you to go play your music to some more people. So it did exactly what we needed it to do and we still love playing all of those songs live.

Okay, so how did you get to the album title 'All Hail Bright Futures'? It was a title we had in various incarnations throughout the recording of the album, the sentiment was the constant which we wanted to summaries in the title. I guess it’s a very forward looking title, it was a bit of a response to where we were at with the band and how it seemed at the time we were making the record, there was a lot of things transpiring against us so it was maybe a bit of a mantra for us as well. We wanted it to come across as an uplifting sentiment towards something good on the horizon, because everyone is having it tough at the moment with the recession and with the way things are so it felt like instead of doing the "angsty middle finger" album our teenage selves would have done, we in fact decided to respond in a different way.

You worked with Rocky O'Reilly again on this record, so what was is it like to work with him, and how would you say he pushes you as musicians? It was perfect, it’s always like just walking back into your home. The atmosphere for being creative in there is like no other for us and rocky has been on the journey with us since the first album so when we get in and get the door shut we're then very much in the mind set to make something exciting. We have a great relationship with Rocky, he is our best friend as well as our producer. He has a great vision, and there are not many people who can understand what we're aiming for in the early stages of making a song and there are also not many people who feel comfortable telling us when something isn’t working. We have that balance when we're working together, and there’s just no ego! Everything and everyone is pushing things forward to serve the music, and it’s really a joy when we're in full flow.

How would you say 'All Hail Bright Futures' compares to 'Gangs' ? It’s a totally different record, it’s more uplifting, it’s certainly got a lot more sounds in there, and it feels like it depends less on shock dynamics maybe. We wrote gangs really quickly outside of the studio, and it was made up of a lot of older ideas that I had after album one, and we had most of it in a playable state before heading into the studio, so it was a case of embellishing those ideas in the studio. With All Hail it was way more to do with the concept of it, where the idea of taking a big step forwards and side ways, the idea of making a happy album that still had depth and didn't sound flippant in anyway, and the idea to make a guitar album that was very much forward thinking which didn't necessarily sound like a guitar record at all. So i guess All Hail feels like a more fearless record to Gangs, and I think that All Hail is maybe the record we have been wanting to make for a while. It feels less like anything else I’ve heard recently, more of an original album maybe, and that’s a good feeling.

What was the hardest part about putting together 'All Hail Bright Futures' and why? I think for us it was coming up initially with what direction we wanted to take it, once we had concieved a feel for the record the rest was pretty easy because all we had to do was be ourselves and be creative and have fun and luckily it flowed really well. The hard stuff was going on outside of the studio which is why we ended up all staying in there all day everyday, as it was sort of our sanctuary. For us, writing music has always been about doing something new for yourself, pushing things forward, or treading new ground, so the decision to progress is already pre-determined really. Maybe sometimes you feel a little scared when you know there’s some people who would love to hear another Gangs or ST but then you realise it’s as pointless to worry about that than it would be to repeat yourself musically because that’s not why you join a band or write music, and without that attitude in the first place then there wouldn't of even been a Gangs or an ST record. So i guess in a way that’s the easy part for us, and once that’s decided then you can just open up and really express yourself and just do what ever you want.

Can you tell us how the artwork for 'All Hail Bright Futures' came together? Yeah, we love it! Our buddy Matt and his partner did it, they actually built it out of paper, and it’s so beautiful. We had so much fun putting together this mood board where we cut out things from magazines, printed stuff off the internet, scribbled colours and textures and designs onto this huge collage tapestry thing then sent pictures of all the elements to the guys and then between us all we came up with a rough idea. When we got the first outline back we were in Sacramento and we could already tell it was going to look good, it had lots of nods to the logo in it, great depth of perspective and a bit of a surreal element to it which we always love. After a bit of tweeking colour wise we got this incredible vibrant cover which we all fell in love with, those guys are amazing, and it was so much fun working with them.

What would you like 'AHBF' to do for the status/representation of ASIWYFA? We've never had massive expectations other than to ourselves musically really, but we've already seen a big response to the record and that’s really amazing in many ways, we've always gone by the rule that we'll always push things forward but we'll always know good music when we're making it and it feels like we've done that. So to have other people feel like you do about it is the best feeling in the world, so i suppose if All Hail could do that to some new people then what more can we ask for. As long as we can keep touring and keep making music that we love and that other people love too then we're pretty fulfilled.

You guys are hitting both ArcTanGent & 2000 Trees Festival this year, so with this in mind, how important are these independent festivals to you? They’re really important of course, the people who put on those festivals are the same as us, and most of the bands who play them are too. They come from that ilk of thinking about music and they know how it should be presented to the world. I guess we feel at home and amongst good company at those sorts of places with those sorts of people. It’s always important to surround yourself with things that affirm what you’re doing and push you further.

How excited are you for your upcoming UK/European tour in April? We really can't wait, it’s been about 18 months since our last visit, so it’s going to be nice to get back out and see all the heads coming down to the shows as well as hanging out with everyone again. In terms of what to expect: new songs and more sweat!

Interview with Alex

To start with, could you describe your sound for those who may not have heard your music? That's a tough one. I think it's kind of a mix between prog rock and indie rock, with some innovative guitar sounds, mixed with some electronic sounds. It’s a little hard to describe, but that would be my attempt!

Your latest record ‘Infinity Overheard’ came out last August - did it get the response that the band expected? Judging by the live shows, I don't think we've ever had a quicker adoption of the newer material than with that album. People have warmed to it quickly, which was really satisfying.

How did your recent tour come about with Circa Survive? I think we actually share a lot of fans. We always see people online mentioning both bands and saying how amazing it would be if we toured together. It was kind of interesting, we took a visit to the Pandora offices in the Bay area of California, and they told us what we kind of already knew - of any bands, we share the most fans. There was some statistic that fans of Circa Survive were most likely to "thumbs-up" a Minus the Bear song. I don't know if there's definitely a similarity, but maybe there's some musical sensibility that people are coming to. I'm not sure myself, but I've just started getting into them, and they make some interesting sounds.

The animated video for 'Listing' is pretty cool (and very trippy) - who came up with the concept for this? Well, the artist who did it is named Jesse LeDoux and we've worked with him on a bunch of posters before and he has a really identifiable style. He also did the Shins Chutes Too Narrow album cover, and Dave our guitarist had met him before and we really like working with him. I think that's the first time he's made a video, so we let him go wild with it!

It's probably fair to say your following in the States is much larger than that of the UK why do you think that is? Well, I think the reason the following in the States is so big, is just because of the sheer number of shows we've played here. Since the band started, we've toured several months out of the year, if not half the year, and most of it has been in the States. I think through the shows, word of mouth spreads and people are converted and I don't think that we've had many chances to play shows in the UK. We'd love to be able to come over there and do as well as we do in the States. I know that even since before I joined the band there's always been a small devoted crowd, so we want to play for our people that have been supportive over the years.

Being from Seattle, a city which has produced so much great music - do you think this has had any influence on you as a band? I think Seattle's influence on music is the weather, for one. Kind of like the UK, it's depressing and overcast and people have a lot of time to spend in doors writing and practising music. As far as the music scenes of the past, I think that each of the members of Minus the Bear have different music tastes. For me, I didn't grow up here, so Seattle was always pretty mythical for me too. So I think it has a lot to do with me starting to play music, but I'm not sure it has a lot of influence on this band.

Have you been working on any new material? We have a few ideas floating around. We're due to start it soon, but we've been busy on a full tour of the US and now of course, we're about to head out to the UK!

Can we expect to see Minus the Bear on any festival bills this summer? I don't think so, we don't have any plans for that right now. But you never know!

You'll be heading out on tour in the UK in April and May - what can fans expect at your shows? Good question - I think we'll play a good mix of old and new stuff and we'll just aim to put on a pleasing rock show!

What do you want 2013 to bring for Minus the Bear? What do I want it do for Minus the Bear? By the end of the year it will be twelve years into the band. I think each year we just want to play for more and more people, improve and be able to expand our sound and keep playing music. So basically I think that for 2013 we just want to keep writing and playing great shows.

Your solo EP 'City By The Sea' has just been released, so what has the initial reaction been like from the fans, as well as the general audience? It’s crazy how many lovely things people have had to say about it and I feel truly blessed! I’ve worked hard and that is my reward.

Was there an initial inspiration for this album? Are there any messages trying to be conveyed? It’s all intensely personal just like it always is but something about it being a solo record makes it feel different to the listener, and there is also no band name to hide behind.

What compelled you to go solo after 15 years of making music as a collective? I’ve been playing solo shows for a while now and people were constantly asking about whether I’d do a record or not, and then I finally found the time to write, record, and tour for the solo record.

Going from the comfort of a band where you can bounce off each other, how does it feel to be stripped down to a more intimate level and doing it alone, especially on stage? It took some time to find the confidence to go it alone on stage and on recordings. But by playing many live shows my confidence will build, and also the loyalty of my fans gives me that strength.

In the punk scene where bands push to act more aggressive and angrier to get noticed, your new album is more mellowed out. Was this your attempt to stand out as a solo artist? Or just a different side to you? This is just a different side. I have a very aggressive band called peace’d out, as well. I Am The Avalanche also brings a lot of energy to the table, so I don’t feel forced to go on that route with this project.

What does this new release mean to you? It’s really like a dream. I get to stand on my own and show the world what I can do, and I also get to tell them about my life.

Does your UK crowd contrast much from say your USA crowd? The UK crowds are way more Movielife focused. We did quite well there, so I always make sure I play some of those songs for the people of the UK. The UK crowds are also more prone to being drunk which is always a good atmosphere for a sing-along

Will this solo stab be your main focus of the year, or are there any plans for new material for I Am The Avalanche and Peace’d Out? I will tour on this record throughout the year, but will also be recording new I Am The Avalanche and new Peace’d Out.

You've got a UK solo tour coming up in April; so with this in mind, how excited are you for the tour, and what should attending fans expect? It’s my home away from home so I’m always excited for the UK. I’ll be playing a full array of my solo material, from I Am The Avalanche to The Movielife.

You’re running on a pretty busy schedule with the solo career kicking off, other music projects, tours in the US as well as in the UK and festival season is coming up. How do you stay on top of it all and do you ever just wind down? I try to not get too drunk, as that helps! I also have a fantastic team of people looking out for me and my best interests. I live in a beach house, so when I get home, I am able to relax.

As an artist what has been your proudest moment? City By The Sea. Thank you!

After eight years, The King Blues finally hanged up its boots in April 2012 after a successful career. Looking back over those eight years, how hard a decision was this for all of you to disband, and how happy are you with what this band has done for you? The band entirely changed my life for the better, it was my life. Towards the end i wanted to do something different and leave what I'd done as it is so that I could be proud of it, so it was really a very easy decision.

What was the decision and drive for you to decide and start a solo project? It wasn't really a solo project as such to start off with, as it was more a let's go make some music and just have fun, but then it pretty quickly became my main passion!

Your release ‘Manifesto: Part 1’ came out only a few months ago. How has the reception been from fans and critiques? It’s been great, I’ve got Manifesto Part 2 up now for free download at as well! I've only done one tour so far but playing it live has been so much fun.

How did you end up working with John Feldmann, and what's he like to work with? He was shown a youtube video of me doing a poem in a record store and called me up, we got chatting and he flew over to meet me. Pretty much straight after that I was in LA in his studio morning, noon and night. He's amazing to work with, and we come from similar backgrounds of punk rock and activism so we just clicked. We really pushed each other to make the best material possible.

You recently released a music video for your song ‘Spooky Kids’, can you tell us a bit about how the video came together, and what you wanted it to mean to your fans? I wanted it to show the reality of being a street kid, it's not all boy scouts, it's young people thrown into extraordinary situations and coping by coming together. So to me the spooky kids are anyone who's an outsider.

How did the situation arise for you to become an artist on Red Bull Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? I was courted by many labels but Red Bull seemed to understand my vision and were keen to think outside the box as well as allowing me to do things differently.

You have been on tour with the band AWOLNATION around Europe, so how has the experience been on tour and how has the band been treating you? For me it was a really special tour, as it had been so long since I'd even been on a stage so I didn't know what to expect! However on the first night, when I walked out on the stage holding the mic, it felt amazing. So I think that I'll always remember that tour.

Also, what's it been like for you to adjust to this new way of performing live? It's been surprisingly natural, and I have incredible musicians with me who make my job a whole lot easier.

You have also been announced for playing at Warped Tour 2013, which means touring around a lot of the USA. So how excited are you for this, and what would you like the tour to do for you? I can't begin to explain how excited I am to do the Warped Tour and I also can't wait to see the rest of America!

What can fans and new listeners expect from Itch in 2013? My album is dropping this Summer which is so exciting for me. Keep an eye out!

Interview with David

It's nearly been two years since the release of 'Gospel' so for you looking back now, how happy are you with this record, as well as what it has done for the representation of Fireworks? We are unbelievably happy with this record. I think as a personal accomplishment, I can listen to our record now and feel the exact same way as when we were recording it. For that reason, I think that’s what we try to represent as our band, honesty. We purposely made a record with no barriers or hesitations, because we knew we were writing something that came naturally which was also heartfelt for us. So I hope for at least, that that's what Fireworks means to our fans and first time listeners.

How did your Canadian tour go with All Time Low? The All Time Low/Yellowcard tour across Canada was very awesome. It was certainly a different vibe compared to shows we have played in the past, but All Time Low are fantastic guys and honestly we have never done a proper Canadian tour, so it was a good opportunity to play for new people, despite it being very cold! Banff rules.

You're heading over to the UK to play Slam Dunk Festival in May, it's been quite a while since you were last here so how excited are you for this tour, and what can attending fans expect? So thrilled. The UK has always excited us and we get stoked when an opportunity comes up to play there again. The first time we played at Slam Dunk and also our headline tour was so fun! I think now more then ever fans can expect us to be very stoked with stupid looks on our faces whilst also playing more Gospel songs as we haven't had a chance to play songs off that record untill now!

How did your last tour here go with Save Your Breath & Make Do And Mend? Those shows were really fun. Again the UK has always been a favorite place of ours, so naturally the overall experience ruled. The Save Your Breath lads are quite charming and our friends in Make Do and Mend always know how to pull at the heart strings. Some highlights include drinking lucozade religiously, getting buck wild in the after show dance clubs and eating way to much at kebab shops. I'm sure there was more, as personally I don't remember much, so wasted.. Just kidding, horrible memory!

Lately, you've been working on new material, so how is it coming along so far? Really great. For the last two years we've had a lot of material and ideas lingering around. We are constantly writing and trying to stay busy, we have no set plans as of yet, but new music is certainly surfacing.

What direction do you think you'll go in on your next release? That’s hard to say as far as a title or genre goes. We are going to continue to push the limit as far as our band goes. I think 'Gospel' represented that we like the idea of trying new things and I think fans can expect stylistic differences, but hopefully a sound they can still relate to.

You've been a band for a while now and are yet to lose a member, how have you kept it together for so long when so many other young bands take their time to settle on a lineup? We were all friends before this band started and playing music has been something we've always loved doing by default so it never really felt like a chore. Knowing we can see new places and meet new friends whilst also having a good time sort of solidifies our love for what we do.

Rather than wearing your influences on your sleeves, Fireworks have developed an original sound. Is it important to the band to have your identity rather than just copy what is proven to work? Incredibly important. In most case scenarios, your "favourite band" has a particular set of themes or a concept or noticeable identity that has integrity behind it. Bands that recognize what they do, make heartfelt records are the ones that are remembered. Trends come and go, so it's important to not forget why we started this band in the first place - making music that we want to make and hoping that people will enjoy it!

Which bands have been the most rewarding for you to tour with, and why? That's a tough one, because the bands that we have toward with have been rewarding in different ways. Bands like Set Your Goals, The Wonder Years, Four Year Strong and Polar Bear Club have such nostalgia and youthful memories attached to them. Those are life long friends with much love and respect. On the other side of the spectrum, bands like Balance and Composure, Hostage Calm and Title Fight are bands that are pushing the limit and watching them grow in popularity and musicianship is amazing. But honestly so many of our friends are associated with touring and that's the best reward.

What else can we expect to see from Fireworks in 2013? Probably some sort of sit com, reality show or after school special. Oh yeah, and hopefully some new music! For those that are reading this please make sure that you come and say hello at Slam Dunk Festival as we are thrilled to come back!

Interview with Joseph "After the brilliant response to their EP 'In Stereo' the band felt comfortable to take that D.I.Y. approach once more on their latest record 'Collider'! The result has been brilliant, and we have no doubt that this release will elevate their status as an essential part of the rock music scene even further!" How did you go about choosing 'Uninspired' as the first song to release of 'Collider' and how happy have you been with the response so far? For me, it could've been any song because I think they're all kick ass. We let a few people close to us preview the album and they picked a few songs that could fit the bill. We all then agreed on Uninspired, as it's a good introduction to what we've done with Collider, people really seem to like it, and I like that.

How did you get to the album title 'Collider' and what does it mean to you? Will came up with it. I could make up some reason why Collider makes sense, like "it represents everything we've learned along the way coming together in a creative explosion of audio-realism". But really, it happened the same way we got our band name, someone said it, and no one had a better idea. It felt right to me and it looked good on paper.

What are the main themes and influences that run through your upcoming record 'Collider'? I can only answer concerning the music because I didn't write the lyrics. I draw a lot of influences from many different genres and can't help but bring them in to Cartel. Most of my influence is all the terrible music that's all over the place these days, because I make the music that I would rather hear and I also write music that I know Will's voice would sizzle over.

What was it like to self produce and record once more as a band on 'Collider', and how would you say you have progressed/developed on this method since you previously did it on 'In Stereo'? In Stereo was an experiment, as we did most of it at Will's house on the cheap. I knew we could make records without the deep pockets of any label but we've never done more than demos outside of a studio. After we held In Stereo in our hands and saw the positive reaction from our fans, then the reality of actually making a full length felt more attainable. This time around, we didn't have anyone telling us "No. That's not a single, you can't go to radio with that. Write something else or we'll find someone to write it for you." We knew how to record, and we knew what we wanted our songs to sound like, and that's really all you need to make a record, that, a room, maybe some mics, oh and some talent!

How would you say the band have progressed musically since your last full length record 'Cycles' ? It's hard for me to answer this because I'm in the band, I've heard that "practice makes perfect". And since Cycles, we've probably played hundreds of shows. So I'd say we're that much better than we were during Cycles. This is like asking someone, "When you look in the mirror, how much has your face changed since last year?" Obviously, there are changes but it's hard to tell because when I look in the mirror, I see the same face!

“We are ignoring the big business of record selling and focusing on music making� What was the hardest part behind putting together 'Collider' for you, and why? To be honest, I wouldn't say there was ever a hard time. Writing songs and making an album is like putting together a puzzle because piece by piece the picture becomes clearer and the excitement and anticipation makes the challenge more of a game than a chore, so it's definitely something I enjoy.

What do you want this record to do for the status/representation of Cartel? I just want people to like it. We will tour regardless, but it would make driving for hours in a van more enjoyable if there were people who came to our shows and sang a long to these songs.

You guys have been a part of the alternative rock scene for a decade now, so with this in mind, how much do you think everything has changed or progressed since you first started out? Things have changed a lot. Bands come and go, the music industry is dying, but music isn't. Cartel and Collider are a testament to that as we are ignoring the big business of record selling and focusing on music making, that's what it's always been about, making music. That's what we do best and we'll continue to make noise as long as there are people that find joy in listening to it.

What else can we expect to see from Cartel in 2013? Who knows, maybe a video or two. I'm sure we'll be touring so expect to see four grown men making it happen every day on their own terms.

Interview with Fred

So can you tell us about how the new line-up came to formation, and how it's been for you guys to work together so far? We've been playing together for almost a year. Steve was the drummer on The Color Fred record and Aaron plays bass and sings. We play all the time and I think it's the best chemistry I've had with a band in a really long time....especially with the live shows.

You recorded and produced 'Pre-Transmission' in your home studio by yourself (You recorded every instrument), so what made you want to create a release via this method, and how was this whole experience for you? It was something I needed to do. I guess you could say it was like some kind of soul searching that all got recorded. I feel like that comes through when you listen to it and also this caused a change in the music that I thought was very necessary.

How much of a difference was it for you to not have an influence of a major record label behind you on this release? No one ever admits that a label influenced them, and in most cases it's not like labels sit and filter your stuff but when you record and there's absolutely no one there but you, by yourself, then different things do happen. We're going to continue recording ourselves as I don't see any need to be part of a label anymore.

What was the hardest part behind putting together your EP 'Pre-Transmission'? The hardest part is seeing the whole picture when you can only play one instrument at a time. I'm sitting in front of the speakers trying to think about what I want the snare drum to sound like on a song that has never been heard before. I didn't even have a band at the time to try it out at practice with, so there was some trial and error and I'm still learning as we go.

What are the main themes and influences that run through your latest release 'PreTransmission'? Musically, I wanted something pure, honest and rock sounding. I didn't want any cheap pop hooks or anything that was reaching for something. Lyrically, it was loosely a story about a man whose wife was in the hospital. I had written the song "Hospital" and then later on, my wife actually came down with something bad and went into the hospital, so It all started to pour out after that.

What made you want to bring in Jon Simmons on the track 'Last Look' and what was it like to work with him on the recording of this song? Jon's awesome! I listen to that Balance and Composure record a lot and we had a mutual friend so I asked him to do it. He came over and we worked on the part together, he totally made the song better and cooler.

How would you say your sound has progressed since your self-titled record in 2010? My hope is that when you listen to something that I was a part of, you can tell I'm in there. I'm not talking about my voice, I'm talking about the way I write and the words and notes I choose and the way I play them. As long as I have that, then I think it can just evolve naturally. If I had a bad year or a good one, then that'll show in the music, but hopefully it all sounds like me.

So what do you want 'Pre-Transmission' to do for the representation of Terrible Things? It's always going to be its own unique record because it was created at a transitional time in my life but it's got that "Pre" there which hints at the fact that there's a whole lot more on the way. What can we expect to see from Terrible Things in 2013? We're going to keep creating music in new and different ways. We have a lot in store and tons of music is coming, so there is no holding back.

Interview with Kris

What have you guys been up to recently then? Well, we Just finished a huge tour of Asia, including China, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. We haven't toured Europe in a while mostly because we have been doing loads of touring elsewhere for the last several years, but most importantly I have been doing a lot of recording, we have released four new songs from the forthcoming album "The Graveyard of the Atlantic" and I released an acoustic album called Kristopher Roe "Hang Your Head in Hope" which includes stripped down versions of many fan favourites from The Ataris as well as a few new songs. Both of those are completely FREE to download on our Bandcamp page. Donations are welcome but not expected. Hopefully people check out the songs, see what we have been up to lately, and then come out and show their support at the upcoming tour of Europe and U.K.. Tickets are selling very fast so make sure you get them in advance!

Your upcoming album, ‘The Graveyard of The Atlantic’ has been a long work in progress so what can we expect from you on the new record, and when do you think the new album will be released? I listen to a wide variety of music, and I feel that the best art comes from being daring, taking risks, and continuing to create what feels moving to me. I feel ultimately that if you write from within and try your best to tell the harshest most vivid personal stories from your life and write simply for yourself then other people will relate to it. The worst thing the writer can do is write what he thinks people may want of him, and I could never do that even if I tried. Musically I like lush soundscapes, and bands like My Bloody Valentine, Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor... I try to take a straight forward rock n' roll song that is built on a strong story and written with just me and one guitar and then add my stamp with big textural, droning, ambient guitars in the right places. Everything I record is strictly recorded to Analog tape on vintage tape machines with old amps, drums and guitars, it’s tracked on a vintage Neve console so that what you hear is what was played. Download the four new songs I mentioned earlier as I feel that they will give you a good idea of what the album is shaping up to sound like rather than having me try to describe a sound or a feeling. I think fans of The Ataris new and old will find something about the songs that they can relate to or is moving to them.

You've always said your music is written about current situations you were facing at the time, so what is this album all about? Each song generally is about a completely different situation, place, person... I feel that as a writer first and foremost there needs to be a very descriptive narrative, with the most vivid depth and attention to detail. For me there are very few modern artists that move me but to name a few: Wilco, Radiohead, The Weakerthans, Tom Waits, Paul Westerberg of The Replacements... All of those artists are right up there with my favorite book writers (Bukowski, Nick Hornby... Etc) as they can paint a picture in a way that takes the listener to the exact moment they were in when they were writing their truth. That is the bar to set for oneself and hopefully you end up coming somewhere close or even beyond it in those rare moments.

You've been doing this for over 17 years; can you compare the band from when it all started to this present time, and also have you seen a big change in the music industry? Well of course the music industry has changed drastically but personally I have never cared about that side of things anyway, even during the first album where we were involved with Sony, every decision still went through me first. We have always been a completely self functioning unit with our hearts planted firmly in the D.I.Y. spirit, and that’s simply because that is the only way I know how to do things, it is who I am. Then of course the Internet has completely changed the way that people discover music as well. When I was a kid and wanted to discover new and independent music in my small town I had to to mail order the LP's from the back pages of Flipside, MRR or other fanzines and I also discovered a lot of the larger alt rock bands like Dinosaur JR, Sonic Youth... Etc. through a great late night program that was on MTV every Sunday night at 12 midnight called 120 Minutes. For two hours it showed loads of great indie and alt rock videos and that was my window into the vast outside world that would forever shape my future. As for our sound evolving, I am 36 years old, and I feel that I have only grown stronger as a songwriter. Since around the time I wrote the album "So Long, Astoria" I felt that I have really learned how to: refine my songwriting, how to focus, deconstruct my songs, rip them apart and put them back together and then have something stronger. As far as the way I record The Ataris albums, I have generally always written all the parts on our albums and recorded all of the instruments except for the drums, give or take our album "Welcome The Night" which all the basic parts were recorded with us playing them live at the same time with everyone in one room together. We have recorded on analog tape for basically every album.

In a kind of reference to the last question, how do you as a band keep motivated to keep doing what you’re doing? Traveling, writing, photography are my three passions which all go hand in hand. I love exploring the world, visiting new places, and to go all the way across the globe and have someone sing along with something you wrote is the greatest honor, and I will never get tired of it. So that in itself is more motivation than I could ever ask for.

You’re starting your UK/European tour this April, which is the first time you've toured here in five years, so how excited are you for this tour, and also how stoked are you to be starting it at this years GROZEROCK festival? I am very much looking forward to performing in Europe and the U.K. again, not to mention that I get to rediscover the art museums, amazing food culture, walk around the tiny streets and corridors at night alone exploring and taking photography. I simply cannot wait, as for Groezrock it is an honor to be a part of it. We are good friends with Bill and Stephen of Descendents who will be there playing as FLAG! To get in the crowd and shout along with all of those old Black Flag songs is going to be great. I'm also excited for Samiam, Bad Religion, Grade and Rocket From The Crypt. All in all it is refreshing to play a Rock festival that actually has some artists that are more about heart and substance, as music is felt with your hearts, it is not about image.

You've seen band members come and go over the years, so why do you think the band has seen so many members leaving? Ultimately the band in a recording sense has always been me doing all of the recording, I write the parts, show the drum parts to the drummer and then the drummer and I record the album together. I can play drums although not confidently enough to expand upon the basic grid I write for my songs. I am good enough to show the basic drum parts that I want for each song and then I like to work with a drummer that can expand upon my basic ideas and push the songs to be something better. For the last several years that means drummer Bob Hoag and I have been in the studio, he also runs the studio Flying Blanket in Mesa, Arizona where I do all of my recording. Now as for the changing of the live line up. I have moved around the country a lot, had some members fall to the excess of drug or alcohol addiction, one got married and started his own studio... But currently Bryan Nelson our bass player has been playing with me for roughly five years now, he is my best friend, a solid player and a great partner, Thomas Holst joined as our second guitar player two years ago when we relocated to Arizona to be closer to Bob Hoag and his studio. And recently our friend Erik Perkins joined as our drummer, he toured with us last year in his old band Far From Finished who are also good friends of ours. I feel we all push each other to be better players, we are good at improvising, and vibing off each other. Like for instance we have a good chemistry on stage where I feel we are able to make the songs stronger, where we build upon them whilst still keeping them true to the original idea. The true testament of a good band is that I feel we bring such fresh new life into many of the old recordings, and some of the songs that to me at 36 may sound slightly dated on the albums, I feel that on a good night we can just totally crush it when we perform them live. There is actually a FREE live recording on our Bandcamp page as well, it was from our 2012 U.S. tour.

Regarding to the Rob Felicetti and the on-stage calamity, for those that don't know could you put the story straight about why it happened? I treat my band like family, we all love each other very much and we are brothers. I had the same mutual feelings for Rob and I feel that I am a very tolerant person, but when someone shows up on stage and cannot even play the songs because they are too inebriated then you are not only letting down the other three of us but most importantly you are letting down the fans who payed money to see you. I have no tolerance for that sort of behavior. Drink, have fun, whatever but when it comes time to play a show, then go out there, have a blast, and give it your 110% because there are thousands upon thousands of kids that would fucking LOVE to be doing what we are doing.

That night I felt like it was a slap in the face to our fans and the three of us, after a couple of songs I kindly asked him if he needed anything, and if he wanted to take a break as I would gladly play a few songs by myself... He mumbled he couldn't play because I had no idea he was wasted until we got onstage, that night, so I told him, no problem go take a break, get some coffee, food whatever he needed. I played a few tunes and expected him to come back and everything would be ok or that he could at least pull it together and we could get though the set. But it just got worse and worse, Thomas was furious, and Bryan was totally embarrassed as well. He wasn't just completely missing cues, he was seriously playing so bad that he couldn't even keep a beat at some points. So finally I lost it, Rather than have it go on any longer I just completely destroyed the drum set. Then of course the other part you don't see is that I stuck around, took requests and played like another 16 songs for fans. Everyone has bad nights, but the only problem is that in this day and age people are more interested in going to shows and filming them rather than actually watching the music.

What has been the bands greatest achievement? And the biggest challenge to face so far? The greatest achievement in my eyes is that I am 36 out here traveling the world and making a living doing what I love, and that I have been doing it since 1996, I am thankful for my parents who taught me a great work ethic. They taught me to not ever give up on what you believe in and to set strong goals and fight to achieve them, and most importantly they enstilled values in me, that you don't need material bullshit to be happy, that the struggle, the journey, the climb are far more important than the destination itself, and that people can talk all the shit about you they want, but none of it affects anything because I know that I care immensely about our fans, about my friends, my band and at the end of the day I have the best life I could ever ask for and would not change it for the world.

Where are The Ataris at now and what would you like the future to hold for the band? I have twenty songs of music recorded for "The Graveyard of The Atlantic" I just still need to find time between our busy touring schedule to get back into the studio this year and record vocals for many of those songs as well as record a few more additional new ones that I have written over the last couple of months. I am also looking forward to another very busy year of touring, because after Europe and the U.K. We play Pouzza Fest in Montreal then head back to Australia later in the year and as well as this we are trying to do a few more markets in Asia that we were not able to include on our recent journey.

Interview with Alex

How did your recent tour go with Your Demise, Counterparts and Fact, and are there any particular highlights that you'd like to share with us from the tour? That was a killer tour. It was good to kick off 2013 with something so big and also to be on the road for two and a half weeks because you get to properly know all of the dudes on the tour. After a long time waiting we got to release our first single from the album half way through the tour which was a definite highlight. We all went and got Eleven Eyes tattoos to celebrate. Even our tour manager and photographer got one.. Committed!

How did you get to the album title 'Old Lies for Young Lives'? The title came after the concept. We'd been writing for a while and we'd written a lot of lyrics about getting older, and the psychological aspects of the role that deception plays in our early lives. Dean just came up with a really succinct way of phrasing it and we ran with it as an album name. We were spitballing ideas and he said Old Lies for Young Lives and I just said 'yes! That's it. It has to be. That's the one'.

What was it like to record at the awesome Outhouse Studios? The guys recorded Dead Ends there before I joined, and we did our single These Streets / Gold Coast there back in February 2012, so it was nice to be back there, although I'm sure they're getting sick of us now. Seriously though, it's always a pleasure to be there because they've recorded so many great albums and you know your sound is in good hands. The engineer there, Ben, really became part of the writing process for us and was really helpful to me as it was my first time doing vocals in a studio, he lent his ear to some harmonies and stuff, so it was really cool to have a guy that wants to get involved who doesn’t just sit there and hit record like a robot.

How has the writing & recording process compared to what you did before as Heights? Writing was a bit different. Pre Old Lies, it was mostly Dean and I writing the music, and then Thom wrote all the lyrics, so Dean and I took on the lyric writing responsibilities for this album.

Recording was a bit of a journey for all of us, but especially me. It was my first time in a studio as a vocalist and the first time I've ever fronted a band.. So I was basically learning as I went along. I'd only played two shows as the vocalist for Heights before we went into the studio so I was still finding my feet whilst also experimenting as much as I possibly could. It all seems a bit mental now looking back on it, and we all drove ourselves mental getting the record finished, but I love what we made.

How would you say this record compares musically to your first release 'Dead Ends' ? Old Lies is a much more varied release, for sure. There's a lot more experimentation with different styles in every area of our sound, tonality, dynamics etc. There are far more melodic moments on the album but there's also some of the darkest moments of music that Heights have ever released, and lyrically speaking it’s pretty heavy going as well. Really, Heights is almost an entirely different band with this record.

What was the hardest part about creating 'Old Lies for Young Lives'? Well we wrote the whole record in about five or six weeks, so it was a bit of a race against time. We had a studio booked and virtually no material with my vocals on written about a month before we were due to go in. We really locked ourselves away so that we could write into the early hours of the morning to get the songs done while we were on a roll. And then we had our first two shows with me as the vocalist on the week we started recording, which added a bit of stress as there was a lot of pressure from people who were judging how the new Heights was going to be. Then we did the whole record in the studio in three weeks, which isn't all that long. It was a stressful time, and Dean got really ill at the end of the album recording process, but you know, Heights work the best when we are under pressure and when the odds are against us. I wouldn't change it because we got a killer record out of it.

How did you end up working with Sam Carter on the track 'Eleven Eyes', and what was this whole experience like for you guys? We toured with Architects for the first time in late 2011, and got to know the guys that way. They're honestly the nicest dudes, and they have also helped us out a lot along the way so we owe them so much. We had a great time working with Sam on Eleven Eyes though, as it was a really creative experience and he was very open to our opinions and kept checking back with us to make sure that we liked what he was doing with the track. We just let him run wild with it a little bit and then in the end it came out better than we had ever hoped.

In a kind of reference to the last question, how did you end up picking 'Eleven Eyes' to release first, and how happy have you been with the feedback to this track so far? Well after the hook that Sam laid down on the end of the song we didn't want to sit on it for long and all agreed that it was the best song to put out first. It's also a good first track lyrically, and it's encompassing of the Old Lies concept. Feedback to the track has been great, we were expecting a fair few people to not like it, as it was the first official release with my vocals on and everything, but we've been blown away. Someone has already got an Eleven Eyes tattoo and it only came out like a month ago, so that's pretty wild.

You guys have been announced for a handful of UK festivals already, so how excited are you for these dates, and what should attending fans expect? Yeah we announced Slam Dunk the other day and I am next level excited for that show. Slam Dunk South is in Hatfield, which is right next to Welwyn Garden City where we all met and went to school, and it'll be the closest show I've played to my house since I was about 15. That'll be our first major festival after the release of the album so you should expect to hear lots of songs from it if you're coming. We've also got Hevy, SummerJam, FuryFest, Burn Out and a few others which we haven't announced yet that I know a lot of people will be excited about.

What else can we expect to see from Heights in 2013? We're planning to do something a little bit different to come out around the time of our album.. It should surprise some people and it will be great fun to make. We have lots more shows over the summer, and we'll be touring again towards the later half of the year!

Interview with Buddy

You’re just about to drop your latest album 'Renacer' which means ‘to be reborn’ in Spanish. So can you tell us how you got to this as an album title? I wanted a title that encompassed what the record meant to me personally and what it meant to us as a band. Everything about this process has been completely different than anything else we have done. This record is a positive step into the future and it’s our strongest effort to date.

There’s a bit of a Spanish theme to this album with one track being 90% Spanish, what brought this on? I just wanted to try something different. Once I started working on it, it came out great and we ran with it. We also have a large spanish speaking fan base in the US and I wanted to let them know that we appreciate the support.

How did you end up working with Shaun Lopez on this record, and what was he like to work with? He was at the top of our list of people to work with. He was great, and he brought a lot of different ideas to the table and steered the ship in the right direction. Sonically he brought it on the guitars.

This is the first full length album with the new line-up, with Garret not in the band anymore then what was the song writing process like this time around? Usually Garrett wrote most of the material but this time we worked with a lot of different people. Zack Roach, our guitar player, played a large part in the process. Shaun Lopez wrote a song, and I even wrote some guitar parts. Most of the writing was done between Dan, myself and Jeremy Comitas. Jeremy plays in a band called Bayonet with me and played a large role.

This album is your heaviest to date, so as you progress musically as a band, what's it like for you to jump back into the older songs when performing live? I am of the mind that you should play the songs people want to hear, and I remove my ego when playing old songs. Of course I want to play what is new and fresh but there are people who pay to see you play and their favourite songs mean something to them and always will. You owe it as a band to play the songs that people want to hear.

In a kind of reference to the last question, what made you guys want to create a more heavier record then? I love heavy music and it is mainly what I listen to and have always listened to. In the past we were limited by our members as to how heavy and experimental we could take things.

What would you like this record to do for the representation/status of Senses Fail? I am not really sure. I am more concerned with what it means to me, as it marks a sense of fulfillment that I haven't had in a long time. I am proud and happy with the record, and I hope people enjoy it and love it as much as I do but I cannot control that. I would love people to make this record our most successful and critically acclaimed but I also know that not everyone is going to like it or think it is good. At the end of the day all you can control is the way that you view the world and I view every aspect of this record with positivity.

You’re heading over to the UK in May for your first tour over here since 2011 with Handguns & Marmozets as support, so how excited are you for this tour, and what should attending fans expect? I love touring the UK and always have a fun time. My girlfriend will be doing merch for us, so it will sort of be like a little vacation for the two of us. I am excited to show her the country.

Last year you guys celebrated 10 years as a band, so if you can pick, then what would you say has been your biggest achievement as Senses Fail so far? Still being relevant and successful.

Interview with Ned

After having some time to reflect on the release of ‘Floral Green’, has your sophomore record received the reaction you expected? Honestly we had no expectations. We wrote a record that we were proud of and just put it out to see what would happen. The fact that people felt so strongly about it was very rewarding, but we had no idea that that would be the case.

Can you tell us about how you got to the title ‘Floral Green’, and what you would like it to mean to your fans? The title is from a line in the song "Make You Cry". I don't want to say what I want it to mean to our fans, as I just want everyone to interpret it in their own way.

Can you tell us a bit about the main themes and influences that run through ‘Floral Green’? The themes are feeling awkward growing up as well as being unsure of your position in the world among other subjects.

How did the idea come about for the 'Secret Society' music video? The idea came from one line in the song , "I'll be you and you'll be me". We took it in a very literal way.

You've had a pretty heavy touring schedule since the record came out – so how do you like being on the road for extended periods of time? I like playing shows but with anything it gets tedious. Driving twelve hours every day for a month can get a little boring. But getting to play every night is what makes it all worth it.

Part of the allure of Title Fight is your underground feel– fans can go to a show and really get close to the band. Do you ever worry that as you get bigger, this may become more difficult? This is something we talk about a lot. I think in technical terms yes it will get a little more difficult as time goes on, but realistically we aren't the type of people who desire that so we will do everything in our power to keep things the same no matter what level we are at.

The day this issue is live, you will be in Japan getting ready to take on Punkspring! So how excited are you to be performing at this, along with a whole host of other epic bands? I love Japan so I'm very excited to get back. This will probably be our biggest show there to date so the whole trip will be a lot of fun.

How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what should attending fans expect? We are very excited. We put together a line-up of bands that we not only love but are great friends with so it's going to be a lot of fun for everyone!

What does the rest of 2013 hold for Title Fight? We are going to keep playing a lot of shows!

Interview with Andrew

You’re just about to start a tour that will promote the 10th annivesary of your debut record ‘Turn It Around’, as well as your second record ‘Wake The Dead’. So firstly did you think you’d still be here 10 years on? I don't think we were really thinking ten years down the line when we started CBK but we also didn't go into the band thinking it was going to be a flash in the pan. We have been serious about the band since it's inception. So I'm glad that we have lasted ten+ years.

Is there any particular reason you made this tour a celebratory of your first two records? We are doing this tour mostly to bring our original vocalist Scott Wade back for a few shows. We will be playing songs from our first two albums Turn It Around and Wake The Dead. TIA came out in 2003 and WTD in 2005. We won't be doing another WTD anniversary tour so we are just combining it all in this one. Scott quit the band in 2006. I moved from playing guitar to taking his spot on vocals at that time, and since then we have been doing our own thing touring, making records, etc. Scott and I have remained good friends and over the last couple of years we had talked about doing some "throwback" shows for fun and I thought it would be best to give it some context and do it ten years after the first LP. I'm really stoked to go back to playing guitar and have my best friend on tour with me for a few weeks. It's not a permanent thing, it will just be a few shows but hopefully some of our listeners will be psyched to get a different and special kind of show.

What can your audience expect from you on this tour? It's going to be a lot of fun. We will play what we think are the best songs from the first two albums. We made sure to put the shows in appropriate venues where the audience can do whatever they want, so we are hoping for some intimate/crazy hardcore shows on this run.

Are there any particular issues/causes the band address? If no, are there any reoccurring themes throughout the bands music? I mostly talk about personal issues, relationships ( family, friends, or otherwise ), my feelings about Hardcore and music in general. We have a few songs that are a bit more political but I think that's just more some comments about how I feel being Canadian and travelling around the world.

What drives your punk sound and attitude? I love punk and hardcore and I've been able to relate to it unlike any other style of music since I got into it. I don't know where I would be without it, I'm 31 and I still get excited about new bands and going to shows so it's stood the test of time in my life.

With all the touring this year will there be enough time for a fifth album on the agenda? I'm glad you asked! Yes, we are currently writing for our 5th album, I have roughly six songs written and we will be writing in between/on tour. It's a bit difficult with all the touring we have going on plus every member of the band lives in different cities...but we are thinking we will be able to record sometime after this summer.

Will there be musical progression or major changes in the new material compared to your last release ‘Symptoms + Cures’ – which received a positive reception from fans and critics. I can't say how it will turn out as a whole quite yet. When I started writing for this album I had a few more punk rock anthemic type songs, but recently I've been writing some harder and more bouncy kind of songs, so I think there will be a good mix on the new album. One thing that we are really going to focus on is making an album that will be fun to play live. Maybe simplify the songs a bit more, and I'll try not to get too wordy in the lyrics. But I always go into making records with a different idea of how it will turn out than how it actually turns out when it is all finished, so I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Being such a prominent band in the hardcore scene, how do you re-establish goals to maintain a steady progression? We just try our best, and keep those creative juices flowing! It's good to have a wide variety of influences and an open mind but still knowing what kind of music you are trying to make and what kind of shows and tours you want to be on. We make plans for our band a good 6-8 months in advance so we are constantly looking forward.

Lastly what do you want to gain from 2013? We are going to do some tours with some of our favourite bands ( Propagandhi, Madball, etc. ). Also we are going to Israel for the first time which I'm excited about! The anniversary shows will be special for me because I always loved playing guitar with CBK and also touring with Scott will be fun. Writing has been really fun lately too so I'm positive we will come out of the year with a new record under our belts. We will just keep on hustling and enjoying life.

Interview with Tom

At the end of last year you guys hit the road with the mighty Billy Talent, so how was this whole experience for you, and do you have any particular highlights that you could share with us? It's always a bit daunting playing with a band you've listened to and loved as a teenager but from the outset, the BT guys were so nice and welcoming. We had a load of great shows and nights out afterwards.

How did you guys end up signing to Sony, and what have they been like for you guys to work with so far? We get the best of both worlds with Search and Destroy being under the Sony Music label - the support of a major but the input and control from working with an indie label that is so closely involved with management.

It's fair to say that your latest record 'Priorities' has taken your band to the next level, so for you, looking back at the record now since its release, how happy have you been with its reception, as well as what's done for the band? 'Priorities' and in fact the whole of 2012 was really special for us as a band. The reception to the record was immense and securing a position in the charts was something we never imagined. Even better was to hear people singing back the songs at the shows following its release.

What can you guys tell us about your latest single 'Whole Truth'? Rob likes to take a lot of his lyrical influences from real situations that happen around him. Whole Truth is about one of his mates being a bit of a naughty boy and debating how best to play it.

You’ve just completed a sold out UK tour, so with this in mind, how happy are you to of achieved this? We had spent most of the year on support tours so when we announced the headline tour at the end of November we weren't really sure how the response would be. To have sold out and upgraded a load of the shows to then sell out again in the first week was just mental.

You guys are always releasing pretty cool t-shirt designs, so can you tell us who comes up with the majority of the ideas, and what do you go for when you are trying to create that next unique Don Broco t-shirt/design? We employ a number of market research companies to test consumer preferences and determine which designs to go with...ha, no in truth we just have a bit of a brainstorm and decide what we think would look good and what we wouldn't mind wearing ourselves!

How exciting are you to be headlining this years Hit The Deck Festival? We had an incredible response at Hit the Deck last year on the Big Deal Clothing stage and I don't think at that point we would have thought that we would be headlining it a year on. We got to play the Rock City main stage on the Billy Talent tour and Rob and Matt were both at Uni in Nottingham so it is always nice to head back. This year the festival has expanded to a second day in Bristol so it's great to see it growing and spreading across the country.

You've also got another headline tour coming up in April, so how excited are you for this, and what should attending fans be expecting from the tour? What we want from the upcoming tour in April is for everyone to have an awesome time at the gig and not be able to wait for the next time we're out on the road again. Also, the April dates were added because the February ones had sold so well and we wanted to do something really special for everyone who had missed out on tickets for our February shows. It's crazy to think that a year on from opening up for Four Year Strong at Koko, we're now playing our own headline show there, and to add to that it’s also one of our favourite venues.

It's been great to see Mallory Knox, Biffy Clyro & Funeral For A Friend do so well in the charts already this year, so with this in mind, what do you guys think of the current alternative music scene in the UK, and what artists are you excited to watch as 2013 continues? 2013 looks to be a big year for rock acts, which hopefully we will get to be a part of. There are some great bands that we've played with over the past few years that are now being supported by mainstream radio. It's been great to have Mallory Knox out on tour with us just recently, and we also got to tour with Lower than Atlantis last October so it'll be great to watch those two bands in particular grow over the coming year.

What was your biggest highlight from the festival season last year, and also, what would you like to see the upcoming festival season do for Don Broco? I think for all of us, playing Reading Festival last year was probably the highlight. It's our 'local' festival that we all went to when we were growing up and so playing it is extra special. We've been lucky to always have a great response to our festival sets so hopefully this year will be no different.

What else does 2013 hold for Don Broco? On the live front, we're looking forward to a busy festival season, including some of the smaller ones like Radstock and Takedown and to get out on the road again at some point. Behind the scenes, we're also starting to work on some new tunes when we get a bit of time free!

Interview with Frank

Can you tell us about the formation of Pure Love? Jim Carroll's been a friend for a while, but we met again through some shows. We met while we were out in New York and he knew that I wanted to start a band, and I had heard that he wanted to start a band and yeah, that was it really so we just went from there.

With it just being the two of you, did that have any impact on the writing process for the album? Yeah, it made it incredibly easy. The whole process has just been really simple and very relaxed. Jim's a great song writer and he has a certain idea of what he wants to do, and he just sends me over a riff or an idea and from that I just run with it. And likewise, if I ever have a melody, I'll send him one or two lines of a song and he'll immediately send something back within a day. So by doing that it helped write the album faster. We started figuring out what our idea was going to be and we started talking about doing a band, we then realised very quickly that we both wanted the same thing, we just wanted to make a big rock n' roll record.

Without dwelling too much on your past with the Gallows, Pure Love is a noticeable change in style, where did the desire to switch genres come from? The change, really, was a slow one for me if I'm honest, as it wasn't something that came about very quickly. Gallows hadn't written an album since 2009 and when I left the band it was 2011. It had been a long time coming anyway, all the change etc. So when it did happen, it wasn't like we set out to write something different. We didn't say we're just going to write a hardcore record, or we're just going to write a pop record, it wasn't like that at all, it just happened very naturally.

It's just been over a year since your first show as Pure Love, so with this in mind can you tell us a bit about how happy you have been with the response to your band so far? It's been amazing, it's all you want really, isn't it? For people to love what you're trying to do and back it. The support has been incredible and overwhelming, and I didn't expect for anyone to get behind it like they have. I'm really lucky at the moment, and I feel really blessed that people like what we're trying to do and that they support it. It's beyond anything we could've imagined.

With the change in musical style, how will you adjust to performing live? There's literally no change whatsoever, we're the same musicians just playing different songs and that's all there is to it. We just play the hardest we can every time and that's the way we'll always play.

Being based in America, as a Brit, do you still consider Pure Love a British band? I consider us a world-wide band, as that would be the best way to describe it. We have quite an international group of people playing with us as well. Our bass player is from New Zealand, the keyboard player is from the UK, I'm from the UK, Jimmy and Jared are both American, so yeah, it's just an international band! I wouldn't consider us a British band, but I think we have a very British sound for sure.

What are the main themes and influences that run through your latest record, ‘Anthems’? Love, loss, sex and life, that's it. All the great mysteries of the world are what we try to focus on...all the questions that people will never be able to answer.

Have you found any answers? No. We never will. We're looking for the answers, but we don't necessarily want to find them. If we found the answers then we'd be fucked! There'd be no more music, no more art etc.

How was it working with Gil Norton on the record? It was exactly as you'd expect it to be - he is one of the nicest human beings I've ever met, he's such a good person, humble, excited about work and really happy to be working every day, he's a great guy and a great friend as well.

How did you end up working with him? We put the word out that we were looking for someone and it just happened that he was in the building when we were signing our record deal. We just got talking and found out that he had demos of our songs and loved them and that was it really, the rest was history. We didn't even know that he'd been given our demos, so it was just ridiculous! First you're about to sign a record deal, and your mind is already all over the place and then you find out that Gil Norton is there and wants to have a chat because he loves these songs you've written, you're thinking "fuck off mate, you're lying". He had such in-depth notes on our songs, and he was so committed to it from the very beginning, so it just made perfect sense to go with him!

What has been the hardest process behind putting this record together for you? I don't think we've come across any particular hard bits yet. The hardest part is convincing the label that they have a great band; because the A&R which signed us got fired before we'd even started writing or recording the record. I mean these things happen, but it's never easy when they do happen, and it can be a problem. So yeah, that was the hardest part, convincing them that we're a worthwhile band and relative to them.

What do you want this record to do for the image of Pure Love? I'd like people to think that we're their favourite new band, that we're classic and that we're going to last the test of time...that's what I'd like! I don't know what people are going to think about it, but I hope that people listen to it with open ears, ignore the reviews and just listen to it themselves and if they like it then great, and if they don't like it, then I'm not going to lose sleep over it because I've made some art that I'm really proud of.

The video for 'Beach Of Diamonds' is really great, can you tell us about how the video came together? We decided we needed a video. We wanted to make a little homage to Sexy Beast, the film, so we spoke to the label about it and they had some concerns, and then on the same day we spoke to them about it, we spoke to my friend Ross who has made all of our other music videos, and he immediately wrote a treatment for it. He said "we'll get as much reference to Sexy Beast in there as we can, but make sure it's different enough that the label throws loads of money at it". Unfortunately, they didn't throw any money at it, but he decided to. He's a really good friend to have, Ross, in the fact that he really backs our band and loves what we're trying to do, so he poured loads of money into it and it's great because it came out awesome. However, at the same time it was a bit of a nightmare, because they all missed their flight, Jimmy and I got to sit in a villa in Spain on our own, which was nice, but it meant that we had to condense three days of video into twentyfour hours, so it was an intense day, but it worked out.

What does the rest of 2013 hold for you and Pure Love? I'd like to play some shows, and if we get an invite then it would be nice to go back to Reading & Leeds Festival. It's rare that bands get to go back and play every year, and it doesn't happen very often, but I'd love to play that festival every year. The people there, the crew, the organisers - it's just the best festival in the world, so yeah, we'd love to play that, but we haven't heard anything yet...Also, we've got a bunch of festivals lined up in Europe, so we are just going to keep ourselves busy.

Any last words for the fans? Thank you, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. They've made this a reality for us and it means the world to us. We went out and we wanted to do something for ourselves and it's really great that people appreciate it the way that we do.

Interview with Matt skiba

How did you get to the title 'My Shame Is True' and what do you want it to mean to your fans? Derek (Grant, our drummer) thought of the name in a dream and woke up in the middle of the night to write it on the dry erase board which was riddled with other possible (and impossible) titles. It's a nod to Elvis Costello but it also fits the theme of the record perfectly. People seem to really dig the title so far and that's all we can hope for. It's synonymous with the songs and hopefully the name represents everyone's favorite new Alkaline Trio record.

How would you say your sound as a band has progressed since the release of 'This Addiction'? Working with Bill Stevenson was a dream come true. I've always been a HUGE fan and we have become really good friends with Bill in recent years. He pushed us to get the best from us and in doing so, unlocked some new doors to how we write, structure, and record songs. We came out of the Blasting Room a better band thanks to Bill.

How did you end up working with Bill Stevenson & Jason Livermore on 'My Shame Is True', and what do you enjoy the most about working with them? We have talked with Bill about making a record together for years. Last time around, he was dealing with a brain tumor and wasn't able to do it, before that it was scheduling issues. We finally made it happen this time and it was an amazing experience. Jason is such a rad guy and he is so talented, Bill as well. I loved how efficient and hilarious it was, not a minute was wasted in there and we all now have six pack abs from laughing so much.

You guys are releasing an EP entitled 'Broken Wing' on the day you release your new record, so with this in mind, what was the idea behind this EP, and also can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from it? The EP is the "B Sides". The most difficult hurdle in making this record was deciding which songs DIDN'T make the album. We wanted those songs presented as a companion to the album as opposed to "less than".

Can you tell us about how the artwork for 'My Shame Is True' came together, and a bit about what it means to you? It started as a iPhone photo a friend took of my girlfriend on the '76 Honda CB200 i bought her, he got her bike running and sent me the picture. I immediately knew that we had our cover but we needed a high-resolution version, so we had the photographer Monkeybird re-shoot it with a real camera in exactly the same way. It started out as a "check out your lady on her bike i just fixed" photo text to becoming the cover of the album. The photo really reminded me of the song "Coma Girl" by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros (one of my all time favourites) and has a Clash/Smiths vibe which was not altogether unintentional.

You guys have a handful of side projects within the band, so how hard or easy has it been for you to work these projects around your time in Alkaline Trio? It’s really easy otherwise I just wouldn't do it. It's a good way to stay busy when the Trio has down time. We're all musicians at heart and love it so we can't go too long without recording or playing and there's only so much recording and touring one band can do without killing themselves or each other, or wearing out their welcomes out there because you put out too much shit and tour too often.

What else can we expect to see from Alkaline Trio in 2013? A whole lot of handsome!

Interview with Benny

It’s been over half a year since ‘Handwritten’ was released, so how happy have you been with the reception to the record as well as what it’s done for The Gaslight Anthem? It’s been like seven or eight months and yeah it’s been great. Everything with the band is still moving forward, we’re all still friends and we’re still touring. People seem to be receiving the record really well so there’s no complaints from our end.

From ‘Handwritten’ which songs have you been enjoying playing live the most? I really love the song ‘Handwritten’ myself, and I think it’s my favourite song from the record. To me it’s like a cool, complete, good rock & roll song and I really like just playing it live. I like performing the track ‘Howl’ and I also like playing ‘Too Much Blood’ because I get to do my little diet Led Zeppelin impression even though it’s not nearly as good as the real thing.

Tonight you’re playing your second sold out show at Bristol Academy, how was the first night of the UK tour then? It was good, really good. You know sometimes first shows are like getting it together a little bit and maybe they can be a bit sluggish from flying/jetlag etc, but I thought it went good. The crowd was cool, and I thought we didn’t suck, so yeah it was good for me.

What have been your personal highlights from the touring cycle for ‘Handwritten’? One of the big things that happened was Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) came on stage with us down in Florida. It was a cool day anyway because it was a festival that was right on the beach in Pensacola, Florida, I mean, literally the stage was like built into the sand. So before the show it was one in the afternoon and we were swimming in the Gulf of Mexico on this beautiful day and then sound checking in swimtrunks so that was awesome. We knew Pearl Jam was playing obviously, and we’d had brief interactions with those guys before, but nothing real, you know. Our friend Danny Clinch who’s a great photographer, came up to us that morning and said ‘Hey guys you should add State of Love and Trust, the Pearl Jam song, onto your setlist tonight’. We were all kind of like ‘That’s super cheesy to play a Pearl Jam song at a Pearl Jam show, so we don’t really want to do that’...and then he said ‘Just trust me, put it on’ so we were like ‘Oh so that’s what’s happening’. We wrote the setlist and put it in, we had no idea if it was actually happening or not and then about a song or two before it, we see Eddie Vedder side stage just chilling and I’m there thinking ‘Oh fuck, I guess this is really happening’. Before we know it the song came up and he jumped on stage. I’ve loved that song since I was a kid so the idea of playing drums to that song with Eddie Vedder and my friend Brian singing it together just blew my fucking mind, it was a cool experience.

Brian has said that Pearl Jam are having a bit of an influence on you as a band, so what do you think about this? It would be impossible to say at this point without using rubbish cliches so I’m not even going to bother really ha. We’re definitely a band who like whatever we’re listening to and whatever we’re inspired by seems to find its way in, hopefully not in a rip off way but we definitely write from the place of feeling so I guess when you write music like that you’re going to write material that you’re influenced by and that you really love. Our career has taken a different turn and with a major label behind us things have gotten a lot bigger so Pearl Jam are a band that we look to not only as a musical influence but also almost as an ethical influence and as a business influence. We really like the way they think outside of the box and try to do things differently. They play the game a little bit but at the same time they kind of do things their own way. I kind of dig the independence of bands that big. Basically, there have been bands over the years that we’ve tried to model ourselves after and they’re definitely one of them.

How would you say you’ve progressed musically as a band since the early days? We’re way better, I mean not as a band but as individual players. I listen to the drum parts on Sink or Swim and they’re awesome and they’re exactly what I wanted to do at the time but it’s material that I would never write now. I feel like I’ve grown up as a musician, and that there’s more things I know as well as more things that I can do, so that’s one of the cool things. We never wanted to make the same record twice, and we always want to keep things moving in a different direction as well as moving forward at the same time. I think part of that is a constant reinvention and when you’re already learning how to play different types of music you just get better at it. I think that back in the day the music came from a rawer and less intellectual place than it does now with the big time producers and studios. You have to kind of change the approach a little bit, as you’re not going to sign to a major label and make the punkest record you’ve ever made because that’s not being honest to anybody. So yeah I think that’s probably the biggest change, but the way that we look at things and approach things is pretty similar, I just think that the biggest difference is the style of music we write and the way we’re able to deliver it.

You’ll be back at Download Festival again this year, so are you looking forward to playing? Yeah! On a personal musical taste level I’d rather see the day before honestly. I’m not going to talk shit about any band but the day before us is Iron Maiden and Mastodon and we’re playing with Rammstein and 30 Seconds To Mars. I have no issues with either of those bands I would just prefer to see Iron Maiden or Motorhead myself. I get worried playing festivals like this sometimes because I’m like ‘Fuck, are these kids too metal’, I mean I love metal but I know that kids who love metal like LOVE metal and that’s what they’re into, and sometimes they don’t like bands like us. We’ve played a couple of things like that, we’ve played Download and the Orion Festival with Metallica in the States and they went well so maybe somehow these metal fans know that we listen to metal? I don’t know.

There are a couple of side projects outside of The Gaslight Anthem, so is a metal one right up your street then? One of them kind of is, the side project that I’ve had with Alex Rosamilia (Guitar) was actually started before Gaslight was even a band, it’s kind of a stoner metal project, and my other bands are more of a hardcore style. My love of heavy music is definitely in a more hardcore vein than a metal vein because like I grew up more on Hatebreed than I did Megadeth. I don’t see myself playing metal though, and I’m actually pretty adverse to double kick anyway. I love double kick for metal but if a band like The Gaslight Anthem had a double kick, then I would hate it!

What else can we expect to see from The Gaslight Anthem in 2013? Well we’re touring until October and that’ll be like the basis of the year, and we’ll be doing mostly headlining gigs. After the first few days when we’re out on the road and are really comfortable with the set and the songs we always start writing just because we’re bored. So I assume that over the course of the year we’ll be writing a lot while we’re on tour and then the same as always should happen; take a little time off, write a record, record it and start touring again. As long as people want to hear our music and as long as that window is open then we’re going to jump through it, because we all know that this could end just as quickly as it began.

How did your recent tour with Fun. go, and what moments from the tour stood out to you? It was a great tour. We played Radio City Music Hall the other week, which for American venues is one of the more legendary places to play, so that was a pretty big highlight. It was just fun in general to get out there and play with some new guys whilst approaching some of the old Something Corporate catalogue and Jack's catalogue in the same set. But certainly, Radio City was a highlight.

At one of your first shows as a solo artists you performed a new song from your EP entitled 'Learn to Dance' so what's this been like for you to perform, and how happy have you been with the response to this track so far? It's actually been great. You get nervous when you introduce new material live, as you worry that it might not be received as well. With that said, I think that when we went out and played these Fun. shows, I felt that next to some of the bigger songs that I've written over the years, it got one of the best reactions, which was really great. Especially because a lot of those shows were actually sold out before we got on them, so there was a good amount of Fun. fans who didn't know much about me before or when they showed up to a gig, but then I guess they were like "Oh, I know these songs" and then realized that they were familiar with one of the bands that I've played in. But yeah, it's been going over great live.

What are the main themes and influences that run through your upcoming solo EP? Especially with a song like 'Learn to Dance', a lot of this music is sort of the unwinding of some of the more difficult years for me in music making. Jack's Mannequin was certainly a highlight of my career, but the last couple of albums were trickier in the wake of my illness and all of the events that kind of followed. Making music for a major label again which I wasn't expecting, I think a lot of stuff was pent up while I made those records and for me a lot of this music is about letting go of all of that and watching life come full circle and being in a place where I feel comfortable enough to go into the studio and write quickly with a stream of consciousness. I think a lot of the themes that come out of that, is reconciling the past and being content to move forward, and I think there are a lot of positive themes. It's a very hopeful record and there's a lot of references to family and reconciling of a past that was maybe difficult.

Without dwelling too much on the past, was the break with Jack's Mannequin amicable? Are any of the guys following you into this new project? Yeah absolutely. I think because Jack's was far more of a concept than a band, that there wasn't any of that negativity that came with the break. Two of the three other members of Jack's are travelling with me as I play this new music under my own name and Bobby, the one that has sort of moved on, we're still friends and just recently I was able to help him work on the EP that he's going to put out. It wasn't really about breaking up a band as much as it was putting to rest this concept which had run its course. Nevertheless, it's not to say that I'm not totally proud of what I have done, it was just a moment to say "Ok, I did this. I did the Something Corporate thing, I did the Jack's thing and now the next step of my career is about new music and about celebrating the best of what I've created over the past several years, and not separating them and making it about one versus the other".

With this break from the past, will we see a different style in music to Jack's Mannequin? Well I certainly think that the sounds on this record are really adventurous and a step in a different direction. I think there's an inherent thing with me in the way I write music and the way I sing songs, that you'll always feel a thread of what you’ve come to know from me and the songs that I write. There's certainly a lot more of an electronic influence on the material that we're doing, and we're sort of pulling from a wider range of tools sonically. When you go into a studio and you don't really have a commitment to this musician, or that musician, or a certain producer, then you end up pulling from a wider array of sonics. So you'll definitely hear that if you haven't heard me play before, but then I'd still argue that it still feels very much like my music.

You've said that the band you're playing with at the moment is the largest you've played with in your career, will we see that on the EP or is this just for the live show? It's mainly the live show. With that being said, we started with the drum programming and focused on arrangements that were based on the programming, but then in the finishing process, Jay, who has been drumming with me for the last few years, came and played on the EP and Mikey, my bass player, who played bass in the last couple of years of Jack's, contributed some bass parts as well. There have been contributions from some of the guys. However, primarily on the material aside from the drums, it is myself, my co-producer Mark Williams and Tony Hoffer, who programmed and played most of the music on the record.

What was it like to work with Mark Williams and Tony Hoffer? A pleasure. I think for me, a lot of this next step is about meeting new people and not being afraid to collaborate; it’s also about kicking that door open and saying "look, I want to be in a room with new, talented people that I've never met". When we started the process with Mark, we were kind of writing a lot of songs together, where he'd be programming drums and I'd be working on a piano hook, then he'd lay it down and we'd cut these tracks in a day. He's this sick, twenty-one-year-old music prodigy who grew up playing jazz and classical who then transitioned into dance music. So getting that influence and having another ear in the room that I hadn't worked with before was really enlightening and it led me to new places. And then of course, finishing with Tony in the production chair - Tony's worked on records with bands like the Kooks and Phoenix etc., he's made so many records that I love and listen to all of the time, so it was pretty magical.

It's been nearly ten years since the release of ‘North’, the last Something Corporate record, so how do you look back on this record now, and what do you feel it has done for you as a musician? North was a pretty interesting chapter in my career and in my life, period. I mean, we went from Leaving Through the Window which was a really innocent record in a lot of senses, because the songs were written when I was still a Junior and Senior at high school and very fresh to North where the record came off the heels of touring relentlessly for a year or two without stopping, constantly making music and coming into our own on the road. So I think in a lot of senses it was one of the greatest maturations I experienced from one record to another. That album for me has some of the darkest moments musically that I've ever written, with a song like 'Me and the Moon', which is one of my favourite pieces of music that I've ever written. I reflect on that record and I'm always really impressed considering the bands that we were getting compared to at that time. Especially pop-punk bands and the younger set of music that we didn't totally identify with, I feel that it was a pretty bold record to put out on the heels of an album like Leaving Through the Window which was known for its more straight-ahead pop approach. I love the album.

Photo credit: David Aday

How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, including Slam Dunk Festival, and what can fans expect? I think there's going to be a chance to dive into my songs a little bit. It's not very common that I have the chance to go out as just me on a piano and play songs for fans in such a stripped down scenario. In truth, it will actually be the first time I've ever been on tour with just me behind the piano, so I think in that sense it's something special and something that I haven't even done here in the States so I'm excited to do it over there. Frankly, it was always disappointing to me that we weren't able to work more in the UK and Europe when I was with Jack's and that we never really had much support from the label over there, whereas when I was with Something Corporate, they really invested the time and energy to introduce our music to fans on that side of the pond. For me, when I got to the point of breaking free from the label and was able to operate independently, it was one of the first phone calls I made - I was like "get me out to the UK, I want to play shows". I want to be able to play to fans who listened to Something Corporate, and for the fans who grew up with Jack's and didn't get to see much of us over there, I want to play those songs. It's going to be a free for all, where I'll have a chance to play through a lot of the catalogue when I'm out there, especially on those headlining dates.

What else does 2013 hold for you? Can we expect a full-length album? I'm pretty hopeful. Right now I want to get this EP out, and in this day and age I think it's an important statement to make now that I'm operating on my own out of the "major label world" that it's possible for me to create and release material quickly. But certainly getting in the chance to make new music every time I'm not on the road is an equally high priority. So, if it's not a full-length by the end of the year, then I would not doubt that there will be more new music at least. So yeah that's definitely the plan, to make new music and get it out there and available as quickly as possible!

So when & how did you get into the PR world? I did an internship when I was 16 at Independiente Records and came down from Yorkshire to spend 2 weeks in London with my mum! it was a time when you start thinking of Uni and what you might want to study after A levels. I found a course at Westminster University which was music business and production so I knew I wanted to do that. But I had to prove it to the folks! so after a while they decided I could go for it. The main reason I did the course, aside from the fact that our lecturers were all industry professionals (stevie wonders manager etc) was because I had to have a way of living in London and being able to intern as much as possible. You don’t really NEED a degree, but i’d never have been able to do 3 years of working for nothing between studies if it wasn’t for Uni. I worked at Sony/BMG in the press department for agesmainly in the pop department with Westlife, 5ive, Christina Aguilera etc. That was alot of fun! if you work hard, you get noticed and i’d get brought into different departments when someone was off sick. Then one of the press officers left and I got paid work at her new place so she stole me!

When did you realize that PR work would be something that you wanted to do as a career? Whilst I was at Uni i think, I interned at major and indie labels, management companies and more but press if always something that I really loved and its often the first thing to launch a bands career. Taking bands from being brand new to getting covers is something special.

Who was your first major client, and what was this whole experience like for you? I was lucky enough to start out as an assistant at Mercenary PR and work alongside Susie Ember & Kas Mercer who I owe so much too. Working at a tight knit company was invaluable and allowed me to work on some of the biggest bands in rock music including Metallica. But My Chemical Romance was my first massive band. I’d assisted Susie on their first record and then I took over when she left to be head of press at Virgin. I was fortunate to look after them for ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge’ which is the record that really exploded them in the UK. It is hugely satisfy working on a band from the start and seeing them go from the Barfly to headline Reading/Leeds festival. I definitely shed a tear being proud of them at that point. It definitely changed my life working with them. I couldn’t have worked more hours if I tried, I got to travel alot and cemented the idea that i could only work in music. I already knew this though...

So, what does a typical day involve for you as a PR agent? I don’t think there is a typical day really. It depends on the time of year, you might be working tours which means you might be out at various cities covering press, having planning meetings or you’re sat on the floor stuffing envelopes with assistants.

Alternatively, what would you say is the most rewarding part of your job for you, and why? Watching bands develop really grow into something. Also when bands/labels/managers say thankyou for hard work. Even if a band isn’t going to be gracing covers anytime soon, you still work just as hard. So when its recognised, its great.

Can you give us a couple of highlights of your PR career so far, and why those moments mean so much to you? (biggest band you've enjoyed working with/most enjoyable tour you've helped promote etc) 1.MCR- Three Cheers (whole campaign) 2.Metallica- Death Magnetic campaign, headlining Wembley Stadium was pretty special. standing side of stage and just seeing THOUSANDS of metal fans was just mind blowing and hugely humbling. I know I am lucky! 3.The Blackout- everything, they are some of the best humans i’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. They are incredibly fun and hardworking. We got to go to Japan for a weekend for a cover feature and it also happened to be my birthday so that was a very lucky moment! 4.Brit Awards- I worked on them whilst I was at Uni, they chose 2 students to be part of the team in 20012002. We worked with all the voting categories, got the cover of Music Week too haha. 5.Starting my own company- 3.5years in and I still love it. 6.I also worked for Positive Nuisance before Mercenary PR and we were the UK reps for Nitro records, Kung Fu records and did alot with Burning Heart and Epitaph too. Chrissie is still one of my best friends now. Doing tour booking as well as press for many bands was amazing. I loved (still do!) hardcore so working with American Nightmare, Hope Conspiracy, Sick Of it All, etc was BRILLIANT. She also did AFI & The Offspring from day 1 so that was always fun too 7.I had a stint working in pop too with Kimberly Wyatt (ex Pussycat Doll) for her music and whilst she was on the TV show Got To Dance. That opened new doors both personally and for business- more than i’d ever imagine and she is perhaps THE hardest working person i’ve ever come across. Amazing woman too.

What do you look for in a band when they decide that they want to work with you? I think/hope most people in music come from being a music fan. You need to love something to work with it. My taste is all over the place- folk to pop to hardcore to rock to hip hop. So it always starts from a love for what the band/musician are doing and then if all the other dots join up, then thats a bonus.

What advice would give to someone who wants to work in the PR world? INTERN. Its the only way. You need to learn, and you can only do that by observing and getting stuck in. It also proves you are not shy of hardwork and you really want it. I did it for ages, and when you are working with bands you are part of their life/career so you should do everything in your power to show you are deserving of being in that position.

What are you looking forward to doing the most this year as a PR agent, and why? MHC Publicity is something that my good friend Matt Hughes of Devil PR and myself have set up. Its still PR but we look after festivals like Slam Dunk, Hit The Deck and also Polaris Music Prize which is Canada’s version of the Mercury Prize.

What made you want to move from civil engineering to music production, and how was this whole experience for you at the time? Well, I guess Civil Engineering was my backup profession. My mom didn’t like the idea of me strictly making a living from music and said, “Look, if you get a degree in something real, then you can do whatever you want.” I chose Civil Engineering because I liked being outside. That was about all there was to it. Oh yeah, I was pretty good with math and science as well. But after graduating and getting a job, it was about nine months before I realized I just couldn’t be a civil engineer. My heart was in music and art. When I started following my gut on that idea, I couldn’t believe how much more satisfying that was. I’m proud that I have the degree, but I’m really happy I switched.

How did you end up moving from music production to becoming a composer? The process was fairly organic. In reality, I started my career in music when my band first went into the studio to record a four song demo. I fell in love with the studio process. It became my new focus. I loved everything about it. The gear, mics, preamps, compressors, EQ, running the board. I immediately went from working as a civil engineer to an apprentice at a recording studio in Boston. From there, I became a freelance engineer inside of six months. After several years of that, I started to produce my own bands and then arranging others’ music. The next logical step was to be the composer. It all happened very much like that.

As a composer, what was your first major project, and how exciting was this process for you? My girlfriend at the time, Cindy Shapiro (now my wife), was a game designer and a friend of hers asked her and I to compose the score to his new game called Flying Saucer. Cindy and I composed that together. Because of my background in engineering with understanding of programming language and Cindy being a software designer, our first step to composing the score was to design an interactive playback engine. Our basic idea was that we would have four one-minute streams of music that could be switched on the next bar. Each stream had a different level of intensity and then game-states would make those streams switch. It worked really well. Just about the time we got it working, the publisher came in and said, “Ok, we’ve decided to make everything about the game more cinematic including the music. We really like what you’ve done but it seems constrained by the interactive element. Please throw that away and just write new, really great film music for our title.” At that point, Cindy went off and was doing some software consulting work and I set about rewriting the score. So I got paid twice and that built my first studio. For what it’s worth, I don’t think they were wrong. To this day, I believe for most games, being too interactive can get in the way of writing good music.

What was it like to work on Mass Effect 1 & 2 and can you tell us a bit about your personal highlights from working on these games? I think the most notable thing about those games is that we were building a franchise, something that would survive for a long time. It’s a whole universe. The story is as ambitious as Lucas’ Star Wars – yet it’s different in its own way. It was a fun challenge to make music that people were not expecting. I think they were anticipating another space opera score and ours was something different. I’m very proud of that.

How did you go about creating a space-like atmosphere that is essential in the Mass Effect games? The electronics played a pivotal role in creating the ambience of the game. There was always some orchestra but it was used more as a tool rather than the main device of the score. For Mass Effect 2, the director wanted more orchestra so there is more there. There’s also the idea of reverb on the electronics that became an important part of its sound. A space-y electronica.

Just recently you got involved with the Call Of Duty franchise on Black Ops 2, so how exciting was it for you to be involved with such a huge a game, and as these games just keep getting bigger, and bigger around the world, did you feel any pressure in the studio when working on the project? I was extremely excited to work on that game. The pressure was high but it’s high for everyone working on it, not just me. The people at Treyarch were the most supportive bunch of developers I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. They embraced my ideas and had a very collaborative approach to everything about the game. I think it’s a fantastic game for what it is. They definitely broke some new ground in the Call of Duty franchise.

How much of an influence was the first Call Of Duty: Black Ops game for you when creating the soundtrack to its sequel? Although I really liked that score, we only kept two elements. The darkness and a piece called “Anvil” which is when the character Reznov shows up again in a hallucination in Black Ops II. The rest was all written from scratch, featuring all-new themes and underscores. The darkness of Black Ops was really effective and so we wanted to keep some of that.

What was the hardest process behind creating the soundtrack for Call Of Duty: Black Ops II and why? The scope of the game is pretty massive. Though we ended up having enough time to do it, the score (soundtrack) is over 2 ½ hours long. With stems and other uses of the music, we just had a lot of work to do. Another tough aspect was having to travel to London twice to record. That was seriously fun and a privilege to work at Abbey Road but it did remove about 12 composing days from my schedule. That was a little challenging.

Can you give us one or two of your personal highlights from working on the latest Call Of Duty game? Working with Azam Ali on the Pakistan level. She is an amazing singer and I loved the process of working with her and what she ended up doing. Just beautiful. Tracks like “Anthem”, “Pakistan Run” and “Searchlights” came out really great because of her and the wonderful percussion of MB Gordy. There were a lot of highlights during the creation of this score, but really none as profound as working at Abbey Road with 86 of London’s finest orchestra musicians playing their hearts out. That was pretty special.

How would you say your latest soundtrack for Call Of Duty: Black Ops II compares to your composing work prior to it? Well I do think it’s much different than what I composed for the Mass Effect series and most of my other work, but it is a vastly different game after all. This is really the first shooter I’ve done and I’m quite proud of it. I think it sounds as good as I’ve done and I hope to do more.

You are currently working on Lost Planet 3, what's this experience been like for you so far, and what can fans of the game expect from the soundtrack upon its release? I just finished that one last week! I think Lost Planet 3 will turn some heads. I think the various elements of gameplay are really solid and it is taking the series in a much-needed change of direction. The music is also quite different than what’s been done before in the series. About 50% of the score is what I like to call “Alien Twang”. In short, the main character Jim Peyton is a serious outlaw country music fan. So, lots of slide dobro, fiddles, peddle steels, etc. all mixed with some rhythmic synths. I really like how it came out!

What else can we expect to see from Jack Wall in 2013? I’m getting ready to music direct a rock opera in the late spring written by Cindy Shapiro, entitled Psyche: A Modern Rock Opera. I also have a couple of new projects in the works, but it’s too soon to talk about them.

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Can you tell us a bit about how you got to your position at Atticus today, and what it has been like to work with them so far? I’ve been working with Atticus for about 7 years now. I’d worked in Marketing and Music roles for other brands like Paul Frank, Insight and Vestal Watches before and had always been good friends with the guys at Atticus Europe. They were killing it at the time, hooking up the best bands, and really making a name for a brand that was pretty new to the market over here. They were doing things honestly and organically without massive budgets and they were really connecting with the kids, the music fans and the bands I loved. I got the call to go move over there and join the team as they were expanding and taking over control of the brand for the whole world so I got involved. It’s been a great experience so far. Things are never straight forward with any brand, there’s always changes in trends, changes in how people purchase product, and the constant search for new ways to present what you do. That makes it challenging and exciting. Plus we get to travel a lot, see loads of bands, go to great events and make cool stuff, so its all good really.

What does a typical day involve for you when working at Atticus? Every day is different. Some days are all about product, does it look good? Is it made as good as well as it can be? Will people be into it? Other days are all about getting the product out there so showing the press, getting product out to bands, working out what events to be at and what to do there.

So can you tell us a bit about how Atticus Beer came about, and what the response to it has been like so far? Our beer is one of the most exciting things for us to happen in a few years. We celebrated 10 years of making clothing last year and with that came some looking back at everything that had worked in the past and some looking forward at the next 10 years and thinking about new ways to keep ourselves excited and to keep the brand moving forward and doing new things but still in the world of music and streetwear where we exist. For us, this brand has always been about music, going to shows, hanging out with our friends, having a great time as often as possible basically. Beer has always been a part of that equation and at the time there wasn’t a beer on the market that we really loved, we were just drinking the same old stuff. So we talked about it a lot, then got in touch with the oldest and most experienced brewery in the UK. After months of tasting and experimenting we came up with a brew that we were as proud of as we are of the clothes we make and that was it. We made a lot of bottles and then set about getting all our friends to try it. In 2012 we were at 80 plus events, 20 odd festivals including Download, Reading, Vans Warped, Hevy & 2000 Trees and countless parties, album launches, skate events, snow events, surf events..That was one of the best times we’ve had in 10 years. The beer is on sale now so keep your eyes out for it appearing at your local bar, venue and club.

What do you love the most about working for Atticus? Everything really, the brand, the history, the product, the people, the other companies we work closely with, the events we get to go to, the variety of stuff we get to do..

Alternatively, what is the hardest part about working with Atticus for you, and why? You do have to work really hard, that’s no bad thing but the hours can be long and some days you wanna stay in bed to recover from the day before. The economy is a challenge at the moment too and sadly there isn’t as many stores to work with as their used to be with. Buts it’s how you react to these challenges that makes the brand stronger and more adaptive.

Can you tell us a bit about the latest clothing designs/products from Atticus, and a bit about why we should check them out? One of the best things about Atticus Clothing is that we don’t have to follow trends like a lot of clothing companies. We do what we do, we always have, we don’t look at other clothing companies and see what they do. There’s loads of awesome brands that we love of course but when we design we try and make what we want to wear and what we think our friends would wear and the bands we endorse. Our polos and shirts have always been key to Atticus range and every season we try to tweak these and make them that bit better every time. We’ve also just released 3 styles of footwear with more to come this year. Then we also have some new band collaboration products to drop this summer. Keep checking for them to drop.

For those that don't know, can you tell us how the initial Atticus dead bird logo was created, and at the time, what did Atticus want this to mean to their fans? The Atticus name came from a couple of places. Firstly the literary classic “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, (which also influenced the bird logo), and patron of the arts Herodes Atticus, who spent the bulk of his fortune supporting the arts, building theaters for music and plays in ancient Greece. The basic premise was and has always been to create a clothing line that didn’t label the wearer as anything but an individual.

You guys work with a lot of bands, so who have you enjoyed working with the most, and why? In the UK, We Are The Ocean are good mates of ours and we’ve worked with them for a few years, getting them to try our tour stuff before its out, putting on secret shows, sponsoring tours and stuff. We’ve worked with bands on their backdrops a lot recently, we helped Deaf Havana with there’s for the last album tour, we made the new Mallory Knox backdrop and we’re working with Finch for on the stage banners for the 10 th Anniversary of ‘What It Is To Burn’ Tour. Don Broco are one of our favourite new bands, we got them to play our Xmas party and like hanging out with them whenever we can. And when we want to party, Lower Than Atlantis are THE boys.

What's been the biggest event for you to put together, and can you tell us a bit about this whole experience for you? 3 things really stand out from last year. And they were the 3 events that took the most time and effort to get right. The first was the first ever Atticus Beer Xmas Party in Nov. Best night ever..We got Don Broco, one of favourite new bands of 2012 to come and play and the awesome Last Resort DJ crew to follow them up. Filled the place with our beer and invited all our mates..everyone was there…The Deftones even turned up. The second was Hevy crew of people, loads of friends, loads of amazing bands, and more beer consumed than any other event last year. Then lastly, Vans Warped..we ran a bar there..amazing day.

What else can we expect to see from Atticus in 2013? The new website and webstore has just gone live at that’s the hub of everything we do, that’s where the newest product is, that’s where the blog is that tells the story of everything we’re doing, that where the comps to win amazing prizes are held etc Beyond that theres gonna be lots more beer activity, more festival activity and more great products out there.

Would you like a £100 voucher to spend @ the Atticus store? Well, of course you would, so just answer this simple question to be in with a chance of winning:

How many years has Tony been working for Atticus? A) Four years B) Two years C) Seven years

Send your answer to: Please make sure you put ‘Atticus Clothing Competition’ as the subject! The winner will be notfied on 30/04/13 *UK entries only*

Shai Hulud - Reach Beyond The Sun American hardcore punk band with progressive metal influences return with their fourth full-length release, which also sees the return of original vocalist Chad Gilbert (Current New Found Glory guitarist, who left to join the band) not only does he offer vocals, the album was actually produced by Gilbert all sounds promising doesn't it?!... Opening song, "The Mean Spirits, Breathing" is a rather short affair, so doesn't waste any time and gets right to the point in a relentless manner..title track, "Reach Beyond The Sun" picks up the energy more so with impressive guitar work and dynamism; this track has a big sound with Gilbert's powerful vocals which are backed up with strong gang vocals to add an extra punch and not to mention a superb structure! "A Human Failing" breaks things down a bit, as offers a more slower melodic side. The results are surprisingly brilliant, marking a definite highlight of the album, with its catchy riffs, ever strong vocals, and again as seen throughout already more gang vocals (although with all the guest vocalists this was perhaps to be expected, and besides it works well!).."Medicine To The Dead" is in keeping with the ongoing theme of consistently high standards and is chaotic whilst staying melodic with varied vocals; as this track features the most guest vocalists so far! "Think The Adder Benign" is fast paced at times, but with great tempo changes with beats chopping and changing in a well executed fashion, something which is seen vastly throughout! As all the songs are of great quality, let's skip right to the end track.."At Least A Plausible Case For Pessimism" which has a slower feel and sounds quite different to other songs. It progresses well and picks up the pace, but again it chops and changes to slower melodic moments and then builds up again. Despite being considerably slower, it is nonetheless a powerful and strong one to end on, which shows a slightly different side to them without straying to far from their core sound..a good move! This is an album you can easily listen to from start to finish, as there are no songs to bring it down! All songs featured are very dynamic and unpredictable with beats chopping and changing all the time, with a good measure of progression and elements of different genres, creating their own individual sound! The choruses are largely insane, boast catchy melodies and relentless drive, making for huge explosive hardcore tracks!..The return of Chad Gilbert pays off very well with his excellent production as well as his solid and brutal vocal performance. The band have put a lot into this record and it certainly shows, through their definitive sound and the result is hardcore at its best! CL

Axis Of - Finding St Kilda It’s been a long time coming but Axis Of have finally released their debut album, Finding St Kilda and boy was it worth the wait. While the band have been steadily building up a reputation as a must see live band there’s been little in the way of studio recordings and it’s great to see that their blend of crushing punk and melodic pop translates well to a non-live environment. Things kick off with ‘Cardiel’ and quickly apparent what Axis Of are all about; dirty guitar riffs, catchy hooks and powerful vocals. With bites of Biffy Clyro and The Bronx mixed into their sound, they’re definitely an interesting listen and at times it’s hard to believe that all of the noise is coming from a three-piece. Previous live favourites have been given a new lease of life, ‘The World’s Oldest Computer’ is as vicious as ever with its shouted vocals and start/stop riffs. For newbies to the band it could be a bit overwhelming, it’s a lot a bit scrappy and disjointed but the songs knit their way into your head and you’ll keep coming back to them until you know every angst ridden line. While this is an undeniably heavy album there are elements of pop simmering under the surface and it’s these moments of melody where it’s clear just how complete this album is. Finding St Kilda is a solid debut and spells the start of what is bound to be a promising year for this Irish band. There’s not a bad song on the album and when things come to a close with the brilliant ‘Lifehammer’ you’ll be sad that there’s no more, so you stick it back to track one and begin again. MG

Senses Fail - Renacer "Renacer" is the fifth studio album from post-hardcore act, which when translated from Spanish, means “to be reborn.” This is a very fitting title given the heavier direction the band have embarked on, which is evident from the start with the opening title track..its short but deadly, with its solid riffs and brutal vocals and immediately asserts their new sound with brilliant results!.."Holy Mountain" maintains their heavier sound with fast pounding drums and fierce vocals, although here we are introduced to the more familiar clean melodic chorus that helps break up the fierce vocals; the structure and instrumentation of this song are superb! Still keeping us guessing and mixing it up more so, we have "Mi Amor" bringing us back to the Spanish album title..not only is the song name Spanish, but Nielson actually sings the majority of the song in Spanish, expanding his vocal capabilities further with highly effective results! The use of the heavier Spanish vocals paired with melodic English spoken parts works really well and overall it offers great diversity and spontaneity! The whole to be reborn theme is cleverly used, in terms of the actual bands direction and through lyrical themes also, as there is a positive message and thought provoking cathartic feel to certain songs, especially prominent in the strong "Closure/Rebirth" with the chants of "Let it go" sung a cleansing! "The Path" also promotes this with its honest lyrics, which are backed up with catchy melodies and riffs, as well as stand out clean high pitched vocals in parts along with strong gang vocals adding a lot of power behind the song!..So far there is a consistently high standard throughout, as they have mastered their heavier and adventurous sound with both brutal and clean melodies brilliantly!.. "Glass" takes things down a notch as it is a softer slower affair than the rest of the album, almost sounding like a love song through the lyrics. This along with "Frost Flower" uses the strong clean vocals at the forefront, something which is featured less in other songs, breaking things up nicely and balancing it out a bit.. "Snake Bite" hits you hard as its a seriously solid catchy track which has a equal measure of both sung and screamed vocals which bounce of each other wonderfully, something which is seen throughout.. Closing track "Between The Mountains And The Sea" opens on an feeling of almost isolation with strong clean emotive vocals and little backing in the form of an ambient backdrop, which gradually builds more momentum through strong instrumentation, especially in the stand out riffs and guitar-work, which guitarists Zach and Matt deliver throughout. The arrangement is well structured with the heavy vocals coming in half way for emphasis and again a good use of gang vocals as seen in other songs, making for a very good ending indeed! Their new heavier adventurous sound doesn't disappoint one bit! Its consistently brilliant from start to finish, they certainly have been 'reborn'! Fans will love this new direction, especially as they have kept their old elements such as their melodic choruses, but added other darker components to the bag, focusing on a darker heavier sound through chugged riffs and brutal screams and fusing the two together to make their perfect mix..this is a great move and progression musically and I can't wait to see what's in store next from them! CL Zebedy – Marionette I’m going to be honest, this isn’t my usual cup of tea. But the melodies and sheer brilliant songwriting is so infectious that you can’t help but like it. Sounding a bit like a cross between Porcupine Tree and Young Guns, this album is a showcase in how to write quite clever, melodic, heavy in places, catchy, hard rock and have a totally unique sound. Songs like Running Thin and 10-minute epic Glass Cage are so full of great riffs and vocal melodies intertwined with guitar melodies (as is the whole album to be honest) that I can’t see anyone except the most ardent Burzum fan not liking this. AL

The Bronx - The Bronx IV The guys are back with their fifth album and this time around they’ve dropped the Charro suits and stepped full power on the accelerator. The driving tempo of ‘The Unholy Hand’ boots the album off to a confident start. Matt Caughthran’s snarled vocals sound like they did five years earlier with the Mariachi stint now only more aggressive and tougher than before. ‘Along For The Ride’, ‘Youth Wasted, and ‘Too Many Devils’ all ooze ferocity, blending rapid tempos, tight riffs and hardcore punk choruses. The latter is a particular standout with the use of vivacious drumming and distorted guitars. These three songs are easily a few of the best the band has compiled together in a good while. The album starts coming down to a slower rhythm as the beautifully constructed yet mellower paced ‘Torches’ demonstrates the bands able flexibility to experiment with their sound as exampled very much in the penultimate ‘Life Less Ordinary’, a track that scraps the bouncy drums and thrashing guitars for a minimal and more profound sound. Although you can’t fault this band for having tried something new it is wonderful to see The Bronx come back with all their punk rock energy intact and captivate us all for a spell. MH

The Catharsis - Romance To standout in the ever growing UK hardcore scene you’ll have to be something pretty special, as mere imitators will be found out and cast aside without anyone batting an eye lid. Luckily Birmingham’s The Catharsis fall in to the former category. Every second of ‘Romance‘, their debut full-length, is bursting with energy, passion, rage and true conviction. The band bare all with heart-on-sleeve lyrics dealing with love, loss, depression, expectations and the daily grind, backed up with one of the most ferocious hardcore onslaughts heard since the recent boom of the UK scene. Having honed their skills on two previously released EP’s and on the road with the likes of Gallows, This Is Hell and Brotherhood Of The Lake, this album is a beginning to end lesson in how to play hardcore in 2013. A gritty guitar sound with killer riffs, a deep, heavy rhythm section that will have your bowels churning and an almost desperate vocal delivery, that frontman Morgan Tedd seems to have to exorcise from his body for fear of it consuming him from the inside, all work together with the great production to create something truly challenging and genuinely intense. Listen to this album and go and see this band live. Awesome stuff. GM

Bad Sign- De l'Amour If there was ever a case for not judging a book by its cover this is it. With artwork that looks more at home in the pop chart you may be forgiven for thinking that Croydon based Bad Sign are some sort of sugary RnB act. In fact, the band blend monumental heavy rock riffs, tight picking guitar, ambient passages, a huge brooding rhythm section and an atmospheric vocal style to create some of the most emotive and hard-hitting music heard from the UK in recent years. The Opening one two of ‘Cuba’ and ’Reperation’ set the tone with a riffs that wouldn’t be out of place on a Kylesa record and beautiful atmospheric sections that allow you to catch your breath an really take it all in. Joe Appleford’s vocal style is reminiscent of Baroness’s John Baizley but never imitative and his use of vocal effects really add a great dimension to the music. As Baroness did with last years Yellow & Green, Bad Sign traverse effortlessly from indie to hard rock, metal to subtle ambience all within one track with nothing ever seeming contrived or out of place. It would be unfair to pick highlights as each track holds its own and has clearly earned its place on what is a simply stunning debut. Highly recommended. GM

The Rival Mob - Mob Justice The hardcore punk scene in recent years is beginning to grow as popular as it was in the 80’s and 90’s. Boston’s The Rival Mob are are just one example of a number of bands that have started up in recent years with heavy influence from early hardcore bands such as Chain of Strength, Insted and Youth of Today. The Rival Mob are back with their second LP ‘Mob Justice’ after releasing their first full length ‘Raw Life’ in 2009 and their ‘Hardcore For Hardcore’ EP in 2010. ‘Intro Grunt’ works as the perfect introduction for a hardcore album, slick guitar riffs and a slow drum beat, the album jumps into life with the explosion of the fast drum beats in the second track ‘Mob Justice’ supported by another memorable guitar riff and ultra aggressive vocals. ‘It Must Be Nice...’ has the same nature as the previous track, fast and furious with very sincere lyrics. ‘Boot Party’ begins with another memorable riff, this track may not be as fast and hard hitting as previous but is extremely catchy to the ear thanks to the occasional gang shout of ‘Boot Party’. The vocals are again impressive and remain potent. ‘Life or Death’ - one of my favourites on the album begins with a vocal outburst of ‘Life or fucking death’ which sets the aggression for the song, again the instrumentation remains tight and coincides with the pissed off attitude of the vocals. ‘Fake Big’ is another breakout of anger, I imagine this track will work well with fans of hardcore, and should send crowds into a frenzy at their shows. The lyrics ‘Z list celebrity. Talk of the town, riding the wave until you drown’ would seem as if the band are aiming the track towards celebrities. ‘Be Somebody’ again goes back to the style of the first couple of tracks on the LP, fast and ferocious instrumentation, again Brendan Radigan’s vocals are imperative in delivering the perfect level of aggression. ‘Friendly Freaks’ has repeated gang vocals, consistent instrumentation and is one of the most catchiest tracks on the album. This catchy style of hardcore is what has worked so well for bands like Rotting Out and Cold World. ‘The Brutes Of Force’ repeats the gang vocals and slick guitar riffs that are present throughout Mob Justice; the bridge provides time for Brendan to get his breath back and launch a final outburst to end the track.

‘Self-Esteem’ tells anyone simply not to fuck with The Rival Mob’s self-esteem. It is probably the most impactful song on the album, short sharp and powerful, this is my favourite track on the album simply because of it’s resemblance to early hardcore punk bands. ‘Cheapo Grosso’ is another short punchy track with gang vocals; the bass is very present in this track which provides the listener with something new. The album ends with the longest track ‘Thought Control’ begins with a fast guitar riff and flowing bass line which both link perfectly with the vocals and gang shouts, a factor which has made the album so enjoyable to listen to. The tracks ends with much darker vocals and a low bass tone similar to likes of Naysayer and Weekend Nachos, it’s a perfect ending to a spectacular album. There are a number of positive adjectives that could be used to describe this album. ‘Mob Justice’ will be and will remain popular within any hardcore scene in America, this may prove to be one of the best releases of the year. I also hope The Rival Mob take a trip to the UK soon. JP

Bring Me The Horizon - Sempiternal This is the fourth studio album by the British metalcore act. "Sempiternal" is an archaic English word denoting the concept of "everlasting time" that can never actually come to pass. They have big shoes to fill due to the success of their 2010 album, "There Is A Hell, Believe I've Seen It, There Is A Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret", as well as the recent departure of their guitarist Jona Weinhofen and the addition of new member, Jordan Fish on keyboards, raising concerns that their sound may suffer for it.. Opening track, "Can You Feel My Heart" immediately asserts new member, Jordan with the strong electronic emphasis..opening with a messed up sounding synth intro. Also straight away we are treated to Oli's new found vocals, showing great emotion, variation and honest lyrics..we 'feel' you Sykes! With a atmospheric and big ambient sound this marks a brilliant start to the album!.. "The House Of Wolves" is a more heavy affair going back to their roots more and picking up the pace. With a stand out melodic chorus and gang chants this makes for a powerful song, which will be a good brutal live track. "Empire" (Let Them Sing) flows nicely from previous song, with more familiar vocals from Oli and once again strong gang vocals. The synth sounds help give the song more depth and it is used effectively giving a powerful anthemic feel. "Sleepwalking" opens on creepy electronic synth sounds which becomes more up tempo, along with upbeat drumming and instrumentation. There's a good mix of clean and angry screams providing nice emphasis when needed. The chorus in particular stands out, and will most likely 'wander' unaware into your mind! The ironically titled "Go To Hell, For Heaven's Sake" again has quite upbeat sounding instruments despite the negative context, making it coherent. This is one of the most varied songs, as well as infectiously catchy! Loaded with impressive and resonating guitar work and some solid vocals.. "Shadow Moses" the first song aired from the album, has a brilliant haunting and powerful intro. This is extremely catchy, with hard hitting riffs, and perhaps one of the best choruses featured which will lurk long after hearing it! This may possibly be one of their best songs to date! "And The Snakes Start To Sing" has a soft and minimal feel to it at times, which show of Oli's vocal skills more so. The drums are somewhat simplistic in parts yet highly effective and backed with ambient instrumentation. The song slithers along beautifully with complexity. "Seen It All Before" follows on well from previous track, with upbeat guitar riffs and instruments and yet another striking chorus, along with a great sense of frustration! "Antivist" is one of the heaviest offerings which will appease the fans of their older sound, raising the tempo and displaying more vehement vocals along with pounding drums and rampaging dark guitars..this will get the mosh pits going mental! "Crooked Young" opens with dramatic instruments and contains prominent effects throughout helping it stand out more so There is a feel of hopelessness which the sounds and effects echo well. Last track which is also the longest is, "Hospital For Souls" which has a strong opening with a feeling of tension rising, through stand out synth effects. The emotive clean vocals in the verses and the use of well placed screaming work perfectly for emphasis; the stripped back vulnerable moments make the build up of all the instruments and resurgence of urgent screams all the more powerful. The repetitiveness lyrics towards end actually aid the song, as help give impression of desperation and feeling more so, which makes for a highly powerful closing track. This album shows wonderful experimentalism and progression musically from the band whilst still maintaining their core sound. There is a clear strong electronic influence, which in my opinion really helps elevate it, along with the emotive varied vocals from Oli, showing he can do more than just scream, and of course the ambient/resonant instrumentation and brilliant arrangements. I think existing fans will devour this up and they will also make a lot of new fans with this reinvented sound, which might be their best work to date! A definite album highlight of 2013! CL

The Smoking Hearts – Victory! If you are one of the strange individuals, like me, who is a fan of slightly schizophrenic rock AND hardcore, and have been longing for a band that mix the two then fear not! Here is our answer, people. Admittedly, The Smoking Hearts do fall more on the hardcore side of that line, but they do have some real rock moments. The chorus to Benedict is unbelievably huge, and the intro riff to Stomper (which is an apt title and no mistake) sounds like it could have come straight off a Heaven’s Basement album. The best way to describe this album is “like Feed the Rhino and Lower Than Atlantis having a fight to Airbourne”. And if that thought makes you as tingly inside as it does me, then I urge you to go and check this album out. AL

Off With Their Heads – Home There aren’t many who would argue that punk music has declined over the last decade or more. I was never alive in the 70s, but even I can tell that this album, full of it’s short but snappy punk-rock anthems sounds like it would have fitted right in back then. One of the things that never endeared me particularly to punk was the often total lack of hooks (although it will always be fun to beat people up in a pub to) but this album is choc-full of catchy vocal hooks and riffs that make you want to bounce like a Zimbabwean cheque. Try and picture really old-school Rise Against being fronted by Andrew W.K playing the kind of music that those two bands would make and then fuel it with whisky and anger and you’ll start getting close. AL

Itch - Manifesto Part 2: We’re All In The Gutter Known for none other than his politically charged-up and brash attitude, Jonny ‘Itch’ Fox is back with ‘Manifesto Part 2: We’re All In The Gutter’. With no fear to push the expectations of many genres, Itch’s music is much like a mix-upbag whether a fizzy favourite or that weird liqurice sweet that you really want to like but you just can’t. The EP kicks off with a huge fuck you to political authority. ‘Diplomat’ starts with a chugging riff that remains throughout, and then Itch’s London accent rips into track bashing the government system, repping the oppressed, mistreated and the working class. It’s an upbeat track with that aggressive hardcore techno synth recognised sound from ‘Manifesto Part 1: How To Fucking Rule At Life’. Towards the end of the track it will have you air punching up your middle finger. ‘Like I’m Drugs ’ throws itself right in there with a commercial techno thump. If there is going to be a song that has the dangerous potential of being mainstream it’s this song. With the soft female vocals covering the chorus it breaks it away from Itch’s usual aggressive approach. ‘Soul’ plays around, although not entirely, with the Dance-pop genre. Firstly Itch’s voices tears into the track about fighting corruption but then eases its way into the softly sung chorus that makes this track exceptionally catchy. The song takes an unexpected turn and eases into a brief acoustic crescendo proving that this guy really can just cover about every type of music. Experimenting with fuller-bodied guitar riffs ‘Gutter Stars’ is definitely the most rock ‘n’ roll of the bunch. The song plays around with bassy guitar riffs, dipping into classical influences throughout that all somehow roll smoothly together, with the effortlessly catchy chorus line of “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Taken from famous Oscar Wilde quote that applies fittingly with Itch’s mentality. MH

The Story So Far - What You Don't See When Bay Area five-piece The Story So Far released Under Soil and Dirt in 2011, they breathed new life into pop-punk. Their incredibly driven and potent anthems, with poignant lyrics and searing emotion sent shock waves through the genre and seemed to give bands and fans alike a new belief in the future of what had been dubbed as a dying music. Their sophomore record, What You Don't See, manages to stay fresh and original while maintaining the sheer power of their debut. 'Things I Can't Change' perfectly introduces the album: churning drums, ripping power chords, a faint but incessant lead line, an erratic but thick and cohesive bassline and the unmistakable yells of Parker Cannon all combine to make a perfect TSSF track. The icing on the cake is the chorus hook - "Lie alone, it's all you can do now" - which is screamed with pure intensity and gravitas from Cannon. However, something seems a little different on What You Don't See. This is no longer the heart-bleedings of a group of high school kids. The maturation in lyrical content is matched by the slightly darker tone of the instrumentation. This is also where the influence of New Found Glory guitarist-turned producer Steve Klein is noticed. At the helm of the recording process, Klein's wealth of experience can be found from the old-school punk 'Small Talk' to the grinding and emotion-fuelled 'Empty Space'. Some will say that Cannon's vocal style is monotone and lacks scope. However, it is his unique shouting style, trading melody for command, which drives each and every track. Others may allege that the record is over-produced - there is certain evidence of a rise in production quality, but all this does is illustrate the bands progression and adds to the dynamism of their ballads. On 'Right Here' Cannon sings "All I really wanna' do is to stay right here, right now". Unfortunately for him, the dizzying heights of success that this album should bring The Story So Far will be keeping him on the road for the foreseeable future. RM

Pure Love - Anthem "I'm so sick of singing about hate". To be honest, Frank, I was getting sick of hearing about it. Pure Love is ex-Gallows frontman Frank Carter's new and utterly unrecognisable band. Carter has buried his screams and anger and, teaming up with Jim Carroll (ex-Hope Conspiracy), traded them in for rock anthems with lyrics about life and love. Their debut record, Anthem, is a proclamation of a new direction for these two musicians who have undergone transformations and maturations, and it shows. Opening with 'She (Makes the Devil Run Through Me)', a definitive highlight on the eleven track album, Pure Love announce themselves with a tasty guitar hook, before Carter's new, clean, if somewhat not fully formed, vocal style kicks in. By title track 'Anthem', he has found his grove and has demonstrated his range and dynamics, silencing anyone who may question his bold move to a new genre. 'Bury My Bones', 'Handsome Devils Club' and 'Riot Song' bring the punk to this party. 'Riot Song', particularly with its sing-a-long refrain, was unmistakably made in the vein of clichĂŠd stadium rock. Meanwhile, 'Scared to Death' holds most evidence for the production stamp of Gil Norton. The esteemed producer, who has famously worked with Foo Fighters among many others, masterfully executes the huge sounds which do justice to Pure Love's song-writing. Will there be allegations that the boys in Pure Love have sold out? That they've traded the underground for the stadium? That they got tired of living on a shoe-string and are now hoping to reel in the big bucks? Probably. Is there truth in those allegations? Who cares. Anthems is a massive debut from Carter and Caroll and Pure Love really could be the next big rock band. RM

Coheed & Cambria - The Afterman: Descension The second half of the Afterman double album concludes another chapter in the epic Coheed & Cambria saga. Somewhat Frankenstein-like in the way it's pieced together, the musical monster which rises from Descension brings everything from metal to funk to acoustic pop-punk. With patience and understanding, you could learn to love this less-than-perfect creation. Attempting to do so much in only nine tracks, Claudio and the gang shine brightest on the lighter numbers. 'Away We Go' is a beautifully crafted acoustic-electric hybrid, with Sanchez's soaring vocals providing the perfect ingredient for this classic Coheed love ballad. 'Iron Fist' meanwhile strips back what could've been another tiresome clichéd metal track and instead favours a subtle and delicious bare-boned melody. '2's My Favourite 1' is pop-punk served in the same style as 'The Suffering' of albums past. With a chorus hook to die for, they save the best for last as Claudio screams "Oh this is her, no regrets!". The downfall of the record is that Coheed & Cambria have become less effective at juggling their metal and hard rock side with their softer acoustic and pop-punk side. To enjoy both is no crime, but each record gets more polarised and Descension is literally split in half, leading to a Jeckyll and Hyde collection of tracks. This could be hailed as genius, but not nearly as cohesive as Ascension, the mish-mash of songs suggests that Coheed could probably have released this double album as one, instead chosing the more lucrative option. RM

Hold The Fight - With A Breath & A Hope Eastbourne’s Hold The Fight lost a member at the beginning of last year and decided to plough on as a three-piece instead of finding a replacement. This change of dimension within the band apparently produced a creative streak which has culminated in the release of this mini-album. A pop-punk band at heart, Hold The Fight take the tried and tested song arrangements, emotive lyrics and polished vocal delivery of the earlier days of the genre and give it a fresh kick, partly due to frontman Laurie Cottingham’s preference for the acoustic guitar, that is almost used like an electric, which really sets the music apart from most of the bands in the already oversaturated pop-punk market. It’s fair to say they walk on the edgier side of poppunk, steering clear of the ultra-poppy sound that so many bands have embraced and delivering something all the more mature. This is evident on opening track ’How Many Times Man, I’m Not Ceaser’, with gang vocals which could sound lacklustre but really work well. This album should resonate with pop-punk fans both old and new and if the band continue to work as hard on the road as they have been, expect to see much more of Hold The Fight. GM

Let’s Talk Daggers - Fantastic Contraption From the get-go this mini-album of previously released, but now re-worked, material from Sussex’s Let’s Talk Daggers proceeds to attempt to scramble your brains like some sort of demented love-child of The Gallows and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Heavy, angular riffing, complex time signatures and a frantic vocal delivery, that mixes southern swagger with frenzied screams, will leave you gasping for air. With so much going on it could result in the music becoming a little disjointed but Let’s Talk Daggers have avoided this and managed to produce something fresh,, exciting and really quite fun. Their willingness to experiment with different styles, whether it’s hardcore, punk, metal or straight-up rock n’ roll, really highlights the bands disregard for musical boundaries, not to mention the inclusion of brass instruments on the awesome ‘#1 Spicy Bugger’ and ‘Have A Gabble’, which weirdly work perfectly. This is music tailor-made for energetic, party-esque live shows, that also has the ingenuity, musicianship and appeal to get industry heads turning. In short, it’s bloody awesome. And if there’s any justice in this world expect to see these guys up along side the likes of Rolo Tomassi very soon. Great stuff. GM

Alkaline Trio - My Shame Is True American Punk Rock trio return with their most dynamic album to date with album number eight! Opening song, the short "She Lied To The FBI" is immediately melodic, with good lyrics and strong vocals from lead singer, Matt Skiba and bassist Dan Andriano on backing vocals. It may be short but its a seriously good opener..It would be a crime to not like this! New single, "I Wanna Be Warhol" is energetic from the off and sporting big riffs! This is a good representation for rest of the album; With good production and again good use of vocals to add more emphasis. This song shows off their best elements, making for a perfect choice for a single. "I'm Only Here To Disappoint" takes us back to their more classic sound with great song writing and boasting catchy choruses.."Kiss You To Death" starts off on a slower tempo compared to previous songs, but makes some nice transitions by picking up the pace and slowing it down and going between both on this sweet love song. "The Temptation Of St Anthony" keeps up the the strong writing abilities and catchy melodies, and shows of the bands skills with great fast drumming, nice bass riffs and catchy guitars! Unlike any of their other albums, this one features a guest appearance from Tim Mcllarth of Rise Against on the punk anthem, "I, Pessimist", which is a great collaboration with their vocals complimenting each other brilliantly in this fast tempo track, with memorable riffs and a great structure; this is a must hear! "Only Love" has a strong and different opening, with more serious lyrics that show maturity rather than being considered cheesy when dealing with the subject of love, which can be hard to pull off, but they do it well! "Torture Doctor" turns back to fast tempos and strong melodic vocals and very catchy riffs! "Midnight Blue" for a song about feeling a bit 'blue' its surprisingly catchy and upbeat sounding. "One Last Dance" has a more downbeat sound than previous songs with heartfelt and reflective lyrics, with next track, "Young Lovers" following on well, keeping things coherent. Last track, "Until Death Do Us Apart" like "I'm Only Hear To Disappoint" again takes us back to their more classic sound. With a nice stripped back intro, this song keeps up the theme of hopelessness and lost love without sounding cheesy or clichéd, like the rest of the album the lyrics are well written and mature! There isn't one dull or disappointing moment on this album. This is impressive work from the trio, especially for an eighth album..they are still going strong and not showing any signs of backing down! Old fans will enjoy this, but I think the majority could do with listening to this also! CL

And So I Watch You From Afar – All Hail Bright Futures This album is the perfect summer soundtrack. Outside the window right now it is cold, grey and crap; putting on this album (possibly a little too loud) has transformed the room into a bright, summer landscape full of sun and happiness and rainbows. The excessively metal crew are probably going to hate this – having said that some of the riffs are actually fast as anything, and the grooves make you want to bounce up and down, despite the fact there isn’t a bearded man growling over the top of them. This is a band that really understand dynamics; when it’s soft and ambient you almost want to drift off to sleep; when the riffs kick in you want to jump around with a thousand other people in a massive field. Bring on the summer. AL

Great Cynics - Like I Belong ‘Like I Belong’ is the second full length by Great Cynics as three-piece and it’s an undeniably happy affair. The band started out as a solo project for vocalist Giles Bidder but the addition of a drummer and bassist for their debut ‘Don’t Need Much’ showed a lot of promise for this folk punk band. From the very first bars of ‘Queen of the Anarchists’ it’s impossible to imagine Giles not having a massive grin on his face while singing, it’s such an upbeat track with hints of Alkaline Trio to its sound. Big choruses are the order of the day now and when they break out the ‘woahs’ on second track ‘Letting Go’ this album firmly plants itself in your brain. The track flows directly into ‘In My Head’ and it’s more of the same.

This is a band that has found a formula and firmly sticks to it and at some points there’s the danger that things could get a bit boring. It’s a relentlessly feel-good album and while it’s all good and merry, it’d be nice if they could break the mould for a track or two and show a bit of edge. Bassist Iona Cairns backing vocals add a back bone to many of the tracks on offer here and when she takes the front woman role on ‘Waster’ it adds a nice change to things. But it’s frustrating that the track is musically the same to the rest of the album, Giles could have easily sang this one and there would be no difference. There’s no doubt that ‘Like I Belong’ contains a bunch of tracks that will have you singing along but there’s just not that much substance on offer and when so many tracks sound similar there’s then there’s a risk. MG

Black Market Serotonin - Something From Nothing Manchester progressive rockers Black Market Serotonin release their eagerly anticipated debut album ‘Something From Nothing’ next month, following up their widely received EP ‘Deadbyfiveoclock. ’ Consisting of Andrew Pimblott on Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, samples, bassist Lee Campbell and drummer Michael Colman, it’s a testament to their dedication to creating music that such an album happened, having created the entire 11- track record without a budget. Nevertheless, a solid album was produced, excellently showcasing their talents and creating a strong foundation for future releases. Drawing inspiration from bands such as Tool and Porcupine tree, the trio belt out their own unique but diverse sound. From melodic piano, acoustic ‘hours’ to Trivium- esque guitar riffs blasting behind Pimblott’s haunting vocals, there is something for everyone. The standout track to skip to is definitely Deadbyfiveoclock, a fiery rock track that you won’t be able to get out of head after one listen. Something From Nothing is available from 29th April from all digital stores. So go buy it! CS

Ophelia’s Great Day - Destined German hardcore rock band Ophelia’s Great Day are releasing their first album ‘Destined’ in the early days of April. Opening track ‘Beyond’ builds up a steady climax of Alexander Bartsch’s shredding vocals. It’s a track that prepares you for an album of pounding drums and ensnaring guitar riffs. Halfway through the album begins to tire slightly. With fast paced melodies, and the almost similar drum hammering intros despite being deftly performed I felt that it didn’t fully showcase the full diversity of the member’s talent. However! Eight tracks in, ‘What It Takes’ is certainly one to listen out for. The vocalist adjusts his vocals to a more lyrically flowing sound to suit the gushing of guitars, and basically, they have it spot on with this track! MH

Axis Of - Finding St Kilda It’s been a long time coming but Axis Of have finally released their debut album, Finding St Kilda and boy was it worth the wait. While the band have been steadily building up a reputation as a must see live band there’s been little in the way of studio recordings and it’s great to see that their blend of crushing punk and melodic pop translates well to a non-live environment. Things kick off with ‘Cardiel’ and quickly apparent what Axis Of are all about; dirty guitar riffs, catchy hooks and powerful vocals. With bites of Biffy Clyro and The Bronx mixed into their sound, they’re definitely an interesting listen and at times it’s hard to believe that all of the noise is coming from a threepiece. Previous live favourites have been given a new lease of life, ‘The World’s Oldest Computer’ is as vicious as ever with its shouted vocals and start/stop riffs. For newbies to the band it could be a bit overwhelming, it’s a lot a bit scrappy and disjointed but the songs knit their way into your head and you’ll keep coming back to them until you know every angst ridden line. While this is an undeniably heavy album there are elements of pop simmering under the surface and it’s these moments of melody where it’s clear just how complete this album is. Finding St Kilda is a solid debut and spells the start of what is bound to be a promising year for this Irish band. There’s not a bad song on the album and when things come to a close with the brilliant ‘Lifehammer’ you’ll be sad that there’s no more, so you stick it back to track one and begin again. MG

Nylon Sky - Little Things, Bigger Picture The album starts off with a soothing of plucky guitar in the mellow intro track ‘Little Things, Bigger Picture’. This is Nylon Sky, a British rage band that eat passion for breakfast and shit aggressive rock-hip-hop when they’re done. A hit of punchy drums and a weighty bass sets an expectation of the band that quickly diminishes when the rap-like vocals strike in ‘Where Have They Gone’, a heavy grunge track meets steady rap. The song climbs steadily to a chorus full of aggression, with a blast of howling guitar and raw grunge vocals. ‘Drop’ literally drops in aggression mode kicking in with a sweet guitar riff and a sporadic percussion intro; Tony Humphries’ vocals are skillfully composed until it throws itself into the springy chorus. With this album the band manage to grab you by the scruff of the neck and pulls you through a maze as it soars heavy choruses, growling melodies into your ears. There isn’t one word to describe this album; in all its eclectic glory it cuts all the strings rock musicians are tied to. Nylon Sky are dynamic, bouncy yet heavy, and something just that little bit different to what you expect from an alternative rock ‘n’ rap band. MH

Hot Damn - Sleep Alone The Welsh answer to Title Fight, Hot Damn combine pop-punk melodies with a hardcore edge to produce a sound which the UK has been waiting to stake some claim to. Sleep Alone, the third and longest EP in their catalogue, will surely propel them to greater recognition and grant them the resources to record the full-length they deserve. The highlight is 'My Life In Your Eyes', where luscious and drawn-out vocal harmonies spill over American Football-esque jazz-punk instrumentals, creating a sound not dissimilar to the upcoming This American Scene. There's upbeat punk aplenty, often infused with great refraining half-time choruses. The vocals maintain a South Wales home-grown flavour, even if some will allege that Chris Evans is attempting to imitate his cross-Atlantic cousins. 'I Am Not An Island (You Have Nothing To Stand On)' smacks of fellow Valley-dwellers Funeral for a Friend, with the post-hardcore chorus - taken from the song title - driving the roaring chorus. This isn't the sunshine and lollipops pop-punk of New Found Glory, but a more heart-wrenching emotion-filled outpouring. 'Sleep Alone', for example, prefers to deal with alcoholism than problems with girls and partying. On the opening track, Evans sings "I've got nothing to prove/ I've got nothing to lose", but Hot Damn may well just have proven themselves and could be gaining it all in the near future. RM

Trails - Signs Guilford formed Trails continue to break ground with their second EP, Signs. A tasty concoction of math rock, funk and a peppering of post-hardcore makes for an explosive affair. The seemingly angrily named 'SHT FKR' is matched by angry vocals and a very angry (and absolutely raucous) guitar hook. This band isn't fucking about and they want their listeners to know that from the off. 'Can't Slow Down' points toward funk, but is draped in rock madness. The intensity of the lead vocals steps back a little to reveal a Don Broco-esque vocal style, with the distinctly British voice welcome over the dark and twisting instrumentation. Clearly inspired by The Mars Volta, this song is dictated by a battle between stomping drum beats and guitar riffs which tear holes through the music, climaxing in a massive break-down outro.

A welcome break from the obscene intensity of the first two tracks come in the form of 'It's All Gone' whose ghostly harmonies haunt like the tracks of What It Is To Burn era Finch. But just as you thought the boys might have gone soft, the title track gives the listener a kick in the balls as the heaviest number on the EP leaves destruction in its wake. The slow waltzing 'Sinatra' wraps it up, with a bass-line which moves around like a game of Snake on the Nokia 3210 and a crescendo which would make Coheed and Cambria nod with approval. Signs is an experimental EP which manages to find an impressive balance between sanity and lunacy, without coming across as contrived or too try-hard. Follow Trails and it may lead to somewhere magical. RM

Don Broco - The Haunt, Brighton - 22/02/13 It’s fair to say that Don Broco have come a long way in the past 12 months, with their debut album, Priorities, being an instant hit and resulting in some seriously frequent radio plays. Needless to say, with a new album, comes a tour and the chance for the fun-loving four-piece a chance to strut their stuff in Brighton’s Haunt. The night begins in a promising fashion, with Hey Vanity hitting the stage and giving a catch rendition of Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya. These guys are going to be big, so keep your eye out. Next up, Mallory Knox. These guys need no introduction; their newly released album is clearly already a hit with the crowd doing their bit to sing along. An impressive, yet brief set. Be sure to catch Mallory Knox on tour in April! Without further ado, the Broco lads strolled onto the stage, to the deafening cheers of a capacity venuesomething which these guys are going to have to get used to. The band go through a number of tracks from their debut album, but be sure that they haven’t forgotten their old-school faithful, with Thug Workout going down an absolute treat. Single releases from the album: ‘Actors’, ‘Hold On’ and ‘Priorities’ are welcomed with open arms as the crowd sing along word for word. Don Broco call it a night with ‘Whole Truth’ and after a sweaty evening of music, everyone leaves the venue with beaming smiles across their faces. Don Broco are all about having fun, and that’s what makes them one of Britain’s most promising rock bands. AG

Funeral For A Friend - The Fleece, Bristol - 29/01/13 After winning the Red Bull Bedroom Jam competition I Divide have just kept on rising and rising with both their fan base and live performance, so when they were the first band to open for Funeral For A Friend, we were obviously excited and interested to catch them perform once more. These guys were full on, and did not take a second of their slot for granted, every track was hard hitting, and it's safe to say they really did have everyone's attention. Tracks like 'Never Be Stopped' and 'The Arrival' clearly show that these guys are more than capable of putting on a killer live show, and at the same time we were left with the feeling that these guys will be headlining their own tours in venues just like this very shortly. Major League have just released their brilliant new album Hard Feelings, and as these guys don't really come over to the UK that often, then this really is an instant win. They describe themselves as simply pop-punk, and I'm sure that right now, another new pop-punk band might be more than most people can take, but from the performance this band gave tonight then we can honestly tell you that these guys are worth your attention. In the vein of The Wonder Years and Fireworks these guys are in your face whilst putting their energy into every minute of their set. Old tracks like "Some Kids Just Can't Hang" mixed in with the new material from Hard Feelings makes for an electric set list, and they do a great job at connecting with the crowd, whilst getting everything warmed up for the rest of this evenings acts. Musically after Major League we are heading in the punk/melodic hardcore direction with this band, and after seeing Such Gold absolutely kill it on one of their last tours here in the UK with The Wonder Years then we were there prepped and ready for another awesome set from the band. Their new album Misadventures has just dropped, so it was great to catch a bunch of tracks of this record, in which one of our personal favorites was the hard hitting track 'Two Year Plan' which was really awesome to watch live. The band was extremely confident on the stage, and just like the support bands before them they did an outstanding job of connecting with the crowd, whilst also getting a couple of mosh pits on the go. As well as performing tracks of Misadventures we were treated to some classics like 'Sycamore' which showed us both that this band have come so much in a short amount of time, and with a set list that is as exciting as theirs already is, then this only leaves us excited to see what the band get up to next. If you look at the alternative music world now in the UK, and how it's grown over the last ten years, then you will probably note that Funeral For A Friend are a big part of this growth, as they have just been a huge influence on so many, and they will continue to do so for as long as they can. They've lost band members, tried different styles of music, performed with some of the biggest bands in the world, and of course, they've toured all over the globe to spread the word about their music. So to see a band like this on stage, a band that believes so much on a daily basis in what they do, is of course going to be epic to watch.

The band have a heavy back catalogue of classic tracks to pick from, and on top of this they have just unleashed their raw and mesmerizing new album 'Conduit'. So as expected the band hit us with a lot of new tracks which of course includes one of their new singles 'The Distance'. With the crowd in a constant motion, then we can certainly tell you that their new material went down very well. The band throw in a stack of old classics like 'She Drove Me to Daytime Television', 'Red Is the New Black', 'Juneau' 'History' which are all songs that will always be awesome to watch live by FFAF. When you read this, it will actually be over two years since the band released 'Welcome Home Armageddon' and as everyone at Stencil Mag is a huge fan of this record, then it was really interesting to see how the songs from this release were progressing and going down live with the band. From that record the band hit us with songs like 'Damned If You Do, Dead If You Don't' & 'Broken Foundation' which we hope will both stay in the set list for a long, long time because these are just perfect mosh pit tunes that keep the crowd going wild. FFAF have shown us that they can put on an outstanding live show for over ten years now, and the gig tonight again confirms that point. As well as this FFAF have managed to create an absolutely epic set list, and if you love your live gigs, and haven't seen these guys yet, then make sure you head out to a show in 2013 as you just won't be able to stand still! On a final note, we just want to say that we found it interesting that Such Gold & Major League were on this tour, as they are both so different to Funeral For A Friend, but still, we found that this combination worked really well, and we are pretty sure that this crossover in music, has opened the door to new music for so many people. That was certainly one of the highlights of the night, to see such a dynamic group of bands on the stage, whilst also having a crowd that could respect and get involved in all of the different styles that were on display. So basically, this was certainly a gig to remember, and we'd love to see more gigs mix their line-up like FFAF have done tonight. AD

The Gaslight Anthem - 02 Bristol Academy - 22/03/13 Currently the band are touring and promoting their highly successful new album 'Handwritten' which has basically confirmed that this band is easily one of the most important rock bands in the world today. They grew up listening to artists like Bruce Springsteen & Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) and over the last couple of years they have been seen sharing the stage with their idols. So with all of the previous pointers in mind, then it really is no surprise that we are watching the band as they play their second headline & sold out gig at the 02 Academy in Bristol. The group are on top form tonight, and to add to this the crowd were all singing along as loud as they could to every track, which is always ace to be a part of. From the new album 'Handwritten' the band perform some huge tracks like '45' & 'Handwritten' which receive a great response and also point out with ease that those tracks will clearly stay in the bands set list for a long time as they are just instant classics. We also get spoilt to tunes like 'Great Expectations' 'The '59 Sound' & 'Old Haunts' which are all performed perfectly. The band didn’t say much this evening, but this really didn’t matter as visually you could see them spending every second of their set putting as much heart & soul in to the 20+ track performance as possible whilst also making sure that the crowd got what they came to see. We were pleasantly surprised when the band played their Bob Dylan cover of 'Changing of the Guards' and it added a perfect balance to their already epic set list. Their fan base is constantly expanding on a rapid scale, and if they continue to play shows as exhilarating as this then they'll probably start headlining our festivals in a couple of years time, which will of course be completely awesome to see! AD

Tom Hardy has returned from Gotham City to star in prohibition-era crime drama Lawless. Despite the being completely different genres, the roles Hardy plays are not worlds apart. The British actor plays the brother of Shia LaBeouf as the pair set out on a business adventure which involves selling illicit alcohol whilst battling against corruption among the police. LaBeouf plays the younger, more gullible of the brothers whose primary focus is proving himself, especially to his brother. The film watches LaBeouf’s character evolve from an error prone youngster to a wealthy young man, which draws the attention of a corrupt federal agent, who attempts to hijack the brothers’ business escapades in any way possible. Despite Hardy’s script being somewhat brief, with the actor preferring to grunt and groan his way through the movie, he still manages to attract his fair share of female attention, to his younger brother’s jealousy. The violence in the film is gruesome to say the least, with John Hillcoat leaving no stone unturned in terms of painting a picture of what times were like at the time. The film also focuses on Hardy’s protective attitude towards his youthful brother and it remains unpredictable as to how it will all come to an end. Well worth a watch if you’re a fan of Public Enemies and unfortunate to miss out on any academy awards.


Bruce Willis isn’t getting any younger, but this latest chapter of the Die Hard series confirms that perhaps it is time to call it a day on his time as John Maclane. A Good Day to Die Hard tells the story of McClane, who makes his way to Russia to rescue his estranged son (Jai Courtney), but little does John know that Jack is in fact working for the CIA. The film bases around the tethered father-son relationship which Willis is attempting to salvage, but in the middle of this emotional battle there is guns, explosions and villains, all of which we have come to expect with these movies. It’s a sad state of affairs but it appears that the Die Hard films have finally lost their appeal, with younger generations less willing to watch a veteran action hero fight wrong-doings in the most destructive way possible. On a positive, this film lasts for a relievingly-brief 97 minutes, and still contains the cheesy humour which resembles Marmite. We wait with baited breath to see if someone steps up to direct number six, but surely it has to be in our best interests for them to bring the series to a close.

Christopher Nolan is straight back to work after the phenomenal success of the Batman trilogy as he takes the reins on the latest Superman movie script. Man of Steel likens The Amazing Spiderman in the sense that it goes back to the beginning to tell the story of the character’s development from a young age to a world-saving super hero. These kind of superhero movie reboots seem to be becoming common practice at the moment, but this one has an element of hype due to the cast behind producing the film. If you’re yet to watch the trailer, you know what to do. We could be looking at a potential box office record.

Title. Tomb Raider Developer. Crystal Dynamics Platform(s). 360, PC, PS3 UK Release date: Out Now RATED: 18 For a franchise and a character that arguably defined a generation, we have seen very little of Tomb Raider post movie… so as we approach the end of this generation could we see a huge revival? So - Lara is back, but not as we know her, she’s a younger more ‘girl next door’ than an unrealistic Barbie with guns… Gone are the misogynistic stylings and unrealistic curves, in its place comes a multi dimensional character who has a lot more to her than we’d expect. This is Lara’s origin story and subsequently a prequel, is it a re-start in the right direction? If you’ve ever wondered how Lara became such a bad ass? Well this game explains it, the story’s fundamental direction is the creation of the action heroin. The game opens with young archaeologist Lara Croft voiced by Camilla Luddington, going on an adventure to find the lost tomb of Yamatai, along with a group consisting of her senior Archaeologist Whitman, Roth a survival expert, Anna a film maker and a number of other rather underdeveloped characters. They set out on a voyage to Dragons Triangle east of Japan. However, the boat, The Endurance gets hit by a violent storm and Lara and crew find themselves stranded on an island… quickly captured by a native, cut off from her crew and very scared! It doesn’t take long for Lara to show us that she is far from the heroin we know. From the outset, Lara has been made to act more human, showing fear and a vulnerability not often seen in games. You cannot help but feel a certain level of empathy for her, I wanted to look after her and subsequently felt every bit of her strife. This opening section of the game is rather self indulgent, in that it’s all very grand, full of QTE’s and very linear. However once that’s all over we emerge from our near death experience to a world strewn with shipwrecks, plane crashes and beautiful scenery. Lara looks over the wreckages that lay before her with an air of ‘what next?’ and indeed I felt like, what next? It was that exact point I realised I was invested in this game and needed to know ‘what next!’.

As the narrative progresses you will begin to realise that you are being drip fed a beautiful story, but in terms of direction you are never sure. I did not find this to be an issue, as it is an adult game and subsequently the fact the narrative unravels should not bother it’s players, my advise would be stick with it as it takes around four hours to actually have any clue who is even the ‘bad guy’. Throughout the game Lara goes through a lot! (understatement) And reacts much as any of us would: badly… with a lot of talking to yourself; ‘what am I doing’ and ‘Oh god’ etc… you can tell that she is truly horrified by her experiences. The pinnacle moment of this comes when Lara realises she must kill to eat, we see her mourn the death of her first kill… a helpless deer. Ironic considering the mass slaughter about the take place throughout this adventure. She gathers herself quickly which is good because the island seems to be full of things trying to kill her. She relives this grief when she kills her first human, a truly memorable moment which elicits a real sense of ‘things matter to this character’… oh wait, no they don’t as she kills countless foe without batting an eyelid. This is a game about surviving, and in the process growing into a kick ass, gun-toting, tombfinding, bonafide legend. As the story unravels there are plenty of opportunities to find out more through journals, footage from Lara’s camera and numerous short dialogue sections between Lara and her crew. There really is a wealth of story to just lose yourself in and if for whatever reason you don’t engage, well it won’t matter because the game-play is mind blowing. Many of the game’s narrative points are linked to gameplay (introducing all the things that make Lara Lara) thankfully this is achieved in such a way that you barely notice. For example, how do we explain how an archaeologist becomes such a great survivor? Well she has training of course, from the survival expert Roth (his voice narrates you through the beginnings of the game) the introduction to the controls is very unobtrusive and the ‘tutorial’ if you can call it that, is part of the story. He will explain how to use new pieces of equipment, such as the bow, rope and pick axe and explains their key features either in person or in an Obi Wan Kinobi style voice in your head. The gameplay carries the game in the early hours, it is good enough that you don’t mind that you don’t know what is happening, in fact it makes you want to find out. This is where I usually say ‘combat is good…’ and feel that I have to really sell it as it makes up 90% of most games. Well in Tomb Raider’s case it is not nearly as important, combat is not infrequent but not so unrelenting you think your playing a third person shooter. However regardless of it not being the focus, it has far from been neglected. Combat feels engaging, fast paced and enjoyable. To maintain the feeling of vulnerability, Lara is indeed not hard to kill, so picking your battles wisely, using cover, stealth attacks and having places to retreat to is important. Key mechanics such as tapping B to scramble for cover, and evading melee attacks are key to surviving. Lara is by no means impervious to being shot, blown up and stabbed. So it’s important you take the opportunity to learn your arsenal, upgrade weapons and gain skills. So, to explain myself… there are four weapons in Tomb Raider; bow, pistol, shotgun and rifle. Yes it’s not many but you are on a island… you upgrade guns via ‘salvage’ found through out the game, as you progress your weapons will gain multiple functions. The bow for example can be used to fire a rope, which can be used to climb across or pull objects. As well as upgrading your weapons you also upgrade Lara in a sort of watered down RPG element, you gain XP for kills, puzzle-solving etc… after a certain amount of XP is gained you will gain skill points which can be used to upgrade Lara (adds to the idea of her becoming more capable) the options are Survival, Hunter and Brutality. Within each of these options are skills that will make you better at climbing for example, or a gun specialisation. The Brutality skills certainly warrant Tomb Raider’s 18 rating, with some truly graphic scenes. Your interaction with enemies however is completely eclipsed by the sophistication with which Lara interacts with her surroundings. I have never come across a game that so seamlessly creates a world with believable physics. Running, jumping and traversing the vast island is truly nail biting and never boring. On more than one occasion you will say ‘is that gap too far?’, which it often will be. Important to note, the environment will kill you far more than any enemy, it also offers some very graphic death sequences. Because of this it is important you learn how to move through the world, knowing which surfaces are climbable etc… What can you vault? What can’t you hold onto?… these are all things you must think about. You are far from the hyper-agile Lara Croft of old, you will at times literally stumble and fall through entire areas.

My only gripe (and it is a minor one) came when I was exploring the game fully, I realised there tends to only be one way to get through most areas… meaning the game is very scripted and deceptively linear. However you won’t notice until your second playthrough and by then you’ll be besotted with the whole game. Presentation has clearly been spared no expense, with striking crisp visuals and incredibly realistic sounds (especially from Lara) you feel every bump and scrape and subsequently it is very easy to immerse yourself in the game. Crystal Dynamics have used QTE’s and strictly linear sections the way they should be. That is to say they have only resorted to them when it would literally be impossible not to, for example in the larger set pieces; escaping from a burning building or crawling through a collapsing cave. The scripted sections allow the developers to capture some great moments of claustrophobia and truly nail biting terror. Despite the people trying to kill her etc… Lara just can’t get enough of those collectables: relics, documents, GPS locators and challenges are in every area. You find these through using your ‘survival instincts’: simply hold down LB to inspect the environment and things of interest will glow orange. Collectables are often seen as a way to bulk out a game, but in Tomb Raider’s case they offer the perfect opportunity to go back and explore the stunning places you perhaps rushed through before. These are easy to get through via the quick travel feature at most camps. Along with wealth of collectables there are also optional tombs, which basically involve a puzzle that requires you to reach a platform… I enjoyed their ingenuity but found them slightly easy and were definitely too short. These parts of the game remind us that Lara is an Archaeologist first, action heroin second and thus loves to drop some historical knowledge whenever there’s a chance.

Up until now I have sung the praises of this game, and unfortunately won’t be able to continue, as the multiplayer is woeful. The solid combat system used in the main game does not translate well to a multiplayer battle, and the game modes are unimaginative and frankly a bit dull. This has happened before with Deadspace 2, it does not need a multiplayer, the core game is good enough, just give me more of that. So a brief list of problems: there are too many enemies for such a small island to sustain. Yes, it is a bit like Uncharted but this is not a bad thing (if you are going to copy, copy from the best). Finally, Yes - Lara overcomes challenges particularly well, but if it were super realistic she would probably shoot herself in the head from the stress… which would not make a good game. The pros: Tomb Raider is a game that makes you feel. It is an adult game that does not insult its audience with mindless gore, rather an adult narrative with a ‘real’ character. Crystal Dynamics have clearly understood that the original players of the Tomb Raider franchise are all grown up and thus have given them a grown up game. It will no doubt be received greatly by fans and newcomers alike.

Sum-up Tomb Raider’s similarities to other games are obvious, it is a lot of good ideas packed into one neat action packed package, I can safely say the icon is back. It is an emotional rollercoaster, brilliantly executed and truly nail biting. An exhilarating, completely unexpected game that restores your faith in the medium to tell stories and invoke emotion.

Title. Metal Gear Rising Developer. Platinum games Platform(s). 360, PS3 UK Release date: Out Now RATED: 18 Before we get into the dissection of Metal Gear Rising (MGR) I want to say two things; firstly don’t be fooled by the title - this is not a traditional sneak around - hide in boxes Metal Gear and it reminds us of that: ‘It’s a box, how is that gonna help?’. This is a hack and slash fast paced experience based in the legendary gaming universe of MGS. Secondly I will use as many cutting adjectives as possible… deal with it. If anyone was uncertain of the Japanese’s foothold on gaming, Metal Gear reminds us just how strong their IP’s are. From the opening credits we are saturated with Eastern styling, the authentic anime aesthetic that has often been replicated so badly by the west, we see it here in its purest form, this is Metal Gear Rising and it is no doubt oozing style. So – the question remains, is this style over substance? An over-indulged game worried more about flashy design that core mechanics..? We’ll see. I won’t attempt to divulge any of the Metal Gear universe, all I will say is that it is in the near future, there are cyborgs (humans with mechanical body parts) and Artificial Intelligence (robots). We play as Raiden, a sort of ninja/samurai cyborg with a cool hair cut, boyish looks and a deep manly voice… He is ‘good’, doesn’t like war and goes around cutting ‘bad’ people - who do like war - to pieces. The story takes a rather predictable arch, where by Raiden not only has to battle terror, but battle the terror within (I put that better than the real tagline). Great cinematic cut scenes string together a relatively engaging story for the genre, I realise that MGS fans will not be surprised by this.

There are many references to current issues such as ‘the war on terror’ and ‘9/11’, they refer to them as historical events. I would have to say the political aspects of the game seemed to be in stark contrast to the ability to cut someone into hundreds of pieces and often defy logical sense but hey – that’s the least of my worries. I was more troubled by a child named George who sounds like Ja Ja Binks… his presence was detrimental – in that it was annoying – secondly he added nothing to the game, I defy anyone to name any character other than the bosses or Raiden, every one of them was forgettable. Oh wait, there was the ‘Dok’. I only remember that because it was spelt wrong. My gripe as the game progressed was: how come Raiden does all this cool stuff in the cut scenes, including picking up robots the size of buildings and running up vertical walls, and yet when I play he just jumps around waving a sword! This feeling was amplified when I factored in the amount of Quick Time Events (QTE’s) that book-ended each cutscene… I’ve said it before, it is just lazy games design. However the quality of these sections is undeniable, I just felt robbed of some gameplay, it was like everytime I got to a cool bit the game said ‘oh wait, my turn now’ then handed me back the controls to continue doing the leg work. So you may be getting a sense that I did not enjoy MGR, well this is where this review may have a twist, because purely from a game-play standpoint, MGR is definitely onto something, it starts with a very brief easy-to-understand tutorial. The core of the game is essentially cutting people to pieces. MGR stands up well alongside it’s hack’n’slash contemporaries, with responsive combat – albeit primarily delivered with two buttons. Raiden has a great range of combinations unlocked through the game, to start with it will feel like button bashing but as you progress you will begin to broaden your skill set and become a lot more effective in combat. Unlike many other games of the same genre which rely on dodging, MGR focuses more on blocking, achieved through striking whilst directing towards an oncoming attack, just as you are about to get hit, you will block and then strike back to devastating effect.

MGR really shows its niche with the addition of blade mode, which allows us to slow down time and control our blade to great precision to slice and dice our enemies. This precision cutting allows us to gain access to our foes’ energy rich spinal cords which replenish Raiden’s health and energy, furthermore if you cut off their left hand you gain bonuses (something about info in their left hand…), after each battle you will be awarded a ‘grade’. If you’ve performed lots of spine pulling and don’t get hit you will be awarded an S rank… If scores bother you this offers some re-playability however repeating the same battle over and over does nothing for me. As fun as combat is, as the game reached the latter stages I felt as if I was just along for the ride, the entire play experience was combat, which often felt too fast paced to feel as if I was really doing anything. To sum the game up early, it felt like I just bashed buttons to the next cut scene. MGR’s saving grace is the boss battles, which add some great variety and another excuse to show off some quirky and very original design, these battles are challenging but never impossible. The mechanics are different in each battle but very easy to learn, and like the rest of the game relied too much on QTE’s to cover the grander aspects of the fight.

So where’s the content? Because right now, it’s not looking good. So, as would be expected we can upgrade Raiden, this is done through spending the BP (points gained through killing enemies, taking spines and left hands). The fact that he is a cyborg makes the lore easy to explain, ‘he upgrades his body’ more health, more damage, new combos, costumes and the most exciting of all; new weapons obtained after each boss battle. Because of this you always feel powerful, even up against the bosses you never feel outmatched. Until the rather worrying rise in difficulty that is the end boss, which I warn you now - is ridiculous. So we reach that point in the review where I can sing MGR’s praises because the presentation of this game is inspiring. So let’s start with the visuals. The graphics are stunning with a much needed very high frame rate; the game never glitched, stalled or popped; it was seamless, fast and enjoyable. As mentioned briefly the style of the game is fantastic, every character is designed beautifully and bosses and enemies all look unique and completely avoid the pit fall of ‘wave after wave of the same enemy attacking’. The environments are all destructible which gives you a real feeling of power to the already impressive physics of the blade. The visuals are supported by possibly the coolest soundtrack I have heard in years, fast paced original mixes that push the pace and add to the immersiveness of the combat. In short, it’s very, very cool! I try to avoid that word… but really it is cool. The look, design, sound and music come together to create a very cool package. Ron Burgendy comes to mind: ‘Hey everyone, come see how good I look’. Longevity is not exactly MGR’s strong point, the game is very short, you can complete a play through in around four hours minus cutscenes and QTE’s. I hate to think how short it is. The VR missions attempt to pack out the rather wafer thin offering, but I felt they offered very little compared to the campaign.

Sum-up So let’s cut to the chase, the game is short, repetitive and has a very stop-start game-play. However, it is very well stylised, has immaculate presentation, incredible sword- play and a killer soundtrack. In short it is an enjoyable, but shallow experience. A cheap thrill, but not so cheap. However if you have £40 lying around you will no doubt enjoy the brief time you spend in MGR. However my advice, if you don’t care about the MG universe, then buy Bayonnetta… it’s like this turned up to 11.

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