sleeping with sirens young guns
Can you tell us about the formation of Memoreve? Memoreve is the result of the associated previous bands of some of our members reaching their natural end. A couple of us used to be in Prog-Power band called Dreamcatcher, and as it began to become clear that we wanted something different, Memoreve was the result of us creating something new and more fulfilling. For us, Memoreve has been born out of not compromising and doing what we feel is right - it's the band we always wanted, that we always knew we could be. We previously knew Colin (Vocals) from his work with UK Power Metallers Power Quest and we saw the potential of his voice over our music from the get-go. When the time came to look for vocalists for Memoreve, we knew we had to get him on board. Anthony (Guitars) came to us from another mutual friend that we had made through Dreamcatcher - he had been busy in the band Tempus Fusion, which had been doing the same circuit as Dreamcatcher. Memoreve is just the natural coming together of six people who are all on the same page musically, drawn to the powerful ambient metal we write together!
How did you get to the band name Memoreve, and what does it mean to you? In the formative period of the idea of Memoreve, we went through the usual process of suggesting different names - some would become potential favourites for a while but then fade away, and then one day Ross (drums) suggested Memoreve and it was pretty clear to us all that it was an obvious choice. We wanted a word that would convey a strong meaning but that had also never been used before so it would make things easy for internet searches! This has been highly successful so far; as long as new fans can remember the band name long enough to type it into a search engine, then we take up the first ten pages if not more! Memoreve does have a meaning though - simply put, it is the eve of memory. That moment when you step on the edge of doing something that will either change your life forever or is something that will define a part of who you are from that point on. It's about knowing when you are there and grabbing the opportunity with both hands, seizing the moment.
Can you tell us about the musical influences that run throughout the band? With six members in the band, we are pretty fortunate to have a large collection of influences - film Score Music, 80s dark wave pop, progressive metal (obviously!), Brazillian bossa nova, djent, nu metal, power metal, folk and Eastern music. It certainly doesn't mean that we all share the same influences but bands such as Tesseract, Periphery, Dimmu Borgir and Sonata Arctica are a few that we all equally love. When it comes to us listening to music together, it can be pretty interesting because if the iPod is on shuffle we will get anything from Iron Maiden to West End Musicals, Danzig to Textures, or Jethro Tull to Behemoth. It makes for a pretty fun melting pot when it comes to the songwriting! We made a point with this band to say that nothing is off the table, whether it is now or in the future. We made this band with the capability to evolve over time and that will become clear with the future releases of chapters 2 and 3!
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal Interview with Matt, Alexander & Ross highlights from your time on the road? Even though some of us have a history of over ten years together, Memoreve has only been publicly active for just under a year. So we have spent the latter half of the year performing as much as possible all across the UK - in Manchester, Leeds, Guildford, Reading, London, Newcastle and Essex! We've had the pleasure of playing with lots of great bands and friends but a highlight for us all was supporting Circus Maximus in London. We have been fans of theirs for a long time so getting to open for them was a real honour. They were all really nice and we had a great time with the guys! But we all also really value the time we spend together as a band living such separate personal lives, none of us get to spend a lot of time around each other so it's been great to be able to do this during our time touring.
So, how did you get to the EP title 'Insignia', and what does it mean to you? Again, this was the brainchild of Ross. However, as this is the first part in a series of three releases we all agreed that this was to be a symbol of what was to come, therefore the title ‘Insignia’ was a great fit. A huge aspect of our music and involvement in the band is about maintaining our integrity both as musicians and with the music itself, and ‘Insignia’ is a statement of this. ‘Insignia’ can mean anything to anyone and it is intended that way, as is most of our lyrical content. However, ‘Insignia’ really just means... us! Memoreve, our identity, what we are about, and what you can expect in the future!
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Insignia'? As ‘Insignia’ is just the first part of a larger project, the themes may become clearer once you can listen to it in its entirety, and we don't want to give too much away too soon. A theme that has been apparent throughout is the concept of something grand that is going to happen. Both tragic and beautiful, this is something that you cannot control nor predict the impact it will have upon you, but it begins to spark questions within you. We all feel that ‘Insignia’ is a deeply emotional record. It's written about the powerful emotions that run through us as a species - those that control us, those that drive us to do good, those that drive us to do bad, those that tear us apart and back together again. Musically we wanted to tie the whole record together as one piece of music, and we think we achieved that well. Influences-wise, we're sure people can hear Tesseract in there, some Evergrey, some ambient influences, and hopefully, maybe even a little originality!
What was the hardest part about putting 'Insignia' together for you guys, and why? With six people in the band, spread across two countries, the hardest part has been getting everyone together to rehearse the record and record the parts. Somehow we made it work but it hasn't been easy! Another really difficult part was releasing just ‘Insignia’ on its own - we have so much more music to share with everyone and it's incredibly hard to keep it all hidden away! But it's about putting out the music in the right way so listeners and fans get as much out of it all as possible. Perhaps the greatest challenge for us has been the general issue of the music industry collapsing upon itself. It becomes harder and harder each day to stay in touch with the industry as it is constantly screwing itself over - as soon as it discovers something special it tends to ruin it, and usually in the pursuit of money. This can make it very disheartening as a new band, but we're not afraid of the challenge and will continue doing things our way, despite of trends or influence of the “powers that be” upon the industry.
Can you tell us a bit about the recording process for 'Insignia'? As a band we've become really budget-conscious these days - wanting to put what little money we do have into the right places, and in this case that's into PR. So recording-wise, we did things very DIY. We have access to home recording software and some basic audio hardware so we've essentially been able to record all the parts by ourselves. We saved that budget for mixing and mastering, which was handled by Robin Adams of UK tech metal powerhouses, Red Seas Fire. We felt that Robin understood what we were wanting to achieve. The process was pretty smooth once we had all the parts recorded and we were all able to get involved with the production of our instruments, which was another positive attribute to working with Robin. He was very easy to work with and would always listen to each member when establishing what sounds they were after.
What do you want this release to do for the representation of Memoreve? We are just happy to finally have music out there for people to listen to. We love to play live and we always give everything we've got on stage so we hope this release will encourage people to come out to a show! All we really hope for this record is that it puts Memoreve on the prog/tech metal map and lets the promoters/venues/festivals out there know that we're a force to be reckoned with and ready to be a part of what's happening! We want people to see that this is just the beginning - that the whole nature of Memoreve is to never stand still. Memoreve was designed to grow and mature with its members and the more influences we have, the more vivid the music becomes!
How did the artwork come together, and what does it mean to you? The artwork was greatly influenced by the name 'Insignia'. We wanted it to symbolise both the band and the first part of the larger project. It's striking and intricate, which is how we would describe our music so we think it succeeds in its purpose! The artwork was done by our good friend Daniel Holub at Make North - Dan listened to our directions fantastically and really powered home the design we were after, a design that somehow fused our cultural influences with the precise, technical nature of our prog metal side. Memoreve is about taking as many inspirational sources from as much as possible, whether this is music, the live show, videos or artwork. The artwork was an attempt at a marriage between the old and the new - ancient cultural influences presented in a modern and contemporary way. Hopefully we achieved what we set out to!
What else can we expect to see from Memoreve, as we head towards 2017? We have big plans for unique ways in which we can engage with our online audience so keep a close eye out! We will be getting straight on to the next chapter of our three releases, followed by a supporting tour. We also hope to catch a few festivals next year but we'll see what happens... We actually have a couple of music videos due to come out very soon so keep your eyes on the YouTube channel!
Interview with Griffin
How did SHVPES form? The band was originally called Cytota, formed by Harry (drums) the old vocalist after they met at a Fightstar gig. They remained Cytota for about five years up until I joined.
Also, how did you get to the band name SHVPES, and what does it mean to you? The concept of “shapes” came from my time at school. I was kicked out of a fair few schools so ended up attending six over the course of my education. Each time I was kicked out, I would head to a more lenient school that eventually wouldn’t work out either. My mum used to use the analogy of these schools only accepting certain “shapes” i.e. certain types of people. When I joined the band, the first song we wrote together was called ‘Shapes’ and it was all about the pressures of being in an environment where you’re expected to conform and how that can impact on someone’s individuality. When we decided to change the name, it seemed like a perfect way to represent our new direction. SHVPES, to me, means doing whatever it is we want to do & not letting other people’s boundaries define what we do.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We’ve had a great year, as soon as we came out of the studio we headed out on a UK tour with Miss May I/ We Came As Romans, followed by sets at Download Fest, The Great Escape & Camden Rocks as well as two sold out shows with Asking Alexandria & I’m currently sat in Glasgow on the tail end of our headline tour. The two biggest highlights were definitely playing Camden Koko with Asking & then headlining Boston Music Rooms (London). These two shows were milestone moments for us as a band. We had a SHVPES chant before we went on stage (at an AA show) & had the crowd singing louder than the PA on our headline tour… I’ll never forget those two shows.
So how did you get to the album title 'Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair.' and what does it mean to you? The name ‘Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair.’ is a representation of the emotional circle of life. One minute you can be on cloud 9, the next minute you can be juggling a complete shit storm. As a title, it’s a statement of acceptance that we live in absolute chaos. Around the time of writing/recording the album I had a lot going on in my personal life that was constantly being counteracted by fantastic news (getting signed/playing download/tours etc.) I initially heard the phrase in a play called 'Farinelli & the King’ which was being shown in the West End of London. The lead character described the ways of the world being “the pain, the joy, the ecstasy and despair” and it just really resonated with me; it totally explained what was going on for me at that time and just felt like the perfect topic to base the album off.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair.’? Each song on the album is about battling frustration, in one way or another. Whether that’s frustration in relationships, in society, at school, with religion. The album touches on a lot of topics, but it fits into that idea of accepting things you cannot change.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair.' together for you guys, and why? Making the album sound cohesive. We have such a broad taste of music between us so it was difficult at times to try and evolve the sound of the band, without making the record sound schizophrenic. We ended up writing thirty songs for this record and chose the ten that represented our “sound” best.
As this was your debut album, then what targets and goals did you set for yourself when you went into the studio to put this record together? One thing we wanted to ensure, was to move away from the strictly metalcore roots that were very evident in Cytota. That style of music, like pop-punk, I feel is just written for you. Every band thatâ€™s doing it is just regurgitating the same song over and over again. I didnâ€™t want to be apart of that. At the end of the day, we just wanted to work as hard as possible and be proud of the record we put out, knowing that we had created those songsâ€Ś. Not some other band ten years previous!
How did you end up working with Carl Bown & Jim Pinder, and how would you say they ended up shaping the record? Cytota recorded their first EP with them & I had met them several times over the years. When we got signed, they were the most obvious choice. Their back catalogue is unbelievable & they really seemed to grasp the new direction we wanted to take. I cannot sing their praises highly enough, they are two of the most talented musicians/producers I have ever met. I came out of the studio 10x the musician I was when I walked in. They are geniuses!
How did the music video for 'Two Minutes of Hate' come together, and what was it like to be a part of? We wanted to create a narrative that reflected the swagger & aggression of the song, but something that also held a deeper meaning of someone not quite being in control of themselves. I'm not much of an actor myself, so I really had to get into my role as the schizo-aggressive coach. I had bruises the next day.
Can you tell us a bit about the meaning that runs through 'Two Minutes of Hate'? The track is based off George Orwell’s 1984. In his book, all the members of this township, Oceania, are rounded up once a day and plonked in this theatre where a caricature of their arch nemesis appears on screen, preaching against “their” regime. All the members of the audience lose their minds for two minutes every day & come out the other side like pacified, thoughtless versions of themselves. It was a pretty interesting topic, especially given it was published in 1949 and still seems so relevant today. Orwell has such an amazingly descriptive way of writing that as soon as I read 3/4 pages on the topic, I had enough material to write the song.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour with Trivium, and what can attending fans expect? Trivium were the band that paved my way into heavy music, they were my first tattoo & are now hosting SHVPES' first venture into Europe. Anyone attending should bring extra garms because it’s going to get dirty.
What else can we expect to see from SHVPES as we head towards 2017? We’re heading out for six weeks round Europe with Trivium & Sikth which should be insane. I’ve loved both of those bands for over ten years, so to be heading out on that run is just surreal. We’ve also been confirmed for two festivals in the summer which I can’t announce just yet, but they will be the biggest slots we’ve ever played. As for the rest of the year, we’re waiting to be confirmed on a few tours, but it should be an incredible year regardless.
Interview with the whole band
So firstly can you tell us a bit about the formation of Venom Inc and the band name? I (Tony Dolan) was performing a show with my old band ATOMKRAFT in the North of England as a special one off show and I had invited Mantas to come onstage for two numbers and join in. A few days later, I received a message from a German promoter, Oliver Weinsheimer who has a festival called ‘Keep It True’, he told me he had enjoyed the performance very much and loved when Mantas joined in and then asked me if I had been aware that Abaddon was in attendance? I said yes, and he continued that he had wondered what it would have been like if I had also invited Abaddon onstage to join myself and Mantas and play some Venom songs. I told him that was not possible at that show, so he invited me to play with the band myself and Mantas have (M:PIRE of EVIL) at his festival and if I could convince Abaddon to come too and maybe play a few songs just for fans who would love it. I said I doubted if it would happen but he told me he was sure if anyone could make it happen, I could! I spoke to both the guys and although there was some caution, we agreed we could choose five songs and play as it was just a one off. Myself and Mantas had a tour in Russia to do so there could be no rehearsals, we’d all need to just fly in and play. Mantas was very sick on the day as he had caught some kind of infection in Russia and could hardly stand up, but we went and played to 2000 people who all went nuts. Five songs, just five, we were blown away! The response had been so positive that the next morning my emails and phone messages went crazy! Some video had been posted and people wanted to know when we were doing a full tour and album! By the time we returned the next day to our homes and I opened my inboxes, we were being offered management and tours in Asia, Europe, the USA and South America, it was mad! So I spoke to Mantas and Abaddon, explained what was being offered and said, “what do you want to do?” We were all surprised and just said yes, let's just have some fun, and that was it. Two years later and we have not stopped touring! The name? Well we knew we must have an association with Venom somehow so we came up with many different ideas but ended with Iron and Steel a lyrical line from the Venom song ‘Die Hard’ but almost as soon as we began posting about live dates and the band was once again in existence, fans, agents and everyone just called it VENOM. We tried to move away from it but was impossible. So we all said that we had to add Venom in there somehow, so I came up with Incorporated VENOM.INC for two reasons. One it would distinguish us from any other version out there trying to do what we do, and secondly it would incorporate all our other musical endeavours, as Abaddon has his own music that he does as do myself and Mantas both together and separately. We could encompass everything in one place as well as incorporate Venom into that. People misjudged and thought we were trying to be a corporate company or something or making it all a financial thing but they were wrong completely. After two years now and almost 400 live shows people know the truth. We are about the music and the fans full stop. It is all fan driven, never planned, just happening like it should be, it’s very exciting. We did try calling it, Venom Inc-Iron and Steel and for us we still do but promoters and agents just ignored the Iron and Steel bit, and so did the fans, so we just became VENOM INC! It wasn’t our decision, it was decided in spite of us. I suppose when we did sit down and look at it, the original logo was designed and drawn by Abaddon and the first two Venom albums were written wholly or in part with Abaddon pre Cronos arrival in Venom so it made perfect sense and is totally legitimate to A: use our own logo and B: play songs we wrote, be it one of us or all of us.
Venom Inc made their debut last year at the Keep It True Festival in Germany, how was the unveiling for you and what was the response like? Go on YouTube and see what happened when we played ‘Countess Bathory’ at Keep It True, as it was stunning. I guess we were more excited than nervous and it was a great risk as we had not even seen each other for so many years before arriving and walking onstage together. Myself and Mantas played first with Francesco La Rosa on drums as M:PIRE of EVIL, then we all left the stage and came back on. When Abaddon came on last and stood up behind the drums, the place just erupted and I think we all felt that emotion. It was something I don't think any of us will ever forget, and it was all thanks to Oliver.
Following on from that, generally what has the overall feedback been like given the history of Venom and the reincarnation of Venom Inc? It has not stopped being amazing. We have played over most of the planet already and cannot seem to stop being offered shows. 2017 is already mostly booked and we go to places we have not been yet as well as revisiting countries we’ve done before, it is fantastic and very humbling. The feedback from our live shows with old and new fans has been on another level. They seem to get it, we are 100% real, not the cabaret version, not masking ourselves in any over blown production attempts that fall short but simple, pure and honest. Backline, lights out, fans, us and the music, pure Metal in your face for an hour and a half. To go all the way to Japan or play Czech Republic at Brutal Assault, or the Whiskey a Go Go in LA or Rio de Janeiro etc and have a packed house chanting VENOM! VENOM! Before we hit the stage and to drag us back on for an encore is exhilarating to say the least and we appreciate every single fan and moment.
You have all been in other bands and had other projects in your musical careers, have you got any other plans to start these up again or do something new? Well we kind of never stopped anything! Mantas is doing a blues album (something he always wanted to do) and has his project DRYLL which he is completing recordings still. Abaddon has his band ABADDON who has just completed a new EP which they’ll release soon, and they are also working on a new album. I have my band ATOMKRAFT to which I am always doing bits and pieces like some festivals for in 2017 and a South American tour at this years end. Then myself and Mantas have M:PIRE of EVIL which we love! The new album is almost complete. Our current focus though for all three of us is the shows for Venom Inc and the new album we are now writing and recording for.
How did you all come up with your band stage names, Demolition Man, Mantas, and Abaddon? The names were chosen as the idea seemed to befit the band approach and was also a little reflective on the Kiss them, where you had the Lover, The Spaceman etc. It changed the identity to separate the person from the character in the band. Abaddon from the bible Revelation 9:11 and they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, and Mantas - Greek language, "mantis" (*tas) meaning diviner or prophet but I like to think it's the other. With its worshipful appearance on one hand and bloodthirsty behaviour on the other, the praying mantis (*tas). The Demolition Man is an earned title from way back. I break things, it's my speciality if the mood takes me. I was destroying things onstage once in my first band when the guitarist went to the mic and said, ladies and gentlemen....The Demolition Man!
What have been some of the biggest highlights of your career both personally and musically? Abaddon - Dynamo, Holland for Abaddon on the reunion show in the 1990's was an incredible show with massive pyro etc. Personally? I'll tell you when I am finished. I'm not finished yet!
Mantas - It was one of the early shows in Europe, when I was onstage and heard someone singing ‘Sons of Satan’ and thinking? How does he know my song? Then walking onstage to a massive sold out audience going crazy just because we walked on. I had no idea this had even happened to us, some working class kids from Newcastle Upon Tyne. Personally, hooking up again with the love of my life after being together when we were 16 years old and losing touch, we met again and moved to Portugal. It was just great.
The Demolition Man - Biggest highlight? Filming Master and Commander the movie in Mexico for five months. I was cast as Mr. Lamb along with Paul Bettany and Russell Crowe and many other fine actors. it was an incredible highlight for me. Musically, every show I do is my new highlight. Personally? Being in Venom Inc and being given this second chance to meet fans and play these great great songs all over the planet...you can never surpass that.
You recently headlined at Brightonâ€™s Mammothfest in the UK, which went down a storm, how was the performance and experience for you? The Demolition Man - I have been a supporter of Steve Dickson and the festival since he first approached me (Tony Dolan) but spending the day there, seeing all the amazing bands and talent, and the staff who were all warm and friendly and then getting to meet fans and play for them, to a full house, a real British festival in an amazing location like Brighton and a fabulous Victorian building, well all around was the greatest day. The response to us was far beyond what I had hoped so I thank everyone for the hard work and the dedication, and the fans for travelling and attending.
Abaddon - The warmest reception, great organisation, amazing bands and fans, all around a great day, thank you.
Mantas - Respect to everyone and thank you for an incredible show and experience and hope we see you soon.
Did you manage to catch any of the other bands and if so who did you see? The Demolition Man - Myself and Abaddon did, but Mantas only arrived from Portugal before we were due to play so he unfortunately missed the bands.
Abaddon - I just loved Divine Chaos, good friends and a great band live but all were great fun. The Demolition Man - I loved all I saw and I watched all I could but the ones I loved so much for being off to one side and just blew me away with sound style and performance and all around excitment were HELL PUPPETS, but I have to say Mortishead, Ingested, One Machine, King Leviathan, Sworn Amongst, Osiah, were all great entertainment and superb talent.
What was the response like from the fans? Amazing just amazing, loud and great. It is always a pleasure but to play in England to a great crowd following great bands makes you feel a different kind of pride. They were so supportive and warm towards us. We thank them all.
How important do you think it is for people and bands to support growing smaller festivals? It is 100% important and vital. The industry (corporates) call it the underground but that is just a term they made up meaning they cannot control it or direct what happens, but this is where the new blood truly, the fertile ground where everything comes from and always has. So supporting the festivals like this you do two things: get to have great fun but also support the future of music by supporting the people who make the festivals for you by booking great bands, as well as supporting the bands by investing in them.
What does the future hold for Venom Inc? We have to get into the studio as we are recording demos for the album. The deal is being finalised so we must get the recording completed. The new album we are doing will be out around April/May 2017 and currently the world tour for 2017 is being booked, and it is going to be a very busy and crammed 2017, but why not, you only live once right!
Is there anything else you would like to add? Just a thank you for the interview and thank you Mammothfest for a wonderful day, for everyoneâ€™s support and the staff for their hard work and for considering us to headline. Youâ€™ll always have our support and we wish it a great success. Maximum respect as Mantas would say, and ALL HAIL as I say and hiccup as Abaddon would say....if he's had his bottle of Jack!
Interview with Joe
So earlier this year you released your fifth album, ‘Phenotype’, what has the response been like so far and how happy were you with the end result? I’m very happy with the end result and I have to say that the album has been received way better than I expected; the overall reviews are very good.
Can you tell us a bit about the name of the album and any themes or concepts behind it if any? I’ll keep it light: ‘Phenotype’ is a term which you`ll encounter in biology studies, specifically DNA/genetic codes. The idea is that the environment, climates and the society you grew up in are embedded in your DNA and therefore will always have an effect on you and your choices in life.
I understand there will be a follow up album, ‘Genotype’ which will be released in 2017, acting as part of a double or second part to ‘Phenotype’ is that correct? If so can you give us any insight into this and what made you decide to do this? Initially we wanted ‘Genotype’ (the song) to be on ‘Phenotype’ as the final track of the album, only then it had to be around 15-20 minutes long. We were at a point where we had already booked the studio days and we had only a few weeks to finalise ‘Genotype’ and the rest of the songs. We had so much material that we still wanted to use, and we felt that ‘Genotype’ could be a lot longer, plus we were not done telling our story. Then we came up with a plan for the second album.
What can fans expect to hear on the new offering? Basically a very eclectic album. It is one 45 minute long track!
What is the hardest part about the recording and writing process when creating an album? Concerning ‘Phenotype’, it is the fact that everybody was involved in the writing process, which is great, but it just takes longer.
So I recently saw you play an epic set at Mammothfest UK in Brighton on September 30th, how was the experience for you and how happy were you with the crowd response? Loved it! I felt perhaps that the crowd was a tiny bit shy here and there.
Did you manage to catch any of the bands at the festival? Hardly, unfortunately we`re always on a very tight schedule.
How important do you think it is for an established band like yourself to play at and support growing festivals? I think it’s important. It’s a way for us to gain new fans, ones who usually would not go to the big (and expensive) festivals. You’re also giving back to the community, in the way that you promote smaller growing festivals. This is something we’re trying to do a few times a year.
You played some new songs in your set which went down a storm, which songs do you enjoy playing the most live, both new and old, and why? That’s a tough question, as long as the set has a good flow it doesn’t matter to me.
As a band that have impressively been going for over a decade, what have been some of the biggest highlights of your career so far? Some of biggest highlights were playing in India, the band has actually played in India four times already and one time in Nepal. Another one was playing at FortaRock festival in Nijmegen in our home country. We played in front of 50,000 people, quite an experience!
Following on from that, how much do you think the music industry has changed since you started and how has this affected things if at all? The band started out in 2001 so back then people were already downloading music illegally and legally. The major change and the big decline in record sales started before we even released our 1st album. The main change for us was the combination of the music industry and social media. Back then you needed to have a good website which you’d have to update as much as possible. Around 2004 every artist needed to have a MySpace page, so we did that. 2005 YouTube, Got to do that as well! 2009 Facebook, got to have a page on FB! Later lnstagram. Of course there’s all the online streaming/download business which started in the last 10 years such as iTunes and Spotify, and as an artist you must have your music available there as well. So, you must have a strong online presence, otherwise it’s like you don`t exist. When we got started, just having a website was enough.
What else can we expect from Textures in the future? What I can give away is that we will announce some live dates for 2017 very soon.
Interview with AJ
How did you get to the band name Fire From The Gods, and what does it mean to you? The name Fire From The Gods came from a scene in the film The Wizard, someone on the television in the movie says “Fire From The Gods”. But when I joined the band I brought up the the old greek mythology tale of Prometheus and him giving humans the fire from the gods of Mount Olympus. And we have so much ahead of us. So in a few years time come back to me and ask me what does the name fire from the gods mean to me. As I'll probably have a better answer then!
How did you get to the album title 'Narrative', and what does it mean to you? We had a long list of album titles and ‘Narrative’ stuck out to me the most because it really is our story. It was my story that I was telling in the lyrics and the songs. So I wanted it to be personal but at the same time I wanted it to be something that a lot of people could relate to. The title was open to interpretation because it could be anyone's narrative.
You've said that “This album is the personal narrative of a minority man living in major cities and being American,”, so can you elaborate on this, and tell us a bit more about the theme that runs throughout the album? The reason why ‘Narrative’ is loosely based on the black experience in America is because for one I'm black and two the story and the scenario that I've lived for quite a lot of my life and I've seen it first-hand. The good the bad and the ugly of being a black man growing up in America but on the other side of the coin there's a reoccurring theme of being an underdog. And again that's where I believe the album relates to everyone and anyone that's felt disenfranchised, marginalised or lost. It was written for anyone that has had to overcome a certain amount of adversity in order to survive and in order to exist in this very chaotic world we live in.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Narrative' together for you guys, and why? The most difficult thing about putting ‘Narrative’ together was the composition of the record as we really didn't know what type of record we wanted to write, we didn't go into the studio with a real plan. We had a bunch of songs and ideas. So take not really having a definitive plan and couple that with a time crunch then you've got a recipe for disaster. But we were very determined and we worked with some really good people. We were able to produce a solid record.
What do you want 'Narrative' to do for the representation of Fire From The Gods? As it stands now we're really happy with the introduction that ‘Narrative’ is for Fire From The Gods. And that's all I'd like it to be. I personally feel that a lot of bands come out with an intense and awesome debut record and that's it. I want our future work to stand on its own and be just as good, if not better than ‘Narrative’.
How did the front cover for ‘Narrative’ come together, and what does it mean to you? The hooded character idea was from the artwork for ‘Pretenders’. But what deferred from the artwork for ‘Pretenders’ was that the hooded character was a male. So with ‘Narrative’ again pointing to the fact that it could be anyone's story not just my story. With ‘Narrative’ we wanted the character to be completely ambiguous. Neither male nor female, adult or child. Completely anonymous. It could be anyone looking out on an urban landscape which represented the world in front of them. Transcribing the view of that world onto a piece of paper and in this case pieces of music.
How did you end up working with David Bendeth, and what did he contribute? Working with Bendeth came to fruition due to certain fortunate and unfortunate circumstances but it worked out for us. We had intended on writing the record with a talented young producer by the name of Robbie Joyner and Black Book Sound in Houston. But Bendeths idea was presented to us by the label. We couldn't pass it up. So Robbie came out to New Jersey with the band and produced and helped write the record along with David Bendeth and his team.
As this was your debut album, then what targets/goals did you have? Our label was very accommodating and very supportive. There weren't any real set goals or plans in the beginning. It was kind of like we were all just going to see what happened, and that might sound almost like a negative or as if we don't know what we're doing but it wasn't like that at all. It was more "we like your band, we like what you have going on, we like the ideas and we love the theme of your music! So let's try and translate that into a full-length record and see where it goes.” There was no pressure to write radio singles or anything. Now that the record has garnered a bit of attention we have now set some goals for ourselves that are fully attainable. Personally I wanted people to hear what I had to say and not being egotistical, I just wanted to tell this story.
What can we expect to see from Fire From The Gods as we head towards 2017? We really want to get overseas obviously but we've got a lot of touring planned in the States for 2017! Also we will probably release some new music and have singles and a few covers!
Can you tell us about that time just after My Chemical Romance broke up, did you know what you wanted to do career wise at that point? No, honestly. I mean right around the time the band broke up. A few weeks before that, I had a kit, it was like a crazy transition, this bittersweet thing. Like something that has been a part of your life for so long coming to an end, but at the same time, we had the joy of introducing our first child into the world. I feel like that was definitely something which helped, my wife also kept me grounded and together. I didn’t have any specific plans after, and it was never like after that happened, “oh okay, I have to go and write a record myself”. I feel like it was all very organic. Writing the songs just started happening. Some of the early stuff lyrically, it leans more towards dealing with My Chem breaking up, but as time passes, the songs started to be more about what was going on in my life, with my family. My thoughts on being a father, thinking about my parents, that nostalgia, and like the generations passing. So over the course of time, the lyrics started shifting to that.
So was it a daunting or maybe scary idea for you, to approach music as a solo musician instead of being in a band? At first, there were a couple of elements to it, and yeah it was scary and daunting, but then also at the same time, it felt freeing and liberating. When you’re writing in a band, you want to express yourself the best you can. You want to bring your talents, to the greater whole. When you are doing solo material, it’s you, and all you. So it’s scary on one side, because you don’t have other people to get ideas from, and collaborate with, so there’s more responsibility, and then also, if you get stuck with an arrangement you don’t have anyone else to go to, but you. Sometimes you could get halfway through the song and you don’t know where to go, so the song just dies. Whereas in a band, you have other people to get ideas from. The freeing and liberating side of it, is that you get to explore more of yourself as a musician. In a way, you push yourself harder, you find yourself doing things that you could do, or that you never knew you wanted to do. So, for me the most daunting thing was figuring out singing, I had never done that before, so I felt like that was the biggest challenge for me.
Also, what was it like to become a lead vocalist for the first time? At first, I hated it. Any time I tracked vocals, I would listen back and I just couldn’t stand the sound of my voice. I’ve always actually had a higher pitched voice, so I’ve never been 100% confident with it. So if I listen to myself, on a voice recording, or on an answering machine, or anything like that, I’m like “oh my god, I sound like that in real life”. So when you put me in front of a mic, and it’s a crystal clear recording of that, I hated it, it was new for me. There’s a bunch of things you have to figure out, something as simple as what key the song is in. If you have the key of the song wrong, then your voice won’t sound the best. So that was one of those things, that was also a challenge. I hated it at first. So once I figured out the comfort zone for my voice, and where the song should be, I felt a lot better with it. I was able to not think too much, and I feel that’s when I do my best. With any musician, you’re not thinking, you’re just doing it, and it’s automatic. That’s when I feel like I can do my best work. Thankfully it did get to that point. It definitely took time, but once I figured it out, the songs and the performances got that much better.
We've read that your solo album is about a middle aged man who finds a memory box in his childhood home. So how did this concept idea come together, and can you elaborate on the themes that we can expect from the album? The concept gelled later in the writing process, because I wrote the record over three and half years. I found that the songs were very in the moment about what was happening in my life at the time, when I came to put all of the songs together for the record, and went through all of the material that I had recorded, and said “okay, all of these songs connect in some way”. I sort of saw it as this memory box, and really the record is my memory box for my son, it’s the things that I feel I’m going to teach him as he grows older, and these are the ways that I hope to guide him. The themes and lessons, are a part of the lyrics in the record. The larger theme is that there’s a sense of hope. No matter how bad things get in life, there’s always that glimmer of light. That’s what I would love for my kid to take from me. That’s what I learnt from my parents. My parents are very strong people, that have gone through countless hardships, but are still able to rise up, and be good people. I feel like that’s a choice people have. You can go one way or another. Sometimes, it’s hard to make that choice, to rise up and continue to be a good person, and they’ve done that, and that’s what I hope to do, and what I hope to teach my son as well.
So how would you say becoming a father contributed to shaping some of the themes on this record? If I didn’t become a father, I honestly don’t know what I would of wrote about. That’s the tough thing for me, with lyrics some lyric writers/songwriters can be more imaginative with what their songs are about, and just use a little bit more of a metaphor. The songs don’t have to necessarily be about them, and what they are going through in life. Working with Gerard, with some of the songs he was able to conjure up stories out of nowhere, and make these really incredible songs and lyrics, that were connected to his life, but at the same time weren’t. That was definitely hard for me, as the only thing I can write about is what I know. My wife was supportive throughout the writing process. A lot of the conversations that my wife and I would have were about the state of the world, and how we are going to approach parenting. How we hope to guide our son through the world. That’s all on the record. So absolutely, it was the most important thing that ever happened to me.
What was it like to play almost every instrument on the record yourself, and how come you didn't bring in many outside musicians? Most of the record was recorded from home, so it was almost like a necessity to do it myself. I used to play drums a bit when I was younger, I moved from guitar and played drums, and then I moved back to guitar. I’ve always just enjoyed playing drums, so it was fun. I did have other people play on the record, and one of the most important people for the process was Jarrod Alexander, he plays drums on a lot of the tracks. I’d have these demos recorded, with me playing the drums, and then say “you’ve got to come in, I know what you’re capable of”. When he plays on a song, it just gets elevated. He plays drums on a good amount of the songs, and most of the other stuff is me. It’s fun. As soon as I write a melody I always hear something else, and that’s one of the benefits of working solo, as you get to really explore other ideas that you wouldn’t of before. So, some of the songs start with the guitar part, and then I’ll hear a synth part, so I’ll play that. Or the song would need strings, so I’d do violin or cello parts, and then make an arrangement. I’ve always loved to explore and try new things, and this record was the perfect opportunity for that.
How did your wife and son end up joining you on the record, and what was it like to work with them on your music? It’s just fun! I recorded the whole thing in our small guest house, which I turned into my studio. They heard the songs all of the time, and I’m sure at a certain time they’d get tired of it, hearing me go back and re-track things. But you know, they knew the songs inside and out. There’s some percussion in the choruses that my son plays a percussion set on, that I think is his grandfathers. He plays with it all the time, and he loves music. He would always pop into the studio, I’d be tracking something, and he’d be twisting knobs, and I’d be like “No! You’re going to mess it up”. But no, he just loves being there. I was just doing a song, and he happened to have his little maracas, so I just had him record a patch through, and then I’d go back to a chorus and edit, time it a little bit. It’s just amazing, on one of the songs (she probably won’t want me to say) my wife sings. That was great as well, because I’m the only voice you hear on the record, except for her, and I feel like that the part she sings is super important for the track she is on. It gives it a different character, she was great, and she was awesome when she did it.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Remember the Laughter', and what does it mean to you? It was a few months after my son was born, and I just happened to end up writing what turned out to be the last track ‘Remember The Laughter’. Just while I was writing the song, the idea of what am I going to do, (which I guess, I didn’t know at the time) when I came up with the theme of the record it was like “what am I going to leave with my son when I pass, what words do I leave with him before I go”. So I started just writing the lyrics, and singing the song. That’s where the lyric “Remember The Laughter” came from. Years down the line I decided that the record should be called that. Because it just really connects with the idea of the hope, some of the lyrics in the song are, there’s a call and answer section between my son and myself, him asking me what he’s going to do when I’m gone, and how am I going to continue to be okay, and I told him that he’ll be okay, you’ll find someone else, you can do it yourself. A lot of the songs are about that, and that’s what the words “Remember The Laughter” means to me.
They sound like some really in depth lyrics! I’m real proud of what I was able to come up with. I’ve been real lucky to work with incredible musicians and songwriters for the ten/eleven years that I was in My Chem. You learn a lot. All of us are in communication, we bounce ideas of each other, and we’re always dying to check out each other’s work. For myself, lyrically I took a lot of influence from the more storyteller kind of writers, like Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson, Tom Petty, where the songs are like a story, there’s a beginning, middle, and end. A lot of lyric writers don’t do it that way, but there’s this old school mentality with the lyrics that I attach to. I’m not the best with metaphors, and most of the lyrics are very simple, and straight up, and that’s just my writing style. Hopefully people dig it, I’m really proud of it.
Your Reading/Leeds festival headline performance with My Chemical Romance in 2011 was insane, can you tell us a bit about what you remember from that set? That was the culmination of our dreams becoming reality. I can’t even say dreams becoming reality, because never in a million years would I have imagined myself in the band that I play in, not only headlining Reading & Leeds but also playing with Brian May. It was a mind blowing experience, and I definitely rank it up there with one of my favourite performances. It was interesting as well because it was really weird, and I always feel like this is the stuff that happened with My Chem. There was always this push and pull. That show was maybe the second to last show we had played with Mike, who was playing drums at the time. I think everyone knows what went down with him. We caught him stealing money from us, it sucks, as someone on the inside went rogue. So we had to do Reading & Leeds knowing that he’d done that. We had to do the show, as we were waiting until we got back to the US to deal with it. So it was just crazy, as we were sharing the stage with this person that you felt had betrayed you, but at the same time, we were still making incredible music. Just being able to share the stage with Brian May, he is the sweetest individual I’ve ever met. He was like super genuine, and super caring, he wasn’t nervous in a sense, but he wanted to make us happy, which was kind of nuts, so he wanted to try a few different leads on parts of the songs. He was like “is this okay, if I try to do this” it’s like “fuck yeah, you’re Brian May”. We all said the same thing, you can play nothing, you can play everything, we don’t care. The fact that you would say yes to this, is just incredible. There are a couple of moments that just stick out in my head, like exchanging smiles, laughs with the rest of the guys on the stage, we had a blast. It was incredible.
Also, it's been ten years since the release of 'The Black Parade', so what do you remember the most from that time, and how would you say it compares to any other My Chemical Romance album? The thing I remember about that period was the level of experimentation and freedom we had with the music. When we were making that record, it was like let’s try anything and everything, and not worry about what people might think because of our prior material. A little bit on revenge at the time, we were younger, and something that might happen with younger bands is that you might worry what your existing fan base might think about your upcoming material, and that sometimes may colour your writing. On ‘The Black Parade’ we threw all of that out of the window. We had an incredible studio, an incredible producer and engineer, we just had a lot of freedom to create whatever we wanted. To see the reaction, and how the fan base just took it and made it their own, was really something special to see. It was definitely a really amazing time in all of our lives.
So, as a solo musician what else can we expect to see from you as we head towards 2017? So next year I plan on doing some touring, I’m not sure when. Right now I’m looking at the front half of the year. So that’s going to be exciting. That’s the next step to figure out. There’s definitely a lot of nervous energy, and excitement at the same time. So that’s what the front half of the year looks like. There’s a couple of other projects that I’m just starting to get into for next year, you know I’m hoping, if things go great, I can do some soundtrack work, I’ve always wanted to do some soundtrack work for film, or television. I’d just love to, that’s almost part of the reason for putting this record out. I don’t know if I will have another solo record, so that’s why on the record, I really just tried to write what I felt, and what I wanted. It feels like it shows a nice musicality, so hopefully that may end up paying off some other work for film, or something like that down the line. So that’s what 2017 looks like.
Can you tell us about the formation of Skinny Lister? Lorna: Yes I can. Skinny Lister basically happened because of a number of things that were going on at the time, Dan and Mule were doing music together. But they were also going to a weekly folk session in Greenwhich where they used to drink, play sea shanties and other tracks. Then my brother and I were sort of doing an appalachian folk band, where we’d dress up, and go to parties. At the same time, Max and Dan were playing traditional tunes, at house parties and bars. So we kind of just thought, all those things together, would make a great band. We always managed to get people dancing, and having a laugh, so it was just all of the elements together. So yeah, it just started off with friends playing together in a bedroom, and then it was like “oh we can go to festivals, and try and get an audience”. We just used to climb a fence, and play our instruments anywhere that we could. Then we got noticed, started to get some gigs, and it went from there.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in London, when you first started out? Lorna: Well it was exciting, we were having an amazing time anyway. Just going to house parties, and hanging out with friends. We just wanted a sound, that was not like anything else, and we felt that we achieved that, by merging the traditional with Dans songs. We were just going out, playing wherever we could, we looked for funding so that we could build up a story about us, then we managed to find that. Then we got given some money so that we could go on a narrow boat tour and record our first ever EP. Travelling down into London, to then play Camden, and we kind of focused on playing Camden quite a lot (despite the fact we are from South East London!). It did us well, we played all over, but that was the main kind of hub, that we wanted to connect with. It just grew from there. Then we started to perform outside of London. With the second tour we did, which was called the Homemade Tour, where we thought if we go to our hometowns there’s going to be people that will come to see us, so we’ll have some sort of fan base to start with. Even if it’s just family and friends, it’s a beginning. So we just drove around the UK in our Land Rover, just playing gigs wherever. We played in my hometown, in my dads folk club, and we invited all of our mates. They were nice enough to sort of let us be a bit rowdy in there! As normally it’s quite sedate. Civialized.
What has it been like to tour with Frank Turner and how has it helped this current tour? Lorna: Yeah, he is amazing. He tours all of the time, we’ve been labelled as a hard working band, but he is always on the road. Obviously he is a really nice guy, and very supportive of upcoming bands. He is a sweetheart when it comes to promoting music that he likes, and he wants to help bands achieve. Obviously we’d like a little slice of his pie, because he has got a pretty good pie. We’ve been all over with him, and that’s been an incredible journey. That’s helped us, sellout this whole UK tour. So every night we’ve had sold out shows, which has been amazing. And then we had some sold out shows up the east coast of the US with Beans on Toast and Will Varley, and that was amazing. At that point we thought “wow this feels good”. Then we all came home, and recorded the second album, which we all feel very strongly about. It’s perhaps our most mature, and most global sounding album that we’ve got. And then we announced our UK tour whilst we were in the studio, and then all of a sudden, you know, it’s looking like the tour is going to sell out pretty quickly. It’s been amazing. Onwards and upwards.
Has this current headline tour been a turning point for you then? Lorna: It feels like that, we also just came back from a tour in March, which we did with Flogging Molly, The Salty Dog Cruise tour which obviously felt pretty rock n roll. Free booze, four days around the bahamas with all of our mates. We had amazing shows, and we were all just pinching ourselves the whole way.
Touring wise, what else have you been upto this year? Lorna: So obviously the Flogging Molly The Salty Dog Cruise was massively amazing. And just doing our own smaller headline shows. Selling those out has just been amazing in the UK and on the East Coast. We’ve just been over and done a couple of days in Canada as well as a festival in LA which was really good.
Daniel: It’s been a busy year from the offset. When we started the year, we were still touring with Frank Turner in Europe. Then we pretty much came out of that, and into the studio recording the album, which only happened earlier in the year. Then we had the Flogging Molly cruise, and a little American tour. Then the recording of the album, then festivals, then another tour.
It looks like you are doing really well in the states, so what do you think it takes for a British band to start becoming successful out there? Daniel: With us, one of the key things, and I don’t think it works for every band. When we went to South By South West, we really worked out there. You have your own official show that you go out for, but we went beyond that, we were playing in pubs, anything, in the streets, busking. We did an open mic night in an Irish pub in the centre of Austin Texas, we then got invited to play in the pub again on the same night, and get a few quid for it, which was great. Someone saw us who knew Side One Dummy, and then they put us in touch with them. We did an audition for them, in their car park, when we were next out, then they signed us, and we put the record out. So it all led on from that. Then we did the Vans Warped Tour thanks to Kevin Lyman. we thought we might be playing the following year, but we were given four weeks notice to do the main stage, which we did. It was insane. It’s a very rocky/punk rock festival, and we were more folky at the time, we had a stomp box, none of us had tattoos (everybody was just covered in tattoos), and it was all a bit more traditional. It went really well, and I’d say that we provided a little bit of fresh air in amongst the bands there. We did well, and won over a lot of fans that we still see when we go to the US now. It was worthwhile, and we got the Flogging Molly tour from that. So I’d say South By Southwest was the key for us, it might not work for every band, but for us, it opened a few doors. With South By Southwest it is a bit off putting when you look at the list of bands playing, you think “Jesus Christ!”, you just have to believe in yourself, and get out there! If you do your own thing, and work hard. Then I think it can pay off. It did for us anyway.
How would you say your sound has progressed since you started out? Daniel: I think we've let ourselves off the folk leash a little bit. We definitely were sticking to some, not rules, but we had a certain folk sound, especially on the first album, you could play some of the songs down some of the folk clubs we’d go to, and people might think they’re traditional songs that were written hundreds of years ago. But I don’t think that’s the case with some of the new songs that we are writing on our most recent albums. They’re a bit more contemporary sounding. But when I say a lot more contemporary, I mean that we enjoy a lot more of the 80s instead, and so rather than ultra modern stuff. We’ve thrown Adam Ant in there again on this album, which there’s a bit of on the last album, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, The Clash, The Pogues & The Jam are always present! So we are sort of aware, there are all of these elements in there, but maybe we let them come out a little bit more than we did in the first album. Something like ‘Geordie Lad’ sounds more like War On Drugs or something.
Lorna: But still from a Skinny perspective, we’ve stayed true to our roots, but we’ve enjoyed elaborating on it a little bit.
How did the music video for 'Devil In Me' come together, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? Daniel: I was writing about stalkers, and then I read this old folk tale about this women who murdered several husbands, it almost came out of that. I was trying to write a traditional sounding folk song. But it completely morphed into something that doesn’t sound traditional now, and I think it’s a bit more broader than that. I don’t think it means literally killing people. But it’s got that menace in it. It’s more about the threat of it. It’s about love being very close to hate.
Lorna: You know those sort of earlier relationships where you dare to let yourself full in love, but you’re not quite sure if it’s the safest thing to do or not. There’s that kind of feeling of “don’t hurt me.” You don’t mean it necessarily what you’re saying. But you’re showing how passionate you feel about it, and how hurt you’d be if it didn’t happen.
Daniel: It was a bit more of a change, than just writing a straight forward love song. It had a bit more attitude to it, which I quite liked. We’ve not really done that on a love song in the last two albums, so I felt like it was a good thing to do.
Lorna: And then actually coming up with the arrangement, that took up until we were in the studio, where ‘The Devil’ mainly formed, and it was our experimental track in the studio. So I found it quite exciting to say “I like Kate Bush” can we get a “Kate Bush” beat in there! It was just like throwing stuff out there, like at the time, we weren’t sure, we hadn’t played it live, and stopped rehearsing it. It was just this song that I really loved, and we couldn’t see where it was going.
Daniel: It did go through a period of sounding like Velvet Underground. Not very Skinny Lister. It’s still quite out there for Skinny, but it’s quite exciting to try different things.
Lonra: Then the video was easy. We were doing ‘Geordie Lad’, and we needed a sledge hammer to put through the wall in a field, and I was like “Oh my god”. On my fridge at home, I have a list, there’s things on there like, start work before three, finish work before nine. There’s also like milk a cow, and smash a windscreen. So those two things I’ve wanted to do for years. So when we were putting all of the stuff away, after the ‘Geordie Lad’ video, I was like “Oh My God” there’s the car windscreen. And that’s ‘Devil In Me’, it was absolutely perfect. So from there, it was dead easy.
How did you get to the album title ‘The Devil, the Heart & the Fight’, and what does it mean to you? Lorna: That wasn’t easy! Daniel: No it wasn’t, we went through quite a lot of titles actually before we got to that.
Lorna: The other two albums were dead easy. It was like, one person would come up and be like “what about that” and it would be like “yeah!”. If we all agree on one thing, then that’s definite.
Daniel: It very nearly got called ‘The Rigger’. The studio we used was in Newcastle Under Lyme, and there’s a pub a few doors down called The Rigger, and we quite liked it because it was a bit nautical sounding. With Skinny Lister we’ve always been associated with nautical stuff, so we always thought it was quite a nice name. But a couple of the band members were not happy about it. So we basically just had to wait until one name came up where everyone said “Yes!”, and that was ‘The Devil, The Heart & The Fight’. There are three words that tie the album together, in someway for me. The devil from ‘The Devil In Me’. There’s a lot of heart in the album as well. A lot of it is quite personal. The ‘Geordie Lad’ is about a previous member of the band that left, and that was like an open letter to him. There’s a song about our fans called ‘Fair Winds And Following Seas’, which is a thank you to our fans, and all of the amazing people that we’ve been on tour with, and met on the road.
Lorna: The three words, also represent life in a band! It’s not always straight forward, and there’s that fight, and there’s heart. There’s things coming at you all the time, that are trying to knock you down. But you keep on going. Basically all of the amazing people that we’ve met along the way, do keep us going aside from the music and the performing. Just actually meeting all of these interesting people. And there’s a song about Thom where his girlfriend called the wedding off a month before they were due to get married entitled ‘A Tragedy In A Minor’. So there’s a lot of personal stuff in there. But out of bad times, come great songs. Thom is cool, he has found a new love. He’s fine!
How did you end up working with Tristan Ivemy, and what did he bring to the process? Lorna: We'd met through Side One Dummies, we love Ted, and thought that he did a great job on 'Down on Deptford Broadway', but then we listened to Tristan through Frank, and his Xtra Mile Recordings link.
Daniel: Yeah, he has a relationship with Xtra Mile and he has done for a couple of years now, so he was someone that our label boss Charlie suggested quite early on. We sent Tristram the early demos and he was really enthusiastic, he thought the songs were great, which is always a good start, and he was keen to meet up, which we did. We got on with him, and liked what he said he wanted to do with the tracks, and it just went from there.
Lorna: I really liked what he did with 'The Wanted' as well, because he put away the metronome. Daniel: Yeah we did a little test run with one we did before Christmas, just to see how we get on with him, and we thought it sounded great. We did things slightly differently, as we didn't use a click track, which we had used mercilessly on 'Down On Deptford Broadway'. Some of us were a bit uncomfortable with that, but it sounded great when it came out.
What can we expect to see from Skinny Lister as we head towards 2017? Daniel: Well we are already booking tours, we are doing a European tour with Dropkick Murphys, who we have toured with before in the US,
Lorna: Hang on, aren’t we already there? In my emails it’s always talk about 2017. We are playing Brixton Academy, which is Thom’s life time achievement.
Daniel: We have a London date ourselves in the Scala. Because we sold out the current London one like two months in advance, like a 600 cap venue, so we are really chuffed with that. So that is in May, which will be our biggest London show to date. There will be a lot of festivals next year, but we can’t say yet.
Lorna: That’s a venue that I have wanted to play for quite a while. So we are in freezing cold Europe during January, there’s talk of us going to South By Southwest in Austin Texas, and the tour which surrounds our show in London in May.
Lorna: More gigging basically, and hopefully writing some more tunes, but we won’t be going to record those until next Christmas.
Interview with Josh
When did you first get into playing trombone, and can you tell us a bit about your musical background? Sure, I started playing trombone in sixth grade back home in Queens New York City. I was fortunate enough to go to a school where they had a band program. Even at that time, and especially since then, band programs are just very rare, and hard to come by in public schools in New York City. So I was so lucky that I was in a school that had a band class. I picked the trombone, I was in the sixth grade, I was a rebel, and I wanted to just do the opposite of what everyone wanted me to do. So of course, nobody wants their children to play the trombone, it’s like the least desirable instrument ever. So I was like “that’s the one for me.” I’m going to make everyone mad. As soon as I played the first note, I was hooked, and thought that it was awesome. Since then, I’ve been playing professionally, and full time. I knew I loved it so much, it helped me become a more disciplined person, as well as a more responsible person, and a loving person as a result of opening myself up to the emotion of music. It really helped me and I’m so thankful. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have music. The same goes for the rest of the band.
Can you tell us about the formation of Lucky Chops? When I got to high school. On the first day, I walked in there and it was a very cool school. It was the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. It was amazing. That film Fame was based on that school which I have never seen actually. But, when you walk in there you have so many music classes every day. By the time I was in senior we had eight music classes a day and two not music classes, it was amazing. On the first day of school I was so excited, and that was when I met our tuba player Raphael, and he is older than me. He had a video camera and said “hey I’m Raphael, what do you have to say to the video camera right now?”. I was like “who in the world is this crazy guy right here!”. He is the mastermind behind this whole thing, and it was his idea to put the band together. So him myself and Daro the tenor saxophone player formed that year, in my first year of high school. We just wanted to play music because we were all good friends, and we all loved the joy that music brought to others and ourself. We wanted to go out into the streets and play that kind of happy joyful music for New York, which can be a pretty dark place. We would go outside, go in the parks, go in the streets, and just play for free for everybody all over the city really. Central Park, that was our main spot, we would go there right after school because it was only a few blocks away and just play there for the passers by, and the families, couples, and just whoever was in the park at the time. That really kind of gave us our foundation, and we haven’t really strayed too far away from that mission, and that type of spontaneity and love, and the energy that comes from that kind of thing.
How did you end up performing in the NYC subway, and what was the experience like? Yeah, it’s awesome, and we owe everything to that really. We started out like I said, in Central Park, playing various parks, and just on the street really in New York. We always wanted to play in the subway, because we would commute ourselves to high school, by taking the subway, so you would see all of the musicians whilst you travel. But actually New York has a really cool system where they’ve got it pretty organized about who plays in the subway. In the parks it’s kind of a free for all. But in the subway they have an organized network, and most of the time, the people playing in the subway, that spot is reserved for them at that time. Officially by the MTA subway officials. There’s a program called ‘Music Under New York’ and they are kind of in charge of all of this. It’s pretty cool, because you have to audition to get into that program, believe it or not. We never really got around to doing the audition, even though we had played on the streets for years. Then we started to take it more seriously and we were basically full time, before we ever even started playing in the subway, playing private events, weddings, and our own shows. In the back of our mind, we had always wanted to play the subway. It had always been a hilarious dream of ours. So finally we auditioned and we made it in, and then we started playing there a lot. Like most days of the week. Just heading down there, in the brutal cold, and just abysmal heat, and just going for it every single day. We found that it was amazing, we started to get so much better because in the subway, nobody wants to hear a loud brass band. It’s the most disruptive thing, and it’s horrible. So we were like, “how can we make people like this, and how can we earn the crowd.” Because, they are either going to say something nasty to you, or walk right past you, or bump into you intentionally. All of which happened to us many times, when we first started out. But then we learnt how to refine our performance style to actually attract a crowd, and to make them stop, miss wherever they were going to go, be late for work. Or forget to pick their kids up from school. We take responsibility, but it really helped us to up our game, and keep them there.
We've read that you said it's becoming harder and harder to be a street musician in New York, so can you tell us about this, and how you think it's changed? New York has changed a lot over the past twenty years, since we’ve been growing up there. For good and for bad. One of the negative things that effects us, was that the mayor and the police force had tried to clean up the city a lot, which has been a great success in a lot of ways. But it’s effected the street performing community, majorly, and now the parks department can basically just have their win with no real justification based in law. They can just decide to ticket you, or take you to jail. If they’re feeling like that’s what they want to do at that time. We used to have a lot of issues with the park, and that’s why we had to stop playing in the parks, which is what we used to do when we were younger, all of the time. The park department kept kicking us out, and giving us tickets, or threatening to take us to jail. We had to stop doing that for a while, which was a pretty big bummer, as it was so much fun to play in the parks. We were so happy when we were legally allowed to play in the subway. Because now we are a member of this ‘Music Under New York’ system. That gave us the authority to actually be there, and no one could kick us out. So once we got that and started playing in the subway, we’ve had thankfully very little problems. And that’s three years or so ago. So yeah, it’s hard for people to play in the parks, if you’re loud, like us. I understand, we’re really, really loud. It was fun back in the day when we could do it. But now we are happy with the subway. It’s awesome.
When did you first realize that Lucky Chops was going to be a career lasting band? I met Leo, our baritone saxophone player, and Joshua Gawel our trumpet player studying at the music conservatory together. So we went to the Manhattan school of music, we were studying jazz music, classical music, and pop music there. Becoming connected with the music industry, and just seeing how it all worked, how big artists do their thing, and stuff like that. And we were all part of that scene for a while, not really taking Lucky Chops seriously. Trying to see how the real music industry works. I just kept feeling that, what was lacking in the music industry is powerful, positive, energetic music. That’s not about some dumb topics that don’t matter, but about important issues like love, music that will unite people instead of distracting them from joining together and becoming a better human race, and making a better planet. So I was like, “you know what, forget the music industry, I think Lucky Chops has that special element. Let’s get everyone to quit what they are doing, and we’ll do this full time.” That was around two and half years ago now. It was an incredible decision that we made, and we could of never expected it was going to blow up like this, as much as it has.
So how is your current European tour going so far, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? It’s amazing, and super fun. It’s our first tour in a tour bus, and that’s pretty exciting. We had only done one European tour before this, and almost the entire tour was sold out. Now this time, we are playing in even bigger places. So to see thousands and thousands of people coming to our shows is just crazy. It’s so humbling, and it makes us optimistic. Because we see all of these people from different backgrounds coming together to hear our music. Being united, and that’s what we feel the world needs right now. To stand up for what’s right, but also to unite with each other, and love one another, through the differences that we may have as people.
How did your last UK tour go here earlier in the year, and what do you enjoy the most about performing in the UK? It was our first time as a band playing here, and it was crazy. We have a UK fan that has some of our sheet music to some of our songs, tattooed on her leg. So we have all of these hardcore fans, all over the world, and in the UK that have never even seen us before. Then they show up, and they’ve got like tattoos and stuff. So it’s overwhelming to see the level of amazing love that our fans have for us, because we feel the same way about them, because we owe our fans everything. It’s a very mutual love, and it’s so amazing.
You've done a bunch of festivals, all across the world. However, can you give us one or two festival performances that have really stood out to you over the years, and maybe why that is? Sure, there are so many awesome festivals. But two that stick out to me right now are. The first one, is one of the first festivals that we ever did. It’s in New York City, it’s a dance music/EDM festival, but it’s unique because it’s based around the Hindu holiday of Holi. Basically it’s a holiday of colour celebration. They do it all over the world, they throw powdered colour in the air, and everyone wears white. So everyone was covered head to toe in crazy colours, including us, on stage. You see powder all over the place, people dancing and going crazy. With amazing colours everywhere. That was so much fun. Last year we did South By Southwest Festival in Austin Texas. That was a game changer for us, it was our first major festival. It was huge, thousands of people in the crowd. It was really fun.
With no lead singer, can you tell us about how you make sure crowd interaction always stays at a high level? That’s our biggest difference from any other band, as we don’t have any other instruments, guitar, bass, keys, vocals. Trying to divide up all of those rolls for our instruments, is the challenge that we face constantly, and we love that challenge. It forces us to be creative. The melodies that a singer will sing, we trade that up between the horns that are in the front. So we’ll all take the melodies, and pass them like a baton to one another. So instead of having one lead singer, we have four, and we all trade the melodies between ourselves, to keep it interesting and engaging with the crowd. We’ll step out to the front of the stage, put some theatrics into it so the audience gets that that it’s the melody to listen for. The cool thing that started happening on the last European tour, maybe my favourite thing that’s ever happened is that we have these fans that sing along to our music that has no lyrics. So our original songs, that don’t have lyrics, but catchy melodies. They’ll just make up their own tune and sing along with it. Like as if you’re at a normal rock show, and the audience will sing lyrics. They’ll do that, but make up random lyrics, or sounds that have the pitches of our melody.
With so many instruments, what are your rehearsals like, and have they changed much as you've become more well known? Yeah, it’s tough. We’ve been doing it for many, many years now. It’s still a challenge, and it always changes. Sometimes you just want to jam and make a song that way. Sometimes you want to work on a pre existing song, and play it a million times with a metronome, trying to tighten it up, and get it perfect. Other times you know, one of the guys will bring in a song that they have already wrote. Or parts of a song that they have written, and then teach it to everybody. Every practice is a completely different experience, even to this day. We definitely have our times where we are frustrated, or we’re not productive. But we also have our times, when we are on point. It always changes.
What made you want to cover 'Hello' by Adele, and how did you go about giving it that Lucky Chops approach? I remember the day that song came out, Daro listened to it, and was like “this song is beautiful, it made me cry, and I have a feeling it’s going to get really big.” So I was like “oh okay, I guess we can do it!.” Then, three days later when we saw that it was like the biggest song of all time, we were like “okay, we should probably play it!” We didn’t want to play it, and make it sound like the original recording, because it’s not really our style. So we wanted to make it have a little more “umph.” We gave the later melody to our trumpet player, who played it really, really high. And that kind of gave it another dimension. Which since then, a lot of musicians all over the world have been freaked out by, because it was very, very high. And that earned us a lot of like cool appreciation from musicians, which is always great to see.
With your own songs, how do they come together, and where do you find inspiration? Yeah, every single original has a different story, some of them I’ll bring in like a song that is completely finished, and it’s like “here’s your part, your part etc.” Sometimes, we’ll have an idea, and then we expand on it, and everyone does their own thing. Sometimes we’ll say, “there’s no song, let’s just make up a song completely on the spot right now, and that’s our new song!” So every single one is different. We all like composing a lot, so we will all bring in our own material.
With some of your covers, you fuse one song into another. So do you always know which songs you're going to mix, or do they just come together in a natural way? No, most of the time the melodies just come about totally randomly. We like it that way. It’s not like, “let’s combine the two!” We’ll just be jamming on one, and then one of us will start playing another one, and it will be like “oh, it can go into that one!” Some of our most fun moments, have been when we just make those up completely on the spot. I remember one time we were playing on top of a bus, years and years ago. We were playing ‘Funkytown’, and then I was like “I Feel Good!”, and then we just went into ‘I Feel Good’, and that’s like maybe our most popular song that we’ve ever had so far. Another one was when we were playing ‘Danza Kuduro’ and then Daro just started playing ‘Eye of The Tiger’, and we were like “oh yeah, that one is cool too!” So they always happen totally randomly, which is kind of fun.
What did you do first, covers or originals? We did covers first. We started doing originals, maybe like three years ago. It was a new thing for us, and for a lot of brass bands. To try and have catchy, rock and pop, R&B, EDM sounding originals. We were really unsure if that was going to work for us, but we released a couple of songs like two years ago, and they started to get a lot of attention, so since then, we’ve started to release a lot. And now, our goal is to try and trick people into thinking they’re covers. Because if they think, “oh, what’s that song!?”, and we’re like “we wrote it!” then they are like “wo! That’s good!”. So that’s our trick, and now our set is mainly originals. With just a handful of covers.
Are you guys working on any new original material just yet, if so, what can we expect from it? Yeah, we are currently playing a bunch of brand new tracks on this tour, that we’ve never played before. Including a new cover, so we always try to work on a lot of new material constantly, as it keeps it exciting for us. Whenever we have periods where we’re not doing that much new stuff, we are like “argh”, as we always just want to keep moving forward.
What else can we expect to see from you as we head towards 2017? Lots of new music, lots of new tours in cool exotic places. I think we’re going to South America, Asia, and then coming back to Europe in the summertime for festivals. We’ve got some cool collaboration ideas that we are working on, and some cool music video ideas as well. I’d say that there will be a new album coming out, fairly soon. We’ve got most of the tracks, and we’ve got cool producers that we are working with as well. We are trying some new genres, with some new producing sounds, stuff like that. So yeah, we are really, really excited about 2017. The next time we come back to Europe, we’ll probably have an entire light show to go along with the show, and like a multimedia projector. So we are going to expand the show aspect of it a lot.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Light We Made', and what does it mean to you? To me it represents coming out of the dark. It's more of a lighter, more positive album which is unlike anything we have made before.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Light We Made'? A lot of the album is about love. Either falling in love or already being in love. Some of it is also about where we are as a band and figuring out the reason we do what we do. After not making music for three or so years, some of us questioned why we should continue and also our intent as artists.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Light We Made' together for you guys, and why? It wasn't too hard really, it was a fun process. I guess the hardest thing is telling each other what song ideas we like and don't like and being afraid to hurt someone's feelings.
How did the artwork for 'Light We Made' come together, and what does it mean to you? Our friend Dessie Jackson did the artwork for us. She is a gifted artist and we were glad she was into the idea. We just thought the image was perfect for the cover.
How would you say the sound of Balance & Composure has grown/changed since the release of 'The Things We Think We're Missing'? We are definitely more open to try new things. We tried new instruments and new ideas. We will always change with every release and I think that it's a natural progression.
The house you used in Doylestown, PA for writing and rehearsing was sold, so what was it like to re-adjust what you were used to by putting the record together in Tullytown instead? We just had to get used to writing in a new environment but once we did everything clicked.
Interview with Jon You were in a serious car accident in between this album and the last album, so what kind of effect did this have? As this was when you decided to regroup and refocus on the band by taking some time off? It was just a really scary and eye opening event. After that we kind of approached life differently.
How did you end up working with Will Yip, and how would you say he helped shape the record? He did our last record too and he is one of our best friends. We loved working with him because he is really easy to work with and is willing to try anything.
Looking back on 'The Things We Think We're Missing', how happy are you with this record still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Balance & Composure? I am happy with that album but I do think we played it a little safe. I wish we used more of our influences when writing. A part of me feels that subconsciously we were trying to make a record that our fans wanted us to sound like.
Touring wise, can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? We love playing in the UK! Our last show in London with Seahaven and Milk Teeth was one of my favorite shows we ever played overseas. The crowd was unbelievable.
What else can we expect to see from Balance & Composure as we head towards 2017? We are going to be playing some gigs and probably writing some new music.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We hit the road earlier this year and played a bunch of summer shows supporting Whitesnake as well as lots of summer rock festivals. It’s always a blast going out with Coverdale & Co., they take good care of us and it’s a great run of gigs. One of my favourite summer shows was the Castle in Pistoia, Italy – what a back drop to rock out to! That and the Ramblin Man Fair Festival in Mote Park were both summer highlights.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Solas', and what does it mean to you? ‘Solas’ is the Irish word for light. When we came off our last US tour in summer 2015, our personal and financial situation was pretty dire and I admit we were all on a bit of downer. We sort of retreated away for some personal time and started to write using a more Celtic approach to the songs. ‘Solas’ was one of the original ideas started by our drummer James and the track and concept sort of snow balled from there.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Solas'? I would say it’s a much darker and a more modern cinematic sound for us. We have experimented a lot with new ways to write and create interesting sound scapes. Paul spent a lot of time layering guitar dimensions and I spent a lot of time layering up more interesting Irish style vocal harmonies. There’s also a couple of tracks which are specifically recorded with acoustics and mandolins so that brings out the more Celtic style.
Interview with Micky What was the hardest part about putting 'Solas' together for you guys, and why? When you have four guys, two producers and a management company all with differing ideas, it takes a lot of review time to work out what works and what doesn’t!!! There were lots of ideas, snippets, layers and segments from which we started to assemble an album vibe and once we had defined a new narrative, we then had to build and amplify that so it really became something special. Whilst it can be a pain staking process, it is also very enjoyable so there’s no point complaining too much.
We've read that you've decided to go back to your roots a bit more with this album. So was this a natural process, or something else entirely? It was more a natural cross roads that we arrived at. In the last ten years we’ve toured the world so many times and released five great rock albums. You reach a point where you think, “am I going to do another one or is it time to try something more experimental” and “of the moment”. We have all evolved as musicians and people, so there is a natural tendency to want to bring more contemporary influences to bear. It is good to develop and evolve creatively and something most bands do over time.
After the 2015 'Raise A Little Hell' tour, you guys returned to a scene of "utter emotional and financial chaos". So can you tell us about this time, and maybe how it contributed to what you do as The Answer? I don’t want to elaborate too much on the detail but when you’ve been touring your arse off for ten years not making a lot of money, it only takes one thing to go against you for it all to start imploding. We got badly stung by US Homeland security when their work visa system crashed in May 2015. We had paid up front for all our tour costs, flights and then we couldn’t get our work visa stamped because of a computer malfunction which took out the visa system for three weeks. We had to re route all our flights just to get there and it cost us a fortune – we ended up losing a lot of money just to make that tour work and whilst we have no regrets about doing the tour, the practical reality was that we returned home broke and extremely disheartened! Touring is expensive, especially in America.
How did the music video idea come together for the track 'Solas', and can you tell us about the meaning behind that particular track? We wanted a narrative video rather than a performance one. We also wanted to embrace some of the imagery from Northern Ireland to create a story which had the vibe of The Wicker Man meets Game Of Thrones meets True Detective!! We worked with a Northern Irish director, Dermot Faloon and his team from Street Monkey TV – they were all amazing and produced a really fantastic video for us. The song is about being in a very dark place and trying to see the light and it represents a journey of frustration and despair that we can all relate to at one moment or another.
How did the front cover for 'Solas' come together, and what does it mean to you? We used an old druid/Celtic symbol for “light and well being” as the centre piece for the cover. We had thought about many cover ideas including band photo, concepts and so on. We kept coming back to the symbol and our designer Paul Chessell (god bless him!) emblazoned it on a colour parchment type paper. There were lots of variations of the cover – some were darker, more metallic looking but we ended up going for a more colourful rich palette and we think it works perfectly with the sonic of the new recordings.
What was it like to work with Neil Davidge on the track 'Beautiful World' and how would you say he helped shape the song? ‘Beautiful World’ originally started from a piece that Neil had written for the Monsters: Dark Continent movie score. We took some of the opening segment and started adding our own ideas on top. Cormac then created a very cool, slow developing vocal and eventually in the second half of the track we exploded with a full on The Answer band performance. It was the first time we had experimented by working with some previously created electronic arrangements and the overall finished sound has more of a cinematic and rich sound than we would normally have created had we just started from scratch performing as a four piece band.
Also, how did you end up working with Andy Bradfield and Avril Mackintosh, and what did they bring to the process? We worked with A&A on the original ‘Rise’ album back in 2006. Andy has gone on to become one of the top movie score mixers in the country so we thought it would be great for them to work again with them to see if they could bring a more cinematic sound to the overall production. It all worked out great!
It's been ten years since the release of 'Rise', so looking back on that album now, what do you remember the most from this time, and what do you think the record has done for the representation of The Answer? I remember it being the most incredibly exciting journey – we were young and naïve, signed to Albert Productions and they supported us through that whole set up making sure nothing was left to chance. We were thrilled to be so well received as a great new British rock act and ‘Rise’ was the album that started it all for us. We had almost no expectations at the beginning and when it started to get great reviews, we were thrilled. However the industry in 2016 is a very different place to what it was back in 2006 and it takes a lot of resolve, hard work and hard times to keep a rock band together!
'Raise A Little Hell' only came out last year, so how did you end up putting 'Solas' together so quickly? We didn’t intend to come so quickly with another album but as I said earlier, we were all in a very dark place at the end of the ‘Raise A Little Hell’ tour so the music just started to flow and when that happens you just roll with it to see where it takes you! Creative momentum is hard to stop when it starts, so you just ride it and see where it takes you!
You guys got to tour with AC/DC on the The Black Ice tour, so how was that, and what do you think you learnt the most from those shows? It goes without saying that it was a priceless, once in a lifetime memory that will linger until we are no more!! It was the ultimate honour to share the stage with probably the greatest rock band in our genre. I have so many memories that it would take a book to recall, so maybe someday, you never know!
What else can we expect to see from The Answer as we head towards 2017? A fantastic UK and Euro ‘Solas’ headline tour followed by the Monsters Of Rock Cruise in Feb 2017 – can’t wait for that!! We will continue to promote the new album and hopefully the fans will like it and will come to see our new live show which (like the album) is going to be something very different!!
So, how did you get to the album title 'Honor Is Dead', and what does it mean to you? ‘Honor is Dead’ is more personal to us than anything. Those words are subjective and totally open to interpretation, but for us it highlights a pervading pessimism we all possess but try to ignore as usually positive people. Personally, I would describe “honor” or “behaving honorably” as doing things that you know in your heart are good, true, and right. As a child you’re taught to do or not do things because it’s either right or wrong, and I’d like to think that notion stays with most of us most of the time as we go out into the real world and live our lives. Our experience — especially over the past few years — is that much of life isn’t that cut and dry. People are idealistic in their words but practical in behavior, which sometimes leads to them to act in a manner that suits only them with little consideration for how that effects others or the world around them. That doesn’t necessarily make them awful people, it simply means their “honor” is selective and circumstantial… which to us simply means it’s dead.
This album is "driven by a far darker lyrical theme", so can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Honor Is Dead'? Lyrical inspiration on this record is a bit more broad than the last, which was mostly introspective and personal with a generally positive outlook. Shane naturally gravitated towards thoughts or issues that were on his mind at the time of us finishing up songs musically. Off the top of my head, rough concepts include alcoholism, media manipulation, musical exploitation, nationalism, suicidal depression, the Paris attacks, and creative failure. Even just reading that last sentence makes me feel like we’re a downer band now but I swear that’s not the case haha. We just needed to acknowledge and exercise the darker aspects of our mental/creative/emotional duality. It can’t be “everything is great and life is beautiful” always or we’d be lying to ourselves. Taking a step back, our two records conceptually balance each other out well.
Interview with Nick Some parts of the album are to do with politics, so if you can, can you highlight some subjects that you think the world should be more aware of right now? There are two songs on this record that can be considered slightly political. The first, ‘Lines in the Sand’ explores the concept of nationalism, with a broader query towards the notion of inheriting your values, beliefs, allies, and enemies based on where you happen to be born. Here in the states there are a lot of people with strong, uninformed opinions of the rest of the world and who “our” enemies are. Whether they’re religiously anchored or completely influenced by corporate media, it’s sad to be aware of so many who hold biases/prejudices/and even hatred towards complete strangers. That concept of information presented with a hidden agenda is discussed in ‘Stones Thrown.’
How did the album artwork for 'Honor Is Dead' come together, and what does it mean to you? Ryan Clark from Invisible Creature created all of our art for this record. We’ve been friends with him for years through tours with his band Demon Hunter, so it was a great experience sharing ideas with him on more of a friend level even though it would ultimately culminate into a professional deliverable. Ryan’s interpretation of the concept was that the missing link symbolizes a broken piece of something that once was; a deficit. It’s an analogy for life itself. No matter how firm or strong, there will always be hardships or issues that take a link out of our chain - making us sometimes feel incomplete. For me it just represents the fragility of all things. All things physical and conceptual can be challenged and altered, even a virtue can be compromised or broken.
As you are a super group, then how does touring with Wovenwar compare to touring with other bands you're in/have been in? “Super Group” or not, we are a new band so it’s the grind all over again. It took us over a decade to build As I Lay Dying to the level it was at, and by starting a new endeavor we were also committing to a hard push of the reset button. I have no qualms with being straight up: it is very hard. We work very hard on the band, while also taking on other projects and exploring other pursuits or jobs that enable us to “give it a shot” while also taking care of our real world finances and commitments. It is very trying and challenges our love for this pursuit, but we’re grinding it out.
Can you tell us a bit about the recording process for 'Honor Is Dead'? With us being spread out across the country, the most practical approach was to record locally to where we live. The result was a VERY scattered process occurring simultaneously with wav’s and pro tools files being emailed back and forth. The drums were recorded at Rarified Recording in North Park, San Diego, which was the only point the majority of us were together. It was also our golden opportunity to square away arrangements and communicate who would be recording what, when before we went back to our respective towns. From there we all tracked parts to the master drums and click track and slowly started to build the sessions into the recordings on the album.
What was the most challenging song to put together on 'Honor Is Dead', and why? ‘Confession’ might have been the most labor intensive song simply because it is a bit more frantic than other tunes in our catalogue. Certain riffs and sections of the arrangement were tricky to wrangle into a cohesive format but we eventually figured it out.
How has the writing process grown for you as a band overall since the release of your self-titled album? The biggest difference with this record was having time to understand our strengths as a band versus us knowing what we do and asking Shane to work around it. He’s a talented musician who is capable of so much but with the first record we didn’t really do much to focus on his strengths. With this record we were able to write music together, which led us to different tunings, time signatures, and ultimately brand new sonic horizons. It is far more of a cohesive band now than when we did self-titled.
We've read that your self-titled album is "lightweight by comparison" when compared to 'Honor Is Dead', so how did this end up becoming a somewhat heavier record than your self-titled album? I think we just had a lot more aggressive facets of our musical and conceptual interests that were restrained on the first album. It was very important for us to be positive and optimistic at the point of our lives we created that first record in, but for this season we felt the itch to exercise other facets of who we were are as musicians and individuals.
Also, looking back on your self-titled album, how happy are you with it still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Wovenwar? We are very proud of that first record and for me, personally, it was one of the most meaningful albums I have ever been a part of. ‘Honor Is Dead’ feels like the first big step in establishing our own sound as Wovenwar, but I will always love that first record.
What else can we expect to see from Wovenwar as we head towards 2017? Hopefully a lot more touring and way more music.
Interview with Francesco
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We have done a good amount of tours this year and had a lot of fun. We toured with Atreyu, then our headliner, then the first leg of the tour with Hatebreed and DevilDriver and we are currently on the road with both bands for the second leg. We are most looking forward to coming to the UK for a very extensive headliner with our good buddies ONI, Wearing Scars and Brutai. These are going to be small club shows and we can’t wait to get out there and pack these rooms and deliver some amazing shows to our amazing UK fans that have been patiently awaiting us to come overseas.
So, how did you get to the album title 'They Bleed Red', and what does it mean to you? Howard usually comes up with album titles, song titles and lyrics and that's how it happened. We usually wait to have all the music recorded and feel the vibe of what we have to come up with album titles and album artwork. ‘They Bleed Red’ basically means that all of us around the world, no matter what nationality, heritage or background, we all bleed the same and hurt in the same manner. Be good to each-other because ultimately the world’s a cruel and nasty place as it is on its own, so we prefer to add some good to it.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'They Bleed Red'? It's a lot of personal stuff that Howard had to deal with through the years. Definitely feelings that a lot of people can relate with throughout everyday life.
How did you end up working with Josh Wilbur, and how would you say he helped shape the record?
I wanted to work with him for a while. I started to talk to him first and then we got together with the rest of the band and started working on some of the demos we had. It was a lot of fun and I love Josh. We are now really good friends. He knows our sound, our playing style, strengths and weaknesses and therefore knows how to get the best performance out of all of us.
How did the album artwork for 'They Bleed Red' come together, and what does it mean to you? This was our second time working with Travis Smith. We gave him a few ideas and he ran with them. He is known for having always a unique style and we were very happy with the result. Once again, everyone all bleeds the same and the depiction of the world like it is on the cover is the impetuous behind that.
How would you say the sound of Devil You Know has grown/changed since the release of 'The Beauty of Destruction'? I think we know more and more what we want to sound like and we have been experimenting together as a band for a while now. With ‘They Bleed Red’ I personally think that we really started to shape our signature sound and we feel that we are starting to really hit our groove, song-writing wise. We already have so many ideas for the next album brewing that I can’t wait to get into it and see what ultimately comes out. I know that this next album is going to be our best piece of work to date after spending so much time on the road and seeing what works and what doesn’t in front of the live crowds. You sometimes end up writing stuff that you know will get the pits moving and make it fun for the crowd to participate in.
Also, looking back on 'The Beauty of Destruction', how happy are you with this record still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Devil You Know? I'm very happy with the result. But ‘They Bleed Red’ was definitely an improvement from the first release. It makes me really want to work on the next one.
'The Beauty of Destruction' only came out in the last year before 'They Bleed Red'. So how did you guys end up putting a record together so quickly? Our first record was done months and months before it was finally released. The label was waiting for the right time to put it out. So when it came out it was almost old for us. We were already working on the second album. So it didn't take long to get a second album written and ready.
How does a song normally come together for Devil You Know? I usually work on songs/structures/arrangements with our drummer and then we send it to the other guys once we feel like we have something solid to show. We do this for something like twenty songs and then we start focusing on specific songs and try to polish them.
How would you say you originally found the sound of Devil You Know? I guess it came from being the individuals we are. Each one of us has a style and has worked with different bands and projects before.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Very excited...finally! We had been very unlucky trying to perform in the UK. Had to cancel a few times. We were forced to cancel almost every time even though we never wanted to. Last time was because of ISIS (the Paris attacks) and the tour was cancelled while we were in Europe and we didn't get to play in the UK again.
What else can we expect to see from Devil You Know as we head towards 2017? After this UK and Russia tour we are going to be focused on writing the next record so we are not planning tours for 2017 at the moment. But there will definitely be some touring happening next year and hopefully more in the UK! The UK is a specific territory that we really want to put our focus on and we really hope that everyone comes out to hang with us in Jan, as we kept ticket prices down on purpose to give everyone a killer night of metal and make it something everyone can afford. Thanks to everyone who bought a CD, a shirt or bought a heavy metal album this year to help keep the scene alive. Without the fans, we wouldn’t exist. See you all soon!
Interview with Dan So how did you get to the album title 'This Could Be Heartbreak' and what does it mean to you? We actually had a bunch of different ideas for an album name but when we wrote the title track for the album we all agreed that we should call the album the same thing as the song.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'This Could Be Heartbreak'? The general theme of the album, or any album of the bands is always open for personal interpretation. We like to do this as a band because it means that our fans can all connect with the songs in their own different ways, just as the individual members of the band have their own different meanings and feelings towards the songs.
You've said that this will be the "last album to feature lyrics about depression and anxiety", so can you tell us how this decision came about, and a bit about what you'd like to do next as a band? Basically, Joel writes all the words for the band and then the rest of us put those words into the songs and change them into lyrics. I think Joel is in a better place in his life these days so he will write about how that feels.
What was the hardest part about putting 'This Could Be Heartbreak' together for you guys, and why? We were super lucky this time around, lucky enough that none of it was hard. It was a great creative process and everything came together with not many problems at all. I credit this to the fact that we all trust in each other's abilities, and everyone in the band knows their role.
How did you end up working with Will Putney, and how would you say he helped shape the record? We worked with Will on our last album, and he mixed the album before that. He's been great to work with and the best part about him is that he knows when to push us and when to just let us do our thing.
How did the artwork for 'This Could Be Heartbreak' come together, and what does it mean to you? Ahren and Joel threw that idea together. To me, I guess I think it's about a story of personal growth. Kind of like a second chance or a rebirth.
How did Kyle Yocum end up playing with The Amity Affliction, and what has he contributed to The Amity Affliction? Kyle was originally our guitar tech when we toured in America. When Troy left the band it was an easy fit for Kyle and for now he's our touring guitarist.
How did the music video for 'All Fucked Up' come together, and can you tell us about the narrative behind the track? I decided that we should branch out with our sound and pushed for an acoustic song. Once I sent it through to the rest of the band they liked the idea too eventually. It really came together even more so in the studio. The narrative is a continuation of a similar thing we did on our last album. We just felt that it gives the songs lyrics more meaning and background information.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Very excited as always, we love touring Europe and the UK! Fans can expect over an hour of loud noise, bright lights and most of our hit songs. There's never enough time to play every single song but we'll do our best, haha.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK in the past? It's really hard to pick from so many good memories but I really enjoyed the show we played a while ago with Of Mice And Men. The venue was huge and it was one of those kind of nights when everything just went right for us.
What else can we expect to see from The Amity Affliction as we head towards 2017? We've always got a lot planned. Writing, touring, maybe recording. We'll share whatever comes our way as it comes!
So, how is your current UK tour going, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? The tour has been amazing. We always have a great time in the UK It's always been a great market for us. People still love rock music here. Finally making it to Ireland after all these years was big for us.
What are your standout moments from performing in the UK over the years? Download 2016 was incredible. Headlining the Brixton Academy years back was a great one. Getting the chance to play Top of the Pops twice and Radio One on The BBC were also stand outs because of how legendary those shows are!
What made you want to tour 'Anthology' in full, and what was it like to rehearse some of the songs that you hadn't performed live in a while? We toured last year in England with our great friends POD and Hoobastank and realized how important of a record ANThology was in the UK! People grew up on that record, and still adore it to this day. It was great to get back to some of those songs that were written so long ago when we were just kids in a struggling independent band.
Interview with Terry
So, looking back on 'Anthology', what do you remember the most from putting this album together? Just the whole process of getting signed to a Major Label and and getting the opportunity to record in a real studio and make real videos was pretty exciting stuff.
What was it like to work with Jay Baumgardner, and how would you say he helped shape the record? Jay was a lot of fun to work with. His studio NRG is beautiful as well as legendary. So many great records have been made there. He had some great input as far as the way our songs should come across as well as cutting some of the fat out and streamlining the songs to be more direct to the listener. Also, working with the late James Murray on that record was very very important to the sound and shape of it. He was there every minute and every inch of the way in making ANThology.
How did the idea originally come together for covering 'Smooth Criminal', and how did you go about putting your own take on the song? We used to always do a different cover every time we'd play a show when we were a young independent band. That one just really caught the crowd. It was basically already set up for heavy guitars. The rest came naturally.
How did the song 'Wish' end up on the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 soundtrack, and what do you think that whole process did for Alien Ant Farm at the time? We licensed a lot of songs to movies and video games. It's a great outlet for artists to get music out into the world. We were very fortunate to be considered for that game as it was one of the most popular on the planet. That said, it was constantly played and repeated over and over again as kids played the game. So it was a constant soundtrack to a lot of people's time spent playing.
If you could feature on any video game now, which one would it be, and why? I don't really play too many games these days but any game is cool to have your music on really. I like Call Of Duty but I don't see how we'd fit in there but you never know.
How did the music video for 'Movies' come together, and how did the legendary Pat Morita become a part of it? We made a few videos with the great Marc Klausfeld. He really knew how to fit in with us and joke around and come up with silly ideas and then bring them to life. Pat was just one of those ideas and Marc made it happen.
We can't talk about music videos for Alien Ant Farm without mentioning 'These Days' where you crashed the BET Awards! So how did that idea come about, and what was that whole process like for you? Again, it was just one of those â€œwhat if we did this?â€? sessions with Marc. We really wanted to do something profound and mischievous. I think we nailed it. It was definitely one of the more nervous moments of our career for me because I knew what we were doing was totally not cool.
When did you first realize that Alien Ant Farm was going to become a full time project? Immediately actually. We were all pretty burnt out in our various local music projects so Antfarm was a breath of fresh air and we all knew we wanted to make it a full time thing.
Looking back on 'Always and Forever', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Alien Ant Farm? We did exactly what we set out to do with that record which was get outside of our usual box. We took on lots of co-writes including writing sessions with urban/hip-hop writing teams and the result was always very interesting and fresh. We weren't used to their world nor they to ours. So it made for some really creative tunes. I've always loved our ability to straddle genre and make it always sound like Antfarm.
You guys are already writing new material for a brand new record, so if possible, can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from the next chapter of Alien Ant Farm? Your guess is as good as mine this early into it. But we have a lot of ideas coming as well as surplus ideas left over from the last record. I'm really into the idea of making a guitar riff driven record again like our earlier records. It's a formula that I feel really works for us.
What else can we expect to see from Alien Ant Farm as we head towards 2017? We've always been a band that floats on the breeze. Obviously new music and new visuals. Probably a lot of touring per the usual. Things develope as you go along so I'm just as interested to see as you are.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We’ve been very busy this year! We did a co-headliner full US with our friends in Tonight Alive “The Fight For Something Tour” which we were able to donate proceeds to charities of our choice, we played main stage on the Vans Warped Tour all summer long, we did a promotional tour in support of our new record ‘Upside Down’, and we just got home from a tour in Japan. Playing main stage on Warped was definitely a highlight because I used to go to Warped almost every year growing up, and watching my all time favorite artists play up there was always so exciting. Also the sight seeing/shows in Japan, plus it’s insane to actually be recognized across the world.
What new songs have you really been enjoying performing live at the moment, and why? I think ‘Life Afraid’ is currently in the lead for me because no one can contain their will to dance during it, everyone is moving, jumping, and singing along. It’s like a giant party. I also really enjoy ‘Uncontainable’ because it has this urbanized aggression to it, it’s so cathartic.
Interview with Cody Can it ever be a scary/daunting experience, to kick in with a new song in front of a massive crowd? Not at this point, we’ve gone through the process of playing new songs for people so often that by now it’s second nature. Generally you have to add extra energy since they won’t know the words. As long as you prepare on your end so the actual music side is covered, then it’ll go over well. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Upside Down', and what does it mean to you? Well, this year has been quite the roller coaster for us. We’ve seen a lot of ups and downs, and we’ve had our world turned upside down on us. But, when Set It Off is dealt a bad hand we don’t give up, we search for the positives and turn it to our favor. A lot of people say this is our happiest record to date, and I think it’s because of how we handle things. Granted, there are some angry songs, but it wouldn’t be us without some genuine anger in there.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Upside Down’? We really tried to step outside of our comfort zone on this record. We delved into R&B, hip hop, electronic, etc. and we weren’t afraid to take risks in order to see what else we are capable of. I’d say another theme of this record is “dare”. Dare to be different, dare to roll the dice, dare to the the best version of yourself you can possibly be.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Upside Down' together for you, and why? Strangely enough, the process of creating the music doesn’t stick out as hard to me. It’s the easiest it’s ever been because the process is strong now. We only continue to work on songs that we know are worth our time and we understand what makes a great song now. Our standard is extremely high and we won’t stop until we reach it. The hardest part was actually creating the album art. I made a ridiculously bad hand drawn sketch of the idea and then we had to figure out how to bring it to life. Find the photographer with the skills to put us on a ceiling, I sought out the furniture myself on craigslist, and Zach painted it all blue, we even had a friend paint the diamond of us on a canvas so it was all organic. But we are very proud with how it turned out.
How did you end up working with Brandon Paddock, Erik Ron, Mike Green, and how would you say they shaped the record? We've worked with Erik since ‘Cinematics’, we’d write with him and loved the vibes in the room when we did. Brandon produced and wrote with us all throughout ‘Duality’, he really saved our ass when we needed him most and we met him through mutual friends by sleeping on his couch once haha. Mike Green, we’ve heard incredible things about people’s experience working with him and he has an impressive list of bands he’s worked with so we sought him out and ‘Tug Of War’ was the first song we wrote with him and it obviously made the album.
How did you end up working with Alex Gaskarth for the track 'Something New'? I met Alex because I was a massive fan back in â€™08 when he allowed me to sing on stage with him, that event ultimately led to Set It Off being formed and we have kept in touch since and it developed into a friendship. I saw him out in LA when we were out there working and asked if he would like to join us for a session and he said sure. It was a very even co-writing experience and it was great to see him work. Such an absolute blast.
What was that like to film, and for you personally, what was the most challenging part? That was hands down the most fun weâ€™ve ever had shooting a music video. No acting, no stress, just us being us. We faced fears, we tried new things, and we laughed the whole way through it. For me - it was the snake, I am so afraid of snakes and that was extremely hard for me to do but Iâ€™m so glad I did it. It was quite the adrenaline rush.
You've said that 'Upside Down' is your "most mature work to date", so can you elaborate on how you think you've grown as a band since the release of 'Duality’? It’s more focused on melody, structure, and strong lyrics. There was more attention to detail and we feel the songs represent us as people better than words can express. We aren’t trying to be anyone, these songs are essentially a personal mirror that reaches into the deepest part of our musical influences.
What else can we expect to see from Set It Off as we head towards 2017? Obviously more touring but expect far more online content, video blogs, information about the album, and feel free to join the SIO family, we’d love to welcome you with open arms. If you’d like our new album ‘Upside Down’, you can get it at setitoffband.com
Interview with Brian
How did your recent UK tour go, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road here?
It was incredible. Everyone we play for is so hyped up. We feel it in a big way. Visiting Cambridge (where Nikki and I lived years ago) on bonfire night was a highlight. We haven't been there in years so it was a rocket ship into a nostalgic universe. Also, after the US election was over, we played at the Thekla in Bristol. A city and venue we cherish. Emotions were high and the show was explosive...
It's been six years since you last toured here, so how come it's taken you this long to get back to us? Circumstances out of our control kept us from coming to the UK for ‘Neck of the Woods’, it was a shame. Actually pissed us off to the point where we made significant changes in our band world. Now, we've been there twice, so it’s all good.
How did the music video idea for 'Latchkey Kids' come together, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? Our dear friend Maryam Lange (who directed it) had the idea for the video. We can never take credit for our beautiful videos, we just know who to work with. The song is a love letter to a disappearing type of person, the youth are more responsible and self reliant than people think. Stop shielding and start nurturing.
So how did you get to the album title 'Better Nature' and what does it mean to you? It's something a friend of mine said to me. He passed away years ago, but I always think about that moment. Haunted by it. It's a motto I try my best to live by, at all times you must summon up your better nature.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Better Nature'? Our previous album was rooted in the past. Its point of view was nostalgic and reflective. I think that's why we naturally went to something that felt immediate. Everything on this album is deep in the present tense. No past. No future. All now.
How did the front cover for 'Better Nature' come together, and what does it mean to you? Joe's wife Rebekkah came up with the concept, and she also shot the whole thing. It's like a party after the apocalypse. The world is ending but who cares, it's dark, but also very funny.
How did you end up working with Jacknife Lee, and how would you say he helped shape the record? We worked with him on our previous record, we met him though some friends of ours and got along. He's really good at keeping us on point. Making sure we stay focused on what it is we want to do. He's a wonderful wizard...
This was also your first release to be supported by Pledgemusic, so when did that idea first come about, and what was that whole experience like for you? I didn't know that much about it at first. We were a bit shy about it but then grew to love it. It was a new intimate relationship with some fans that i never knew was possible. The interaction was sublime...
A strange question now! 'Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)' is the first song that you've done which is under four minutes! So were you aware of this at the time, and why do you think it is that your material always tends to be at least four minutes in length? Ha ha. We laugh because we always think our songs are short. When we time them we are surprised. A song is done when it's done, and we couldn't care less about how long it is. Rules are distractions.
We are huge fans of Boardwalk Empire fan, so we must ask, how did you end up working with Meg Steedle for the music video to 'Nightlight', and what was she like to work with? We are huge fans as well and didn't realize that was her until the shoot was over. Mark Pellington (director) hired her. We barely saw her during the shoot, it was such a circus. I would see her run by in different outfits and wigs while I was singing in the living room. We've hung out a bit since, she's so talented and such a cool person. That video is all her.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Better Nature' together for you, and why? Honestly, this one just oozed out of us. The hardest part was staying ahead of it so we didn't get lost.
It's been ten years since the release of 'Carnavas', so what do you remember the most from that time, and how do you think it compares to any of your other albums? We don't look back. We are a very present tense band, it feels like one big solid piece. We still feel brand new so it's hard to think of things as a past tense moment. We still live and breathe those songs as if they were written yesterday.
What else can we expect to see from Silversun Pickups as we head towards 2017? We still have a lot of touring to do. Going to South America for the first time which is very exciting. We will probably end our tour at the end of the summer. There's a couple of little fun things that are going to pop up. But most of all, making sure we help keep America from going off the rails. It's going to be interesting.
Interview with Dan
What do you think you've learnt the most from being on the road with The Wonder Years, Knuckle Puck, Moose Blood & Seaway? Well every band except for Moose Blood we have known and have toured with in some capacity. We toured with The Wonder Years three times. I live about five minutes away from the couple of the Knuckle Puck dudes so we hook up every chance we can get when I’m at home. Seaway we had done a few Canadian shows with like back really early on, and the band, so we kept in touch with them a lot and they had toured with our friends. Moose Blood, it’s good to have a band mixed in who are cool, and we don’t know, because we get to know them and get to have that kind of growth or friendship and just mature. I mean, with The Wonder Years I have so many nice things to say about that band, they are like the epitome or ideal of every headlining band, because I know that in the past they have not been treated the best from supporting or opening for bands, so they make sure that every band on any tour that they headline is met with respect, with love, with friendship. Nobody is treated any differently if they’re over another band on tour. Everyone is treated fairly because there is a reason we are all here on this tour to have a good time and enjoy ourselves. The Wonder Years accommodates everybody to the best of their abilities and makes them feel welcomed and a part of everything. With Knuckle Puck I just learnt so much from being around them, whether it’s about recording, instruments gear, and the same from being around my guys (Real Friends) I have been able to pick up so much about guitar tones, bass tones and just by being around them, seeing how they experiment with things and consciously take that in. I feel like I have been able to learn more paying attention to how I create sounds, how I create music, styles and effects that affect the parts, just kind of taking advantage of my friends who have the knowledge, because I’m around it all of the time. They have all been great any time, and when I have questions about anything it’s never like, “Oh great! Dan’s got another question!” They’re always willing to help, like Knuckle Puck are always willing to take a second and show what’s up or explain something. That’s why we are best friends.
So looking back on 'The Home Inside My Head', how happy have you been with the feedback to the album so far? There are people who no matter what are just not going to like everything that you do, that being said if they like anything we’ve done, then that’s awesome. If they like the first record, or the second or maybe they like the first, hated the second or love it, it’s all a matter of opinion and something that bands have to do is respect that opinion, because any bands success or anything the band can do is 100% reliant on how the fans appreciate it, how they support it. If they want to come out to the shows or if they want to buy the record. That speaks volumes of the intimacy that a band can have with somebody, as kids don’t have to support us, they don’t have to come to shows or buy the record, they can literally just download the record and watch everything on YouTube and never come to a show or never pay for a song. They still appreciate the music and maybe they don’t come out to a show but they will say something nice on Twitter or they will have those encouraging words that maybe is not putting gas in the tank or paying the rent but it’s still knowing that what you went through could have helped somebody or somebody might give you this interpretation of your music that you never would have thought existed if they hadn’t shown that light on it, and a lot of the fans responses give us that perspective. For me I appreciate the elasticity of subject matter with music because I can write a song about my Grandmother passing away and somebody can relate that to their dog or going through a tough time with school, or maybe they got laid off their job or something, whatever people take away from it it’s awesome and the response has been great, it’s been very welcoming. The record has been well invited by fans and it’s amazing to see, and like I said there are people that don’t like it but they’ll still come out to the show and singalong to the old songs and it’s just like “oh well there’s a new song that maybe I don’t know or like well but I still have this song that I like from the band”. You don’t have to like everything that a band does to appreciate the band and that’s fine. I have been able to appreciate that aspect and find another meaning on top of whatever the artist has put out already.
How did the Halloween music video idea come together for 'Mess'? It’s irrelevant now…I was joking around on Twitter saying we should have done a Christmas video. The director Kyle Thrash was somebody that we have known for a couple of years because we have done a lot of touring with Modern Baseball, I’m pretty sure every single one of their videos he has done an incredible job and then he started branching out a little more. He did a couple of videos for State Champs which were all incredible videos, and he is such an awesome energetic guy, every time I see him he is just bursting full of energy and he will always be like “yo, I want to work on something with you guys”. He will always go out of his way whenever he could, like shoot me a text or hit me up on my Twitter and be like “when are we going to work on a music video, I need to do something with you guys”. A lot of his videos centre on partying or a party of some sort, which is fine and that’s the visual representation of the band that goes for it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. My drummer Brian and I are the only ones who would participate in any sort of partying, so that’s not a good representation of the band as a whole, which is completely understandable as the guys don’t do that and they don’t want to look like they’re party animals! Can you really blame them. We all talked together to come up with a general idea and I threw around something for Halloween, to take a chance and do a more seasonal type of video, which in some ways can be a bit of a risk because of its time stamp on it. It’s something that plays into the youthfulness of the subject matter and just like trying to figure out like, “am I too old for this?” Should I be acting my age in these certain scenarios? How people view me or us and how we are doing whatever we are doing and trying to figure out if were really in the right state of mind for where we are as people. A lot of the video deals with that, with the kid, Xavier who was the younger boy acting in it and the other actor, she was so nice, both of them struggled with coming of age things. Because the younger boy was dealing with like, “oh am I too old for this”, as they open the door there are like these girls that are around his age and he is like “what, should I just be at home?” Then the other girl she is transitioning into adulthood for a lack of a better term, like going to parties and seeing that maybe she’s not ready for this or maybe she’s moving too fast with her life. Just figuring out where it’s appropriate to make these steps in life and if you’re doing it right and looking back on It and being like “okay maybe I didn’t do it right back then but there’s always time to go back and change it, and better yourself because of it.” It was the first video we did on that scale, we never had like actors in that magnitude, we had like 100 to 150 people, fans of ours, not just random people that took time out of one or two days of their life to come out and be a part of our video, and it was something that was really cool as with a lot of the time spent between takes I was able to hang out with these fans and talk to them, it’s something that I think helped add a sense of intimacy between the band and these fans, this special fun thing we had to do which was new territory for everybody.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Fans can expect new music and if they don’t like that then I’m sorry! Definitely longer sets that we have made in the UK in the past. We haven’t had a headliner there in over two years, so it will be nice to kind of be able to see UK mainland Europe a little more. I’m very stoked that Knuckle Puck are going to be joining us. With Confidence are going to bigger than Jesus, it’s just a matter of time. We did a tour with them in Australia last summer I believe, we saw this band are we were like, ‘wow!’. They have something special, and not just that, I want to clear the air that not that how many people listen to the band constitutes the authenticity or integrity of the band, I’m not saying that. It’s just one of those things where you can tell that this is going to be something that people relate to and people attach to that’s something special, that will result in them reaching out to more people. We really wanted to take them out on this current tour, as this tour was supposed to be a Real Friends headliner with Real Friends, Moose Blood, Seaway and then one other band opening, and then the Wonder Years tour was just with Knuckle Puck and they were figuring out the rest of it. We were thinking like With Confidence opening, and obviously that didn’t happen, so it’s great to be able to bring them over to the UK for another time, as I know they were just there before Slam Dunk with As It Is. It will be cool. The tour will be great. There are going to be a lot of venues that we haven’t had the chance to see in the UK and Europe. We are going to be playing Paris for the second time since we played at the Bataclan, where we played a couple of months before everything happened there. We are very stoked to be able to play Paris again, they are great people who stand up for their ideals and that’s something that Real Friends needs to be around. Real Friends needs to absorb and understand so we can better communicate with them and know what they’re going through. I saw a lot of the Charlie Hebdo memorials there and that was messed up, like beyond words the amount of letters, candles and flowers and pain that I saw on the streets. If we can alleviate that for them for maybe six hours or one night, then we’re going to do it.
So how would you say the pop punk world has changed since you first started out? Good question, honestly it just sucks how pop punk does not have the best reputation because we were young and dumb, unfortunately a lot of early music for a lot of these bands comes of a misogynistic, because the only life experience that we had was break ups and dealing with either being shitty to women in the relationship aspect of break ups or being treated shit by women. It sucks that is the case for a lot of early music and it’s not stemmed in misogyny as it is just more of a disdain or discomfort with one person, but it’s definitely something that can be viewed that way and it’s something where every band goes through that, like that write about girls, as that’s the life experiences that a 19 year old has. They don’t necessarily have the money to make the rent for a month, or having to worry about anything in their world crumble around them to like dealing with mental illnesses or any like actual real world things and I think that’s something that adds to the band to evolve or as a person and they are able to bring more real life mature subject matter just because their mature as people. It sucks because that isn’t just in pop punk, it’s everywhere, people need to use their voice to show that everybody is equal and everybody deals with the same problems. It’s not something like “oh I’m straight, trans gender or whatever”, It’s not like that, there are so many different people with so many different perspectives that listen to and appreciate all these different genres of music, so to be able to listen to a band in the early stages when you’re younger and then grow with them and have your problems and life experiences evolve alongside this band is just a natural thing that I hope happens, and I think we are slowly but surely evolving into this more real life subject matter. All I can do is help Real Friends and have us speak out on more issues and make amends with stupid stuff we might have said in the past. If we are up here we aren’t we trying to tell people that they aren’t alone, you know, why shouldn’t we let people know that we are not the only people dealing with all the bullshit they have to deal with in their lives. It’s more than girls, it’s more than break ups, it’s more than feeling inadequate in a relationship, life blooms and goes through different phases.
Take ‘Your Favourite Weapon’ (Brand New) for instance, very sociopathic subject and Jessie Lacey (vocalist/guitarist of Brand New) writes about wanting to murder his ex and watch her die in a plane crash or car accident. The thing is people have those feelings, maybe not to the extent where they would commit manslaughter, but that’s a perfect example because they started out writing songs about relationships and then were able to evolve their band into something that they felt was more meaningful and then in my opinion they ended up writing one of the best records ever ‘Deja Entendu’, dealing with the subject matter of religion and how you fit into the greater scheme of things with the universe along with just being in Earth.
Can you tell us about how your current side project Rationale came together? That came together because Joe Taylor (Knuckle Puck) and I hang out all the time, like literally any chance we can get when were home. One day we were driving around and I had sort of been thinking about it and I was like, “do you want to start a band?” and he was like, “yeah sure!” This was around the time I brought a guitar from Eric our guitar player, and I got like a little interface with the suggestion of one of the Modern Baseball guys and I was messing around with writing music and I wanted to learn from everyone around me. So I used Rationale as a thing to help me better understand song writing. I wrote a lot of that music and recorded most of it and it helps me bring a different understanding. Like my understanding of music or knowledge to help Real Friends and help me be able to contribute more and know more about song writing, instead of me doing a guitar part/saying something and then having my band look at me and be like, “dude what the heck did you just say?” Instead if I write a part for like an hour, beating it into my skull to get it down. As I learn more, hopefully I can write a song for the next record or something. I had some music that I had written for Real Friends in mind, but with everything being so hectic and stuff everybody had wanted to use it, but with how I work and how I would wanted to be involved with those songs it would just take more time than we really had to work on the music. Not saying that we shouldn’t take time on the music but it’s just that if we were going to be able to commit the time and make it what it should be for Real Friends, then we don’t want to use it and I respect that 100%. If I want to bring a piece of music to Real Friends, I want to make sure that we all put everything into it and continue to make it be what it should be. So granted those songs are still being used for next Rationale EP but there’s always the next album that I can play around with. Then we were trying to figure out who we wanted to play drums, going back and forth, luckily we don’t have labels, we don’t have time constraints, like our first four song EP took us a year and a half to get it together, because of our different schedules and how I was learning to write. It took me the whole of Warped Tour 2014 to write two songs for Rationale, then it took even longer to get it to Joe, finding time between Real Friends writing and Knuckle Puck writing to give it the attention without taking away from our main priorities. It helped me with scheduling and balancing, like having a part time job while you’re at college. So we were just throwing around ideas for drummers and then Knuckle Puck’s bass player, Ryan got thrown in the mix, anything that guy touches, he has like an adept understanding of, I don’t know how he does it, the guy has a gift, I think that he was made in a lab. He has got a band for everything that he plays, like he’s got, Knuckle Puck for bass, he’s got Rationale for drums, and then he’s got a band Homesafe, that he sings and plays guitar for. I would write these bare bones like mini drum program stuff in Logic, whether it would be this monstrosity that I create on a mini keyboard or something where I take eight hours to figure out the program on my own, he takes it and then we practice with him twice for recording and he’d just be adding all this content, making sense of everything, and it’s just like, “what are you?” But it’s just something fun that we do in our free time and we’re working on an acoustic EP right now. I was putting everything together at home as an experiment and it was just progressing like “oh this is cool” and then I had Joe sing a couple of different parts that he didn’t normally sing on that song, and I sang a part of a song that I don’t normally sing, and then I realised we were about to leave for this tour. There are four other singers on this tour besides us, people that are incredibly talented so it was like, why don’t we see if we can take advantage of it and the people around us, and see if they can lend their voices or whatever skills they have to the songs. We have been recording it wherever we can in the venues, we were in Cleveland and we set up a three or four piece drum kit, like we basically frankensteined a drum kit between Knuckle Puck’s drum kit and our drummer, Brian’s kit, and then we set up in the real friends green room and Ryan recorded one of the songs on drums between Seaways set.
Then he did the other drums within seven minutes of the changeover between Seaway and Moose Blood’s set, and then we recorded some of Joe’s vocals in the Real Friends trailer and the same with Nick’s vocals on that song. It’s like wherever we have that’s quiet we can get some parts recorded. We have been doing it and it’s been like a patchwork idea just whenever we can get it together. Yesterday we were in Portland, today in Seattle and the band Foxing is also on the tour too, who we’re friends with and who are all incredible musicians and great people. So I was messing around with this guitar part in a song, using an effect and I was like this kind of sounds like a string instrument. It would be cool if there were some strings on this. Foxing were in town, so I called Conor up and said “Hey, who’s playing strings for you” and he’s like “Emma is” and then I said “you need to get me in touch with Emma”. Then I saw them yesterday and I was talking to Conor and I said, “would you want to do anything on these songs”, thinking maybe he could sing one line and he said “do you like trumpet?” and I was like “I didn’t think of that, but that’s so cool”, so he’s going to record a trumpet part and a bit of vocals. I talked to all the other singers on tour, like Nick sang on first song we put out and Eddy from Moose Blood is going to sing a part, Dan from The Wonder Years is going to sing on a song, their drummer, Mike Kennedy who I never thought could sing or do anything in that capacity has been working on his own music and expanding himself as a musician, like teaching himself guitar, singing and The Wonder Years guitarist Casey was helping him out recording and facilitating his music and own unique style of figuring out music. It’s like if we can put your perspective into our music then let’s do it. I was talking to The Wonder Years about it, how we were going to have two songs with drums, two songs with acoustic, for one of them I would like to figure out some drum parts for it and they were like “we have all of this percussion equipment, so why don’t we figure out percussion in one of the songs”. Like three of us would sit around with some drums and would just jam something out. Once we are finally done with that we are going to finish up the remaining two songs that we need to finish for the next EP and then Knuckle Puck is going to go and write their record, then I’m going to be left alone with my thoughts and lyrics to put it all together for this EP. Then we start the next Real Friends record, so I’ll be fresh off of doing all this recording and learning all these things, so I can use them.
So, what else can we expect to see from Real Friends as we head towards 2017? More touring, I would like to be able to do a different tour in the UK, like maybe a different support tour that we might not have done before to get to see a new side of fans, and share our music with somebody who might not usually hear it or come across it, or come to the show. It’s always about expanding the band and getting to new fans in more of a music intimacy aspect and giving them a different perspective of a genre or a band that they might have heard in passing but never gave a chance to. Some people come up to us and say “I never gave Real Friends a chance before, or I didn’t like the music, but after seeing you guys live I can appreciate the band”, so then maybe they will start listening to the music and the band starts to mean something a bit. They are people who are like not the biggest Real Friends fans, but if you guys are on tour and I go to the show it’s like cool, this is a nice little treat, it’s not something I would like to enjoy all the time but it’s fun to see live and I can appreciate it for what it is and that’s awesome. Not everybody has to like the band and that’s fine, if people can at least tolerate it or respect it but not appreciate like others do, that’s all we ask, just give us a chance and if you don’t like it, we appreciate you at least giving us that time and you have that legitimate opinion there. We just want to be able to share ourselves with new people, spread the love, hang out, and we will probably start writing a new record and hopefully get back to Australia and Japan, as Eastern culture don’t get live music a lot and it’s so expensive for bands to go out there and isn’t something that is always financially viable like every time we go that way on the plane. We went to Japan and it was the most eye opening thing for how music can bridge those cultural gaps and adjust that culture shock a little bit, as kids would come up and be like “I listen to State Champs and Neck Deep, Modern Baseball” all these bands and it helps me understand in English and they look up all these phrases and see what these things mean, granted a lot of things in Japanese can’t be translated 100% to English or vice versa but they try their hardest to understand our culture and us as people. It breaks down gaps and walls as people want to build these walls in our culture and keep them out but you need to understand other cultures. They can pick up on a general vibe or feeling or what we are trying to convey. If you see a piece of art and there’s death or happiness that’s something you can covey with art with the image…they understand the feeling. Let’s just share that with more people in 2017! Let’s write some new music, and let’s have a really good time!
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? Every night watching Pierce the Veil was a highlight, balanced against horrible occurences with our bus including being parked in the middle of a gang gunfight in Pittsburgh, a bus breakdown in Death Valley and the final bizarre happening, the bus burning to the ground before the last two shows!
How did you get to the album title 'Lifelines', and what does it mean to you? ‘Lifelines’ is about those moments of balance that we strive to live in somewhere between the chaos and the confines of an orderly life. ‘Lifelines’ is walking the fine line, like the artwork represents.
Can you tell us about some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Lifelines'? ‘Lifelines’ talks about the myriad of emotional highs and lows, self reflection and dreams being replaced by newer dreams. ‘Scars’ is about the warts and emotional baggage that we all have but must recognize and rise from.
This is your first full length album, so can you tell us what targets and goals you had in mind, when it came to putting this record together? We wanted this to be a major step in writing, bigger hooks, more meaningful lyrics, and a clearer representation of the whirlwind of emotions we have gone through in our first two years of our career with a gold single and over 200 shows under our belt.
How did you end up working with B.J. Perry and John Pregler, and how would you say they helped shape the album? These two guys are our home boys. We made the EP with them (mostly BJ) and after trying the usual industry producer suspects, we felt we were selling our soul. So we scrapped a month of recording and started from scratch with two fellow believers that could help translate our vision. We are very happy with the result.
How would you say the sound of I Prevail has grown/changed since the release of ‘Heart Vs. Mind’? We learned a lot from playing every song on our EP live. We learned the best parts of each song, and as far as the audience response, I’m not sure if the listener will be able to do the wall of death if he is listening alone in his car or room, but it’s out there if they want to try.
What was it like to cover 'Blank Space' by Taylor Swift, and how did you go about approaching it in a I Prevail way?
Interview with Brian
We loved the song, the structure, and most importantly, Ms Swifts aggressive description and lyrics. We felt it would immediately translate to a melding of clean and harsh vocals, and great loud guitars. Perhaps we should have reached out to her for a duet version.
What can you tell us about the meaning behind your latest single 'Come And Get It'? It’s simple. There have been a lot of haters that have wanted to use the success of ‘Blank Space’ as a way to put us and our band down. AS if a gold single is a bad thing for your street credit, to them we say "If you want it, come get it, you know where we'll be.” Figuratively I hope!
How did the music video idea for 'Scars' come together, and can you tell us a bit what you want the music video to mean to your fans? We want our fans to realize that their scars, vices, physical maladies, imperfections and emotional frailities don’t define them! Surround yourself with love and loyal friends, add truth and meaning and treat everyone like you want to be treated and we will all get a step closer to our dreams. We can take our masks off.
How did the front cover for 'Lifelines' come together, and what does it mean to you? Dan Mumford an English genius of an artist is the source of our visual inspiration. He flat out gets where we are coming from and where we want to go. We hope to meet him when we play the UK in March of 2017
What else can we expect to see from I Prevail as we head towards 2017? We dream of playing the Brixton Academy, and at least seven other cities that we have a great deal of fans from in the UK. We canâ€™t wait to see the gray days that we see in the movies. It is a fact that the UK and Australia are the two countries that have supported us the most so far. This is so great, we want to put James Bond on the guest list! Although, I know he doesnâ€™t need a pass to get anywhere. See you soon!
Interview with Matty So, how did you get to the album title 'This Light I Hold' and what does it mean to you? I wanted a title that embodied the vibe of the whole record. It was the first title I had in mind & it stuck!
Can you tell us about some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'This Light I Hold'? I always write about issues & observations in my own life, & hope that listeners will make the songs their own. The way that the track listing worked out, the album starts dark & finishes hopeful. I'm really stoked about how that happened.
How did you end up working with Jacoby Shaddix for 'This Light I Hold', and can you tell us a bit about how the music video came together as well? Jacoby & I have been friends for a little while now. When I finished the lyrics for 'This Light I hold' I knew he would be the perfect guest vocalist for the track. We wanted a video that made a big statement visually & thematically. Our manager has a background in film so he took a shot at writing the treatment & we loved it. Caleb Mallory directed the video & KILLED it.
Also, how did you end up working with Larry Soliman for the track 'Not Over Yet', and how would you say he helped shape the song? I've always been a big My American Heart fan & I've wanted to collaborate with Larry for a long time. I had the song finished before he sang on it but I knew his voice would be an awesome addition. Having him on the album is a dream come true for me.
What was the hardest part about putting 'This Light I Hold' together for you, and why? The writing & recording process of 'This Light I Hold' was probably my favorite of any album we've done. Recording in Phoenix is kind of a bummer for a vocalist because it's so dry there, but it was worth it to work with Matt & Cameron.
You've said that "Having time off to write & not being rushed in the studio made such a massive difference" with this album. So can you elaborate on how the writing/recording process has compared to anything else you've done with 'This Light I Hold'? I think the listener can tell when an album had to be rushed. I really wanted time to be at peace for the writing process of this record and to be able to dig deep for lyrical content. I also had three weeks in the studio just for vocals, which was perfect!
What made you want to work with Matt Good, and what did he bring to the whole process? Matt is a young & exciting new producer. He definitely brought a fresh perspective to the record & the mix. I tracked my vocals with Cameron Mizell but Matt worked on everything else & really nailed it!
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We are so excited to get back to the UK! The set we have prepared is by far our best yet & you can definitely expect to hear some new songs!
What can we expect to see from Memphis May Fire as we head towards 2017? Our best album yet & hopefully a lot more touring in the UK!
Interview with Shane
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We've been pretty slammed but that's part of the course with Silverstein. We don't take breaks. The only time we're off the road is when we're writing or recording. We actually had three months off this spring and decided to write and record a new song. So we are always working. As for the highlights, Iâ€™ve got to say going to China for the first time was pretty special. The funny part is we got rained out and didn't get to play as a full band. I went out and played some acoustic songs in the pouring rain just to give the fans something. But seeing that country and that culture was really special. Definitely a place I never thought we'd get to.
Can you tell us a bit about how the River Oaks solo project idea came together? It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. I'm a guitar player and songwriter first, I still don't consider myself as much of a frontman and I just missed playing guitar and singing and writing songs. So I took a little time and wrote a few songs. I didn't know what it was going to be, maybe just for myself but when I played them for people everyone was really encouraging that I should turn it into a real thing. So I did!
Also, can you tell us about some of the themes that run throughout the self-titled EP? It's really just about one long term relationship ending and another one beginning. When you end a long term relationship sometimes it doesn't matter how wrong or destructive it was, you still miss that person. And it takes a long time to get over that. So at the time I was writing those songs I was channeling those feelings and I was in a place where I was putting on a front of happiness but I was really scared.
Other than being by yourself, what was it like for you to just write/record/tour as a solo musician, and what do you think you learnt the most from this project? I actually haven't toured yet but I'm doing my first mini tour in December. Just five shows in the US, but I hope people come out! Riveroaksmusic.com for info! But being in the studio without people to bounce ideas off was the strangest part. I worked with a producer who was helpful but every decision was 100% mine. And also playing all the instruments was crazy too. I haven't played drums on a recording in well over ten years. But drums are fun as hell so it totally ruled.
Looking back on 'I Am Alive in Everything I Touch', how happy have you been with the feedback to the album so far, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Silverstein? Yeah over a year later since it came out and we still back it hard. And we still want to play those songs live. I think that's the real indicator with a new record because whenever a new record comes out, unless you really phoned it in, you're going to be stoked. It's cool because I think it's our second best album out of the seven, and I think our best is the one before it ‘This Is How The Wind Shifts’. So it feels good to be able to honestly say we're making the best music of our career. And also not to forget ‘Ghost’ our new track that just came out. It might be the best Silverstein song ever. Seriously.
Have you guys started work on any new material just yet. If So, how's that coming along, and what do you think fans can expect from it? Well ‘Ghost’ is the latest and it was so fun to work on. See usually we do full albums and write 11-12 songs at once, but with this being a single we just had one song to focus all of our efforts into. We pored over every note, every tone, every kick drum, every lyric, every melody and we literally had the song mixed ten times. Yes that's right we had ten different people mix it. So it was really rad to do that and make a masterpiece. Next year we'll be writing a new record. Excited for that as always.
Next year it'll be ten years since the release of 'Arrivals & Departures', so what do you remember from putting that album together, and do you guys think you'll do a tour for it, like you did with 'Discovering the Waterfront'? No not a tour. ‘Discovering’ was the record that put us on the map and we did that for the fans that still to this day come to every show we play, but still want to hear the songs that first got them into the band. With ‘Arrivals’, maybe we could do something else to celebrate it, we did a ten year re-record of ‘Smashed into Pieces’ for the first album anniversary. So maybe something. But I’m not sure what at this point.
Also, looking back on your 'Discovering the Waterfront' tour, how did that go, and what was it like to visit some songs that you might not of played in a long time? It was so much fun. It never got boring and even though everyone knew the set list, they were still so excited. Remembering where we were when we wrote those songs was personally pretty special for me too. Some nights were really emotional.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Stoked! We've kind of been a little bit neglectful of the UK, so a lot of these cities we haven't played in years. Our tour Manager is even from the UK so it's weird, but we're really looking forward to it. I just want to eat all the English Breakfasts and 99p Greggs sandwiches.
What else can we expect to see from Silverstein as we head towards 2017? We're on the road right up to Christmas, and then next year full force in the studio, with a new record and of course more touring. Like I said, we don't take breaks.
Interview with Tom
How is your European tour going so far, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? The tour is going really well so far. We’ve been over here in Europe for about three weeks now, and yeah, all of the shows have been good. We’ve been playing around 5-6 new songs, and people seem to be enjoying them. Highlights of the tour, maybe our London show that we played at the Troxy was really good. It was just a good crowd, and also our show at Stuttgart in Germany.
Can you tell us about the first time you played in the UK? What do you remember the most from this tour, and how exciting was it for you at the time? It’s really weird when you go to a place for the first time, because you never really know if anyone is going to show up. We were lucky enough and surprised, because people showed up and knew the songs. We’ve loved coming back ever since!
Let's take it back a little bit further now, how did you first get into playing guitar? Well my brother John started playing guitar, and my parents own a music store so I was always around music. I started playing the tenor saxophone when I was eight years old. I played in a marching band. So I played saxophone until I was around 17 in school. My brother had a guitar, and when I was around 14 I took a guitar class at my school, and that’s how I started.
Also, when did you first realize that Jimmy Eat World was going to be a career lasting band? Probably when ‘Bleed American’ came out. Before that, I’d have to come off tour, and call up a temporary service to get a job. So that was the first time, where I didn’t have to do that, and when I was able to survive off of playing music.
In 2014 you did a ten year anniversary tour for 'Futures' so what was it like to play the album all the way through, and were there any tracks that were interesting to re-visit live, that you might of not done for a long time? It was cool, because there were a few songs on there that we never played live before, which I don’t know why we never did. So it was cool being able to go back and learn every song, and figure how to play it live. It’s a lot different than playing it in the studio. In the studio you can just add whatever you want onto the tracks, and when you go to play it live, you have to figure out how to do everything that you added onto the tracks. You pick the best parts that make the most sense for the song to do live, between the four of us. Robin was with us as well, which is nice, as he helps us out with the keys, guitar and backup tracks.
He did some arrangements with you guys on ‘Integrity Blues’ as well right? He played on 3-4 of the songs on the record. He is super cool, and he is a really good musician. He plays pretty much every instrument, and he covers a lot of the parts that we can’t do between the four of us.
What did you get upto in the break up? We heard you took up boxing! I was just really out of shape! From being on the road, you kind of let yourself go a little bit, from just hanging out. So I whipped myself into shape, and started boxing. No sparring, or anything like that. I wasn’t fighting people. I was just doing it every day for about an hour. It was fun.
You haven't had this kind of break in your time as Jimmy Eat World before, so what was it like to head back into the studio together again, were you ever worried that it would be different to before? Playing together again after having that time off? It was really weird, and you get a little bit stir crazy. But when we all got back together after that year off we just realized how lucky we are to go out and play shows. It’s always meant a lot to us, but that fire was just back. So, it was all good. I think we were all defiantly ready to go, because we had that long break.
So, what made you want to release 'Get Right' first from 'Integrity Blues', and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? We released it first just because it was a good rocker. We just wanted to get people ready for the new record. It’s about getting rid of guilt, and getting rid of expectations that people put on you.
How did the animated music video idea for 'Sure and Certain' come together, and can you tell us what it was like to film? It reminded me of 'Take On Me' by AHA! Yeah, there’s a band called Turquoise Jeep, and they make these funny videos, and Jim had the idea of using them for a video. We didn’t really give the guy any direction, well maybe a little bit, but he just said “go in front of a green screen, and play the song a little bit, and I’ll add to it!”. So we just let him do his thing, and he came back with the “AHA” music video, which is how it is now. It’s something totally different, funny, and it was great to do.
So how did you end up working with Justin Meldal-Johnsen, and how would you say he helped shape the album? We just listened to some of the records that he had produced by M83, Tegan and Sara, Paramore, and we just heard really good things about him from our management as well. We ended up talking to him over the phone, because he lives in LA and we live in Phoenix, and he just had a lot of really good ideas for the songs. He just did a lot. I mean we did it a little bit differently than how we’ve done it in the past. Where we gave him like almost all of the old demos that we’ve ever done, there were some demos in there that go back to 2005. Some of them were just little pieces, maybe like a verse with a melody, and a line written on it. Or a chorus. Just really weird, small little parts. Then he listened to the songs, and chose the 14 songs that he thought showed the most promise, and the most inspired by, and we just went with those tracks. It was cool figuring out the songs from that basic state with him, and to have a producer involved that early was cool.
We read that he was in the creative process really early on, which you don't normally do, so how did that happen, and what did it add to the process of putting the album together? Yeah, I guess the ideas were a little bit more flushed out. So yeah that was something that we’d never done before.
‘Pass the Baby' builds throughout the song to an explosive end, so can you tell us a bit about how that song came together? That was one of the older songs from the record, that was in the first demo state, from like 2006. The basic part of the song was there, the verse, the middle part wasn’t. I think Jim had an idea of going into something totally crazy for the ending part. But that was something we kind of figured out in the studio. We just messed around with it, and just added all of these layers to it. The end part is, I think, the heaviest thing we’ve ever done.
I want to go back to 'Invented' here, you put vocals together for 'Action Needs an Audience', which is the first time you've done so in eleven years, so what was it like to take on lead vocals once more, and can you tell us a bit about how the song came together? There are always a couple of songs on the record, where there’s music that gets left over, that Jim can’t finish, or he has so many other things that he has to work on, and write vocals for. So that was one that was sitting around for a while. I just really liked the riff, and it was a good rock song. I just started messing with it, and that’s just how it came about.
So how did you get to the album title 'Integrity Blues', and what does it mean to you? We have a habit of using a name of a song that defined the record. For me it links into what I was saying earlier, about getting rid of expectations that people put on you. Living in the moment, and doing what you want to with your life.
'Chase This Light' will be ten years old next year, so can you tell us about what it was like to make the album, as well as what it's like to still play songs live from it now? It seems like with ‘Chase This Light’, on this tour people are wanting to hear songs from that album more than they ever really wanted to in the past. I don’t know why, but it’s cool. That was another record that was fun to make.
Final question, what else can we expect to see from Jimmy Eat World as we head towards 2017? We’ll be hitting the road all the way up until this time next year, maybe longer. Hopefully we’ll come back here in the summer and play festivals. Reading & Leeds Festival! So yeah, just a lot of touring. It’s good to have a new record out as well, we’re still having fun, and people are showing up to our shows. It’s all good.
Interview with Matt Nicholls
How did Bring Me The Horizon first get together? I was friends with Oli, we are from opposite sides of town from each other, but we used to meet in the city centre, and go to gigs together, hangout at weekends, and then when I turned 16 I went to college in Rotherham, and I met Lee and our old guitar player Curtis. We just got chatting, and we just thought it would be a good idea to make a band. We rented a practice room in Rotherham and we wrote a song, it was rubbish, but it was a start. So yeah, it was just from being mates/through college.
Can you tell us about your current set up as a drummer? I play SJC drums, the company from Massachusetts in America, which started off in the owners basement. He used to make drums for his friend and it kind of took off. I met him in 2007/8 when we did Warped Tour. They do custom drums, and I always wanted something like that. He spoke to me and he asked me if I'd like one, and I was like "yeah cool!", he said "what would I like", so I just reeled an idea of the top of my head. He wrote it into his phone, and then he made it for me, and I was like "oh, nice one!". So, I've been with those guys ever since. But I play Zildjian cymbals, and DW hardware & pedals, and Vic Firth sticks.
How long did it take to find that perfect set up as a drummer, or is it still a work in progress? It probably took me awhile. I think I got a bit lazier. Like when we first started I had a lot more drums out. At one point I had three rack toms, three floor toms, two kicks drums, and that was just ridiculous. I just got lazier and lazier. I just ripped it all apart and took a drum away at a time, a cymbal away at a time, and now I just use one rack tom, one floor tom, one kick drum! I've got a hybrid crash, which is kind of in-between a China cymbal and a crash, it's very trashy, but it's not as sharp as a China cymbal. It's a pretty standard drum kit set up, and I'm happy with it. Sometimes I like changing the cymbals around, and getting different sounds, but it's been pretty steady for a few years now. I started playing some of the electronic bits as well. and I've got some Roland pads now.
What was it like to be an upcoming band based in Sheffield? It's cool, I mean Sheffield is known for its live music, there's always gigs going on, and there are a load of great venues in Sheffield, so there was always places to play. When we first started doing shows, we were playing a lot of like punky/hardcore shows, and we didn't necessarily fit in with the type of music, but it's like a little community of bands and people. All the same people go to the shows, so that was pretty cool. We got to experience like proper DIY bands and from this we gained a little bit of knowledge when it comes to the work ethic. Watching how these bands work, and how the promoters put on shows was pretty cool. So we just came up doing that, branched out into Leeds & Manchester, and then it just went on from there.
What do you love the most about touring, and how has it changed for you personally since you started out? The only reason we started the band really was to go on tour, and play shows. We never thought weâ€™d do like a big tour or anything. We'd go to these punky/hardcore shows, and watch people moshing, and we all just thought we'd love to be in a band where that was happening. That's what kind of spurred us on to starting a band. So being on tour is one of the best parts about being in a band. I like making music, and being creative with my friends, but the best part about it is the hour you're on stage. That's what you do it all for. It's good now, we've been doing this for so long, since we were 18! I'm 30 now so, it's changed a lot. We used to be into the partying, getting smashed, but that kind of stuff just gets a bit boring, it did for us anyway. We just got fed up of feeling rough, and we're a lot more healthier on the road now. I'm not a vegan, but we pretty much eat vegan all the time. When I'm on tour it's easy to be that way, because a bunch of the guys are. So I just eat what they eat. I think it's all about finding the right balance. I mean it's okay to have a couple of beers after the show, but we just don't go mental like we would of done. In the day we just try and be as good as we can be, healthy and fit, because you know the shows are pretty big now, so if we went on stage and were absolutely smashed, or just played rubbish, then I don't think we'd last very long. It's all about being positive.
In April you guys performed with an orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, so can you tell us how that idea came together, as well as what that whole performance was like for you guys? It's an idea we've had for ages, we've always incorporated strings into our albums. Even from the first CD there are MIDI strings, and then on three records after that we've had live violinists. So we always thought this idea of being able to perform with a live orchestra would be cool. Then we got approached by Teenage Cancer Trust who asked us to play at the Royal Albert Hall. We just thought it would be a really good opportunity to do the orchestra idea there, because it's such a prestigious venue, and it's for a good cause, so yeah, it all came together like that really. Jordan has got some friends that play in an orchestra, so they all got together and sorted it all out. We worked really hard on it, and I think we pulled it off. It was a success. Fans tell me that it was our best live show they've ever seen. Our parents were even crying throughout the performance, so it must of been pretty special. It came off really well.
Looking back on the release of 'That's the Spirit', how happy have you been with the feedback to the album, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Bring Me The Horizon? I'm happy with it, I think some of the material was out there, a bit different, so I think we were prepared too. We knew that some people wouldn't be that into it, and that we'd lose some fans, but on the other hand we thought that maybe we'd gained a whole lot more, and it outdid that. We've had a lot of radio play, and a lot of media coverage, and it's helped take the band to that next level, which is what we wanted to do with this record. We wanted to push ourselves musically and lyrically, and just get the best out of each other, and our band. I think it worked! We're all happy about it, and we're in a good position now. Weâ€™re just enjoying ourselves. That's the main thing.
Can you tell us a bit about the writing/recording process for the record? We wrote it at Oliâ€™s house, and we also did all of the synths there on a computer. We used to be one of those bands that sat in a practice room, twiddled our thumbs until something came out. With this we approached writing a little bit differently, and it really worked for us, we all sat around a computer, and Lee would play guitar into the computer so that we could lay the music down. If we're not happy with it we could chop it out. We put like a basic drum bit over it to get the feel for the songs, and then we would just build it from there. It really worked for us. Like I said before, we'd always be sitting around in a practice room for four hours, doing nothing. Whereas now we're in a relaxing environment, and we're all chilling. I mean, there's still pressure there, we had to write a good record, but it was not like we're being unproductive. When we recorded, we did it ourselves, in Greece, we pretty much just googled "best studios in the world", and the first one that came up was the Black Rock Studios in Santorini, so we were like "yeah okay, let's go there!". So we had two months living in Santorini, which was really good, like when you'd finished doing your bit for the day, you could go chill on the beach, or ride a quad round the island. It was super relaxed.
There's an interesting progression sound wise on 'That's the Spirit', with maybe a bit more alternative rock tracks than some fans may be used to. So can you tell us about how the sound of Bring Me The Horizon has progressed to you on this record? I think it comes from just growing up. When we were younger, we just wanted to be as heavy as possible, and just play really fast. But we've kind of just grown out of it. Like our musical tastes have evolved. We all like different stuff. It also comes from being into different music, we like anything, we don't just limit ourselves to metal, or just liking rock, as we also like garage or hip hop, if it's good, we'll listen to it at the end of the day. That's where a lot of bands shoot themselves in the foot, because they set barriers on what they want to do, and how they want to sound. Like "we can't do that because it's not better than before" "we can't do this because so & so" whereas we just think, "if it's cool, if it sounds good, if it fits, then let's go for it!". Music is about taking risks, and pushing yourself, and doing what feels right. There's just no need to set a barrier on what you want to achieve.
You guys have always brought a fresh approach to each record in a great way. So how important would you say it is for bands to at least push the boundaries of what they can achieve, instead of maybe trying to please every fan out there with what they might expect? That's the thing isn't it. Like I said a lot of these bands will find their sound, or find what got them big, and then stick to it, and then they'll be scared to push themselves to take it to the next level. They are just happy doing that. That's fine, that's up to them, but we're not like that, we want to take it to the next level, and just push ourselves. We want to get better, and just better ourselves. Get better at songwriting, become better musicians. Some bands might be scared to lose their fan base, and that's why a lot of bands have put out the same kind of material or they are just happy staying at one level. Whereas we just want to take it as far as we can. That's what we like doing, pushing ourselves, and evolving.
Lee said in an earlier interview that you'd never sell out arenas. So what's it been like to actually achieve this, and what do you personally think it is that has given you such a strong fan base? Probably just good songs! I mean, that's helped, as we've wrote some all right tunes. It's mental for us, we just always look at the next thing. people will tell us that "we are going to achieve this", and we are like "yeah okay". When we started playing academies we were like "nah, these will never sell out", and they sold out, so we went on to the next stage and so on. It's weird for us, as we never thought we'd get out of Yorkshire when we first started. We were just sweaty teenagers, playing this sort of weird metal. So for us, it's just been crazy. That's been one of the best things about this band, as we've always just took the next thing as it comes. We've never set targets. We read interviews with bands where they say "we just want to headline Wembley etc" whereas we've been like "whatever happens, happens". We've never set a target, when it comes to where we want to be. A lot of bands will do that, and when they realize they're not getting there, that's what they get phased on, and start being mardy! We've just took it as it comes, and whatever happens, happens. For us, we're just lucky that everything got better and better.
So it's been ten years this month since 'Count Your Blessings' was released. Looking back on this record now, what do you remember the most from this time, and how would you say it compares to the rest of your albums? I think it shows the kind of people we were, from the time we did it. We lived in Birmingham. None of us had ever lived away from home, we were 18 years old, and we didn't know what we were doing. Most of the time, we were just going out and getting hammered. We'd record in the day, and then we'd just go out! That shows on the record. It's messy, it's a bit all over the place, it's a bit erratic, but that's the people we were back then, as well as being the music that we wanted to do. I'm still proud of it, I still think that if we had of recorded it better or if it sounded better it would probably just be better! We weren't really happy with the recording once we finished it, we were like "oh it sounds a bit rubbish, but whatever". I don't really listen to it, but then again I don't really listen to any of our CDs. I think you go through a phase of listening to it loads when you first record it, and then when you start playing it live, you kind of switch that off. When I do listen back to it, I do enjoy it. I laugh at some bits, and forget about other bits. It's good, it's part of our story, and it's where it started for us.
Oli has said that the next record might be “dancier” and “darker” than 'That's The Spirit', so if possible, can you tell us what we can expect from your next output? I haven't got a clue, honestly. I read the quote where he said that as well, but I don't think we've even considered writing anything yet. I know we haven't, but I don't know, we'll just see what happens. When it comes to it. That's what you do, it just comes naturally, so I guess we'll find out when we start doing it. It's not going to be dance music, but we'll just see how it goes.
Also, can you tell us how the umbrella artwork came together for ‘That’s the Spirit’, and maybe what it means to you? The last record had a strong symbol, as we used the flower of life, which is in no way ours, as it was used in old sacred geometry. But yeah, it just really won it for us, like for marketing, and just everything. So we wanted to replicate that in something else, and then the umbrella artwork came about. You'd have to ask Oli for a proper explanation, but what I got from it was that "That's the Spirit" is often associated with a negative situation, like when it's looking really bleak, so I think the umbrella kind of comes from like when it's raining outside, you don't really want to go outside, but you just put your umbrella up, and you can go out in the rain. Sometimes you just have to put your umbrella up, and just crack on. So I think that's where the whole umbrella theme came from.
What else can we expect to see from Bring Me The Horizon as we head towards 2017? Just gigs! These arena shows that we are about to do are the biggest shows that we've ever done, so we are all quite nervous, and we're just ready to get on with it really. It's come around really fast, this year has just disappeared. We're just happy doing what we are doing, as long as we are playing gigs, and people are still showing up, we'll be happy. So yeah, 2017 is just gigs, and having a good time.
So how did you first get into acting? I got into acting when I was about ten. There was a letter that came to our primary school, saying that this Saturday morning, drama class was starting, and if you wanted to go then you had to write a letter saying why. So I got onto it that way. It just fired my taste for acting, and I came home after a few sessions and said “this is what I’m going to do” to my mum and dad. “I’m going to be an actor”. I’ve never really wavered from that, I just stuck to it, I was determined. So that’s when it all started.
What was your first major project, and what do you remember the most from that experience? Before I started film I did theatre for about twelve years, and I did some amazing projects, and I worked with some fantastic directors. But for film, my first major project was Red Road, working with Andrea Arnold, I’d never done film before, I’d done TV and I’d done a small short film, but I thought “oh wow”, this is something that really interests me, because it was very different to theatre, in the fact that you can do the tiniest thing on screen and it just speaks volumes. So, I would say Red Road for me.
Did you take what you learnt from theatre into film? Well I did, but I had to be careful, because in theatre when you’re live, you’re thinking about people in the back row, you’re thinking about being heard. One of Andrea’s main things for me was just less, less, less, less, less, and I realized that it is more about just being that. I learnt a lot from Andrea about truth, performance, and not feeling that I had to show everything.
Red Road is a brilliant mystery film. Can you tell us about what your character Jackie was like to play, and when you look back on the film now what do you remember the most from this time? Jackie was a wonderful character to play. Because I was in every scene and I was in every single day, all day. It was great for me to just really embody her full time, and just because her story was so sad and dark. I was lucky that I didn’t have to do one scene one day, and then film five the next day, I was in all the time. So I felt very entrenched in Jackie. There’s a few characters along the way that I don’t let go off, and Jackie is defiantly one of them. She stayed with me for the last ten years. A special women!
So how did you first get the role for Lysa on Game Of Thrones, and had you read any of the books before hand? I just happened to get asked to go for an audition in Belfast for Lysa, I looked up the project and saw that it had been based in books, and so I went out and bought the first book. I didn’t manage to read it, but what I did was quickly look at the back for Lysa because it was actually the scene that I had to do at the audition. It was the scene where you first see her on the throne, shouting at Tyrion and then being very over the top, and motherly. And I just thought “oh my goodness, who is this women?!” So I didn’t read the books before the audition, because I didn’t have time obviously, but I read the books up until she died once I got the part. Because I felt that it was important to know her back story, and understand why she behaved in the extreme ways that she did, and why she was so full of fury, bitterness and jealousy. So I looked back at the fact that she had all of these miscarriages, and still births as a young women, and also the fact that she has always been in love with Littlefinger, but he had always been in love with Catelyn. Then she got pregnant to Littlefinger when she was really young, and her father made her have an abortion, and he married her off to Jon. So I looked at all of these things, to see where Lysa’s pain came from, and then kind of built her character from that. I had to be careful, and walk a fine line because she is so out there, I had to make sure that she didn’t become a pantomime character. I wanted her pain to be extreme, but very real to her anyway, and that kind of fantasy land that she lived in. She was a fantastic character to play.
Your character could switch from crazy to sane pretty quickly, and that was always really interesting to watch. So what was that like for you to do, and how did you go about bringing your own approach to this character? That was a fantastic thing to do actually, because as an actor normally with the characters you play, they hide their inner feelings, they aren’t sure how they feel, but Lysa had lost the ability to control herself. So she was so extreme and literally switched so quick, so as long as I get into that head, she does appear that she’s completely bonkers, but it’s all based on insecurity, pain, jealousy. As long as I was there, the writing was so beautiful, so it made my job easy. If you’re in good hands with the director, and the writers, and just the quality that Game of Thrones has in every department, which is so high. It just makes your job so easy, because you’re wearing costumes that are hand stitched, your hair is period, the language you’re speaking is fantastic, the director is amazing. So it just made it a fantastic job. I loved playing Lysa.
She was really unpredictable! Yeah, she was really creepy in that way. The thing that made her creepy was that you never felt settled with her, and you never felt safe. Because you knew that she could suddenly change at any minute. So you were constantly on edge around her. And because of her extreme emotions around Robin and how nasty she was to Sansa during the lemon cake scene. You know, switching from being so apparently a loving aunt, to ripping her vest and threatening her. It was a wild ride to play her, but one that I enjoyed very much.
Can you tell us about the infamous scene where you died going through the moon door, what was that like to film, and what do you remember the most from putting that together? We took all day to film that, and I must give thanks to Sophie, Aiden and Alik who directed me, and all of the crew that supported me that day, because it was an intense and emotional ride. I just got so much support from Sophie and Aidan and that just helped us repeat it over and over again. Sophie was such a trooper because I was genuinely holding her over that hole, and gripping her by the neck, and we did it for hours. She was an absolute professional. Aidan was just wonderful, he was just so generous with his acting. Alik the director was amazing. It was a tough day, as in hard work. But that’s what you’re there for. It was enjoyable to film such a shocking death.
What was it like to work with the legendary Ridley Scott on Prometheus, and how would you say he pushed you as an actress in the film? Wow, it was amazing to work with Ridley Scott. It was something that I never ever imagined happening in my career, and I have nothing but praise for him. He was the kindest man to me, and such an intelligent, clever director. We were in such great hands with him, and it was just a cast that were amazing. So for someone like me, to suddenly be on a set like that was kind of surreal. The first time was really surreal, and then I thought that I just had to enjoy it. I just kept thinking “what am I doing here?!” Then once I settled down it was fine, it’s like any other job that works on a massive scale, with a massive budget, you’ve just got to play your character as well as you can, and collaborate as well as you can. Keep direction as well as you can. I had a fantastic time on that, and the sets were to die for. They were huge. Ridley tried to do as little as possible with green screen, if it can be made, or filmed, then he’ll do it. It was a joy to work on. A real great experience.
As well as Pinewood you got to out to Iceland to film, so what was it like work out there? We did, we went there for about a week or two. It was incredible to film there, I loved Iceland. The landscape was so weird and wonderful, so it was perfect for the exteriors in Prometheus. It’s a country that’d I’d love to visit again and have more time, to be a tourist. Because the landscape there, and the scenery is like nowhere else I’ve ever been to in my life before. The people were great, and really warm and down to earth. I had a great time in Iceland. We were there in the summer, so it barely got dark. It was very odd, because even at 3-4 in the morning you were sitting in what felt like 3 in the afternoon. It was just like a completely different experience. It also helped when you’re filming exteriors for being on a completely different planet. That other worldly landscape really helps for your character and trying to imagine that you’re in this other place. It was wonderful.
How would you say the character of Ford compares to everyone else in Prometheus? Ford was quite a scardy cat wasn’t she, and she thought she was braver than she was. She went through all of the tests and everything, but once Ford actually got there and the enormity of being on a different planet, and being with a bunch of strangers, and being isolated like that. Ford found it hard, she was scared/terrified, and much less equipped than she should have been mentally. So she struggled with the fact that she missed that human contact. She was out of sorts there, and wasn’t the fearless person that she thought she was, so she ended up feeling out of her depth. When things started going wrong she was terrified. Not the best doctor to have around, when she just wants to runaway! Or freezes on the spot. She was interesting to play, and I liked her.
What attracted you to playing Katherine in The Witch? The Witch was like a script I’d never read before, I don’t mean that because of its language, I just loved the script of The Witch, and the idea of this family that were literally living on the edge of this wilderness, away from their own country, away from their plantation, with things going wrong. And what I thought was interesting about The Witch was the psychological things that started happening, the breakdown of the family, the breakdown of trust. They were so deeply religious, so the fear of the devil was so big. The fear of God was so big. I just found that fascinating. Just seeing that faith starting to crumble, and what comes with that. I loved it. Robert Eggers is an incredible director, and I can’t wait to see what he does next, because he was amazing to work with. His attention to detail was so in depth, even with the socks that Ralph wears, they are made from the same breed of sheep compared to the socks that would have been worn in the 1630s. The crew and the builders had to build the house via traditional methods, and not being able to use chainsaws and that, because they realized that the marks would have been left on the wood. It’s supposed to be roughly put together by William, but they wouldn’t of had those tools, so the modern marks wouldn’t look right. We were living in the middle of nowhere, and this house was just built in these clearings in the woods. It was a fantastic experience. Rob spent 4-5 years researching that movie, and a lot of the dialogue is lifted from writings in the 1630s. So we were just in great hands.
I saw the Witch this year, and just thought it was brilliant. It seemed like such a claustrophobic environment to work in with such a small cast. So can you tell us about what it was like to film, and how it compares to anything else you've done before? It was great. You know what was great as well, Rob had the very good foresight to do, because none of us knew each other, and I’d done my audition with Ralph, we had a great chemistry, but I didn’t know Anya, and I hadn’t met the kids. He got us all out a week early and we went through the script in a room. We went to the house, and we went through some of the scenes with the kids, and we just all lived together as a family in a small hotel in the local town. The kids got to trust us, so we built up this really strong family unit before we even started shooting, and that was fantastic because, we were in the middle of nowhere, away from our partners, not a lot of phone signal, and you’re away from home. So we clung to each other for support, and that ended up going into our performances as a family. It was intense, but we had so many laughs together at night, and laughs in-between takes. It was a good, solid, fun shoot, in amongst all that misery.
Also, you were involved with Couple in a Hole, where you live like savages in the French Pyrenees. So what was that like to film, and what did you enjoy the most whilst working on this film? Couple In A Hole was a wonderful to film, and actually I ended up filming that back to back with The Witch. I got home for one night after Canada doing The Witch and then I went out to France and shot Couple In A Hole, so it was an intense five months for me, because both characters were on the edge of starvation, and I was on a very strict diet for months to accomplish that look. By the time I got to film in Couple In A Hole I was already in an intense place from Katherine in The Witch. Which helped me a lot. So I just continued on that path, it was another mother grieving under a very different circumstance, and a very different century, but at the core of them, it was a mother that had lost a child. I was lucky enough to work with Paul Higgins, who is one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with. Him and Ralph Ineson. I was so lucky to work with both of them. Paul was great, Tom was great. It was a shoot out in France, with a Belgium director, two Scottish actors, and French actors, the crew were French, Portuguese, Italian. So it was a really lovely bag, and this is what worries me about Britain leaving Europe, and what will happen to EU funded films. That beautiful experience, a story that is universal which can be told by lots of people coming together from all over the place, telling this beautiful story. It was a really special experience. Karen is another one! Karen, Katherine, Jackie, they all kind of hang around me, and come with me wherever I go.
You've been nominated for BIFA and BAFTA awards for best actress in Couple In A Hole, so how rewarding is that for you, and if you can, what do you think it is that they liked so much about you in this performance? A lovely, lovely surprise. It’s not something you think about at all when you’re working or making films, or playing characters. What excites me about these things, is because Couple In A Hole is a budget movie, and quite a specific art house indie. So from that I did think maybe a few more people will watch it, or hear about, and go “what’s that”, because Couple In A Hole is up for best film as well, and I know it’s up against films like I, Daniel Blake, which is an incredible movie, it’s so good, and American Honey, which is another brilliant movie. So it’s just lovely, for Couple In A Hole to be there, because I think it might reach a bigger audience, and that for me is the kind of exciting thing about it, and it’s just lovely for something like that to happen.
What else can we expect to see from you as we head towards 2017? I did a TV movie in the Czech Republic earlier this year called Landgericht, and it’s based on a German book, which was really big in Germany, and it was directed by a really lovely director who was called Matthias Glasner, who is really great. I played Ian McElhinney’s wife Mary. Now Ian McElhinney is in Game of Thrones as well, but we never met on it. So it was really nice to play his wife, and he is a fantastic actor. I had a small part in it, but I really enjoyed working on it. I did end up doing a few interesting shorts this year as well. I worked with a really interesting guy called Robin Lee, who’s an artist, a painter, and he got in contact last year because he wanted to paint my portrait. He was doing a series of actors and he painted my portrait, and we became friends. He wrote a small short, and I did it with him as well as Roger Evans who is also a great actor. I’ve done interesting shorts and that. I’m not sure what else is coming up, we’ll wait and see what happens!
So how did you first get into acting? I fell into acting whilst training to be a kinesiologist at Otago University. I needed to do some extra humanity papers as part of my degree and was told drama was an easier paper than say English literature. The head of the course suggested I had some talent and could look at attending The National Drama school, with the view that it could be a good tool if I ever decided to teach physical education. I did so I graduated from drama school and have been acting ever since.
Can you tell us about your time working on Braindead, and what do you think it is that made it such a cult film? Directly after that film I was doing a theatre show written by Stephen Sinclear, who co-wrote Braindead with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. During the run Peter came back stage to ask wether I would consider playing the character Void in his zombie movie. An actor had pulled out at the last minute and they needed a quick answer. I read the script and jumped to be in it. It was and still is one of my most enjoyable film experiences. There was a small budget and a relatively small crew, and we all had to work together to pull the film off. And of course for me it was the beginning of a long line of very fortunate experiences working for and with Peter and Fran and their "family" of film makers. What I think makes it such a cult classic is the humour, the slapstick, and the absolute genius of the special effects guru's Richard Taylor and Tania Rogers who then along with Peter and his Editor friend Jamie Selkirk Created Weta Workshop, in its current form. And of course Peterâ€™s vision as a Director.
How would you say the working relationship between you and him has grown/changed over the years? I would like to think we are still those same two people as we were back in the day. I love working for and with him more than any other person. He has faith that no matter what he throws my way, I will give it my all. And of course I believe the same of him. There is now however a short hand, in the way he knows that I have an inherent understanding of his process. For instance I keep very fit, knowing he expects his actors to attempt to do a lot of their own physical parts. I also know now, that he expects his actors to create a character that works for them. He and Fran and Phillipa give very detailed character backgrounds for their actors to draw upon, but the actor needs to make descisions from those briefs and turn up ready to play. Peter is a great tweaker, and he knows how to steer an actor towards the character arc he is after. Knowing this I always come prepared to "freewill" as it were. He expects hard work, and being a farmers son I like to work hard. so we get along well
How did you get the parts of Sharku & Snaga in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and can you tell us a bit about your time playing those characters? In late 1998 I had taken a theatre show called Skin Tight to the Edinburgh Festival. The show won a Fringe First and we transfered it to the New End theatre in Hampstead London. While I was there I recieved an e-mail from Richard Taylor telling me that The Lord Of the Rings had been green lit and that there would possibly be work on the film for me. Knowing that I had done prosthetics on Braindead and Heavenly Creatures they were looking to get me into the creature side of the shoot. A lot of the casting descisions came down to the physical sculpture of my face. I have pronounced cheek bones and am lean and wirey, very orc like. Also he knew as did Peter that I love a physical challenge. I was built to play those parts, and so I was cast. I also am a very competent horse rider and so, mixed playing those parts with being a black rider and various Rohan including a captain in the extended version of The Two Towers in the scene where Eomer finds Theodreds dying body. I also Played an elf and various other featured orcs
Can you tell us about the makeup process for characters like Sharku/Snaga? There was a highly skilled team of prothetics artists working on the films and they along with the sculptures at Weta came up with some amazing casts. Snaga was a four hour make up session, and was very close to my actual facial features. It was, and is still I think, my favourite design. I would get to work early, maybe four in the morning to be ready to shoot by 8 or 9. Sharku however was a very complex set of foam latex facial pieces and nine layers of body paint. The entire process took 7-7 and a half hours to apply. This meant very early starts for me and a team of 4-5 artists, a very long day and a one and a half hour de-rig. My team were amazing and included such artists as Dominie Till, Gino acedevo and Tami Lane who went on to score an Oscar for the Narnia films. I was very well looked after, the movement was difficult for sharku too, and I think it was the most challenging part I have played. But well worth the effort. I want to draw particular attention to the fact that without my team, I could not have performed as I did. They were and are exceptional people. I am forever thankful for their kindness and artistry .
How did you end up returning to Middle-Earth as Nori in The Hobbit, and how did you approach playing this awesome character? I was lucky enough to work on the mocap stage doing previs for the Hobbit late in 2010. There were around six actors playing dwarves and trolls and elves etc, so that Peter and his team could work out how to shoot certain scenes. I also helped the casting team working as a reader for the auditions in NZ. I was then asked if I would head up a team to train the scale doubles as a movement coach. I thought this would be my job on these films. I was a shocked as anyone to be offered the role of Nori. I really thought I was physically wrong, how wrong I was to be. When my agent rang to tell me I was in shock, I was overwhelmed and vasilated between laughter, loud shouting and the occassional weeping. My family were away and I was home alone. I was of course not allowed to tell anyone. It still chokes me up thinking just what an amazing moment it was. I was going to revisit an old friend, I was returning to Middle Earth. It was and is the very highlight of my short career. From day one at the studio, we were given incredible back stories to our dwarven families. We were asked to come up with Ideas as to what weapons we might employ. Shown detailed designs from the staff at Weta workshop and Wets digital, and of course the amazing Allan Lee and John Howe. we had boot camp, physical training coaches, stunt rehursals and horse riding, fight training and movement coaching. we bonded as men and we bonded as dwarves. We became a fellowship, much as the actors on Lord Of the Rings had. Peter gave me one gem of a back story, Nori had light fingers. He liked to pocket other peoples possessions, and he was a loner. These two little "hooks" became the beginnings of my portrayal. I always looked for the exit on a set, a back door or window. It gave me my base if you like.
The barrel scene in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is incredilbe to watch. So can you tell us a bit about that scene, as well as what it was like to put together? We shot both in a real river and on an amazing wet set which was a circular river built specifically for this scene. The water was moved around by a very powerful V8 engine turbine. The river scenes were shot in the peloris river just outside of Nelson and they had specially constructed barrels made with keels bulit into the bottom and rubber inner tubes inside for extra floatation. There was a safety wire just below the surface to guide us into the current and away from danger and safety divers and stunt crew on hand. It was a joy, much of our time was spent being very hot in our costumes but it was bliss. A lot of fun was had trying to get out of the barrels on cue, on the wet set it was like being on a Disney ride, at least for us, not so much for poor Martin Freeman, who was greatly offended that none of us seemed to get out of the water to go to the loo! Enough said. Also he was not in a barrel so it was a bit more dangerous for him. Martin was up for it though, a true trooper. You can see at times we are having way too much fun, especially Aiden Turner. There was a lot of pretending to fight invisible orcs as well. Finally we had barrels on wheels on the dry set for some of the close up fight moments, this was hilarious, like very cheep Daleks. we pushed ourselves around like the flintstones with our feet. Very very strange times, but effective.
Can you tell us about some further highlights that you have from filming The Hobbit trilogy? The many food fights. The long marathon that was scene 88 running away from the wargs. The hilarity of being on the spit in troll shore. I personally loved being in Bag End. All of the amazing sets we got to work on, especially Erebor. It was amazing. Fighting and running from the dragon. The hours of behind the scenes carry on. The everlasting friendships that exist still to this day. That final scene from the first film getting dropped from the eagles and the spontanious group hug with Martin as we completed priciple photography. The tears, the laughter, the parties and that amazing Wellington Premier where 100,000 people turned out to welcome us to their hearts. There are just too many. I miss my fellows and it is hard to do the experience justice. Words cannot, but let us just say all of us were changed for the better for the experience. We were the lucky few and we bloody well know it.
What was it like to work in the Sci-Fi world for District 9? I was only required for one day of filming for District 9 and that was in Wellington. I had been competing at the Masters Surf Life Saving nationals in Gisborne New Zealand and got a call to ask how was my South African accent. I thought it was pretty good. They asked me if I could be in Wellington at 6 am the next day, and if I drove through the night I could. I met Neil and he described the scene, there was a lot of adlibs about the aliens abilities with technology, their particular affinity with sleel and their appearence as prawns. That line is the only one to survive the edit along with my interogation of the bug..."what are your weapons...how do we access your ship?” etc. However he was amazing and I again felt very privilaged to be in it, however briefly.
How did you get the part of The Dagda Mor in The Shannara Chronicles, and what do you enjoy the most about playing that character? I have to admit to a certain reticence about playing this character. Another long makeup session, long days, and a completely made up language. But the design was exquisite, and i knew it would be a challenge. I approached the audition like Darth Vadar, the power of one who stands alone and comands others before finally confronting his enemies once they expose themselves. Terry's books are fantastic and the writers gave me great moments as did the producers and directors. I loved the final result, and it is one of my favorite characters now. I got to choose my own arc and as an actor that is a rare gift like the two Middle Earth triologies it is high drama with incredible attention to the visual effects. And again a great makeup team headed by the wonderful Shay Lawrence. Can’t wait for sesson two!
What else can we expect to see from you as we head towards 2017? Right now I am filming a Docodrama in Wellington based on American frontier history...and that’s all I can say about that. Muskets and horses and dust and blood...bring it on. A western, a Sci-Fi, a period drama, The Shannara Chronicles, and others. There’s many irons in the fire and nothing confirmed except to say it will possibly be my busiest year ever. Fingers crossed.
How did you become the body double for Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix, and what was it like to work on a project of this scale? I was kind of in the right place at the right time. I was sent down to audition by an agent. Production were looking for doubles who not only were the same height as Daniel (who was 5ft 5 and aged 17 at the time), but who were very physical performers too.
You spent a lot of time up in the air on the hydraulic broomstick system, so did you ever worry about the danger that might come with the job role? Thatâ€™s right. I was used to block out the broomstick flying scenes. You sit on the broom about 30ft up in the air in a bucket seat, which is hidden under the costume with a seat belt. The preprogramed hydraulic system throws you around a bit, while the camera pans around and a crew member blows air at you to make the costume flap. Daniel would then come over from another stage he was working on, watch the playback of moves we had created and then they would film him doing them. I never felt in danger. I was always under the complete protection of the amazing stunt team they had. It was a really fun job.
You've said that working on 'The Deaths of Ian Stone' ultimately led to a film career as a creature performer, so can you tell us about that project, and elaborate on how it became such a defining point for you? This was the first job I wore prosthetics. Full body prosthetics by the legendary Stan Winston Studio. 'The Deaths of Ian Stone' was a film that Stan was producing. I think it may have been the last one he did produce before he died in 2008. He unfortunately wasn't on set, but his company confidant Shane Mahon was. I basically spent a week with Shane, probably driving him insane with questions about prosthetic makeup, his work on Predator, Aliens and Terminator. He was great. Willing to answer anything I asked, recommending old creature features I may not have seen and turning me on to great character actors in makeups over the years. I learnt a lot on this film about what it takes to perform under makeup effects and having Stan Winston studio on my CV definitely helped in getting my first proper creature performing role.
Your first creature performing role was on Clash of the Titans, so can you tell us about that, as well as what you remember the most from working on this film? I was recommended to Creatures Inc (who were providing the makeup effects for the film). I went in for a full body and head cast at the start of production. They use this to make a mold of my body for the artists to sculpt the prosthetic pieces on that I will be wearing. I would then return for a few test fittings over the following months. On the filming days I was up at about 3am to go in and sit for the long makeup session. It was about five hours in the makeup chair and then I had to perform in the outside water tank at Pinewood studios. It was very mentally and physically exhausting, but a great test to see if this really was a job for me.
How did you end up becoming the visual effect double for skinny Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger, and what did you bring to this important part of the plot? I was called and asked to go in and audition because of my doubling work on Harry Potter. I ended up being the original template for Skinny Steve in the pre-production VFX head replacement tests. They covered my face in orange dots and I carried out some interaction scenes with actors for the CGI team to be able to create the head replacement effect. I was also on set for the recruitment scene as a CGI visual reference, but body double duties for the rest of production were carried out by stage actor Leander Deeny. I still had very little on my CV at this point and production were very honest with me about their intention to bring in a stage actor at some point. I'm just grateful I was a small part of the character's creation in some way.
You were a stunt performer on Kingsman: The Secret Service, so what was that like, and as it was a stunt then how did it compare to anything you'd done before? That was a crazy two weeks and a great scene in the movie. Stunt performer might be over stating it a bit. Those guys are the real deal. I was brought in under the guidance of the stunt team as an additional performer to stage the fight amongst them. I remember being shown the previz of the scene before hand and thinking "no way all that brutality is going to be on the screen. That's insane!". The scene in the film ended up being pretty much what I saw, just minus a couple of impalings.
How did you end up becoming a part of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and how did the character of Varmik come to life? Martin Rezard, who is an incredible creature concept designer and makeup artist, suggested me to Neal Scanlan (the head of cfx) as a good addition to the creature performer team they were putting together. I'd worked with Martin on Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: The Dark World. I'll be forever grateful to him for what turned out to be such an amazing opportunity in my life. Varmik was sculpted by Ivan Manzella for The Force Awakens and is based on the classic Ralph McQuarrie cantina concept art from 1975. J.J. Abrams loves that image and wanted to bring the character to life on screen. The suit itself was made in much the same way as Chewbacca's fur costume by Vanessa Bastyan and her incredible fabrication team. The creature head was fully animatronic. There would be one of the creature crew off to the side of the set looking at a monitor, operating the eyes and snarl, while I operated the opening of the mouth with my chin inside the head and of course provided the body movement. I highly recommend the really great behind the scenes videos on The Force Awakens blu ray, which show how all these amazing creatures were brought to life.
What was the most memorable moment for you, from being a part of such a huge franchise? So many, but I think the top of the list is being in such a great scene with Han Solo. Does it get any better than that as a Star Wars fan?
What's the hardest part about what you do? I'm very grateful that I get to do what I do, but it can be quite hard to get used to the very early call times, the tedious amounts of time hanging around and waiting, the heat, the cold, the gunk. But it's a small price to pay to do something I love so much.
What else can we expect to see from you as we head towards 2017? I have a couple of really good creature roles coming up, which unfortunately I can't say anything about at the moment. The best place to find out soon is my twitter https://twitter.com/paulRwarren or website http://www.paulwarren.actor
What was your first major project, and what do you remember the most from that time? About a year after leaving drama school, I was cast as Alex the lead role in a touring production of A Clockwork Orange. It was an amazing and challenging experience. You have to remember that at that time the film was still withdrawn so there was an audience desperate to go and see the theatrical production. One of the most amazing things I remember being told after doing the show, was when a fan of the book came up to me and said he was about to re-read the book and now he would imagine me as Alex - wow mind blown.
How did you end up becoming a death eater in the Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2? I got the part of the train stopping Deatheater in the usual way. The casting director for Harry Potter sent out a casting breakdown to various agents, my agent submitted me, the casting director liked my look and called me in for a meeting. At that meeting, I had to tell them a story about a time I had played a scary character - and luckily I had lots to choose from! Several weeks later it was confirmed that I was going to be a Deatheater and a second meeting was arranged, this time with the director David Yates. He asked me to do the train stopping arm raise in his office, it was hilarious, and a few weeks later it was confirmed that I would be playing the train stopping Deatheater. I don't think I realised at that point how much a part of my life that character would become.
Can you tell us what the sets were like to be a part of in the Harry Potter world? The sets on Harry Potter were absolutely spectacular, a whole bunch of incredibly talented artists and creative people were employed to design, build, paint and dress these lavish manifestations from the world of Harry Potter.
Can you tell us about the costume process for this character? I think I had three costume fittings. The first one was simply to get all of my measurements. Then the second visit, once the costume had been started, was where further measurements and adjustments were made. Then there was a third and final visit at which point I realised just how incredibly fabulous my Deatheater costume was. That silk cloak from shoulder to ground swishing as I moved - again wow mind blown! An interesting point, you may notice that the cuffs scoop down over the backs of my hands. This was to hide henna tattoos that I still had from a previous film shoot.
How did the idea for Predator Dark Ages come to fruition? Writer director James Bushe and DOP Simon Rowling had the idea and I was up for it immediately (Knights & a predator what's not to love right). They ran a kickstarter campaign to raise funds.
What attracted you to the part of Richard? I had worked with director and writer James Bush on a previous shoot and he mentioned that he had a mediaeval project that I may be interested in, and asked if I enjoyed action roles. I answered that I did. I think everyone who heard about Predator Dark Ages immediately wanted to be attached because it was just such a cool concept. I was very excited that I got to ride a horse and also be killed in possibly the coolest way of any of my (many) onscreen deaths.
How did you end up working on Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV? The producers hired a casting director who broke down the script and then posted casting information to various agents. Luckily for me I had the kind of face they were after for King Regis, although at the time I had no idea what I was auditioning for - as you can imagine there was an awful lot of secrecy around this project. I remember I had to attend two castings and pull a lot of faces! Every single day working on this film was amazing. As you know the character was created through motion capture and as a lover of technology I found working in the high-tech environment of mocap to be incredibly exhilarating. On top of that to be employed as an actor in such a high-profile film meant I was simply having the time of my life. There was a highlight though - the moment I was asked to also do motion capture for Arden Izunia took my excitement to a whole new level. It's one of my favourite scenes in the movie, when Arden turns up to speak to Regis, and I'm very proud to be the mocap actor behind both of those characters for that entire scene.
What was it like to be Father Flanagan in Curse of the Witching Tree, and how does this film compare to anything else you've done before? Father Flanagan was a lovely character to play as I don't often get cast as sympathetic, normal characters. The roles I play are usually extreme in some way, often violent or scary or both, so it made a nice change to just play a local family priest who is concerned for one of his congregation. Working with James and we did the whole thing in half a day.
What was it like to be Suko in the Sci-Fi world that Narcopolis created? This was a very exciting shoot as Suko appears in the final climactic scenes of the film and is integral to a very exciting moment. Not only that, but as an actor I got to work alongside Jonathan Pryce & Robert Bathhurst so it was a very special shoot for me and the final result is a pretty magnificent British time travel Sci-Fi thriller.
Can you tell us about what it was like to work with Floris Ramaekers on Sleeping Dogs, and what was the hardest part about playing Roy? Floris is an incredibly talented director, a real actors director who also understands how a film should look, so really the best of both worlds. I would love to work with him again as he really brought out a great performance from me as Roy. I guess the most difficult bit about playing Roy was doing so little, his power comes fron his stilness and by doing so little as an actor you can feel like a cheat!
What was it like to work on Max Payne: Retribution, and can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from this short? Working on Max Payne was a lot of fun, it was a night shoot which is always exciting, staying up to film when the rest of the world has gone to bed! It is going to be an incredibly exciting short. Leroy and Chloe are the driving forces behind this fan film, and they are incredibly driven and incredibly talented - keep your eyes peeled, Payne is coming!!
What can we expect to see from you as we head towards 2017? Gosh it's hard to say. I filmed a few cameos in a few good feature films this year, so hopefully those will be popping up soon. Max Payne: Retribution is set for release in 2017 and a couple of projects that I can't talk about as always should hopefully be released in 2017 too. I'm hoping to do even more Comic Con's next year, possibly even outside of the UK, that would be nice as there are some amazing Con's around the world and it would be great to meet Final Fantasy and Harry Potter fans from other countries. The best way to find out is to follow me on Twitter, Instagram or on my Facebook page.
Can you tell us about the motion capture process? What's that like, and for an actor, how does it contribute towards the whole process? As I mentioned earlier I love doing motion capture. It's incredibly challenging as an actor and also very rewarding. I think one of the difficulties actors find when doing it for the first time is that you are very very very aware you are wearing a mocap suit including a helmet and working in a mocap environment. Therefore it can be hard to immerse yourself in the characters thoughts and feelings, and the characters world. Luckily I was able to overcome this hindrance fairly quickly and just accept the uncomfortableness of the mocap equipment, and then forget it. Once I had done that I was able to concentrate on just being Regis and was able to realise that this was much more like theatre acting than film acting as there are no cameras, no reverse shots, no lights to move, just a group of actors and a large empty space just like in the theatre. Once I had these two realisations it just clicked, and for the third time, wow mind blown.
So how was Mammothfest 2016 for you? The BEST ever! And I’m not just saying that. We have struggled for years and whilst we have always made progress, this year we totally nailed it. Selling out the Sunday and almost hitting capacity at every other show was just amazing. Most importantly for us, our customers had a great time and the feedback after the weekend has been amazing!
What were some of your highlights of the festival? Having Abaddon (Drummer of Venom Inc) sit on my knee for over twenty minutes during their interview back stage was a magic moment for me. They are such funny humble honest guys. I must confess though I have been to the doctors twice since, for having developed a flat foot and “Abaddonitis” in my right leg but I daren’t ask him to get off me even though you can see during the interview that I’m starting to go blue! The moment I will never forget was when the whole MAMMOTHFEST team (over 25 of us now) got up on stage at Concorde 2 at the end of their (Venoms) performance with an almost sold out crowd cheering the team and revelling in what had been an exceptional day for all. We always said we would bring the biggest bands in the world to Brighton so to be delivering on this promise is insane!
Impressively this year was almost a complete sell out, how did this make you feel? Happy is an understatement. We are humble people that have started at the bottom and have worked tirelessly, for the love, without pay as volunteers (everything is reinvested in to growth) to make these shows happen. So to see the response from the crowds, to read the social media feedback AND see Demolition man (Venom inc Bassist/singer) get a MAMMOTHFEST tattoo on the back of his neck a few days after our weekend sums it up for us. What an honour.
You have a lot to be proud of, managing to get some of the biggest headliners (Venom Inc, Textures, Conan) to date this year, as well as holding the festival at bigger venues such as Concorde 2, how hard was it to organise all this, and how do you feel post event having achieved this? Thank you very much. I prefer to look at it that we as a team have a lot to be proud of; after all I simply could not do it by myself. Rain or shine our street team are out promoting the event day after day and there are so many other people behind the scenes doing their bit to ensure we are successful. I do try to remind them all just how important they all are so I would like to take this opportunity to salute the Mammothfest team who are all incredible.
Unfortunately you had one big issue on the opening day, which luckily didn’t spoil the festival, being that Heart Of A Coward had to pull out last minute due to their van breaking down, how did you feel at the time and will they be playing at Mammothfest in the future to make up for this? Shit happens. It’s far from ideal but the fact they pulled out of Euroblast too showed their situation was quite serious so to be honest I was more concerned that they were OK. Sure it’s not nice having to announce to a hungry crowd that one of the bands they came to see was unable to perform but people understand it was not Mammothfest’s fault and we are already talking to them about a replacement show so people can expect them to play Brighton in 2017. Watch this space!
Following Mammothfest, being the fourth festival you have held, you are growing in success and reputation, why do you think Mammothfest is so important to the South Coast music scene, and why do you think Brighton is a good place to hold a festival? Mammothfest has become a goal for many bands just like the other big festivals so the bands are really behind what we do. Also there is no other (extreme) Metal festival on the south coast and to be honest asides from London there is very little in the south generally. People are frustrated with having to travel for hours to Download and Bloodstock so we feel our events provide a local price friendly alternative. We select bands that are not playing the big festivals too and our hand selecting the best emerging artists in the world ensures quality bands all day making our Brighton metal festival the place to be in October on the annual metal calendar!
So Bleed Again who played at the Rikstock stage for emerging artists recorded a music video for their new song, â€˜Through The Fireâ€™ at the festival which is awesome. How honoured were you to have them decide to record this at the festival? These guys continue to rise at an incredible rate; their work ethic is second to none and with label interest and some big shows such as supporting Soil at Concorde 2, Heart of a Coward and Feed the Rhino and more in 2017 it is only a matter of time for these guys. Brighton is their home, their fan base is utterly loyal and so it made sense for them to do a new music video at Mammothfest. I have already seen the video. It sums up their high energy live performance so I highly recommend you all LIKE their page and keep an eye out for their new videos and album which are all due to drop over the next 6 months!
As a festival you take pride in supporting the underground and emerging bands which is extremely evident, how important do you think it is for these bands to play at festivals like Mammothfest? I donâ€™t think people really understand how important their personal roles are in the metal industry. If we and a few other festival directors decided to stop there would be no metal festivals. It literally requires people to get off their backsides and make it happen. We recognise the importance of doing our bit. It is the same as music fans, we buy bands music whenever we can. If we did not bands would split up, we would eventually have no music. Older bands are hanging up their guitars. Who will be our future headliners? We provide valuable experience to the growing bands so we have future world dominators and if we can say in 20 years that some of those UK bands we helped are there now then it would make us very proud indeed!
Incredibly Tony Dolan of Venom Inc decided to get a Mammothfest tattoo after their headline performance at the festival, what was your reaction when you heard this? I still am unsure what to say about this. What the hell is going on!? The guy is an absolute legend in the world metal scene so for him to get a Mammothfest tattoo on his neck is off the scale. We may not be the biggest metal festival YET but we certainly are making strong waves in the scene when people we have looked up to for years do things like this. Again our team should be very proud. I for one am very proud of them and all we are achieving.
Is there anything else you would like to add or tell us about your future aspirations? I think the main thing is for people to understand the blood sweat and beers we as Mammothfest, put into each show. We break ourselves trying to put on the best shows we can and it shows from the feedback we are now getting. If you live in the UK and the south especially come along and check our events out. They may not be massive yet but as far as indoor festivals go we consider ourselves to be the best as is also reflected by the fact we have again been shortlisted to the 10 top small and metropolitan festivals for 2016. There is a vibe at our shows you do not get anywhere else. We come together like family and invite you all reading to come join us and see what all the fuss is about!
What can we expect at Mammothfest 2017? Quite simply bigger bands, bigger venues, we will continue to grow our vibe, we will sell out in advance in 2017 with the line up we have and we will win best small and metropolitan festivals 2017 because we have a few surprises in store for our customers that go beyond being just a metal festival. If you want to know more please all take a moment to LIKE our Mammothfest Facebook page to keep up to date with announcements!
Korn - The Serenity of Suffering They have been going for over two decades and still show no signs of slowing down. This is their twelfth release, which comes three years after the strong offering and comeback of original guitarist, Brian ‘Head’ Welch with ‘The Paradigm Shift’ which was largely well received. Luckily with this new release, they cunningly return to form, and feature elements of all the best works rolled into one, but still with something a bit extra.To get things started is ‘Insane’ which certainly embraces the context and hits hard in true Korn fashion whilst igniting something different, with brilliant stomping mosh inducing instruments paired with powerful emotive harsh vocals, you couldn’t ask for a better start… First single, ‘Rotting In Vain’ blasts out with tortured crazed characteristic vocals from Jonathan Davis, as well as some moments where he loses his shit, making this one of the best songs, aided by an immense chorus and creepy vibes throughout, created through guitar tones and effects - the whole package is one glorious damaged dark offering. ‘A Different World’ features another member of one of the original champions of nu metal, being the one and only, Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour). It at times is reminiscent of ‘Twisted Transistor’ and also of In Flames with a heavy ambience, which Corey contributes to with angered vocals. This is a perfect example of them mashing all their previous sounds into one but adding in a new fresh perspective. Again continuing this, latest single, ‘Take Me’ ironically takes you back to the ‘Untouchables’ era with a storming attitude. ‘Everything Falls Apart’ starts with a haunting beautiful vocal intro and is largely ambient throughout. However towards the end it goes full blown mental especially through the vocal contradictions, again displaying Korn’s signature style. This marks the bands most intense and heaviest offering in a long time and combine that with the fact that they use the best of each Korn album and merge it all into ‘The Serenity of Suffering’ with a new vibe running through it also, this is simply Korn at their best and they show that after all this time they still can impress and create something that is relevant and influential. CL
Sloppy Joe’s - Eight Reasons To Rock Named after a burger known for being messy yet delicious - Sloppy Joe’s are then somehow the most accurately named band on the planet. The punk-rock band from America’s third album ‘Eight Reasons to Rock’ is a weird blend of heartfelt lyrics, distorted punk guitars, and even a Mariah Carey cover… Starting the 8 track album with a cliché 50s rock ‘n’ roll song playing over an old radio, the average listener unbeknownst to the band will definitely be confused by ‘Diana’- before the raucous guitars and the melodically deep vocals establish Sloppy Joe’s as a punk rock band bearing resemblance to a younger Good Charlotte. With ‘Eight Reasons to Rock’ being the third instalment to Joe’s catalogue, it’s clear they’re a band that knows who and what they are. With heartfelt lyrics of loneliness of the love interest in ‘Diana’ countered with the aggressive and demonic ‘Eat Sloppy Joes’ delivered to a point Avenged Sevenfold would be proud to call it their own. Sloppy Joe’s have created a sound within their tracks from the album that establish themselves as a band who can go all out with an epic guitar solo, embracing their inner Slash on tracks like ‘Eat Sloppy Joe’s’ but know when to hold back on tracks like ‘Diana’, where it would have been too much. It’s the cover tracks that show the true diversity of the punk-rockers however, as Mariah Carey’s ‘Without You’ is given a Sloppy makeover whereas The Ramones ‘Sheena Is a Punk Rocker’, the latter remaining as true to the original as possible. ‘Without You’ is a chance for the range of vocals to be showcased as the distortion is almost nowhere to be seen. Before anyone gets teary eyed and starts singing about what they want for Christmas however, a raunchy distorted riff kicks in as ‘Make Some Noise’ sends the album out in style. Combining the elements of the vocal range, enticing guitar solos and aggressive bass driven tracks, ‘Eight Reasons to Rock’ is an album which experiments with ingredients for a tasty recipe. NS
I Prevail - Lifelines Since their formation in 2013 this American post-hardcore band have been making a name for themselves, releasing their debut EP, ‘Heart Vs Mind’ in January 2015 and receiving good press, signing to Fearless Records and their popularity is only increasing following an unlikely cover of ‘Blank Space’ by pop star Taylor Swift. Now they are ready to cement their spot in their hardcore scene with their anticipated debut album. Opener and first single is the scorching, ‘Scars’ which has heaps of ambience and atmosphere, aided largely by electronic sounds and varied effective vocals, both clean and fierce screams, all wrapped around in a consuming melody, giving it a huge sound and leaving massive expectations for what lies ahead to keep up the momentum. Also released as a single up next is, ‘Stuck In Your Head’ which is more upbeat and infectiously catchy, being more mainstream sounding than the opener, it has a great anthemic feel and ironically this will most likely be “stuck in your head” due to this. Title track ‘Lifelines’ features some of the best vocals so far, from the clean variations Brian Burkheiser offers, and the contradictory harsh powerful vocals from Eric Vanlerberghe. The whole song is tangled in strong rhythms and far reaching melodies. This is one lifeline that you will want in your life. Another single, ‘Come And Get It’ has strong driving heavy riffs and sees Eric truly shine with his fierce vocals, the overall sound and structure of this song has nu metal roots – a great mosh worthy one to let loose too. ‘Alone’ shows a different and more emotional stripped back sound to what we have seen throughout and helps change pace and pull at the heart strings, whereas the extremely bouncy and atmospheric tension building, ‘Pull The Plug’ is a hard hitting track in another sense. This debut shines with its melodical depth which will pleasantly surprise all, and this makes it irresistible. With a solid and exciting debut under their belts, they have a very strong future ahead. I’m not sure hardcore should be quite this catchy, but that’s what makes it stand out, and through the great use of electronics it really lifts the songs to an extra depth. It is also very well crafted and beaming with energy and hope, something which can be lacking in this genre. Their reputation and success is surely set to soar after this! CL
Tiebreaker - Death Tunes This Norwegian rock ‘n’ roll act have earnt quite the reputation since forming in 2011 and releasing their first LP ‘We Come From The Mountains’ which went down a storm and showed off their fine mastered sound, now they are back to stun with their sophomore album, ominously titled, ‘Death Tunes’… First we are greeted by ‘Hell’ which breaks us in lightly and charms with vibrant sounds and slick bluesy riffs. The effects such as sirens help add extra character and depth before the strong gravelly vocals come in. ‘Hell’ has never seemed so tempting. Vocalist Thomas Karlsen has the perfect vocal tones and demeanour to sing classic rock n roll and this is especially evident in the dynamic ‘Pan American Grindstore’, whilst ‘Cannonball’ swings straight to it with a great upbeat swagger and sweet melodies and guitar riffs that are memorable throughout. ‘The Deep’ has a more serious tone with all-consuming emotive and impressive vocals with the perfect musical backdrop for the right effect and drama. This has exceptional composition and skill running through it…‘Killer’ screams into action with sonic charged riffs which drive it before a chilled stripped back raw drum track accompanies and gravelly soulful vocals caress the powerful instruments. This has an interesting organic energy and innovative drums, something which translates well on the entire album. To close we have the epic and melancholic ‘Heavy Lifting’, although it is sombre, it is beautiful and vulnerable with minimal instruments for the most part, highlighting the brilliant vocals more so, which have you hanging on to every note and drifting off with the melodies. This is seriously groovy Norwegian rock ‘n’ roll that you need in your life, which is simply outstanding. It is a diverse and fiery offering, aided with soulful hard and southern rock tones running through it. It features delicate emotive moments to extremely gritty - there is a hell of a lot of passion and talent displayed here, with such precision and flair, this is a crushing release which must be heard. CL
Avenged Sevenfold - The Stage Three years after ‘Hail To The King’ they take things up to a new level, or should I say a new “stage”. This is some of their best inspiring and most innovative work yet, with superb instrumentation, and also their longest offering to date also, giving it an extra epic feel and finish. This new album is the first to introduce us to their new drummer Brooks Wacker (former drummer of Bad Religion). Opening and title track, ‘The Stage’ feels like an appropriate entrance and is dramatic and suspenseful with a strange intro that sounds like it’s malfunctioning, before slick melodic guitar licks swoop in and carry it seamlessly through to the end. Taking a different direction, the thrash inspired ‘God Damn’ bombards with a speedy ferocious shred section and melodic hard hitting rhythms. This is one of the most impressive displays of guitar work, both acoustically and electrically, from Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance and it helps to add extra texture and depth in what is one of their most intense and heaviest offerings. Keeping up the theme with ‘Creating God’ it keeps us guessing, as it shows off another vocal style that we aren’t used to. As always it features exceptional guitar, and the whole song is a stripped back exploration of other genres. The next song ‘Angels’ continues this new direction, being very sombre with great tones, that help create an all surrounding presence which is fitting. ‘Simulation’ messes with you, quickly changing pace and tempo in a blistering speed, in contrast the verses are chilled and minimal with nice effects and tones to compliment before being taken over by manic sounds, like an inner battle with yourself. ‘Higher’ shows off new drummer Brooks dynamic style particularly well, and is very dramatic and progressive again highlighting another innovative side to the band. ‘The Stage’ certainly is worthy of taking the limelight and being paraded to the masses, as it is stunningly composed and crafted, being impressive in length and ambition, with their new drummer Brooks adding to their new inspired dynamics. This is without a doubt their most broad expansion of the metal genre. CL
The Foul English - Self-titled The Foul English are four Dads who play the classic style of punk rock they grew up with, who brand their sound as ‘Dadcore’. Despite their name they are from Calgary, Canada and they decided in 2014 that they wouldn’t let mundane life or fatherhood slow them down, instead they revisited the 1970s/1980s era of punk and worked on their own take on it, with their debut self-titled album being the end result. They are on top form and precision with the rough opener, ‘Switchblade Tattoo’ which truly captures the raw punk fun spirited vibe. ‘Save Our City’ is more angsty with brilliant gang vocals, making for a memorable rock anthem, with a great guitar solo to add extra punch. ‘Hold Fast’ opens with driving riffs and blasts out great rhythms and melodies in this infectious feel good fast number. The greatly titled, ‘Used To Be A Ripper’ highlights strong guitar work again before growled attitude laced vocals churn out, with a group effort for the chorus, this is a stand out track for sure. Capturing their essence and core is the superb, ‘Dadcore’ which is highly charged and fierce with a harsher sound than previously. This is a victorious offering of them doing what they do best and sticking up for what they love in a true rebellious anthem, which acts as the perfect representation of the band. This is a must hear and is sure to rile up some likeminded dads in unison! This is a brilliant blistering classic punk rock album with some hardcore 80s elements in the mix and they have a lot to be proud of for this sterling debut, even creating their very own clever genre. They bring great swagger and gnarly aggression in equal measure with bashful drums, hard hitting catchy chords and riffs, as well as gravelly free spirited infectious vocals. So go and grab yourself a chilled ‘Beer2Go’ and let loose with this perfect soundtrack to the freedom that the weekend brings! These dads show they are made of hard stuff – cheers to Dadcore! CL
Illustr8ors - Self-titled Illustr8ors are a melodic alt rock quartet from Bristol UK who launched earlier this year, and in that short space of time they are already earning a name for themselves, receiving good press and bagging some impressive support slots with the likes of The Temperance Movement, Von Hertzen Brothers, The Answer and more. They came together from the remnants of BlackWolf who were nominated for Best New Band from Classic Rock, so the anticipation and expectations for this rebirth are high indeed, let’s hope their self-titled debut release isn’t a let-down. ‘Your Animal’ kicks off with the hard hitting distinctive hooks, rhythms and unique vocals, quickly demonstrating the weirdly wonderful mannerisms from Scott, who commands a true presence. This is a delightful and refreshing surprise, sounding different and getting the EP of to an exciting start. ‘Something Biblical’ storms along in an urgent fashion with ridiculously melodic instruments. It has it all, from stand out low bass licks, ambient fast riffs, and soaring powerful stand out vocals all wrapped up in a luscious package. To slow things down slightly, ‘Swimming With Anchors’ calms and sooths somewhat but still with striking far reaching vocals, in between softer verses. It possesses tonnes of swagger, atmosphere and grandeur whilst offering something different. Closer ‘Shush Shush’ is an extremely infectious funky upbeat groovy song, especially elevated through the high pitched and unusual vocals. This will stick with you and edge its way into your mind and have a playful dance around before leaving you feeling bemused and content. If you are looking for something a bit different amidst the rock genre, this is a band for you. You will find it hard not to resist their bizarrely brilliant sweet rock ‘n’ roll tunes which are edgy, highly upbeat and over the top in the greatest way. CL
Green Day - Revolution Radio A lot of people probably think Green Day’s best years are behind them. Truly I thought the same thing up until ‘Revolution Radio’. After the first track ‘Somewhere Now’ it’s clear that the pop punk pioneers have found what they’ve been missing for so long. It may begin quite slow and sombre but before long it feels like classic Green Day and the rest of the album carries on in this awesome fashion. The single ‘Bang Bang’ was the best song to release in the run up to this album as it captured the essence of the whole album perfectly. A band that are back to basic pop punk, fast riffs, intense drumming and angsty lyrics. ‘Revolution Radio’ and ‘Bouncing off the Walls’ are like little ‘Dookie’ children giving you a reminder of the good ol’ days of Green Day ‘Say Goodbye’ and ‘Still Breathing’ are very “American Idiot-esque”, the slower (at times) melodies give us an insight into early 2000s Green Day, when their come back was at their best. ‘Young Blood’ is probably one of the best tracks on this album, it is a complete nonsense track about loving a girl. Sounds cliche (because it is) but the lyrics are imaginative and ridiculous at the same time. “She's a loner, not a stoner” and “Supernova, Cherry Cola” these are just non sensical lyrics but with the casual “Woahs” and catchy beat it’s hard not to love. Green Day are legendary, that’s just a fact. Most musicians around today have probably learned half of what these guys have forgotten. It’s amazing that after being around for as long as they have been they still manage to make great music. ‘Revolution Radio’ is definitely one of their best albums of the later years and truly demonstrates how great they are. RO
Skinny Lister - The Devil, The Heart, The Fight I admit to being a little ignorant of Skinny Lister before this popped up on my review list, I’d heard of them but knew nothing of what they sounded like but it’s nice when you hit play and something as good as this is what hits you. I’ve been a fan of folk music since I can’t remember, through various family members I was brought up with numerous styles of it and then I discovered The Pogues which I started a life-long love affair with. Through them I discovered how folk can be transformed, especially when you bring punk into things, perhaps chuck in a bit of Americana into the fold and you’re onto a winner. Which is exactly what Skinny Lister are onto. From the raw energy of ‘Wanted’ they open the album in a big way, it makes for a desire to get up and jump around, the accordion takes its place at the helm of the sound but is backed up well by hard hitting guitars. As hard hitting as it is they have exactly what The Pogues were masters of, bringing a little tenderness into the words and bringing multi layers into the vocals and the backings. ‘Geordie Lad’ continues in the same vein, these are songs that are surely fantastic to hear live, after the slower moments of ‘Devil in Me’, which by the way, is perfectly placed, comes ‘Injuries’ which picks the pace up. When it comes to good folk music, the vocals play a massive part and when done right, have the ability to become another instrument, that is nailed here with melody, poise and more than a little swagger. Skinny Lister are a band that have my attention, this album is top notch, and this band could be huge. AN
Wovenwar - Honour Is Dead Following the implosion of As I Lay Dying, Wovenwar emerged like a beast from the mist and set about making some noise and they certainly succeeded in doing that. Packed full of energy and thunderous aggression Wovenwar are packing a hefty punch with ‘Honor is Dead’. The follow up to 2014s self titled debut, continues with their metalcore roots and expands upon it making a richer, fuller record. It has the feel of a band that are hitting their stride and finds them bringing more depth and creativity to the sound, ‘Confession’ opens proceedings in a familiar way, with a massive chorus and the title track, with its breakdowns and roars back to life showing off some great dynamics. The melody among the carnage is well executed with ‘Lines in the Sand’, the vocals move between clean and screamed well, never relying heavily on either style and times the changes very well. The timings on the whole record are done very well. There is never really enough time to get too comfortable, the variety in the songs makes each one interesting in its own way, each time fresh and heavy in different ways. Wovenwar will make a big mark with this album, the debut was going to be tough to follow but ‘Honor is Dead’ does that and in many ways surpasses it with a far more complete and diverse album. AN
The Answer - Solas A band that have always released strong music, The Answer now have what could be the album of their career. Straight from the sinister, brooding opening, this is very different to what they have done before. ‘Solas’ is very proggy and finds Cormac Neeson’s vocal giving one of its best performances to date, it taps into the rich tapestry of Irish music and even finds some chamber choir type backing vocals. They have leapt out of their comfort zone and are challenging themselves and the listener to go a little deeper than the band have gone before. ‘Beautiful World’ brings with it an Eastern flavour, continuing in a similar vein to the title track, alongside Neeson’s passionate vocal, the music goes through some flowing progressions before ‘Battle Cry’ moves into that Irish zone again, with a folk fused song that contains a chorus that could easily find itself with an Irish dance flowing alongside. Immensely catchy and just a great song. They stray back into familiar sounds again on ‘Untrue Colour’ which flows surprisingly well against what has come previous, it’s also a great tune, as is ‘Thief of Light’ which is an emotive and thought provoking few minutes. After the slower ‘Being Begotten’ comes an older school Answer song with ‘Left Me Standing’, with Lizzy like dual guitars to open it is a fast paced track that brings the album back up after the slower mid section. As I said earlier, this is an album that takes The Answer out of their comfort zone but I don’t know if they ever sounded more comfortable, they have a new edge and have done things that many will not have realised they could do. It is a fantastic album, for me, even as a big fan of their previous work, this is their finest moment. ‘Solas’ is simply a must have album and with this one in the bag, I already find myself wondering what they will follow it up with. AN
Voodoo Vegas - Freak Show Candy Floss It’s been a year of growth and expansion for Voodoo Vegas, one that has seen them rack up crowds in the tens of thousands, support Joe Stariani and find various TV and radio support helping them cement themselves in the up and comers list. With an album and an EP behind them, now comes the task of putting their money where their mouth is by following that up with a strong album. ‘Backstabber’ opens things off in solid fashion, the staccato guitar strikes show the difference that sound makes, some would make it sound extremely heavy but they make it sound classically sleazy with the right amount of dirt to keep out of sleaze rock territory. There is a certain amount of classic rock in there with ‘Long Time Gone’, the sound melodies, crisp licks Thin Lizzy dual guitar are backed up with solid beats and back bone. Voodoo Vegas do a good job of throwing out curve balls, ‘Resolution’ has an opening that gives the impression of a stoner style song but they seamlessly turn it into a straight up, riff heavy rock song. It is well done and keeps things interesting showing they have other feathers to add to their bow. With ‘Killing Joke’ comes a song that any Batman/Alan Moore comic fan will find their ears pricking up, it is an uncomfortable sounding riff that fits perfectly given the subject matter of the song which, if you haven’t seen it already, has a video that should be checked out. Voodoo Vegas have made a solid follow up to 2013s ‘The Rise of Jimmy Silver’, songs like ‘Black Heart Woman’ are fine rock songs, taking different elements, giving them some swagger, neat hooks and great melodies. It isn’t perfect, at times it can be a little repetitive but it shows a band high on confidence and ability, I don’t think it is quite the finished article yet but it isn’t far off. There is plenty more to come from Voodoo Vegas and more in the creative tank for them to tap into. It’ll be fun seeing what they come up with next. AN
-Vocals-- Cody -Drums-- Patrick -Bass-- Ryan -Guitars-- Casey & John
The Guardogs - Ocean Call From Nantes, France, The Guardogs provide a fine three track EP that takes in influence from right across the sludge/stoner spectrum. In ‘Short Cut’ they provide a grooving bouncer, well-constructed, one that will go down a treat in a live environment. Title track ‘Ocean Call’ keeps with the same backbone but with a simple time change they change the whole feel, as the opener, it is staccato heavy but they do well to keep it fresh. As ‘Kurtis’ closes things out, it is again pretty much more of the same but again changing the formula just enough. It is catchy and when cranked up to the appropriate volume, one that shows much promise with the band. AN
El Royce - Black Saints of Bourbon Street Formed in 2003, this is a band that spent around six years as a three piece before becoming a quartet in 2009. Very much a band that has embraced the “do it yourself” method of making and releasing music. Instantly riff heavy from opening pounds of ‘Judgement Day’, the vocals take on a Hetfield like rasp, while the sound hits hard with booming precision. There is no let up with ‘Voodoo Rising’, the bluesy solo reveals another side to the band that becomes more obvious throughout the album. One of the albums top tracks comes in the form of ‘Reverend Zombie’, a solid slab of sonically pleasing, high tempo warts and all metal. Tidy breakdowns that blitz in charged riffs with the hooks of great upped octave backing. With the title track, despite its distortion heavy sound, it is awash with blues influence. It makes for a huge sound, the tempo changes make it a song that flows section to section, it’s tight and as it slips into ‘Thirteen Black Cats’ it creates a storming set of tracks to head into the albums end with ‘Nine Lives’. Closer ‘St Louis Cemetry #1’ changes the sound again with a darker, sinister song that makes for a fitting end. El Royce are a band that have been around for a lot of years and the experience is well used on this record. AN
Kevin Devine - Instigator Indie rock is good for one thing, relaxing. It’s nice to just throw on some chilled out songs and just appreciate the music that’s being played. Kevin Devine is a brilliant songwriter and an even better musician. His lyrics seem to roll off the tongue and melt into the rhythm to create the perfect balance of rock and indie. Kevin Devine seems to be one of those artists that can just make compelling, relaxing and at the same time upbeat music. He manages to combine a strange almost out of key guitar with a soft drum beat and create some awesome rock indie tracks. ‘No Why’, ‘Instigator’ and ‘Magic Magnet’ start the album off with a fast tempo and display this artists calibre. Then we’re shown he’s not just about the rock tracks but also the slower more beautiful ballads. ‘Freddie Grey Blues’ and ‘No History’ are two beautiful songs and help break down the album in a magnificent way. It then goes into an almost toned down pop punk territory with ‘Daydrunk’ and ‘Guard your Gates’ giving a nice edge to the whole selection of songs. While this album may not be for everyone I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The level of talent this guy has is phenomenal and his performance is brilliant. The songs are catchy, positive and nicely get stuck in your head. Kevin Devine has a lot to offer in the stagnant music world we are currently in. RO
Fire From The Gods – Narrative Nu metal as a genre is very much dying out. Despite a few luminaries like Korn and Limp Bizkit carrying on, there aren’t really any new bands “passing out that hot shit”. Step in Fire From The Gods. Blending nu metal of the Static-X variety with big, cheesy USFM radio hard rock like Breaking Benjamin is, whilst not something we’re asking for that much in 2016, not terrible. ‘Narrative’ is a slightly confusing album. ‘Excuse Me’ is a song that works. ‘End Transmission’, not so much. Fire From The Gods are still quite a young band, so maybe they still need some time to work on this stuff – only time will tell if it’s actually been worth them doing so after they’ve done it – but taken as they are now they are in quite a good starting place. Even if this band don’t become the next Tool in terms of quality musical endeavours, the kind of music they’re making is music that could see them getting pretty darn big! AL
Memoreve - Insignia Forceful metal with a very classic keyboard backing them up this extended play creating a familiar sound but it differentiates enough from the mainstream metal bands. Taking a clean vocal the band have chosen a route that not a lot of metal bands take. Usually if there are clean vocals then they are mixed with harsher ones for a greater impact. But that is presuming that the harsher vocals always have an impactful affect on a song, which is not always the case, Memorve show that on ‘Insignia’. The power and emotion that is put across through the powerful clean vocal has just as large an impact as more extreme vocals. To presume otherwise is narrow minded and dismissive to do that after listening to these four songs. Not only does the band fit well within the more aggressive style of metal they excel at the more ambient side. With the title track, ‘Insignia’, it moves from soft into harder guitars and a rhythm section with the most fluent of motions. It begins with a guitar that puts you at ease, it has a calming effect, the melody softly caresses your ears before it transgresses into that harder side that they illustrate throughout the whole recording. What this band can do is on show and it has to be commended that they have named the release after ‘Insignia’ as it really encapsulates their sound. A sound that they have honed and may it be said do a better job at then more experienced bands with many more albums and records under their belt. A promising sign. Some bands are afraid to admit to being a progressive band but not this UK outfit. Memoreve are an exciting new progressive metal band that embrace that genre and execute it to a great level on ‘Insignia’. EJ
Knocked Loose - Laugh Tracks Straight up hardcore packs energy, aggression and full on power with a punch that would floor a bull, Knocked Loose tick all these boxes and then some. Following a crushing EP that caused more devastation in less than a quarter of an hour than many, they have an album that continues the same path, they don’t mess around with a set of songs that are pit inducing and will cause some bloodied noses on the road. There are dips into thrash areas in style, ‘Oblivions Peak’ does have a hint of Slayer before descending into a frantic melting pot of anger, with a slight drops in pace it quickly continues like a battering ram, ‘Deadringer’ is a pit swirler. Heads will bang and circles will emerge on a hot summer festival day. Some might say that it becomes a bit samey and covers the same ground later in the album, well the truth is it does but that would be missing the point. It is music to get angry to, they have a formula and it works so why change it? When the songs have to be this heavy to get across what they are trying to it would be foolish to mess about with it, it might get samey but if this is what it produces, keep it coming. Hardcore fans will love it.
Greenhaven - The Great Sonoran You want some American southern tinged, Spanish vocals (in places) within an experimental heavy rock framework? Then here it is the new album from Greenhaven titled ‘The Great Sonoran’. Sometimes you can tell at least a little from the name and album artwork what to expect. Not from this album. The simple combination of Spanish singing with the thick southern American accent really throws you, but that is not a bad thing in this instance. It is refreshing and unexpected also the music is fun filled rock, with riffs to boogy to, which make this collection of tracks great. ‘Downtime’ is just fun channelled through the band: Bill Schumann (drums,) Jay Hofer-( guitars, vocals), Matt Strangwayes (vocals) and Uncle Dave ( bass, vocals). It is wild. From the first beat to the last it grips you because on every song there could be something wacky, creative but all songs have a hook. ‘Levitate’ a guitar line, ‘The Great Sonoran’, Spanish choruses. On ‘1944’ they write about the soldiers of the World War II and how they made their mums proud.
Not a group that likes to slow down, especially on ‘The Throckmorton Express’ which rattles through in top gear getting to full speed in under three seconds. A surprise awaits around every corner on ‘The Great Sonoran’ and that alone is a reason to listen to this bonkers experiment from this band of mad scientists. But out of mad science great things are born. EJ
From Indian Lakes - Everything Feels Better Now In a sentence ‘Everything Feels Better Now’ is hypnotic airy pop at its best. That does not try to conform to what people may like. The band just do their own thing and are also growing quickly in popularity. Soaked in California sun it is shrouded in an optimistic aura that brings a smile to the listener’s face even if they themselves are in dreary, rainy, grey and morbid Burnley. The optimistic vibes are not just in the music but lyrics too, ‘Blank Tapes’, ends with the title line leaving a comforting feeling. Musically it expands from the indie, keyboard sounds with a great lead guitar that is not expected. Catchy bass and guitar make ‘Feel Love’ exactly what it says it is, a freeing listen. At the 2:35 mark the vocal and keys go into a echoed, trippy effect that heightens the level of intrigue a little more. The good old sun that shines over the Golden State rises over the Hollywood hills to shine its rays of Sunlight on the houses that occupy the landscape below. Following the themes and movements already laid down from the prior tracks it carries them through to a similar outcome. Vocally though there could be a bit more to it with a soft voice at the helm it sometimes gets a bit lost within the rest of the surrounding parts. This is one of the only drawbacks from the album, as for the most part it is consistent in all areas. In a genre that is well and truly overrun by mediocre bands it seems to be difficult for groups to stand out from the massive blob of indifference. From Indian Lakes’ ‘Everything Feels Better Now’ stands tall. EJ
Missing Mile - The Blackship Not leaving much to the imagination Missing Mile’s EP is fine at best. Not really making you want to listen to more or replay what has just been experienced. It is rock music with similar sounding tones that are at times indistinguishable from track to track. You would not be mistaken for thinking that it is one continuous piece except for the breaks between the player changing to the next number. Unfortunately the Missing Mile’s ‘The Blackship’ is one monotones trip with little variation in anything at all. The tempo stays the same, the guitars switch between palm muting to roaring in your face solo’s which can only be imagined to be played by a guy who has his guitar pointed to the sky with his face scrunched up, eyes closed and he is on his knees in the studio but in his head playing the show of his life. Well it comes across that way because the guitar player is not so it is overplayed they do not show any variation it is all go. Missing Mile attempted to sail to a land where the music they’ve composed to is promised but ‘The Blackship’ that attempts to take them to that land misses it by far more than a mile. EJ
Nina Diaz - The Beat Is Dead Ironically the beat of this record is beating strong and steady. With the blend of grungy rock guitars, 1980s inspired keys/synth lines; soft acoustic rhythm and Nina’s world class voice combine to make a great first long play. After a long wait the album came out on October the 28th the excitant from Diaz was on show all throughout the marketing for the record asking all the fans to share it to get the word out there. As it is something that she is tremendously proud of due to it being a deeply personal recording of the journey away from addiction to becoming a healthier, better person. This might make you think that it is going to be a depressing record that outlines the nature of someone going through addiction but it really is not the case. There is a positive aura that surrounds the album as Diaz has gotten sober and is the best she has ever been. ‘Down’ along with ‘It’ would be the two out and out rock hits. ‘Down’ has a grittier vocal that gives it an edge needed to express the frustration from trying to get help but being kicked back to the ground. Whilst the vocals is forceful there is a poppy keyboard that then contrasts wonderfully, the bridge is her talking and outlining fears of herself rather than others then there are some interesting backing vocals. ‘It’ on the other hand has a crunchy guitar that leads the charge, the attitude is one that exudes strength and control. There was a 15 second clip released a while before the album came out of the track ‘Screaming Without a Sound’ it was a captivating 15 seconds. So when the full song was released it was not a letdown, it is groovy, punchy and full of exciting changes. The bass pounds along in the bridge, it comes in and out pointing to how effective it is, there is a constant palm muted guitar and electronic drum track again mixing in those electronic elements adding more flavour to a good number of the 13 songs. ‘Morticians Musician’ the closing number is a song about her complicated relationship with her biological father who is a mortician. He once went to see her play but instead saw another artist of the same name. The small bit of back story impacts the experience of this direct track that breaks your heart a little. Vocally Nina shows her range with a softer more intimate side creating a close and delicate ending. What makes ‘The Beat Is Dead’ so special is the complete transparency and openness from the artist even if the music was not at the standard it is, the path that you walk along realizing the struggles, hardship she went through adds an unquantifiable value to this deeply personal album. But one that everyone can draw from helping them in their own lives with their own issues. Nina Diaz has put all of her heart and soul into this record which you can tell when listening to it. You’ll ‘Fall In Love’ (the backing vocals are gorgeous on that one) with it just as I did. EJ
Seven Impale - Contrapasso One of the benefits of doing reviews is that you find totally new genres and bands. Genres that you have never come across or ever imagined would be a thing. Seven Impale are a progressive jazzrock band. As it is a totally new experience there were no pre-conceived notions of what what I thought would happen. These Bergen, Norway natives combine rather grand, complex and somewhat hard genres to create a truly epic listen which is entitled ‘Contrapasso’. From the first second to the very last the jazz influence is heavy from the high amount of times that the band improvises to throw a curve ball in there. Keeping the listener on the toes, not knowing where the music will go next adds value to the whole record, as the experience will stand out. Just because for many this will be the very first time hearing this combination of genres. Obviously to create such a fusion of progressive rock and jazz the musicians have to be beyond just good or great. To improvise on an album and make it sound listenable is no easy task, jazz really does divide people. Often being very self indulgent and obnoxious so by choosing to add it to their sound was a risk. But it does really work for example in ‘Heresy’ it starts off with a rocking accompaniment of jazzy horn and brass before the unique King Diamond/Ghost singing enters the fray. A common trajectory throughput all the songs, power and precision are the two adjectives that perfectly fit with this Seven Impale effort. The magic of ‘Contrapasso’ is that the broad scale of music on show will certainly lead to something new. That in itself gives this album merit. Earning it a place on the “to listen too” list purely due to the willingness to expand your musical horizons. But after you have hit play you quickly realise that the forthcoming album will be one that you shall be telling many of your other musically open minded friends about. EJ
Allamedah - Rio Portuguese heavy metal/prog rock band Allamedah are new on the scene, with the bands creation only dated back to 2015. Their debut EP titled ’Rio’ offers a stormy introduction to their immense talent, and the future looks bright for the four-piece. The sound of Allamedah is one of 100mph guitar riffs trickled with insane guitar solos - and we’re talking highest difficulty on Guitar Hero here - performed effortlessly and carefully layered where it’s needed for maximum effect. Opener ‘Rio’ begins soft and slow. It’s a patient and gradual build up a million miles away from the sound which quickly becomes a trademark for the new band, who already show a clear sign that they know what they are doing. It’s not all Tiago Marinho’s insane guitar solos however as the immense talent comes in tonnes as Wilhelm Lindh bass maintains the pace, João Faria on drums is brilliant whilst vocalist David Coutinho offers a full range, each adding a dimension to sections of the tracks. ‘Symphony’ wastes no time in the high tempo chugging guitar riff as short and crisp guitar licks tease what’s to come. [vocalist’s] then switches the tempo of the track by offering a powerful drawn out verse, shifting again to aggressive screaming by the end of the track. As each track pulls the band in a new direction whilst somehow maintaining a clear and present sound, a unique aspect to Allamedah is front man Coutinho’s ability to sing in both Portuguese and English. Tracks ‘Hebraica’ and ‘Desnudar A Alma’ are largely sung in the band’s native language but it’s the ability to choose between the languages to maximum effect. Try not to listen to the aggressive snarls in ‘Red Flag’ and closer ‘Desnudar A Alma’ and be impressed at the talent. For a first outing, you can imagine Allamedah are feeling really smug right now. With every track rich and decadent in intricately worked guitar riffs, well-played bass lines, a range of vocals and structured pacecontrolling drumming, you’d be feeling pretty proud too. NS
Jimmy Eat World - Integrity Blues When Jimmy Eat World first erupted onto the scene at the turn of the millennia with the hit track ‘The Middle’ they made a name for themselves as a punk-rock band joining the likes of Blink-182 and Good Charlotte. Over the bands 10-year career they have dwelled and experimented with various sounds, with their latest release ‘Integrity Blues’ cementing themselves as a band with a clear identity, but a million miles away from the initial “Middle” sound. The 11 track LP is a clarification of frontman Jim Adkins’ identity following an album which features heart-wrenchingly emotional lyrics presented in a spiritual yet impactful manner. There are tracks such as opener ‘You With Me’ ‘Sure and Certain’ which are melodic pop tracks, showcasing the bands relentless efforts to escape 2001’s ‘The Middle’ and prove a range of depth to the Arizona four piece. It’s not all ‘run-away from our pigeon hole’ however as a fan service to the more rock sounds of yesteryear leak through in tracks such as ‘Pass the Baby’ which a swooning swaying track tinted with a hint of aggression in Adkins’ lyrics as the distorted grudgy guitar riff teases to break though, is probably the heaviest Jimmy Eat World’s have ever ventured. ‘Get Right’ follows the theme, with both tracks serving as a nod to previous heavier sounds, whilst maintaining the essence of the album. As soon as Jimmy Eat World threaten to return to their roots however, the slinky melodic tunes take the centre stage again in track ‘You Are Free’ however the aggression is still dormant in the background. The vocals of Adkins are elongated but dwell with the spiritual emotive essence scattered throughout ‘Integrity Blues’. ‘The End is Beautiful’ prevails in the soul-searching the band have dwelled upon as the opportunity for a guitar solo or instrumental presents itself but the raw passion takes hold as the lyrics “It doesn’t have to hurt anymore” take the band from quintessential rock to something beautifully powerful and personal. Bringing the album towards its end is standout ‘Through’, which highlights the best elements of the album in one succinct and efficient anthem. There’s melodic vocals, aggressive choppy guitars and an enticing guitar solo which is then reined in by the spiritually powerful vocals and structured drum and bass. The titular ‘Integrity Blues’ and final track ‘Pol Roger’ bring the album to its end as Jimmy Eat World create an album with purpose and identity, there are fan services and new elements delivered in succinct and precise fashion to truly break the shackles of ‘The Middle’. NS
Moanna - Passage The world of post- anything is a playful experiential creation in which the rules are blurred, conventions straight up don’t exist and free roam is granted to whoever is brave enough to try their hand. Post- metal Polish five-piece Moanna latest offering ‘Passage’ is a journey of emotions, sound, and playful ambience. After a brief atmospheric intro the long journey that is ‘Passage’ begins teasing the wavey calm-before-the-storm of the two-parter ‘The Process’ instantly snaps between melodic floaty ambience to aggressive snarls at break-neck speed. Along the journey the technique is tried and tested to be significant to Moanna’s sound as they blur the scale between Pendulum’s synths and growls that Jacoby Shaddix would be proud off. Fans should buckle up for a long ride with ‘The Passage’ as many tracks prevail long past the nine-minute mark with two passing way past 12. It’s not just a convoluted collection of jumbled sounds however. It’s a tale of cool and calm versus aggressive and loud. It’s a prime example of the postmetal genre but offers a new direction previously unseen. The antithesis of the atmospheric ambience at play with the aggression of metal-driven guitar riffs are let loose on the listener, instantly applying the breaks and sending you back up to space as soon as you feel comfortable. Overall Moanna’s ‘Passage’ doesn’t leave you with a lot to say. It’s impossible to pick one track as they define the conventions of a track listing, with the run time extending over 42 minutes, all of which is one constant continuation of the five-pieces masterful efforts of the post-metal genre. NS
CD REVIEWS My Funeral - Harder Than This Life Finnish death metal four-piece My Funeral have had a bit of a tough time of it over the years. They’ve have bassists come and go - to then come back again, and then go. Settling down and cracking on, they are still alive and kicking enough to produce their latest EP - ‘Harder Than This Life’. Unadulterated and 100% from the get go, it’s clear what the EP is about. It’s exhilarating, it’s fast, and it’s going to blow your fucking ears off. Acting as a nice little introduction of the sub-genre, opener ‘Future Violence’ wastes no time in a 100 mile-an-hour riff that shows no signs of slowing down, as the vocals lay ever so slightly out of time with the music but to an effective outcome. The only thing missing from the majority of the tracks is any form of enticing solo, which the opportunity for which comes along plenty. Instead, the vocals just sort of disappear and the distorted guitar riff leads the way for a few bars. A fact proved all the more disappointing on the longest track on the EP ‘Seek The Truth’. With a length of 5:14, you’d think a death metal band would’ve found the space for an epic solo to knock your socks off - but no. That is apart from the standout track ‘It’s All About The Pride’, which shows just what is missing from the other four tracks on the EP. Highlighting My Funeral at their absolute best, the track is heavy, it’s pure, it’s everything you want the rest of the EP to be, but unfortunately the rest fails to rise to the same levels. Bringing the EP to an end is the titular track ‘Harder Than This Life’. Hinting a wee-tiny solo, but no-where near the levels of ‘It’s All About the Pride’, it summarises the EP nicely. A high-paced distorted whizz through a death metal showcase, almost hitting the bar, but just falling short. NS
The Dillinger Escape Plan - Dissociation As the seasoned veterans of the hardcore metal scene now going for almost twenty years (it will be next year) since their foundation in 1997. ‘Dissociation’ is the sixth long play in those nineteen years now with a tone of experience under their belt and over that lengthy period of time the sound they became so well known for in the late 90’s into the 2000’s. Some of the sounds that these men produce is abrasive, overly aggressive and far too much for them to handle, but everything has its place. DEP’s is in a more niche category but within that category they are highly regarded and ‘Dissociation’ shows why. ‘Symptoms of Terminal Illness’ the second song on the album is where they open up more into a more melodic side with cleaner lead guitar and vocals. Unlike the opener which is brutal, forceful it smashes you in the mouth instantly. Songs like that are off putting to most people but not here it is exactly what is needed to prepare for what is to follow or what you may think will follow. Meaning that it sets up for a heavy rough ride but that is not so the band choose when to amp it up and when to slow down, add in cleaner tones with arpegiated parts, slower paced drums and soon this really makes ‘Dissociation’ a very creative collection of songs that punch you in the stomach but also intrigue people who are not into heavier music. What makes this album one to listen to is the diversity in its sounds from the intricate more electronically driven instrumental ‘Fugue’ to the pulsating ‘Honeysuckle’ these examples point out the versatility and openness that they have when it comes to making a complex album where there is something for everyone to like. That is the excellence of ‘Dissociation’, and making an album like this is a feat many strive for but don’t always pull off. EJ
Padding Needed - 69 A debut EP always has a lot riding on it, it is the first expression of a band, a first impression for music fans to see if you are for them. With that in mind it is paramount not to take too much from an extended play either as a fuller experience should be on the horizon in the form of an album. With that said the ‘69’ EP from Padding Needed comes by the way of Northampton are self professed pop punkers and that is exactly what they have on offer. Nothing more, nothing less. The members have set up a band to do a genre and have some fun while doing so. The genre is not one renowned for it being full of technical wizards with super speedy guitaring or crazy drum fills, it is a simpler form. Just put the guitars in ,crank it up and hit some power chords. Sing about fleeting relationships, one night stands and don’t over complicate things. The shinning number off the ‘69’ EP is ‘Old School Gamer’ as it is a call back to the games of old and the disliking that the band have towards these new fangled Xbox One’s and PS4’s, instead wanting the games of their youth with the Spyro’s of PS1 and PS2 fame. The key part to it is the keyboard that could be ripped straight from the iconic games they are referring to. There is a charm to an eight bit tune and it makes us all think back to those games we loved as a kid in the arcade. This is a middle of the road inoffensive EP that if you like the genre, then you will like this from Padding Needed. EJ
Fervency - Lowering Entropy Bands from Scandinavia have built up a reputation and have moulded a place in the music world for either pop ala ABBA, Little Dragon and Lykke Li or the many categories of Metal i.e. Ghost Brigade, Meshuggah, Opeth etc... Fervency are from Copenhagen, Denmark and the newest album is a marvellous mix of darker (similar to the famous metal bands of the geographical region) sounding atmospheric alternative rock/alt- pop. A mix that is very happy together. Building off one another from strength to strength by being able to successfully create a pop beat with a dark synth and piano line, for example ‘An Apple’ rises in tension until it is broken by the piano line, buzzing synth, string notes and smooth voice. By putting the darkness on top of modern synths/electronic sounds give it a brightness that everything is not completely blackened. ‘Phi (1.61803398875)’ is not only unconventionally named but unconventionally put together, it is took along by a erratic zap of prog rockish keys whilst pounding drums are stuck. It is an instrumental of oddness but it fits with all the other accompanying songs surrounding it. By embracing the odd elements alongside the beauty in ‘The Biology Thief’ where piano, vocal harmonies sync into an eternal bliss.
Having created this rock/pop/electronic amalgamation and perfecting it over the previous couple of records (’Equilibrium’, and ‘In a Grain of Sand’) it really is a shame that the currently monthly listens on a certain streaming system is as low as it is. Denmark has a clearly talented band that if they continue to make the quality of music they are then that has to change. It is just too good of a spin on pop and alternative rock not to get more attention. The duo of Thomas Blæsbjerg and Calvin Batley are one of the most unique bands out there and the mixture of alt-rock/alt-pop is captivating. The heartbeat of ‘Lowering Entropy’ is healthy, steady, extremely consistent and darkly romantic. EJ
Lost Thylacines - Space Cadet A psychedelic wonder of an introduction that is mellow flows from the instrument of their homeland a didgeridoo. It is one of the songs that really fits its title not only because of the lyrical content but also the music is very spacey. It is out there to a degree. A degree that you go with it really fits both a journey across infinite space but also feels like it is from the desert having a good hint of desert/stoner rock vibes in there as well. It is a single that will make you want to find out more about them but alone it is a great single as well. EJ
Corrington Wheeler feat. Garret Rapp - Tragedy of Leusden To say this single is anything other than sonically interesting would be a travesty. The mix of extreme and non-extreme singing is very well balanced so that audiences of both metal and hard rock can get something out of it. Extreme vocals fall flat when they seem to be strained and the singer does not put everything behind it. With this track, everything and more is put into the screams. The music that is being sung over mirrors the singing in the same way I explained, often being thicker when the harsh vocals are on and taking it back more for the cleaner stuff. It is an effective single that is far from a tragedy. EJ
18th & Addison - Makeshift Monster Coming off their own label the new brightly coloured record from the township of Toms River, New Jersey representatives bring a very American alternative rock with echoes of pop punk that is heartfelt in places. Musically it is entertaining distortion and that keeps a steady mid pace throughout the eleven songs. What jumped out of it are the contrasting voices and how Kait DiBenedetto’s voice is the gruffer of the two and Tom Kunzman is arguably the softer of the two at times. Obviously they have not chosen the voices they have it is just how they sound but this is something to appreciate. Most instances there it is the other way around giving them a freshness in a popular genre. Both can and do swap around on lead and backing vocals switching things up to give the album some variety as the musical template stays the same for the majority. At points both members do the grittier side as well as the higher, cleaner lines it is just good to see a balance between a female and male singing pair in this genre. Kunzmanvioce did take some getting used to as it is very similar to many other males singers within the genre but this only adds value to DiBenedetto’s input.
As the album went from song to song it grew in likeability. When it hit ‘Postcard and Knives’ I became hooked. ‘Knives’ opens up with one of the heavier riffs and the same can be said for the vocals they are some of the more passionate to be put down and it is a stand out track. ‘Fix Me Again’ is the soft acoustic one, and Kait’s lead vocals are beautiful, gentle side to the two. It is a nice change from the rest of the album. ‘Makeshift Monster’ is certainly a grower and after a couple of listens through you’ll have some songs stuck in your head. EJ
Virus - Memento Collider A creepy, unnerving jangle brings the album in and it gets stranger when the other instruments kick in but that is to be expected on an avant-gaurd Norwegian metal album. It is not something you are supposed to be able to guess what it will sound like unless you are a true fan of Czral’s work (which does not look to be too many). What you pick up from the whole album is an odd sense of freedom, one where the rules do not apply whatsoever. Rules are non-existent the limits are pushed to be as artsy and avant-guard as possible which is the aim I suppose. A question that it does raise is that it’s going to alienate listeners as admittedly it is not the easiest of genres to get into. However ‘Memento Collider’ does have enough mysterious, odd elements for you to carry on getting through the peculiarity. EJ
Hypergear - I Am The Dead There’s not many bands or artists that hail from Italy in mainstream media, offering a damn good opportunity to break that mold is synth rock trio Hypergear, hailing from the city of Milan. With their latest track ’I am The Dead’ laying an enticing offer on the table, waiting to be grabbed by eager hands. Beginning with a metal rock-esque intro via twining guitars shifting along a scale the vocals balance somewhere between rock and indie through elongated bellow contrasted with falsetto woos. Carrying the track is the guitars of Giordano with a controlled build up offering glimpses of a solo, simple riffs and echoing outro which leaves you just as emotionally attached as you are to the touching heartfelt lyrics of “I love as the dead/ can you leave me/” are simple yet effective in pulling on the emotive spectrum. ‘I Am The Dead’ is a track, which teases a metal intro, turns into an indie verse, transcending into an heartfelt chorus and drifts out on a calming mellow high. Italy should be proud. NS
Fight Fathers - She Wanted Storms Newly formed Liverpool three piece Fight Fathers release their beautiful debut single ‘She Wanted Storms’. The track is emotional and packed with musically sound performances to create an impressive introduction to the promising sound emanating from Fight Fathers. Following the end of the track played through Soundcloud comes John Legend’s ‘All Of Me’, ‘She Wanted Storms’ is totally different but it does share similarities. The lyrics are controlled and precise, with each word holding a true level of sincerity hold excelled further by the slight use of a delay pedal for the creeping guitar solo. After a soft and mellow introduction hinting at a John Legend track, it slowly merges into an indie rock track as the gradual use of guitars ever-so-slightly tinged with distortion to create a powerful yet calming track lathered in emotion and edge. ‘She Wanted Storms’ is an expertly crafted introduction to Fight Fathers, leaving you wanting far far more from a fresh and talented band. NS
Ill Advised - Parkway Divides All self-produced in his home made studio made with plywood in his basement, Harry Metzler is Ill Advised and he has produced a sublime record named ‘Parkway Divides’. Hailing from New Jersey and beginning its life whilst still at William Paterson University, Parkway Divides is sometimes rock, sometimes techno, and always raw and passionate. Opener ‘Crawl’ features orchestral instruments masterfully combined with distorted guitars, an odd combination that Metzler pulls of perfectly. It’s a theme which continues throughout the 12 track LP as ‘Cyanide Caress’ could feature on a Chase and Status track before expertly transforming into a hardcore metal track. It’s not a sound which is secured however, as throughout the record many genres are explored, the moment you think you can describe the genre or sound, it’s travelled a million miles away from the initial reaction. The ever-changing theme is something that is carried through ‘Summer Nights’, even the album version and the recently released music video show alternating approaches as the album version is a toned down mellow affair which develops into an epic jam due to a range of instruments including a beautiful echoing guitar. The music video however shifts the vocals most noticeably in the opening where a soft almost female voice ascends to a crunching aggressive snarl of the metal genre. Throughout the album a true sense of journey is clearly at play. You could easily lose an hour or two in a dark room with your headphones on as ‘The Creator’ is lathered with passionate aggression whereas the acoustic ‘Misery’ shows the true level of talent in Meltzer’s vocals, as without the distorted guitars he’s allowed to truly shine. Tracks ‘Shame’ and ‘Safe and Sound’ share similar themes but are pulled in different directions and closer ‘The Last Goodbye’ is a seven minute epic to truly cement Ill Advised as a truly artistic individual with many many talents. NS
Set It Off - Upside Down Since 2008, the world of Punk has seen Florida four-piece Set It Off climb the ranks to become one of the most exciting bands to emerge on the scene. After extensive touring with the likes of Yellowcard, Falling In Reverse and Black Veil Brides, they have definitely taken everything on board to perch themselves onto their A game. Following from the dark and dramatic second album ‘Duality’ comes a more upbeat and pleasant album in the form of album number three - ‘Upside Down’. A daring and ambitious record, which swims in and out of genres effortlessly to create some thing close to a masterpiece. After several line-up changes and finally deciding on becoming the four-piece they are today, the addition of All Time Low’s Cody Carson is one that secures the bands definitive sound and escalates them to a higher level. Tracks like ‘Want’ are tinged with a subtle pop vibe with uplifting lyrics and melodies that’s guaranteed to raise your spirits whereas ‘Admit It’ sees a switch to a more hip-hop sound that still manages to maintain the essence of grief anger and heartbreak. As ‘Upside Down’ pulls itself in many directions the punk-pop sound is one that definitely prevails above all, what would you expect with a member of All Time Low at the helm? With track ‘Uncontainable’ acting as a throwback to Set It Off’s early days to sounding like a Fall Out Boy hit song. It’s a sing-a-long anthem with an underlying guitar riff and impressive use of trumpets. Closing the album with Carson’s smooth vocals, ‘Me W/O Us’ ditches the usual raspy tone as he summons his inner Bieber for a catchy pop track. ‘Upside Down’ is a gorgeous masterpiece of an album that dares to be outrageous and shows the pure talent of the Florida four piece. A true masterpiece that everyone should listen to. NS
Animan – The Unholy Long-time friends Thomas Kihlberg and Björn Wennerborg were once pinnacle members of the Swedish metal band Backwater. Following their demise, the pair teamed up to create their debut album - ‘Unholy’ – under the alias of Animan. With their hunger for music found in distorted and passionate riffs, ‘Unholy’ is a mismatch of solid tunes, brought down by lackluster meh tracks. Getting the ball rolling is opener ‘Black Star’. Synonymous with the late and great David Bowie following his final album of the same name, the opening track is a choppy and passionate introduction to the Swedish duo. It’s hard hitting and wastes no time in getting to the powerful vocals of guitarist and singer Kihlberg, who boasts an impressive range from lengthy and elongated to short and crisp. The gritty indulgence into the best elements of metal and alternate rock transpire into stand-out track ‘Distance’. With an extensive and expert use of a delay pedal on the vocals, creates an atmospheric feel to the duo, adding a unique dimension to the pair. With the use of distorted and heavy guitars already teased in the track, the full extent of the raw and pure metal comes to the forefront in track ‘Fog’. A gradual build-up maintains your attention long enough for the best head banging drop of the album, which allows you to endorse in the energy of the pair. With an impressive start showing promise of a band who know their sound but offer welcomed alternatives through the use of effect pedals and diverse sound options, it’s a shame things start to go downhill from here. ‘Chains’ is nothing new and follows a similar template to previous tracks but fails to maintain the same momentum. It’s something that leaks through to ‘Unknown’, another sense of de ja vu with ‘Unholy’ showing that sometimes you can go too far with lengthy drawn out vocals which become dreary and boring. Before you know it, several tracks have passed and the final track ‘The Oath’ is playing, making you feel like you’re listening to the same tracks again, but you can’t think of which one. There are hints of promise with ‘Above’ introducing a distorted guitar solo, which featured earlier or scattered throughout would have changed the tonality of the album completely. NS
Frank Iero and the Patience - Parachutes Following the demise of the world dominating My Chemical Romance who wasted no time in curating the entire Emo genre, the solo project of front man Gerard Way sparked a short term career before rumours of a reunion came about after ‘The Black Parade’ was re-released. Another creation to come out of the break-up is backing vocals and guitarist Frank Iero, whose debut album with the Cellebration titled ‘Stomachaches’ comes another successful outing in the form of ‘Parachutes’. Iero’s second outing is an attempt to shake off the baggage that comes with being a part of one the world’s biggest bands. It’s something he fails to do with a sound echoing Gerard’s singing style and MCR’s heavy hitting guitars, but it’s not a bad thing, and there is definitely a personal touch added to take the solo work in a new direction. Tracks ‘World Destroyer’ and ‘Dear Perocet, I Don’t Think We Should See Each Other Any More’ proves that Frank can hold a note in Gerard’s style, but it’s tinted with a touch of personality and aggressive snarls which competes with those prominent in the metal genre, pulling away from the emo days of the early 00s. It’s the toned down raw tracks which show Iero’s true personal touch. The bass driven ‘They Wanted Darkness’ is a gradual and craftily sculpted palm mute progression before the chorus is belted out whereas ‘Miss Me’ is arguably ‘Parachutes’ stand out track, a completely acoustic rendition proving simplicity is just as emotive as Iero shouting down the mic. Parachutes acts as a form of CV for Frank Iero as it enlists each of the former MCR back-man’s many talents as an impressive stand-alone solo artist. It’s raw, its passionate, and it’s an absolute beauty to listen to. NS
You Blew It! – Abendrot Florida Indie/Emo quintet You Blew It! Are back with their new album ‘Abendrot’ released via Triple Crown Records, the band have had steady success following their excellent first album ‘Grow Up, Dude’ and their sophomore record ‘Keep Doing What You’re Doing’ which broke into the Billboard 200 back in 2014. The new record kicks off with ‘Epaulette’ which has a beautiful production, the lyrics are not the most eventful or interesting but the lovely instrumental provides a pleasant opening. ‘Like Myself’ is a very typical emo number highlighting the bands feelings of being uncomfortable or insecure – “I don’t feel like myself/ or anyone else”, the lyric does feel a little repetitive and creates a rather bland track. There is a continuation of self reflection with the powerful ‘Sundial Song’ which has a bold dark riff at times, the chorus is one of the highlights of the album. ‘Greenwood’ reminds me a lot of the 1990’s emo sound which has seen a revival in recent years; it’s wonderfully produced with the inclusion of various instruments creating a very intriguing sound, however at times it does overpower the vocals. ‘Autotheology’ continues the new experimental side to the band with its distorted first verse; the riff is once again powerful complimenting the simple clear vocals, there’s a particularly strange message in the outro “When God dies, I’ll skip the funeral”. ‘Hue’ is much more simple instrumentally and continues the theme of personal struggle and mistakes – “As the shades of grey grow redder, I should have known better”. ‘Canary’ is one of the best tracks on the album; it definitely has some influence from their previous records with its big catchy verses and very slick flow. The momentum continues with the superb ‘Forecasting’ which has much more attitude both instrumentally and vocally – “I don’t believe anything, Aversion towards versions of someone I swore I’d never be”. ‘Minorwye’ is dark and moody with the vocal style comparative of early 90’s grunge bands and a background noise of violent hand clapping layered over the repeating lyric “I’m not sure what I’m doing here”, this track seems to confirm a new direction of sound for the band. ‘Arrowhead’ is one of the more deflating numbers on the album; it’s not as gripping as previous tracks on the album, despite a boisterous riff the lyrics fail to deliver on this occasion. The penultimate track ‘Basin and Range’ goes away from the moody feeling of the last couple of songs with a summery riff and infectious chorus, it’s a nice reminder that they still believe in the sound that gave them success on the previous works. ‘Kerning’ provides an unflattering finale; the volume of the vocals seem to be up a notch with two pretty simple verses, a disappointing finish to what is a very fascinating record with the band encouragingly progressing with a new sound, but also remembering to keep their previous influences with a range of both uplifting and dark, mysterious songs. JP
I, The Lion – The Fire I saw comments about this band saying that they are a mix of Biffy Clyro and At The Drive-In, what a combination! This release delivers a promising new fresh sound from I, The Lion. Two tracks may not seem enough to get an impression of the band, but ‘Override System’ has a great mix of frenetic riffs combined with an authentic and unique set of vocals; there are also a few changes of pace avoiding a monotonous sound, it’s a pretty good track. ‘The Fire’ is a much more catchy song with its pleasant melodies layered over an unsophisticated instrumental, the band show their writing ability with a killer chorus. It’s about time the alternative music scene in the UK had something different and this band definitely has potential to make an impact in the future, a very positive and interesting two track EP. JP
Balance and Composure - Light We Made Firstly, I am not familiar with Balance and Composure so what I know about the band is purely based off this album. I’ve heard this album is a bit of a departure from previous albums, if it is or not I don’t know. What I do know is this album has so many blends of styles it is hard to fully work them out, there are pieces of grunge, pieces of alternative and even tidbits of goth and The Cure in there. These are songs with layer upon layer to them and you’ll need a decent set of speakers to pick them all up as they work through the multiple sections, each one taking a new scope and sound perhaps with an eye on arena and stadium shows which these songs would certainly have a good place in. It isn’t difficult to imagine the kind of visuals which would accompany them, they would have to be pretty stunning and epic to capture what these songs convey. While I won’t pretend that this album is my cup of tea, I am still able to appreciate great songwriting and this has it in abundance as well as a healthy amount of confidence and ability. These are big songs and while the album may not to do much for me personally, it is quite possible that if I was to see them live my opinion would be very much different. AN
American Football - (LP2) I can vaguely remember the first American Football album, 17 years ago, 1999, makes Metallica look prolific doesn’t it! I’d actually forgotten about them which makes this a nice pick up point. The years have tumbled, we’ve all aged and now there is a second American Football album and lyrically they make mention of the gap and the changes, or lack thereof that have happened in that time. It would be easy to look back at the first album to compare the two but as I have no idea where my copy of it would be, even if I could that wouldn’t be fair after all this time where life has gone on for their members.
From the opening, you can tell this is a band that are a going concern again and will be for a while I’d hope, the songs have a dreamy, sometimes haunting feel to them, crammed with atmosphere and voice that feels like its living in these songs. This is perfect for sitting back and losing yourself in, chill out sit back and take in a band returning after 17 years and make it sound, other than a more lived in voice, like they’ve never been away. You just have to hope it doesn’t take until 2033 for another one, on the strength of this I don’t think we need worry. AN
Naked Walrus - Simple L.A alternative rockers blend some 90s style alternative with hints of emo that packs plenty of kick and melody. With this EP they are keeping it simple, straight forward rock that gets to the point and hits the spot, thoughtful and at times intense lyrics trade punches with some big riffs and big sound. Although for the most part they keep it, as I said, simple, they still chop some nice breakdowns and grooves. ‘Eyes’ brings with it a nice sludgy riff fest. The stand out though comes with ‘Minus’, a song that finds them at their best. Well put together with nice breakdowns and dynamics with vocals more than matching the sound. It brings the emotive moments out and gives wings on to the bigger moments. Some bands put a lot of effort into giving songs a million sections and time changes, Naked Walrus show that it by keeping it simple you can write just as great a set of songs. AN
Alaska Alaska - Never Thought We'd Get Caught Described as shouty pop punk you’ll probably hate is perhaps going a bit too far, yes, they’re shouty, yes there are elements of pop punk but to be fair there’s a lot worse out there these days. This four track EP is actually, pretty good from the Chepstow boys, I like a bit of shouty pop-punk, there is something mellow to it, not as much aggression as hardcore punk, which I love by the way but sometimes you want something a little more mellow while still keeping it heavy. The production is raw making for them a perfect sound, if it was cleaner it would take away all the charm from them as it would if the songs were any longer. This is no fucking about slices of raw fuzzarma, except for ‘A Soap Opera of How Much Our Lives Suck’ which shows more depth to what they can do. These songs are perfect for an EP but that one shows they have more to dig into, an interesting band with a lot more to come I’d say. AN
Toy Mountains - I Swore I’d Never Speak of This Again Glasgow boys Toy Mountains are purveyors of a sound that is becoming ever prevalent in the British scene, post-hardcore isn’t quite as known coming out of Glasgow as other places so with that famous Glasgow swagger perhaps they can add something different to the genre. With sonic guitars and progressions along with some slower, more tender moments they have a sound that while familiar, they put a decent enough signature on it while not doing anything you haven’t heard before. Big screaming vocals intercut with clean and soft along with massive choruses they have it down to a tee, add in the atmospheric melodies, progressions, and vocal harmonies they are onto a winner. The piano interludes add something a little different in, they are nice little pieces that split the acts and definitely brings a good respite before the continuation.Toy Mountains bring that Glasgow swagger to posthardcore and do give it something a bit extra, in a very bust market they may have something that freshens it up right here. AN
Red Fang - Only Ghosts It’s always nice to hear some good ol’ fashion heavy metal and know that it’s still alive and well in the bands of today. Red Fang are a unique band that have been around for the past 11 years but sadly don’t seem to get enough exposure over here in the UK. Red Fang haven’t released any new music since 2013 so the expectation was quite high for fans of the Oregon group. Luckily this album is notably one of their best. The opening fast paced riff filled ‘Flies’ is a classic heavy metal anthem and sets up the tone for the rest of the album perfectly. ‘Cut it Short’ carries on with this classic fashion and this is where we see the full extent of lead singer Bryan Giles’ vocals. It’s quite impressive to see how he can switch up from almost melodic singing to then bring on the heavier screams. The solo at the end really solidifies this as one of the greatest tracks on this album. The whole album feels like a homage to the classic days of heavy metal especially ‘No Air’, ‘Shadows’ and I ‘Am A Ghost’. The lone instrumental track feels a little bit unnecessary at first but after seeing how it all pieces together ‘Flames’ becomes a crucial part of the album. Red Fang have been going for over ten years and have never failed to display their talent in the heavy metal world. This album is no different, ‘Only Ghosts’ is a fantastic album and will hopefully bring this band out of the darkness and into the light. RO
Ray Toro - Remember the Laughter It is not clear whether the title of the album is a reflection on the eventful year, from the former My Chemical Romance member. All the thoughts that come into your head when/if you know that he was a part of the massive band and if this solo release will sound anything like their music, throw them out of the window. What will strike you is the versatility on show mixing his great vocals with ABBA like pop keys, caressing strings, acoustic guitars, electric guitar shredding plus much more at points all in one song. ‘The Great Beyond’ is one of many examples of this. It opens with an acoustic guitar being strummed for a couple of bars before strings slowly fade in and the drums add an energy that is not over powering. Before the track is done at the 3:23 mark a fantastic guitar solo brings the song to a whole other level, with guitar solos there is a lot weighed on the tone that the player chooses here (and through all the songs the tones are glorious e.g. ‘The Lucky Ones’, ‘Isn’t That Something’).
Breaking up the album are five songs under a minute that are a bit more on the strange side with whispering and unconventional elements in them, they are interesting interludes again adding another thing to like about this debut. ‘We Save’ a particular pick of the bunch with its bluesy lead, funk rhythms, simple drums moving the chains. Here the “oh, ooohs” are a prominent piece with the chukkas gives it a smooth cool vibe also the momentary siren really catches your ear. Overall ‘Remember the Laughter’ is a 15 song listen that is a bright fusion of pop, indie-rock that everyone should check out. It is filled with great songs and it has done an incredible job at differentiating from his past band and he is no longer in their shadow but standing tall in the brightest of sunlight for all to hear. Ray Toro has created a simply outstanding record that everyone needs to get their ears on. EJ
Metallica - Hardwired... To Self-Destruct Have Metallica hit the big red button to self-destruct with their tenth studio album? Or are they back to their best? Well it helps that the band has gone back to what they know, thrash metal. Full of thick guitar rhythm, fast drumming, punching bass and Hetfield’s iconic voice can be at risk of becoming lost in those heavy tones. But Metallica being Metallica know how to avoid that problem though the subtleties from both lead and rhythm guitars adding a little bit of creativity that keeps the ears interested. Keeping those listening ears interested is also really hard to do on songs that are double the length of the pop songs you hear on commercial radio. So for a lot of people they are marathon in length (though people who listen to progressive rock or more metal in general will be more used to lengthier pieces) may struggle to keep their attention. But fans will not care as it sounds like classic Metallica which means more bang for your buck. A sign of real quality is that the album flows from one song into the next without you noticing all too much, that is not saying they sound the same because they certainly do not.
It moves so effortlessly not only from one track to the next but through the songs themselves. With songs at this length it runs the risk of getting fatigued nevertheless the chunky riffs really engrain themselves into you. That tone Metallica are known for is addictive and fun to listen to again after ‘Death Magnetic’ and ‘Lulu’. Unlike the last few records this one is filled with catchy riffs that you’ll find yourself air guitaring to in the mirror coupled with classic face melting solos that leave all guitar players envious. ‘Halo On Fire’ has the imprint of ‘Wherever I May Roam’ starting out gentle and slowly cranking it up until its peak then it rides it to the end. Completing the first disc of the double album in the most satisfying way. ‘Hardwired... To Self-Destruct’ is not only monstrous in its running time but also its quality and what could be seen as a daunting listen is not. Yes the length is debatably long with an argument being made to whether the second disc is needed. Yet for the most part it goes from track to track with ease and is full of hooks vocally, on guitar and a thunderous rhythm section playing close to their best. Metallica certainly have not hit that big red button to self-destruct but instead are powering on forward and have added another strong record to their incredible career. EJ
InMe / The Fleece - Bristol / October 24 How can it be? It's been twenty years since the formation of InMe, and they are still going stronger than ever. So tonight it's a pleasure to see them perform, as they celebrate this achievement by blasting through some of the classics whilst combining new songs in there as well. Opening with the "rifftastic" 'Myths and Photographs' the band do a great job at instantly getting the crowds attention, every note is spot on, and the band stay in sync throughout the track. Of course, as the band celebrate this achievement, then they are going to treat us to songs from their first album 'Overgrown Eden'. The first of which is 'Lava Twilight', which is an absolutely beautiful track that dives between loud and chilled dynamics whilst providing some extremely hard hitting lyrics. The band go on to perform a track from 'Herald Moth' entitled 'Nova Aramada' which is just an absolute pleasure to watch, as once again the band are on top form. They then take us back to the "White Butterfly days" with 'Safe In A Room' which has everyone in the venue jumping and singing along to at a maximum level. For me, as the band went on in their career, I felt that their music got way more technical, and in depth in a great way. The guitar work on the original couple of albums is certainly explosive to say the least, but the evolution of this band has been absolutely incredible to watch. They prove this by performing ‘Creation: Amethyst’ & ‘Reverie: Aquarium’ taken from 'Trilogy: Dawn' which simply show to me just how well this band have progressed in their twenty years, and I can't wait to see where the rest of the Trilogy albums that they have planned takes them. We go back to where it all started, with 'Underdose', a track that fits perfectly on an early 00s skateboard collection, and still works just as great now. To finish we witness 'Faster The Chase' which sees the crowd singing "I feel alive you were my ecstacy" in unison with the band. I've probably said this before, but InMe are certainly one of the most underrated bands out there, and each release just shows how well they have progressed. Stencil Mag will always support this band, and here's to another twenty years of outstanding music. AD
Skinny Lister / The Exchange - Bristol / October 18th If you go to a Skinny Lister show not expecting a party, then you should probably shouldn't attend, because the atmosphere that they have created with their live performance is just something else. In their earlier days, and without a drummer, you can maybe attach this band to being a somewhat folk band. But as they've progressed with a new drummer, as well as the original music that Daniel Heptinstall comes up with then you'll see that their sound right now can just not be pigeonholed into any genre. Which is great, as sometimes it's good to just enjoy the music, instead of trying to define it. As Lorna takes to the stage with flagon full of beer (or whatever they've decided to load it up with) which gets passed around the crowd, then it's clear to see that the band are ready to turn the Exchange into a beer soaked party. They kick in with a new track 'Wanted' from 'The Devil, The Heart and the Fight' which instantly displays just how well the band have grown musically over the last couple of releases. The crowd get moving straight away, and at this point, you already know it's going to be a great night. 'Tragedy In A Minor' comes across as a somewhat upbeat track, but underneath it, it tells the story of how their current drummer Thom was left at the altar. Just another track that displays some of the incredible songwriting on their latest release. If you don't know the words to 'John Kanaka' then you will after you hear it, this shanty gets the crowd absolutely pumped out. Due to the audience singing, the floor was literally vibrating at this point, and as you look around to a sky full of beer glasses raised high, then it's obvious that Skinny Lister have created something truly special with their live approach. At points throughout the set, the band continue to provide a live spectacle like no other, their double bass player Michael crowd surfs whilst playing a song (how cool is that?) and Lorna gets into the crowd, and just dances with people at random! Going back to the setlist, other highlights we must add are 'The Devil In Me' 'Geordie Lad', 'Hamburg Drunk' and of course 'Six Whiskies', which all just send the crowd into a frenzy and add to one of the most electric live performances I've seen all year. So go out, buy their new album 'The Devil, The Heart and the Fight' and then head to a live show. You can thank me afterwards. AD
Jimmy Eat World / Bristol Academy / November 19th Since exploding into the music world with 'Bleed American' back in 2001 the band have spent the last two decades showing the world their incredible sound, and if you haven't listened to every album by them yet, then you're missing out. After taking a year off recently, they are back with their new album 'Integrity Blues'! As they take to the stage to a sold-out show on a Saturday at the Bristol Academy, the band launch straight into a new track 'Get Right', which is a mesmerizing listen, and for me, comes across as a reminder to anyone who hasn't picked up their latest album just yet, that they should do so after the show! Then, they take us back to the absolutely classic 'Bleed American', which of course earns a mosh pit, and an ecstatic response from the crowd. We then return to the days of 'Chase This Light' with 'Big Casino' which is always awesome to watch, and at this point, you can see just how on form the band are, as they attack every note with a captivating energy to give us the best version of the band they possibly can. To add to their live performance, they have brought in Robin Vining who gives an extra dimension to what the band can achieve by providing keys, guitar and backing vocals. The band calm down a little bit with 'Hear You Me', which is a lighters raised high kind of anthem, that has some of the most beautiful lyrics you'll ever hear. At this point in the set, Jim Adkins is pretty much drenched in sweat as he puts everything he can into his performance. 'Pass The Baby' is probably one of my favourite tracks on the new album, it kind of displays every side of Jimmy Eat World, whilst pushing them to the next level as the ending is one of the heaviest I've ever heard by the band. It was absolutely incredible to watch live, and I've got a feeling that it will be in their setlist for a long, long time. As the night goes on, we are treated to more classics like 'Polaris' 'Lucky Denver Mint' 'A Praise Chorus' 'My Best Theory' which all just remind us how ridiculously talented the band are. For me, I like every track they've ever done, so I really have no idea how they go about picking their setlist at this point in their career. Before the encore we are treated to 'Work' and 'Pain' from their incredible release 'Futures', which go down an absolute storm with the crowd singing "it takes my pain away" as loud as they can, with a mosh pit also in full force. As expected, the audience get a chant on the go, and pretty much demand for the band to comeback, which thankfully they do. They perform the crowd singalong 'The Middle', which if you don't know, then you've probably never turned on a rock music video channel in your life, because this is a must hear song by the band, that you'll remember for the rest of your life after hearing it just once. It's interesting when a band does this towards the end of the set, but it works well for Jimmy Eat World, as they play their latest single 'Sure and Certain', but after getting such great feedback, then maybe this idea has worked, because it might stay at this point in their show from this point in! They end with 'Sweetness', which has everyone in the room singing as loud as they can, and just provides a perfect end to the night. There's not much else to say here other than these guys are amazing live, and that you should head out and pick up their new album 'Integrity Blues' right now, because these new songs are absolutely awesome. AD
Feeder / Bristol Academy / October 10th If you're from the UK, and you haven't heard of Feeder, then you'll need to head out and pick up as many of their releases as soon as you can! I catch up with them as they promote their new release 'All Bright Electric'! Opening with new songs 'Another Day On Earth' & Universe Of Life', the band display their new sound in full force. As the album has only just come out, the crowd remain glued to the band, and take in the awesome new sound which is on show, and we have no doubt that after starting the show like that the audience will be singing in full force the next time they "Come Back Around", sorry. They then perform 'Renegades', a powerful song that once again shows how hard hitting the band can be when they want to. 'Feeling A Moment' has the audience singing along to every word, and being visibly excited to be here, the band put on a great performance that just simply adds to the atmosphere of the set. 'Pushing The Senses' & 'Lost & Found' continue to remind us just how many great songs the band have created over their career, which they then follow with 'Eskimo' an atmospheric track which displays an exciting new sound. Just when you thought the band couldn't hit you with anymore songs that you know every lyric to they go on to perform 'Come Back Around' 'Insomnia' 'Just the Way I'm Feeling', which by this point has me losing my voice. Before the encore we are treated to 'Buck Rogers', which has every person in the entire room jumping (I expect the people behind the bar were singing along secretly as well!), it's just such a brilliant anthem, and it will surely be performed at every Feeder show until the end of time. Returning after the encore, they hit us with a great mix of tracks, 'Infrared Ultraviolet' a brand new, and in your face track. 'Sweet 16' for the really old Feeder fans in the room (like myself) and 'Just A Day' which of course takes every last bit of energy that the crowd has. What an incredible show. AD
Billy Talent / Bristol Academy / October 13th First up we have Young Guns! Right now, they are promoting their new release, entitled 'Echoes' which is a record that once again captures the progression of the band in an exciting and refreshing way. The band have always had a HUGE and atmospheric live approach, and they continue to do that today, and just like they always do, they get the crowd going absolutely crazy. Highlights for me include 'Echoes', 'I Want Out' and of course 'Bones', I have no doubt that these guys will be headlining this venue the next time they're in town! Billy Talent are one of the coolest bands in the world. For just four musicians it's truly unbelievable when you see the sound that they come out with both on record, and in a live atmosphere. Their guitar player Ian D'Sa is just absolutely ridiculous and they should probably make a guitar rock game with just Billy Talent tracks on there so you can pretend to be him for a couple of minutes. Their lead singer Benjamin Kowalewicz has a vocal approach that can't be compared to anything else, and to me, he is one of the best lead singers in the alternative rock world right now. All of this is held down by the talented Jonathan Gallant on bass, who still blows our mind when he plays the start of 'Devil In A Midnight Mass' and for the recent tours only Jordan Hastings from Alexisonfire who, well wait a minute, he is from Alexisonfire so there's nothing else left to say there, other than the fact that he is a hugely talented performer!
The band open the show with 'Devil in a Midnight Mass', which instantly gets the mosh pits open, and it's already plain to see that this is going to be one hell of a show. The band treat us to another song from Billy Talent â€˜IIâ€™ under the name of 'This Suffering' which continues to have the crowd moving at a fast pace throughout. Benjamin is all over the stage, and he makes sure that the crowd interaction stays at the highest level as the set continues. The band kick into two new songs from their incredible new album 'Afraid of Heights' including 'Big Red Gun' and suitably named 'Afraid of Heights' which both sound like they've been in the setlist since forever already, and after listening to the guitar work on 'Afraid of Heights' in a live atmosphere, then like me, you'll probably decide that this is one of your favorite new Billy Talent songs. The band go on to perform 'Rusted From The Rain' 'Surrender' and the circle pit anthem in 'Surprise Surprise' which are all just incredible songs to see being performed with such dedication live. 'Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats' & 'Louder Than the DJ' also taken from their new album, get an exceptional response, and surely win over anyone who for some reason hasn't picked up their new album just yet. 'Devil on My Shoulder' gets the crowd singing along once more at a high volume, and the band build it up well throughout, to create a brilliant performance. Taken from 'Dead Silence' they treat us to 'Viking Death March', which is another Billy Talent song that has massive riffs that inspire the craziest circle pits. The band comeback after an encore to blast us away with 'Try Honesty' 'Fallen Leaves' & 'Red Flag'. It's actually ridiculous when you look back at how many incredible tracks these guys have crafted over the years, and tonight is a perfect example of that. Their current setlist displays fantastic, and well known tracks from not just one of their albums, but all of their albums. Billy Talent have become one of the most important rock bands out there, and I already can't wait to see them live again. AD
Frank Turner / Coventry The Empire / November 25th I stand in awe at the sheer magnificence of this evening. The Empire is still an up and coming venue in Coventry and has played host in the past to Libertines and The Enemy who played their farewell show. Tonight however is different. The main man Mr Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls are stopping by and it was a night to remember. The first act of the night comes all the way from America and looks like she could not be happier to be in Coventry of all places tonight. Esme Patterson holds the attention of everyone coming into the Empire this evening and with her melodic, indie rock she brings her all. All of her songs have a certain edge to them but it’s ‘Alone’ and ‘Feel Right’ that get the biggest response, mainly due to audience participation for each track. When the frontman of a band is sporting an alice band, a white fluffy feather boa and a naughty looking guitar you know it’s going to be a show to remember. Accompanying him are two backing singers and a full band. The next 45 minutes are a blur of amazing sing alongs, epic guitar solos and ridiculous dancing. This is Felix Hagan and the Family. Kicking off with the infectious ‘You’d Be Better on the Inside Looking Out’, the lead singer can be seen to bounce around the stage in true rockstar fashion. Their combination of jazz, rock and pop makes this evening even better. This is a band who are just having the best time of their lives and it clearly shows with every chord and beat struck. They play a storming set by getting the crowd as warmed up as they can get and exit the stage proving they could have headlined this venue themselves! This is Frank Turner’s 1,983rd show. He comes out with just an acoustic guitar and his backing band The Sleeping Souls to hoards of screams and shouts. Starting off the show with a bang he kicks into ‘I knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’ and then merges into ‘The Next Storm’. “How we doing Coventry?!” Turner screams to the crowd before jumping into the incredible ‘I Still Believe’. He brings out all the classics like ‘Long Live the Queen’ and ‘Losing Days’ to a crowd who are more than happy to belt every single word back. Every moment lived out on the stage this evening is just amazing and you can see it reflected on Frank Turner’s face, truly he’s living his dream. He keeps asking how the crowd are doing, as if he actually needs to. The sweat is emanating and the people are screaming. They are constantly on their feet and roaring the words back to the artist. The folk punk singer got booed three times during his performance. The first came when he announced that he was holding “what scientists call an electric guitar”. He claimed the only problem with an electric guitar is that it makes him want to riff. He then cut into a random solo for about a minute and then claimed “I never said I was good at riffing” to which the band agreed. The back and forth banter between Turner and the Sleeping Souls was a joy to watch and really helped make the evening feel genuine. Turner takes to the stage by himself for a small portion of the show as he dishes out some requests he’s received. An amazing opportunity for fans to hear songs the artist has all but forgotten about. “I had to google the lyrics for this the other day, I’ve written too many fucking songs” Turner jokes before the start of ‘Better Half’. Unfortunately for this part of the act when older songs were played the crowd seemed less than enthusiastic. They were still enjoying watching Turner play but it was only the extreme fans who appreciated this while the more passive ones just watched. One amazing moment came when Turner announced an old friend was in the crowd tonight. Frank wanted Coventry to prove themselves. He demanded his friend crowd surf in a triangle during the next song ‘If Ever I Stray’. The venture proved successful and Frank proclaimed “Coventry, you are officially beating Liverpool!” to a triumphant scream. Well...It’s nice for us to win something after all. The encore was the fan favourite ‘Photosynthesis’ which got the whole crowd involved. Frank announced that sadly he was still “not in a death metal band” although the crowd shouted back Mongol Horde (his heavy metal counteract) he dismissed that as not a metal act. He asked the crowd to separate for a wall of death, to the pleasure of the crowd. The separation happened faster than you can say Moses parting the red sea. However after discussing how terrible 2016 has been (”We lost some great people and America collectively lost its minds”) he demanded instead a wall of hugs when the song kicks into the chorus. Witnessing that many people run up to each other and embrace another person was incredible. Frank left the stage for less than a minute and came back to play a selection of popular tracks including ‘Get Better’ and ‘Casanova Lament’, again a nice oldie for the hardcore fans. Ending on ‘Four Simple Words’ Frank jumps into the crowd and holds the microphone for dear life as he ends the show in style. He somehow makes it back to the stage again and shouts how great Coventry have been and exits the stage. Having only seen Frank Turner at festivals I didn’t know how he’d be in a venue but this evening goes down as one of the best gigs I have ever seen and definitely shows that Frank Turner is one of the best in the business.
BEST ALBUMS OF 2016
My album of the year was a fairly late contender coming out at the end of September, but it simply blew me away with its stunning composure and rich textured depths. It is of course the progressive metal masters, Opeth with their twelfth album, ‘Sorceress’. This new beast was their first release though Nuclear Blast and the bands own imprint Moderbolaget Records. From the opening song, ‘Persephone’ you are immersed and charmed through its serene and melodic, almost gleeful tones, but it wouldn’t be Opeth without a dark undertone running through it, an almost air of sorrow, which truly embraces the ethos of Greek tragedy. Opeth are gods in their own right for their unique craftsmanship, and demonstrate this throughout this musical journey. Title track, ‘Sorceress’ invokes a dark presence and Akerfeldt’s signature impressive vocals soar. The instruments and sound give it an old school metal vibe, which represents the album throughout. Opeth are highly revered for their signature layered sounds, and this album is no exception, and their latest release, ‘The Wilde Flowers’ again helps capture the album’s very essence and the core of Opeth, even down to the name, being both daring, strange and beautiful, like a deadly flower. This amongst others has the makings of a fan favourite and all time classic Opeth sound, highlighting the significance and achievement of this new album, managing to go back to their roots, whilst mixing in a strange concoction of experimentalism and surrealism.
They take you on many twists and turns, and the exotic wild, ‘The Seventh Sojourn’ and ‘Strange Brew’ are great examples of this also, with the latter being one of the heaviest manic songs and graces us with some of the best vocals so far. The whole experience is immersive and mesmerising. This is a gloriously rich textured album, which simply oozes boundless creativity and superior craftsmanship. It is instantly captivating and holds a classic Opeth sound that is steeped in their dark roots, with bleak and intelligible lyrics adding a familiarity to their successful fan favourite, ‘Blackwater Park’ album, as well as having a fresh, exciting and luscious sound. They certainly pay homage to their older sound, so ‘Sorceress’ acts as the perfect cacophony of sounds, creating the ultimate myriad and again adding yet another eye opening layer to their impressive repertoire. CL
First off this is no easy task because I am not very good or one for choosing favourites when it comes to music. When asked the question “who is your favourite band?” I do not reply with a specific band as I am not able to definitively single out one band, as there are far, far too many that I adore. I have gone with an artist that I have known about for a while through a different project (Wye Oak) but this is one half of that band Jenn Wasner under her solo artist name of Flock of Dimes. Other than this album being a gem of a record it was the surprise of its release which was a big reason why it landed as my favourite album of the year. Usually you would try and define/categories an album so that you are able to get a point of reference, but with this recording I feel like there is no point. It is a mixture of many different aspects of the Wye Oak/Duggeonesse members musical talents and influences. It has been a project where she has been able to express and create exactly what she wants. I’m not saying that in the other bands there is an imbalance because of other members input. But with complete freedom, focus and independence this creation shines. For the most part it is an uplifting collection of tracks but there is still variety in ‘Apparition’ which has a darker side, begging with a deep, haunting atmospheric guitar and what could be the creeks from the best horror movies. This atmospheric feeling is mirrored by the rippling guitar alongside Jenn’s unmistakable voice. The darkness carries on through the lyrics as they describe an apparition of something indescribable with white hair but young. An image that is haunting the person dreams. ‘Ida Glow’ is an all out alternative electronic hit with heavy keys and synths, spacey vocals floating atop the flowing river of sound. A catchy beat means it gets in your head with a bridge that is up there with more dance orientated music that would make its way into a club’s DJ set just fine. It is the song that I have latched onto out of all the brilliant songs on this record, it is the one I tell people to listen to. It is that hint of 1980s transitioning into 1990s club/dance components which reinforces the quality of not only ‘Ida Glow’ but ‘If You See Me, Say Yes’. The merging of multiple eras through the instruments and sounds that have been selected really come together in a fantastic fashion. The experimentation on show really highlights the positive affect that being open minded has on music. Those glimpses of the record from the single releases did indeed amp up the excitement for the debut. Now that the full album is available it certainly delivers with a refreshing sound that blends the best elements of the world of electronica with the indie guitar tones that Wasner has become synonymous with the music that she has been putting out over the past decade. It’s a blissful effort. All in all ‘If You See Me, Say Yes’ is a wonder that takes from the great sounds of the 1980s yet still has something contemporary and futuristic about it. This brilliant release was a more than welcome surprise but its quality heightened it to the level where I have brandished it my favourite of the year. EJ
There have been a few criticisms of Thrice in the years. Certainly the band we have now is a far cry from the one that made ‘The Artist In The Ambulance’. ‘To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere’ is more of a straight-up rock record than a heavy punk one, occasionally with throws of post-hardcore and emo but for the most part far more sedate than Thrice’s earlier work. It is also absolutely fantastic. On first listen, this album is stunning. From the production, to the lyrical content, to the massive choruses in ‘Hurricane’, ‘The Long Defeat’ and ‘Death From Above’, this album is a masterpiece of modern rock music. There’s also still plenty of anger to be found in this beautiful masterpiece. Where fans of early Thrice might be turned away by ‘Stay With Me’, they will equally enjoy ‘Blood On The Sand’, ‘Death From Above’, ‘Black Honey’ and ‘Whistleblower’, all of which have a very honest, very real feeling behind them. And whether that feeling is real anger, indignation, pain or sadness, it’s the way the vocals are almost echoed in sentiment by the craft of the instruments that makes each track hit harder than the last.
Where I have found this album to exceed in, is the listenability. I have owned this record for many months, and have listened to it about six times a week. I am still falling more and more in love with it. When you find an album that you can listen to over and over again and not only not get bored, but still find new things to enjoy about it, that is a very special thing indeed. AL
The 1975 are a band that have split opinion like no other. The lack of effort needed for one band to jump genres and capture the attention of a variety of fans, lead to a seemingly overnight success. With their first self-titled album taking 2013 by storm, the countdown for album number two began, before the lengthy title of ‘I love it when you sleep…’ was announced, along with a new look, seeing the band shred the leather look and opting instead for fluorescent pink neon lights. With the first album highlights including the pop-melodic riffs of ‘Girls’, the heart-jabbing uproar that is ‘Robbers’, and the teenage fantasies played out in ‘Sex’, the 1975 set the bar high for anything to follow. In the September of 2014, Healy began revealing a series of cryptic tweets including lyrics of the album before confirming the title of the album the following year. Fans were then sent into a bizarre state of confusion as all the bands Twitter accounts were then simultaneously deleted, causing fans to speculate the band had broken up. Sometime later, the accounts were reinstated and Healy confirmed the first track from the album, ‘Love Me’ for an October 2015 release. With ‘Love Me’ drawing similarities to the 80s pop band Duran Duran but with a funkadelic indie twist, the critical reception was positive, as fans began to highly anticipate the new sound the Manchester band had found. Beginning the album in a shortened version of debut opener the 1975 as the atmospheric intro plays peacefully as the new 80s synth induced guitars indicate what the album might be. It’s a self-deprecating look at the fame that band have found upon themselves whilst mimicking the mainstream music industry. Surprisingly, Healy gets away with his pop-esque vocals by relying on the depth of the music to carry the track, despite the lyrics not taking themselves too seriously. Following from ‘Love Me’ the rest of the album takes twists and turns as the tale of how cocaine being not all it’s cracked up to be in ‘UGH!’ to then come to an emergency stop as the heartfelt ‘Change of Heart’ literally tugs on the heartstrings. It’s a pattern that the 1975 continue to follow throughout the album, lifting you up and then launching a whirlwind of emotion at you. The weird thing is - it works. ‘She’s American’ is a simple catchy pop song, but following from the depths of emotion from the previous track, you feel like you need it. ‘If I Believe You’ is a softly delivered tale that relies on a gospel quire for the entirely instrumental ‘Please Be Naked’ to pave way for the aggressive tale of a brain being lost in Sainsbury’s ‘The Ballad of me and My Brain’ for ‘The Sound’ to take you back up again. With the rest of the album playing with the very same format, it’s a simple and yet effective method of a band establishing itself as an artistic form. The 1975 know who they are, they can be creative but know that “You look shit and smell a bit” and “like a twa”’ are just as effective as anything poetic. NS
When Billy Talent first exploded onto the scene with 'Try Honesty' I remember watching the music video over and over again, trying to figure out if I liked the sound, because it was just so unique and different to anything else at the time. I've spoken to a lot of people who have felt this way, but in the end, we've all ended up falling for the incredible music that this band has created over the years. For a four piece, the sound that they put out is just absolutely incredible, I mean just take a look at the guitar parts that Ian D'sa has come up with, it's only him that plays them live as well. Outstanding! Not forgetting how extremely talented the rest of the band are. So let's take a minute to discuss some of the highlights of their latest album, and why I think it's the best one of 2016. Now, the first song I heard from this record was 'Afraid of Heights', and after hearing that mesmerizing riff that Ian came up with for the start of the track, I found myself hooked. Like a lot of lyrics, every song can have a different meaning to anyone that listens to it, which is without a doubt, the beauty of music. For me, "You told me we should never be afraid of heights" is about someone who always says they are going to push themselves to do something different, like this year will be "their year", but as time goes by, you just realize that that was all talk, as they never got around to just going for it. It's a song that I believe can push people to just do whatever they want with their life. 'Big Red Gun' comes across as the perfect opener for any Billy Talent show. When you listen to it, you can just imagine the crowd going absolutely crazy to it from the get go, and suitably, it works very well as the opener to this brilliant record. 'Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats' is just an absolutely ridiculous track, and comes across as very catchy from the moment you hit play. For me, it's one of the best Billy Talent tracks to date. With a chorus that reads "Don't be afraid of the view from economy class It's just the captain and crew jumping off of the mast", these are lyrics that you can again attribute to something you are going through in your life. Like a boss, that just doesn't care about what you're doing, and just leave you behind without a second thought. 'Louder Than The DJ' is something completely different for Billy Talent. Itâ€™s maybe something quite simple in comparison to what the band might normally do, but it does actually have a lot of depth to it, and it's just a really good shout out to say that guitar music is actually alive and well, and not as "in the past" as some people might think. This song was made to create a riot in a live atmosphere, and it does just that. 'The Crutch' is one of the most powerful songs they've ever done, it really catches you, and just hits you dead on throughout the track. 'This Is Our War' is the final track I'd like to point out from the album. With its hard hitting lyrical content like "Once there was a nation here, now there is no more" & "Once we fought to change our fears, but now this is our war" which for me is a political call out to the state the world is in right now, and how if we decide to, then we can make a positive change. A really important song, that asks all of the right questions. So that's why 'Afraid of Heights' is the album of the year for me. It has a perfect sense of musicianship and again shows why Billy Talent are one of the most important rock bands out there right now. AD
To take some inspiration from South Park this year in music has been a very Member Berries year. Member Green Day? Oh, I member. Blink-182 had an amazing album this year with ‘California’, the introduction of Matt Skiba really rejuvenated this band but for me it wasn’t the best. My favourite album this year does come from an older band, an album that for me has been totally overlooked, undervalued and under appreciated. ‘13 Voices’ by Sum 41 is a comeback like no other I’ve seen from one of the most influential bands on the pop punk circuit. It’s not been a smooth path for Sum 41, their future was in question during Deryck’s rehabilitation after he admitted he had alcoholism but now they’re back and better than ever. Every song on this album is fantastic and it’s clear that the lead singer has not only found his voice again but also the passion to write music. The single ‘War’ while slower than the rest of the album is a great turning point for this band. It’s about the battle Deryck had and how he wanted to give up but didn’t. It’s a beautiful sombre moment for this band and displays that they truly are capable of this comeback.
‘Goddamn I’m Dead Again’ is a pop punk anthem through and through and just has so much energy to it. It culminates with an incredible guitar solo that almost pays homage to The Eagles and just shows what Sum 41 are about. The titular track ‘13 Voices’ has one of the most intricate intros to a track that I’ve heard for a long time and the hook in the middle makes it one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. The vocals from Whibley are on form as always and once again show what this band are capable of. I could write a piece for every track on this album, from the slow introduction with ‘Murder of Crows’ to the awesome rock ballad ‘Twisted By Design’. For me this album is classic Sum 41 coming back with a vengeance, the singing from Whibley has not faltered, the lyrics compelling and the music is addictive and catchy. Sum 41 have made an incredible “Sumback” (sorry) and for the first time in a long time I’m excited about their future. RO
I gave this band album of the year back in 2011 after admiring the superb and frantic ‘Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me’ and while ‘Is Survived By’ wasn’t as impressive in 2013, I was really looking forward to their new release. ‘Stage Four’ tells the story of frontman Jeremy Bolm’s struggles during his mother’s illness and her eventual passing from stage four cancer, you may think it would be difficult connecting to the band on this record as it was so personal to Jeremy Bolm, but the sheer emotion during each song is incredibly stirring and I remember the album giving me goose bumps when I first listened to it in full. ‘Flowers and You’ opened up the album with its beautifully frantic instrumental and desperate vocals from Jeremy Bolm, the lyrics are very clear and it makes you understands Jeremy’s struggles; you have to appreciate the skill of the band to use the lyrics and create such a robust opening. ‘New Halloween’ continued Jeremy’s story with an excellent summery riff which was vital in making sure the listener enjoyed the track while taking in the emotional narrative. If Stage Four was my album of the year then ‘Rapture’ was my song of the year, beginning with the superb riff which works so beautifully in sync with the lyrics, there is added desperation in Jeremy Bolm vocals which created to the incredibly dramatic atmosphere, the hook of “Something you love is gone, something you love is gone, Someone you love is gone, someone you love is gone” was particularly thought provoking and makes you truly appreciate those you have around you. ‘Displacement’ is a shorter punchy number and discusses Jeremy’s struggles with religious belief after his mother’s passing, it’s a very difficult subject matter but it’s a song you just have to listen to and understand. ‘Benediction’ was another of my favourites on the record with its amazing chorus, before that however the song opened up with Jeremy singing without the usual screaming style, which was really interesting. ‘Eight Seconds’ reminded me a lot of the band’s previous works, the shortest and probably the most emotional song, it discusses how Jeremy ignored an important call from his mother before realising that she had died while he was performing on stage, another riveting track. ‘Palm Dreams’ was the first single off the record and is another belter of a track with its ferocious pace and awesome hooks. ‘Softer Spoken’ was probably the weakest song on the record but it’s still full of emotive themes that keep you interested. I enjoyed how the band experimented with ‘Posing Holy’ which has several changes of pace, almost sounding like a mix of post-hardcore and pop punk at times. The final two songs are very atmospheric but both varied in style, ‘Water Damage’ acts as Jeremy’s last frantic outburst of feelings whereas the beautiful ‘Skyscraper’ is a final remembrance of Jeremy’s mother. If you’re a fan of post-hardcore and emotive music, this is an album you must listen to. It’s extremely well written and executed and deserves to be record of the year. JP
I imagine that if I watched The Matrix on acid through a kolidescope then I’d probably be halfway towards watching Doctor Strange. This relatively less mainstream hero pulled all the punches with his debut movie outing culminating in a small hint regarding the future of the Marvel franchise. We all know what’s coming. The film starts in a frenzy fuelled action sequence featuring roads turning upside down and people being sucked up into buildings. This is because an ancient spell has been stolen to bring about the end of days by a world devouring monster called Dormammu. Enter the protagonist. We’re introduced to Doctor Stephen Strange, a very successful experimental doctor removing a bullet from someone’s head and having the person survive...obviously. In a short space of time you grow to hate the arrogant, egotistical maniac. Even when he’s in a ridiculous car crash (not focusing on the road tut tut) it’s still hard to feel sorry for him. This doesn’t last for long however as we then see a new Stephen Strange, he’s a scared man that may not be able to recover. He can’t use his hands to work and that for him is too much to bare. He takes matters into his own hands and travels halfway across the world. He then meets the Ancient One played by Tilda Swinton whose performance is incredible. She’s able to take him into whole new dimensions he knew nothing about. What follows next is a more stretched out learning montage where we get to see Doctor Strange as a man of peace rather than greed. Obviously Benedict Cumberbatch is the hot ticket at the moment, after his success with Sherlock it was certain that he’d make his way into films. He played Doctor Strange perfectly and made you believe the character. It takes a good actor to make you hate someone one minute and pity them the next. His performance is superb and really makes this film a stand out.
This film would be nothing however without the supporting cast. Each character has been developed to be perfect and helps move the story along seemlessly. Strange’s sidekick and tutor Mordo is a wise man who has followed the teachings of the Ancient One. It’s clear that Doctor Strange wants to question the teachings but Mordo is happy to be blindly lead. It’s nice to see these two opposites go against each other and eventually settle their differences and go after the big bad villains. The villain of this peace comes in the form of Kaecillius played by the fantastic Mads Mikkelsen, a former student of The Ancient One. He believes that if Dormammu is released then time will become irrelevant and the human race can live forever. In order to do this he does however have to kill a few humans first. Small obstacles to overcome. While his performance was excellent his screen time and character development was lacking but it was still a pleasure to watch. The fight scenes between Kaecillius and his crew and Strange and his counterparts are phenomenal. Changes of scenery, changes of angles and changes of dimensions are seen and at times it becomes more of a spectacle than a Marvel film. However we’re bought back to the fact it is a Marvel film with the cheeky Stan Lee cameo. The ending of the film is clever, smooth and also comedic, it shows how far Stephen Strange has come since the beginning and really shows how his character has developed. The world in which the mighty Dormammu lives is an insane array of colours and atoms and visually looks stunning. Doctor Strange was a good way for Marvel to go, obviously it’s all adding up to the mighty unveiling of Thanos (next year guys!) but it was also good to see a relatively unknown hero get some spotlight. I’m excited to see what happens next with Doctor Strange.