Iron Maiden have announced the ‘Legacy of the Beast’ tour for next summer. Support comes from Killswitch Engage. July 31st Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle August 2nd SSE Arena, Belfast 4th Exhibition & Conference Center, Aberdeen 6th Arena, Manchester 7th Genting Arena, Birmingham 10th o2 Arena, London
Fall Out Boy have announced the UK leg of their 'MANIA’ tour. March 27th Arena, Birmingham 28th Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff 29th Arena, Manchester 31st The O2, London
Waterparks will be making their return to the UK and Ireland in March in support of 'Entertainment’. March 1st O2 Institute, Birmingham 2nd Academy, Dublin 3rd Stylus, Leeds 4th KOKO, London 6th O2 ABC, Glasgow 7th O2 Ritz, Manchester 8th Y-Plas, Cardiff 9th Engine Rooms, Southampton 10th Concorde 2, Brighton
Fangclub have announced a short run of UK shows in January. All shows are 14+. January 23rd The Lending Room, Leeds 25th The Garage (The Attic), Glasgow 26th Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham 27th Thousand Island, London
The Xcerts will be going out on a UK headline tour in support of their new album, 'Hold On To Your Heart’, in February and March. February 18th Academy 2, Leicester 19th The Plug 2, Sheffield 20th Whelans (upstairs), Dublin 21st Barsub, Belfast 23rd O2 ABC, Glasgow 24th The Garage, Aberdeen 25th The Georgian Theatre, Stockton On Tees 26th The Deaf Institute, Manchester 28th The Portland Arms, Cambridge March 1st Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton 2nd Heaven, London 3rd Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff 4th The Joiners, Southampton
Trivium will be touring the UK in April alongside Code Orange, Power Trip and Venom Prison. April 16th O2 Academy, Bristol 17th O2 Academy, Birmingham 19th O2 Academy, Glasgow 20th Academy, Manchester 21st O2 Academy Brixton, London
Rolo Tomassi will follow up the release of their new album, 'Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’, with a UK tour in April. April 3rd Audio, Glasgow 4th Deaf Institute, Manchester 5th Asylum 2, Birmingham 6th The Exchange, Bristol 7th The Garage, London 8th Strangeforms Fest, Leeds
Don Broco will follow up the release of 'Technology’ with a UK headline tour. February 8th Pyramid Center, Portsmouth 9th O2 Academy, Bristol 10th Great Hall - University, Cardiff 12th Nick Rayns LCR UEA, Norwich 13th Rock City, Nottingham 15th O2 Academy, Birmingham 17th O2 Academy, Leeds 19th Northumbria Institute, Newcastle Upon Tyne 20th The Garage, Aberdeen 21st Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow
AC/DC co-founder and former guitarist Malcolm Young has died. He retired from the band in 2014 due to health reasons. Young had been diagnosed with dementia and entered a nursing home to receive full-time care. American emo-rapper Lil Peep has died aged 21, due to a suspected overdose.
Linkin Park will release a new live album, ‘One More Light: Live’ on 15th December Later this month, Bring Me The Horizon will release a compilation of the best tracks from their first five releases. ‘Bring Me The Horizon 2004-2013’ will consist of 15 songs and will be released on November 24th with the vinyl pressing (standard black / limited edition dark red) due for release on February 9th 2018. Bay Area metal titans Machine Head will release their ninth studio album, ‘Catharsis’ on 26th January via Nuclear Blast.
Stone Temple Pilots have welcomed Detroit music veteran Jeff Gutt as their new singer. A as-yet-untitled album will be released on Atlantic/Rhino in 2018.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes have shared plans to release a live album called '23 - Live At Brixton’. It will be recorded at the O2 Brixton Academy next month, and will consist of live versions of every song the band have released to date.
Dashboard Confessional will return on February 9th with ‘Crooked Shadows’, their first album in eight years. It will be released through Fueled By Ramen.
Will Varley has shared details of his new album - 'Spirit Of Minnie’. Set for release on February 9, 2018 through Xtra Mile Recordings, it sees Varley recording with a full backing band for the first time. Electro indie-rock outfit Speak Low If You Speak Love (State Champs’ Ryan Scott Graham) has announced their second album. 'Nearsighted’ will be released through Pure Noise Records on January 19th. Ohio rockers The Plot In You will return on February 16th with their Fearless Records debut full-length, ‘Dispose’.
A Loss For Words will release a rarities called 'Odds & Ends’ on December 27th. The first six bands for the 2018 Slam Dunk Festival have been announced. It will be headlined by Jimmy Eat World. They’ll be joined by Taking Back Sunday, Sleeping With Sirens, Four Year Strong, State Champs and Trash Boat. May 26th Slam Dunk Festival North - Leeds City Centre 27th Slam Dunk Festival South - Hatfield Park (new site for 2018) 28th Slam Dunk Festival Midlands - Birmingham NEC
Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman has announced 2018 will be the final, full cross-country tour. The family of former Faith No More vocalist Chuck Mosley has announced he has died at the age of 57. In a statement, Mosley’s family state the cause of death was "due to the disease of addiction”.
Of Mice & Men have confirmed their new album will be called ‘Defy’. It will be released on January 19th through Rise Records. Having previously announced that their new album, ‘Underworld’, would be released on January 12th through Hopeless Records, Tonight Alive have revealed further details about the album. Most notably, Slipknot/Stone Sour vocalist Corey Taylor and Lynn Gunn of PVRIS have made guest appearances on the album.
Avenged Sevenfold have revealed plans to release 'The Stage: Deluxe Edition’ on December 15th through Capitol Records. It will include seven additional studio songs along with four live tracks recorded at London’s O2 Arena. Los Angeles-based hard rock band, Five Finger Death Punch have detailed their forthoming greatest hits album, 'A Decade of Destruction’, which will be released on December 1st.
Funeral Shakes will release a self-titled debut album through Silent Cult Records on February 16th. The band is made up of members of Gallows (Lee Barratt), Nervus (Em Foster) alongside Simon Barker and Calvin Roffey from The Smoking Hearts. Essex anthemic rockers Sun Arcana have joined Easy Life Records. More details on their forthcoming release will be revealed soon. They’ve been working with producer Chris Coulter (Arcane Roots, Jamie Lenman) on material for the best part of 2017. Detroit native Alexandria Maniak aka Shortly has joined Triple Crown Records.
Bloodstock Festival organisers have announced more bands for the event including: Watain, Orden Ogan, Combichrist and Memoriam. The first round of bands for Germany’s Rock am Ring and Rock im Park festivals have been announced. Set to take place from June 1st - 3rd, it will be headlined by Foo Fighters, Thirty Seconds to Mars and Gorillaz. They’ll be joined by an already impressive lineup that includes Rise Against, Marilyn Manson, Avenged Sevenfold, Stone Sour, A Perfect Circle, Parkway Drive, Good Charlotte, Bullet for My Valentine, Jimmy Eat World, Asking Alexandria, Enter Shikari, Bury Tomorrow and more. Rock Am Ring takes place at Eifel’s Nürburgring, with Rock Im Park happening at Nuremberg’s Zeppelinfeld.
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Interview with Jamie
Can you tell us about the formation of Alaska Alaska? Well it started off back in late 2012. I was writing songs in my bedroom that were a mixture of Latterman, I Am The Avalanche and Crime In Stereo. Slowly I built myself up to get a group of people to help me bring these songs out. After some line up changes here we are!
How did you get to the band name Alaska Alaska, and what does it mean to you? I got it from the film Into the Wild which is my go to film when I’m feeling uninspired. To me it means that life is one adventure and in the film the adventure for supertramp is Alaska, that’s his target.
Can you tell us a bit about the music scene in South Wales, as well as how you think it's grown/changed since you started out? The music scene in South Wales was brilliant a couple of years back and there are still some amazing promoters in Cardiff that are keeping the scene going, but it has died down a lot over the last year. A few bands we used to play with all the time aren’t around anymore and it’s sad but we are a friendly bunch and always make new band friends!
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and what gigs have stood out to you the most? This year we have been a bit quiet, building up the band and writing new songs, exploring the world and just making ourselves better people. Some of our stand out moments this year have included playing London at the start of it and making loads of friends at that show. Meeting the guys from Tie Fighter Pilot and getting signed by Dirty Sushi Records. It’s just been a fun year for us!
Okay! So how did you get to the EP title 'Another Planet's Hell', and what does it mean to you? " “Maybe this world is another planet's hell" is a quote by English writer & philsopher Aldous Huxley. We just felt this summed the EP up rather well, taking it to mean the decay of modern society & the way we take our planet for granted. Another being the way we view our current political, social and environmental situation as “hell.”
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Another Planet's Hell'? They aren't your typical love songs... We touch upon some subject matter close to all of our hearts, mental health being the biggest contender; depression especially.
What was it like to work with your very own Tom Gibbons, and what do you guys enjoy the most about having this kind of creative control? It’s awesome, we can take our time on the songs we don’t have to rush. Tom has a brilliant ear for hearing things that are missing or could be improved and it just means we can spend the time to evolve the songs to how they should be.
What would you say was the most challenging song for you to put together on 'Another Planet's Hell', and why? The biggest challenge for this EP for me was writing the last song on it. It’s called ‘Constants and Variables’, and it’s a song I’ve been trying to write for the last two years. I lost a best friend with him taking his own life and it shook my world! I grew up with him and then he was gone. There was nothing I could do about it, and ever since that has happened I haven’t been able to write another song. Now It’s finished I’m hoping that the song lives up to his memory and that I can now start writing new songs again.
How did the artwork for 'Another Planet's Hell' come together, and what does it mean to you? I asked a friend who lives in Norway if he could send me some photos as we were a bit lost on what we wanted the artwork to be and we had all these different ideas. We just saw the photo of the trees and thought that it was simple, and it just looked awesome!
Looking back on 'Never Thought We'd Get This Far', how happy are you with this release still, and what do you think it's done for Alaska Alaska? I love this release. It was that first step from where we were starting to establish our own sound and push ourselves that little bit harder. From that we have found our feet and are constantly pushing ourselves. It has made us better songwriters.
What else can we expect to see from Alaska Alaska as we head towards 2018? Hopefully another EP down the line! We have already started work on new songs, and hopefully we’ll have a lot more gigs and tours! Who knows, maybe we will hit festival season this year!
Can you tell us about the formation of Then Comes Silence? I did a solo demo in 2011 and formed the band in 2012. We got the opportunity to release the first album the same year. It all went really fast. Signing with an indie label (Novoton), recording and releasing in 10 months. The first members that played on the first album are still secret. We had a change of musicians before the second album. The majority of the members have known each other for a long time. We met the newest member Jonas from hanging out in clubs in Stockholm.
How did you get to the band name Then Comes Silence, and what does it mean to you guys? I came up with the name after reading an old horror novel, I don't remember which one. One of the chapters ended with the line "Then Comes Silence". It sounded like something we should call the band. In the beginning we were a bit noisier, more gritty and louder on stage, so I must say I think the name was quite useful when we ended the shows with a sonic thunder and feedback. The name is also a simple definition of death.
Interview with Alex
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Stockholm? It's not hard to find musicians in this town if you want to start a band. The Stockholm crowd can be quite hard to impress though. I believe that's a good thing because then you need to focus on what you really are. Stockholmians can be sensitive to trends and are famous for picking up the latest movements.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you could do this for a career? No, not really a specific moment. I have always known I was going to work with music somehow. A long time ago I did some film and theatre score music and made a living on it for about 2 - 3 years. Before I played an instrument, in my early childhood I mimed to rock n roll.
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? This year we haven't really done any tours yet. The first trip starts now in November 2017. We did some separate shows here and there though. The Helsinki gig in February and Gotham Sounds in April was fun. What a great goth crowd they were. We had a really nice experience in Poland last Summer. We played at the Soundrive Festival in Gdansk. If you haven't been there... Go! The location and the venues are awesome.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes on ‘Blood’? It's hard to pick certain songs, but I can tell you that 'My Bones' and 'Good Friday’ are connected. They cover my worries and my grief of my father's passing last year. Writing the album was a healing process and the album became very personal.
How did the music video for 'Warm Like Blood' come together, and what was it like to work with Sandra Lundvall? The video is based on our own version of "The Pied Piper" that you can get if you buy the special digibook CD edition. You should check it out. Sandra used the illustrations in the digibook as a sketch and a mood board for the music video. She has recently started her animation career, so I think this was her third or fourth video. We will follow her career with excitement.
What was it like to record the album live? It's probably the most desirable way to do a recording. You need to be totally focused, lean back and trust each other. I actually enjoy all kinds of methods recording songs, but doing it live gives a nerve.
Can you tell us who recorded the album, and how you think they helped shape 'Blood'? Our producer Tom van Heesch booked Svenska Grammofonstudion in Gothenburg. Tom had a plan and we followed his firm direction. That place is a playground for musicians. Especially if you are interested in old gear. There are surprises almost everywhere in every corner. A Minimoog that used to belong to Supertramp, a mixing console from Queen's studio in Switzerland and things you've only seen on photos before.
How did the front cover for 'Blood' come together, and what does it mean to you? The band wanted to do a classic cover of the album. Simple and graphic. It's the palm print of my daughter's hand. I asked her if she would like to help. She put her hand in paint and did a really nice palm print.
What else can we expect from Then Comes Silence as we head towards 2018? We will play in new places and return to places we've been to before. Some festivals are coming up, but it's not official yet. I have started working on the next album already.
Interview with Murray
Can you tell us about the formation of The Xcerts? We started when we were about 14 or 15. I was in a band called Fade. I subsequently kicked everyone out because I didn’t think they were good enough. I just so happened to be in the playground with Jordan, and he asked about the band, and said that he could play guitar. So I said cool, “After Christmas we can get together and start jamming.” It turns out he couldn’t play bass. He asked for a bass guitar that Christmas and got one. That was how The Xcerts was formed basically. Our older friend at school played drums for us, and a few years later he left. Then Jordan and I moved to Brighton, met Tom our current drummer who has been with us for around ten years.
When did you realize that you were going to be a career lasting band? Basically as soon as we started really, I was like “This is the best thing, I would love to do this for the rest of my life.” It maybe wasn’t until Jordan and I made the decision to move down south to Brighton where it was like “Okay we want to continue doing this, we want to make this work.” That was predominantly, why we moved down south to try and find fame and fortune.
So how did your recent UK tour go? It’s the best headline tour we’ve ever done, without a doubt. The shows were packed out, and everybody was singing along. There was definitely a noticeable shift in how many people were at the shows. Personal highlights, it was funny, because on the tour we played in Glasgow, and that was our biggest headline show to date. I felt it was the best headline show we ever played. On the same tour we outdid ourselves and played the biggest ever show we’ve played in London, and then I thought that that was the best headline show we’ve ever played. So I think having that sense of topping ourselves was my highlight. Glasgow was like near perfection, and you are always constantly chasing the perfect show. I thought we achieved that there, and then London, there was just something incredibly special about that.
How have the new songs been going down live? Yeah, the two that we have released have gone down really, really well. We opened our set with ‘Daydream’, and you can still see that there were some people who were unaware of what we were playing. But the majority of the crowd were super into it from the off. We were closing with ‘Feels Like Falling In Love’. Honestly, I feel like on some nights that song got the biggest reaction. It might not be as embedded as some of the older stuff, but it is without a doubt one of our most popular songs. It was really exciting to see. But that’s the reaction you want from your new material, you want that to be the most loved. We were also playing two songs from the record which hadn’t been released. They went down great as well. I think they’re easier songs to digest.
With a lot of the UK tour selling out, would you say this has been a turning point for the band? Absolutely. There’s been a noticeable shift in how we are perceived, and how many people are talking about us, and how many people are coming to the shows. It just seems to be widening a lot more. Even with things like press, people seemed to want to support us, but they didn’t. It almost felt like we were swimming upstream at 100mph. This time around, it’s just been great. It seems like everyone wants us to achieve the goal that we set out to achieve. We are feeling a great sense of love surrounding our band at the moment. It’s lovely.
So, what was it like to take on Reading and Leeds festival this year, and what do you remember the most about this experience? Our first time playing the festival was opening the main stage, which was very, very surreal. It was strange. It was almost like having an outer body experience when we were playing. I was like “This is so bizarre, that we are on the main stage, we’re there, and this is incredible.” It was a whirlwind of a weekend that was just over before it began. We definitely did it, there’s photographic evidence! It was surreal.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Hold On To Your Heart', and what does it mean to you? The record and the title is predominantly about self-worth and realizing that we are all worth more than the pain that life can sometimes throw our way. So it’s really about that, and knowing that if you’re dealing with any sort of heartbreak, relationship breakdown, or the death of a family member or a friend, or anything like that. You don’t need to start breaking broken pieces. I went through a really tough time before we started making this record. Dealing with quite a lot. Instead of looking after myself, I was taking the broken pieces of my heart, and smashing them even more. It was no way to live. So basically the record is all about crawling out of the darkness, and desperately trying to find a pinhole of light. Widening that, and learning to live again. It’s strange, it kind of spawned from a very negative place, but I want people to really find positivity in the record, because it’s about learning to love your life again. It’s not taking the good stuff for granted.
The new stuff you’ve released sounds quite positive? Personally for me, I needed to create light to escape the darkness. We wrote a batch of songs before we found our way with the record. They were really miserable and negative. It wasn’t healthy, and I had a real turning point, where I thought that I just didn’t want to bum people out. I’m bumming myself out, and I don’t want the listener to be bummed out. I want to make something positive. I want people to dance, I want people to just come to the show, and have a really enjoyable and life affirming time. We’re not going to do that if we are making these really morose songs. So that was on my mind. Hopefully we have made a record that will make people want to dance.
We've read that the record was inspired by Springsteen/Petty and of course the 80s, so can you tell us a bit about that, and maybe what you love the most about those artists? I mean Tom Petty, and Springsteen have been with me since childhood, and they are two of my favourite songwriters of all time. I adore both of them. The 80s feel that is across the record. It’s more of a feeling I was getting when listening to those records by Springsteen, Petty, Bruce Hornsby, The Replacements, Don Henley. There’s this really romantic feeling that I get when I listen to those artists. And so, obviously the music is absolutely incredible, which we took on board and took influence from. It’s the feeling that these records give me. They are so invigorating. If I put my headphones on and blast those records, it just makes me want to go and run, and scream, and just live the best life I possibly can. They are really therapeutic records, and really inspiring. So yeah it was more about that feeling you got from those records, which I haven’t really heard in many modern bands, or in any records for a while. So it was about capturing that feeling, and in a cinematic way have a record that could soundtrack a movie, in the same way that Springsteen can do that. So hopefully we’ll soundtrack someone’s life movie.
You've said that you were “going for a timeless, stripped back sound” so can you tell us a bit about how you initially found your sound on this record, and maybe how it compares to anything else you've done before? The light bulb moment was with our single ‘Daydream’, that was the first song we wrote that made the record, we were talking a lot about ‘Jessie’s Girl’, Cheap Trick - ‘Surrender’ that kind of thing. We thought that those songs were just so simple, so short and they get to the point. But there’s so much going on. So basically we wrote ‘Daydream’, and we just simplified everything. Like absolutely everything. From drum fills, to bass lines. We realized that once we could pull everything back. The lyrics came to the forefront, and it meant that we could layer the whole thing with added synth, and piano. So when I said we went for a stripped back sound, I meant that we stripped it back as the three of us, band wise the songs were kind of made in their purest form, so that we could then add on top of that. It was kind of challenging, and funny. Chopping the songs, and cutting fat, is way harder than adding parts in. It’s really, really difficult. At times we would really struggle with it, and at times we would wonder if it was too dumb, or if something else needed to be there. But it didn’t, we just needed to pull back. So once we clocked that, we did that across the whole album. Really simplified everything. We found that we loved doing that, once we found our way with it. This is what we should be doing, and this is how our band should sound. It gave our producer Gary Clark a canvas of songs that he could then go nuts on with synths, and added production.
How did you end up working with Gary Clark, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Yeah, so there was kind of two producers on it. Dave Eringa who has made two previous records with us. He recorded the band. But Gary Clark, he used to be in Danny Wilson, who made the hit 80s song ‘Mary's Prayer’, and now he is a big time writer and producer. So I got hooked up with him through management and initially I thought I was going to the studio to write for someone else, because he is a pop writer. Our publishing company were wanting me to get into writing for other people. They said “I should go meet this guy, maybe he can do something for The Xcerts, but predominantly it will be for someone else.” I got there, and we just hit it off instantly. He was just asking about The Xcerts, he knew all about the band. He was like “Have you got anything?” I was like “I’ve got this idea!” so I played him it, and he fell head over heals in love with it, and then we just worked on that idea. So I then came back to Brighton, and I was like “Gary should produce our record”. So that was it, we spent like the next six months demoing in Brighton, and then I would go up to Dundee where Gary lives, work on the songs with him, go back to Brighton demo, and then go back up. It was a very different process for us, that’s for sure. We did a lot of work beforehand, leading up to our time in the studio. So we were really prepped going in. Then once we recorded the band stuff, he then went back to Dundee, and that’s when we did the additional stuff with the synths, and the vocals. Gary is just incredible, he is like my spirit animal. He is a very soulful man. If vocal takes weren’t all 100%, or if I was stumbling, or whatever, but I meant it, he was like “I love it, it’s staying.” Whereas some producers, are like “We need to do this 24 times! You need to have a breakdown, and then it’s right” With Gary, some of the vocal takes were done on the first or second time, just because he is all about the feel. He is just a brilliant man with melody. He kind of opened our eyes to a lot of the tools of songwriting.
Would you say that he became a fifth member of the band? Yeah, he did! This is the first time that we have had like a real big time producer. It’s good because there’s only three of us, writing songs in a windowless room. So it’s hard for us sometimes to take a step back and say that “This needs to change etc.” For us to actually physically leave the room and go back to Scotland, just having perspective, and breathing room. He would propose questions, more than trying to stamp his mark. He would just ask why something was there? Then if we were like “We don’t really know” then he would be like “You don’t really need it, there’s a way simpler way of doing this, you could maybe do this etc.” It was very collaborative. We love and respect the guy so much. He is just an amazing producer and writer. He was completely on the level with us. He was a little bit freaked out because he is mainly a pop producer, and he would be like “Am I making you too pop? Because I know you’re a rock band”, and I would be like “no man!” I kept referencing Taylor Swift, but I was like “No let’s go to eleven. We’ve always been a pop band, but we’ve never had it exposed”, and he’d be like “I am exposing you!” It was great.
Can you tell us a bit about your latest music video 'Daydream' as well as what it was like to work with Chris Maguire once more? That video is just a trip. It’s mayhem, and I still don’t really know what’s going on. I referenced a really good film called Spun. It’s a black comedy I guess. I wanted it to be really jittery, and fast paced, and kind of all over the shop. I’m meant to be having a lucid dream, the guys are rolling around in a car, while I am running to a show. They try and get a hold of me, but I don’t pick up because I am in the bathtub having a lucid dream. They drive to the venue, and I run to the venue. I get there, and envision that we are playing this killer show, when in actual fact no one is there! Then I wake up. Yeah, it’s really cool. It’s a bit trippy. Chris Maguire is wicked, and a really funny guy. Incredibly talented, and incredibly charismatic. It’s cool, he did the ‘Feels Like Falling In Love’ video, and that was very right, regimented, thought out, and there was a big crew working on that. He was like super, super efficient, and very professional, and then ‘Daydream’ was a bit more guerilla style. It was just cool to see Chris working in that capacity. That he could do both. He is kind of a big shot New York film maker. He works for massive fashion companies and stuff like that. So it was cool to see someone work so differently. He completely went with it. It was a really fun shoot. I had to run for way too long though. I told our manager that our next music video is going to be us in a hot tub drinking champagne. Hopefully that is allowed to happen.
Looking back on 'There Is Only You', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of The Xcerts? I haven’t listened to it in a while, but I am really proud of that record. I still love it, I think it definitely did change people’s perception of the band. Because our previous record was a lot noiser. ‘Scatterbrain’ was a bit of a marmite record for people. Some people love it, some people hate it. I think the people that kind of left, came back. It definitely changed the perception with press. They jumped on board. It felt like a really big word of mouth record. I am just glad that it means a lot, to a lot of people now. The making of that record was pretty trying, for myself and Tom we were going through some stuff while making it. It was a pretty intense recording experience really. Then once it came out, it was really an amazing two years, to watch our band grow. I think it’s a testament to that record that we have come back after a little bit of time away, and the crowds are bigger. That record continued to grow when we went away. That’s an incredible thing really, and something that’s kind of out of our control once we have stopped touring it. We have done as much promotion as we can to support it. It has its own life now, which is great. I’m just glad that it means something to people, that is all you can really hope for when you make a record. I’m glad it’s that one, because we are still super proud of it.
I feel like you guys have a healthy space between your records? It gives your fans time to digest the music more maybe? It’s funny, the reason it takes a while is not because we don’t want to release more content, it’s because of circumstance really. Honestly, if we had our way, had more time in the studio, or even our own studio. Yeah, it probably wouldn’t be like that, we would release more material. But, I am with you on that, I like it when bands do it the old school way, and give people breathing room with the record, and just let people digest it. Because music is a never ending turnstile, and people are kind of finished with the record after a week. That’s insane. You need to live with it, and experience life with an album. For you to truly cherish it. I am glad that we were allowed to go away, and come back and have people still wanting to support us. We don’t have too many fair-weathered fans, which is nice.
What else can we expect to see from The Xcerts as we head towards 2018? A lot of touring. Yeah we’ve got another UK headliner, a European headliner. I think we are heading out to the states with this record. Which is really cool, because we have only ever played a few shows here and there in America. But I think we will be doing a full US tour, which is great. I guess then we’ll be in the summer. The years go so quickly these days, the older you get. Festivals and what not. A lot of shows. There’s still quite a lot of music to be released from the ‘Hold On To Your Heart’ sessions that didn’t make the record. I don’t know what format they are going to come out in. If they are going to be singles, or an EP. There’s a lot of stuff to come next year, that’s for sure!
Interview with Mark How did Lonely The Brave originally form? Dave, Mo & Bush had a band in and around Cambridge & my old band used to play shows with them on and off. Our singer was emigrating to New Zealand so we asked the guys if they wanted to play with us for our farewell show. I remember finishing the gig and thinking "fuck, for the first time in god knows how many years, I'm not in a band!? what do I do now!?" Fortunately for me, approximately five minutes later Dave asked if I wanted to join their band. After that everything changed for all of us.
How did you get to the band name Lonely The Brave, and what does it mean to you? I can't really remember who came up with it. It was either Mo or Dave, possibly both. We all liked the idea of a name that could be taken in different ways; a favourite of all of ours being the band Poison the Well. so that was the basic idea behind it. As for what it means to me, well we had a lot of shit to overcome to become the band we wanted to be so the name is in some way a reflection of those times. The fact that we had to alienate ourselves from certain people, for the right reasons.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Cambridge? Cambridge has always had a vibrant music scene. We all grew up as musicians in venues like the Portland Arms or the Man on the Moon as it was then. Those venues are still out there and the Cambridge music scene is currently the strongest I have ever seen it. So many bands. it's a beautiful thing. The same people that were at our earliest shows, even as the other bands we were before Lonely the Brave, are still going to those gigs & giving new bands a chance to prove themselves. Those guys are real life heroes to me.
Was there a particular moment where you felt like you could be a career lasting band? From the moment we wrote our first song as Lonely The Brave I remember thinking to myself that I would spend the rest of my life behind that man as he sung. I don't know if there is such a thing as a career band anymore, or even if the industry wants such things. Music has become such a disposal commodity to so many. We have to constantly adapt our perception of ourselves and our band to survive and keep doing it. It only gets harder in our experience, the further along the road you go.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year? Not a lot is the honest answer. We purposely decided to take a break from touring this year. We have spent the last four years constantly touring and that takes its toll on relationships both inside and outside the band. We needed to go away for a while to gather our thoughts and start thinking about the writing process for our next record. Highlights in general from touring recently would be the run we did at approximately this time last year with Biffy Clyro through mainland Europe and Scandinavia. Driving through Norway and the utter beauty of its scenery was incredible. The tour itself was really inspirational in so many ways. A great way to spend a few months of our lives.
So looking back on 'Things Will Matter', how happy have you been with the response to the album so far, and what do you think it's done for the representation for the band? I try not to pay too much attention to the reaction our records get if possible. It's a weird one for me. I know that we put our best into everything we do. If that's not enough for someone, that's o.k, We don't write songs for anyone else. These songs represent a place in time for us all, both as individuals and as a band. If people are into that, that's awesome, if they're not, that's cool. I'm proud of the record. Yes there are things that I would change but that will always be the way. Show me an artist that given a chance, would not change some part of their work. If you find perfection, it's time to stop.
So what made you want to do a redux edition of 'Things Will Matter', and was there a particular arrangement that you really enjoyed working on? We really enjoy the idea that there does not have to be one definitive version or even one definitive structure for a track. It's such a tried and tested procedure that once a song is recorded, thats it. we feel it doesn't have to be that way, hence the idea of Redux. It gives us the opportunity to dissect our tracks and reconstruct them with different instrumentation and structures. this can throw a whole new emotion to a track too. I really enjoyed re-working ‘Strange like I’. The original version is so frenetic, so it was a lot of fun to pull it to pieces and create something totally different.
The actual track 'Things Will Matter' did not feature on the album before, so how did it end up going on the redux edition, and if you can, can you tell us a bit about the personal lyrics that run throughout the track? ‘Things Will Matter’ is actually one of our oldest songs. It's so old in fact that it features as a hidden track on the first ever E.P's we made on my living room floor by hand. we left it off ‘The day's War’ as it just didn't feel right amongst those tracks and to be honest we had kind of resided ourselves to the fact that it was to remain something that we would only play live from then on, on the rare occasion we fancied it. I'm really glad we decided to give it a proper release on the Redux record. It feels like the right home for it. It's a funny one as the music was originally written about my dad but I never told anyone that. Dave then wrote the lyrics - there have been several instances over the years where this has happened. ‘Trick of The Light’ being another example.
This might be a tricky question, but here goes. Which band would you say you've learnt the most from touring with, and why? Probably the tour with Biffy that I mentioned above. Their entire operation is one smooth, perfectly operating machine. The band & all of their crew are the biggest sweethearts I've met so far in my career. They just looked after us so much, day after day. Above all else they are the perfect professional band. night after night, even when feeling like complete shit, they get up and smash the venue to pieces for two hours straight. like I said above, inspirational.
What else can we expect to see from Lonely The Brave as we head towards 2018? Good question. Honest answer is, I don't know. We don't want to rush the writing process for our new record. It has to be as close to perfect as we can get it. We need to push the limits of what this band is currently and what it can become. we have some things to overcome to move onto the next phase which is where we are at currently. I personally would like to get out and play some live shows as they always remind me of why I loved music in the first place.
So when did you first realize that music was something you wanted to do with your life? My family were all pretty musical growing up, everyone played an instrument, even my dad who was more of an academic fella who played the violin. It was when I got the Queen greatest hits tape, I went on a holiday to Bulgaria and got a dodgy pirated Queen greatest hits tape from a market store. The tape was red, it was weird. ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ finished half way through on side one, and then continued the other half on side two which was fantastic, I had no problem with that. So I listened to that, and I got a bit obsessed with Queen. I thought that that was what I wanted to do. So from when I was 9 I started learning guitar. I started my first band when I was 9 or 10, and it’s just gone from there really.
Can you tell us a bit about some of your musical influences growing up? Sure, well from Queen I always had The Beatles and The Searchers and all of that 60s music, also ABBA. I used to rinse ABBA – ‘Gold’ fairly heavily! I would say that From Benny and Bjorn I got a good idea of how to structure a song, and obviously from John and Paul as well. With Queen, took it to another level, as they are quite heavy in some places. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was number 1 in the UK, and it was heavy! Then other Queen material, with like ‘Stone Cold Crazy’, that’s basically the birth of thrash! From there when I went to secondary school. I just missed Nirvana. My generation was too late for them, as I only found out about them when Kurt died, which was a shame. So when I got to secondary school I met with two or three other rockers, and they said “Listen to Nirvana, Green Day, The Offspring, Silverchair!” All this stuff, I was sort of introduced to over night. That was a revelation, and for me, another step up in heaviness. Then, I was ready for new metal. I missed grunge, but I was ready with open arms for new metal. It hit me like a tidal wave, and I loved it. Particularly Coal Chamber, I love that band. The first two Korn albums, and Deftones. That was my era. As I grew up, I got into more sophisticated music. I found Refused, and At The Drive-In, Far. Those kind of bands. It was heavier again. It was just more complex than the stuff that Nirvana and Green Day were writing. They were writing very good pop songs. Then you listen to At The Drive-In, Refused, they’re really playing with structure and different styles. Then the next elevation, when we were touring, my influences became my peers. People like Yourcodenameis:milo, Million Dead, Oceansize, Biffy Clyro. We were all nicking a lot of stuff from bands like Refused, Far. They were my influences at that point.
I read that after Reuben split up, you carried on with illustration. So can you tell us a bit about how you got back into the music world, and what it was like to start out as a solo musician? I didn’t write or play any music for about a year. I was just doing illustration. I didn’t really have my own creative output during that time. I was working 9-5 for a design agency. Doing other people’s projects for them, working for other clients etc. I didn’t have a musical outlet. It sort of got trapped like steam in a kettle I suppose. It began to bug me. There’s a song on the last Reuben record about how tough it is to write a song. Especially when you’ve got an unfinished song rattling around. The only way to get rid of it, and to stop it playing again and again in your head is to finish it. I had no means to do that really, because even though I wrote everything in Reuben, it was still incredible to have the band environment to try everything out and say “Hey, play this, let’s see how it sounds!” It’s tougher to do that, when you’re on your own. After moaning about this to my friend ben Kav who is now my drummer. He is the only one in my band now. He said “Why don’t we just jam it out, you and me?” We had never played together before. He is a great drummer. He said that “We can finish them off, so at least then you can get to sleep.” So I said “Great!” Then we finished them off, and they sounded good. Then we asked some other buddies to come along and fill the sound out, and then we recorded them and then we went on tour. It all sort of happened really gradually, out of a simple desire. Just to give my brain some peace. Just so I could concentrate without unfinished songs rattling around. So that was how I got back into it. It’s worth saying here, that although I am not doing my latest record ‘Devolver’ with Xtra Mile Recordings, it’s with Big Scary Monsters. Xtra Mile who signed Reuben, were very helpful at getting me back into the swing of things. Because I sent the record to them as soon as it was finished, and they agreed to put it out. They agreed to put it out before they even heard it. So they had the faith in me that they’ve always had which was very helpful. So that was a big part of it. Getting that boost back into it.
Did you feel a lot of pressure when you put 'Muscle Memory' together, and how did it compare at the time to anything you had done before? No, I didn’t feel any pressure at all, because I did it all in secret, and in my own time. I think if I said to people “Hey guys, I know you haven’t heard from me in three years, but I’ve got a record coming out soon!” then there would have been pressure, because people would have had their own expectations. That was becoming a problem towards the end of Reuben, because of the audience expectations, and of their idea of what they think we might do, and what they’d prefer us to do. That was getting in the way. So I had to do it without telling anyone really. So when I was done I was just like “Here it is, deal with it, it is what it is.” That was a good way to do it. I was under no pressure at all when making it. Later the pressure came up when we booked the tour. That was quite fraught. I think it delivered luckily.
What was it like stepping out on stage as a solo musician for the first time, and what do you remember the most from that experience? Yeah, it was terrifying. Other than the first few gigs I ever played, I hadn’t felt that level of nerve. Since my very first performances at like school assemblies, doing music recitals. Or the gigs we used to get before we got proper gigs. I still remember being driven to my first public gig in Farnborough by my dad in his big red eight seater car. With Jon from Reuben on bass as well. I wanted that drive to last forever, even though I booked the gig, and I wanted to play it. By the time I got in the car, I thought “When this car stops, I have to get out and put the money where my mouth is” it was terrifying. It was a similar thing when we started doing the first couple of shows. The show in Brighton was quite cosy. However the London shows were the worst. There were so many people turning up. With Brighton we had done a couple of secret warm ups. They were also nerve wracking, but very helpful. So by the time we did the proper shows where people were paying to see us, we knew how to do it.
Also, how rewarding was it for you as a musician to be able to have a three piece band, choir, and even your wife Katie join you on parts of the tour for 'Muscle Memory' thanks to the diversity of the album? It was great, but unfortunately I ran into some trouble on that tour. I started treating her like a member of the band instead of my wife. I was tough on the guys in Reuben. And I’m tough on the guys in the band for my solo work. It’s got to be right, because people have paid, and I wrote very specific stuff. It was easier with the guys for my solo material because they understood that they were under a leader. Whereas with Reuben we were trying to be an equal band even though that’s not really what it was. We didn’t really know what we were doing. We would sort of take a direction from one guy, and at the same time try and be an equal society. It didn’t really work. So to tell your wife “You’re off key, I didn’t like that note, come in quicker there.” It wasn’t received very well, and I forgot that she was my wife. The guys in the band are my friends. And I chose them to be in the band because of that. They had had years of me saying “That note faster, come in quicker” all this stuff that my wife hadn’t, so it got me into trouble. It was my fault. However, it was great to have all of those people support me on stage!
So how did you end up signing with Big Scary Monsters, and what have they been like to work with so far? I hooked up with my producer Paul Frazer Space before we hooked up with my management. We started recording tracks that ended up on the album, quite a while ago. Maybe like a year to 16-18 months ago really. When we did ‘Mississippi’. We were shopping it around to labels, and one of the labels that was interested was Big Scary Monsters. I remember him saying “Oh these guys like it, and Kev’s a good guy.” It didn’t really register at the time, because I didn’t have anyone to look after, it was just me. Then when I signed with the management. We talked about labels, there were lots of big names. They said “What about Big Scary Monsters?” and I was like “Aren’t they a smaller name?” I wasn’t sure that they would really get what I was doing. We had meetings with all of these people. It was the meeting with Big Scary Monsters that made the most sense. Not to go against any of the people at the other labels. It just seemed to work best with BSM. I felt like they got it, without sounding cheesy. I liked their ideas. I particularly liked their idea, which has been very successful, with the pre-order campaign. The earlier you pre-order, you get more of these little treats, and we’ve been rolling out bonus material for people who pre-ordered. I think people have dug that, bar a few little teething problems from junk mail folders and all that. I think that’s gone well. I really enjoy working with them, and I really like the people. It’s a bonus that Kev the label boss lives where I used to live growing up. I grew up in a little suburb of Oxford called Abingdon. He lived there! I went there the other day on my way back from somewhere. I was like “Oh wow, we’re near Abingdon, where I grew up” I dragged my wife around saying “This is where I used to get books etc!” Then I realised that Kev lived just around the corner. I bullied him about how the album was selling. I scared his dog with my big hat. It’s a cheesy thing. And things become cliché for a reason. But I do feel like I’ve known those guys for quite a long time. I’m quite amazed that I’ve only known Kev and Dave (who also works at the label) for less than a year. Suddenly I feel like they’re really on board, and I call them my real friends.
You've said that 'Hardbeat' is one of your favourite tracks from the new album, so can you tell us maybe why that is, and a bit about how it came together? I just sort of like the slinky, swagger bit. I like singing in falsetto, and the dance groove. I’ve never really done anything prior to this album that you could really dance to. Unless you call moshing dancing, which it is not. You know, like dancing to inside a rock club. So you could put on ‘Parties Break Hearts’. I’ve heard people play Reuben in rock clubs, and people get up, but it’s not the same kind of thing. That’s the kind of music I like. I like that kind of stuff. It’s just because it’s a new area for me. It’s not because it’s a new revolution. In terms of music as a whole. I don’t think I’ve added anything to music there. What I have done, is take different bits from this element of music, and add them to my own thing. It was fun to put together in the studio. Instead of concentrating on all of these guitar sounds, bass sounds. Although we did do that. We were concentrating on synth sounds, and bizzare little samples. And I would make sounds myself, from my computer over digital distortion and put it on the record. Hit a drum in a weird way, and put it through a processor. All of that sort of stuff I hadn’t done before. It’s just fun. It’s like cooking. If you’re a good Chef (which I’m not!). People like experimenting with flavours, you put it in the oven, and you find out what comes out. It’s the same with making a song. To use a really tired, cheesy middle aged metaphor there. It can be a little bit like cooking.
So, how did you end up working with Paul Frazer Space? Well he has been my friend for a long time. Since before I was making ‘Muscle Memory’ with Sean. I knew that he produced records. The thing about Space is that he doesn’t talk shop, very much. Which is rare for musicians. He talks about music, but he doesn’t talk about the music that he makes. If he plays you a track that sounds brilliant, you have to really concentrate to catch the bit where he says that he produced it. He doesn’t make a big song and dance about it. Which is exactly the opposite to me. If you come to my house, I’ve got all of our records all over the walls. I’ve got one of my songs playing on the stereo playing when I come in. I go “Look at me, look at all the things I’ve done!” He is the opposite. He is very subtle. So even though I knew he was a producer, I knew that was what he did. I didn’t really clock it, or think maybe we should make some music together. Then by the time I did realize that he was a producer. I was also a bit afraid that if we made music together that it would ruin our friendship because all that we would talk about is work. I’m happy to report that since making this record we can still hang out as buddies, which is great. Even in the middle of it, we were still hanging out as normal! So that’s fantastic to know. So just after ‘Muscle Memory’ I was talking to him about the directions I wanted to go in. I wanted to try and find management. Then he said, “Why don’t we try and make some tracks here” as he has a home studio, and see how they come. I thought “Great, why not”. Just a very loose arrangement. It sounded brilliant, so it became obvious that we should finish the record together. So that’s how I ended up working with Space.
You've also said that there's a lot of risk in this album, so can you elaborate on that? With the risk, we have talked about the personal nature of the lyrics. That can be risky. Putting yourself on the line. Opening yourself up, and removing that bit of skin as it were. So that’s risky. To put your feelings out there for people. Musically. Some of it is pretty safe territory. If you listen to ‘Waterloo Teeth’ or ‘Personal’ they’re pretty standard. You could listen to them and say that, and I would say “Fair enough.” But even then, there’s some stuff on there that I wouldn’t usually do. Like, talking about God to a certain extent, that’s risky. Or in ‘Personal’ there’s a whole verse that’s just a synth, as we took the guitars out. I’ve put a load of synths in before which can sound crud if you don’t do It right. I’ve had times in the past where I’ve done it on records before, and it sounded rubbish. Putting more program beats on, and singing falsetto, that was risky for me. Forcing myself to make songwriting choices that I wouldn’t usually make. Sometimes only very subtlely. It’s counter intuitive to the way that I normally write. I would have a bit of a song, and say right, “Let’s do this” then I would say “Hold on, maybe let’s not go that obvious route, let’s try this route instead” which is just something that I had never done in the past. It’s sometimes something as easy as a drum beat. You change the drums, then it changes the whole emphasis of the song. As part of the pre-order process, we put out a little EP of the demos. For the singles that came out. You can hear even on those, I’m changing the drums. Stuff like that, those are the risks I’m taking musically. We talked about ‘Hardbeat’ which starts very soft, subtle, slow. With just the computer bass drum there, and then sort of mumbling. I’m basically rapping, I didn’t know what to call it! If it’s rhythmic lyrics that rhyme. Then that’s rap! That’s the first time, apart from that ‘Feel Good Inc’ cover that we did with Reuben, that I rapped on a track! It’s not even called rapping, it’s called “Mcing.” That’s what it is. That’s the first time I’d done it. It’s weird, because even though I had done that album full of banjo music, everyone said “Fine!” It’s this one, when ‘Hardbeat’ came out, people were like “Nah, I’m getting off here, dance music is one step too broad for me”, which surprised me.
I never knew you played drums! So can you tell us a bit about that process? Yeah lots of my songs, when I’m writing it, or finishing it, you can hear that they start with a couple bars of drum beats. Which is a pretty clumsy, naive thing to do. But I just find that it sets the tone. And yeah I do play the drums. Not very well, and certainly not as well as Dan Kav or Guy Davies. But that’s where the tension sits in. I would sit behind the kit, and say to Guy Davies, who is a phenomenal drummer, “Play this”, and it’ll just be some rubbish beat. So I’m not really a drummer, but I do play. There’s a distinction. That perhaps give me license to see outside the kit, and say “Put your hand there etc” where you wouldn’t necessarily do it as a professional drummer. So this would sometimes tie Guy in knots, and it regularly ties Dan in knots. I’ve been in the same position, I was a drummer in a band. Playing drum beats written by someone who didn’t play the drums. Sometimes he would write ridiculous stuff. But we came up with some interesting music. I’m not really very good at playing any instrument, guitar included, even though it’s my main one. There’s a trumpet solo on this record that I played, which no trumpet player would of ever played, because they would of done something good. Something within the range of the instrument. Because I just have one, and picked it up, and blew into it. Maybe it sounds a little bit different, because I made choices that a professional wouldn’t have. I do play the drums, and I enjoy the drums. And that informs how a lot of my songs start out.
Interview with Nathan How did CHON originally form? CHON started when my older brother Mario met our friend Erick at a Del Taco in Oceanside, California through another musician who thought they'd be a good fit together. Erick came over to my house that day and they jammed and skated all day, and he ended up staying the night and immediately started rehearsals the next day for their band. Eventually they started CHON together, and they wanted to start playing live shows so they needed a drummer. After trying out several drummers in the area they decided to teach me how to play drums and groom me to perform with them eventually. After about a year of intense drum training and band rehearsals, we played our first show in our neighborhood park. I was 11, Mario was 15, and Erick was 17.
How did you get to the band name CHON, and what does it mean to you? Mario and Erick were watching a show on the discovery channel about the elements or something, and it mentioned the 4 most common elements of life (Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen). They thought that the acronym sounded funny and we needed a name to put on our show flyer, so we just went with it.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in San Diego, California? During our first few years coming up (2008 - 2012), we must have played hundreds of the most random shows to like an average of 10 people per gig. One of the most interesting was this elementary school music talent show we did, we were on the bill with a whole bunch of little kids' bands. I think there's a picture of 2nd graders dancing and doing handstands during our set somewhere on the internet. We didn't even go to that school. We basically took any opportunity we were given, and it gave us a lot of live experience. We never really gained any traction during those years though. It all came from the internet for sure.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were going to be more than just an upcoming band? I think there was a standout moment where we realized we could break out of being a local band and do something really cool with music. We released the first single off our first EP â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Newborn Sunâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; in early 2013, and we were absolutely blown away by the response it got online on Facebook and Youtube and such. People really dug the sound and it was even more apparent when we released the whole EP that summer. That's when a lot of things changed for us.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Homey', and what does it mean to you? Mario, Erick, and I were all hanging out in Erick's living room sometime after finishing tracking for the album and we were bouncing back ideas for the record name. We all knew we wanted it to correlate with our feelings about being home, and after a ton of ideas Mario said the word "Homey" and it made us all laugh because of the double meaning. I think we all decided that we were thinking too hard about it and just went with that, which is usually how all our naming processes go.
Proper in-depth question now, but, how did the special guests GoYama, Masego & Lophiile, Giraffage, ROM, end up collaborating with you on the album, and can you tell us what everyone was like to work with? We are huge fans of all of the guest collaborators on ‘Homey’. Like, ‘Needs’ by Giraffage is one of my favorite albums of all time. We also happened to be mutuals on Twitter, so we'd figure we'd ask if they wanted to collab since we'd been wanting to get into a more electronic sound for a while. That's like 90% of what we listen to nowadays. We sent them guitar riffs and they sent back ideas which we loved. We kind of just let them take it wherever they felt, and it worked out perfectly.
How did you end up working with Eric Palmquis, and how would you say he helped shape 'Homey'? Eric Palmquist engineered our first album ‘Grow’, and we really liked how chill and positive he was to work with. He also has a great mind for what kind of sounds would go well with our guitars and drums, and helped pick out a lot of the guitar pedals used in the album.
Leading on from that, you rented out a space right in front of the beach to write/jam for this album. So, what was that like for you guys, and how would you say something like this helped with the creative process for the album? The writing/jam space was where a lot of the ideas for the album came about. One of the songs is named after it because of how much time I spent in there jamming to the guitar riffs Mar and Erick wrote. It was really cool being able to spend a few hours writing and then stepping outside and chilling at the beach for a while.
How did the album cover for 'Homey' come together, and can you tell us a bit about what it means to you? The album cover was done by our longtime graphic design dude/ultimate homie Daniel Mcbride. We definitely share an artistic vision and he always comes up with the most fitting stuff to the music. We trust him completely and are always stoked on whatever he does.
How would you say the sound of CHON has grown/changed since you first started out? Well there's definitely a lot more sounds compared to when we first started. The drums aren't triggered anymore and sound more like a fusion record, and we have a couple songs with singing.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from touring in the UK over the years? It was wild to see the amount of support we got in the UK. So many awesome people came and had a great time at the shows. We didn't exactly expect that considering it was our first headlining tour abroad. It was super fun hanging out with Yvette Young also. She opened the show with a solo acoustic set and is an awesome human being.
What else can we expect to see from CHON as we head towards 2018? We have some really awesome things planned out for next year that we don't want to spoil yet!
Interview with Dorian
How did Broadside originally form? We started as a mash of different people from Richmond, Virginia, we fell into our final form in the summer of 2014, mostly just other bands and shows in the city.
How did you get to the band name Broadside, and what does it mean to you? Our drummer was obsessed with nautical themes and names at the time, Broadside is the side angle of a ship, more specifically a pirate ship because that's closer to what we are.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Richmond, Virginia/Los Angeles? Richmond was a small pond that we felt pretty comfortable in, LA is massive and pushed us to want to do more. One keeps us humble while the other keeps us hungry.
How did your recent tour in the UK go, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? The U.K. was a blast, we adore the country and all of the culture we get to experience. The bands and people are always welcoming and nice and such. Our biggest highlight is probably seeing our crowd reaction in London, it was incredibly overwhelming and so much fun.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Paradise', and what does it mean to you? Somebody said it out loud one day and we all looked around and fell in love with the concept of creating and searching for your own version of it. What it means to me is that paradise comes in different forms, some amazing, some miserable, and how each side of it is important because of our ability to appreciate one because of the other.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Paradise'? ‘Paradise’ is surrounded in cake icing and looks pretty, but as a whole the record isn't just a happy fun vacation, because nothing is perfect and there isn't a single answer to chasing what you love, you have to take the bad with the good, and appreciate each for how it shapes you.
How did the music video for 'I Love You, I Love you. It’s Disgusting' come together, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? When people are in love, to everyone else it can look gross or corny, but to be on the inside of it feels infinite, you could care less what the rest of the world thinks. We wanted to capture the simplicity of the emotion both musically and visually, the video just depicts people we love insanely, that's all.
With the album featuring ukulele, and trumpet, it's clear that you guys were indeed not afraid to "try new things"! But for you, what would you say was the most rewarding arrangement for you to put together on 'Paradise', something that maybe just felt really new, and fresh? For me personally it was ‘Laps Around a Picture Frame’. When I wrote it originally it was just an acoustic guitar and a simple melody. We were obsessed with trying to bridge Ariana Grande with Bring me the Horizon or something. So when Kyle and I were putting it together it felt so good to do a weird dancy song together and be proud of the outcome, very rewarding. Also it was one of the first songs I got to write lyrics on for Broadside which was nice.
How did you end up working with Kyle Black once more, and how would you say he helped shape the album? We just loved working with him on ‘Old Bones’ and knew we would make this record the best it could be. He took all of our weird ass ideas and organized them into something that was what we needed and wanted. He's the greatest help and an incredible producer.
Looking back on 'Old Bones', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Broadside? Very proud of that record still, it was pure because Kyle and I wrote a lot of the music together on the spot, but I think it was great framework for who we all are as individuals.
This might be a tricky question, but here goes. Which band would you say you've learnt the most from touring with, and why? Real Friends, they were the most helpful, nice dudes in the world, they taught us about their live sound, their production, and just led by example in being a great band over-all. They made us want to be better just by being them.
What else can we expect to see from Broadside as we head towards 2018? 2018 is projected to be our best year to date, lots of touring, new music, lots of new stuff over-all, hope to see you on the other side soon!
Interview with Austin
How did Movements originally get together? I Met Patrick our singer and Spencer our drummer in high school. Other than Patrick and I Jamming together a little as kids nothing serious started until 3 years ago when Patrick invited me to jam with Spencer and him which ultimately became Movements. We met Ira our guitarist through going to local shows around that time.
How did you get to the band name Movements, and what does it mean to you? We were deciding what to name our band after a practice one day and Movements just popped up and we all liked it. There isn't really much of a meaning behind it.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in California? It was a trip. My personal goal when the band started was to be a bigger local band and to tour at least once. None of us expected to be contacted by record labels a month after releasing our first song before we even played our first show.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you had the potential to be a career lasting band? When we played our first show opening for Have Mercy we already had people singing along to our songs and it was insane. I remember thinking if we have already accomplished this who knows what else we can do.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Feel Something', and can you tell us a bit about what it means to you? The record deals with a lot of different lyrical subjects that make you feel a lot of different emotions like grief, depression, love, anxiety, happiness. Also the record mentions the lyrics â&#x20AC;&#x153;feel somethingâ&#x20AC;? in 3 songs. We felt it was naturally a common theme.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes on 'Feel Something'? Anxiety and depression are a big theme on the record. we also bring up alzheimer’s and dementia and how it can effect the victims of these diseases and the people around them. there are also a few happy songs as well. Wether it’s love or just feeling good about life. We really wanted to sum up the human experience in the record.
You continued to work with Will Yip on 'Feel Something', so what made you want to work with him once more, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Will is a musical genius and an amazing producer. With both the EP and LP he would take every song we had and made them 1000 times better. Wether it’s structure, melodies, or instruments he always had something important to add to the songs. I never want to work with anyone else.
The story behind 'Deadly Dull' is heartbreaking. Can you tell us a bit about what it was like to work on something as personal as this, and maybe a bit about what you want the listener to take from the track? Patrick our singer really wanted to write about this subject since it is such a awful thing he had to watch a family go through. We wrote the instrumental ahead of time but didn’t hear the lyrics till Patrick recorded them in the studio. Once he was done tracking we all went in the control room to listen to the song and I was blown away.
'Daylily' contains a positive notion in regards to getting through anxiety, and depression. So how important was this theme for you to work on as a band? Personally I went through a time in my life a few years ago when I had really bad anxiety/depression. It was sometimes so bad I couldn’t leave my room let alone the house. It would just hit me out of nowhere and was so hard to deal with and it was hard for others to help. personally this song is an anthem to let people know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that your loved ones all want to see you get there. No matter how hard anxiety and depression get your life is always worth it. Things do get better.
The front cover for 'Feel Something' is pretty unique! Can you tell us a bit about how it came together? We had the idea to string the letters “feel something” on a rope on our tour this spring so we went to hobby lobby and bought all the supplies and made the sign. We also wanted a person in the photo expressing some sort of emotion. So on an off day in Portland Oregon we randomly hit up our friend Hannah who we met at one of our shows and found a place to hang the sign. after a lot of different locations and photos our photographer Kurt Cuff got the shot that was used.
After one local gig you guys joined Fearless Records! So what was that like for you at the time, and can you tell us a bit about that whole experience? It was surreal. I remember reading the email they sent us (which accidentally got left unread for 2 weeks) being like is this real? After that a few other labels hit us up too but Fearless was the best offer and had an amazing team so we went with them.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? I’ve never been to the UK so I’m so excited to go. It’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. The people who attend should expect a good combination of new and old songs and a great show.
What else can we expect to see from Movements as we head towards 2018? We are in the works on a headlining tour early next year. We haven’t headlined yet so every show will be very exciting and truly something special.
How did Bayside originally form? Bayside formed in 2000 and Anthony was one of the original members. Long Island was having a huge surge of new music and had a really booming scene. Anthony had met up with a group of friends with similar interests and they decided to start writing and playing music with the intention of getting out and playing shows wherever they could.
How did you get to the band name Bayside, and what does it mean to you? The name came about when the group was on the way to pass out demos at a New Found Glory show and the band was unnamed. On the ride to the show while trying to figure out what to call the band the van drove past the bayside LIRR station and bayside was written on the CD. Aside from it being born out of immediate necessity It really means more that it is where the band originated from.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Long Island, New York? Although we came up in Long Island, we really started getting our touring strongholds outside of NY. We had always been more involved in touring more than playing a lot of local shows. It always felt like we were more of a touring act more than a local band, even in the beginning.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were going to be more than just an upcoming band? For as long as I've been in the band (2003) we have always stayed pretty committed to putting out new music and playing it out as much as possible. I dont know that we ever really saw us as being a big up and comer. It has always felt like we just kept doing what we wanted to do and just let the band grow slowly.
So, looking back on 'Vacancy', how happy have you been with the feedback to the album so far, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Bayside? I'm stoked on ‘Vacancy’. I think it's been pretty well received. Our fans are fans of our band no matter what we have done. I feel that ‘Vacancy’ is a chapter in the career of this band and it's a representation of where we were when we wrote that album. Lyrically it is very specific to a period of time that Ant was going through when it was written. It's always interesting to go back and listen to albums and hear specific influences that we were all listening to at the time and I'm excited to find out what our next records will sound like.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live Interview with Jack from 'Vacancy'? I really like playing ‘Rumspringa’ mostly because the solo is a lot of fun. We play ‘Two Letters’, ‘Dead all Day’ and ‘Mary’ which are also a lot of fun to play. It's always good to get some new material to rotate into our set.
So how did the idea for an anniversary tour come together for 'The Walking Wounded'? We wanted to do something to commemorate the formation of the lineup of the band as it is today. We had been through a lot with the passing of John. That really marked a defining moment in the band where our perspective changed and we really became a closer family. We wanted to recognize this fact without making a huge tour out of it. It was for our fans but also a lot of it was for us. It has been a really positive experience to get together and play all of these songs together for the first time since they were written 10 years ago.
When you look back on the record, what do you remember the most about putting it together, and how would you say it compares to any other Bayside record? I remember being at a point where I was getting comfortable being in the band and coming into my own style. I was both nervous and confident, and we were really trying to do something memorable. I remember pushing myself to write outside of my comfort zone and I believe that it really helped solidify what my guitar playing was supposed to sound like with Bayside. I love all of our albums but this certainly felt like a turning point for our band where we knew what we were supposed to sound like but we could also take chances and try new things without it sounding too out there.
What was it like to work with Shep Goodman & Kenny Gioia, and how would you say they helped shape the album? With this being our second record with them, it was a more comfortable recording environment. We knew what to expect from them and we had a clearer picture of what we were trying to do. Shep is a great songwriter and producer and Kenny is a great producer and engineer. They also knew what to expect from us and knew how to play to each of our strengths as musicians.
What has it been like to rehearse for the tour then, has it been interesting to just re-visit songs that you've maybe not played live in a long time? We have been playing together for so long now that rehearsals aren't as challenging as they once were. It's less about re-learning the songs and more just playing them a few times until they sound good to us. It is a little weird to go back and try and figure out how and why I wrote things the way they are as my play style has continued to develop over the last 10 years and I kind of re-wrote parts that feel closer to what I wanted them to be when they were conceived. It was a blast though!
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? I'm always excited to tour in the U.K.! I'm excited to connect with some fans that may or may not have seen us over the years. Playing an album show can be really special because a lot of times one album has such a strong connection with people and hearing it all at once and it can be a huge emotional release. They can expect to see 4 guys who are having a blast playing music that resonates with us strongly 10 years later and we hope it does for the people at the shows too!
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from touring in the UK over the years? I always will remember our first U.K. Tour with Hawthorne Heights, Silverstein and Aiden in 2004. It was our first bus tour and we all had a blast being overseas with some buds. One of my other favorite moments in the UK was when we did Give It A Name in 2006. It was our first time playing in an arena and the show at earls court was one of the biggest crowds I can remember playing in front of. Also I have a great picture of me packing a guitar case full of Guinness. Good times.
What else can we expect to see from Bayside as we head towards 2018? We're going to keep going! I can't get into specifics but even when it seems like we're not doing much we're working on things that are coming down the pipe. We'll have more to announce soon.
What was it like to be an upcoming musician in Toronto/Ontario in Canada? Toronto was great because there are tons of small venues and places to do shows at indie nights and new music nights. We would take streetcars to the gigs. I remember having to buy bike gloves so my hands wouldn’t blister while lugging my gear across town all the time.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Skin & Earth', and what does it mean to you? The title deals with the content of the comic mostly. The main character, En, gets a marking on her skin that ends up opening doors that blend aspects of reality and spirituality. I had this lyric kicking around forever that I never used but always loved, something like “I’ll still love you when I die, when skin and earth collide.” I thought there was something finite and beautiful about the idea of the two things that always end up becoming one at the end. So the idea emerged from that and explained the basics of the story very poetically.
We've read that it's set in a post apocalyptic world, so how did this idea originally come about, and what did you find the most rewarding about working in this world? I love dystopian fiction; it’s just a setting that I’m always drawn to whether I’m gaming or reading or watching a movie. I think there’s a degree of hopelessness that can rouse extremities in human behaviours. It’s easier to believe certain things could happen under the duress of doomsday and apocalypse. I liked coming up with the scenario and how the world got this way, and through that was able to sneak in some commentary about our abuse of earth and our environment.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Skin & Earth'? The core story idea came from my perspective on mental health. I’ve been through bouts of depression in my life, and the core idea sets up that vice or that darkness as a character, a dark friend, a lover even. The only thing there in your darkness that you keep very close. It also explores the idea of trying to overcome that. My slogan for the whole story is “we all fight battles nobody else can see.”
It has been released alongside a companion comic book series of the same name! So can you tell us a bit about how that idea came together, as well as what it was like to work on? It has become very evident to me over my years in music that there is much more to music than just what passes through your ears. There is always a visual component and I just haven’t had the opportunity to let that manifest itself fully. I thought a comic book would allow some of those other facets of my music to shine, like for example the colour pallets that I envision when I close my eyes and listen to a song — those made their way into each respective chapter of the comic. Also, creating a comic was within my skill set to accomplish. Aside from the sheer amount of labor and vision it took, it was virtually of no cost to create so there was no loss in trying it, even if it turned out bad!
Can you tell us a bit about where the album was recorded, and maybe how that process compared to anything you had done before as Lights? Having the story to bring into each song writing session was really helpful. For the first time I was able to walk into a session with a perfect stranger and say “this is what I want to write about, this is the mood, and this is how it should feel.” So I didn’t have to waste hours telling my story and my heart and figuring out what to say, it was just an immediate launch into creativity. I walked away from most of the sessions with great songs and good friends. Some of the best songs were just written in a living room, even bedrooms!
You've recently revealed the music video for 'New Fears', can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? The challenge with creating the songs for ‘Skin&Earth’ was making sure they had two meanings. One had to relate to the comic and fulfill that part of the story in a literal sense, and one obviously had to be a meaning that was real in my own life. ‘New Fears’, for me, is actually about being a parent. The minute you become a mother you are plagued with horrible new fears and visions about what could happen to your kid, and it better prepares you to take care of them and protect them. But it’s torture sometimes. The way I translated this into the video crosses both meanings. Mitsuki, the spirit-like character, comes to Enaia (the lead character) as an apparition in the middle of the night, it’s when they first meet. She is immediately drawn to her, and immediately feels safe and protected by her. In the video it is mixed with me singing to myself, almost as if you are speaking words of empowerment to yourself in the process. At the end of the day, it raises the question: is it really an apparition? Or is it just a manifestation of self protection?
So, how would you say you've grown musically since the release of 'Little Machines'? I’ve freed myself a lot to say things I never felt I could say, through the conduit of the lead character. You don’t realize how much you’re holding in until you let it out. I think in the past I’ve been concerned that revealing too much in a personal sense would cause people to read into my life too much, so there is a degree of self protection. But in the end, it’s healthy to let it all out.
Also, looking back on 'Little Machines', how happy are you with this record still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Lights? Some of my favourite songs to play live are from ‘Little Machines’. The record obviously means a lot to me, it came at a very pivotal time in my life. I had a kid literally in the middle of recording it. I was learning about what it means to truly be happy, and that came once I became a parent. Suddenly life isn’t all about you, it’s about someone else, and you realize how much of a narcissist you used to be. When you only have to take care of yourself, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to be perfect and it’s not healthy. ‘Little Machines’ was my transition into another mind set.
We must ask, as 'Skin & Earth' has a comic book running alongside it. What comic book have you really enjoyed reading recently, and why? Currently I’m reading through the Locke and Key series. It’s dark and fantastical, borders on horror but has funny moments. It has a touch of Stephen King to the mystery and writing because it is penned by his son, Joe Hill. It’s a very good story and has wonderful, detailed art by Gabriel Rodriguez.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? Scala in, maybe 2013, was one of my favourite shows ever! I remember being blown away by how many people came out to see me and sing their hearts out. I won’t soon forget that one. Also I really enjoyed our nights playing at King Tuts in Glasgow. When we would sell it out they’d give us a nice bottle of house liquor and we always made memories after that.
What else can we expect to see from Lights, as we head towards 2018? I have so much in the works, from touring, to remixes, to little releases here and there, not to mention you have the rest of the comic to look forward to, and what may spawn from that. Can’t share more yet!
Interview with Thomas
Can you tell us about the formation of Beatsteaks? Beatsteaks were founded in 1996 in Berlin. Their tenth show was playing support for the Sex Pistols at Arena Berlin, with their backs to the audience, pure stage fright! After recording their first record, the touring began to get more intense, which was why original drummer, Steffi, decided to quit…and I joined shortly before recording began for the second album, ‘Launched’, on Epitaph. After extensive touring in Germany, Europe and the US, our bass player Ali quit and Torsten joined the band on Ali’s recommendation. Then we recorded ‘Living Targets’, our second album for Epitaph. The breakthrough album in Germany was ‘Smacksmash’ in 2003. We’ve played show after show all over Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England, and almost everywhere else in Europe ever since. We released our 8th studio album, a double album entitled ‘Yours’, in September. It was released in the UK last month.
How did you get to the band name Beatsteaks, and what does it mean to you? It means absolutely nothing other than our stuff comes right behind the Beatles on the record shelves…..
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were going to become more than just an upcoming band? There was the moment when I quit my job in 2003 because it all became too much, from then on for a while it was day jobs and the money we made from gigs, until I was finally able to give up those “runner jobs” at concerts. Since then, it seems like I’m living my childhood dream, it’s still unbelievable and I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year? We started in June with three small club shows in the East of Germany, if you have the chance to see a show at Casablanca / Jena, don’t miss it! Then came the festivals - Rock im Park and Rock am Ring. Rock am Ring was almost cancelled because of a terror warning the day we played. We arrived at 8 o’clock in the morning and there was a press conference at 2 o’clock that they would be continuing the festival. We played at 8 o’clock in the evening - a strange day in strange times. One of the highlights was our release show at an old theatre in East Berlin on September 1st. The ‘Admiralspalast’ theatre, formerly known as Theater Metropol, was built in 1889 and became famous during the roaring twenties. After the release show, we went back to the clubs and ended a four week tour at the Melkweg in Amsterdam just a few days ago.
Also, how did your recent show at the Koko go? Another really special moment was this sold out show at the KOKO in London recently. I was sick with a stomach bug and puked 3 times during the show, but I still had fun, hard to believe - the fun part, but it really is true! The new songs worked very well and got a good response from the audience, which made us really happy. We can’t wait to come back!
We've read that after coming back from your hiatus, you had a ton of material ready between you for the album. So what was it like to condense that down to the amount of tracks you wanted for 'Yours'? Actually we just didn’t stop recording until we worked on every idea that was around. We didn’t want to condense anything down, we wanted to bring more freedom into the music and let everyone have their way and so only four or five of the original ideas didn’t make it onto the album. Whenever we weren’t sure how to finish, we asked people we had met over the years if they could help us. We asked Jamie T. for one song, and he wrote us some wonderful lyrics and a great bridge. Chad Price from the US band All also helped us with his singing. The amazing Stereo Total helped us write our first ever song with French lyrics. German rappers Peter Fox and Deichkind helped us with two songs. So every time we needed help, we got what we needed!
So can you tell us how the whole "mixtape" approach to the album came about? It happened by accident really. We needed help, we asked for help, and we got help! We were always thinking about who could fit to which song and had a “lucky hand” as we say in Germany. From the outset, we wanted a multifaceted album that shouldn’t sound like it was made in one go or in one piece. We wanted it to sound as diverse as our own wide-ranging tastes.
What was it like to work with so many different producers? It took a lot of organisation and it was sometimes difficult to stay on top of things. We let the producers have their way, because that was the whole reason we asked them in the first place. If we didn’t want a producer on a track, we recorded it by ourselves. But when we worked with a producer, we followed his ideas, so we recorded with hip hop producer team The Krauts, for example. They recorded a live track and started to edit, re-record and to overdub and edit again and we ended up with a lot of tracks that sounded better than we’ve ever sounded (’I Do’). Then there was the other track ‘Yours’ where they just asked us to make some overdubs to the demo. Then there was Brezel Göring from Stereo Total who recorded two songs with us using an 8-track cassette recorder from the 1990s. We also recorded at the old radio station studios of the GDR with our producer Moses Schneider using a 20 track - no matter how many tracks, when it comes to live recordings, Moses is the man to record with! As I said, we tried to follow the producers whichever way they wanted to go and it felt right.
How did you get to the album title 'Yours', and what does it mean to you? We just tried to stop making sense and stated the obvious. If you buy the record, it’s “YOURS!”
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run through the album? Love peace and happiness - fear is a bad advisor in the grand scheme of things. You shouldn’t let anyone get you down, but it's also about trying to reach your ex-girlfriend in Aix on a velosolex, or about the L on your forehead stating that you’re a loser. There’s a proposal by a cat to a canary, a song about the pros of taking drugs at 40 degrees, a song about a refugee somewhere in Europe watching the days go by in the summertime. There’s one with a few bad things about living in an edited memory, and one with a gap that you shouldn’t mind too much.
Can you tell us a bit about the themes and influneces that run through 'Hate To Love'? Accepting diversity is one theme. I think it’s also a strong statement against racism and xenophobia. No one is free from it - so it could also be about the racist within even you and me!?
It's been ten years since the release of '.limbo messiah', so can you tell us a bit about what you remember from putting that album together, as well as how you think it compares to anything else you've done? As always, it was a reaction to the album before, it was our attempt to make pop music…fast, wild, angry, sometimes happy. I remember that I just wanted to play as fast as possible, to play as far removed from “stadium rock” as possible. ….and it grew over the course of the year. When we released it, I thought it was a strange album, but looking back now, it was just the best we could come up with.
What else can we expect to see from Beatsteaks as we head towards 2018? A band that loves to play the wonderful stages all around Europe, be it KOKO in London, King Tuts in Glasgow, the Casablanca in Jena, the Gala Hala in Slovenia, the Arena in Vienna, the Wuhlheide in Berlin. Wherever there are people who want to have a good time with us, we’re going to do our best to be there too!
So how did you get to the album title 'The Endless Shimmering', and what does it mean to you? We all collect little phrases and words as they come to us throughout the year and then when it comes time to name the album and the songs we look at them all as a band and see which ones resonate with us and feel like they fit. ‘The Endless Shimmering’ I think means different things to each of us personally but I think we all want to leave it that way.
How would you say the sound of ASIWYFA has grown/changed on 'The Endless Shimmering'? We really wanted to write and record a very live feeling album, on previous records we would have painted the broad strokes in the rehearsal room and then left a lot of space for experimentation and refining in the studio. That is a fun way to do an album but we wanted to change it up this time around. We spent the guts of a year in the room writing and demoing around 30 songs and then refining and putting every part under the microscope. Then we went to Rhode Island in America and recorded the whole thing live in about 6 days. We definitely pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone but I think it yielded a great result, we’re all very happy with and proud of this album.
What was the hardest part about putting 'The Endless Shimmering' together for you guys, and why?
ew with Niall
When I look back at the process of writing and recording I don’t remember anything being super hard, it was a really enjoyable process from start to finish for me. I guess if I had to say one thing it would probably be the sheer amount of great songs and riffs that we had to discard to pick the songs that are on the record! Hopefully maybe some of them will see the light of day at some point in the future, who knows!
When it came to the recording process, this record was not rushed. So what was that whole process like for you guys, and how did it compare to anything else you've done? Yeah we knew from the outset that we were going to take our time with it, that was always the plan. I remember us chatting to Dave Davison from Maps and Atlasses when we were touring ‘Heirs’ in America and he had this new approach to music where he had decided not to feel any pressure or rush anything and only put out albums on his own terms. I think it inspired us a bit to really take our time with this album. We didn’t even start looking for a producer until we had finished writing the album, whereas before we would book really far in advance and then there was a big deadline and loads of pressure to write something great really quickly!
What made you want to record the album at Machines with Magnets, and what did you enjoy the most about recording there? We knew we wanted to go somewhere out of Belfast and change things up a bit anyway and we also agreed that one of the most important things, if not the most important thing in the recording is a great drum sound. So we started discussing our favourite drum sounds on albums and we kept coming back to Battles. Then we discovered that they recorded all their albums at this place Machine with Magnets, so we looked them up and it seemed like a really cool place. I sent some of our demo’s over to them and they really dug it and felt they could bring something to the table. We’re so glad we made the decision to go with them, it was an amazing experience recording out there, they really know what they’re doing!
Looking back on 'Heirs' how happy have you been with the response to this album, and what do you think it has done for the representation of ASIWYFA? We’re incredibly proud of that album and it’s got some of our favourite songs on it, it’s such a pleasure to write something you love and then put it out into the world and then find out that it resonates with people. We had an email from a guy in Scotland who was stabbed multiple times in a brutal assault, he messaged us to say that he listened to ‘Heirs’ on repeat in hospital as he was recovering and it got him through his lowest points. That was incredibly humbling, we hardly knew what to say, we were just happy the music did something for him.
Also, what songs are you still really enjoying playing live of 'Heirs'? ‘Wasps’ and ‘Run Home’ are both in the set for this upcoming tour but I think my favourite song on the album is probably ‘A Beacon’, I just remember Rory coming into my bedroom when we lived together with half of the chords and I just knew exactly what he was going for and was able to finish the rest of the chords off and we were both smiling at each other knowing we had written something we really loved.
What else can we expect to see from ASIWYFA as we head towards 2018? Rory and I just scored the soundtrack to a movie called ‘The Cured’ it’s a zombie movie set in Dublin starring Ellen Page and it’s hitting cinemas in the spring so keep a look out for that, it’s terrifying! We will be doing some more soundtrack work and lot’s more touring and then it’ll be festival season before you know it! We can’t wait!!
Interview with Brock
Can you tell us about the formation of 36 Crazyfists? We started out in 1994 up in Anchorage, Alaska. We all knew each other from playing in other bands and after a dear friend of ours was killed in a bar fight we all joined up for a couple benefit shows and began 36 shortly after that.
How did you get to the band name 36 Crazyfists, and what does it mean to you? It’s from a Jackie Chan film from the 70s, we’re old kung fu fans.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Anchorage, Alaska? There’s a very cool music scene up there that really is supported by the locals, we have had amazing support from our Alaskan faithful for 23 years.
Was there a particular moment when you knew you were going to be more than just an upcoming band? It's always been the plan to tour the world and try and connect with as many people as possible so I don't really know if there was one defining moment.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Lanterns', and what does it mean to you? It means a light source, a symbol of hope. I always wanted a one word title that would encompass the entire lyrical theme of the album.
You've said that 'Lanterns is about the fight within us all... forever refusing to sink', so can you elaborate on that, as well as some of the other themes and influences that run throughout the record? I learned the human spirit is one of resilience, no matter how low I have gotten there is always a reason to fight your way out of it. Something will reveal itself if you’re paying enough attention to it that will give you a light to getting out of the mud.
How did the front cover for 'Lanterns' come together, and can you tell us a bit about what it means to you? My good friend Steven Cornfield did all the art for the album. I drive this road called the Turnagain arm every Saturday down to Girdwood Alaska where the ski mountain is and it's just an incredible scene, maybe one of the most beautiful drives in the world. I would stare out at the vast mountains and imagine myself walking towards them. Trying to escape, trying to find the tools to put one foot in front of the other.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Lanterns' together for you guys, and why? I think musically it went pretty smooth, lyrically it took me a little bit to start to come to terms with exactly where my life was and to be honest with myself about baring it all once again.
Looking back on 'Time and Trauma', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of 36 Crazyfists? I’m very proud of that album, those songs really helped me through the grieving process of the loss of my mom.
Next year it will be ten years since the release of 'The Tide and Its Takers'! So looking back on that release, what do you remember the most about putting it together, and how would you say it compares to anything else 36 Crazyfists have done? I don't compare any of the albums to each other, they all had their own stories and “Tides” was a pretty fun album to record as we did it in our old jam space so lots of friends were always coming in to check the progress.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? Too many to list really, we love playing the U.K. And can't wait to come back there next year.
What else can we expect to see from 36 Crazyfists as we head towards 2018? Touring and more touring!!!
Interview with Tyler
How did Theory of a Deadman originally form? We all grew up in the same town and three of us worked at a restaurant together. We jammed out of my dad's basement until we got signed. Labels would come over to my house to watch us play. That's something you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see too often.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Delta, British Columbia? It was typical suburbia with malls and cul de sacs. A lot of my friends either played hockey or played an instrument. Or both. So a lot of us were in multiple bands just for fun. We enjoyed writing our own material and that ended up getting us noticed and later signed.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were going to be more than just an 'upcoming band'? It's hard to tell, but once you hear yourself on the radio everything changes. I guess that became the “we’ve made it” moment. You listen to the radio your whole life, so it was a great moment for us. Having the initial support of our hometown was a big one for us.
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 tour quite a bit. Summers are usually filled with fairs and festivals as that's the season for it. The travel is the highlight for me and also meeting fans as I walk around the fairs and such. With our new record coming out we have added video screen walls to our show and it's been amazing to have that content on stage every night. Our single 'Rx' is out and it's exciting to be able to start the whistle part at the beginning of the song and have the fans instantly react every night.
Okay, so how did you get to the album title 'Wake Up Call', and what does it mean to you? 'Wake Up Call' is a song title from the record. Our last 3 have been named after a song. 'Wake Up Call' also refers to how we felt going into this record and the change in sound and songwriting direction.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Wake Up Call’? Some of the songs were written on piano which is new for me. It sets up for a very fresh approach to the songs. Also lyrically I tried to step out of the box and try new ways of writing. 'Echoes' and 'Rx' are great examples of that.
You recently unleashed the track 'Rx (Medicate)' which focuses on America's opioid epidemic impacting many families and communities. So can you elaborate on this, as well as how important this subject is to you guys? We all know people affected by this issue. The song was subtle at first but then progressed into what it is now. We have partnered with Shatterproof.org, a great organization that helps people and families cope with the effects of drug addiction. We felt it was important for us to promote something positive along side of the song. Please go check them out.
Also, what was the music video for 'Rx (Medicate)' like to put together, and what do you want the viewer to take away from it? It's a day in the life ofâ&#x20AC;Ś kind of video. Cruising around in an old Caddy like flies on the wall as we watch our main character go through the motions of her dealings. It was fun to shoot and it fits perfectly with the vibe of the song. It was very important to us to have that match up - and what better way than cruising around in an old convertible in downtown LA.
You've said that "Our new record, 'Wake Up Call' reflects a positive change in our sound moving forward", so can you elaborate on that, as well as how you think musically this album compares to anything you guys have done before? It's our most progressive record yet, probably our best. The songs were completed before we went into the studio, leaving no guess work. I think it's so important to have great songs first before you even hit the record button. We spent a lot of time in the studio with Martin taking the songs and wrapping them in the amazing production that he helped bring to the table. It was the perfect fit.
How did you end up working with Martin Terefe in London, and how would you say he helped shape the sound of the album? Our A&R guy Pete recommended him. He has worked with some amazing bands and artists in the past and we were really excited to get to go to London for almost 2 months to live and create. It's a great place for creative energy. Some of the best has been done there and I hope we can do it again!
If you can, what song on 'Wake Up Call' had the most rewarding arrangement for you to work on, and why? Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard to pick just one! Each song has its own unique place on the record. One sounds so different than the next. Any time Martin got on the mellotron or piano, it was always going to be good. We did a cover of 'Wicked Game' that is fantastic. We really had to hit it out of the park in order to have it go on the record and we think we did.
Looking back on 'Savages', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Theory of a Deadman? 'Savages' was a record we had in us for quite some time. Everything is done for a reason. 'Wake Up Call' wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t exist without 'Savages', so we're glad we got it out of our system.
What else can we expect to see from Theory... as we head into 2018? We have never been so excited and confident with a record before. We keep telling people 'Rx (Medicate)' is just the tip of the iceberg and we are looking forward to touring around the world and having the fans hear what we have done on 'Wake Up Call.'
Interview with Danny & Mickey
To begin with, how did Embrace originally form? Danny: Richard was in quite a few hardcore bands when he was at school; he used to play drums in one called Gross Misconduct. I had always wanted to sing since doing Elvis impressions when I was about 6. We got together and found Mike on Richard’s 18th birthday. Steve came a few years later and Mickey came on board after writing the amazing orchestral piece in the middle of ‘All You Good, Good, People’.
What was it like being a young, up and coming band in West Yorkshire? Danny: It was tough because no one takes you seriously. You just have to really believe in yourself. Was there any particular moment when you realised that you were going to be more than just an up and coming band? Danny: When I wrote ‘Retread’, which Richard accidentally found on the back of a cassette. He put the tape in the wrong way and it was just me singing to myself. Richard wrote the guitar riff and that was that.
Let's fast forward; how did your recent dates with Coldplay go, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time with them? Danny: It was life changing. I was taken aback by how well the band went down. At the end, we had the whole crowd singing right to the back.
How did you decide upon the album title ‘Love Is a Basic Need’? Danny: As someone who’s lived on very little of it for a very long time, it was a massive revelation for me. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life in a lot of ways really. It’s my favourite title right now. Love is the only reason any of the other stuff is worthwhile.
The Finish Line is about how you, "Have to see the finish line to realise how precious and short life is". Can you elaborate further on that, and maybe a bit about what you want this song to do for the listener? Danny: The chances of you being born are something like four trillion to one. That’s the same odds as winning the lottery, being eaten by a shark, made into a saint and struck by lightning all on the same day. Sometimes life feels like a rat race, like a long marathon, but you only have to see “The Finish Line” to realise how precious and short life is. ‘The Finish Line’ is about how you feel when your world view is turned upside down, about realising you've wasted so much time and about how that makes you want to live life to the full and squeeze the most out of every minute. It seemed like the perfect song to start the album, and a great way to introduce everybody to ‘Love Is A Basic Need’.
The album was produced by your very own Richard McNamara. When did Richard start producing for Embrace, and what is it like to have this kind of creative control over your own music? Danny: We’ve learnt a lot from all the great people we’ve worked with over the years, but we had a really strong idea of how we wanted the record to sound. Richard is on fire as a producer right now, so it seemed like the perfect fit.
With the use of a choir on the album, is there one particular song that has the most rewarding arrangement for you to work on as a musician and, if so, why? Mickey: The choir is actually the Embrace band members and our close friends rather than a rent-a-choir. Since our first album in 1998 we’ve been phoning our friends and inviting them to sing backing vocals on our albums. Bringing in so called non-professional singers helps to keep things sounding more unique. The most rewarding song to work on was ‘All That Remains’. It begins with a fragile and sorrowful piano and vocal. The beautiful challenge is working out which musical building blocks you can use to gradually bring the rest of the band into the arrangement so that by the time it reaches its crescendo, the listener has been taken on a journey. ‘All That Remains’ is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster that will hopefully cause the listener to say “AGAIN”.
Can you tell us a bit about how your award-winning Secret Festival came together? And what has that been like to run? Mickey: To us, it was a logical extension to our Secret Gigs which we’ve been doing since we started gigging, although I think we all underestimated the amount of work that goes into putting on a festival! Fortunately, we have a highly skilled team of friends with superior knowledge in this area. Even so, it still takes many months to plan. There are obstacles at every turn and while it’s rewarding and also wonderful to do, and it’s great that we won an award for it, we all felt that we needed a break from it this year. Hopefully we’ll bring it back in 2018 – bigger and better!
Looking back on your self-titled album, how happy are you with this album still; and what do you think it's achieved for the representation of Embrace? Danny: I’m incredibly proud of it. I think we’ve done three good albums and that’s one of them. It’s a testimony to the strength of the band that we are still making our best work and that we can put out work that’s so incredibly different and yet still has the same DNA that’s unmistakably Embrace.
You have had the same band members for over twenty years; how do you go about keeping it fresh in the studio? Mickey: It’s about energy and building a momentum that will propel the band forward. In the past, I think we’ve spent too long in the studio or carried on working on a song even when we’ve got stuck with some part of it. Recording that way slows you down and saps the energy from the room. We’ve learnt to step back or move onto another song. With the new album, we worked in short but intense bursts, often a week here and two weeks there, and that kept us feeling fresh, focused and excited to get back into the studio. Plus, we like spending time together. It’s a family.
Finally, what else can we expect to see from Embrace as we head towards and into 2018? Mickey: Our new album will be out in March. We want to do lots of touring - hopefully including some trips overseas - summer festivals, more touring and maybe a Secret Festival in a highly unusual location. There’s a lot for us to look forward to!
Interview with Peter
Can you tell us about the formation of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club? It was me and Rob in 1993 or 1992 in high school. We started playing music together in a bar, then, we were looking for drummers for a little bit. I went and played with The Brian Jonestown Massacre for a little while. Rob had then met a drummer and another guitar player, but they ended up leaving. We were called The Elements at first, and we had a song called ‘BRMC’. We were up late watching TV and saw the movie The Wild One, and then we named ourself BRMC. We met Nick in 1998 or 1997, and when we were looking at names we thought that there were already a bunch of bands called The Elements so we went back to the movie The Wild One, and opposite the BRMC gang were anther group called The Beatles, so we were like, “That’s good company, we’ll be called that.”
What was it like to be an upcoming band in San Francisco, California? I grew up on a farm in Minnesota for around ten years and I was 13 when I went back to California. It was kind of like anywhere else, from what I can gather. We had a few friends and we would kind of support each other in sense of saying “Good luck!” However, as far as the scene goes, I was really anti town people. I was coming at it with a chip on my shoulder, I was still very farm boy. So that didn’t help matters. But with any band starting out, it seems to be a similar story. It’s hard to find local support, I remember when we made our first CD, I remember seeing it thrown in the gutter, pretty much instantly. So I was like “Yeah okay, people don’t give a shit!” but we were just like “So be it, let’s just keep on going.”
Was there a particular moment when you realized you were going to be more than just an upcoming band, if so, what was that like for you guys? Actually, that still hasn’t set in, and it still might not be true, as far as I’m concerned. I do believe that it can go away in an instant. That’s really up to people, not wanting to see a show. Because that’s something that still might happen. Each album is a surprise, and I’m always thankful that it happened. However, it still feels like it can go away. I don’t know what will go first, the music might go away. If I manage to mess myself up enough, so that music doesn’t even enter my brain anymore. That could happen. I think of it as an entity on its own. It either chooses to kind of come visit you, and you happen to be paying attention at the time. Or you’re not, and I do believe that it decides to go away and not visit you for a while. That does happen. That’s why it takes a while to get albums and songs out. It will either happen that way, or it will happen where an album comes out and maybe people won’t connect to it, and decide not to come to shows. I still think that it is all possible.
Let's fast forward then, how has your UK tour been going so far? People have been showing up, thankfully! That’s all you can really ask for. I haven’t asked anybody to their face, whether they want to hear new music, but I’m assuming they kind of do. When you go and see a band you like, there’s this mixture of “Oh, are they just going to play new songs, because I kind of want to hear the stuff I like too, the stuff I know.” So it’s a mixture of that. We’ve been doing a mixture of both. I haven’t paid attention to reviews, but hopefully it’s going down well. The fans have been polite to us, and said that they’ve enjoyed it. That’s nice of them. Hopefully they’re telling the truth!
So in the summer of 2015 you started to put together the initial idea for 'Wrong Creatures' in the bunker! So can you tell us about that time, and maybe when you first saw the next chapter of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club taking shape? The glimpse of it, is kind of final day. That’s every album. It’s the final day of mastering. You’ve mixed it, you run out of time with the mixer, you can’t revisit it because it’s moving onto the next stage, so then mastering that’s kind of the final glue. Then you sit back and go “Oh no, that’s it” but I’ve always been left with the thought that that’s the best we can do at that point in time. And that’s what it feels like. Those are the songs that we have left, maybe some didn’t make it because maybe they didn’t mesh with the other songs, or they sounded too similar to something else. Rob is a bit more of a planner in that way, but I don’t really care much for the plan. So this is the first thought where it’s like “Yes, this is the record!” when you put 11-13 songs together. There’s never a plan going into an album where it’s going to be this theme, or it’s going to sound like this. There’s no plan like that. It’s just real simple, you put together songs, and hopefully you get enough for a group of songs, and then you put them out.
Leading on from that, how did you get to the album title 'Wrong Creatures', and what does it mean to you? We had a few ideas for titles, and that one came down to the guy who helped us do the art for the album. He was most inspired by that title, it left it him the most room for his creative bit. So we went with that, because it could be interpreted in the most ways. It leaves it to the listener, and the person that looks at it. We do this even with writting lyrics, something that brings up more than one idea.
The first track 'DFF' is a mostly instrumental roller coaster, can you tell us a bit about how that track in particular came together? That one, it stands for “Drink, Fight, Fuck”. Some songs come out of drum circles, that start with all three of us just banging on drums. It just truly came out of a groove, no music at all. The majority of that, is just vocals humming, and then there’s some chords coming in and out of it. It was just a chant I guess.
You've said that you have found yourself writing about death a lot. The band has of course been through some tough times in recent years, so if possible, could you maybe elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Wrong Creatures'? The way it’s meant, is that it’s kind of questioning oneself, it’s kind of a conversation with yourself. Who you want to be, who you thought you were, and who you thought you want to be. It’s the endings. The way that statement is meant, the endings of those thoughts and conversations in yourself, the beginning and endings of those thoughts, I know that probably makes less sense! However, it’s the conversations of the deaths of who you thought you were, and who you think you are, and think you want to be. For me, that’s an endless conversation. When you stop having those conversations with yourself, and the people around you, what you think life is supposed to be about, and how you interpret the world around you. When you stop questioning, and having those conversations, that’s when you start getting old.
So, how did you end up working with Nick Launay, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Rob had met him in LA, floating around clubs. We liked his work with Grinderman, Nick Cave, Arcade Fire. I knew only about that much. So we reached out to see if he was interested, he was. He was available anyway. He came in at the beginning when we were in the rehearsal room, as a bit of moral support, like “Yeah, that sounds like a song! Want to get started?”, and we were like “Oh yeah, we should stop this process of thinking about it, and jamming it.” Everything starts out as a half hour jam, up to hours! We’re just playing the same stuff. He’s like “How about you shorten that part, that part doesn’t make sense.” We’re like “No I like that part, that’s kind of my favorite bit.” Just those arguments back and forth. So it ends up being another voice that complicates matters, while bringing clarity. So then he also wanted to mix it, so yeah, he did that, and we had the same back and forth process with that. How he heard it, how we heard it, just finding the middle ground. I’m not sure if he would have the same opinion coming from his side of it. I feel like on this album, we left him more room to have his voice, but he might have the exact opposite opinion to that. He might of felt that he had no room, because both Rob and I are pretty opinionated about it. We push things in directions we think that it should go. From my side of it, it felt like we gave more room compared to anyone else, as far as a voice, and direction with mixing, etc. For the most part it was friendly, but I am sure it was maddening for him. Actually, I know it was maddening for him. Things got dragged out way longer than expected. But, it’s done, that’s that.
You have said that there is no chief person in the band when it comes to penning the lyrics. So has it always been this way for you? That’s the same. We’re still coming at it from that mindset, giving each other room and space, for opinions. There’s no one overiding on any one song. It leans towards the person who has written the majority of the lyrics. As far as sometimes with the direction of the song. But the anti-frontman thing comes back from the Kurt Cobain years, you know. Just watching where he was trying to come from. Some anti rock n roll thing. With the media it’s a lot easier to sell a frontman, one dude, one voice. So we try to dodge that, and that’s what we mean by anti-frontman. Trying to just dodge the cliches of the whole business.
You've said that this record took a while to come together, and that you've gone from hating it, to enjoying it. So how did it compare to the way you’ve worked before? At the end of the day it all feels the same. Nothing hugely different. Everything comes out of jams. Sometimes it’s in a hotel room. The songs just come, and you put them down. You try to put them down the best way you can. I don’t really see any difference. It’s not a stale thing. I’m not coming at it, in that way. I don’t come at music in a way of trying to control something. I guess that’s how I enjoy doing music. It keeps it kind of fresh in a way. When you think about it, it doesn’t make any sense why you wouldn’t be bored, like how does a dude play music every day, and not be bored with that. You’ve got to have a mind like a gold fish a little bit, you forget about the problems we had, the things you didn’t like, the things you love. And each time you play I’m in a different mood. I can hate life, love life. So each song, is its own little world of hate, love, frustration. It changes every day, and every moment.
It is indeed a very diverse release? That’s the hope. That’s what I get from music. That’s how I want to express music. That’s the kind of medicine of it for me. To have some one else listen to it in the same way, is amazing.
‘Little Thing Gone Wild’ is a HUGE sounding track, how did it come together? There’s a few songs that have been around for going on five years. I think that was one of them. That was an idea that was sitting on a hard drive. It echoes back around the ‘Howl’ time. ‘Little Thing Gone Wild’ was a little after that. Rob was piecing it together at home for a long time. All he had was a chorus really. A kind of mumble track, verse. He had been messing around with the mix of it, and we kind of went with it, like “Cool, why not!” It was just a jam that came together. It’s an interesting one, as I don’t believe it has any chorus changes. A lot of our songs have that approach though.
What was the hardest part about putting ‘Wrong Creatures’ together, and why? You know what usually happens is, you don’t really notice it, by the time you’ve jammed, and you weed down a two hour half jam to a three minute song. That’s kind of a nightmare process already, and difficult to do. It would be so much easier to just go “There’s the album, just that one song!” and we might still do that one day. Just forget that process of making sense out of it. That process is difficult with every song, and so I find them all challenging. All of them are challenging that way, and horrifying. Hopefully it makes sense at the end of the day. What becomes a challenge is to do it live, because by the time it gets to mixing, you’ve maybe gone three months, and you haven’t picked up a guitar. You’ve played the parts, and now you’re just mixing it. Then, you’re done mixing, and while you’re doing that, you’re not thinking about playing it, you’re just thinking about how it sounds cool. Then you go “How did I make that sound?” so then you’ve got to figure out how to play it. That’s the fun of doing it live though.
What can we expect to see from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club as we look to 2018? All I know for sure is that we are ending in Mexico City sometime in December. There’s talks of going to Australia, Japan. As long as we’re invited. We’ve always put it out there that you know, we would like to go. If people want to show up. So maybe that. If any festivals next year show up. You have to be asked to play those though. If they ask, then maybe we’ll do that. We’re just touring for now, a little bit of writing as we’re going. It’s still in the back of the head. Just releasing things as we go, maybe more tidbits that weren’t on the album throughout the year, we’ll see how it goes.
Interview with Frankie
Can you tell us about the formation of The Darkness? I would say it was a formation that began when Dan and Justin were born from the same womb. Then it carried on through school bands. Then I met Dan in London when he was 18 and I was in my mid 20s. We formed a band called Empire, and Justin started to play keyboards for us. We did OK as Empire, but there was no particular interest, it didn’t work out, and we learnt our lessons from there. Then we began The Darkness in the year 2000. That was it.
How did you get to the band name The Darkness, and what does it mean to you? The name The Darkness. Several reasons. I guess it’s a reaction against the flavour of rock music all the way through the 90s. Everyone celebrating being alienated and miserable. We were a reaction against that. I guess the name of the band is almost sarcastic. At the same time, it’s the fact that all art and creativity comes from The Darkness.
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 saw you got to tour with the mighty Guns N Roses? Yeah, Guns and Roses in Italy was a highlight I would say. 130,000 people on a race track, in 35 degree heat, it was biblical. The Italians are such generous warm hearted people. There’s an innocence in the way that they approach rock music. Which is child like, and really charming. So we really enjoyed playing for that audience. We do well in Italy anyway. We always seem to connect to Italian audiences for some reason. I think in some way Justin is like an Italian person in his temperament. He is hyper, and excitable, and often quite childlike as well. That could be why.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Pinewood Smile', and what does it mean to you? We were looking for a title, and we kept arguing over what the title should be, and then we said “Why not take a phrase from one of the songs?” Then Rufus, said his favorite phrase was “Flashing my pinewood smile like a red rag to a bull”, from ‘All The Pretty Girls”. We thought that it was nice, and that it captured something British. For us, it’s in sync with Roger Moore, Alfred Hiltchcock films, a sense of old fashioned Britishness, that had a stamp of quality to it. So that’s what we were taping into.
So, how did you end up working with Adrian Bushby, and how would you say he helped shape the album? The name came up, and we were all excited about it. Because he is still young, and he has done a lot. He has worked with all of the rock heavy weights of today like Muse and Foo Fighters. So it was a no brainer for us. Also, he said he was open to the idea of us recording the backing tracks live, myself, Dan and Rufus laid it down old school style, all at the same time. So we did that, every backing track was recorded live.
This is your first album with Rufus actually in the recording process, so what has that like, and what would you say he brought to the album? He made us blonder, younger, and better looking. He has probably increased the sperm count as well. But yeah, his voice contrasts really nice with Justin’s on ‘Stampede of Love’ and ‘Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry’, not to mention some of the more sweeter, high pitched backing vocals, so it’s worked out really well. We are doing those tracks live as well. It’s a chance for Rufus to shine. He hits the drums very hard, which is great for me.
I read that Justin felt this is a much more "modern sounding" record, so would you agree with that, and how would you say the sound on this records compares to anything you have done before? It’s probably a bit more modern, the way it’s mastered, and produced. With the songwriting, I would say that it’s more old school, as there’s not that many bands that tap into that sense of ridiculous, and can celebrate that like we do. Thematically they’re quite classic themes that we are tapping into. With ‘Stampede of Love’ the lyrics to that are really Monty Python!
So how did the music video idea for 'All The Pretty Girls' come together, and if possible, can you tell us about the meaning behind the track? It packs a punch. It’s a very simple idea of all the pretty girls like me for who I am (said in sarcasm) when the album goes platinum. So it was an opputinity for Justin to rhyme “I am” with “Platinum”. So it’s basically this conundrum that men have where does this women like me for who I am, or like me because I have a good job, and a healthy income, or because I’m famous. Some woman are programmed to be attracted to men who are in the public eye. But intelligent woman can bypass that kind of programming. That’s what I think of it anyway.
‘Solid Gold’ seems to highlight some of your highs and lows in the music career. So if you can, can you elaborate on the lyrics in the track? Yeah, it’s being a bit childish. The defiance of being in a band, on one level it’s incredibly superficial, ego, and just looking for that sort of satisfaction. It’s just laughing at ourselves really, but at the same time we’re never going to stop “Shitting out sold gold”, quality is our bench mark, and that’s what keeps us going. We’re going to keep doing it.
What would you say was the most rewarding song to put together on 'Pinewood Smile'? ‘Japanese Prisoner Of Love’ was a test for sure, because it had all of these different parts, and Justin came very late with the vocals, it was hard to get a vocal that matched that backing track. It was great that he managed to come up with something that was very meaningful and quite mysterious, and quite edgy too. We didn’t know if it was politically correct either, we didn’t really care, however we didn’t want to upset people. It’s a metaphor for something, that I don’t really want to go into. But I guess, if you read the lyrics it’s to do with feeling trapped in certain situations. I’m glad that people have read the lyrics for once, because I don’t think they recognise just how great his lyrics are.
You guys are putting together a documentary/film for 2018, so can you tell us about it? Yeah, it’s two and half years of filming. Now we obviously need a good editor, we are going to shoot for another six months or so, until the end of this campaign. Maybe in the festival season next summer. We are using a lot of archive footage from back in the day. We’ve got a lot of big talking heads involved as well. Jack Black, Lily Allen, Goldie, and most recently of all Nicolas Cage!
Also, looking back on 'Last of our Kind', how happy are you with this album still? Yeah, I think it packed a punch that album. An emotional wallop. There were some great performances. I thought Dan did a great job of producing it, especially with the two big opening tracks ‘Open Fire’ and ‘Barbarian’. They were really heavy weight tracks. I think we got respect from people in the heavier rock circles, as there was more of a heavier sound on it, compared to what we had in the past. We heard stories from our road crew. For example, they worked with Iron Maiden. They had listened to ‘Barbarian’ and were impressed by it. So I think that was really when the comeback started. With ‘Hot Cakes’ we were a bit tentative, getting to know each other again. Then we really came out all guns blazing on ‘Last of Our Kind’!
So, how excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can fans expect? Excited! New light show, new running order of songs, new wardrobe, for the first time we’ve all got outfits designed by the same designer. Angela from Canada. She has done a great job. So we’ve just been freshening everything up. Justin on keyboards, so we’ve got a little keyboard section. Improvising covers occasionally. And of course, the lovely voice of Rufus, as he’ll join us on songs like ‘Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry’, and of course his backing vocals, amazing drumming. I would say, that I can’t remember when spirits were higher than this. Maybe back in the earlier days in 2003, before we partied too much.
We saw that you guys are doing a Christmas special with Pointless! We did! We are doing a bit more TV now. There’s a bit more of that in the pipeline. Cooking Vinyl have been great with us, with this campaign so far. There’s a level of trust now between us and the company, and I think that we have really found our home with Cooking Vinyl. We’re also going to do a bit more mainstream British TV shows, and remind people that we are actually back. So many people bought ‘Permission To Land’ and probably about half of those people who bought it probably still don’t know that we have returned. So, we have a duty to let those people know.
What else can we expect to see from The Darkness as we head towards 2018? Well, we are going to be touring a lot, and then we’ll be hitting the big festivals. Last summer we did the more smaller boutique festivals, but next year we’re coming for the more mainstream ones. So that’s when the campaign culminates. That’s after we’ve toured Europe, the UK, States and Australia!
Interview with Jack
How did Marmozets originally form? It kind of all started when I met Sam in school. He then went on to introduce me to his family so that was when I first met Becca and Josh. We just started jamming together between each other’s houses after school as much as we could. That was the back end of 2007.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Bingley? Well we were kind of the only band and as far as I’m aware still the only Bingley based band. It’s not the sort of place that you play gigs though, so we had to travel to do shows in Bradford in the early days. Often at the 1 in 12 club. We used to play there almost every week at one point.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were going to be more than just an upcoming band? We’ve been doing this for 10 years now and we still see people referring to us as an “up and coming band” even now. We’re just rolling with it and enjoying every second of this journey. That being said you’re always going to be a “new” band to someone. I think the moment it felt super real was when we started playing main stages at festivals around Europe and then ending the run on the main stage at Reading and Leeds.
How did your recent UK tour go, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? Yeah it was so good to be back on stage and out touring again. It’d been about two years since we’d done a show. We just loved going back to playing small club sized venues and playing a load of new material for the first time. We were so happy with the response we got from the previously unheard material.
So how did you get to the album title 'Knowing What You Know Now’? We were having a conversation about the last couple of years off with our manager Mark. The phrase got mentioned and Sam was like “that’s the title” we were all unsure to start, but then the more we thought about it and what we’d gone through over the two years (from then to where we’re at now etc) it all became very fitting and is continuing to constantly fit.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Knowing What You Know Now'? I guess the main one would be to do with Becca’s recovery after her multiple knee surgeries. There were so many times she could have given up completely. She was constantly frustrated about being bed ridden for a number of months and almost feeling like she was going to be out of action for a while. Now she’s dancing around on stage better than she ever has done and it’s given us all a massive boost of appreciation for what we do.
How did you end up working with Gil Norton, and how did he shape the album? He got in touch with us and was like “let’s make a record” basically. He came up to Keighley, West Yorkshire where we rehearse, came up for a few days, did an almost pre-pre-production. Then we went for a pint with him and discussed all things music and all that. He came back up for around 10 days I think and we went through all our ideas and kind of stripped everything down to the core of the song then just tried to work out the best possible sound or phrase or melody line for every moment in each song. He brought a huge sound to us. Kind of made us sound bigger than ever. I’m still not sure how he manages that but we’re not complaining. It was an amazing thing to have worked with him.
You've said that 'We created the album for ourselves' so can you elaborate on this, as well as how important it is to sometimes ensure you're making music to please those in the band, instead of just those who are listening? I think for us when we watch bands play we want to see passion and genuine emotion coming from the singer or band. Not false “look at me” bullshit which you’ll get with bands or artists that write stuff that’s in trend rather than what comes from the heart. We love what we do and I think people can connect with that.
How did the music video for 'Habits' come together, and can you tell us a little bit about the meaning behind the track? The initial idea was having mannequins in normal everyday situations. We ended up using actors instead and they were absolute amazing. It was a different experience for us completely; Doing a music video with multiple sets and not performing as a band. It was all new to us but we really enjoyed the experience.
Looking back on 'The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Marmozets? I see that as a great snap shot of where we were at musically at that time. We were still so young. Will had just turned 17 when we recorded it! There’s elements from that record we’ve left and elements we’ve adapted on. It got us to the next level from where we were before we released it for sure. Now our aim is to keep climbing!
What was it like to take on the mighty Reading/Leeds festival? We’ve played it a bunch of times now, on a load of different stages, we started on the introducing stage and have now worked our way up to the main stage. It’s such a different gig every time we play it. Sometimes you’ll be more nervous for than others but we always enjoy it.
What else can we expect to see from Marmozets as we head towards 2018? Some more new music and the full record at the start of 2018!
Interview with Levi
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Troy, Ohio? It was an adventure really because it was such an uncharted territory for us. None of us grew up going to local shows until we were in Miss May I. Since we had no venue in town we just played cover songs in our basements. After about a year we started to go out to play shows and even make the venues ourselves in friends sheds and halls that we could rent out. Everything we did was so new and happening in the moment that the adrenaline was not only just the performance but the entire journey of building the show, finding the venue and finding friends to fill the place!
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you could be a career lasting band? I think for myself it was seeing the first real Miss May I tattoo. Seeing that dedication really showed me that this band has outgrown just a jam band and something for fun, but it really means more than that and not just to us but others out there. That was a very special moment that really transcended the band to me personally.
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? This year has been such a rush! The biggest highlights would have to be playing Summer Breeze and Brutal Assault this year in Europe. It was our first time playing since the release of ‘Shadows Inside’ and the crowd reaction was incredible. This year has been full of Miss May I headliners which is great because it’s been almost 5 years since our last proper headliner! We are taking ‘Shadows Inside’ worldwide this year and the next and we can’t wait!
So how happy have you been with the feedback to 'Shadows Inside' so far, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Miss May I? The response has been the best yet. This is our first time as a band playing mainly a new record. Some nights the new songs have trumped the old classics and that’s when you know something is happening around the record!
What music video has been the most rewarding for you guys to put together, and why? I am a sucker for the ‘Hey Mister’ video because it was the longest and most extreme video shoot. I know we flipped a car in ‘Day By Day’ but when we did ‘Hey Mister’ it took us 3 days in the winter of Michigan, in the water while it snowed, and it came out great! We built a night set with a boat and used a scuba pool for an ocean scene. It was a very DIY shoot and it means a lot to us.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We are making up for lost time on this tour. We realise it’s been so long since the last headliner and we want to make up for it! We are going to be bringing out all the bells and whistles along with songs from every record. We cannot wait to bring something special to the UK.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? My favourite show in our career was opening the main stage of Download in 2014. That show was on top of my bucket list and to actually get to walk onto that stage and have such a great show was a dream come true! Another highlight would of course be playing Brixton with the legendary Killswitch Engage, who are probably one of the biggest inspirations for Miss May I. Seeing them play such a huge sold out show in the UK was surreal!
Also, what do you remember the most from touring the UK for the first ever time? I remember trying black pudding for the first time when we had our first English Breakfast. Everyone thought it was the most disgusting thing you could ever eat and I was the only person from our band who liked it. I ate everyone’s, left over untouched black pudding the whole tour.
With six albums, can you tell us a bit about how you guys put together a setlist these days? It is the worst feeling not playing a fans favourite song. But with as many as we have and the amount of time we can never make everyone happy. So going into the tour we try to listen to as much feedback from the fans and add our own personal touch to the songs live to make them even more special and unique to the tour.
Looking back on your first album 'Apologies Are for the Weak', what do you remember the most about putting it together, and how would you say it compares now to anything else you guys have done? The first record is always so different because it had 18 years in the making. Our whole lives we were waiting for that record so it will always have that touch. Now going into our last record we have had 2 months to 9 months to create a record. The feeling and passion is always there but the magic from the first one will always have a special place in our hearts. We were kids not knowing what was happening and it came out pretty heavy.
What else can we expect to see from Miss May I as we head towards 2018? We still have some surprises before the end of the year that I can’t speak of yet. But expect more shows and get ready UK because we are coming!
Can you please tell us about the formation of We Came As Romans? I was in a high school pop punk band that was pretty horrific to be honest. I had started listening to “heavier” music along the lines of The Bled, Thrice, Story of the Year, none of which are actually that heavy… Heavy in comparison to what I was listening to at the time, but I loved the emotion they had in their songs. I started this band as a side project with a few friends and it was even worse than my pop punk band was at the start! But I loved the drive everyone had, so I decided to focus my attention on it full time! After several member changes over the course of the first 3 years, we wound up with the line up we have today!
How did you get to the band name We Came As Romans, and what does it mean to you? Unfortunately, it means nothing! I started this band on guitar and we had two different vocalists. The band used to be called This Emergency which was not a good name so our singers took it upon themselves to come up with something better! We thought We Came As Romans sounded awesome, so we went with it! We didn’t realize at the time when we were 16 and 17, ten years later, people would actually care about the meaning of it.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Troy, Michigan? Pretty strange! There is definitely nowhere for a young band to play anywhere within or near that city. It’s all families and straightup suburbia. It was a cool place to grow up, but not the best place for a band. We had police show up to a practice one time at my parents’ house at 6pm on a Saturday night! We also tried to play a family festival called “Troy Daze” at a battle of the bands and I think we were either way too heavy, or way too bad because the sound guy pulled the plug on our set after our second song. Thinking back on it, I’m sure it was the combination of being really bad and too heavy. It was a good thing in the end, though, because it made us venture to different parts of the Detroit area to find shows and meet new people! Josh and I are the founding members and we would have never met Kyle, Lou, or Andy if it wasn’t for us playing in different surrounding cities.
Was there a particular moment when you knew you were going to be more than just an upcoming band? Not really. We would always set higher standards and goals for ourselves to keep the band moving forward. Every time we met that goal, we’d make a new one. We’re not a band that blew up overnight, it was a lot of small steps and slow growth from day to day. We’ve been around for a long time and have experienced what it’s like to starve, not have money to put gas in our old van, basically beg people to buy our shirts, etcetera. It’s because of those experiences we’re able to appreciate the things we have today more than a band that blew up overnight.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Cold Like War', and what does it mean to you? The last couple years following our self-titled record have felt like a war. It was so difficult to get back on our feet and recover from that cycle. We made a lot of mistakes that led the band in the wrong Interview with Dave direction and because of that, we felt a lot of hatred, negativity, frustration, and sadness.
You've said that "Cold Like War is about struggle, those trials", so can you elaborate on that, as well as what else we expect from the themes and influences behind the album? The emotions we felt the last couple years all come through in this record so it’s fast, dark, angry, aggressive, and ends on an uplifting note with ‘Promise Me’ and ‘Learning To Survive’. The last two years have been very hard, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything because we learned so much of what to do, what not to do, as well as how to move on and forgive ourselves for our short comings and mistakes. Dwelling on the past and the things that upset us don’t get us anywhere, but learning from them and bettering our band from them, does!
How did you end up working with 'Eric Vanlerberghe' on the track 'If There's Something To See', and what do you think he brought to it? Eric is a really good friend of mine and he’s such an awesome dude! That song is about staying humble and remembering the early days of being in a band before there were any monetary rewards or public recognition of any kind for the things we did. Eric and his band are from a few towns over and have a similar story of trying to make their band successful! His mindset is so similar to ours; he’s humble, doesn’t forget his roots, and is the furthest thing from a “rockstar”. I realized he’s the perfect candidate for the song, so we had to add his super heavy vocals to the heaviest part of it!
You guys were slightly disappointed with your self-titled album, so can you tell us a bit about why that is, and maybe how it's had an effect on the approach to 'Cold Like War'? I’m not saying everyone who was a part of that record didn’t work hard on it, but it never came together the way we envisioned it. It seemed like everything we tried to do throughout its cycle fell apart. Not to mention, while we were excited for the songs in the studio, they never felt right when we played them live. I just don’t think “rock” is a style of music our band is meant to play! Because of that, we found ourselves playing more old songs and the heavy songs off the record than the “radio” style singles. Collectively, all those things were very frustrating and saddening especially since we worked really hard on it and we realized it was all wrong only a few weeks after its release. However, the self-titled record made us go into writing and recording ‘Cold Like War’ with the mentality that we had something to prove and it was do or die. We knew after our last release if this record wasn’t the best of our entire career, the band would be over. This pressure made us take our time and pour our hearts and souls into every second of every song.
How did you end up working with Nick Sampson & Drew Fulk, and how would you say they helped shape 'Cold Like War'? We’re very good friends with both of them! Nick has worked on every cover we’ve done as well as on ‘To Plant A Seed’. Drew has been a great friend for a few years and we’ve been dying to make a record together. They’re both so incredibly talented and working with both of them brought out each of their strengths. It was exciting to go back and forth to get their opinions from song to song and allow them to help us improve everything several times over. They know exactly how hard they can push us as well as what we needed to do to get back on our feet with a great record.
How did you end up signing to SharpTone Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? We have a few friends at the label who we have known for several years and we trust them a lot! We loved that we both had so much to prove. They’re a new label and we were one of their big signings so they were putting their necks on the line for us. They helped us regain our confidence and pushed us along the way to make the best music possible. It seemed like so many other labels wrote us off and said we were “done”. SharpTone was the first to disagree and they put so much faith in us and what we are capable of. It’s awesome to have a team that believes in what we do as strongly as they do.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? Download UK was one of the most awesome moments of my entire career as I’m sure it is for a lot of bands! Sharing the bill with such legendary bands and playing in front of that many people is something every musician dreams of. Not to mention, the hospitality shown to us at that festival was next level. That was some of the best food I’ve ever had… the free drinks weren’t too bad either!
What else can we expect to see from We Came As Romans as we head towards 2018? We are going to tour non-stop next year. I’m not even sure if I’ll be home at all at this point! We have a lot of countries to play around the globe and we want to keep our fans happy! Please keep your eyes and ears open for when we’re playing in your town!!
Interview with Paolo
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 just started touring for the new album and are currently on tour with Arch Enemy, While She Sleeps, and Fit for an Autopsy. It’s been all sell outs and packed shows so far. The highlight for us was selling out the first show in Orlando, our hometown, at the House of Blues.
So, how did you get to the album title 'The Sin and the Sentence', and what does it mean to you? It was actually a last minute change inspired by the finished music. We originally thought ‘Revanchist’ would have been the natural fit since it’s the long epic of the album, then self-titled, and final TSATS. We knew it would be the first track of the album and the first single, it just felt right to us to make it the title.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'The Sin and The Sentence’? The lack of understanding and personal connection in the most connected world, fear of the “other”, trying to find meaning in a pointless war, personal betrayal, and alienation. I think it’s easy to look at the world and find endless inspiration for the music and lyrics we write. The music is heavy and we want to make sure we don’t shy away from that in the lyrics.
You've said that when it came to deciding the direction of this record you looked back to what made the older ones great. So can you tell us about this process? Being in a rehearsal room together is the magic ingredient for Trivium. Being able to feel each other’s ideas in real time ends up making it better than when we write alone on computers. The last two albums were about pushing ourselves to see what else we could do with our band, this album was about getting back into the driver’s seat and delivering what we do best, while also bringing along those new elements. A lot of fans have said it feels familiar but brand new at the same time, which was the tight rope we tried to walk with this one.
How did you end up working with Josh Wilbur, and how did he shape the album? Josh mixed the last album and I immediately thought he’d be great for this one. He had the skills we needed behind the board and the temperament to produce us, plus one of the finest resumes in metal. Josh was an objective ear in the final writing and made sure every note and lyric was as good as it could be.
How did Alex Bent end up becoming a part of Trivium, and what do you think he has brought to the creative process on 'The Sin and the Sentence'? Alex was the drummer we’ve been searching for since we let Travis go in 2009. It’s been a struggle to find him but it’s been worth the wait because his technical ability far accedes anything we’ve ever had. It opened up the possibilities in the music we didn’t think we’d have for the album, and arguably he saved our band’s sound. We owe our friend Mark Lewis for hooking us up with Alex in a bind last year.
The title track sees Matt returning with his heavy vocals, so what's that been like for you guys, and how would you say the sound of the band has evolved since 'Silence in the Snow'? Every album has been a building block for us. We learn what works and what doesn’t. I think we’ve evolved into a band that can comfortably mix heavy and melodic music without feeling contrived. The screaming serves more of a purpose than it ever did on the older albums, it’s a musical tool we have that not many bands can save for key moments. I think Matt’s never sang better and it keeps improving with each album.
How did the front cover for 'The Sin and the Sentence' come together? Matt’s wife Ashley actually designed the symbol for the album and each song. It wasn’t the original art plan but it ended up changing our minds with the title. To me it’s like a vignette of TSATS, ominous fire coming from who knows where or what.
'The Wretchedness Inside' is taken from a demo Matt ghostwrote for a different band. So can you tell us a bit about this song, and maybe how it came together? Matt made it around ‘Vengeance Falls’ for someone else. It was actually what inspired me to make ‘Dead and Gone’ for the last record because of the tuning. When the writing session started for TSATS that was one that got a second look and overhaul in the jam room.
Looking back on 'Silence in the Snow', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Trivium? I am very happy with it but I feel we learned that we do best when we have screaming and total control of the writing process. It brought us to a very wide audience that had never heard of Trivium before.
What else can we expect to see from Trivium as we head towards 2018? Lots and lots of touring for this album! We just announced headline dates for the UK and Europe for Spring. We're bringing Code Orange (UK only), Power Trip (all dates), and Venom Prison (all dates) with us. Get tickets!
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? It’s a lot of fun out here. There have been a lot of shows but also plenty of days off to hit some cool spots around the towns we’re in.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout the album? They come from everywhere. I feel like we all pulled the best parts of our influences together to make one awesome rock record. Some parts feel a little 70s rock and some parts feel modern but somehow overall it all worked together for a cohesive sound.
How did you end up working with David Bendeth, and how would you say he helped shape the album? We’ve wanted to work with him for a while now, and it feels like we waited for the right record which was 'Gossip'. He definitely helped us shape a new sound that’s paying off better than ever.
You guys have said that you were able to capture the live experience with view with Jack Bendeth. Can you elaborate on that, and maybe how the recording process compared to anything you have done before? He was definitely tough, loved the click track, and is a stickler about playing on time. It made us all better players and I couldn’t thank him enough for the whole experience. It made me fall in love with playing guitar again!
You've also said that this is the first record that specifically sounds like a Sleeping With Sirens record. Can you tell us about that, and maybe how the sound on this record compares to any other of your records to date? I think we found our sound over the years and the kind of record “we” wanted to make and didn’t want to listen to any other opinions.
'Legends' will be used as Team USA's official anthem for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. So how rewarding is that for you, and can you elaborate on the meaning behind that track in particular? We are truly honored to be the official song choice for team USA, which came as a complete shock. The Olympics is one of the most watched events in history. The song is an uplifting track that simply promotes being able to be different, break boundaries and be the best you can be!
Leading on from this, you have said that 'Legends' is one of the first songs that clicked when you started the recording process for 'Gossip'. So can you tell us about that, and maybe how the initial vision for the record first came about? I mean once we heard 'Legends', I immediately thought it sounded like a sporting event song which I love. I wouldn’t say it shaped the album but it definitely helped, and I think for the best way possible.
How did the cool front cover for 'Gossip' come together, and what does it mean to you? Brian Montuori is a friend of our manager Benji Madden, because he’s worked with Good Charlotte before. As soon as we saw it, we knew that was the cover right away.
How did the acoustic EP idea come together, and what did you find the most rewarding about this release? I feel like we shine when we do acoustic, it feels right. We are going to always put out more and more acoustic, I feel like sometimes that’s when we sound the best. It’s super rewarding and feels amazing to be a band that can put out acoustic songs and people love them just as much as the original or sometimes better.
How did you end up signing to Warner Bros. records, and what have they been like to work with so far? Warner Bros lined up perfectly, they are amazing people to work with and I feel like they are going to help make this band be something special. They are probably my favorite team of people in the world, and of course our management MDDN.
What else can we expect to see from Sleeping With Sirens as we head towards 2018? New music possibly, and a ton of touring. So see you soon!
Interview with Roy
How did Stone Sour originally get together? Corey Taylor formed the group in 1992. I didn't come into the band until 2006 on our second album, 'Come Whatever May'.
Also, how did you guys get to the name Stone Sour, and what does it mean to you? Corey and the original drummer (Joel Ekman) came up with the name, taken off a drink menu. It's a horrible drink made of whiskey, sour mix and orange juice. Ugh!
Let's fast forward now, 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? Touring this time around has been great, we've had an amazing response all round. We have covered so much ground in the last few months. We started in the US supporting Korn, then moved on to headlining in New Zealand/Australia, Japan and now currently we're heading round the US again with 57 shows under our belt. It really has been such a great run so far and we're super excited to be coming to the UK and across Europe this winter. Also, personally speaking, during the middle of this all I had the pleasure of being the house drummer for the 'Late Night with Seth Meyers' TV show in the US.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Hydrograd' and what does it mean to you? Actually Corey is the one responsible for that. In his haze of jet lag, running through an airport to catch a plane, he had some kind of hallucination and saw the word flash up on a departure gate sign. But when he looked back a second time, it didn't exist. We liked the idea of that and decided to use it as the title.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout the album? There's no overall theme really. We just wanted to write the best songs that we could. It all came together very naturally. With two new members in the band, the writing process was different this time around. Christian and Chow brought a lot to the table and really put a new spin on things for all of us. Also, another difference is that we recorded live, all in the same room with no click track, which gives more life to a recording. In years prior I've recorded this way - in fact the last album I made this way was the debut 'Soulfly' album. But in between that and 'Hydrograd', I've recorded to a click and a stereo track of guitars. It's not a bad thing and it works for some long distance situations, time constraints and certain types of music, but I think for us now and how we play, live recording is the way.
How did you end up working with Jay Ruston, what made you choose him and how would you say he helped shape the album? I think from the way Corey and Jay worked together on Steel Panther's 'Feel The Steel'. They hit off great and Corey had nothing but great things to say about him. Of course we loved the sound he gets, his mix is big and absolutely amazing. He's really great in the studio...he lets you explore and do your thing but will weigh in when he thinks he needs to. He is by far one of the best producer/engineers I've ever worked with. I'm looking forward to working with him again. He's the best in the biz in my opinion.
How did you end up covering 'Unchained' by Van Halen, and how did you go about bringing a Stone Sour approach towards it? Corey picked that one to cover. We're all huge VH fans so that was a no brainer! As far as "bringing a Stone Sour approach", I think no matter what we play, it's always going to sound like it's going to sound. I mean we all individually have a certain way of playing our instruments, so put us together and there's the Stone Sour sound!
How did the music video for 'Rose Red Violent Blue (This Song Is Dumb & So Am I)' come together, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track and how you got Steel Panther involved? Christian came up with the raw idea of the treatment. Basically trying to recreate Motley Crue's 'Girls Girls Girls’ video and then we all kind of put our 2 cents into it and came up with this ridiculous idea! I mean “let’s have fun with this!” We had the best time making this one! We laughed all day, it was amazing. Getting Steel Panther to be a part of this again was a no brainer since we just cameo'ed in their last video ('Wasted Too Much Time') so it made sense to return the favour. We love those guys as people, as well as musicians.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? I love the UK, I consider it my second home at this point in my career. I've been coming since the 90s. Our fans can expect a loud, rip your head off, ROCK SHOW!
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years as Stone Sour? My experiences over there have always been great. From playing my first show at the Underworld in Camden playing drums for Shelter, to later performing with Soulfly at The Astoria, to playing my first Download Festival with Stone Sour. My last favourite was our Halloween show at Hammersmith, watching Corey take the stage as 'Britney Spears' and seeing the surprised looks and crying-with-laughter response from the crowd. All priceless moments.
What else can we expect to see from Stone Sour as we head into 2018? We have some great things coming up like ShipRocked in January, which is a rock cruise with a bunch of other bands, a Canadian tour with Halestorm and the Dead Deads. We also have some other tours and opportunities being worked on for the remainder of 2018 that are too early to speak about, but it's going to be a really awesome year coming. I can't wait!
Interview with Amy
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were going to be a career lasting band? No. That’s something that I’ve never banked on, something that has just been a gift over and over - that people continue to listen to my music and come to our shows. You just have to be true to yourself and work your ass off and hope for the best, not ever really knowing how long it will last! I’m so grateful our music has touched people enough to keep listening.
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? It’s been an interesting year for sure. We’ve done a little bit of everything! Writing and recording for ‘Synthesis’, touring through Europe’s summer festival season, practicing and completely re-programming ourselves for the ‘Synthesis’ tour, and now playing ‘Synthesis’ live! There have been quite a few highlights. I’m really loving how fresh things have felt with all of the different things we’ve been doing. Our second show on the ‘Synthesis’ tour was the Greek Theater in LA, and it was magical. It felt really amazing to be received by the crowd like that, especially when we’re going out on such a limb to do something so different. It was also beautiful to have so many people who were a part of making the album, and the bands career, there supporting us that night. We had friends and collaborators from far back in our history to now there cheering us on. It felt like a homecoming.
So how did the idea for 'Synthesis' come about, what made you want to re-visit and rework some of your greatest songs? It’s a little bit of my personal interpretation of our music. Taking the classical side and totally maximizing it, letting it run wild. Pushing the electronic side to the forefront and pushing it into a new place as well. I love those parts of our sound. I wanted to give those elements a chance to shine, show that they are more than just decoration. To tell the story from another perspective.
What was the process like when it came to picking which songs you wanted to be a part of 'Synthesis'? I went through everything, listened to all the music we’ve ever made under the name “Evanescence.” Listened for moments that wanted to be taken further, had the potential to live in the space of the idea I had in my head for ‘Synthesis’. Some were just recordings so old I craved recording them now, with a stronger voice and a bigger perspective. Like ‘My Immortal’. I’ve always hated the most commonly played recording. It was a demo from when I was a teenager, and a keyboard (not even a real piano!) that strings got placed on top of after the fact. It felt so good to make a new version that let David Campbell’s arrangement sing, even with less of the piano, and for me to sing it with the warmth in my heart from singing it with our fans all these years.
So, how did you end up working with Will Hunt and David Campbell, and how would you say they helped shape the album? I’ve had the pleasure of working with both of them for quite a few years now. David Campbell arranged the strings in all 3 of our previous studio albums - so collaborating with him on this to rework our past work was crucial! David and I were both really passionate about taking all these songs to the next level, for the songs and for ourselves, I think. We’ve always wanted a bigger collaboration, to really dig in and build songs from the ground up together, this was a long time dream come to life. Will Hunt is a brilliant mind and a very talented and versatile music maker. The first music we put out together was ‘Sally’s Song’, for the Nightmare Before Christmas covers album, and then ‘Halfway Down the Stairs’, both of which showcase different aspects of our sound when we work together really well, actually. ‘Sally’s Song’ being the more classically minded production and ‘Halfway’ being the more fun, electronically driven one. We made more solo music after that, did some cowriting that ended up on the self titled Evanescence album, and then made ‘Dream Too Much’, my kids album, together. ‘Hi-Lo’ is a very special song for us, it’s our first collaboration, just finally being released now, having written the body of it together 10 years ago.
What did you find the most rewarding about working with an orchestra? It’s a dream. Recording the strings for our albums is always a very special highlight of our album-making process. But this was 10 times bigger. Full orchestra, holding down the center of the songs’ new arrangements - it was a huge and beautiful production and I loved every second of it. I actually lost my voice by the end we were just working so hard. I love watching David work. Being a composer was my first childhood dream and goal for what I wanted to be in my life. And he’s not just any composer - he’s incredibly unique and creative and brave and so passionate about music! Being let into that, and working so closely together on this project was literally a dream come true. The live show is an amazing new experience for us too, since we are all getting a chance to sit and basically play IN the orchestra. The conductor and I have to follow each other and that is a really cool new thing for me.
What would you say was the most challenging arrangement to work on with this album, and why? Well vocally, ‘Imperfection’ proved to be a serious challenge. I had to step away from it several times, then come back with a fresh voice and brain and hit it again. There are so many words in the verses, and I literally finished writing them the night before we started tracking them. So just sticking each word like I heard it in my head without losing my place took some work. But the biggest challenge was those choruses. I keep promising myself when I’m writing I’m going to make it easier on myself and in the end I NEVER do! It’s so high!
How did Lindsey Stirling end up joining you for the track 'Hi-Lo', and can you tell us a bit about what she was like to work with? I respect her creatively so much. It’s always inspiring to me to watch somebody truly pave their own way there is only one Lindsey Sterling! Once we got most of ‘Hi-Lo’ recorded, it had this interesting long instrumental part without a lead focal point. Instead of doing what I usually do and writing vocals to go on top of it, I thought it would be a perfect moment for a guest solo. I had a couple of people in mind but Lindsey was the obvious, natural choice. She was in LA and we were recording at Spaceway in Ft Worth, so after telling her what I imagined she demo-ed out her part and it was already fantastic. Then she recorded it and we got the track back and were so excited. It took it exactly where I wanted it to go. She’s a beast!
Okay, so how did you get to the album title 'Synthesis', and what does it mean to you? Basically it’s about the contrast and the fluidity of two very different, almost opposite, forces working together to make something beautiful and new. The organic, epic drama of full orchestra vs. a synthetic, mechanical world of glitchy, tricky beats, samples and synthesizers. On a deeper level, as this album is a re-creation of songs from throughout our history, as well as new songs and new perspective, new band, new respect, new love. It’s the ‘Synthesis’ of past and future.
You have said that "The whole thing flows like a big, dynamic soundtrack.", so can you tell us about why that is, and maybe how the new instrumentals helped it become this way? I’ve always been a fan of albums, and always tried to make our albums flow a little more like a story with chapters than just a collection of songs. Since ‘Synthesis’ is an accentuation, an even more dramatic tilt, dipping deeper into the classical world, it seemed only fitting to push that aspect further and make it a little like an opera, a symphony, a score. The instrumental moments, especially the piano solos, are a really fun part for me. Having this opportunity to focus more on my role as a pianist has been really fulfilling.
The upcoming tour will be your first time having a full orchestra join you. So how excited are you for that, and what do you think that will bring to your live performance? It’s been really fun and refreshing for me. We’ve played 4 shows so far and it just feels so good to perform in a way that is so alive - so natural and focused and unique in the moment! It’s hard to explain. So many musicians onstage at once creating these complex combinations - this is a moment I know I will always remember as very special.
It's been nearly 15 years since the release of 'Fallen'! So looking back on the record, what do you remember the most about putting it together, and how would you say the album still compares to anything else you have done? I’m still very proud of ‘Fallen’, although the band, and I, have grown and changed so much since then. Making my first album was a different kind of stress! Wondering if we were going to be able to make a career, have a real shot at all of this or not. I’m so grateful to be past that fear and pressure, to be more secure in myself than I was back then.
What was it like to work with Dave Fortman, and how would you say he helped shape the album? I absolutely love Dave Fortman. He produced ‘Fallen’, ‘The Open Door’, and has done quite a bit of mixing for us over the years. We actually got to play onstage together this year at Grasspop in Belgium, because he was touring with Ugly Kid Joe for the first time in years, and we were on the same show, so I got up and sang on ‘Cats in the Cradle’. It was SO fun! He really hears and perceives music in a great way. His big picture perspective is always super helpful, after I spend so much time in micro focus I need that. He’s also just a fun, creative person, and a great musician, so he can really provide detailed ideas on just about every instrument that make sense to everyone in the band. Guitars, drums, vocals, he can really get deep into each thing and we can perfect it together.
Can you give us one or two personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? We just played 2 nights at the Apollo in London a couple of months back, and playing there has come to be a steady happy place for me. There is an unwavering, absolute love between us and our fans there. No matter how long we’re away - they always lift me up! And this is going to sound funny, but the lovely people that cook the food there are wonderful. Ever since we first played there, many years ago, we always know when we go back we’re going to get an awesome dinner! It’s like getting a home cooked meal. And on the road, that is SPECIAL!
What else can we expect to see from Evanescence as we head towards 2018? ‘Synthesis’ is out now, and we’ll be seeing you live with the tour to support it in the spring! We can’t wait! Putting on a show like this, with full orchestra, is something people have asked us about for a very long time. I’m excited to finally be able to share it with you.
How did you first get into acting? The first acting role I played was as John Leguizamo and Rosie Perezâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s son in The Take, directed by Brad Furman.
When did you realize that it was what you wanted to do with your life? On the set of The Take, I saw firsthand what method acting was and I was watching and interacting with adults who were pretending to be something in an imaginary world and I thought - there is no way that can be a job. I immediately began studying and training and havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t done anything since.
What was your first major project, and what was that whole experience like for you at the time? The film The Take. And then when I was 16 I got my own Nickelodeon show, Bucket and Skinner. It was pretty surreal and fun to be working every day on a sitcom with kids my age.
How did you get the role of Ezra Bridger on Star Wars: Rebels, and what do you remember from the first day of playing this character? I did a tape in my closet and then went into the studio a month later to meet with the producers and it happened so quickly. I got a call they were going to offer the show and then they mentioned that it was Star Wars. I signed on and proceeded to freak out until the first day in the studio when I met everyone and realized this is going to be such an amazing experience.
For those that haven't seen the show just yet, then can you tell us a bit about it, and how it compares to anything else in the Star Wars world? It is animated, for one. The tone most closely emulates the original trilogy of Star Wars. There is witty banter, high stakes but also great and honest relationships between all of the characters.
How would you say the death of his parents helped shape the character over the show? The death of Ezraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s parents was a huge plot point and character shaping moment in the show. Ezra realized the world is not all good, and he took more responsibility upon himself after this moment. It was also a time for him to understand the support system he had around him (the crew of the ghost).
What other character would you really like Ezra to meet the in the Star Wars world? Han Solo - because he is the coolest character in all of the galaxy.
What has been the most memorable moment for you playing Ezra Bridger? The finale of season two with Maul and Vader were pretty amazing. To be able to play across from Darth Vader - pretty unbelievable.
For those that havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t seen it just yet, then what can they expect to see from Ezra Bridger in season 4 of Star Wars: Rebels? Ezra is a formidable Jedi now, and he takes it upon himself to help his home planet of Lethal. So we see Ezra personally burden himself and hopefully live up to his aspirations.
What was 'Walt Before Mickey' like to work on, and how would you say it compares to anything else you've done? Walt Before Mickey was a great time. I shot in Florida with a great crew and we had fun retelling this legendary life in the early 20th century. It was the first period piece I had ever done and also the first time playing a real person in history (Friz Freleng), but I have since heard from the family and they gave their blessing for the portrayal which meant more than I initially expected.
What actor have you learned the most from since starting out, and why? One of my earliest acting teachers was a woman named Tanya Berezin and she is brilliant. I have not spoken to her in a bit as she has moved back to New York and I am in LA now, but she really taught me the craft of acting and helped establish my entire base.
What's the most rewarding part about being an actor? The spontaneity and the freedom of this job are amazing. There are no rules nor right way to do anything. Everyone can have a different method but at the end of the day it is a collaboration amongst artists. I truly love this job.
Alternatively, what's the most challenging part about being in actor? The most challenging is also the most fun, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a double edged sword. The fact that there are no rules make it tough at times because there is so much time for confusion. But, I cannot complain - it has been a great and rewarding occupation and I am very grateful to be able to do what I love.
What else can we expect to see from you in 2017? I recently finished a play in Edinburgh through the month of August, but that is now behind us. I filmed another supporting role in a movie called Skate Kitchen that will come out in 2018 with Crystal Moselle directing. And also, a Verizon go90 series I am a regular on just premiered on September 13th and will have new episodes out each week on Wednesday nights.
When did you first realize that designing board games was what you wanted to do with your life? It wasn't actually the plan! When I released my first game (Pocket Dungeon) as a Print and Play game, I thought I was going to continue doing games in that format, and releasing them for free. In fact, I had already planned on releasing Dead of Winter as a free Print and Play game at first.
What board games influenced you the most growing up, and why? Growing up, I played some of the classic family games occasionally, but I also played a ton of video games, and those really taught me a love for story in my games. I was also very much into Magic: The Gathering, and Dungeons and Dragons, though where I lived, not many people played DnD.
What was your first major project, and what do you remember the most about this experience? My first game that I felt comfortable sharing was Pocket Dungeon. It's a game that's designed to be played at the office, or during meetings. It's disguised as a ToDo list. Gameplay wise, it's a homage to NetHack and Rogue, where you generate dungeons and kill monsters.
What was it like to design 'Dead of Winter: A Crosssroads Game', and what did you enjoy the most about working on this project? As my first published game and my first Co-design, it was quite a bit different! I learned a lot in the several years of working on it. How to design with a partner. The nuances of working with a publisher. How to run and interact with a large number of playtesting groups. The part I enjoyed the most was learning from and working with Isaac. He had a lot of experience in the industry and taught me a ton of things. That's one reason I like to co-design with people all the time, so I can try to help pass on that knowledge.
How did the unique idea for 'Wasteland Express Delivery Service' come together, and what was it like to work in this post-apocalyptic world? WEDS was originally a design with Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback. I had contacted them about wanting to help playtest one of their games. And then later we were all talking about how we should work together on something! So they suggested some games they were working on, and I pitched a few ideas at them. Finally we settled on them sending me a game they were calling "Space Vikings". I played it, and it immediately thought it screamed Wasteland Truckers (what we were code-naming it). So I started working on applying the new theme, and kicking the tires (and breaking some things). Then it was quite a few meetings on Saturdays because we live about 2 hours apart. I grew up in love with Mad Max, and other post-apoc movies, books, and comics (Just like Zombies) so it was awesome for me to be working in this kind of world. When they brought a comic artist aboard that I also was a huge fan of, I was through the roof.
How do you go about finalizing a board game? I mean, how much testing does it have to go through? I don't ever think a game is done. Eventually we have to say "it's done enough" and trust our work. With a game like Dead of Winter we had hundreds of groups playtesting it. I easily play most of my games 50-100 times before it comes to market, if not more.
What can you tell us about 'Dinosaur Island', and what did you find the most rewarding about designing this? Dinosaur Island is a medium weight worker placement game, where you play the owner of a brand new Dinosaur Theme park and breeding lab! You will buy attractions and dinosaur recipes, as well as lab upgrades that give you new spaces for your workers to visit! More dinosaurs is more excitement, which brings more customers, but also a bigger risk of the Dinos getting loose and killing some of the visitors. The most rewarding part was how well the design came together, working with Brian Lewis. He's also local to me, and it was a great experience developing this, and trimming it down to the game it finally became.
Why should readers pick up the game, and what do you think makes it standout? One thing I think makes it stand out, is the incredible art and graphic design, done by two of my favorite people in the industry! Kwanchai Moriya did the art, and Peter Wocken did all the graphic design. It's an incredibly solid and well balanced worker placement game, with some fun concepts in it. I also really feel like it captures the theme and experience that we were setting out to portray.
As a board game designer, what does a typical day involve for you in this world? I'm very blessed to be able to do this full time. A typical day is getting into the office between 9-10 am. Then I check emails, make coffee or tea, deal with other social media. That all typically takes an hour or so. Then I try to focus on doing 45-50 minute chunks of productivity, with Nintendo Switch / Social media breaks in between. I usually work until at least 10pm, but most nights I'm there until 2-3am. Most of those hours are spent: - Going over playtesting notes. - Making revisions based on those notes, or discussions with my co-designers. - Preparing files for publishers. - Cutting cards, or other components that need to be updated for playtesting. - Answering players questions. The rest of it is lots of office managment type things, like restocking prototype components, etc.
What's the easiest part about designing board games? I would have to say that the maybe not the easiest, but most fun part is playing prototypes! Once you get over the fact that they are likely going to be bad, then finding the bad parts and trying to highlight the good parts is a lot of fun. I really like solving problems, and that is a huge part of game design. I guess if the question is easiest, I would have to say researching. I do spend some time each week consuming media that helps me become a better designer. Either comicbooks, Movies, TV shows, or video games. All of those are useful places to get ideas from.
Alternatively, what's the most challenging part about designing board games? The most challenging part is learning to cut parts of your game that you love, if they aren't working. It happens a lot.
What else can we expect to see from you as we head towards 2018? I'll definintely have quite a bit happening! Kids on Bikes is on Kickstarter right now. Next year will also see the next two games in the Atari series coming out Atari: Asteroids and Atari: Missile Command. Also from IDW you should see Outpost: Amazon the second game in that series. Hopefully there are a few more suprises in the wings as well!
So, how did you get into the gaming world? I was studying Multimedia and Videogame Design at university and a games company called Codemasters came in to give a graduate talk on how to get into the industry. I managed to persuade one of the then directors (by basically emailing him every day for about a month) to take me on that summer as an intern. After making me promise never to email him again, he agreed. That was my foot in the door and I ended up working at Codemasters for the best part of a decade.
What was your first major project, and what do you remember the most about this experience? The very first game I worked on was called Toca World Touring Cars. I started as a Junior Environment Artist, which basically meant, for 6 months, I made hundreds of very small grass textures and hundreds of very small road textures. It was weeks and weeks of moving green pixels and grey pixels around, all day, every day and it was incredibly boring. Eventually I did a good enough job on that, to finally move position and I became a concept artist, working on a huge range of games, (almost non of which were ever released). However, although I enjoyed the artistic side, what I really loved in games, was the actual construction and design of game mechanics. I shifted discipline again and became a Junior Designer on a project called Racedriver 2, which was my first real design job. 3 months into that project, the other designer left, so suddenly, I found myself in control of the complete design of a game. It was a huge learning curve, but by the time I came off that project, I knew that Game Design was what I wanted to do within the industry.
How did you end up working on Forza Horizon, and what did you enjoy the most about working on this project? Some friends of mine left Codemasters and started their own studio called Playground Games. I had left Codies also the previous year and was starting to work in comics, but they asked me to come in and help them get a new project off the ground. That project basically became the first Forza Horizon and I worked with Playground on the first 3 Horizons as Lead Desgner and then later as a creative consultant. They are a brilliant studio and I’m really proud of what we were able to create together.
You also worked on Grid, so what was that like, and how did it compare to the other racing games you had worked on? Grid was the first game that I got to design from the ground up. At the time, Codies was paying far less attention to its racing franchises as it wanted to develop games in other genres. Because of that, I was given an incredible amount of freedom. I had scribbled down a load of ideas while making the previous Racedriver 3 and so I seized the opportunity to completely redesign the game, turning it into Grid (and actually at the same time, turning Colin McRea Rally into DiRT). My idea was to put the emphasis onto the actual racing, focus on the action and excitement that can occur in a race, rather than just simply focusing on car handling. I also wanted to rethink the structure of the single player campaign too. It was a really creative and exciting project, but also ultimately, very very stressful as it was attempting to change so many things so fast.
What do you enjoy the most about working on racing games? I really enjoy designing all types of games, but I guess with racing games, for me, it’s really interesting working on a genre which has such a huge legacy. Racing games have been around since almost the inception of video game themselves, so it’s fun to still try and find new things to do and new ways to play within that genre.
So, when and how did you get into art? I always loved art. I enjoyed drawing as a kid and I got into comics when I was about 7. My mum bought me issue #1 of the UK Transformers comic and I knew almost instantly (certainly by the time issue #3 came out) that I wanted to draw comics when I was older. I studied art at school but it really wasn’t a very fun experience. The school syllabus at the time completely discouraged any kind of genuine contemporary art or design study. Basically, I wanted to draw robots and monsters and study the work of Kirby and Romita, whereas school was very much “Here’s Braque, now draw this bowl of fruit.” However, I still drew in my spare time and maintained a love of comic art. I began to get interested in European and Japanese artists, as well as obviously, deeper into US comics and so that helped maintain my interest in art. Once I left school and went to college, I then found out that you could infact study more modern techniques and methods and that there were plenty of jobs and vocations that required those skills.
What was your first major job as a comic book artist? My first real gig was working for 2000AD on a strip called Tempest. It featured a crazy ninja in the Judge Dredd world, who lived in the sewers and battled mech-suited Mafioso and mutated rats. It was a pretty awesome first job!
What was it like to work on Judge Dredd, and how did you go about giving this iconic character your own approach? My biggest memory of doing my first Dredd strip was really, how incredibly nervous I was doing it! I tried to give him a slightly unique “look” (basically, I added additional detail to his armour and suit – made it a bit more “tech” and functional). The main thing with Dredd is, you have to get the chin and the helmet right. Everything after that is just filler. When I drew Dredd, It was still relatively early in my career so I’m not sure if I really nailed him (or to put it plainly, I don’t think I drew him very well). I’ve learnt so much since then, I’d love to have another crack at him now and see if I could improve.
We must ask, what did you think of the Dredd film? I thought the Karl Urban film was fantastic. Hopefully, Netflix will do a series and hopefully, Urban will return because he absolutely nailed it. I also think it benefited hugely from the Garland script, which kept the plot and action sharp and succinct. Great film! IN all honesty, I also have a soft spot for the early 90s Judge Dredd film too. It is pretty terrible, but more in a very confused and entertaining way. I actually think Stallone would make a brilliant Dredd if he played him now, in a film tonally like the Urban Dredd.
What was Age of the Wolf like to work on, and how did it compare to anything else you had worked on in the comic book world? Age of the Wolf was really fun to work on. I did 3 books in all, working on each of them with the really great and talented writer Alec Worley. Age of the Wolf really let me try out a few things and start to settle and refine a style that I felt comfortable with. It was actually an issue of Age of the Wolf that got me my first gig for DC in America.
You are currently working on The Wild Storm! What can you tell us about this project, and what is it like to work in this world? The Wild Storm is basically a re-imagining of the Wildstorm superhero universe from the 90s and early 00s. It’s a very grounded, real world take on the superhero mythos. There are no “superheroes” as such, but certain individuals in this reality do have super-powers, it’s just that rather than flying around and openly saving the world, they are instead used by clandestine governmental organisations who are fighting an even more secretive war for global control. It’s essentially a black ops fuelled, conspiracy theory soaked spy-thriller - with super powers. And it’s been totally awesome to draw and work on.
So, what's the hardest part about what you do? The hardest part about drawing comics is definitely time management. You have so much personal freedom, so it’s important that you manage and structure your days, otherwise, you simply end up working 24/7. That issue is compounded because you can often find yourself working on a page of art and simply not wanting to finish because you’re having so much fun – or because you want to add in even more detail, just to make something look as good as possible. However, you HAVE to limit yourself to a certain amount of time on each page, otherwise, you would simply never finish an issue.
Alternatively, what's the most rewarding part about what you do? Working from home and getting paid for doing something you love. I also work very closely with my wife (who is also a designer), so getting to spend each day with her is brilliant.
What does a typical day involve for you for you as an artist? I tend to get up about 7. Some days I’ll start work straight away, some days I’ll do the school run and then start at 9. Once I start drawing, I normally go straight into a page. I try to always finish the day before with a page roughed out and ready to go, as that makes the following morning more productive. I’ll normally put a film on, or listen to the radio and then I’ll simply draw all day. I pick the kids up from school around 3 and then when I get back, I’ll carry on until the page is finished. I normally finish a page round about 5. Then I’ll quickly sketch out the next days page. Sometimes, if deadlines are tight, I might carry on working until late, but it depends on how much needs to get done. But basically, my typical day is sitting down, drawing and watching films or listening to music. It’s a brilliant job!
What else can we expect to see from you as we head towards 2018? Well at the moment I am 100% focused on The Wild Storm and will be now until the middle of 2019. SO basically, lots of Wild Storm! :)
How and when did you first get into directing? In 1989, I was working as a temp at the Camden dole office and found out about a back to work scheme that had a video production course in Pimlico. I applied for the course 3 times and eventually got chosen. Whilst there I wrote and directed a short that was on the old VHS video format. It’s shockingly bad but it taught me a lot.
What was your first major job role, and what do you remember the most from this experience? My first job on a professional shoot was in the locations department. It was a film called ‘Search’ which was produced by the Roger Corman studios. It was a sort of Silence of the Lambs rip off, with lots of attractive actors from Baywatch and bondage. It was set in America but filmed in Ireland, the budget was so small that the Buick car doubled as a police car on one side and taxi on the other. I also remember shooting at a lighthouse which was located in a place deemed to be a place of “outstanding natural beauty” When the crew all left to head back to Galway for a party, the van with all the rubbish from a week of filming took a knock, the back doors opened spilling all the rubbish out into the windy landscape. I was the trainee so was left to tidy the whole lot up. It took 3 days.
So, what initially attracted you to the world of Peaky Blinders? The writing, the actors, and the overall swagger.
What do you remember the most about your first day on set with the cast of Peaky Blinders? It’s a bit of a blur but I just remember Adrien Brody, Tom Hardy and a room full of barrels of Rum and whiskey.
What episode has been the most rewarding for you to work on, and why? That’s too difficult to answer. For the awards season you have to pick one episode out of the six which best represents your work but there are elements in all 6 that I love and am proud of but can’t pick one.
Can you tell us a bit more about what the cast of Peaky Blinders were like to work with? Every member of the cast brings something special to their roles. The established characters are always looking at ways to explore the inner workings of the characters they’ve created and the newer characters are like impact players who make big entrances and raise the bar year on year. I had a great experience with all the actors on this show. Every job is a learning experience.
How would you say working on that show compares to anything else you've done? Most of my recent tv work, Line of Duty and Love/Hate have a strong basis in reality. In both I wanted to be cinematic with shot choice and the overall feel but I adopted the approach of keeping the character and location as close to reality as possible. Peakys is a mystical, stylised approach to 1920s Birmingham which was established in the first series by the first director Otto Bathurst, his team and writer/creator Steve Knight. I hope that my team and I have continued on with what they achieved and added a little something extra also.
What was the most stunning location you filmed in for Peaky Blinders, and why? Working class Britain has not been preserved in the same way the great houses of Aristocratic Britain has so making a show like Peakys takes lots of imagination from the design, camera and cgi departments. My favourite location from the show is Watery Lane as it’s a wonderful depiction of a working class street from the period but it took the genius of the aforementioned departments to make it happen. The new tenement location with a big shootout was filmed in the old fire station in Manchester where we were able to film 360 degrees, it is a testament to the great production designer Stephen Daly who sa it’s potential straight away.
What do you think fans can expect from the season overall? Blood and Revolution.
You also got to work on Stan Lee's Lucky Man! So how was that, and how would you say that project compares to anything else you have done before? Lucky man was a great show to work on, it was a superhero show without the typical super hero elements i.e.. Characters that have physical superpowers. It took a lot of ingenuity from the writers and producers to make a show that has fantastical elements with good plotting but none of the usual cgi trickery or budgets synonymous with most shows and films from the Stan Lee stable.
What was it like to write and direct Grand Theft Parsons with Johnny Knoxville, and what did you find the most exciting about working on this film? I co-wrote the story with Jeremy Drysdale who came to me with the idea. It was tricky to write because it’s a true story and very difficult to veer into dramatic license when lawyers can get very nervous if you haven’t got permission from the real life people. The most exciting thing was watching the actor Michael Shannon at work, he’s gone on to really big things now and it was easy to see why back then.
What's been the most challenging set that you have ever worked on, and why? Probably my first short film that was shot on 16mm film. I’d load all the camera, lights and grip gear onto the van in the morning and put it away in the evenings on my own as I’d no insurance and none of my crew lived near me. I spent each night worrying that the film might get exposed or not develop properly in the lab. I didn’t sleep for week. Nothing has been as challenging since then.
What advice would you give to someone who is reading this, and would like to be a director one day? It’s a collaborative process, be flexible. Directing is all about compromises and managing expectations but be as ambitious as possible with whatever you have at your disposal.
What else can we expect to see from you as we head towards 2018? I’ve literally just finished the final mix of ep 6 of Peakys and this is the first time in 3 years I have had a clear mind with nothing to think about, apart from questionnaires like this!
ON BETTER TERMS
Theory of a Deadman - Wake Up Call Canadian rockers Theory Of A Deadman return with their sixth album which follows 2014’s successful ‘Savages’ and sees them take a new change in direction. Opening song ‘Straight Jacket’ immediately asserts their different sound and is jaunty with fast piano, showing an adventurous and free spirited vibe, whilst the lyrics and structure give it an almost hip hop vibe so this definitely ticks the box for displaying the new Theory sound. Lead single ‘Rx’ is a nice chilled acoustic, whereas ‘Echoes’ is more captivating than the previous offerings and holds more depth and power, with more of a nod to their rock status, but with a shining light pop chorus, making it a good transition track. The title track is one of the strongest showing of Tyler Connolly best vocal capabilities and delicate acoustic guitar, making for a pleasant listening. ‘Time Machine’ strongly highlights how far they have departed from their previous sound, but despite this it does fit Tyler’s vocal tones, luckily following this ‘Glass Jaw’ ramps things up and sways to the harder rock side with some interesting sounds and rhythms, making it more driving and memorable Interestingly they decide to end their latest offering on one of the most widely covered songs, ‘Wicked Game’, originally by Chris Isaak. With endless versions out there they surprisingly manage to create an exciting and unique version with their own mark on it which see’s Tyler’s vocals work wonderfully against their orchestral backing and actually closes the album on a grand note that they desired and needed. ‘Wake Up Call’ is a mixed bag in terms of sound and consistency. This a more mature and evolved sound from them and they should be commended for trying to change things up and be bold, but it still feels like they play it too safe, with nothing ground breaking. It is definitely their most mainstream release with more pop infused numbers that are enjoyable, so no doubt they will gain some new fans, even if existing ones aren’t fully satisfied. CL
We Came As Romans - Cold Like War American metallers release their fifth album and first release through new record label Sharptone records which comes two years after their 2015 self-titled album. Opening song ‘Vultures With Clipped Wings’ makes quite the impact starting with an atmospheric build up which progresses wonderfully before blasting into heavy guitars and powerful aggressive vocals from Dave Stephen’s, delivering strong lines such as "I never found peace, but now I'm fighting a war" and later on the clean contrasting vocals from Kyle Pavone give it extra depth and power, making for an impressive kick off. Title track ‘Cold Like War’ follows and is even more striking and fast paced with dynamic instruments and strong melodies, highlighting all the bands abilities wonderfully. ‘Two Hands’ has some effective group chants and soars especially with the emphasis on the clean vocals, while ‘Lost In The Moment’ is sonic, driving and highly memorable with catchy synths and melodies, something which the band never seem to struggle with. "If There's Something to See" sees I Prevail's Eric Vanlerberghe feature and is a massive hard hitting song and a definite highlight on the album. The closing track ‘Learning To Survive’ is a powerful one both musically and lyrically with them baring all as they have throughout, with emotive lines like “I can feel them watching me while I'm learning to survive, staring at my broken will that I'm too tired to hide” and “Here I am wide awake, no I'm not dead yet”. With honest and well written lyrics backed up by solid and heavy ambient sounds, ‘Cold Like War’ is a must hear album which may be the bands best material yet. CL
Evanescence - Synthesis ‘Synthesis’ is their fourth album which includes reworked versions of their past songs with orchestral arrangements and electronica elements, however it also includes two brand new songs, so it is actually a compilation album and a studio album and helps bridge the gap while we wait for a complete new album… ‘Overture’ sets the scene for these brand new versions and what to expect in a tense fashion. First song ‘Never Go Back’ sounds sombre yet hopeful and is very haunting and beautiful, with Amy Lee’s vocals standing out even more due to the new arrangement and it works perfectly and leaves you eager to hear the rest of the songs in this new way. The first new song featured is ‘Hi-Lo’ and has a guest appearance from well-known violinist Lindsey Stirling, and is actually the longest song on the album and is utterly alluring. The latest single ‘Lacrymosa’ features delicate vocals and creeping instrumentation to heighten the intensity and gives it a delicious darkness. Their most popular song ‘Bring Me To Life’ is given a new sound also and is made even more dramatic and tense, stripping away the guitars and drums with more focus on Lee’s impressive vocals and melodies, if ever a song fitted this remake using orchestral and electronic sounds, it is this song. Amy Lee herself was very excited about this new version, and it is easy to see why as this is executed with intricate precision and placement.
Songs such as ‘Imaginary’ and ‘Lithium’ also work wonderfully even though both originals already had a strong emphasis on the vocals more than anything, they still have a fresh and electrifying feel. Other always stunning songs like ‘My Immortal’ although it doesn’t differ too drastically from the original, it is still a welcome and nice placed addition. The second new original song ‘Imperfection’ closes this wonderful ensemble and highlights their new electronic inspired sound, making it fit well amongst these elegant existing songs. It is hard hitting with a symphonic powerful feel to it and is emotionally driven, especially with the lyrics being written in the perspective of a person who has lost a loved one due to suicide or depression which is evident with lines like “Don't you dare surrender. Don't leave me here without you 'Cause I could never replace your perfect imperfection”. This is an exciting direction for the band and definitely leaves you very eager to hear more new material to follow this up with. Some fans may have been a little disappointed initially to hear that ‘Synthesis’ was going to largely feature already released reworked songs and only two new offerings, but even though these songs have previously been heard, these new orchestral electronica versions give the songs a new life and extra depth that is exciting to hear and almost feels like an entire new release due to this well-crafted and creative composition. This is magnificent and cathartic, everything that embodies Evanescence at their finest, and the two original songs featured are more than enough to leave us hungry for what is next from them. This is a must hear for any fan. CL
Sleeping With Sirens - Gossip America rockers from Florida are back with their fifth album and follow up to 2015’s album ‘Madness’. This album is the first release through Warner Bros. Records and also sees more of a departure from their post-hardcore style, leaning to a more pop inspired sound. Opening song and title track ‘Gossip’ is super catchy, with an emphasis on melody over everything else and dialled back guitars. Kellin Quinn’s high pitched vocals are still present and delivered wonderfully in this buoyant start. ‘Legends’ has a very larger than life sound, so it is easy to see why it has received the accolade of being chosen for Team USA's official anthem for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, especially as it is hopeful, upbeat and inspiring – it will surely get the crowd going. The slick ‘Trouble’ is full of swagger and intrigue, and this “trouble” will stay with you and follow you around due to its infectious sounds. Whereas ‘Cheers’ has more of an angsty rock vibe. It will be a fun live track that’s for sure and tracks like this and ‘Empire To Ashes’ help keep the band on the rock radar. Closing song ‘War’ is perhaps the biggest surprise. It is very strong and will definitely be that moment where all fans get their phones out and light the venue, it will be a great live track like most of the album. This may be different for the band and therefore might not be for everyone due to the transition but there’s no denying the talent and song writing qualities shining through here, the band are clearly trying to go to the next level. CL
InAir - A Different Light Alt rock trio InAir from South East UK have unleashed their debut EP ‘A Different Light’ following their debut 3 track release ‘Meant To Be’ in August 2016. Opener ‘Rise Again’ starts with an unusual dysfunctional sound and goes on to feature big galloping melodies and a refreshing upbeat sound. It is diverse, dramatic and consuming making this an electrifying start and introduction to the band. Next song ‘Tonight Is Our Night’ keeps the momentum high, as it is fast, fun and striking, whilst ‘Bound To Break’ is highly dynamic and intriguing and again highlights their intelligible and well-placed use of electronics to add extra power and depth to their tracks.
Final song ‘Insomnia’ is spacey and ambient and features pleasant soft vocals from lead vocalist Joe Conneely, showing off his capabilities further. This is a soaring way to end this exciting and driving debut EP. This is diverse, refreshing and distinctive - all key features that any band would want from their debut release, and their impressive efforts make this one to definitely check out if you are looking for something a bit “different”. CL
36 Crazyfists - Lantern Distinctive Alaskan metallers 36 Crazyfists are back with their eighth studio album and follow up to 2015’s ‘Time And Trauma’ with some of their most aggressive and evolved material to date. The First track ‘Death Eater’ demonstrates this perfectly, with an aggressive frenzy with Brock’s unique vocals hitting as hard as ever and fitting the fast heavy instrumentation. This is one of the rawest and heaviest offerings on the album. To make it even better…yes, the name is inspired by Harry Potter, what a way to open! ‘Wars To Walk Away From’ continues the heavy theme and has a deranged vibe due to Brock’s vocal delivery, before he injects more power and is accompanied by tuneful guitars and pounding drums, resulting in another soaring track. Latest single, ‘Better To Burn’ kicks off with ambient melodic guitars before it amps up the heaviness and features one of the biggest and catchiest choruses, making it a brilliant lead track. ‘Sea And Smoke’ sees a change in pace and tone, slowing things down initially and showing the vulnerability more so with emotive and honest vocals and lyrics…
Continuing the softer and stripped back sound, ‘Where Revenge Ends’ demonstrates their most delicate side in this sombre acoustic ballad which shows off Brock’s hoarse vocals and helps add to the diversity and depth of the album. ‘Sleepsick’ quickly ramps things up full throttle again with crushing riffs and endless melodic vocals, showing the band at their best. ‘Old Gold’ and final song ‘Dark Corners’ close the album on a highly impactful and bleak way, which see’s Brock delivering some of his harshest and belligerent vocals mixed with his signature clean ones on the penultimate track and in contrast to the closer with slow soft solemn vocals, showing their full capabilities and power. This is a stellar release which is more mature and precise and uses a good mix of heavy moments for metal fans and catchy melodies to cater for the masses. Even though this is a more evolved side to the band, it is still very much 36C signature sound which they will luckily always possess with Brock’s unique and hoarse vocals standing out as ever. This is a brilliant album which existing and new fans alike should be impressed with. CL
Samarkind - Samarkind Multi-national hard rock blues act Samarkind are ready to make an even bigger impact following their big success with their main single ‘Sun Stroke Heart’ with their debut self-titled offering. Opener ‘Black Rain’ is infectious and grabbing. With blues inspired guitars, and a stand out chorus and lyrics. Guitarist Michal Kulbaka struts his stuff with an impressive solo to top things off, making this is a brilliant start and introduction to the band which sees all their talents shine. Lead single, ‘Sun Stroke Heart’ quickly won people’s hearts with memorable and great blues riffs and left all eager to hear more and luckily the rest of the songs don’t disappoint.
‘Skinny Rivers’ is a heartfelt stripped back acoustic number which shows of brilliant vocals from Irish frontman David Paul Byrne. This has some powerful and striking moments adding some extra strength and depth to the album. Through these eight tracks the band explores many directions from soft ballads to heavy hard hitting rock numbers to intricate solos and blues sections, but whatever approach they take, the end result is impressive, proving they can do it all and have plenty of talent and diversity. The debut is well created and executed and through their constant catchy riffs and hooks, this is one hard rock blues band you need to check out! CL
Hideaway- Nothin on Me Upon my first listen of this song, I immediately noticed the pop qualities to it - a hot rhythmic beat, and catchy vocals that will make you want to tap your feet. A female fronted indie pop rock act, these guys definitely set the stage with their single ‘Nothin on Me’ as their first release. I definitely think that this single would be a great listen for someone who is drawn to pop music but wants to branch out into a more rock oriented song. My only gripe with it is that the lyrical content of this song is not very complex, and there are a lot of “yeah’s”. In some areas it feels a tad cheesy, however the production quality of this single is great and it is a great first track. 6 out of 10 from me, with the points coming off for the lyrical content lacking. For some it may not be that big of a deal, and maybe I’m just a big old Grinch, but I found that it took away from the aural quality of the song. That being said, this is really just a me problem and if you are looking for a pop song that blends well with rock sounds, this is your track. LD
The Used - The Canyon I have been a fan of these guys since ‘All That I’ve Got’ rang in my angsty teenage ears, and soothed my first world problem induced case of the grumbles. I’ll admit though, as I grew older, and my music taste evolved I faded in and out with these guys and hadn’t really fully delved into their evolution as a band until now. ‘The Canyon’ has a unsurprisingly raw, and vulnerable tone to it that layers and develops dimension upon dimension. Atmosphere in this album are anything but single layered. ‘For You’ opens the album with a touching dialogue to start, which is a nod to the emotive quality of the album and starts these guys off on a distinct foot. The track is an acoustic, singer songwriter-esque vibe, with string layers that swell through the song; I found that the song truly embraced the beauty shining through the pain we face in the trials of life. ‘Rise Up Lights’ seemed to me to be more in line with the sound I was more familiar with. Bert McCraken has such a distinct vocal style, it’s impossible not to love the bridge on this song as an impossibly maniacal and in some ways, disturbing way to transition the song to the outro. But it’s not just this track that has the banger bridge, the entire album has some great bridges, riffs, and out of the box elements that take this album from good to great for me.
‘Upper Falls’ caught me at the simplistic yet perfectly composed intro. The only word I have to describe this track is “home.” These guys seem to have an uncanny ability to capture emotions that I feel when I’m at a loss for words, and ‘Upper Falls’ definitely exceeded expectations. My only pickle with this album is ‘Moon-Dream.’ But a small pickle at that. The intro was creepy, and just the way I like it but the strings that followed it cancel out that effect which in a way, I wish didn’t. This song is mostly vocals and strings whereas all the others are layered and quite complex. There’s nothing wrong with this song per se, it just didn’t jive very well with me. I felt that the whimsy nature of it didn’t really suit my cup of tea. But, to reiterate, a small pickle. I love that they took a risk with the sound of this song and the entire album at that and for that reason, I commend them. I don’t think that this album could have blown my mind anymore than it did. At seventeen tracks, and plugged into someone who doesn’t like to sit still for very long, that’s a feat. While reminiscing of a classic sound, they add in dimension and perspective which truly attests to their craftsmanship and skills as musicians. LD
The Black Capes- All These Monsters I am as big a fan of rolling, deep, and heavy set riffs as anyone else is; letting everyone around my headphones have a “don’t talk to me, I am in the middle of important business” notice. However, ‘All These Monsters’ from The Black Capes wasn’t really my thing. That being said, I definitely think that it would be lots of others people’s things, it just wasn’t my thing. I had high hopes with ‘The Invite’ opening the album; a twenty four second dialogue to set the somber tone of the album. As a goth rock act, I expected the somber and dark tones to really shine here. However, with each passing track, I felt that it shined about as much as a dying flashlight. I enjoyed ‘Sarah the Witch’ as the follow up track to ‘The Invite.’ As an avid fan of Volbeat and Five Finger Death Punch, to me it felt a little like these guys channeled those bands darker, and heavier set cousin. As the album continued on with songs like ‘Wolf Child’ or ‘Purple Heart’ it became apparent that the reason the songs weren’t shining any more than the others was because they sounded the same. To be fair, it is easy to get lost in the dark earthly tones of Goth rock, however I still feel as if there should be experimentation and play, not just one track repeating over and over again. The tracks were different in minuscule ways, but not enough for it to be memorable for me. That being said, I think it would jive with a lot of people because the vocals are rich and dangerous and the album may offer a nice addition to your morning playlist but it was a bit bland for my taste. LD
Get Loose - Self-Titled Oxfordshire based power blues trio Get Loose get the blues chapping with a bit of balls about, putting a bit more beef in to it, trimming off the fat to leave only the best cuts of blues rock. At times they hover towards the classic rock/metal sound of the 70s and early 80s but it all fits in the grand plan, ‘Forgive Me’ starts things off with a bang with plenty of riffage and catchy licks. The bass does a good job of anchoring things with solid grooves and fills as needed creating at times a nice side melody to accompany the main guitar work. Check ‘Ride it Out’ for some fine examples of the blues guitar and bass partnership within a three piece band.
Two well enough executed covers make an appearance in the form of Charles Brown’s Black Night and the Rolling Stones King Bee, well executed as I said but with how good the original material is on the album they are slightly out of place. They fit the album well as songs but I would have rather have enjoyed two further original songs. That’s a minor quibble and probably more a personal preference though. In a style as healthy and populated as blues rock is at the moment this is a very solid debut from Get Loose. AN
Weezer- Pacific Daydream Attention boys: the way to my heart is to sing me the the first four tracks of ‘Pacific Daydream’ from Weezer. ‘Mexican Fender’ reignited my love for Weezer since ‘Raditude’, and made me believe in the faith of humanity again. Not really. But seriously, listen to it. The ever sarcastic tone of Weezer remained present throughout the entire album much to my pleasure, and I remembered why I loved them so much all along. ‘Beach Boys’ keeps a funky, surf punk vibe to it throughout the entire ballad to the good old days and adventuring, listening to the Beach Boys. I have listened to this song approximately ten million times since last week when I played through the album for the sake of this review. For your quiet days when you just want something to reminisce about, and a little tune to fill the empty void in your mind, this is your song. ‘Feels Like Summer’ incorporates a nice synth, and a more mainstream pop oriented sound with a subtle bass drop. Very subtle, mind you but it’s there. I love this song for the fact that it stands on the edge of the sound of the album, it’s just slightly different than the rest and it works to progress the entire feel of the album. Weezer fans may say, this does not sound like them at all. But in the end, progress does not come from doing the same thing over and over again.
‘Happy Hour’ comes back in with another jazz, funkified feel to the power of “happy hour on sad days.” Same Weezer. Overall, I love this song the most out of these four. The swing element really hits it out of the park, with keys in the background filling in the sophisticated, cool feel to the snapping rhythm. The special thing about music is that it has the power to match your emotions in a sound, which is not always something that can be done by the things we find ourselves surrounded by in day to day life. It offers an opportunity to lean back, and escape from reality for three minutes and forget about the pain we all go through. ‘Happy Hour’ has become my new go to song for that time, and to me, captures the importance of music to so many people. To keep this review concise, I won’t go into all the juicy details of the rest of the tracks. But for those of you who are curious, ‘QB Blitz’ and ‘Any Friend of Diane’s’ are next on my “Please Sing To Me If You Want Me To Fall In Love With You” list. Aside from being an incredibly atmospheric and inspiring album, it is hugely accessible to a broad audience. The album incorporates notes from many different genres and has a sound that I couldn’t imagine anyone not liking. But maybe that’s just me. LD
Lights - Skin & Earth Lights was one of the names I had heard floating around, and I promised myself I would listen time and time again, but I never did until now. I was pleasantly surprised to find that her album of electro soul dug deeper than just the label of genres and brought about fantastic production value, and showed her true talents as a vocalist and artist. ‘Skydiving’ ‘Until the Light’, and ‘Savage’ all showed her capabilities and really impressed me with a diverse way of expressing the genre beyond the bounds that it could be boxed into. I will admit, I don’t listen to much electro music at all, but I immensely enjoyed this full length. ‘Savage’ brought in a more diverse intro and was farther from the electro-pop sound that was there before and fell into a more garage rock influenced chorus. It’s at this point in the album I felt like her talent began to show more.
‘Giants’ took the highlight for me; the track summed up her sound and her purpose well and I felt as if the track was the one to listen to if you wanted a one track sum up of what LIGHTS is all about. However, at fourteen tracks, I felt that the album was a tad long. As I played through the album, it all began to feel like one long song and I can’t help but feel that if it was shorter then I may not have felt that way. This is the only reason why this album didn’t rank higher for me. LD
Then Comes Silence - Blood Admittedly this is my first encounter with otherworldy, punk-psychadelic music and I can’t say I was a huge fan. I really enjoyed the dark undertones of the lyrical content, and the overall vibe would have a good grab for anyone who’s a Halloween lover, but I found myself waiting for the rest of the song to arrive consistently throughout the whole piece. The fourteen track album tends to drone on due to the lack of closure present. I felt like these guys have a good start, but they don’t quite finish it. The vocals have a deep, rich, mahogany sound to them and each part is placed in the exact place that it is supposed to be to a T. Again, it really just boils down to feeling like each track was started well but it doesn’t finish. In other words, I just felt as if there was something missing. For fans of post-punk and psychadelic music, I think this would be a really solid listen. For me personally, it just didn’t do it. LD
Anti-Flag - American Fall And now, la piece de resistance! Anti-Flag’s ‘American Fall’ hit the pinnacle of political punk, and probably just “the pinnacle” as far as awesome things go. Anti-Flag hit that point long ago, but no time like the present to throw some extra stuff in that bin too amongst a perfectly baked chocolate cake, raging guitar solos, and pranking your roommates before laughing so hard you cry. Opening with ‘American Attraction’ this track serves as an anthem to the political punks out there, and the rage and angst at our current state in America… we all know what I’m talking about. ‘When the Wall Falls’ is definitely my favorite track by far off of this album. A jolly, and cheerful tune that has a campfire like song intro and moves towards a ska-like sound creates a sarcastically peppy and bouncy tune that will for sure get stuck in your head as your daily dose of all things punk. ‘Digital Blackout’ serves as the token heavier track on this album, a track for the addicts of media and technology and the acceptance of this in our society. For reasons that are to avoid me not rambling on and on about how much I love this band, let’s just say, I loved this album, I love this band, and I love punk. I don’t think I need to repeat it again. 9/10 from me, a damn good jam. LD
Iron Chic - You Can't Stay Here As much as I love music, one of the things I dislike about it are all these crazy genres. To me music is music and can be put into a few genres. Why do I mention this? Well Iron Chic over the past few years has been called Orgcore. What is that? If you want to put them into a category, that’s simple, they are a punk band and even if you wish to take that further, you can call them melodic punk. Regardless of where you put them, they have released one of the best albums of 2017 and they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as The Menzingers and Hot Water Music. ‘You Can’t Stay Here’ is the first release on Side One Dummy for this Long Island, NY 5 piece. And what a release it is. Do you have those albums that you just put on and get lost in them instantly? This is one of those albums for me. From start to finish I’m somewhere else, and I don’t mind it at all.
It starts with ‘A Headache with Pictures’. This very well might be one of the best opening tracks I have heard in a long time. This track gives me the feeling of a night out with friends at a dive bar watching a rock and roll band. It starts off subtle and when the music hits, it hits and off into the night you go. The party continues with the next track, ‘My Best Friend (Is a Nihilist)’. This song is the one that will cause fans of The Menzingers to take notice. It also has a killer guitar solo near the middle of the track that will make you lose your mind. My favorite track on the album is ‘You Can’t Stay Safe’. It comes in at a little under two and a half minutes. The first minute is nothing but pure instrumental magic. Once the music comes in louder and with vocals I am reminded of bands like Elliott, Penfold and other emo bands from the early 2000s and it’s nice to hear. The track ‘Golgotha’ comes off as a song about Christ or maybe about one’s life. Golgotha was the hill on which Christ was crucified. The lyrics here could be about what he was thinking as he was dying or they could just be about one’s life as they go through day to day life. Overall this album is very good. From the first song to the last it does not slow down. It ends with the same tenacity that it starts with. Which I feel is rare these days. There is not a dull moment on this record. I would highly recommend it to fans of The Menzingers, Red City Radio, Latterman and just good ole rock and roll.
The Face of Ruin - Self Titled The Face of Ruin is a melodic death metal band from Warwick, England. And let me tell you this release is straight fire. It’s really a shame it is only three songs because it leaves you wanting more. If Death metal is your poison and you have not listened to or picked this up, you my friend are failing. Like I said above this release is only three songs but they all hit hard, very hard. It’s one of those releases I keep playing over and over just because it’s good. And it gets me so pumped up. ‘Murderers Lair’ is the first track and right away my head is bopping and I want to move. The first few seconds reminds me a bit of Slayer but then it gets all death metal on you and that’s gone. However that is not a bad thing. The vocals on this track are what nightmares are made of and I love it. ‘Beyond Life’ is the next track. The vocals on this number at times remind me of Rammstein. Which is also a good thing. The thing that really stands out about this track is the brutal breakdown. It will make any hardcore kid a fan of this group. Also on this track you will find some good precise guitar work. The last track, ‘Return to Her’ is a bit risqué. I’m not going to repeat the lyrics here but you should go look them up or just listen to the song. It very well could be a love song, you know, I think it is. But in a death metal way. I dig it. And I think most death metal fans will as well. This is one of those Eps that leave the listener wanting more. And that’s a really good thing. After these three songs I want to hear more, I’m curious what they will release next and if it will live up to these three songs, as this is one heck of an introduction to this band. RC
Knuckle Puck - Shapeshifter Knuckle Puck is one of those bands that I know of, I listen to from time to time. But never a go to band. They may change with this release. ‘Shapeshifter’ is a solid album from start to finish. And it very well may solidify them as one of the leaders of this new pop punk movement. Every few years pop punk reinvents itself and right now the bands that are leading that are not your typically pop punk bands. They put more time and effort into what they are doing it seems. It’s just not about the girl or school or what have you. ‘Shapeshifter’ starts off with a soft number that kind of sets the pace for what is to come. It sets the stage so to speak. Pop punk has morphed into something else, something that is still changing. Bands like Knuckle Puck are why. 5-10 years ago I don’t think a song like ‘Twist’ would have been widely accepted as it and the rest of this album is. ‘Twist’ could serve as the blueprint for what pop-punk is today. It’s the rough vocals, the more aggressive guitars and the honest everyday real world lyrics. ‘Double Helix’ is one of those songs I can relate to. It’s about Joe’s relationship with his father and how he feels about that. I like how the title of the song ties into that. If you don’t know what a ‘Double Helix’ is, then go look it up. ‘Wait’ is another track that stands out, as it isn’t your typical Knuckle Punk song. They tried something new and it actually fits really well with the overall feel of the album. It shows that they can go outside of their comfort zone. And that is the whole thing with this album, they wanted to show the world they are more than a pop punk band and they did just that. Even with the closing number, ‘Plastic Brains’, we see that. Over the past few years I have come to enjoy when bands end albums with a more laid back calm number. Knuckle Puck had something in mind when they went into record this album. They wanted to make something that was them, something that would make them standout from their peers and they succeeded. ‘Shapeshifter’ is one of the most complete pop punk albums you will hear in 2017. RC
Like Moths To Flames - Dark Divine I have a very up and down relationship with this band. I either like them or I don’t. I’ll be honest, it’s mostly down, but not because of them. I don’t find myself listening to them or other bands like them often, but when I do it’s typically them and that is based on the fact that they are from where I live, Columbus, OH. I also happen to be a Chris Roetter fan. Back when I did listen to Metalcore a little, one of my favorite bands was Agraceful, which Chris Roetter was the frontman for. ‘Dark Divine’ is the fourth full-length for this metalcore unit. I had no clue. The last album I listened to by them was ‘An Eye For An Eye’, which ended up on my year end list that year. I need to go back and listen to the album between that one and the new one. Anyways, ‘Dark Divine’ is a very solid release. The secret weapon here are the vocals. Chris Roetter has always had an outstanding voice but on this album they are at the fore front and that is awesome. Another thing that sticks out to me is that it sounds like they are having fun with this release. Which they should. ‘Shallow Truths for Shallow Minds’ is the first track that sticks out for me. It starts with a little atmospheric feel before the guitars kick in, along with some blood curdling vocals. However it’s not long before the vocals change to singing and that’s when the song truly comes to live. The title track, ‘Dark Divine’ is also a solid track. This is the one that could be a radio hit. The chorus is very likeable and singalong worthy. If you are wanting to go hard and get out some frustration, then look no farther than the track, ‘Mischief Managed’. This is one of the hardest tracks on the album and it delivers. Even with the singing parts this track is still hard and heavy. The combination here is very good. If anything is clear, it’s that they are moving farther and farther away from their metalcore roots and I for one think they might be what they need to be to finally reach the top. This release is a good start for that. RC
Movements - Feel Something Every once in a while a band comes along that my friends will not shut up about. For the last year that band was Movements. They ranted and raved about the lyrics and even their live show. I refused to listen. Then one night 2 months ago a really good friend was like, “you really should give them a chance, they will blow you away.” So I agreed that when I got home that night, I would. And I did. I liked what I heard, especially the song ‘Nineteen’. I could hear the emotion in his voice. I then found out they had a new record on the way. YES!!!! Perfect timing. Upon my first listen of ‘Feel Something’ I thought it was good, not really good, just good. I didn’t listen to it again until now. First listen, I still had the same thoughts as the first time. On my second listen I got 4 songs in before I changed it. Since then I have gotten a little further each time. I have come to the conclusion that if Souvenirs, Hotel Books, and Have Mercy came together and formed a super group that it would sound like this record. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. The album starts with ‘Full Circle’. This is one of the tracks that sounds like Souvenirs. As a matter of fact the first time I heard it on a shuffle I thought it was a new song by them or an older one. And when I looked down and saw it wasn’t I was a little sad but then it hit me that that’s ok. One of the things I was told about Movements before I finally listened to them was the spoken word element. This track includes a little bit of that and it is well done. Spoken word is something that everyone does not have the talent for but Patrick Miranda does. After listening to the release a few times now I have decided that ‘Colorblind’ is my favorite track on the album. I like the honesty on this track. Also anytime I can relate to a song that makes it 100x better. It’s the chorus that gets me in this song. It goes, “Save Yourself, I’m not worth the time. This failure is built deep into my design. Is there something wrong with me? This doubt is deafening, ‘cause you were gold but I’m colorblind”. That line very well might be one of the most relatable lines of 2017. ‘Under The Gun’ is one of the hardest hitting tracks on the album. It comes at you full speed and it really doesn’t let up. This is one that would be fun to hear live, I can see the energy now. Overall this is not a bad release. I think if anything Movements have found what works for them and they are only going to get better. This is one of those albums that fully needs to be processed. I can see myself loving it in 6 months. RC
And So I Watch You From Afar - The Endless Shimmering Belfast instrumental rockers, return with their 5th album of ambitious, prog fused style that sees them once again throwing out banger after banger, each with its own stamp and differing styles. Opener ‘Three Triangles’ is a ferocious and storming opening with everything you come to expect from these guys, the changing tempos keep it flowing nicely and allow for the change of pace and style on ‘A Slow Unfolding of Wings’ showing the album is going to be varied and full of life through out. One of the stand outs comes in the form of ‘Dying Giants’, a swirling whirlwind of a song with catchy stand out melodies, sludge and masses of atmosphere. It is epic with a huge sound that carries you through the seven minutes and takes you on a journey, a real crusher of a song.
Instrumental rock goes against the rules, there are bands that concentrate mostly on the musical side but will still throw in elements of vocal in some shape or form, to go all out and drop it completely also makes it hard for a band to find an audience outside of certain circles. That is something that has made this band so appealing to those who like things a little different to the norm. There isn’t a big market for fully instrumental in rock, other styles, yes. Which makes what And So I Watch You From Afar have achieved all the more remarkable, this is a great band who have had a lot of influence on new bands. Long may it continue. AN
Eternal Returns - Mumbai Upon first listen I wasn’t sure how I felt about this track but other a few listens it started to grow on me. After the 5th one I was into it. But I still could not figure out what it reminded me of a little. Finally it hit me, it reminds me of early Avenged Sevenfold. The screams are brutal and blood curdling. The guitars are fast and the double bass of the drums are lethal. This will appeal to most metal heads. This track is a good introduction to this band. After this I wanted to hear more from them. RC
Meat Train - Random Acts of Carnage Showing that Death Metal is alive and well, Meat Train, a band made up of former members of various bands bring the brutality, mixed with a healthy drop of horror influence. The albums title describes what the next 38 minutes are going to made up of, ‘Random Acts of Brutality’ crashes through a blistering four minutes with breakdowns, blast beats, melody and a superb solo. A news reading opens ‘Handle With Care’, this something I love hearing. Since hearing White Zombie using the same sort of sampling back in the day has always stuck with me so big props to the band for that, the melodies that linger behind the massive chugging guitars give a nice hook and the time changes are executed to perfection giving these songs some massive dynamics. I have always had a lot of respect for bands in the death metal genre, I don’t listen to as much of it as I used to although now and then I do dip back when the mood takes me. These are bands that are never going to get rich or become massive stars outside the genre but they do it for the love of the style, it’s always been underground and something that belongs to the people that love it. That’s where I hope it stays because it is a real community. Meat Train could have a big part to play in that too, with an album as beautifully ugly as this, with a slice of dark humour about it, check out ‘Redneck Zombie’, they should be making waves among plenty of fans of old school death metal. This is pure death fucking metal. AN
Trivium - The Sin And The Sentence A band that began as young men starting out to make it in the world of metal, they had a lot of haters and detractors (including myself in their early days) but they have now become veterans and a solid part of the biggest metal bands. My enjoyment of Trivium began with the ‘Shogun’ album, one that saw them really take a massive step up and created a master piece of a metal album, while ‘Vengence Falls’ and ‘In Waves’ were great albums, for me at least, they haven’t quite topped it. ‘Silence in the Snow’, while a solid piece of work didn’t quite match up so this is a big record for Trivium. It doesn’t take long to see this one steps up from the previous, the title track, which has been out for a while is a belter and showcases Trivium hitting the top of their game again with ferocious passages and stunning, melodic bridges, ‘Beyond Oblivion’ doesn’t leave room to catch your breath as it fires on all cylindars with the same ferocity and call to arms chants that I can imagine will get crowds jumping. The jumps between screaming and clean vocal is back to work in fine fashion again after the largely clean vocals of ‘Silence in the Snow’, it has always worked well for the band and it adds an extra dimension once again along the never in doubt melodic harmonies that pack the album. Trivium have made an album that is without doubt on a par with ‘Shogun’, does it surpass it? Possibly, my opinion will probably change depending on which one I might be listening to. This band were one that many thought would be headlining Donnington by now, something they probably should have done really, what happened I don’t know. They have always made solid albums and this one should have the well back in the mix for that chance again in the future because they have made a superb metal album that will be high in the upcoming end of year charts. AN
Goya - Kathmandu A band I’ve heard a bit of in the last couple of months or so, Goya are an instrumental band really throwing down mighty riffs and sounds with plenty of hooks that do what they should. Able to take you from massive chunky sounds to eerie, atmospheric breakdowns before smashing back up to wall crumbling bridges, these boys are the real deal. ‘Collider’, at just over four minutes wisely released as the bands first single from this EP, makes a great introduction to the band. It kicks things off in high hear while giving hints at what else they have in reserve. ‘Venenatus’ is a song that shows great ambition, a 12 minute master class in instrumental rock tearing it up in sections and pulling it back to show their dark side with a style that flows and moves seamlessly through. This song is a monster and while ‘Asohka’ trims back the song time by a full six minutes it is no less gripping and again shows yet another side to their song writing. Goya have made an EP that should bring them to a lot of ears, this EP hasn’t been so much recorded as crafted. They have something really cool with this. They now need to top this in the future, I look forward to seeing how they do that. AN
Hurricane Like Me - Decisions With a totally new and refreshing sound these guys are coming out of the United States in a blaze of glory following this awesome EP. Fivesome Hurricane Like Me hailing from Nebraska are hitting up the pop punk scene and changing the rules completely. Stepping away from the usual sound that’s sloshed across the airways and doing things differently. It’s clear these guys are different from the second track ‘Friends Not Lovers’, an awesome violin and guitar opening before the very powerful vocals kick into shape. They seem to be a mix of Pierce the Veil and older metalcore bands like Funeral for a Friend, the end result is amazing.
Being introduced with an awesome electronica section ‘Planted’ is a stand out track on this EP, the rhythm is catchy and the synth work goes perfect with the rest of the instrument work. Not only that it feels like the vocalist really pushes himself to his limits on this track with the screaming right at the very end. It feels like they’re really attempting to create something new. ‘Home Wrecker’ has a very heavy element to it to begin with and it feels like it might be the strongest on the album. However at what feels like the climax it drops and it’s not as good as it could be, it could be a lot heavier and a lot more in keeping with the melody. That being said it’s still a great song. In just a year this newly created band have managed to throw out their first EP. Consisting of 6 songs this mini album represents everything these guys stand for. With a very DIY sound to the recording it shows they’re still a tiny band but the sound they produce is massive. RO
I The Mighty - Where The Mind Wants To Go / Where You Let It Go As this album began I thought “Here we go, another boring melodic rock band” but then the opening track ‘Degenerates’ kicks in and it’s more like a pop punk sound mixed with indie anthems. The lyrics are quite profound and the vocals are a unique blend of a lot of different genres. These guys do have a brilliant sound and certain tracks are extremely radio friendly, ‘Chaos in Motion’ is one of these tracks. It has the ability to get into your head and refuse to get out. In parts it sounds like a typical pop track but underlying is this unique gritty rock track. This album is full of different styles of songs, ‘Where the Mind Wants to Go’ begins with an awesome drum introduction and becomes more of a pop punk track as it continues. This also gives the chance for the vocalist to truly extend his ability to reach different ranges including screaming to finish it off in an amazing style. When this is compared to ‘Escapism’ which begins with a Muse sense to it and evolves into something else entirely. it just proves that these guys are capable of making a lot of different genres fuse together to create an incredible album. I the Mighty have been around for a long time and it’s clear why they continue to go from strength to strength. Their latest album ‘Where the Mind Wants to Go’ is a mish mash of different styles combined into one awesome collaboration and truly demonstrates what the music scene should be about. With essences of pop rock, punk rock, melodic soft rock and some heavier influences this is one of the best albums I’ve heard for a while. RO
Jamie Lenman - Devolver As this album begins former frontman Jamie Lenman plays the long game, beginning the track with what I can only describe as nonsense and odd instrumentals I almost felt lost while I was listening to it. Pondering what the overall aim of this music was, it seemed like he didn’t really know what he wanted from this venture. Only when it culminated at the end did it all seem to make sense and that is why ‘Devolver’ is brilliant. I love how this album is almost a way to prove that he’s not just the previous Reuben singer but he has his own voice and agendas. This is certainly proved with tenacity on ‘Personal’. It begins as a nice indie track and quickly dissolves into a blaring rock track where some almost Dave Grohl screaming makes a welcome appearance. As I listened to ‘Body Popping’ I felt myself thinking “this is my kinda guy” the lyrics are so true to today’s society of people who are famous for being famous or fake popstars. “If you can’t play an instrument, you can still get big. If you can’t do a fucking thing, you can still get big.” Especially as this is a British musician, it must be frustrating to see morons who have never lifted a guitar to climb the radio ladder up to the top. Shortly before single ‘Mississippi’ (autocorrect helps everyone with that) there’s ‘Comfort Animal’ a segement of what sounds like pure bliss. The aforementioned track is a far cry away from it, beginning with a daunting dark gritty rhythm before Lenman comes in with his unique voice. Again the screaming side comes out in this awesome rock track. It’s awesome how Jamie Lenman manages to fuse together a lot of different influences, other acts try and fail but he has found a perfect balance of doing it. With some tracks that have a Queens of the Stoneage quality and others that have the electric guitars of more classic bands such as Guns N’ Roses, this is truly an album where he’s proven himself to be a man of many talents. RO
Uncle Sid - Self-titled Uncle Sid has put out an eponymous titled record after they formed in 2014 working on their hard rock/metal music. The band has embraced a very classic metal/rock sound that is very grand and loud, slower paced and chugy. The whole album is built on power chords backing strong vocals and steady drumming with solid bass alongside. ‘Empire’ has a good lick that opens the song and is the main crux, it is reverbed ever so slightly with a bit of delay to transport the listener back to grand stadium rock well at least that seems to be the place that Uncle Sid could go in. This is especially evident from how many guitar solos there are on the album there is one on almost every track, they are all screaming high octane and classic rock to their core. It would be wrong if they were any different it simply wouldn’t fit the sound that Uncle Sid pull off. The vocal pre-guitar solo in ‘Let’s Go’ is slightly uncomfortable the melody is uneasy and luckily it is not too long so you don’t have to endure it before it goes into another massive in your face solo. Some will find the amount of soloing overindulgent but the skill is certainly shown there is no denying that. With Uncle Sid clearly outlining the direction they want to take the listener in the band is able to focus their throwback classic rock style and it is a convincing and worth a listen. EJ
The Nerak Roth Patterson Band - Your Love (single) Upon first listen and the first 45 seconds I got a 80s rock feel, which isn’t a bad thing. Kind of a Living Color vibe. Once the vocals kicked in I got a small Clutch feel but that quickly faded and I was stuck on Living Color. The lyrics are very simplistic in nature. Which works here. Halfway through the song there is a really nice guitar solo that is a little bluesy. Overall it’s a solid song. I’m curious to hear from this group. RC
Lullaby - Never Let The Devil In Upon first listen from these guys, ‘Never Let The Devil In especially reminded me of a more driven rendition of The Fray who are long time favorites of mine, with a swinging vocal tone and simple guitars that aren’t overdone but present enough to make the vocals shine. ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’ takes a more upbeat approach, with sliding guitars and careful riffing combined with the same vocals that caught me on ‘Never Let The Devil In.’ My problem with this song is that the vocals fell a little flat, and didn’t feel complete. With ‘Never Let The Devil In’ it suits the overall tone of the song, but here it doesn’t quite fit the swinging, and more hard hitting rock style that it seems they were going for. I felt this way for the rest of the tracks, ‘Speed’ ‘Animal’, and ‘A Lie’. The vocal style fell short for me, as it is clear there are some pipes on the vocalist, but it didn’t expand as the album went on to show some experimentation or playing, it just seemed to be the same kind of vocals in the same range the whole album. This could go for the other parts such as guitars, and drums, or bass- it felt as if they all stayed in the same zone (with the exception of ‘Never Let The Devil In’) and didn’t step outside of it. I would always prefer to see a risk being taken than staying in the comfort zone, which may have been why as I listened I just felt a little disappointed. LD
Newton Faulkner - Hit The Ground Running Newton Faulkner is one of those artists I would not have known about if not for having to review his latest release. At first I assumed he was in the Jack Johnson realm of things and that he would fit nicely with the Brushfire Records crew. And after listening to the record a few times I still feel that. This is a much more laid back record. One of those that you can put on while sitting on your porch with a glass of sweet tea taking in the day. It starts off very mellow with the track ‘Smoked Ice Cream’. This track is one that gives off that laid back feeling I was talking about. You also get a taste of his guitar skills, as it starts off with some picking. The title track, ‘Hit the Ground Running’ is easily one of the better tracks on the album. The aspect that sticks out most here are Newton’s vocals. At times he has a soul/r&b feel to him and it suits him very well. Another standout track is ‘Finger Tips’. On this one he showcases his soulful voice even more. I’m not sure if he has had training, but if he has, it comes through on this track. At times this track gives off a Justin Timberlake feeling. Those two would make an excellent tour by the way. In the middle of the album he has an instrumental track called, ‘Guitar-y Thing’. And yes it’s just that, it’s a quick little song about a minute long. It’s a nice little break. ‘So Long’ is a duet with an artist named Tessa Rose Jackson. The two of them complement each other very well. If you are going to have someone do a song with you, the voices need to complement each other or it just sounds like two people trying to out sing the other. That is not the case here. Honestly there is not a bad song on this album. It’s one of those you can listen to from start to finish without skipping a song. It’s a nice quick, smooth listen. RC
Marilyn Manson - Heaven Upside Down ‘Heaven Upside Down’ is Marilyn Manson’s tenth studio album and they show no signs of slowing down. This album is a banger for sure. It very well might be their best album in almost 15 years. The reason is simple, it’s a throwback album. It is everything that made them a huge band in the late 90s-early 2000s. If you were a fan as I was in the band’s early days then this album is for you. Manson himself even said this album would be similar to the band’s early work and they delivered on that 100%. Over the years this is a band I listened to less and less but no longer. This is the album that should have been made after ‘Antichrist Superstar’.
Right from the start it hits hard with ‘Revelation #12’. This track is very guitar heavy. Which is very nice to hear. If you didn’t know any better you would think this was an older song, that’s how much it sounds like the early works. One of the areas that really sticks out is the shock value. Which is what made them so popular in the first place. You really hear that in ‘Tattooed in Reverse’. The lyrics in this song are full of shock and also very Manson. The chorus goes, “I'm unstable, and I’m not a show horse. I can’t be bridled, of course. I’m outstanding, I’m unregretted. I got tattooed in reverse. Woah, in reverse”. Then there is the track, ‘SAY10’. This is one that truly showcases what this band is. Look no farther than the name of the song. That says it all. It also just happens to be an anti-trump song. Go figure. Another track that stands out is ‘JE$U$ CHI$I$’ The lyrical content is very Manson. It’s simple and straight to the point. It works for them. As I have said a few times this album is a return to the glory days of this band. If you were a fan in the past, I would recommend you give this record a listen. You will not be disappointed. RC
The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - Always Foreign These guys used to have a very Taking Back Sunday ‘Tell All Your Friends’ sound, that emo self hate noise that was very popular back in the good ol’ days. I like this album because it’s yet another example of a band doing it right, as the years have passed The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die have noticed like many others that the music scene has changed around them. You cannot live on the coat tails of the emo post indie scene forever and this album proves that. It is most notable to distinguish the difference in sound during the second track ‘The Future’. It successfully moves away from their usually depressing sound and gives off a more bouncy rhythmic vibe that wouldn’t be too out of place on a Blink 182 album. They’ve not totally moved away from their roots however as is obvious on ‘Hilltopper’, this fantastic track moves back toward their indie roots but not so much that it becomes stagnant or boring or to give the impression of “I’ve heard this before” it’s a lot more new indie than imitating the classics. ‘Dillon and Her Son’ is definitely a stand out track on this album, the fast paced drum beats building to an eventual climax that is very satisfying. The vocals accompany the stacking instrument work very well and compliment it in a beautiful way. It’s nice to see that this is a band that can still produce massive sounds as well, ‘Gram’ begins as a small song but quickly becomes a whirlwind of different sounds all merged into one. Almost in an Arcade Fire fashion. The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die have been through the ringer and made it back out. With too many band member changes to keep count of and many more seemingly coming in the future according to their Facebook it’s a miracle they can focus on this many genres and not create complete crap. However all the changes only seem to have made them more relevant now than ever. RO
The White Buffalo - Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights Up until I listened to White Bufallo’s latest album ‘Darkest Days Lightest Lights’ I didn’t much care for country music. I always get the impression of a run down bar in the middle of a nowhere in America, a guy on stage, overalls, massive beard strumming a guitar and saying how awful life is. All this while a bunch of people nod along. However Jake Smith AKA White Buffalo has managed to convince me it’s so much more. First track ‘Hide and Seek’ goes from playing the childhood game with his brother to being lost without a lover, something I’m sure a lot of people can relate to. The harmonies that this man uses aren’t overly different from a lot of country stars but he has a certain way with words and chords that seem to speak on a whole new level. Up until this point I thought Eminem was the best person at imitating a bank robbery and that was just a 45 second segment. Third song ‘Robbery’ surpasses that and really puts you in the drivers seat as a bank robbery is taking place. It really plays on your imagination and you can almost envision it playing out in front of you. Something I don’t think a lot of artists could do. It’s clear that this is a man who’s seen a lot of the world and all the pain and anguish it has to offer ‘The Observatory’ is a beautiful heartfelt song about pain and loss. Really connecting with the singer on an emotional level as just an acoustic guitar is played. I really enjoy that this is an artist who isn’t just content with living out of the country scene but actually incorporating other genres into his music. One track that does that is ‘Nightstalker Blues’ which actually is more of a punk song, fast paced guitar and a tone change in the vocals it definitely becomes a standout on the album. Although not usually my cup of tea White Buffalo has managed to convince me that this sort of music can be okay sometimes if it’s done in the right way. While I don’t see him getting any bigger than he already is I can see why a lot of people would be a fan. RO
Quicksand – Interiors Post-hardcore legends Quicksand return with their new record, twenty-two years after their sophomore record ‘Manic Depression’ was released in 1995 on Island Records. Their new record ‘Interiors’ sees them convert their previous influences and sounds from past material into a modern classic album, with some intriguing guitar work and a reminder of how great the alternative rock sound was in the 1990s. ‘Illuminant’ is an obscure opener with a mix of groovy and screeching riffs, the lyrics are very simple compared to the experimental nature of the instrumental. ‘Under the Screw’ comes in at pace, there are some memories of the 90s alternative vibe with heavy guitars, it’s a proper anthem. ‘Warm and Low’ variety is a clever number with the high-pitched guitar to open and beautiful bass line combined with a smooth vocal – the chorus “Sunlight ready, Keep me warm and low, Sunlight ready, Keep me warm and low” is a highlight of the record. After a small interlude ‘Cosmonauts’ is a much slower number – it takes you on a journey which is reflected in the lyrics “In the light, where you are. To arrive, where you are.” The title track ‘Interiors’ opens strongly with punchy guitars and is another smooth Sunday afternoon record, there’s no fuss just a simple track with with an incredible energetic ending. ‘Hyperion’ will appeal to a lot of 90s grunge fans with its angsty style. ‘Fire this Time’ continues the series of unique riffs, and is another powerful track working well with the dragged-out lyrics. ‘Feels Like a Weight Has Been Lifted’ is one of the better tracks on the album, it’s a silky track with catchy upbeat lyrics and has great use of guitar feedback to create a mysterious atmosphere. The second interlude of the album is a short, dark piece of music, then onto the rhythmic drum pattern in ‘Sick Mind’ another clever composition with the jabbing guitars, the use of feedback is again inspired creating otherworldly sounds that create an interesting number. ‘Normal Love’ finishes the album, it’s one of the more melodic songs on the album, with a more passionate vocal and softer riff, it provides a nice calm ending to the album and rounds it off nicely. JP
Backtrack – Bad To My World Three years since their sophomore record ‘Lost in Life’ – New York hardcore band Backtrack are back with another typical ferocious record, with the hardcore punk scene quiet this year it’s great to have Backtrack back with new material. ‘Bad To My World’ blasts into life with the frantic ‘War’ an incredibly fast opener with extraordinary vocals and powerful drums, it’s a hell of a statement. ‘One With You’ will certainly be a crowd mover with its rapid pace and chaotic thunderous chorus, the deafening drum beats provide a tone setting end to the track. Title track ‘Bad To My World’ is appropriately the best song on the record, with its slick bass line and brilliant arrangement, the vocals are so effective and are particularly angry in the chorus. ‘The Deep Is Calling’ reminds me a lot of their previous works, with the exclamation of ‘The Deep is Calling’ which is followed up by an impressive robust riff. In a flash you’re halfway through the album – ‘Dead At The Core’ again brings back memories of ‘Darker Half’ in 2011, the gang vocals add another edge to the brilliant performance of James Vitalo and Steven DiGenio on drums. The second half begins with the longest track on the album ‘Cold Blooded’ which is not as aggressive, until Vitalo comes launching a minute in to blow you away with such energetic angry vocals which completely overwhelm the rest of the instrumentation. ‘Gutted’ begins with a distorted riff followed by a violent guitar/drums attack, the lyrics are more disjointed on this track, a nice variation from the rest of the record. ‘Crooks Die Slow’ is pure power with speedy drums at the start and then a more upbeat finish, another clever mix of sounds. ‘Never-Ending Web’ is perfectly paced and allows both the lyrics and riffs to have center stage at different times, Vitalo’s vocals continue to be so effective with his rebellious attitude. Just like that, we hit the final track with ‘Sanity’ which is a contradictive title when looking at the lyrical content of the track, the final statement to close out the song seems to give the band some form of closure. There are a lot of words to describe this album, it’s refreshing to have new Backtrack who are one of the best in the American hardcore punk scene, and this album was a reminder of that. JP
Waiting For Summer - Long Nights and Broken Hearts It’s been a long time since I’ve encountered a pop punk band that I had little to no gripes about. ‘Long Nights and Broken Hearts’ combines textbook pop punk elements with a more rounded, and slightly gruffer vocal style which honestly suits me better than a lot of other pop punk bands. The great thing about this album is that I can imagine it would appeal to a broad base of people, since it is a tad heavier than some pop punk and the vocals don’t take on as higher pitched or whiny tones that some people detest pop punk for. ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ uses a female lead to their advantage, as it meshes well with the downbeat and lead vocalist to create a mid-album breather from the rest of the tracks. ‘Would Be Perfect’ takes an energetic, upbeat, and tension building approach to a swinging and melody filled ode, complete with a guitar solo. My literal only gripe with this album which is completely invalid (admittedly) in a lot of respects is that due to these guys accents, I found it hard to understand the lyrics at times. Obviously, this is not at all something they can control and is in no way their fault, and really only plays a very minor role in the listening quality to this album. LD
Kabaret Makaber - Self-titled When I began listening to the first song, ‘Djevelen’ off of this self titled album from Kabaret Makaber I kept waiting for a slam of heavy abrasive riffs, but instead I was met with a remarkable range from vocals and funky, jazzy tunes. A huge surprise, but a well received surprise. I don’t find myself in the “jazz” world very often (or what I would imagine to be a genre heavily influenced by this), and not in the niche that these guys have carved themselves into with a heavier and more involved drum beat. This is truly one of the most distinct soundscapes I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to, and a much needed break in the wave from your conventional musicianship. While I can’t understand the lyrics to these songs, nor do I know what language it is in (maybe I just need to get smarter at my world languages) I can still appreciate the skill and production that is exhibited here. These guys push the envelope and combine sounds that I wouldn’t imagine to go together but they do, and do it well might I add. Delightful, haunting, and slightly dark tones fill each track and dance around your ears with an impressive performance from each respective role, the star of the show being the vocalist. Through and through this album becomes more and more unique with each listen, and is strongly recommended on my part even if you are not an avid listener of this genre.
LD Glutton - Outliers The opening track of this album, ‘In Your Careful Way’, greeted me with the soft sound of what I think is a clarinet, and the chorus style vocals of soft spoken brushing notes of a song. It moves into some delicate riffing and drum/bass lines which adds a hint of substance and offers a true display of skill on behalf of these guys. If you’re looking for an album that exhibits the vocalist as the centerpiece, this isn’t going to be your piece as it truly displays the power and emotions behind simply instrumental pieces. While there are hints of vocals here and there, it truly is about the power of instruments aside from the vocal chords. My favorite thing about this album is that it brought me back in touch with the importance of each respective instrument. All too often I find that I focus more on the stand out elements and I don’t zero in on the rest even though they too are just as important. This album brought me back to appreciate the entire soundscape and each respective role individually, not just the ones that on the surface pop out more than others. This album truly brings about a remedial, and spiritual soundscape and for that I am impressed with its ability to do so since it is not common to find that in any genre. LD
The Dystopian Project - Paradigm For those of you who are looking for a heavier but enlightening listen, The Dystopian Project offers a dimensional view into the world and into music through carefully placed notes and swelling riffs. ‘The Utopian Suite (Ascension, Acceptance, Decline)’ particularly caught my ear with its triumphant melody and orchestral-like arrangement. At nineteen minutes long, this one definitely erred on the side of potential to become “too much” but I felt as if this track could go on forever and I would happily sit and listen to it with all the emotions it offered me in its journey. For those of you who are looking for an exploration and trip through other worldly dimensions, this act is for you. More akin to a symphony than a band, these guys offer a complete look into the potential music has to move, create, and inspire. Even though the EP is only four songs long, the piece offers more than enough content and a wholesome sound in the four tracks; the phrase ‘’pack a punch’ takes on a whole new meaning in this EP. LD
Bearfist - Foundations ‘Foundations’ opens up this rager of an outfit and suitably so, as it is the title track. Raucous screams and heavy riffs deliver in the head bang-ability scale and promise a potentially fantastic live set. This energy follows through the whole piece, which is something that I can appreciate as one of the outstanding key elements here because sometimes with such heavy music it can be easy to slip into a sense of repetition or it feels as if the energy and passion burns out very quickly. Here in ‘Foundations’ I felt as if the energy simply increased tenfold and was harnessed to the full extent it could be, and for that I commend Bearfist as it can be a tough task to accomplish. Overall, this is one of my favorite heavy releases of the year. I’m not sure if I could get tired of listening to it, and raging around like an idiot by myself, regardless of who is watching. Ultimately, we all just want to have a good thrash to let out those Monday blues and I think this album sets all of us up perfectly for that task. LD
Liam Gallagher - As You Were Liam Gallagher has one of the most recognisable voices of the 20th-21st centuries, in addition to being a great frontmen there is. So to say that this album did not have a lot of interest would be a blatant lie. So how does it fair? Leading the album is single and song number one ‘Wall of Glass’ as you probably know the first single and track of an album are very important as they are the first impression for listeners to either get on board or bail. ‘Wall of Glass’ was a good choice as there is a good guitar hook and better harmonica line to draw you in. ‘Chinatown’ has a nice acoustic guitar to it but then becomes monotone and does not follow up on the promise it began with, not until the same guitar part comes back around to finish the song off. ‘You Better Run’ and ‘I Get By’ circle back to the rock styling of ‘Wall of Glass’ which is why they are two of the stronger songs on the album. This is expected as Gallagher has made a living from making this type of music so it is no surprise that he is most comfortable. ‘Paper Crown’ is very reminiscent of The Beatles in the production, structure and music but what its real strength is that it shows that Liam is a good songwriter. Here is a metaphor about fragility giving an insight to the more vulnerable side to a man that has been rather tough for the majority of his career. So hearing this from him is not only a good thing for long term fans who get something different but for newer, or more sceptical listeners to see Liam Gallagher has some range in his writing ability. ‘As You Were’ is a solid outing for Liam Gallagher even though it is front side heavy with it petering out a little towards the end. But overall the mixture of the softer tracks with the rockier ones is good and makes for a decent album. EJ
@Stealthattack1997 @RN stealthattack
Rise Against - 02 Academy, Birmingham - November 6th Punk rock pioneers Rise Against are back in the UK once again for another tour, this time promoting their latest album, ‘Wolves’, and what better place to kick off proceedings than Birmingham’s O2 Academy. On previous adventures over the pond they’ve bought the likes of Polar Bear Club and Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine). This time, possibly in an effort to draw in a younger crowd, they've got Sleeping with Sirens to warm up the crowd and they do it quite well. The Orlando fivesome are relatively new compared to their tour mates but that doesn’t mean they can give this crowd any less than deserved. The issue with having an artist with a unique voice is that sometimes it can’t travel, this sadly was the case for Kelin Quinn. The range that the lead singer can reach is insane and tracks ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Kick Me’ are some brilliant highlights, but unfortunately the distance lets him down. Quite amazing that they also weren’t distracted when a giant “AGAINST” was displayed on the screen on stage. Someone’s getting sacked. There’s something just awesome about a Rise Against show, it feels like every time they just give it all (forgive the pun). The aforementioned screens on stage displayed a mini animated short about the act of war and bombs dropping on innocent civilians, it was very Rise Against. The band run on stage and instantly break into ‘Chamber the Cartridge’ followed by ‘Ready to Fall’, they were on form.
Latest single ‘The Violence’ got the crowd moving and obviously the popular singles ‘I Don’t Want to Be Here’ and ‘Prayer of the Refugee’ got even bigger reactions. The rest of the band remain relatively silent and proactive frontman Tim takes most of the talking roles. In the middle of some slower tracks Tim makes the observation that he loves that Rise Against have a fanbase where “One guy in a Che Guevara T-Shirt will crowd surf while we’re doing acoustic stuff” to a massive cheer from the crowd. To hear thousands of people sing ‘Hero of War’ was truly a beautiful moment. Another sombre moment just before they kicked into ‘Survive’, Tim dedicated the song to the recently lost souls of rock/metal Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington to cheers and applause from the audience. The finale begins with ‘Audience of One’, a track for the old school Rise Against fans which is clear as some people look a little bit perplexed at what they’re listening to. As previously established this is not a band that will sit by and let injustices go unnoticed. They dedicate the final track ‘Savior’ to the victims of all the sexual assault and abuse within the news and around the world, ending by saying it’s not okay. Rise Against prove they’ve not come away from their punk beginnings and will forever stand up for the little guy and continue to make music that fights against the norm. RO
CHON - The Fleece, Bristol - October 17th Rising from California with their funky approach to math rock, it's a pleasure to be here tonight watching the mighty CHON. They're something completely different, and refreshing in the alternative rock scene, and if you love your instrumental music, then this is 100% a band for you. Right now the band are currently on the road promoting their mesmerizing new album 'Homey', which we strongly recommend you check out. It's a release that shows just how insanely talented these musicians have become over the last couple of years, so it was just fantastic to hear some of these songs played live in the UK for the first time ever. From the moment they launch in with 'Sleepy Tea' they have everyone in the room fixed on them. Their sound is just extremely captivating, and as they cruise through their setlist it's easy to see that they have one hell of a back catologue. Highlights for me include 'Perfect Pillow' and 'Waterslide'. Expect big things from this band. AD
New Found Glory - 02 Academy, Bristol - October 5th Currently celebrating 20 year's of pop punk greatness we are here tonight to catch this celebratory tour by one of the most important bands in that genre. The tour has seen them play through all of their albums up until and including 2009's 'Not Without A Fight'. Each night they are playing through two albums of their choice in its entirety, and tonight we get to witness 'Sticks and Stones' and 'Catalyst'. Personally, I've never seen a band play two albums in one night, so already this is something special for me.
So in order to stop people going to the toilet, or outside to have a smoke and check how well they're doing on Clash of Clans. The band have decided to not play the records in order, so you know what albums they are going to play, but you have no idea which song will be coming next. This is a really cool, and refreshing way of doing these kind of shows which we are seeing a lot of in the music world in general right now. They head straight into 'Understatement' which is a crowd bouncer from the moment it hits the chorus. In my eyes, an ideal way to start any NFG show. We then cruise through HUGE New Found Glory classics such as 'All Downhill From Here', 'Something I Call Personaility', 'Failure's Not Flattering', 'It's been a Summer' and the hugely emotional 'Sonny' which they dedicated to the lives lost in Las Vegas. All of these songs simply showed us how NFG have lasted so long. I mean, these are just songs from two of their albums! Amazing. The momementum heads back into full swing as we are deafened by 'Head On Collision', 'I Don't Wanna Know', 'Forget My Name' whilst they nicely put in an extremely well received new song entitled 'Happy Being Miserable'. The band close out with this amensely rewarding set with crowd singalongs 'The Story So Far' and 'My Friends Over You'. This evening they hit us with over 25 songs, and I am still left wanting more. If they decide to one day play every single album in a day, I'll be there. I've enjoyed everything they've put out, and have no doubt that they'll easily be around for another 20 years if they decide to commit to that. I hope they do. AD
Impractical Jokers - Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff - October 8th Now for something completely different, but that's what we love doing in Stencil Mag. It's our goal to make the magazine as dynamic as possible when it comes to covering alternative interest in the UK, and Impractical Jokers must be noted. If you haven't seen the show, then we're not sure where you've been. It's pretty much on every day on Comedy Central, and has become a global sensation over the last couple of years. So if you have somehow made it this far without seeing this prank show, then watch an episode and come back to this point in the review. So, “How do you turn a prank show into a live stand up show?” is probably the first thought that came to most people's minds when Impractical Jokers announced that they were going to be doing a stand up tour. However, what most people probably don't know is that the Impractical Jokers are also known as The Tenderloins, this is what they mainly did before this huge show started. They did sketch comedy on YouTube and of course stand up comedy! So these guys already have years of know how in this world, and essentially what they do at the live show is mix that format in with themes based around the show Impractical Jokers. It works really well. The guys spend over an hour pretty much ripping it out of each other, having stare offs with audience members, whilst giving us an intimate and “behind the scenes” view to Impractical Jokers that we might not of seen just yet. With their interesting live format and tear streaming approach to live comedy the guys have created something really special here, and it's no wonder that most of the dates are selling out. So even if the show calls it a day, they will probably be able to do live comedy on our shores for the rest of time. So, get involved next time yeah? AD
The Movielife - The Exchange, Bristol - November 17th Finally! The Movielife have returned to the UK for a FULL tour with the majority of their original line-up to play through classic tracks whilst promoting their new album 'Cities In Search of A Heart'. Launching in the 90s the band dominated the alternative rock world with two classic albums 'This Time Next Year' and 'Forty Hour Train Back To Penn', and after a long hiatus, they decided to return over the last couple of years to put together their latest output. They are one of the most influential bands in melodic pop-punk, and it's an absolute privilege to be seeing the band live tonight.
They kick straight in with 'I Hope You Die Soon', a short and sweet track from 'This Time Next Year' which gets the crowd moving straight away. Keeping up the pace, we are treated to two classic Movielife tracks straight after it. 'Face or Kneecaps' & 'This Time Next Year', which remind us why the band became so iconic in the first place, and has everyone in the room singing along to every word. Amazing. Treating us to new material they perform 'Mercy Is Asleep at the Wheel' which goes down extremely well, and the band even thank the audience for singing along to it so loud. After a long time away, any band would be happy with that kind of a response. The band continue to keep the level up by hitting us with 'Pinky Swear', 'Kelly Song', 'Hand Grenade', which are all, in short, anthems that must be heard. 'Ghost In The Photograph' is another new track that also gets a great response, and confirms that the band do indeed have a bright future ahead of them. "Late night, snow fall, get us to the hospital", yeah, it's 'Jamestown'. The perfect way to end an epic set from the band. AD
Black Rebel Motorcylce Club - 02 Academy, Bristol - November 2nd Making their way into the alternative world with B.R.M.C. back in 2001 these guys have gone on to create an impressive career. Every album they have put out is completely different, and their sound just doesn't really compare to anything else out there right now. Their upcoming album 'Wrong Creatures' once again proves just how dynamic and creative this band always have been, and as the band lead up to the release of the album, then what better time to catch them at a live show. Performing a new song straight away is always an interesting way to start the show. Of course you are going to have the attention of the crowd, but that song better be damn good. Luckily 'Little Thing Gone Wild' is in my opinion one of the best tracks the band have ever put out. It's stomping approach will have you bopping your head or tapping your toes from the moment you hear it. The band cruise through a defining set including 'Ain't No Easy Way' 'Conscience Killer' '666 Conducer' whilst teasing us with more new tracks such as the stripped back, and beautifully sounding 'Haunt' and the in your face 'Ninth Configuration'. This band isn't about creating music that opens up mosh pits, or gets endless crowd surfers. It seems that their goal is to have a captivating live presence whilst ensuring everyone is watching every single note they play. And well, they do achieve that goal. As they finish with classics 'Spread Your Love' and 'Whatever Happened to My Rock 'n' Roll (Punk Song)' it's easy to see why this band have received the success which they so rightfully deserve. When's the next tour? AD
Reel Big Fish - 02 Academy, Bristol - October 12th Mad Caddies, Anti-Flag and Reel Big Fish all on the same line-up? This is absolutely insane. Mad Caddies start the night off with their awesome take on ska punk. They've been touring these shores for a while now, and as always it's a pleasure to see them in a live format. Treating us to classics like 'Road Rash' and 'Monkeys' they put on a show that doesn't even give the audience time to take a breathe. Also, we would like to point out that they have one of the coolest logo designs we've seen this year.
Well, with Trump and Brexit happening right now, then the world needs bands like Anti-Flag more than ever before. Never one to shy away from the way they feel about the world, they give us a huge sounding set whilst telling us (rightfully so) what's wrong with the world right now. The band perform classics such as 'The Press Corpse', 'Turncoat', '1 Trillion Dollar$', 'This Is the End (For You My Friend)' yeah, it's pretty clear that they have built themselves an impressive set list. Some of their recent tracks like 'Brandenburg Gate' 'All of the Poison, All of the Pain', 'American Attraction' and 'When The Wall Falls' also go down really well, and cement an exciting new chapter for the band as they follow up the brilliant 'American Spring' with the just as good 'American Fall'. To add to it, the band hit us with an outstanding cover of 'Should I Stay or Should I Go', and at one point in the set we see Chris and Pat jump into the crowd to perform. What. A. Band. "Everybody's doing the fish, yeah, yeah, yeah". If you've never seen this band live before, then you have been missing out. As the world patiently waits for the band to unleash their next output, they are here tonight to give us a set that reminds everyone in the room why they are one of the most of crucial ska bands to ever exist. For the first part of the night they show us anthems like 'Everyone Else Is an Asshole', 'Trendy' 'Everything Sucks', 'Ban the Tube Top' 'Sell Out' whilst mixing in full covers of 'Monkey Man' and 'Brown Eyed Girl'. Ska music is massive in Bristol already, so as expected the response from the audience is electrifying throughout. As always the band like to mix in a bit of comedy to their set. Tonight they do this by telling the audience that they were well known in the 90s for creating the following song...which then saw them do short covers of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', 'My Own Worst Enemy', '500 Miles', 'The Impression That I Get'. What's amazing is that the crowd went absolutely crazy for every one, especially 'Smells Like Teen Spirit.' This gave a nice dynamic to their already exciting set list. The band close with 'Beer', 'Where Have You Been' and 'Take On Me' which are just absolute essentials to hear live. At this point the band don't even need to put out a new album, they could just tour the rest of their lives on the ridiculous amount of great tracks they already have, because after that set, I'll always be coming back to watch them live. AD
Enter Shikari - Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham - November 24th Enter Shikari have more than proved themselves over the years, their constant touring, incredible shows and ability to throw any genre into one another encompasses them as one of the best UK bands on the circuit. Their new album ‘The Spark’ took them to a whole new level of their music and now they are taking it on the road. The Quadrophonic sound makes a huge impact before the set even begins with the sound of an aeroplane jetting all over the arena, it really built up the expectation for what would undoubtedly be an amazing show. Kicking off with ‘The Spark’ and fading into ‘The Sights’ it’s clear that nothing has changed for these guys, they still do what they do with incredible tenacity and effort being thrown into every chord, beat and note. “We are all here in Solidarity tonight Birmingham” lead singer Rou shouts before blasting into the amazing track. Another throwback straight after with the very popular single ‘Anything Can Happen in the Next Half Hour’, the beginning being done twice after drummer Rob accidentally messed up. The band took it in good jest however and started the track again, much to the happiness of the audience. This wouldn’t be the only mistake made this evening with Rou forgetting (as he has done a lot on this tour according to Chris) his Trumpet solo on the end of ‘Take My Country Back’, another new track which goes down amazingly with the crowd. He can be forgiven if he gets a little carried away with his onstage antics.
To hear a whole arena howl like wolves must have been on the minds of all the guys in Enter Shikari as they came up with ‘Undercover Agents’. It was an incredible sight to see everyone throw their heads up in unison and basically go already more insane than they already were. The crowd’s energy was relentless, every time the band demanded more and more and the audience were happy to oblige. After the very messy track ‘Rabble Rouser’ the band disappeared and Rou appeared at the back of the arena on a piano along with Rob. “I wrote this song during the worst year of my life” Rou began “So if you’re currently in that year then this is for you” as he gave a beautiful rendition of ‘Airfield’. The lights and lighters were up and it was an amazing moment as you could witness people who didn’t know each other embrace as equals, clearly there was a lot of people who needed this. “Who’s up for a good ol’ fashion sing song?” Rou said as he started a piano medley of very popular track ‘Adieu’ culminating with the Routron 5000 remix which hasn’t been played live for a long time! I was expecting more of a rave vibe from this track but I think a lot of people were just at a loss to what they were hearing sadly. “We are about to attempt to fit four songs into 8 minutes now, are you ready for that?” Rou said to a screaming audience. Chris and Rou boasted that they didn’t think Birmingham were ready and said they needed to give it their all. The audience and the band did not disappoint. Slamming in with fan favourite ‘Sorry You’re Not A Winner’ and just at the point where the human pyramids went up they quickly merged into ‘Sssnakepit’, it was pure pandemonium. From this they went into ‘Meltdown’ and ended with the finale of ‘Antwerpen’. It was an insane segment that clearly a lot of work had been put into. The encore was quite predictable starting with ‘Redshift’, one of their more mellow tracks but one that can get a crowd going with ease with the starting “woahs”. Finishing with one of their most popular singles to date ‘Live Outside’ a topless Rou once again bounces across the stage without a care in the world. ‘The Embers’ closes the set with the band bowing and saying their thank yous. It’s taken Enter Shikari a while to get to the level of playing arenas and now that they’ve accomplished it I can’t see them ever going back to smaller venues. I personally think with the amount of effort they put into the show both behind the curtain and in front of it they are ready to headline the bigger festivals. Reading and Leeds 2019 should give them that chance. RO
PVRIS - 02 Academy, Bristol - November 22nd Opening the evening with their indie approach COIN were here from Nashville to take on their first ever UK tour whilst giving us something a little bit different. For those of you who remember The Killers when they first came out with 'Hot Fuzz' then this is a band for you. The energy and music they were putting out very much reminded me of that era. This is a band that you could expect to hear at indie club nights, and after the impressive performance they put on, then I believe that this kind of success is on their way. When they put out 'White Noise' back in 2014 the band spent every single waking moment touring like crazy, and just doing their best to make sure that as many people as possible heard the record. Their work ethic has been rewarded in full. Not only has their follow up album 'All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell' taken on the charts all across the globe, but they have earned themselves touring slots with bands as big as Muse, 30 Seconds to Mars and Paramore. Not forgetting the fact that they're playing sold out academy sized venues in the UK. As their rise continues, I was fortunate enough to catch them live. The band open the set in an interesting way. Their very own Lyn Gunn heads to the piano, to kick in with the ballad 'Heaven'. Most of the time bands just come out, and stampede straight into a hard hitting song, so it was a cool way to start the set. Setting the tone for the night, every word is launched back at the band in full force, and you can instantly see just how established this band has become in the alternative rock scene in the UK.
The set continues to knock people back with every track they put out. Highlights for me included 'Half', 'No Mercy', 'Holy', 'You and I', 'Same Soul', and of course 'My House' which had the majority of the crowd jumping from the front to the back as soon as it was played. It's very possible that the band will be performing in arenas when they come back to our shores. Impressive. AD
And So I Watch You From Afar - Thekla, Bristol - November 26th The first band I catch this evening is the wonderful Gallops. From the moment they started to play, you could tell that this band was a winner for anyone who was a fan of instrumental music. They were just absolutely in the zone throughout their entire performance, with each member putting 110% into playing their instrument. With the drummer in the middle of the stage, and no one stood in front of him like normal, then this was a really interesting approach, and by doing this they grabbed the attention of everyone in the room instantly. Highlights for me include 'Pale Force', 'G Is For Jaile' and 'Darkjewel'! Check this band out. Where do you even start when it comes to explaining a band as amazing as And So I Watch You From Afar? There's no stage gimmicks, just four guys in normal clothes playing insanely talented instrumental rock that will melt your ears off. It really is great to see a band as unique as this, getting as big as they are. The band go straight into 'Search:Party:Animal', the track is taken from one of their best albums to date 'Gangs' and with the repetitive guitar work on display, it's an engaging way to open the set. With the crowd now in full motion, the band hit us with impressive track after impressive track. The crowd jumping 'Like A Mouse', the atmospheric 'Wasps' (which even has a little bit of singing from the band), the stomping and somewhat funky '7 Billion People all Alive at Once' (also containing a tiny bit of vocals), the band dominate their performance throughout, and it's really no surprise that the Thekla is sold out this evening. New songs ' A Slow Unfolding of Wings', 'Dying Giants', 'Terrors of Pleasure' go down incredibly well with the audience, and show once more just how well the band have progressed over the years as the exceptional musicians that they are. Before taking an encore the band go back to their roots with 'Set Guitars to Kill' which is an absolutely ridiculous track that has heads moving in sync from the front to the back. As they return to play an impressive four more songs, it's a reminder that this band could easily play all night with that high energy if they really wanted to. Throughout the set we saw crowd surfing from the audience and even band member Rory Friers, every single song going down insanely well live (yes, even the new ones!), and most importantly they showed that they have one hell of a future ahead of them. Arena shows next guys. You're ready. AD
Let The Flames Begin ‘Let The Flames Begin’ is my favourite Paramore song of all time, largely as it has a different feel to a lot of their songs and even the rest of ‘Riot!’ It is soaring and striking and on the heavier side of the band and demonstrates their musicianship well with an extra depth musically and lyrically, with strong lines such as “Somewhere weakness is our strength, and I'll die searching for it” and “I give it all my oxygen, to let the flames begin” making it very powerful and hard to forget, as well as a cracking live song. CL
My Heart This is taken from their highly successful and impactful debut album ‘All We Know Is Falling’ from 2005 which had more of a rock and punk pop sound and was a scene setter that paved the way for the band. The song itself is one hell of a love song that packs a punch also, being one of the only Paramore songs to feature screamed vocals, so it stands out for that alone, but it is also a very well-crafted song which sees Hayley’s vocals shine, showing just how much talent they had at the very beginning and again it offers something unique in the Paramore back catalogue. CL
Now This has a futuristic and more evolved mature sound that showed another side to their ever changing and diverse sound, taken from their self-titled album released in 2013. It shows a darker yet more hopeful side to the band, who at the time were going through some tough times. This is demonstrated by lyrics like, “Feels like I'm waking from the dead and everyone's been waitin' on me” and “There's a time and a place to die but this ain't it.” The song is very loud and atmospheric, with a very catchy chorus, sassy attitude packed verses which all comes to a head in an especially hard hitting and strong ending. CL
Decode This song was written for the Twilight movie and served as the lead single for the soundtrack, but it was also one of their best instrumentally and lyrically, having a dark and mysterious undertone which fitted the vibe of the film. The riffs and guitars matched Hayley’s impressive vocals wonderfully and made this a song to remember. The band perfectly captured the essence of the story, making it very tense, urgent and passionate and saw them deliver a grand rock track. It obviously went down a treat as they were nominated for a Grammy with it! CL
Monster This was a big moment for the band as it was the first song without the Faro brothers following Zac and Josh’s departure and it was impressively also again featured on a movie soundtrack for Transformers: Dark Side Of The Moon in 2011. Paramore proved that although they took a hit, they bounced back in style and produced a catchy, and brilliant song to show that their musical credibility would not be at stake with its loud vocals and crunchy guitars. Another major thing that stands out is the honest lyrics which may have even reflected the situation at the time: “Don't you ever wonder how we survive? Now that you're gone, the world is ours.” and “I'm only human, I've got a skeleton in me. But I'm not the villain, despite what you're always preaching” showing vulnerability yet strength but ultimately they slayed it with this notable song. CL
Fake Happy "I bet everybody here is fake happy too" is possibly one of the best lines on 'After Laughter'. How true is that to life? How many times have you just been catching up with friends, talking to people in work, or just been in an environment where you can tell people are just being happy, or big headed about the life for the sake of it. That's the way I view the song, and with those infectious lyrics combined with an impressive musical backbone, then this is certainly one of their best songs to date. AD
Still Into You This song channels the newer indie-pop side of Paramore that seem to be controversial for long time fans. Personally, I love this song for its poppy tune, and lyrical content that bring about feelings I think we can all admit we’ve felt before. As one of the hits off of their self titled album, the catchy melody and driving swing explain why it’s such a favorite among the public. LD
Ain’t It Fun Off of their self titled album this track also takes a newer, pop twist on their previous punk roots. It introduces punches of tropical tones and an upbeat vocal swing, that makes this song easy to sing along to for anyone. In addition to being a home run with the fan base and the radio stations, you can also find this song on Punk Goes Pop Vol. 6 which is a true testament to the likeable nature of this song. LD
The Only Exception This has been one of my go to songs ever since I was younger, which comes off of the ‘Brand New Eyes’ album. I’ve always been a sucker for acoustic jams, and this one is not the only exception. Side note, I make myself laugh way too hard with awful puns. Joking aside, this sweet song shows the softer side of these guys from their earlier hard hitting days and offers the talents of Hayley Williams as a vocalist to shine through. LD
Misery Business This was one of the very first Paramore songs I had ever heard as a young grasshopper who had no idea that punk music even existed. The driving riffs, and in your face vocal style, struck awe into my stupor and made my young mind curious. I used to watch this music video on repeat, and for good reason too as an anthem to misfits, angry broken hearts, and punk lovers everywhere. LD
That’s What You Get This track introduces a more upbeat tone and pop-like element to their signature punk style, and contrary to ‘Misery Business’, I didn’t begin to appreciate this song until later on in life but nonetheless I love it equally as much. Stripped down verses and full, swinging choruses make this song a home run with nearly anyone and are sure to give you a solid dose of nostalgia upon first (oo ten millionth) listen. LD
Hard Times With its funky beat throughout, providing a positive approach to "Hard Times" this is a song that has no doubt already been played at alternative rock clubs all across the UK a STACK of times already. It represents the sound Paramore were clearly growing toward on their self-titled album, whilst having the signature sound that we know and love. The song is a hit across the planet, and it will 100% be in the their setlist for a very long time. AD
Crushcruchcrush What an absolute anthem. As the eighth song on their classic album 'Riot!' it's the track that kept the momentum at a high level, and went toward shaping this incredible output. I've been fortunate enough to see this song live a handful of times over the years, and every time it is just an absolute belter to witness. It builds up throughout, and kicks into a chorus that will have you screaming every word straight back to the band as they stampede through it. Fingers crossed they'll play it live on their upcoming arena tour! AD
albums of the year feature
PVRIS – All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell 2017 has been a great year for new rock and metal releases, but it can be hard to stand out with a completely fresh and unique sound, but not for electronic dark alt-rock trio Pvris from Massachusetts. There was a lot of pressure and anticipation for their sophomore album and follow up to their hit 2014 debut ‘White Noise’ where they first made their mark and introduced their dark moody electro-rock and whether they could expand on their initial winning and different sound. Luckily ‘AWKOHAWNOH’ not only proved they still had it, but they exceeded expectations further by evolving their already inspiring sound. The opening song and first unveiled ‘Heaven’ was the perfect balance of their ‘White Noise’ era and their new transition with the new album, as it sounded different to what we had heard before, but still had that signature dark ambience and soaring vocals from the powerhouse that is frontwoman Lynn Gunn. The album is consistent, creative and captivating throughout, offering dramatic heavier moments in ‘Heaven’, ‘Anyone Else’ and their most aggressive offering to date and personally my new favourite song ‘No Mercy’ which is hard hitting with their darkest lyrics with lines such as, ““We've made such a mess of this place, There's blood stains on your face.”
They highlight that they have plenty of ideas and fire in them, but there are also calmer softer moments to suit all and offer up more diversity with songs like ‘Same Soul’ and the sombre ‘Separate’ which show they don’t always have to deliver fast stomping numbers to make a powerful impact, but they never lose their bleak enthralling sound. Since its release in August, I have listened to this so many times, but I still find it exciting to listen to with all its hidden depth and sorrow, which is why I have chosen it as my album of the year. ‘AWKOHAWNOH’ is a slicker more mature and darker side of PVRIS, where they explore new territories and manage to expand on their unique sound and speak to your soul through the creepy ambience and honest lyrics, it has everything you would want in an album and is crafted beautifully and full of creativity. CL
The One Hundred - Chaos & Bliss There’s only been one album this year I was excited about all the way through, ever since I’d seen The One Hundred at Download Festival it was always the same “The album is coming.” But when?! Finally, ‘Chaos and Bliss’ was dropped early 2017 and what an incredible album it turned out to be. They managed to incorporate everything that makes them unique and still throw out surprises along the way. If you’re not familiar with The One Hundred, they’re a group that mix the elements of rap, hip hop, metal and rock into a lovely sized ball of energy that feels like it could be out of control in anyone else’s hands. The vocals from lead singer Jacob are absolutely insane, not only can he rap in a way that feels like it defies the laws of physics but his screams are on another level.
As soon as the crashing chorus of electric guitars and drums begins on opening track ‘Dreamcatcher’ I was instantly hooked. The way that these guys can blend together different genres is awesome. Obviously this was seen previously by their killer singles ‘Monster’ and ‘Dark Matters’, and both in their own rights are fantastic. The breakdown in ‘Monster’ has quickly become a favourite of mine and probably will remain that way for some time. However it’s the tracks after that that make the impact, ‘Retreat’ being a play on a scenario from Attack on Titan is a hard hitting thrill ride that will leave you wanting more. Titular track ‘Chaos and Bliss’, I’ve never known an intro to a song get me as pumped up as this and it continues at that pace all the way through. If you’re not jumping around like a lunatic to ‘Chaos and Bliss’ then you may have gone deaf. I think the best thing about this album is there’s just no stop button, no acoustic track trying to convey the sense of “We’re just sensitive guys who want to be loved” it’s heavy hitting and solid all the way through. The reason I love the album so much is because I was so hopeful after the awesome EP they put out. Once they were signed to Spineshank records the hope improved and they have released something beyond anything I could have imagined. They’re still relatively small but I hope within the next year they’re recognised as being one of the best new bands on the scene, because they definitely are. RO
Micah Schnabel - Your New Norman Rockwell For as long as I can remember music has been my escape, my salvation, my hope, and my happiness. It started as a kid with ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson and from there ‘Hammer, Please Don’t Hurt Them’ by MC Hammer to ‘Mother’s Milk’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers and from there I started discovering bands on my own, bands like Deftones, Korn, Blink-182, Bad Religion, New Found Glory and Thursday. Those last few bands were the ones that truly shaped my musical landscape. As I started moving around the country I would discover artists from the cities and states I lived in. One of the most significant was a band from Columbus, OH called Two Cow Garage. The album was ‘Speaking in Cursive’. The singer/guitarist in the band is Micah Schnabel and around the time I discovered TCG, he released his first solo album, ‘When the Stage Lights Go Dim’. Which in its own right is a great album but it wasn’t until this year’s ‘Your New Norman Rockwell’ that he released his masterpiece. In the times in which we are now living, there is no other appropriate and honest record. If anything Micah is our new Bob Dylan, the voice of a generation. One of my favorite lines from the album is in the song ‘Jazz and Cinnamon Toast Crunch’. It goes, “I’ve been thinking about all these things, and how my life is going to end and started falling in love with music all over again, I want to remember what it feels like to hear a song for the first time and feel like it was written specially for me.” That line sums it all up for me. I listen to a lot of music and I love music but sometimes it’s all just noise. But in the last few years I have started to get that feeling I had when I was 6, 15, and 21. That feeling that this band, this artist is amazing, that what they are saying is real. That feeling that gives you goosebumps when you listen to them. That’s what this album does for me. At any given point I can put this record on and I get that feeling. It’s just not the words but it’s the words Micah uses and how he arranges them. He is quite the wordsmith. Take for instance his track, ‘The Interview’, he is pretending to give himself an interview and the questions he is asking himself are the ones that we are afraid to ask ourselves, the things we tend to avoid but deep down we always know the answers, we just don’t want to talk about or deal with them.
Another aspect that sticks out about this album is the honesty in his lyrics. After one listen it feels like you know him personally. It’s a feeling that you have known him your whole life. This is something I haven’t felt in a long time. While I can continue to write about the reasons this is my album of the year I will choose to end it here and you can go and listen to this masterpiece for yourself. You will not be disappointed in the least bit. This is the album that a lot of us need to hear at this very moment. That spark we need to go out and be better people, to love and care for one another. Because in the end all we have is each other. So be kind. RC
Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun Chelsea Wolfe’s latest release, ‘Hiss Spun’, captures the singer in a more dominating, intimate form. The songs here focus on uncovering the singer’s deepest complexities, focusing on her anxiety and the selfdestructive nature of her life. The doom and folk inspired sound paves a path for her vocals to relive every emotion and become a cathartic presence within the music. From the immediacy of ‘Spun’ and the carnal aesthetic of ‘16 Psyche’, the opening of the album growls with a poignancy of trying to understand oneself. The way Wolfe’s voice trembles in certain areas shows a inner battle of trying to conquer the darkest parts of herself, like on ‘Twin Fawn’. With the dynamics being extraordinarily crushing, her voice charges through the crashing chorus, establishing an underlying guitar melody with Wolfe soaring overhead. The syncopation of the rhythm sections across the record show a sort of musical unity, an elegant dance for control. ‘Hiss Spun’ is an emotional rage of a record, and one that spins fantastic orchestration into a raw form of energy, breathing life into the dark and heavy atmosphere of Chelsea Wolfe’s persona.
It’s not so much that Wolfe has created a genre defining presence, but has presented the world with a form of sonic bleakness that sounds refreshing because the world really is that dark. ‘Hiss Spun’ is an album that grows with every listen, and as the melodies become more familiar, the identity of Wolfe’s pain becomes more apparent, easier to reach out and feel something similar. Even in a swirling, thick layered guitar album such as this, each emotion is weighed in and adds to the performance. Even with a more dense landscapes, such as ‘Offering’ or ‘Welt’, the emotional density accompanies the music in the same way the guitars ring out through ‘The Culling’. The album spirals into the closer, ‘Scrape’, an unwound Wolfe is letting her voice ring out overtop winding drums and a haunting atmosphere. It’s the perfect close to an album that searches through the messed up aspects of the world and tries to find a place there, realizing the best way to exist is to have a way to escape. SG
The Darkness - Pinewood Smile There has been a fair few fine records in 2017, too many to mention and it has been a struggle to pick one out above the rest. However the ed’ has been insistent so having whittled it down to 3, I have gone for one that surprised me in how much I enjoyed it. They are a band I have never been a fan of but with their new album they have me converted, which has caused much amusement among one or two in my social circle. That band are the Darkness with the album ‘Pinewood Smile’. ‘
An album that blends humour with outstanding musicianship and styles that make it extremely infectious and in a world that can be very bleak at times these days it does a fine job of bringing a bit of fun to go with it. Songs such as ‘Happiness’, ‘All the Pretty Girls’ and the anthem in waiting that is the genius ‘Southern Trains’, are just three that make this such a great record. For a band to have turned me round to them in such spectacular fashion is cause enough for me to give them album of the year, but it is also a great record! AN
Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile to The Surface The only thing that I have to say about this album is that it is an absolute masterpiece. Manchester Orchestra brought it way beyond expectations on ‘A Black Mile to The Surface’. Way beyond. Eleven tracks of glorious composition that seamlessly capture the beauty of life, death, pain and glory - all expertly crafted with care and craftsmanship. ‘The Maze’ offers a cool, winter tone through the intro that moves into a swinging pendulum like rhythm, and finishes with notes of childish innocence. As a first taste of these guys, this song put me in a meditative like state and admittedly it was difficult not to fall asleep at the lull and consistency this sound puts forth. ‘The Alien’ takes a light hearted rhythm, filled with angelic notes and delicate fills. My favorite thing about this track are the vocals. Even though they remain relatively consistent throughout the entire album, there’s something about the vocals in this particular song that seem to be especially innocent and have that “feel good” quality.
‘The Silence’ ends this aural painting with a six minute and fifty nine second track that offers subtle triumph and feelings of victory and homecoming. To round out this complex yet spotless album, ‘The Silence’ ends on a note that leaves you speechless. My favorite song off this album would definitely be ‘The Wolf’ which has become my favorite car jam, and basically everything jam over the course of the year since I’ve listened to this album. It builds with a creepy, and slightly dark intro and moves into a tepid, and swirling piece that takes you to feelings of triumph and loss, a reflection of life and its trials. I previously reviewed this album for Stencil back in September, but the album has not grown old and rather has become exponentially more of a beautiful exhibition of the healing qualities music has. ‘A Black Mile the The Surface’ was actually my first encounter with Manchester Orchestra however it left me beyond impressed, and excited to hear what comes next for them. In my personal opinion, music should move you to feel other worlds and dimensions, make you reflect on yourself, others, and should take you to highs and lows that you never thought you could feel. That’s exactly what this album did for me, and for 2017, I can honestly say that it beat out any other album I have heard. LD
Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination There have been many albums that I have enjoyed and been impressed by this year but there was no other album in contention for my album of the year when it came to choose. The production of this record is the best I have heard all year. It sounds like it was created in a post-apocalyptic studio where all the instruments are radiating, vibrating and sort of off ear twitching frequencies. It could not be any more perfect. It really enhances the music and sad real themes which very much incorporate what a sorry state the world is at the moment (just as Everything Everything’s A Fever Dream do in their own ways). The tone of the guitars throughout the record is twisted, fuzzy and spiky often backed by buzzing synths/other electronic sounding keys in ‘2016’, ‘Ordinary’ or ‘Relief’ to point out a few instances. ‘Relief’ also is blessed with amazing saxophone/horns another is ‘The Way Out’ where they are steady then the way they are used for both endings are inventive. Due to the saxophones application ‘The Way Out’ has a dystopian jazz feel that climaxes in the most satisfying of ways. A track about the movement of refugees around the globe “Where would you have them go, A generation searching for a home.” Reinforcing that Shah is commenting on/critiquing major political and social issues of 2016/17.
Further evidence of this is ‘Yes Men’ which is aimed at the “Fascist in the Whitehouse” (a lyric from 2016) which is an over exaggeration but still there are people who think that the current President is a bit too far leaning to the right on the spectrum. Title track ‘Holiday Destination’ says that the “Bad guys are winning” it is all rather pessimistic but not to the point that it is soul sapping of all enjoyment. The album really works around the themes chosen. Shah’s voice is extraordinary based in the lower to mid ranges it echoes across the album bringing yet more power to the lyrics, enhancing the music also. The use of her voice on ‘Relief’ with the line that follows the muted guitars is one of many ways in which it is deployed to great effect. ‘Holiday Destination’ is a poignant album from all angles there is thought in every one of Shah’s words, the artwork is of a building with massive holes in it and a child peering out of one, the music mirroring this also. Nadine Shah has released not only a truly special sonic experience but more importantly a record that highlights the struggles around the globe with a blunt and mature approach. That is why this album claimed my top spot for 2017. EJ
Matt Stone and Trey Parker have always pissed people off with their satirical show South Park, it sets out to press the wrong buttons on a lot of people and show a grim look at the world around us. When they released their last video game, Stick of Truth, I was beside myself, a way to walk around the small mountain town and interact with fan favourites. It was incredible and the fan service was on another level. So when another one came out I was skeptical. I was quite frankly foolish to believe that Stone and Parker would put their names against anything but greatness. Well after what felt like an eternity and millions of delays, the day finally came when South Park: The Fractured But Whole (get it) finally was in the hands of avid fans everywhere. Was it worth the wait and set backs the game had encountered along the way? Of course it was. The Fractured But Whole picks up where Stick of Truth left off, you’re the king of Zaron, you’re the coolest kid in town because everyone is still playing a Game of Thrones style game. As the King you’re the one to battle all the drow elves and conquer. This gave insight to the new fighting mechanics. With a new freedom to move around the battle arena and have access to a whole host of attacks, it feels much better in terms of how a fight will progress and the use of tactics to win. Before too long it’s decided that everyone is now playing Superheroes and you are quickly the uncool new kid again. Cartman is forced to take pity on you and you’re given a choice of superpowers and then you’re free to go about the town. Things are not right in the superhero universe however, Civil War is happening between the Freedom Pals and Coon and Friends. What’s the fight about? The best way to make the most money from a superhero franchise of course. The story plays out regarding this and a much bigger threat to South Park. Around the town there are many foes like Crab People, sixth graders and even child molesting priests, yes in an effort to piss everyone off Matt Stone and Trey Parker have truly outdone themselves in this masterpiece. As you are the new superhero you are made to do all the dangerous missions including fighting in a strip club, taking on the ‘evil’ Professor Chaos and even battling the Freedom Pals.
I don’t want to give too much of the story away suffice to say it’s fantastic and the twists and turns that plague you along the way are well worth the pay off at the end. There are many secrets and puzzles to solve around the town of South Park which has changed along with the series from the last game. Sometimes you may require the efforts of Kyle’s Human Kite persona to reach high up objects and other times large structures may block you so you’ll need Captain Diabetes to bulk up with anger after farting on him in order to move said object. This time around the clothes you choose don’t dictate your powers so if you’d like to dress in a red dress and wear a shark head (no one will judge you) this will not affect your combat. What does affect your combat is artifacts you collect along the way. These will affect a whole host of attributes for your character and allow you to upgrade strength, speed etc. A nice touch to put that in and really give it that RPG feel. The main power of the game is your farting ability, carrying on from the last one this ability now gives you more uses including stopping time and even turning day to night. Not only that but the new combat and levelling up system is a lot more friendly than its predecessor. Now you are free to roam about the battle grounds and tactically attack your opponents rather than press attack and wait. The town of South Park is full of side missions to complete and very obscure references to collect, I was concerned that they would not be able to beat the fan service that the first one managed to deliver but they’ve done that and so much more. All in all you’ll get about 20 hours worth of play from South Park’s latest video game outing, however with planned DLC to go on throughout next year it’s not a bad plan to invest in the season pass now because I can only imagine how outrageous and hilarious it’s going to be.